What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cars suck

ugh.... my car... what a nightmare.  Having this car here in NYC is a disaster.  I bought the car for the job I had in Connecticut.  I had to as the job required driving all over the state.  I was desperate, both for work and thus for the car.  So I went to dealer after dealer and bought the best thing I could get financed as I didn't have any money.  I then proceeded to put almost 25 thousand miles on the car in six months.  However, when I bought it, no one bothered to mention that the car had a transmission issue.  $7200 for the car, but it needs a new transmission now and it didn't present any issues until after the one month warranty expired.

Fast forward to today and the car is worth $5000, but still needs that new transmission.  I owe about $4500 on it.  Between the payments and the insurace I am in for about $300 per month right now.  I want desperatly to get rid of it.  But I can't, I can't sell a car that needs a new transmission.  Nevermind for a enough money to pay off the loan.  And it of course makes no sense to sell it and then still pay the loan, not that I think you can even do that.  So basically I'm underwater on my car.

Then you add in New York City to this equation and you have stress.  Parking is a nightmare.  Alternate side of the street parking.... once or twice a week you have to go sit in the car for an hour and a half and move it around for the street sweeper.  Your whole week becomes planned aorund your car.  Moving it the night before, or that day, or scheduling time to sit in it, getting to where it is, etc.  Doing errands or driving based on when the street cleaning happens so you can park.  For example:  my whole schedule in leaving my parents in Rhode Island last week was so that I would get to the city by noon to get a spot in the 11-12:30 parking spots.  Of course it didn't work, I missed it, but managed eventually.  Looking for parking is horrible - especialy in the Greenwich Village.  You can spend an hour driving around.  Brooklyn is much better, easy to find spots, but I'm mostly in the West Village right now so tricky.

Anyway, point is.  I hated cars before I came to NYC.  I don't like what they do for the environment, I don't like having to maintain them, and while I don't mind driving them, I hate that american society relies on them so much.  Give me public transportation and something to read please!!  Or a bike!  I can get my exercise in and commute!  (that's what I'm working with now).  But anyway, here I am stuck with this car.  I can't get rid of it, I have to deal with it, ad I have to pay for it.  Oh wait, I have no money, I have no job, and in another few weeks don't have a place to stay either - except maybe in that car.  Needless to say, my stress levels are high.

So last night I go out to the car to head to Rhode Island to do some work for my parents, and whoops.... it doesn't start.  #@%#$%  All there is to say about that.  Can something go right??  Please???  I hate that thing.  Something's got to happen here.  Anything...  ;)  But I've gotten countless job apps in over the last couple weeks and two interviews coming up.  So we'll see....  :)   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


So I've got to weigh in on this gun debate given the rash of large scale shootings that seem to litter the news every other day now.   At what point are we going to stop saying that these are individual actors acting singularly and in isolation?  There is just too many of them:
"More than 32,000 people in the US die from gunshot wounds yearly—five times the number of US servicemen and women killed in over a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another 70,000 or so are wounded by guns presenting the troubling statistic of an average of 280 Americans shot daily."
America has a societal problem, and it's of epidemic proportions. We have a society that is rotting from the inside, and practically handing out the lethal tools to act out our angers and aggressions.  But, this issue is so much deep than the economy or guns, its about a country and a society in decline.

Lets just take this most recent rash of incidents.  A doctoral student reportedly to have schizophrenia loses it and kills/wounds over sixty people trying to watch a movie.  Then a white supremest kills another six "dark people" while they're trying to exercise their religious freedom and go to the equivalent of church on a Sunday.  Today, a man starts firing indiscriminately when someone tries to show up to evict him from his home?  Doesn't take much to put together pieces of a decrepit puzzle together here.

I have a cousin with schizophrenia that lives in Colorado.  The care is atrociousness.  He just can't really get any.  He hasn't been able to get on disability, can't keep and income or a home, has gone after his mother with a knife, and was found naked in over a foot of snow having walked up a mountain in the Rockies.  He thinks he is Jesus Christ, King James, and himself all together as if time was nonlinear.  But even with all that, he can't get proper care.  He's tried going to Minnesota and California but still can't sort it out.  I wonder what kind of care the Aurora shooter was getting?  I also wonder how much student debt he had (or that his relatives now have as it can roll over with death).  What do you think his job prospects were for when he finished school?  Or those around him that he cared about?

Fast forward to Wisconsin and we find a white supremacist trained by the army to kill, and perhaps even trained in the army to kill "colored" people.  A whole army base becomes notorious for issues with basically breeding white supremacist communities in the nineties, yet has anything been done about it?  And what about his life now?  He lost his home not to long ago, foreclosed on of course (at least he didn't shoot the people that came to kick him out - they were probably white).  How did this happen?  He couldn't stick in the army long enough for a pension, reportedly due to his racist tendencies (but maybe due to spending cuts). So he's thrown out to the wolves, but he's trained to kill, he should be fine, right?  So he struggles to make ends meet as a truck driver, ends up down on his luck.  Hate fostered deep within him, a scapegoat right around the corner, and what it seems he must have thought was nothing to lose.

Now what about Texas today?  "You aren't gonna evict me from my house!"  I can just hear him yelling out the window.  How do you think he felt about his luck?  About his prospects for the future?  What do you think his socio-economic situation was?  I'm pretty willing to bet he wasn't so close to the 1% (despite apparently living on George Bush Blvd).

It's pretty obvious here people.  What we have is a society in decline and disrepair.  Disparity of incomes have sky rocketed over the last several decades, poverty is rampant - 15% of the population, almost 50 million people (most of which are children).  Unemployment nationally is above 15% when you include everyone not working that  wants to, but some places like California have unemployment rates over 20%.  All these numbers are pretty similar to the numbers of people that have no health care.  Sadly, these are not all the same people in each of these statistics.  House after house is being foreclosed upon, job after job is being shed, a drought stricken heartland is collapsing while the government subsidizes making fuel out of corn to feed our car addiction, our inner cities are seeing rising poverty levels, epidemic crimes statistics, brutal police repression, and overflowing prisons, while everywhere is seeing shrinking service programs for the needy and plummeting education budgets.  Yet our "leaders" go on vacation while their approval ratings have flirted with single digits.  And lets not even get started on 20% of our GDP going to servicing a national debt mostly owed to China and various middle eastern enclaves that we claim we need to defend ourselves from, or on the walls we are putting up around our boarders, or definitely on the rich sitting on their verandas buying political power.

This disaster is of course all happening while we are bombarded with useless distractions throughout our daily existence.  Billboards pollute our eyes with visions of uselessness, TV's fill our ears with aimless chatter of "real" world scenarios that none of us will ever live, medications "alleviate" joint pain only to cause, dry mouth, headaches, runny noses, occasional aches and pains, impotency, possible cardiac arrests, insanity, and in "a very small percentage of test cases" death.  Advertisements for giant manly trucks help dry up the Midwest, toys, clothes, bags, TV's, video games, cars, boats, whatever!  We don't need them all, but our whole lives have become about obtaining them all - consuming them.  The message is all sitting there directly in front of us.  Obtain everything, you need it.  It will help distract you from all the things that suck about the world we live in.

But we don't seem to be able to put two and two together.  To recognize that we have created a cycle of disrepair and disrepute.  This sordid society is eating itself from within, and giving itself the tools to do it more quickly - guns.

Personally, I think a gun is too much power for one person to hold in there hands at one time.  I don't want to have the power to so easily kill in my hands.  A simple twitch of a finger and you're dead.  Not for me.  But I also, who am I to tell others what to do and how to think?  I can only lead by example and express my views with little or no expectations.  So, I'm not going to tell you not to have your guns, but I am going to tell you that you must live with the repercussions of a society foundationally infused with them.  In a perfect world guns could exist, no one would use them.  But we don't live in utopia.  We live in the the real world, and that world is falling apart.  People are desperate, they want, they need, and they can't have - they just simply don't have the means, and it is becoming entrenched.  As a society we are no longer moving up the class ladder in ways we did in the past.  Real wages have been dropping for decades, yet we've learned to live with the expectations of a society built decades ago on different parameters and with different rules.  We have become full of desperate, hungry, angry, disenfranchised people and are having problems with it.  But you give all those people access to guns, and you've got a massacre.  Just like in Aurora, Wisconsin, Texas, and every major city in the US everyday
And this is the saddest thing about the society we've created.  There was on average 280 people shot today in America.  But we only heard about seven of them.  This shit happens EVERY day, all the time, yet we do nothing.  70,000 people a year don't act alone.  They are not isolated individuals.  They are a large part of a society that glorifies guns and criminality, and then gives people every reason and desperate desire to resort to crime, anger, and despair during the last desperate moments of their struggles.

Yes, I AM for much stricter gun control, draconian control actually given the way our society is today.  And maybe it wouldn't always have to be like that.  Maybe someday we could live in a society without the desperation and hopelessness that we see more and more today.  A society that's taken the desire to kill away from people.  If the Aurora killer had proper medical care and didn't think he had to get an advanced degree he couldn't pay for to get a job he believed he had to have to be able to survive, would we still be in this place today?  Would I still be awake writing this crap?  Maybe, because we'd also have to stop creating killer after killer in the name of controlling oil wealth and mineral rights across the world with desperate "volunteers" from our failed education and economic systems.  These issues are so big, so intertwined and never ending.  What the biggest thing I'm for is a country that starts realizing that WE are the problem.  Yes, us, our country, our society, and our choices are creating the images and society we see in the news and the individuals that perpetrate this news.  Is individual choice and culture so different in England where they have 58 something gun murders a year?  Or what about in Germany where the police shoot 85 bullets PER YEAR IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY!!?!  In America we can drop that on one "perp" in one night.

Our society is sick.  It is sick at it's core.  And just as it is rotting away from the inside, we must heal it from the inside.  We have to focus on the sick and gangrenous parts: the unemployed, the destitute, the impoverished, the uninsured, the indebted, the marginalized, the hopeless.  Because they are in fact our brightest asset, the part of America with the biggest up side, the most talent and aspiration left unfulfilled.  Now of course there are a lot of different philosophies on how to do this.  But I can assure you that if we don't start there with every ounce of our efforts, it doesn't mater what we do with taxes, marriage equality, abortion rights, or even guns, we'll go straight downhill no matter what - just like we are right now.  The problem that we're having within all this though, is that we're neither controlling our anger and despair, or what we do with that anger when we are consumed by it.  Until we can figure out how to support and provide for our entire society, we can't allow people the means to so easily take others with them to the deepest depths of their despair.


Oh, and that cop that got shot today, yeah, he had a gun on him - didn't help him much though did it?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fighting for Fair Labor!! (just not yours)

Really?!?  Hypocrisy knows no bounds?  I just spent a few hours working on an application for an organization working for "fair" labor practices throughout the world.  Yes, I'm going to name them: 
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) combines the efforts of industry, civil society organizations, and colleges and universities to protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions worldwide by promoting adherence to international labor standards.
Sounds great right?  And then they put this great disclaimer on the bottom of the job advertisement:
FLA is an equal opportunity employer. It is the FLA's policy to employ, compensate and advance personnel without regard to race, color, religious creed, citizenship, political activity or affiliation, marital status, age, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, veteran status, family care status, sex or gender.
 But then at the very bottom they say, "applications without salary history will not be considered."

Wait, you mean you don't discriminate against any of those things, and you are fighting for fair and equitable working conditions for people all over the world, but then you start any relationship with your own future employees by reaffirming the same abusive power relationship that capitalist ownership has held over their workers for centuries.

You know what, I am not comfortable giving you my socio-economic status. I am not interested in telling you how I am doing financially, or giving you a glimpse into – what in this country – is my social and political capacity. The amount of money I make (or don't make) is personal to me and should not be coerced out of me by an employer. I understand why you could want to know this; so that you can pick a person or weigh several candidates based on how much it is going to cost you to employ them. Right there you have betrayed the entire purpose of your mission as an organization. You are now evaluating – and in fact discriminating against – me based on my willingness to give you intimate details about my life and doing it in a way that is manipulative and laced with power implications of an extortionary nature. You are a labor organization, you are fighting for the rights of individual laborers, yet you have just told me that I, the prospective employee, have to furnish you, the prospective employer, with certain personal details of my life that strengthen your position and control over me as a potential worker or else you will not consider me for a position in your company. During the worst economic downturn since the great depression, where people are dying for jobs, you are going to bludgeon prospective employees with a take it or leave it position of blatant and expropriative power that exemplifies the principle hold of capital and ownership over the rights of labor.  I am truly amazed.

I considered doing a number of things. A, walking away from the application on principle. But B, I believe in what the organization is trying to do. And then of course most importantly there is C: I have no job.  I have no home in a few weeks, and little prospect of alleviating any of this in a desirable manner.  In short, I am desperate.  Exactly the emotion that they and every other power hungry capitalist business is preying on regarding labor issues.  They hold the key and strings to power over us.  Force us to compete on only their terms: with a lack of power for the people.

So what do I do?  If I send it in with no salary history it won't be considered.  But I don't believe in reaffirming that power structure by giving them my salary history – even if I could rummage up the mish-mash of corporate, academic, retail, construction, football, and nannying work I've done and translate the currencies, dated exchange rates, and cost of living indexes – especially as they are supposed to be an organization fighting for MY rights as a worker.  Just like I never denote my race, sexual disposition, or any other categorization I do not agree with on anything.  No, I think I'm going to have to make a stand on this one, and hope that they respect it.  You want someone passionate about labor issues?  Someone that is going to fight for them?  Yeah, well I'm starting right now - with you!  That's the only way I could respect myself in the morning.  And frankly, there just isn't enough of that in the world.  We all stand for something bigger than ourselves. 

So you u want to know my salary history?  Well my salary history is that of an expropriated laborer. I have spent my whole life working for people, companies, and organizations that have tried to pay me as little as they possibly could in order to get the maximum amount of work out of me. I don't own any of the means of production; I've volunteered, I've worked and not been paid, I've interned, I've worked hourly, for tips and a for a salary, I've even been used by a university as an athletic beast of burden to fill their coffers. As with most all of us, it has never been enough. The struggles I have been through, the actual dollar amounts that I have obtained though are my business: my economic, my political, and my personal business. I do not want to compete in a rigged power struggle with you before I've even met you, and I don't want you to choose whether to interview, hire, or dismiss my application based on whether I am willing to divulge personal and political information about myself.   I want to do a job for you - with you.
I view it as my political and social right to tell you that for fear that my application could be discriminated against on socio-economic and political grounds that I chose not to divulge my personal information.  That this is my political stance on corporate power over workers, and I will definitively take a stand against a labor organization trying to exercise such excessive power.  I hope that as per your disclaimer you won't discriminate against me for exercising that political right, but it would be even better if you would step up to your mission statement and reverse this expropriative power structure between management and labor in our - and now your - world today. 

As is, while I now have serious reservations about this organization, I can only hope this is simply an isolated theoretical miss-step and that this note is the change needed.  Still though, I really would like to do this work and would surely entertain any offer the "Fair" Labor Association gave me.

I work because I believe in what I do, and I'd work for them because I believed in what they do. But their statement about salary histories tried to make work with them just about money, which everyone knows it is not. It is about making the lives of expropriated workers throughout the globe better, sadly though, that is going to have to start right here at home with our own mindsets.