A not-so-small quibble about the way taxes are reported

There’s a nice post over on Vox explaining the impact of Bernie Sander’s proposals on tax rates. It’s good information, but I think it’s conveyed in a manner that is more than a little misleading. This chart has most of the goodies:

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It’s pretty clear that Sanders is proposing some rather large increases. But the chart does a few things that I think are rather odd. First of all, it’s giving you marginal rates: the rates on each additional dollar of income you earn, not all those dollars below that amount. For example, at an adjusted gross income of $18,550, every dollar you earn above that amount will indeed be taxed at an income tax rate of 15 percent. But every dollar below that was taxed at just 10 percent. If you earn exactly $18,550, none of your income is taxed at 15 percent. Misleading, no?

Second, these figures are for adjusted gross income. An AGI of 0 corresponds to an actual income of $12,600 (if you’re married filing jointly). The actual income tax rate for a couple earning up to $12,600 is zero. Pretty tough to see that on this chart, isn’t it?

Finally, the chart includes “payroll taxes” that you don’t pay at all; they are payed by your employer. For every dollar of payroll tax the government collects from you, in most cases it also collects a dollar from your employer. That’s rather misleading in my view since most people never even knew that money was being paid. It’s part of the expenses a company has for each employee (along with office space, equipment, heating, and so on…).

So here’s a revised chart giving the same information but corrected to account for the three problems I just mentioned:

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Here I’ve corrected the income figures to show gross salary, and totaled up the actual amount of taxes payed by the individual currently and under Sander’s plan. Quite a different story, isn’t it? A couple making $87,900 pays just 19.4% now, and that goes up to just 22% under Sanders. The other chart makes it look they are paying more than twice that!

Arguably, however, the employer contributions should be included as well. After all, an employer might behave differently, cutting salaries or firing employees, if their costs go up. Here’s a chart that shows the employer contributions as well:

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Now you can see that the employer of a family earning $87,900 incurs about 6% more costs under Sanders compared to the current system. I’d argue this chart is still a little confusing, since the individual doesn’t see how much more he or she would pay, but the combination of the two charts does a fairly decent job showing the difference in Sanders’ proposals and the current tax system.

Sanders could also make the case that, for nearly all families whose health care is covered by their employer, the employer’s cost hardly goes up at all, because all of these increases go towards his “medicare for all” plan, meaning the employer no longer has to pay for health coverage. Here’s how much the employer portion increases for each salary point:

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Even for a family making $262,600, the employer cost only rises $15,131 under Sanders; most folks making that much money are likely to have a health plan costing the employer significantly more. The serious increases don’t start until families are making high 6-figure salaries.

It’s pretty rare to see tax proposals covered the way I’m suggesting they should be here. I wonder if folks might be a little more amenable to change if they saw the proposed taxes presented a bit more clearly.

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Cocktails in India

When you spend three and a half months in a place like India, as I just did, you begin to notice some trends. It’s not like you’ve really become a “native,” but you do start to get a sense of how things work.

Consider alcohol. The mainstream opinion of alcohol in India is “it’s bad.” Most adults do not drink. It’s forbidden in Sikhism and Jainism, and strongly discouraged in Islam. It’s not especially encouraged in Hinduism either.

That said, people do drink. Ads for Kingfisher beer are ubiquitous, as are ads for Royal Challenge, which is the best-selling premium whisky in India. In Tamil Nadu, alcohol was only sold in restaurants/bars and state-run “TASMAC” stores. Generally the TASMAC stores cater to the average Indian, which means from a Western perspective they sell really cheap, really bad stuff. Single-malt Scotch is not to be found in most TASMAC stores. It seems to me that most folks hanging around TASMAC stores are drinking to get drunk, not to enjoy it on the way down.

Alcohol is very heavily taxed in most parts of India. At restaurants in Chennai we were charged 59% liquor tax on top of the already-high prices for alcohol. At one place, we paid about 4,000 rupees ($60) for a bottle of wine that would have been around $20 in the US, only to find out about the 59% tax when we received our bill! We also found that most of the wine we were served in India ranged from “musty” to “corked.”

This led us to order more cocktails, which are their own adventure in India! Every bar has a cocktail list, and most decent bars were well-stocked with all the usual liquors and mixers. However, even if it was obvious the bar stocked all the ingredients you might request, in most cases, you could not ask for any kind of substitutions. Want a martini? It comes with gin. Even though you can see four bottles of vodka right there behind the bar, you cannot under any circumstances get a martini made with vodka — unless it’s on the menu, which it was in one place in Delhi where we enjoyed several “vodkatinis.”

Margaritas at "Lord of the Drinks" bar in Delhi

Margaritas at “Lord of the Drinks” bar in Delhi

Want a drink on the rocks? You can’t have it, unless that’s the recipe for the particular drink you’re ordering. Margaritas were always served blended, martinis always straight up, mojitos always on the rocks.

Every bar serves liquor straight up, and sometimes they will put that on the rocks if you ask. You can also order some basic drinks like a gin and tonic in this way, but you’ll pay separately for the gin and the tonic. We went lots of places where elaborate drinks on the cocktail list were priced at a flat 500 rupees ($7.50) but a G&T would cost 500 for the gin plus 200 for the tonic.

Hindi "Schweppes" tonic

Hindi “Schweppes” tonic

The cocktail list was always a surprise. There were some drinks you could find almost anywhere, but occasionally even something as basic as a martini would be left off the menu. Most commonly seen were mojitos, margaritas, martinis, and Long Island iced teas, with frequent guest-appearances by whisky sours. Preparations varied widely from bar to bar, so a “safe” drink in one place couldn’t be counted on in another.

Greta with a "New Old Fashioned"

Greta with a “New Old Fashioned”

Waiters were generally shocked at how much ice I wanted in my drinks. I prefer to still have some ice in the glass when I finish the drink, but that counts as “way too much” by pretty much everyone in India.

While cocktails were always a surprise and often fun in India, we got tired of them quickly. Typically, once we had a cocktail or two we switched to Kingfisher. And we nearly always stayed away from the wine. The best bang for your buck is probably to buy a bottle of the best whisky you can find at a liquor store and drink in your hotel room…but it’s more fun to see what novelties you can find at the local watering holes!

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Climate change: One little problem with the “they’re in it for the money” argument

I’m always surprised to see climate-change deniers resort to the argument that scientists who warn about global warming are “only in it for the money.” Do they not realize the tiny amount of money that goes into climate change research compared to the vast sums reaped by the fossil fuel industry?

Then it occurred to me: Maybe they actually have no idea what it’s like to be a scholarly researcher, and how little money this research earns for them. So I decided to look up the numbers myself. Here’s what I found:

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The fossil fuel industry in the US brings in about 100 times more revenue than the government spends on climate change research. So if you’re going to argue, “they’re in it for the money,” you probably want to take this into account. The fossil fuel industry has much more to gain by “proving” that global climate change isn’t caused by their products than publicly-funded scientists do by showing that fossil fuels do cause climate change.

Or consider another way of looking at the problem. How much can an individual with a PhD earn working on climate change research in academia versus working for the fossil fuel industry?

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Once again, if you’re just in it for the money, you and your PhD are much better off working for industry than in a university research position.

This is something that is mind-blowingly obvious to anyone who works in or around academia (but perhaps not so much for the general public). The people who do this work aren’t in it for the money. If they were just interested in making a lot of money, for someone with their level of education, there are many, many other, easier ways to do it.

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Apple’s new MacBook is perfect…except for one (not so) little thing

I’m typing this on my brand-new, ultra-slick, ultra-light Apple MacBook. Some folks have complained that it is woefully underpowered, that the keyboard doesn’t have the same, easy action as the previous models, that there is only one port, which is used both to charge the computer and connect to devices.

I can live with all that. This computer isn’t my primary machine (and it still vastly outpowers my 2010 MacBook Air), so I’m not bothered by compromises in speed. I love the crisp “retina” display, the amazing taptic trackpad, and the gorgeous, individually backlit keys. It’s even got better speakers than my 11-inch MacBook Air, and double the battery life, in a device that is thinner and lighter.

But there’s one place that Apple screwed up on this one. For years, all the way back to my 2001 titanium PowerBook G4, I’ve enjoyed one of the best-designed power supplies of any computer, ever. The plug flips conveniently out of the way, and two little clips flip out to allow you to wrap the cord neatly around the brick itself. No muss, no fuss. For nearly 15 years, Apple has maintained this elegant design for all its laptops. Now, inexplicably, for the new MacBook, they’ve abandoned it. Instead of providing handy folding tabs that must add all of 30 cents to the manufacturing cost of the power supply, they leave them out completely. This photo shows you the difference:

Which power supply would you prefer? I’d take the “old” one on the left even though it’s considerably larger.

I’m not going to return the computer, which is beautiful in every other way, but every time I look at that power supply, I will think about how it could have been. What were you thinking, Jony Ive?

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Are liberals really just as deluded about GW as conservatives?

This article has been making the rounds lately: Six Myths About Climate Change that Liberals Rarely Question.

It’s a fascinating piece, which seems to somehow equate the people who want to do something about global warming with the people who want to continue with business as usual. I’m really not sure what the point is, so let’s just take the “myths” one by one:

Myth #1: Liberals Are Not In Denial

The thrust of this argument seems to be that since liberals try to sell global warming solutions as not terribly painful, then liberals themselves have no clue how tough global warming will be to stop. It’s as if the article’s author, Eric Lindberg, thinks that if only conservatives were told that they would not only have to give up their SUVs, but also give up their guns and submit their daughters to forced abortions, they’d suddenly wake up and support reforms that would help slow global warming.

I think most liberals who are paying attention understand that global warming is a super-tough problem, and that it will require serious changes to be made. But they also understand that the changes have to be made by everyone, together. If half the planet gets serious about fighting global warming, the other half will have no problem negating those efforts.

Myth #2: Republicans are Still More to Blame

Everyone burns fossil fuels, including Democrats, therefore Democrats are just as much to blame as Republicans for global warming.

Right. Because Republicans are so on board with emissions caps, or carbon taxes, or efficiency standards for light bulbs and appliances. So since liberals don’t think we can all just hold hands and magically reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, they’re just as much to blame for lack of political progress on global warming as conservatives? There’s a myth at work here, but I think it’s going on in the minds of idealists like Lindberg than in todays “liberals.”

Myth #3: Renewable Energy Can Replace Fossil Fuels

Now we may be getting to the heart of Lindeman’s argument. Here he’s essentially claiming that there is no technological solution to global warming. The human way of life is what is causing it, and creating more solar panels and wind farms will only stoke demand. The very act of building these things consumes energy, and the cycle will be impossible to escape.

I suppose if this argument is true then Lindeman does have a point… a point that, what, we need to undergo mass sterilization to reduce human population? I would submit that the jury is still out on whether there is a technological solution, that human innovation has done incredible things in the past 100 years and voluntarily returning the world to the stone age is infinitely less plausible than using our amazing talents to find another way out of this dilemma. Of course the ultimate solution will probably require us to change, but these changes might take the form of using more public transportation, building denser housing, and requiring more stringent efficiency standards for all of our favorite vehicles and appliances, not tearing down all the factories.

Myth 4: The Coming “Knowledge Economy” Will be a Low-Energy Economy

This is pretty much a repeat of Myth #3. See above.

Myth 5: We can Reverse Global Warming Without Changing our Current Lifestyles

This is a repeat of all of the above, with the perverse assertion that solving global warming is easy since all we need to do is stop burning fossil fuels. Also, preventing world hunger is a simple matter of everyone eating enough.

Myth 6: There is Nothing I Can Do

Ironically, if you believe the rest of Lindeman’s argument, then Myth #6 is almost certainly true. This myth seems to contradict the others. If you think we don’t have to change our lifestyles to solve global warming, then you would probably also think there is something you can do to solve global warming, right?

No, it seems to me that most liberals understand at a much more visceral level than Lindeman how difficult global warming is to solve—and how difficult the remedies are to sell. I don’t claim to have a simple solution to the problem, but I certainly believe that the solution will come from the folks who at least acknowledge the existence of a problem and are willing to consider making changes in order to solve it.

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How many iPhone 6s can fit in a 747?

A recent post in MacRumors included photos of a 747 freighter loaded to the gills with iPhone 6s:

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Source: MacRumors

The obvious question: How many phones is that? Should Apple be concerned about putting so much valuable cargo in a single jet?

Well, the larger iPhone 6 is 6.2 by 3.06 inches by just over a quarter-inch thick. Let’s assume the boxes are at least a half-inch bigger on the longer dimensions, so 6.7 by 3.56 inches. They have to be big enough to fit the charger, cables, and phones, so they are probably at least 1.25 inches thick.

So each phone in its packaging takes up a minimum of just over 30 cubic inches, which means about 57 phones per cubic foot. The 747-400 freighter has a cargo volume of 26,947 cubic feet, so if you could completely fill the available space, then that would be over 1.5 million phones!

Even if the packing isn’t perfectly efficient, it appears that well over 1 million phones can fit inside a 747 freighter.

Last year, Apple sold 150 million iPhones, so assuming a 50% increase in sales over last year, Apple would need about 225 747s to transport a year’s worth of phones.

So the risk in shipping a plane full of nothing but iPhones would represent less than 0.5 percent of Apple’s annual iPhone sales.

Still, 1 million iPhones is quite a rich cargo: the base large model (unsubsidized by carriers) retails for $749.99. That means a single planeload represents three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of cargo!

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Mesa Verde

First time at Mesa Verde. Amazing place.

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The robots really are taking over this time

It’s easy to dismiss fear of automation as needless paranoia. After all, we’re nowhere near the apocalypse suggested in movies like The Terminator. Robot armies aren’t coming to conquer the world.

But might they be coming for our jobs?

In the 1980s, as robots began to start replacing humans on automobile assembly lines, there was much hand-wringing as unions wondered whether the Detroit engines of American industry would soon be powered by automatons, leaving millions of automobile workers out of jobs.

Those fears slowly ebbed as the Reagan recovery became the Clinton boom. Then September 11 happened and we all started worrying about terrorists instead of robots. In fact US automotive manufacturing employment has been relatively steady from 1980 to the present, with the exception of the current recession, which resulted in a loss of about 300,000 jobs that don’t seem to be coming back. Add to that the fact that car production has been going up without a corresponding increase in employment and we can see that robots do indeed appear to be costing American jobs, at least in automotive manufacturing.

But maybe we can make up for that with jobs producing the robots themselves, right? Not according to Andrew McAfee. He argues that we are now approaching a critical point where automation will erode jobs significantly faster than jobs can be created.

Think about technologies like the Google Car.

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Last year, Lawrence D. Burns, former vice president for research and development at General Motors and now a Google consultant, led a study at the Earth Institute at Columbia University on transforming personal mobility.

The researchers found that Manhattan’s 13,000 taxis made 470,000 trips a day. Their average speed was 10 to 11 m.p.h., carrying an average of 1.4 passengers per trip with an average wait time of five minutes.

In comparison, the report said, it is possible for a futuristic robot fleet of 9,000 shared automated vehicles hailed by smartphone to match that capacity with a wait time of less than one minute. Assuming a 15 percent profit, the current cost of taxi service would be about $4 per trip mile, while in contrast, it was estimated, a Manhattan-based driverless vehicle fleet would cost about 50 cents per mile.

Take a moment to consider the employment impact of this change. Instead of 13,000 taxis in New York, there would be 9,000 Google Cars. Assuming the current fleet runs on three shifts (as I understand most of them do), we’re talking about nearly 50,000 jobs, in New York City alone. Now imagine similar workforce replacements for delivery drivers, bus drivers, limousine drivers. You could be talking about well over 100,000 jobs, in just one city, replaced by just one technology.

Now consider this: Driving isn’t the only human job that would be relatively easy to replace with technology that is either currently available or will be available in the next few years. One of the fastest-growing industries, medical care, is also ripe for similar innovations. Current robotics technology could replace 90 percent of what nurses and nurses’ assistants do. And doctors might not be far behind. How difficult would it be, even with current technology, to create a diagnostic robot with access to a vast database of medical information? Perhaps in difficult cases the robot might need to consult with a human, but for routine treatment for strep throat, flu, or other common ailments, why would a doctor be necessary at all?

With the possible exception of so-called “creative” work, it’s hard to come up with a profession that couldn’t be replaced by a robot, in whole or in part.

What jobs that remain in this new automatopia would be extremely poorly-paid, for there would be dozens of people competing for every opportunity, no matter how meager. The result would be, barring an aggressive change to our social structure, economic armageddon.

Indeed, massive social upheaval would be impossible to avoid, whether it was done deliberately in an effort to stave off the inevitable consequences of hyperautomation, or simply allowed to occur “naturally” as a result of robots replacing jobs on a scale no one imagined the need to plan for.

One possible way to avoid the worst effects of automation is something I’ve been thinking would be a good idea to start now: Provide every American with a guaranteed income. It could start small, perhaps $5,000 per person per year in addition to whatever other income they have (including other public assistance). Then as the effects of automation became larger, the guarantee could become larger too, until it was enough for anyone to live on. People would only have to work if they wanted to, and many, presumably, would choose not to. Productivity would continue to merrily increase as the robots and their programmers got better at their jobs, so there should be plenty for everyone.

It’s not such a far-fetched idea, and has even proceeded to the level of a public referendum in Switzerland. But other solutions, such as limiting the workweek or mandating more government services (provided by people, not robots), could work as well.

These technologies are not going to wait for us to dither about how to handle them on a social / governmental scale. And if you don’t believe that a technology can fundamentally alter the economy, you need only consider the impact of the automobile, or the telephone. Those devices led to massive changes in the structure of the American workplace — from the 5-day workweek to the daily commute — and there is no reason to think that the impact of robotics will be any less dramatic. In fact, there’s every reason to believe that its impact will be even greater.

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Granada, part 2

The highlight of Granada is definitely the Nazrid Palace, which includes some of the most amazing, intricate Islamic art you will ever find.

This photo comes from the baths, and shows how even the lightwells are an opportunity to dazzle:

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The “wine gate” gives an even bigger hint of what is to come.

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Our tickets to the palace let us enter only at night — but the dramatic lighting made for quite an experience. To me the most amazing thing about this place is the ceilings. Here’s one made of wood:

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And here is a ceiling with nearly infinite arches, arches built on arches built on yet more arches:

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Nora took many more photos than I did, and she has already written a post on them. But first I’m going to steal one of her photos to post here:

This is a near-perfect photo of the reflecting pool at the palace. In the distance is the throne room.

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Granada, part 1

Granada, home of the Alhambra, is in the south of Spain, a hilly town, just out of sight of the Mediterranean, but within sight of the massive Sierra Nevada mountain range. Here Nora and Greta are walking down one of the hills.

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The town has some lovely, narrow streets, including this one:

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More photos below!

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More sights in Córdoba

A few more pics from Córdoba.

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This is the “Roman Bridge.” Not sure quite how much of it is original Roman manufacture, but it was fun walking across to get a view of the city.

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Here’s the view from Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a neat old castle with beautiful gardens.

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Here are Nora and Greta in the gardens

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And here are Greta and I.

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Neat view of some of the columnar-sculpted cypresses.

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The best shot of the ubiquitous orange trees I’ve managed, although Nora points out that my sky is blown out in this shot.

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The Great Mosque of Córdoba

The one sight I did not want to miss in Spain was the Cordoba mosque, one the best-preserved ancient mosques in the world. Arriving on Christmas, we couldn’t go inside, but here is a taste of what is to come:

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We were staying in the Jewish quarter, so decided to eat at a Jewish restaurant. Fantastic food, if not strictly kosher.

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Next day we finally entered the mosque, which has been rechristened as a Catholic church. Below the fold is a set of photos that should give you an idea of how Christian and Muslim were oddly juxtaposed.

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Catalan coinage

Some coins from the National Museum of Catalan Art. These are some large images so I’m going to place most of them below the fold.

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More photos below:

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Barcelona

We’re in Spain for the holidays, having a great time. Some photos from our time in Barcelona:

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The Sagrada Familia cathedral — still unfinished, but quite impressive!

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The interior of the cathedral — light pouring in through stained glass.

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Some Tapas — assorted meats and an anchovy salad.

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A delicious Paella. Definitely better than anything I’ve had stateside.

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A view of the old cathedral.

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We took this tram across the harbor.

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Here we are on the tram.

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The view from the tram.

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This is a bit of famous Barcelona architecture, an apartment building designed by Gaudi.

 

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Pilot mountain summit

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Campsite 1

Near Butter Gap, Pisgah National Forest

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The journey’s first mishap

Joe shows Sam how to handle a dead battery. Sam ignores Joe.

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Food for two and a half days

I’m getting ready for a hike in the Appalachians. Here is our food supply for the next couple of days. I’ll be doing small updates like this as much as I can during the trip.

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“Maybe we can live like this”…

One of the craziest aspects of the government shutdown has been the response of rabid conservatives to the closing of national parks and monuments. All I see in the social media from conservatives is “they’re spending more keeping people out than they would just keeping the place open.”

I wonder if these people have any idea what it costs to keep a national park open. Sure, when you read stories like this one, it all seems rather silly. A runner gets a $100 ticket for running through a national park. Won’t it cost more for the government to administer the fine — and the runner’s protests — than it would to keep the park open? After all, the runner claimed he saw “many other runners and bikers” in the park. If they didn’t all get tickets, and didn’t destroy the park, then what’s the harm?

Well, the Department of the Interior, which runs the Park Service, furloughed 81 percent of its employees. So clearly it doesn’t cost more to close the parks than keep them open. I suspect this is because most people are in fact staying out of the sites instead of challenging the Park Service to enforce the closures.

But maybe you could actually run the parks with less people! Couldn’t this be a win-win?

I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. I wonder how many of the people complaining about the closed parks and monuments have even been to one lately. I was at the Grand Canyon with my daughter last spring, during the off-season, and experienced a 20-minute wait to talk to a ranger about a route for a hike. Tourists were complaining loudly, trying to cut in line, grousing about the wait. The campgrounds at the bottom of the canyon were completely full, booked up for months in advance. We couldn’t camp, so my daughter and I decided to hike to the bottom and back in the same day.

We didn’t see a ranger once on our hike. We might have been able to sneak by and camp outside of the marked campground, but we didn’t, for fear we would be caught and fined. What would happen if hundreds, thousands of others decided they were above the law, and the park was “open” with a fifth of its normal staff? How long would vistas such as this one be unstained by six-packs dumped off cliffs and improvised campsites as far as the eye could see?

I’ve had similar experiences at parks all across America, from the Smokeys, where finding a place to bury human waste near a campsite is often like walking in a minefield, to King’s Canyon, where you need only walk a few feet off the trail to see the trash previous hikers have left behind. If this is how well the fully-staffed Park Service can maintain the parks, imagine what they would look like with 20 percent of that number. Right now the Park Service operates on 1/15 of a percent (PDF link) of the Federal budget. Are we really so strapped for cash that we think our national treasures deserve barely more than 1/100 of a percent?

I’d say the Park Service has done remarkably well with that 1/15 of a percent, helping to maintain hundreds of sites and monuments that surely would have been destroyed years ago if not for their efforts. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it would be “cheaper just to keep them open.” Not if we value these remarkable places and monuments. Not if we want our children and grandchildren to be able to see them the way we could, just a few weeks ago, the way we hope to again soon.

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Thoughts from a reader about 9/11

Yesterday’s post has received a lot of commentary, mostly to disagree with me — although there have also been some points of agreement. Most of the commentary is on my Facebook page, but I also received an email that I’d like to share here (anonymously, at the author’s request) because I think it raises some interesting points:

Hi Dave,

We’ve never met, but like you I’m a science writer, and I used to follow you on Twitter. I say used to, because after reading your post “How about we don’t Remember 9/11/2001 today?” I unfollowed. I had hoped that this simple act of merely choosing who to read and who not to read, who to see in my feed, would be enough, but quite frankly I just can’t stop thinking about what you wrote.

I’m not looking to tell you my 9/11 sob story, or my Boston Marathon sob story either, I know that as a human being you can probably grasp the fact that there are people out here in the world who were and remain deeply effected by these events. But I do want to point out to you that however unintended it may have been, your post was a blunt reminder of how isolating and alone it can be to feel like you are the only one who simply can’t get over it.

Worse things happen to more people. I know that. I think about the civil wars in other countries, the acts of genocide and violence against civilians. I’ve been working as a science writer for a year now, and a day hasn’t passed since that I don’t think about the lives lost to cancer. I think about grief. I think about loss. I think about fear. I think about how lucky I am. I think about the pain and the mental and emotional anguish that so many people go through every single day and I just feel sad. And pathetic. And weak. Because thinking about 9/11 still hurts so very much. And because what I have been through is nothing in comparison to what goes on in the rest of the world. You are right, “with more destruction going on every day, should we really put that all aside to rehash our single day of victimhood?”

I wish that I didn’t have the memories of a terrified 13 year old, certain her dad (a first reponder to 9/11) was running to meet his death (he survived). I wish that I didn’t have the memories of a terrified 25 year old frozen in fear watching another terrorist attack bring a city to its knees. These are days I wish I didn’t remember at all. I feel awful that I can’t get over it, because I should, shouldn’t I? Logic would dictate that I should. I have tried. I continue to try. I have found that despite what I have been told, time does not heal some wounds. So while you are right that yes, it has been 12 years and yes worse things happen, no I will not stop Remembering with a capital R. I will Remember because for me, and many other people, remembering is not a choice, and Remembering 9/11/2001 is something I feel compelled to do.

I am glad that it didn’t touch your life in a way that makes you feel it is necessary to Remember, but in writing this, I hope that I have made a case for showing a little more empathy toward those who are unable to forget.

Sincerely,
[name withheld on request]

Here’s the response I sent her:

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate your heartfelt, thoughtful response and I can certainly understand how difficult it must have been for you to go through both 9/11 and the Boston Marathon attack. I ran the Boston Marathon this year and was deeply saddened by what occurred there. I wrote a blog post about it, too — albeit more of a tribute to Boston than a commentary on the events.

Sometimes I think it would be interesting to do an article about why events like Boston and 9/11 seem to affect people so much more deeply than other, numerically equivalent (or numerically worse) tragedies. I guess I was trying to get at that apparent irrationality in the post, but I probably swayed too far in discounting the very real harm done by these attacks.

Unfortunately I feel that the dramatic impact of 9/11 led to a vastly disproportionate response which not only harmed many more innocent people than were ever touched by 9/11, but also only increased the potential for more attacks in the future. I probably didn’t get that across very well in my post either.

Thanks again for writing, and I wish you the very best in your science writing career.

Best,

Dave

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