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Aren’t we supposed to feel sorry for all of those government employees who make so little money, and are sacrificing their own financial security to serve us?  Haven’t we always heard the jokes about the government workers in the cheap suits, who have to live in the slums, but who serve a noble calling?

I live in Fairfax County.  It’s a suburb of Washington DC.  The main industry here is government. 

Average earnings for full time, year-round, male workers in Fairfax County in 2008 was over $100,000!  Total median earnings for all workers (including part time and seasonal, presumably) was over $70,000. 

In 2008, the average assessed value of detached single family homes was $617,541.  The average for all residential properties in Fairfax County was $459,228, but it varies widely by area, from $332,879 in Lorton, to $1,017,799 in Great Falls. 

Compared to the rest of the country, we’ve had a very small correction in housing prices, but these prices are still notably lower than they were a few years ago.  I think the average drop for Fairfax County in 2008 was 3.38%.

Where is all the money coming from?  We do have a strong technology industry here, but much of it serves the government.  I suspect that a lot of the money is coming from outsourced government work, but it’s hard to get good data on that.  The money for that government work comes from taxes.  I’ve been told that government and military retirees get pensions and retire early.  Many of them continue to work as consultants (usually indirectly working for the government), effectively bringing in two salaries, neither of which is pay for productive activity (at the macro-economic level).  Northern Virginia is an example of a massive redistribution of wealth.

Still, Fairfax County is a nice place to live.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I like it here.  I just hate the constant reminder of the size of the federal government. 

(source: Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs.)

I heard rumors about California possibly delaying issuing tax refunds a couple of months ago.  It looks like it might happen because the government is on the verge of bankruptcy.  People in California might receive an IOU instead of a check!  This is one of the many reasons that you should aim to owe the government money in income taxes at the end of the year, or at least, break even.  Getting a tax refund just means you let the government take too much of your money all year.  Of course, it is almost impossible to figure out what you’ll owe, so this is a difficult task.

Another news item causing me concern is what some are calling National Bankruptcy Day.  On February 10, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will go into effect.  Kim has an excellent summary and tons of links here and here.  This law creates an onerous, bureaucratic certification process for children’s products to (supposedly) ensure that they contain virtually no lead, and no phthalates (whatever they are).  The process is so expensive that one-of-a-kind items are expected to cease to exist and small businesses creating children’s products are expected to go under quickly.  Even products manufactured before the law goes into effect are covered, and secondhand stores (think all consignment stores, yard sales, and eBay) are liable for any products they sell that don’t meet the new requirements.  I wish I had some extra cash to stock up on some things now.  I suspect a black market will develop. 

Three Good Things for the day:

  1. Samantha had her first neighborhood play date.  One of the very first ever, in fact.  I love to observe her in new situations.  I wasn’t surprised to see her gravitate towards the dolls and the toy guitars.  She was her usual cautious self and needed mommy to hold her hand in the beginning, but by the end she was fairly comfortable.  We had a nice time. 
  2. Scrubs is back, and it’s still funny!
  3. Today I watched the remarkable achievement which is the 43rd peaceful transfer of power in our government.  Thank you, Founding Fathers.

Here is a great article about the vaccine-autism non-connection, revolving around a new book: Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit.

Highlights of the article:

Those backing Dr. Offit say he was forced into the role [of publicizing the pro-vaccine view]. Opponents of vaccines have held rallies, appeared on talk shows like “Oprah” and “Imus in the Morning,” been the heroes of made-for-TV movies and found a celebrity spokeswoman in Jenny McCarthy, the actress and former Playboy model who has an autistic son. Meanwhile, the response from public health officials has been muted and couched in dull scientific jargon.


She [Dr. Nancy J. Minshew, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a leading autism expert] blamed journalists for “creating a conspiracy where there was none.” By acting as if there were two legitimate sides to the autism debate, she said, “the media has fed on this — it’s great for ratings.”

Many doctors now argue that reporters should treat the antivaccine lobby with the same indifference they do Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers and those claiming to have proof that NASA faked the Moon landings.

I love Dr. Minshew’s point, and the call from doctors for the press to treat these claims with indifference.  This is exactly how one needs to treat arbitrary claims.  The only problem for Dr. Offit is that I won’t read his book because I don’t need to hear arguments against the arbitrary!

I can say that because I’ve looked into this autism-vaccine issue myself, and it’s pretty easy to understand.  However, I wish I could find the equivalent of these doctors who understand the arbitrary to help me sort through all of science news.  I am really struggling with how to keep up with scientific news because there is so much junk science out there and I haven’t found any experts I can trust.  I’ve retreated into skepticism about anything that I can’t understand based on my own limited knowledge.  Does anybody have any suggestions for a good science news source for laymen?

Here is the most important news story of the day…the week…probably since November 4:

U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site

The only reason I ever supported invading Iraq was that it would lead to the elimination of the Iranian government.  May George W. Bush be damned for the lives he threw away for nothing. 

A nuclear Iran is terrifying, and yet it looks inevitable at this point.  I don’t even know what action to call for to try to stop it.

I just got a new Brita water pitcher.  The flip-up pour spout cover on our old one had broken off long ago, and when we moved here to our new house we felt like it was time to start fresh and get a new one.

I love my Brita water.  I wanted to write a whole post about how drinking Brita water is superior to drinking bottled water, but then I found out that the Cult of Green is taking on the bottled water industry, and I hate to be on the same side as those wackos.


Forgive me, Internet, for I have sinned.  It has been 44 days since my last confession.

I’ve grown to like Diane Rehm.  She’s a radio host with a speech impediment.  For years that fact alone made me turn off NPR in disgust every time I heard her voice.  (I’ll never get over the fact that at my very first real job, I worked with a legally deaf woman who was hired to answer the phone!)  Rehm is also an infuriating liberal.  But she is a good interviewer and I learn a lot from her show.  As long as I’m at it, I’ll admit that I think Bill O’Reilly is a good interviewer too, despite his disgusting character and idiotic populist views.  I haven’t watched his show in years, but I always thought he asked real questions, unlike so many “journalists” who elicit nothing of substance from their subjects, except what you already know.

Two of a Kind

Pick your mystic:

Pope Had `Prophecy’ of Market Collapse in 1985, Tremonti Says

Gore warns world may face civilization ‘collapse’…

(both via drudge)