when the status quo frustrates.

Ooh The Hypocrisy, It Burns!

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Jon strikes again. :D (via)

(Jon does also take on ACORN, pretty hilariously, here.)

We’re Those Stupid Kids

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

Hubby and I are BROKE. Very broke. We’re trying to pawn stuff to make rent broke.

How’d we get into this deplorable situation? By being a pair of those stupid kids that got sucked into debt.

Hubby and I have, about, 200,000 dollars worth of debt. About 6,000 dollars of that debt is credit card debt, the rest is student loans. See, back in the day, Hubby turned 18 and went of to school to be a pilot. The very first day, they offered him a free t-shirt and some other things just to fill-out his information. Hubby went “what the hell. They can’t possibly approve me, I have no credit”. A little while later, a credit card with a 7,000 dollar limit came in the mail for him, and a 22% interest rate. Hubby went “Holy fuck. Well, it’d be nice to have an emergency stack of money on hand; I’ll just keep it at home, just in case. And, I heard having a credit card helps build your credit score.”

A few years later, he’s trying to finish a spring course, in an attempt to keep up with his aviation classes. Finishing classes is hard- taking aviation classes literally depends on the weather. It’s harder when you’re also trying to work one or two jobs so that you don’t have to take out extra loans for living expenses. And, if you don’t finish the flight course in a certain amount of time, you have to retake it (which is more time and money). So, he signs up for a few summer classes, and applies for summer loans…which are late. He goes to the horrible green trolls* at the loan department at our alma marter and asks what he can do. The only person who has the authority to give him an extension on his tuition is out for the summer. He asks what he can do. They say “I’m sure you’re loans will be in in plenty of time, after all, you used a reliable bank”. Another week or so passes; loans are still not in (this was actually a refrain for most of my friends and I for college; no matter how early we applied, they were still ALWAYS late. By my last year, I just had the forms for tuition extension filled out at the beginning of the year- it was just another thing to do). In the meantime, he needs money to continue flying and so, he makes the decision to use the emergency credit card to pay for the flight fees, with the idea that he’d pay the credit card off the second he gets his loans.

The last day to pay tuition lapses, and he still doesn’t have his loans in, so they drop him from his classes. He goes to the HGTs to see what he can do. A HGT goes and finds his loan approval sheet, and there are the loans. Hubby goes “Great, can you sign me up for classes again and give me the loans?” HGT goes “You can’t get loans unless you’re registered for classes.” Hubby goes, “Well, put me back in the class and I’ll be registered for it”. HGT says “I can’t register you for classes until you pay your tuition”. After going over this Catch-22 exchange a few times, up three different levels of authority, Hubby leaves in a fit of frustrated passion.

5 years later, we’re still trying to pay down that credit card. Hubby has never missed a payment, but Hubby has also never been able to pay off more than the minimum amount, either. We were doing okay (if still accruing debt), until I left school and we moved down. Now, I have loans to pay off too, and 2 months of unemployment combined with a job that doesn’t pay nearly enough to make ends meet means things are getting tight. Some days, I almost wonder if going to college wasn’t a shell game- if I would have just been better off not going at all. But, too little, too late. Some days it gets bad- Hubby will go off in rages because he doesn’t know how to fix this. Occasionally, I break down and cry a little; over the money that we don’t have and need, and over my lack of ability to help anyone else because I can barely help myself and my tiny family. Most of the time the analogies of debt is a mountain that you slowly chip away at, but to me it always seemed like a looming black hole that I’m throwing money into- maybe the bottom of the hole is actually getting closer, but it’s still so deep that I can’t see the bottom to check. It doesn’t help my depression, that’s for sure; more than once I’ve looked into the law to see what would happen to my debt if I were dead.** Compounded by this is we were both raised in the “don’t every go into debt” style of money management; which may have been possible for our parents (though, since both sets have had mortgages and car payments, I rather doubt), but were not anywhere possible for us.

I’m very glad the credit card bill was passed, even over the objections of people who think we should spend the rest of our life in debt, and that usury is just the free market. People occasionally wonder why I take politics so personally, and the answer is because it is personal. When you tell me that 28% is a reasonable amount of money to charge, and that’s it’s tyranny to have the government control it, you’re telling me that because we made a mistake, we deserve to be in debt forever. That’s personal. When you tell me that women just aren’t as good as men, in all the myriad of ways that people say that, that’s personal. When you say that good health and life is a reward for the rich and not a right of a person living in a modern society, that’s personal. This isn’t some amorphous group of “other” out there, this is me, my friend, my family, my life. And I can’t think of anything else that is more personal than that.

We’ve made our mistakes early, hopefully we can live to see a debt-less existence. (Assuming, of course, that neither of us has a catastrophic health care problem). And we’ve got some things to our advantage- we’re young, we’re educated, we’ve middle class markers (accents, social norms, dress, et cetera), we’re white, and we’re considered “able-bodied”. Right now, we both have jobs (thought that can always change). We’ve got a leg up on a lot of people.

But it’s still hard to not feel a little desperate, from time to time.

*may be a slight exaggeration. They were more moss than true green.
**Based on what I can tell, nothing. The loans are my own; no one co-signed with me. Hubby and I have kept all of our finances legally separate; we don’t even have each other’s names on our bank accounts. They’d go after my “estate” but I don’t have an estate. They can have my 5 dollars in the bank, and my two coming paychecks. Again, this really isn’t great on the “It’s better to stay alive” ledger of the “kill yourself/ don’t kill yourself” scale.

A Job is Not a Gift

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

I am moving to a new city at the end of the month, seeing as I hate where I live and also because I’ve decided to flee the world of academia for a little while (possibly forever). Hubby and I already have a new apartment, which is nice and close to where he works. But, new city means I have to do the unthinkable; get a new job.

I always hate getting a new job; mostly because I have to beg to get a job that I know is going to make me miserable. It always seemed wrong to me; I have to do all the work of constructing an advertisement for myself so I can submit to giving up the bulk of my waking hours doing menial shit that I’m never going to see the point of. But, unless this lottery ticket pays of, and since I’m awful fond of being able to pay for the rent on this new place and eating (and paying off the jackals at student loans) I’m searching for someone who wants my skills.

Probably the worst thing about job searching is the advice that I should take the first job someone is willing to give me. I am sick to death of people saying a company “gives” you a job. I am also sick to death of pundits saying that tax cuts means that more “investors” will “give” people a job. I’m also sick to death of companies seeming to think that employing people is a barrier to their wealth and growth, and talking about it as if employing people was some sort of altruistic action.

It isn’t. This goes double for the government. When they’re debating this “stimulus” package, they need to know that this is them investing in the health and growth of our own country.

Employees are where owners get their money. I realize that this sounds counter-intuitive to some, and completely “duh” to others. But without employees, businesses don’t DO anything, don’t produce anything, and surely don’t make money.

Take, for instance, the airline industry. Airline travel has decreased 7 percent, or so it is projected. Now, a bunch of different airlines have laid of employees, and shut down whole wings of airports. What is the result of this? Well, first and foremost, it means that their quarterly stock price goes up 2 percent*. In the mean time, it means a few different things. First and foremost, getting a plane down, unloaded, and off-again (called “turn arounds”) are much, much longer. This means that customers have a greater level of irritation with the flight (because no one likes waiting in a plane). But, I suppose, more importantly for the businesses, this means that they are losing money by the boatloads. Take 350 lbs of jet fuel/ hr, per side for an engine at idle on a CRJ-200, one of the most common commuter jets. Axillary power unit unit, extra 150 lbs fuel/ hour. Then there is battery power, or an external power source.

To sum; you have four different places you can get power for a plane; the engines, the APU, a battery, or the external power source. If you have people on the plane, you want some source of power, (you need lights on). Ideally, if you’re on the ground, you want to be connected to an external power source as opposed to burning fuel of any kind. But, in order to get connected to the external power source, you need a ground crew to maneuver you into position, and to hook you up. If you have very few ground crew people, each plane’s going to be going off the APU or an engine longer. A rampie costs $12/hr (if they have some seniority time; I believe they have been advertising a starting wage of $9/hr). Jet fuel costs 4 dollars a MINUTE (240 dollars per hour- this is a Hubby and Captain calculation, and they should know). A time savings of 3 minutes pays for the rampie’s wage for that whole hour. This is just one example in one industry of how less people means less money.

Additionally, having less employees also means that traveling is going to be more uncomfortable, with longer lay-over times (because of fewer flights) and more crowded planes. In the long term, this is going to mean that less and less people will be inclined to fly commercially if they have other options (like businesses deciding it’s in their best interest to get private jets) and other people foregoing the vacations entirely. So, to me, it looks as if they’re trying to fix a cut by cutting off their whole leg. If you cut off your employees, you’re cutting off the people who make your whole company run.

That’s why I say we should change the entire look of jobs; these aren’t gifts, and you shouldn’t be grateful for your company for hiring you. If I’m grateful to a company, it’s what they gave to me that they didn’t need to (additional training above the job I was hired for, flex-time, and actual interest in my well-being, bennies that weren’t there in lieu of a pay-check raise), not the stuff I contracted to do for them.

*Can anybody explain to me where these prices come from? Seriously, I’m nearly convinced that these numbers are voodoo and magic but I never went beyond microeconomics in class, and people frequently say the same things about other “soft” sciences, which I know isn’t true because I learned about them.

What the Bloody Fuck is Wrong With Burger King?

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I haven’t eaten at Burger King ever since their “Man Food” commercials, (which wasn’t exactly a huge imposition since I didn’t think their food was that great in the first place); but if I ate there, this would be enough for me to kill it again.

Their newest ad campaign apparently decided that sexism wasn’t selling, so they went for the racism angle. The premise of it is this: they go to “remote” third-world villages, and give the people there a Burger King Whopper or a McDonald’s for the world’s “purest taste test”.

Burger King

(My own Transcript after the Fold)
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Oliver Twist – starring Ford, GM, and Chrysler

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

You know who I won’t shed a single damn tear for? The electric-car-squashing American auto industry. These are the same people who buried their inexpensive, reliable plug-ins once it became clear people actually *wanted* them (and thus the reduced need for marked-up dealer maintenance that comes with dumping the fragile combustion engine).

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But as with so many old-fogey corporate institutions right now, the automakers are in peril. And the Democrats want to help:
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Won’t somebody think of the Multi-National Corporations?!

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

As Barack Obama and John McCain heap unending criticism on lobbyists in their race for the White House, an association representing the public policy advocates is trying to remind everyone that lobbyists are people too.

“What I have trouble with is the hypocritical nature of these comments,” said lobbyists’ lobbyist Brian Pallasch. “Both candidates have worked with lobbyists, recognize the value of their input, received legal campaign contributions from lobbyists, and yet never hesitate to throw us to the wolves when it behooves them to do so.”

Analysis below the fold.

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Peak Banana

Monday, May 26th, 2008

I don’t like bananas, but even if I did, I wouldn’t eat them. United Fruit, the reason that we have the bananas that we have today, is basically the template for ruthless, evil corporations, pursuing unimaginable profits as the cost of human rights and the environment.

Within the next few decades, short of a scientific miracle, the bananas that we’re used to will cease to exist. That’s also United Fruit’s fault, incidentally. Check out Johann Hari’s fascinating article on the subject.

Is there a parable for our times in this odd milkshake of banana, blood and fungus? For a hundred years, a handful of corporations were given a gorgeous fruit, set free from regulation, and allowed to do what they wanted with it. What happened? They had one good entrepreneurial idea – and to squeeze every tiny drop of profit from it, they destroyed democracies, burned down rainforests, and ended up killing the fruit itself.

Anyway, it turns out that the banana-as-we-know-it is not so much the atheist’s nightmare:

…as it is a freakish creation of mankind’s greed and cruelty. Sorry, Kirk Cameron!

Buy our product. Otherwise, vaginas win.

Friday, April 18th, 2008

You stupid weak baby. You pussy-whipped prissy-pants cooter-licking nancy boy.

You probably think this is about the spark plug, don’t you? And in some ways, it is. The spark plug is sort of like the cock of your car. Scratch that — it’s the cock of your SUV, truck, or (in certain select instances) your sports car. If you drive something that can be classified primarily as a “car,” then you’re pretty much driving around in a vag. You’re advertising to everybody that your ball-busting shrill-shrieking attention-demanding whore of a ball and chain calls the shots. Because they’re the only people with any interest in “cars.” Anyway, the sparkplug is your vehicle’s penis. It looks like a penis, especially when you light it just so for an ad. And you can’t get anything done until it shoots its load, which is pretty much the spark of life for your entire engine. So the least you can do to show your nagging bitch who’s boss is caress the cock of your ride. It’s not gay, it’s just man time. I mean Man Time.

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Glenn Beck would also like to thank rapists everywhere for doling out all that free sex

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Hello, sunshine! Hello, birds! Hello, Glenn Beck!

We all want to live in a world that’s clean, healthy and prosperous.

Whoa. That’s the most number of words Glenn Beck ever strung together with which I can agree. Though I’m sure his Ralph Lauren-soaked definition of the word prosperous (“A McMansion on every plot, Bennigans leftovers in every fridge”) differs somewhat from mine (which is more about equal/free/bountiful education, basic services, and so forth).

We all want to hand that world off to our children in slightly better shape than we received it. No one, even the supposedly evil oil executive, has any reason to want anything different.

“Our children.” Not all children. Just theirs. Beck sure sums up the conservative agenda in one lazy turn of phrase, doesn’t he? Fortunately, if the oil-rich Bush family is any evidence, Glenn can rest assured that the world of delightfully well-adjusted oil-exec offspring will be filled with all the coke parties, public offices, draft dodges, baseball teams, and second chances a kid could ever want.

Everybody else’s kids will just have to take their minimum wage and uninsured injuries working the rigs and like it.

Congress has picked “Big Oil” as their enemy of the week. These companies inexplicably put profits above people, ravaging the environment and financially assaulting the poor to put another couple of dollars on their balance sheet. That’s the storyline we’ve all been taught.

I never could understand why Beck or any other corporation worshipper wasted their time worrying about who Congress blathers about these days. Our Democratic Congress has teeth so dull they probably couldn’t take a bite out of tissue paper, much less Big Oil. But I sympathize with Beck, because heaven knows we’ve been inundated with so many “teachings” about the evils of oil execs, who clearly lack the power, money, and tee times to influence the agendas of our media conglomerates.

Yes, times are tough for many. Sure, oil companies make a lot of cash. But, for that money, they get us to work, get ambulances to the hospital, keep our homes warm, and employ thousands of our friends and neighbors while financing their retirement, paying their health care, and providing energy to millions.

…IN OTHER WORDS, we all know schools, hospitals, and the working class can’t function without their product, so Big Oil cheerfully gouges them when they could easily be charging half of what they do. Way to sell your case, Beck.

Because of capitalism, they have the incentive to do that.

Do what, exactly? Form an impenetrable oligarchy? Aggressively addict the country to their finite resource? Double their prices just because they know they can? Fuck with ambulances, airplanes, and school buses for fun? Start wars? At this point, Beck’s making Big Oil *and* capitalism look pretty stupid.

I’ve yet to see what our government does for us with their rather large chunk of each gallon of gas we buy, and I’ve yet to see them offer to return it or suggest a gas-tax-windfall-tax-tax.

Tax-tax-oil-plebes-tax-oil-tax. Let’s just string some words together into nonsense, because if it’s long enough, it’ll make me look smart. And if I say tax enough, everyone will remember how much the government sucks! Never mind that fact that even if a gas tax is being spent inefficiently by a government, at least people have some power to influence that process. When it lands in the pockets of oil corporations, it usually just goes to private militias to kill innocents overseas. Tax-no-tax-murdering-spree-windfall!

But enough about oil, let’s drop the red herring for our real target: truth.

The other villain of the moment is the global warming “denier.” Anyone who disagrees, even in the slightest, must be ridiculed. On “60 Minutes” last weekend, Al Gore said: “They’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the Earth is flat. That demeans them a little bit, but it’s not that far off.”

So Beck, who somehow thinks people can be bamboozled into THANKING oil companies, would now like to shake a fist at Al Gore for daring to call global warming obvious. Beck makes the following arguments:

1) not many people believe the moon landings were fake
2) not many people (21% in his cited poll) believe that greenhouse gases are the main cause of global warming
3) that mean’s Gore’s calling you a stupidhead (statistically speaking)
4) Al Gore’s house uses lots of power and is ONLY NOW outfitted with solar panels
5) Shouldn’t his farm ALREADY be on wind power?
6) Why is he spending $300 million on ads if everyone supposedly believes in global warming?
7) Never mind oil money, be suspicious of Gore’s money and where it came from!!

Can you see any remotely sensible path of logic there? Because, um, I hate to break it to Beck, but a majority of American are NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. See: Election, 2004. See: America, before Pearl Harbor. See: right. fucking. now. on pretty much everything.

So, yeah, Gore calls people with their head in the sand naive. And maybe that’s a majority of Americans. But you know what? Gore never argues that point one way or the other. So all of Beck’s blow-harding about Gore buying all his ads doesn’t make much sense… unless he’s just hoping the audience is stupid and won’t see how convoluted and empty his position is.

Defending oil execs is just weird. Using is as a sneak attack on global warming is ever weirder. Then again, Beck’s just another in a long line of remora fish feeding off the scraps of big business while everyone behind him has to eat his shit.

One step closer to a corporatist dystopian future

Monday, January 28th, 2008

…where you can get a high school diploma by working in McDonald’s

Do I need to point out everything that’s wrong with this? Corporate sponsorship of public education is a vicious cycle. First, the government cuts funding to schools. Next, a corporation approaches the desperately underfunded school to bail it out—Nike will build you a new basketball court, in exchange for some brand-name recognition. How could any inner city school refuse? Then, the government is free to shirk its responsibility for funding, because hey, someone’s already paying.

I doubt there will be much of an outcry as the education of the underclass is slowly handed over to corporations eager for a docile, under-educated workforce. In my province, this has been going on for awhile—Ontario high school students must complete 40 hours of community involvement to graduate. The lofty rationale behind the policy (“to encourage students to develop awareness and understanding of civic responsibility and of the role they can play and the contributions they can make in supporting and strengthening their communities”) sounds nice until you read the rest of it; students, most of whom already have part- or full-time jobs, can complete these hours “in a variety of settings, including businesses, not-for-profit organizations, public sector institutions (including hospitals), and informal settings.” While I’ve been in community activist groups that have taken on student volunteers, most kids end up doing free labour for businesses.

Welcome to the future: Liberal educations for the rich, indentured corporate servitude for everyone else.

Happy National Boss Day!

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

For years, one section of the American work force has been deeply and consistently underappreciated. While fatcat secretaries get a free lunch once a year to supplement their $9/hr, and Moms and Dads get their own special days celebrating all of their work, when was the last time anyone stopped to thank their boss?

And I don’t just mean the middle manager directly over your subsection under the deputy director of your department — I mean your boss. I’m talking about the person who decides that employee health coverage damages the bottom line. The person who fought tooth and nail for that new maquiladora. The person who paid him or herself an average of 14 million bucks to suffer through all those golf outings and corporate retreats.

God bless the CEO. Corporate America has revolutionized the world in many ways, but none have been quite so grand as the canonization of a glorified corporate mascot. So let’s celebrate, eh?

Fun facts about Boss Day:

HOLIDAY HISTORY
• Began in 1958 when Patricia Bays Haroski, then an employee at State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Ill., registered the holiday with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

• Ms. Haroski chose Oct. 16, her father’s birthday, as the date for National Boss Day because she felt he was an exemplary boss.

• National Boss Day has become an international celebration in recent years and now is observed in countries such a England, Australia and South Africa.

If you aren’t sure how to reward your boss, consider a fake magazine cover or personalized bobblehead. Also, a $50 fruit and flower basket would be nice. Whatever you choose, though, take a moment to thank Ms. Haroski for creating one more way for you to line to the pockets of your Dear Leader. Or, failing that, one more opportunity for him or her to be disappointed in you.

WalMart helps new college kids get an early start on railing against the establishment

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Walmart, always famous for having it’s fingers on the pulse of the free market tried to score some secondhand cool cred off of Facebook, with shockingly less than stellar results:

Analysts have applauded Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s new “Roommate Style Match” group on Facebook.com, created to help college roommates link up online to coordinate back-to-school purchases at the retailer. However, most of the 100-plus comments posted on the site so far from its 932 members are critical of the retail giant’s business practices.

As usual, the official company line on this minor debacle leads a reader to believe their company letterhead actually contains the slogan “our heads are so far up our asses we can lick our own tracheae.”

While a minority of the comments were positive about Wal-Mart in general, none focused on the company’s goal for the site — having users “chat with other college students by posting their comments about dorms, decorating and college life.”

…”We recognize that we are facilitating a live conversation, and we know that in any conversation, especially one happening online, there will be both supporters and detractors,” she wrote. “We’re happy that so many of our customers are talking on Facebook about why they like Wal-Mart. Most of all, we’re glad that soon-to-be roommates are using our site to come together and make choices about their dorm rooms.

So the synopsis seems to be: Walmart tries to speak to the youth in their own language of cool, plot backfires. Ok, that’s not so terrible – many companies have made a similar faux pas. Dorky and misguided, sure, but not outrageous. And certainly, this foray into the internet is a little less mind-boggingly awful than previous attempts:

Wal-Mart got egg on its face when it was revealed last year that a blog supposedly written by two independent consumers was backed by an initiative funded by Wal-Mart’s public relations firm. In addition, a Wal-Mart social network called The Hub was closed after 10 weeks last year.

But the kids have spoken, and they’ve not only spanked Walmart but also Facebook for crossing some kind of unspoken boundary about how these kids expect their social networking sites (and by extension, that precious level of advertising that they’ll accept unquestioningly) to be run.

One post, signed by Janine Carmona, wrote that “Facebook should take the number of negative comments on this page as a note that we don’t support this company [for] its use of a space for social networking. This space is for people talking to other people. Facebook, get your priorities straight.”

I guess the line is that huge multinational corporations can buy all the adspace they desire, but when they try to get all chatty with their market in the spaces that the market uses to unwind, that’s where the kids draw the line. And you know what, that’s excellent. I’m pleased as punch to see that teens can identify and reject that kind of lameass marketing play. It fills my black heart with joy.

But once again the business journalists and analysts confuse me. For even though this endeavor has about 900 comments of “No!” set against no comments of “OMG Let’s co-ordinate our WalMart shopping thought Facebook, roomie!” the establishment can’t get over how great this is going to be if only they keep on keeping on:

“For Wal-Mart, this is the right approach,” Bernoff said. “This is a great way to reach college students. It is much easier to get someone on Facebook to join your group than to get someone to come to your Web site and join your community.”

…He (Owyang) recommends that Wal-Mart start discussion group forums to try to “segment the conversations about going back to school and even consider keeping folks on topic. Continue to allow critics (you can’t stop it anyway) but try to use the forums as a guide to a discussion about school.”

“I highly recommend that Wal-Mart consider trying a community strategy using a transparent and authentic blog or video blog series that addresses the very brand issues that they are getting slammed on,” he wrote.

What the hell? Walmart tries, in a simple, transparent manner, to start a conversation about the importance of communicating with your roommate to make sure you can use Walmart to the best advantage possible for dorm room decoration. Ensuing comments show that no one on the whole interwebs is interested in having this conversation. Spontaneous displays of Walmart love are swamped by testy, politicized teens who reject you and your stylish pompasan chairs. You can not have, will never have a “transparent and authentic blog” that shows all these kids why they’re wrong because they’re not really all that wrong about you – you’ve spent the last half century abusing the fuck out of nearly every community you touch, from the center of America to the center of China. And feel free to add to your list of strengths your staggering, patronizing cluelessness about all things not price slashing. And then continue to rock, rock on.

Sounds like a plan.