The Neon Wilderness

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Want My Moon Men
More to come this weekend. Leave comments - make me jump with joy. Also the budget for NASA is around $18 billion per year, ive been thinking about this all day, millions of people in this country who are hungry, people still living in FEMA trailers, no universal health care, huge deficit, and we're spending $18 billion on NASA? why? whats the deal?, like I still dont see any moon colonies or moon men or anything, or like a cure for cancer from these guys, what the hell are we wasting our tax dollars on this shit for? I mean the only thing I ever heard of coming form NASA missions or research and stuff is that stupid tempurpedic mattress (above), wtf?, we seriously need to reevaluate our spending priorities, that stupid bed isn't worth $18 billion.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

wow, pretty much sums it all up, enough said
Tobacco Road
Jeez Thomas Jefferson wouldn't like this at all.
Trouble brewing according to the NYT, seems like another group of anti free-trade America haters is making noise, this time its the farmers, produce farmers to be exact. Apparently faced with tough, if not staggering competition from freed-trade imports, especially China, produce farmers from California to Florida have joined together and are asking for government subsidies, for the first time, ever, at the tune of around $1 billion dollars, the farmers I guess haven't heard of the whole invisible hand or whatever. Things are definitely looking bleak, take garlic growers as an example,
"California growers once dominated the garlic industry in the United States, but imports from China and Hong Kong have increased from less than 1 million pounds in 2000 to 112 million pounds last year. This year, for the first time, more Chinese garlic will be sold in the United States than California produces, Commerce Department figures show."
It gets worse
"Other specialty crop groups are also struggling with foreign competition, in particular from China, which has geared its agriculture industry towards labor-intensive, higher-value fruits and vegetables. China has begun to dominate everything from apples to onions. Chinese exports have also eaten into American growers’ share of markets in Japan and Hong Kong for items like broccoli and lettuce."
Wow, first we lost all the manufacturing jobs, now the farms, huh...well, worry not my fellow Americans, still plenty of good jobs they cant export, like ...Wal Mart cashier, and um...chimney sweep, and I think they still pay for plasma at the blood bank. Besides, all this completion only goes to benefit the consumer, it helps you Mr. Average American in the form of lower prices on your favorite products, or would, you know if you could afford them, if you weren't working that shitty job at Walgreen's or whatever since the factory shut down and the farm foreclosed.
NYT "Imports Spurring Push to Subsidize Produce"
Laissez-Faire Is French For Fuck You Poor People
Article from CEPR about free trade, good and concise. Basically breaks it down as winners and losers of free trade (I've added a few of my own);
Monocle Salesmen
Rich People
Lexus Dealerships
Just about everyone else

yikes, don't agree that unbridled free trade is a good thing? well then your a stupid, uneducated isolationist, and maybe a racist too. Besides increased wage inequality and poverty means shorter lines at Starbucks for the elites, so thats something good in all of this.
Free Trade Arithmetic for Progressives"

From Best Buy, Pioneer 60" Flat Screen Plasma HDTV only $6499.99 on sale NOW for only a mere $6173.99 !! 4 year service plan only a minuscule $899.99 !!

WTF, I mean seriously who needs this shit? who buys this? I mean are there really people looking at the 50" Pioneer for $3799.99 and saying, "yeh, its nice, but its only 50 inches" Jesus, get a library card or something, freaking psychos.

People For And Against Free Trade/Globalization And Why

Libertarians: Hahaha I'm so rich ha ha ha

CEO's: With the increased profits ill be able to afford a bigger yacht!

Ogres/trolls: Just in general

NYT columnists: Because its not like his job is ever going anywhere, its not as if they are gonna say something like "I'm sorry Tom but we found this guy in Columbia that will write your column for a sack of rice"

Fat people: Lower tariffs means cheaper European chocolates.

Adam Smith: Invisible hand Bitches!

Economists: I mean it looks good on paper, and besides its not as if they can ever outsource my job to Vietnam. Survival of the fittest baby!

Ayn Rand: You ever read Atlas Shrugged?

Politicians/Elected Representatives : More corporate profits mean more kickbacks! Ching Ching!

People who have lots and lots of stock: Oink!

Idiots: Them: With free trade that TV at Best Buy is cheaper!
Me: Yeh, but since with free trade/globalization your working at a job that pays an average of 21% less and shouldering more of your health care costs you wont be able to afford it.
Them: But the TV will be cheaper, right?
Former Union Workers: You know Frank, this Wal-Mart shit doesn't seem to pay as much as the plant did, you know, before it closed and all.

Dad's: With disappearing borders, suddenly some real competition for that "World's Greatest Dad" title.

Pretty Much Every American : Hey, remember when we could afford rent AND food?

Cute Puppies: That's right, they hate free trade too.

Pure Evil ?
Take Two Aspirin's And Go To Hell
Article in Washington Post about sick leave, paid and unpaid, most people don't think about sick leave, it's simply understood that if your sick or say a child is sick or injured you can pick up the phone and call in sick, simple as that, but for 3 out of 4 low wage workers its not so simple, 3 out of 4 lack any type of paid sick leave, so if you get sick or injured you either a) come to work anyway or b) stay out home, lose a days wages and possibly your job. Pretty screwed up huh?, especially when you take into account that in other countries paid sick leave isn't a privilege of the elite but a basic human right, "A 2004 Harvard University study reported that 139 countries provide paid leave for short- or long-term illnesses. And 117 of those nations guarantee workers a week or more of paid sick days per year", wow, that doesn't make the old US of A look so hot, being one of the countries that doesn't offer sick leave and all, I guess we get lumped together with Haiti and Estonia or some shit, I guess in the US we're just a little tougher then those pussy European countries, if we get a leg amputated the night before we're still in the office at 8 the next morning, wow, makes your chest just swell with pride, well hopefully that's pride.
Some More Fun Facts:
Courtesy of the Harvard Project On Global Working Families
-139 countries provide paid leave for short- or long-term illnesses, with 117 providing a week or more annually. The U.S. provides only unpaid leave for serious illnesses through the FMLA, which does not cover all workers.
- 163 countries around the world offer guaranteed paid leave to women in connection with childbirth. The U.S. does not.
-At least 96 countries around the world in all geographic regions and at all economic levels mandate paid annual leave. The U.S. does not require employers to provide paid annual leave.
-40 countries have government-mandated evening and night wage premiums. The U.S. does not.
- At least 98 countries require employers to provide a mandatory day of rest: a period of at least 24 hours off each week. The U.S. does not guarantee workers this weekly break.
-At least 84 countries have laws that fix the maximum length of the work week. The U.S. does not have a maximum length of the work week or a limit on mandatory overtime per week.
-The U.S. is tied with Ecuador and Suriname for 39th in enrollment in early childhood care and education for 3–5 year olds. Nearly all European countries perform better. A wide range of developing and transitioning countries had higher enrollment rates than the U.S., despite being poorer.
-The only other industrialized country which does not have paid maternity or parental leave for women, Australia, guarantees a full year of unpaid leave to all women in the country. In contrast, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the U.S. provides only 12 weeks of unpaid leave to approximately half of mothers in the U.S. and nothing for the remainder.
- At least 37 countries have policies guaranteeing parents some type of paid leave specifically for when their children are ill. Of these countries, two-thirds guarantee more than a week of paid leave, and more than one-third guarantee 11 or more days. Not us.
- 42 countries guarantee leave for major family events; in 37 of these countries, the leave is paid. Not us. some bullshit huh? probably makes the libertarians happy, freaking libertarians.
Washington Post "Caught the Flu, but No Sick Leave"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Savage Inequalities
NYT Magazine piece on the whole No Child Left Behind mess and the persistent inequalities in our nations schools and children. I personally don't believe race plays a role in standardized test score results or on the kind of education a child receives, I believe it's only really a question of money, namely how much a child's parents have, which is why I am glad this piece focuses more on economic disparities and their tragic results. Heres a thought, maybe using local property taxes to fund schools isn't such a great idea.
NYT "What It Takes to Make a Student"
With Free Trade: Your Pretty Much Fucked
Article from Lou Dobbs on free trade by the numbers, and a call on our newly elected Democratic majority to start putting on the brakes to a system that's out of control.
Lou Dobbs "New Congress Must Show Courage"
East Of Eden
Article in LA Times about skid row, its citizens, and the lives they try to eke out there.
LA Times "A fragile fabric on skid row"
My First Time
I was 15 when I started working for Checker's, it was my first real paying job, which posed a problem, I didn't, not had I ever had a bank account, I was wary of banks and assumed that I would be ineligible from joining one or even cashing my checks at one plus banks kind of intimidated me, Eric, one of my friends at work suggested that I go to the check cashing store just up the street, he along with almost every one else at the store used it, so on payday I walked with Eric to the check cashing store, the place was small, about the size of a bodega, at the back of the store were three women who sat on stools behind a big bulletproof window with speakers for talking (two of the women spoke English, one woman always spoke Spanish), and revolving drawers for exchanging checks for cash, after receiving your money you could, at the same window buy stuff from the store, pay bills, buy stamps, wire money via western union, get a payday loan, set up a cell phone or beeper contract, and buy envelopes, between the back where the women sat and the front where me and Eric walked it were lots and lots of shelves and display cases everything even the shelves were under lock and key behind a kind of plexiglas, filled with lighters, cigarettes, cell phones, knives, watches, sunglasses, beepers, jewelry, bottle openers, and all sorts of other similar goods, the prices for all the stuff seemed high but I couldn't be sure not having anything to really compare it to, there was a fee to cash my check, and another fee if I wanted to pay bills there, but there was no use complaining, what other option did I have, when we left me and Eric went a few stores down to the bar, we bought 2 Hurricane's for $2.00 each for 40oz. bottles, and sit outside ad drink it, since the bar didn't have a problem selling me the beer but usually wanted me to leave right after I bought it since I was a minor.

“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men” -Abraham Lincoln
Behind The Counter
One of the NYT American Album pieces, this one about Gloria Castillo, 22, who works the night shift at Burger King. Gloria, a married, mother of two, feels as if her life isn't going anywhere, and maybe never will, stuck in neutral, paycheck to paycheck, just treading water, getting older, stuck, trapped, quiet desperation. It's sad, one line in particular stuck with me,
"Gloria Castillo stares out the open window, allowing the wet air to blow inside. “I got dreams,” she says. “I’m a human being.”She looks at the crummy little house across the parking lot with peeling paint. “That would be good too, a little house. I don’t want much.”
heavy stuff. I used to work in fast food, started when I was 15 working at Checkers (aka Rally's), I worked in fast food for four years, Checkers, Wendy's, McDonald's, until when I was 19 I got a job at K-mart, it seemed like such a step up. Fast Food is the hardest job I ever had, it really was, not physically, and definitely not intellectually, but it was hard, unless you've done it you couldn't possible understand, its hard being 19 and meeting a girl, she tells you that she's in her sophomore year at Drexel and then asks what you do, its hard putting on that uniform every morning, its hard having people treat you like dirt, an untouchable, the lowest of the low, its hard trying to pay bills with minimum wage, its hard being worried all the time about the rent or medical bills, its hard when people treat you like your stupid, and your so hard on yourself, we live in a society where a person is judged and judges himself based on their job, you feel like you've failed, every day you stand there behind a counter and ask yourself "where did I go wrong", " every time someone yells at you or you cash your check you say "I wish I had done better in school", you feel trapped, like there's no way out, you feel like this is as good as its ever to get, you watch the tv and see the billboards and feel as if the American dream has passed you by, you blame yourself, you hate yourself.
Class Matters
Article in NYT that got my blood boiling, apparently West Virginia along with a handful of other states has started a program that "rewards" patients in the states Medicaid (health care for the poor) program who are responsible with extra benefits and goodies, such as medicine and mental health counseling, I'm serious, okay so the way it works is this, West Virginia in an effort to save money on health care costs has instituted a new policy for the states Medicaid recipients, basically anyone on Medicaid
"will be asked to sign a pledge “to do my best to stay healthy,” to attend “health improvement programs as directed,” to have routine checkups and screenings, to keep appointments, to take medicine as prescribed and to go to emergency rooms only for real emergencies"
In terms of what happens if you do or do not sign the pledge and follow the guidelines
"Those signing and abiding by the agreement (or their children, who account for a majority of Medicaid patients here) will receive “enhanced benefits” including mental health counseling, long-term diabetes management and cardiac rehabilitation, and prescription drugs and home health visits as needed, as well as antismoking and antiobesity classes. Those who do not sign will get federally required basic services but be limited to four prescriptions a month, for example, and will not receive the other enhanced benefits...In future years, those who comply fully will get further benefits (“like a Marriott rewards plan,” Ms. Atkins said), their nature to be determined but perhaps including orthodontics or other dental services."
I'm serious.

Soulless, morally reprehensible, medically unethical, godless, and just plain evil.
The legislators in West Virginia, and all those that helped push through this law and supported it and those like it across the country should all be ashamed, they should be so ashamed. I mean really what the fuck is wrong with these people? who thinks this is a good idea? who thinks denying medication to the poor is a good thing?, or that dental services and diabetes treatment are a special perk? these are people, these are human beings, how dare you. Treating the poor like dogs, telling the that they have to sign a pledge promising to not skip appointments, to follow the rules, to be healthy... basically i guess saying that poor people are irresponsible, lazy, and stupid, that they need to be forced to act as adults, that they need to be treated as if they were children. And then if a person has a little to much pride, dignity, or independence to sign this bullshit pledge you punish them? you deprive them of medication, mental health counseling, dental care etc? are you serious, so basically medical care is less of a an essential human right and more of a carrot in which to dangle in front of the donkey, more of a privilege, less of a right. If a wall street banker is 300 lbs and smokes, it doesn't matter, he has great medical care, the best, if a poor person is 300 lbs and smokes, he is scolded and lectured like a poorly behaved child, and then denied medical care.
Someone once said something to the effect that a society can best be judged by how it treats it's neediest citizens. What do you think this program and those like it say about America?, about all of us, about me, about you?
NYT "Medicaid Plan Prods Patients Toward Health"
NYT "Pay For Good Behavior?"

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people." -Martin Luther King Jr.

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and Me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

-This Land Is Your Land

Woody Guthrie

The Neon Wilderness
From Dollars & Sense Magazine comes a piece by Howard Karger about Americas fringe economy for the poor and what a big and very profitable business its become. The fringe economy Karger explains is a wide range of businesses
"that engage in financially predatory relationships with lowincome or heavily indebted consumers by charging excessive interest rates, superhigh fees, or exorbitant prices for goods or services" which include "payday lenders, pawnshops, check-cashers, tax refund lenders, rent-to-own stores, and "buy-here/pay-here" used car lots. The fringe economy also includes credit card companies that charge excessive late payment or over-the-creditlimit penalties; cell phone providers that force less creditworthy customers into expensive prepaid plans; and subprime mortgage lenders that gouge prospective homeowners".
The article then details the profits and revenues of these fringe economy vultures, the numbers are nothing short of extraordinary, billions upon billions, all based on the idea of robbing, exploiting, and cheating the most economically vulnerable of our society, what a country.
Dollars & Sense "America's Growing Fringe Economy"