Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Goodbye (For Now)

I am taking a break from the blog.  I really enjoy it, but there are several factors.  It can be time-consuming looking for things to write about and being able to articulate an opinion on them (not that there's any lack of things to write about).  I am also getting tired of the comments that I am consistently having to delete.  It's a lot of spam and other shit, when what I have always hoped for was a modest audience that would maybe comment intelligently on what I am discussing.  But that's probably unrealistic on my part.  I heard somewhere, I don't know if it's accurate, but I heard that there are a billion blogs in circulation around the world.  I don't know if that factors in people who use sites like Facebook and Twitter to microblog, or if it's just sites like this, but either way, that's a lot of competition over people whose eyeballs you want to be on this site. 

I have noticed an uptick in visitors to the site, based on the web counter at the bottom of the page, but I strongly suspect that's mostly due to the spam programs that I mentioned above, rather than any legitimate interest in what I write about.  Don't get me wrong, I've always done this for myself.  I rather like browsing through this blog now and again, and reading what I wrote on something six months, or a year earlier.  It's a lot like a 21st century type of diary, only that it's also accessible to the world.  But that doesn't mean I wouldn't have liked a community, however small, to try to visit and debate, or agree, with me about what I write about.  But again, there are a lot of these out there, and it can be a real bitch to compel people to spend some of their time at your blog rather than someone else's. 

This probably won't be good bye, on a permanent basis.  But I am trying to change things in my life to some extent, and trying to avoid things which cause me discomfort.  Like the fact that I started this blog envisioning that I'd be writing for other people, and not just myself.  Or Facebook and the fucking meaningless drivel that many of its users post.  Or searching for a real, meaningful job when the economy is destroyed and no job that you apply to follows up with you, for whatever reason, whether I'm overqualified or not qualified enough.  As you could see, I'm not in the best of moods right now.  But this blog was always about keepin' it real, and if this is, by chance, my final entry, at least I'm ending it with the same tradition that inspired me to start it in the first place.  To quote Dr. Cocteau from the movie "Demolition Man",

"Be well." 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

40 Million Americans Using Food Stamps

I'll let the headline speak for itself; the article's good, too.

Just one thing I wanted to comment on.  When they talk on the news about the "recovery" and how consumer spending is returning to its normal state, I wonder how much of that consumer spending is due to the food stamp debit cards or the unemployment checks (which are always being extended by the Senate).  Retailers, including Costco and Family Dollar, are crowing on increased year-to-year sales as a result of allowing the food stamp cards to be used.  So, any perceived boom in consumer spending seems to be more likely to an increased number of people on the dole, than any new job creation.  I could go on and on about how this ties in to the larger issue (the deficit), but I think you get my point.

I did want to talk about food stamps a bit more though.  I read an interesting discussion on some board awhile back, about food stamps and how the government made a transition from recipients using stamps & coupons to using a debit card.  Someone who once used food stamps remarked that while using these stamps at the market was a source of stigma and humiliation, it also provided the necessary momentum for her to pull herself out of poverty.  She felt that replacing the stamp with a debit card was, in a sense, removing that stigma for the recipient but at the same time, making that person more likely to stay dependent on public assistance and not, so to speak, "pull themselves up by their bootstraps." 

I'm not trivializing the shame that many people must feel by taking public assistance, and I'm sure that many must feel it, no matter if they are using a government-issued stamp or a debit card to buy the essentials.  But shame can also be a persuasive motivator for people to put their lives back together and find gainful and profitable pursuits, and finding ways to lessen that shame (in the form of the debit card, for example) can result in the unintended consequences that often come with good intentions.

Amazon Box

I have a new feature on my blog.  If you look to the right-hand side, you will see an Amazon search box.  If you search for anything on this blog and then purchase it, I get a nice little kickback from that sale.  I never made this blog and envisioned making any kind of profit from it; it's strictly a labor of love and I like to do it.  But like everyone else, I could use every last cent I can get.  So next time you're looking to get something from Amazon, please consider visiting my blog and using the search box.  Thanks. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Property Tax Rebellion in Several States

In several states, there has been a big delay in tax assessments of the value of people's homes, so homeowners are still paying property taxes on property that was last assessed during the "boom" times, as early as 2003. Unbelievable. It's obvious why this is happening, as sales and income taxes have been flat or declining.

It also bugs me when I think of stories like this and see commercials from organizations like the National Association of Realtors touting the virtues of "home ownership." To me, there is no such thing. If a sickness or some other emergency befalls you and you can't pay your property taxes, than the state can seize your home. And property taxes are mandatory. So one can never really own their property, can they?

Monday, April 12, 2010

33 States Out of Money to Fund Jobless Benefits

Unemployment benefits are part of what little us Americans have when it comes to a social safety net, which is steadily ripping away more all the time. But in order to fund these benefits, the states must now borrow from the federal government, which is quite broke themselves. Something has to give eventually.

This passage from the article made me laugh though:

Financing experts suggest that states build up their jobless benefit coffers during strong economic times so that they can draw from them during downturns.

Since when does one need to be a "financing expert" to offer that piece of wisdom? Sounds like mere common sense to me, something that the financial movers-and-shakers in many of our state governments appear to lack.

And, BTW, ten of the thirteen states who seem to be able to fund jobless benefits without borrowing from the feds, followed that simple recipe described above. Too bad mine (NY) isn't one of them; in fact, it's one of the biggest offenders, tied with Michigan and only behind California.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Economic Meltdown FAQ

I wanted to point any regular visitors to this very helpful, hard-hitting, and simple FAQ on the website,, on the economic meltdown and why we should not expect an honest-to-goodness recovery anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Unpaid Intern, Legal or Not

This is a pretty good article from the Times on the rise of unpaid internships in the workplace, usually by the young and desperate, and how there is a debate going on whether it is legal or not. I have done a lot of personal soul-searching on internships. I realize that for many college students, it can be a foot in the door. In a paralegal program that I took, I was going to take one. However, at the time, I couldn't afford it. At least in the program I took, an internship was treated like a regular course, in which you had to pay tuition (which is nearly $500). I couldn't see how paying to work for someone made much sense, so I took what little I had (this was during the summer) and put it towards a traditional classroom-taught course.

So, I decided to wait until after college to take one. Then, I did some more thinking and saw how ripe this particular field was for exploitation. I am seeking work in the legal industry, which, let's face it, is a largely profit-driven industry. I have serious conflicts with doing work on a case; let's say it's just menial stuff, like making copies, in which the firm I'm interning for is billing their clients around 200 dollars an hour (maybe even more). Anyway, I have significant issues with contributing to that case (or just the office in general) in which so much profit is being made, and not seeing any of it, because I'm an intern, building experience, and I'm just lucky to be there. That is bullshit.

In a way, and maybe I am stretching, this ties into my general contention and mindset that our economy is destroyed. People, who in better times could have written their own ticket, are mired in these situations because they're desperate. Forget about having any kind of social life, or putting food on the table for that matter, you have to spend every waking hour that you're not in class or at a paying job, as a glorified, 21st-century type of indentured servant. A college degree (along with a certification, which I spent another year in school for) is overinflated and is worth less than shit, if you are also expected to take at least one internship. I know that I'm putting my career at great risk by not taking one, but I honestly don't care. I'd just as soon eat the time and resources I spent in class, then take one. Just can't do it.

(You might notice I'm being a bit more candid and no-holds-barred than usual. Maybe that's because I'm reading Jesse Ventura's new book, and I listened to a few of his interviews last night. He's one of my favorite public figures, hands down. He just cuts through the BS in a way that most people just won't, or cannot, do.)