Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Forget About Law as a Career

If you are reading this, about to graduate college and are eyeing law school, I'd suggest that you think again after reading these articles.  Job offers are dwindling for newly minted attorneys, and Marin County, CA, one of the most wealthiest enclaves in the state, are seeking prosecutors to work for free

I had considered law school, and ended up taking a one-year paralegal program at my community college.  I have yet to get an interview for a job in this field, let alone said job, and at this point highly doubt that I will ever work in law.  As down as I might get about this, reading articles like this also makes me thankful.  My paralegal certification only cost a few thousand dollars, and a lot of that was paid out of my pocket.  So if I can't get a job with it, it isn't the end of the world.  Imagine being a law school graduate, who has just passed the bar, filed for membership with the ABA, has at least a hundred thousand dollars in student loan debt, and having no means of paying it back due to the dry job market.  Ouch. 

Anyway, here is a series of articles pertaining to what I just talked about:

USA Today:  Prosecutors Foregoing Pay for Experience
Sacramento Bee:  Job Offers Dwindle for MBA and Law School Graduates
Wall Street Journal: Bar Raised for Law Grad Jobs

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Video of the "Bully" Episode from Louie

As promised, here is a copy of the "Bully" episode of the show "Louie" that I talked about in my blog a few days ago.  The only thing is, you might have to sign up for Hulu, since it's a Mature-rated video and it required me to give my email and password.  Hopefully, that won't be a problem for you.  Enjoy. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Personal Experience (and a Probable Scenario for Anyone) as Depicted on Television

I watch TV, certainly more than I should.  I do not mindlessly channel surf, I have a DVR to record the things that I want to watch; there's probably not much of a distinction between the two.  Anyway, a show I watch is a half-hour comedy called "Louie", on FX.  It's based on the life and experiences of a comedian (played by real-life comic Louis C.K.).  I would call it a rougher variant of shows like "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthasium".  What's very good about these kinds of shows, is that in addition to being very funny, they depict realistic situations that many of us can relate to, and in fact, at least a few of us have experienced ourselves first-hand. 

Such a situation for me occurred in last week's episode, entitled "Bully".  "Louie" is also shown on the online service Hulu, although episodes don't appear until 8 days after they premiere on TV (I'll try to remember to post a link when this episode comes up).  In the episode, Louie is on a date and he takes her to a donut shop, where they have a donut and coffee.  Upon talking, a group of high-school punks come in the store and are being very rowdy.  Louie is not able to converse with his date due to the noise that these guys are making.  He tells them to keep it down, and one of the kids comes up to him.  The kid says to him, "when was the last time you got your ass kicked?"  After a minute or two of back-and-forth, the kid says that if Louie tells him "please don't kick my ass", then he won't.  With great reluctance, Louie does tell the kid to not kick his ass, please, and the kids walk out, mocking him.  His date is very turned off by this, and tells him, "my mind is telling me that you're a great guy, but the chemistry is telling me that you're a loser".  That is not the end of the story, but that is pretty much the gist of it. 

I could relate very much to this particular situation, as a similar (but at the same time, different) scanario happened to me around 6 months ago.  I haven't blogged on it because it took place at my job, but enough time has passed, and this episode struck such a chord in me, that now seems the appropriate time to recollect.  I work with a man who is extremely irritable and always grumpy.  From the day I started there, his interactions with me have been all attitude.  I have a thick skin and a tendency to turn the other cheek (which, with this man, I have learned can be a vital weakness as well as a strength and virtue).  One day, he pushed me too far by making a comment about how I do my job, which I take very sensitively, as I feel I do at least a better-than-average job, as my employers and fellow employees have told me.  I finally spoke up, quite loudly, and he of course, gave no quarter and was very hostile.  He then told me to pipe down before he'd put "a foot in my ass".  I then told him to go fuck himself, and he stepped closer and said "I'll kick your ass".  All the time my boss is shouting my name, understandly worried that a fight would break out.  I really did not want to walk away from this geriatric thug (this guy is at least 65 and very out-of-shape, so I certainly am not physically intimidated by him), but at the same time, fighting him could have very well cost me my job, even if he did start it.  So I reluctantly did so, and reported the incident; as it was not the first time I'd had a run-in with this guy, I was somewhat hopeful that they'd discipline him in a meaningful and substantive fashion. 

Which, of course, they did not.  After repeated inquiries (my job insists on doing these types of things privately, so I had no knowledge of any disciplinary measure or warning that took place), I was merely told that he was "talked to".  So that encounter is something I still think about a lot.  I question whether walking away was the right thing to do.  Although there's really no telling what would have happened had worse come to worse and we slugged it out, I had felt that walking away was the very worst thing that I could do, even though it really is supposed to be the right thing.  I think of how weak I must have looked to him and those who witnessed it. 

So this episode of "Louie", again, did strike something in me.  When someone comes up to you and threatens you, what really is the right thing to do?  Sure, if you're merely a bystander (or a viewer), you unleash your inner Steven Seagal and think "what's the matter with this guy?  Kick his ass!"  But in reality, I feel that most of us would have probably frozen up like Louie did, even if the end result is for us to lose face in front of our dates or friends.  I do feel that I did do the right thing in my situation, but also felt that I lost some of my dignity in the process. 

As an aside, that scene also showed that the widespread claim that a woman prefers a man who is gentle and thoughtful is typically full of shit.  It is a woman's most basic instinct to prefer the alpha male; I only look at all the situations I've seen or have heard about to know that this is the case. 

So, I'm just wondering, if you are reading this, what would you have done in Louie's case, or in mine?

"Bully" is not up on Hulu yet, but when it is (probably on Wednesday), I'll post a link. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Passage From "Empire of Illusion"

I am reading an excellent and exceptional book right now called "Empire of Illusion", by Chris Hedges.  This is a nonfiction book that covers our descent as a culture into a state of illusion.  Hedges shows us some of the mechanisms and devices that are used to distract us from the collapse that is occuring all around us.  I really want to talk about this book more once I finish it (I'm around two-thirds through it now, and I've only been reading it since yesterday).  Anyway, I just wanted to provide a passage from the book that I found especially compelling and that which I find myself thinking about, and discussing on the blog often.  It's in the chapter "The Illusion of Wisdom".  In advance, my apologies to Mr. Hedges if I am giving out more than what is appropriate. 

"Obama is a product of this elitist system.  So are his degree-laden cabinet members.  They come out of Harvard, Yale, Wellesley, and Princeton.  Their friends and classmates made huge fortunes on Wall Street and in powerful law firms.  They go to the same class reunions.  They belong to the same clubs.  They speak the same easy language of privilege, comfort, and entitlement.  The education they have obtained has served to rigidify and perpetuate social stratification.  These elite schools prevent...the 'best selves' in the various strata in our culture from communicating across class lines.  Our power elite has a blind belief in a decaying political and financial system that has nurtured, enriched, and empowered it.  But the elite cannot solve our problems.  It has been trained only to find solutions, such as paying out trillions of dollars of taxpayer money to bail out banks and financial firms, to sustain a dead system.  The elite, and those who work for them, were never taught how to question the assumptions of their age.  The socially important knowledge and cultural ideas embodied in history, literature, philosophy, and religion, which are at their core subversive and threatening to authority, have been banished from public discourse."

This last paragraph of the chapter particularly rings true. 

"Ironically, the universities have trained hundreds of thousands of graduates for jobs that soon will not exist.  They have trained people to maintain a structure that cannot be maintained.  The elite as well as those equipped with narrow, specialized vocational skills, know only how to feed the beast until it dies.  Once it is dead, they will be helpless.  Don't expect them to save us.  They don't know how.  They do not even know how to ask the questions.  And when it all collapses, when our rotten financial system with its trillions in worthless assets implodes and our imperial wars end in humiliation and defeat, the power elite will be exposed as being as helpless, and as self-deluded, as the rest of us." 

Copyright 2009 by Chris Hedges.  Published by Nation Books.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Welcome to Your Future

McDonald's recently had a one-day hiring event in northern California and Nevada, and more than 100 applicants came to one location alone.  Among the people was a 63 year old man with 25 years in the local television business, and a 23 year old man going to college.  The former struck out to me immediately, but the latter one did as well.  Experience, be it 25 years or novice level (going to school, for example) does not count for anything in what is left of this nation.  Well-paying jobs with a future, which we had at one point, are now in China, India, and other countries, mostly Asian.  So whether you're a recently laid-off worker with experience that doesn't count for anything and no retirement savings, or a college graduate just starting out with suffocating student loans and a worthless piece of paper called a "Bachelor of Arts", welcome to your future of fighting for the McJobs that are out there. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Year America Dissolved

I have just been having a feast of "doom" this week.  This is a good article by Paul Craig Roberts, depicting a possible (but for now, fictional) account of the near future, in which America breaks apart into clans due to the collapse of the dollar.  I don't have much to add, it's a brief but informative account of how quickly things could fall apart, and how various factors can converge to form what is called a "positive feedback" loop.  Roberts also explains how, due to these factors, the American empire can collapse quite quickly, while the collapse of Rome took centuries.  In short, when Rome began its expansion, the underlying economic and political structures were fairly strong, with an endless bounty of troops.  When America's empire really came to full tilt, many of American jobs disappeared overseas, and with it came the subsequent (but very predictable) dwindling coffers of our government.  Of course, there are other reasons, but this one sums up well our comparative idiocy to the Romans. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Operation Blackjack

I stumbled upon this purely by accident on Youtube, and it's a really cool slide show/comic of a fictional scenario in which the U.S. is struck by multiple nuclear bombs, setting the stage for a takeover of what remains of the federal government by people who may not have our best interests at heart. It reminded me a lot of the show "Jericho". Very doomer-ish, well worth the 8 minutes.

Generation Fucked

(Sorry if an expletive in the title header offends any of you.  I could have censored or "bleeped" it, but chose not to.  One of my great pet peeves is reading an account of something in the paper, of someone saying an expletive or several of them, and the paper will print it as "f---k" or "s--t" or something like that.  I mean, you already gave us half of the letters, virtually everyone can probably make it out for themselves, so really, wby not just print the whole word?)

This is a good article from MSNBC on the ongoing economic crisis facing "the Milliennials", those born in the 1980s and the 1990s.  I don't much believe in generational labels, but in any case, I just missed it, having been born in 1979, but I'm in the same boat as they are.  I have talked about this enough, and the article does a decent job of summing up this quite significant problem, but I just wanted to make a few observations. 

When I was coming of age, society had several ingrained so-called "truths", and it looks like that things haven't really changed that much in 10 or 15 years.  One of them is this expectation that everyone must go to college, "or else".  This is probably a bad example, but I recently was watching this television show in which the mother is telling her 17 or 18 year old daughter that "you better go to college", or something along those lines.  I could see this conversation taking place all across America, so it probably is appropriate.  Another of these "truths" is that having a college degree is essential, since "studies" show that the average college graduate earns roughly a million dollars more over their lifetimes than someone with a high school degree. 

This might have made sense at one point; in a prior post, I talked about the ratio of high school students attending college having increased from something like 1 in 5 (due to the fact that we still made things in this country and had a manufacturing industry, college was not as "essential" then) to 4 in 5.  When 1 in 5 HS graduates attended college, that theory probably held water.  But it'd be a pretty educated guess that things would have to change when nearly everyone graduating high school these days has to do the "paper chase".  How can a college grad earn a million dollars more than a high school graduate when the job market is faced with a tidal glut of college graduates, and a growing amount of white-collar jobs (which many college grads want) are being outsourced to India and other countries?  On top of that, these days, a bachelor's degree does not seem to open a lot of doors, so maybe just a high school diploma is not such a bad thing.  Also, it's free, at least the high school graduate is starting whatever career he has with a clean slate, and not choking on student loan debt that will take half of his life to pay off. 

The sad part, to me, is that it doesn't exactly take a genius to see where this was going.  How can one with a degree expect to be worth so much more than one who doesn't when virtually anyone who wants to can apply to college, as long as they are willing to shoulder a significant debt load (on average, $23,000).  The worst thing our government did in this area was providing loans and grants for students to pursue secondary education.  I know that their intentions might have been good, but the unintended consequence was that as a result of making it easier for kids to attend college, the cost of tuition and every other thing skyrocketed at most every college and university.  I'm sorry for being lazy, but you can easily Google all of this stuff.  I know that the cost of a college education is well above inflation. 

Another interesting thing I got from the article is that many graduates, upon seeing the dismal job market, decide to go back into college and go for their Master's.  Of course, the article points out how foolish this is, as a Master's Degree costs even more than a B.A. and there is still no guarantee that their job prospects will be significantly better with the higher degree.  However, I do see that being a growing trend, at least until the whole house of cards falls; higher education is a bubble, like real estate before it.  It'll be like the military, when someone "re-ups" for a few more years. 

Finally, it's hard to see how the general economy won't be a casualty, partly because of this.  Sure, there are other factors behind this which I have discussed before.  But the U.S. economy is largely dependent on "consumer spending."  How much room will "the Millienials" have for discretionary purchases when they're busy servicing their student loan debts, while working at Mcjobs?  Say bye-bye to the real estate market too. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sign of the End Times: Library Closings

(My apologies for the long break in between posts; I was on vacation.  Well, from my job anyway.  I was around, but my brother was off from his job too, so we actually got to go to some places.  E.G., the Bronz Zoo, which I haven't visited since I was a kid, and Coopertown, NY, the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The drive is a pain, 4 to 5 hours each way, but the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, and Cooperstown is a beautiful small town.  It was also nice to have a break from my regular habit of surfing the web for "doom" articles.  But now, I am back). 

I view the future with a heavy sense of foreboding, for reasons that I've talked about many times on here.  The consequences of peak oil and the runaway train that we call the finance system, our economy, globzalization, take your pick, are countless and will doubtless afflict us in every which way possible.  But I no longer believe that it will happen tomorrow or very soon.  I suspect that it will take quite awhile to fully play out, not unlike seeing a car crash played back in slo-motion, and we are still at the beginning stages.  Nonetheless, this is already playing out in other countries (Greece being just one) and in some places here in the U.S., including places very close to our backyards. 

This article talks about the possible closure of the Camden, N.J. library system, and also that the Queens library system has stopped weekend service in many of its branches.  Previously, I have read other accounts of limits being imposed on library services due to budget shortfalls.  Thankfully, the library system in my community has been relatively untouched, at least for now. 

My library is almost magical.  I use it for many things.  For example, I'm a big movie buff.  I always try to keep up on the latest DVD releases, whether major theatrical releases or small, art-house indie films.  When I see a movie on the horizon that I'd like to see, I look it up on the library catalog, and it'll usually be on order.  I'll put in a request for it.  Since I'm often one of the first people to do this, I usually am able to check it out on the day of release, or at the latest, a week or so after.  It's much better than the video store or Netflix, both of which services I had used in the past.  I check my library record, and when it says that it's ready, I go there, present my library card, and it is in my hands.  Not just movies though, I regularly take out books, music, TV series DVDs, lectures, etc.  And if my library doesn't have it, another library in the Suffolk County system usually will.  All free of charge (not counting the property taxes levied, of course). 

The library budget vote is the only one that I try not to miss every year.  And it has always passed for as long as I can remember.  I am very grateful for that, and hope that things can stay relatively stable, at least for the time being.  The article also interviews people who talk about the positive effect that the library has for the poor, the unemployed looking for work, basically everyone living in a community.  My mom thinks that libraries might become obselute someday due to the e-book phenomenon; I don't agree, if libraries do become obselute, it won't be for that reason.  If the effects of resource depletion and our casino economy hit our state and local governments as hard as I think they will (in fact, it's already happening), libraries will probably be one of the first things to go, and that makes my blood chill.  We all pay a lot of taxes, one way or the other, for many government services, many of which we often don't witness the benefits of firsthand, or take for granted, since they're hidden in plain sight.  But the library is one of the few things that offers a positive impact that everyone walking through its doors can witness and attest to.  The sickening thing is that I'm sure a lot of things can be cut from the budget that are relatively useless to many of us, but due to a mix of government inefficiency and pandering to elites, our libraries would come under attack first. 

Just to give you one example, lest I be accused of being a blowhard just shooting off his mouth, I read on the NY budget crisis when it was first happening.  I read of some of the waste that occurs in our state government, including a $25,000 Chinese handmade rug in the governor's office.  Now, this by itself would be outrageous, but in the case of our current governor, it's even more so, since the man is fucking blind! 

Far be it for me to act as any kind of expert on civilization, but when our libraries start closing, you can see our civilization in the beginning of its death throes.