My Generation is Different…NOT

First I must mention that if one insists on dividing up the population by “generations” and attributing to those generations titles and unique characteristics, then I am without a generation.  I was born between the Boom and the Bust, and well before the alphabet soup.  My group has been called Boomers (incorrectly), Bust-ers (also incorrectly, as one year of the “bust” included the largest number of births recorded up to that time), the Envelope generation, the Cuspers, and Generation Jones.

As both Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden are/were of Generation Jones, it’s hard to assign a set of characteristics to my bunch.  Like every other generation, we are as varied as the sun and moon.  If anything we do tend to be slightly more spiritual than our predecessors the Boomers, and slightly less materialistic than whatever part of the alphabet soup it was that followed us.  But again, I said those differences are slight if they exist at all.

Now let’s go back a bit, to the anti-war protests of the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  Yes, we have to go here, because Fox News is trying to paint the Occupy movement as consisting of the same people.  You will see why it does not.  You will also see why it is not a generational thing, and why embracing that notion is stupid and dangerous.

It’s hard to conduct a survey 40 years after the fact (particularly difficult when the media coverage at the time was as almost, but not quite as skewed as it is today), but the anti-war “peace and free love” movement of the 60’s/70’s seems to have consisted largely of college students.  I may be wrong, but I believe that at the beginning of the Vietnam war college men were exempt from the draft, and at some point that exemption was ended and that’s when the campus protests started.  If that’s not the case, they may have been protesting because if they flunked out of college, or graduated, all of a sudden they were eligible for the draft again.

Before that, Vietnam had been a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight,” much as all wars had been to that point (in fact, I believe that quote may be from the time of the U.S. Civil War).

In short, it was easy to paint all the protesters in one large brushstroke with the words “spoiled brats,” and the media did just that.  The protesters ended up hated and marginalized (although their fashion sense made some marketers a lot of money and that continues to this day), and the sharp divisions caused by this newfangled generational ghetto persist even now.  In fact, to hear some people talk, you’d think that actual hippies from the 1960’s have somehow been magically resurrected, their youth intact, and are out on the streets protesting again.  Damn hippies!

Much as today, college was far from a universal experience, and it was expensive.  Quite different from today, and largely because of the unions, one didn’t need to be a banker, lawyer or doctor to make enough money to buy a house and a car and raise a family, often on one salary alone.  The middle class was alive and well.

And so the protests of that era were confined largely to college boys who did not want to go to war, rebellious middle-class kids who hated suburbia, and a few of the actual poor people who got stuck fighting the war.  As I said, it was a protest defined by generational divides that were heavily promoted in the media and swallowed whole by the protesters themselves in the conceited belief that yes, the Baby Boomers were different.

It was also, keep in mind, something that pitted the young protesters against the unions, who were very conservative at the time, jealously guarding that middle class they had created — that middle class that some of the kids were rebelling against.

Then the war ended and so did the protests, and the next thing you knew, Generation Jones was being labeled as the most conservative generation in history.  I wasn’t that way before the label and have never been since.  I do know that a lot of my friends, both young and old, have become brainlessly conservative out of fear of losing their middle-class status (which most have, anyway).   But it’s not all of us by far.

Some of the protesting Boomers and a few of my generation went on to become bankers, lawyers, politicians and marketers, and they strove to stamp out the unions and the middle class.  From the marketers we got an endless alphabet soup of newly-created and supposedly unique generations, all in the effort to sell stuff.  And as time went by, I couldn’t help noticing that all these new generations were as indistinguishable from one another as the Joneses had been from the Boomers and probably all the generations before.

Why?  Because human beings are divided by types of experience (and the ability to clearly recall experience), not by some mythical generational gizmo that, every 5 years or so, magically creates brand new, shiny, sparkly beings to sell things to.

This brings us to the Occupy movement.

As I understand it, the Occupy movement represents the 99%.  The 99% are not all of one generation unless there was some huge, unnoticed baby boom about 20 years ago accompanied by an equally massive and unnoticed die-off of elders.

Fox News and others are trying to paint the Occupy movement as identical to the anti-war movement of 40 years ago, with some success among those of us old enough to remember the protests, but not the details.  Unfortunately,there are a fair number of those.

And lately, some of the Occupy folks are not only playing right into the stereotype, but supporting it.

I’ve noticed this twice on Facebook recently.  With the first incident (blaming all people of my generation for the economic condition of their generation), I managed to argue back successfully.  With the second incident, where someone who runs a Facebook group called something like “organization for educating misinformed Tea Party patriots” posted an almost INCREDIBLY ageist slogan and then was pretty awful to the people who protested, I threw up my hands and quietly un-subbed.

I have some questions for people like this: why is it so chic to rage against those who bully gays, minorities, etc., and then turn around and be an ageist twit?  And do you have one shred of proof that EVERYONE born more than 20 years before you is in the hated 1%?  If you do, I’d like to see it.  And I’d like to see the money, because I have never had much.

And I have another question: what guarantee do you have that your “generation” won’t turn around in another 20 years and plunge the world into yet another economic crisis with their selfishness?  There is no guarantee.

Remember, people are not divided by some mythical generational calendar invented in a marketing department.  People are divided by experience.  It’s harder to sell to experience (which is why marketers hate experience and hate older people who have it).  But it’s easy to learn from it, even if the experience is not your own, if you will only try.

The biggest lesson to remember is NOT to let Fox News and others make the definitions.  The hated 1960’s hippie protester stereotype does not apply here.  Don’t fall for any attempt to make it stick.

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READ it

As I typed the title of this post I was thinking of a scene from a Harry Potter movie (maybe the 3rd; I don’t remember), where Snape confronts Harry in a darkened hallway, makes Harry remove a piece of parchment from his pocket, and when Harry balks at reading it out loud, Snape snaps, “READ it.”

Yes, Harry Potter is germane here.  So much that was in that lengthy story is coming to pass.

But anyway, HP aside, I’d like to share something with you: the Bill of Rights from the U.S. Constitution.  You know, that piece of parchment(?) so many Teabaggers claim to defend, but haven’t read.  There are probably no Teabaggers reading this, but I think the rest of us should actually read it if we haven’t already (and I’ve learned that many of us have).  It’s agonizing to realize how many of these rights have been violated already.

The First 10 Amendments to the Constitution (i.e., Bill of Rights) were Ratified by the States December 15, 1791

Preamble

Congress OF THE United States

begun and held at the City of New York, on Wednesday

the Fourth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine.

THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution

RESOLVED by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.:

ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

AMENDMENT XI

Passed by Congress March 4, 1794. Ratified February 7, 1795.

Note: Article III, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 11.

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

AMENDMENT XII

Passed by Congress December 9, 1803. Ratified June 15, 1804.

Note: A portion of Article II, section 1 of the Constitution was superseded by the 12th amendment.

The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves; they shall name in their ballots the person voted for as President, and in distinct ballots the person voted for as Vice-President, and they shall make distinct lists of all persons voted for as President, and of all persons voted for as Vice-President, and of the number of votes for each, which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate; — the President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; — The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. [And if the House of Representatives shall not choose a President whenever the right of choice shall devolve upon them, before the fourth day of March next following, then the Vice-President shall act as President, as in case of the death or other constitutional disability of the President. –]* The person having the greatest number of votes as Vice-President, shall be the Vice-President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed, and if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President; a quorum for the purpose shall consist of two-thirds of the whole number of Senators, and a majority of the whole number shall be necessary to a choice. But no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.

*Superseded by section 3 of the 20th amendment.

AMENDMENT XIII

Passed by Congress January 31, 1865. Ratified December 6, 1865.

Note: A portion of Article IV, section 2, of the Constitution was superseded by the 13th amendment.

Section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

AMENDMENT XIV

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.

Note: Article I, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of the 14th amendment.

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 2.

Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age,* and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3.

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4.

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

Section 5.

The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

*Changed by section 1 of the 26th amendment.

AMENDMENT XV

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude–

Section 2.

The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

AMENDMENT XVI

Passed by Congress July 2, 1909. Ratified February 3, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 9, of the Constitution was modified by amendment 16.

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

AMENDMENT XVII

Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

AMENDMENT XVIII

Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by amendment 21.

Section 1.

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2.

The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3.

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

AMENDMENT XIX

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919. Ratified August 18, 1920.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

AMENDMENT XX

Passed by Congress March 2, 1932. Ratified January 23, 1933.

Note: Article I, section 4, of the Constitution was modified by section 2 of this amendment. In addition, a portion of the 12th amendment was superseded by section 3.

Section 1.

The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

Section 2.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3d day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.

Section 3.

If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.

Section 4.

The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them.

Section 5.

Sections 1 and 2 shall take effect on the 15th day of October following the ratification of this article.

Section 6.

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission.

AMENDMENT XXI

Passed by Congress February 20, 1933. Ratified December 5, 1933.

Section 1.

The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2.

The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or Possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3.

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

AMENDMENT XXII

Passed by Congress March 21, 1947. Ratified February 27, 1951.

Section 1.

No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

Section 2.

This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

AMENDMENT XXIII

Passed by Congress June 16, 1960. Ratified March 29, 1961.

Section 1.

The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as Congress may direct:

A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State; they shall be in addition to those appointed by the States, but they shall be considered, for the purposes of the election of President and Vice President, to be electors appointed by a State; and they shall meet in the District and perform such duties as provided by the twelfth article of amendment.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

AMENDMENT XXIV

Passed by Congress August 27, 1962. Ratified January 23, 1964.

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

AMENDMENT XXV

Passed by Congress July 6, 1965. Ratified February 10, 1967.

Note: Article II, section 1, of the Constitution was affected by the 25th amendment.

Section 1.

In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.

Section 2.

Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

Section 3.

Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

Section 4.

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

AMENDMENT XXVI

Passed by Congress March 23, 1971. Ratified July 1, 1971.

Note: Amendment 14, section 2, of the Constitution was modified by section 1 of the 26th amendment.

Section 1.

The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.

Section 2.

The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

AMENDMENT XXVII

Originally proposed Sept. 25, 1789. Ratified May 7, 1992.

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of representatives shall have intervened.

American Dream? More like “Rude Awakening”

A modern-day nightmare: the story of a foreclosure

Watched a video this morning where a commentator said, “money is ruining America.”  Specifically he meant Big Money — you know, the Koch Brothers variety.  Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know where I stand on that issue.  I think a large majority of people in the U.S. probably agree with me, and the rest are teabaggers — or else, they just haven’t been paying attention.

Later I started to think about an immigrant family who allegedly came here chasing the “American Dream,” as pro-mass immigration politicians and media pundits so love to put it, usually with accompanying dewy eyes.

Well folks, here’s this family’s idea of the American Dream.  It has to do with Big Money, but these people are not the Koch Brothers.  They are eastern European immigrants who came to this country only in the last 20 years or so.  Where I live there are lots of them, and let me tell you — a lot of them are currently bailing out and going back to their homelands while they still can live well on whatever is left of their “American Dream.”

This particular family moved into a relative’s neighborhood about 7 years ago, when a homeowner there, (a credit junkie who was about to face an enormous hike in his mortgage payment — he had an ARM — at the same time he started paying a hefty mortgage on a dream farmette he’d built far in the boonies), charged this family almost half a million dollars for a house in an area where even at the height of the bubble, houses were only about $375,000.00.  May sound like a lot now, but a few years ago it could be considered a bargain, even if you were only getting a 2-bedroom 1950’s tract house for that amount of money.  And what these people bought was that and only that, even if an unfinished room had been added onto the back of the house (which supposedly accounted for the extra-high asking price).

They moved in with an army of relatives helping them.  The formerly wide, quiet suburban street was transformed into a congested urban nightmare with rows of BMW’s, Lexus’s and other luxury cars parked along both curbs, often sitting idle for days.  At times it was so jammed that getting down the street was impossible.  Then they started blocking driveways, and as I remember, at one point my relatives couldn’t back out of their driveway (even when it wasn’t blocked) because there was no room to maneuver the car once it was out in the street.

The unanswered question in all this — which remains unanswered to this day — is how these poor, hard-working immigrants who came here with nothing, came upon all this money (or at least enough to get a half-million dollar mortgage plus loans on a caravan of luxury vehicles).  As I said, there was and is no answer.  We still don’t know what this family did for a living.  We do know that they were culturally ill-adjusted to the point where they were astounded and furious if you asked them to kindly NOT sit in your driveway making cell phone calls (I’m not even talking about sitting in a car making a call, I’m talking about parking one’s designer-jeans-clad ass on the driveway and making a call), or not to dispense with their endless cigarette butts, beer and Coke cans on your lawn.  May sound petty, but this is life in suburbia, and they were continually breaking the unwritten rules.

As the years went by, the hordes of relatives dropped away and it was possible to traverse the street again.  The family started to behave somewhat more civilly, even though they maintained a haughty distance from their neighbors.

This past year the remaining fancy cars and SUVs have pretty much disappeared, and the house has looked almost abandoned, and lately brightly-colored notices have been appearing on the front door, often hanging there for weeks.  Someone said they saw a sheriff’s deputy deliver one of these.

An obvious conclusion: the money well has dried up and they are facing foreclosure.  It’s even possible that the are making plans to flee the country.

This is not the first such story I’ve heard in recent times.  And somehow, such stories almost always involve immigrants.  And so I ask, as I have before, “what is this American dream?”

Is it merely about stuff?  Is it about owning, however temporarily, an overpriced house and fancy cars?  Is it nothing more substantial than that?

Judging from comments I’ve heard from some immigrants in the past decade, for a portion of them, that’s all it ever was.  And that is not enough.  But I guess to people like the Kochs, on whom we can partially blame the present state of things, it was enough to help set up an immigrant industry that dumped an unsupportable bumper crop of immigrants in the U.S., the sheer bulk of which was unlike anything ever seen before, helping to throw our salaries, housing market and finally our standard of living into an unstoppable tailspin.  In the end, it has benefited no one except those who weren’t affected by it.  People like the Kochs, for instance.  And it is people like them I hold responsible for bullshit like this.

Yes, I’ve seen immigrants come here and work their asses off.  They deserve all the best, and our help.  But people like the ones I’ve just mentioned?  The Just Here for the Stuff crowd?  Forget it.  No sense in coming here merely to get mountains of junk that you couldn’t get at home.  In the end, it only drives you broke and if you’re smart, you’ll realize you were better off without it.

If this sounds teabaggery to you, go stuff it.  Think about what I am saying.  This country was never solely about things, and anyone coming here solely for things is in for a rude awakening.  Kinda like that family I just told you about.

Time to rethink it all, Hoss.

The Bubble Reality

First, read this.

I’ve covered this subject before in this blog.  It never ceases to amaze me how the world catches up eventually.  Yes, I am patting myself on the back.

But there’s one problem in this case: the guy they’re quoting is a billionaire, and a billionaire’s contact with most people’s everyday realities is limited.  And one reality is this: if you’re U.S. born, try to get a job (most people are not born entrepreneurs), let alone one with a living wage, if you do not have a college degree — or these days, even if you do.  The majority of people are not born scholars, but college has become a requirement.  It follows that most of our colleges have degraded into career academies, and most college degrees are nothing more than career certificates.  And that’s a ridiculous waste of time and money.

Take my own former career, for instance.  I was a secretary for many years.  When I graduated from high school, this was one of many job opportunities for females who were not going on to college.  Yes, I said “many.”  There are fewer opportunities now.

Sometime during the acid (not LSD, just nasty) 1980’s, all this changed.  It was during the reign of that “nice man” Ronald Reagan.  And during the 1990’s, when the hippie-yuppie Clintons ruled, it became written in stone: if you were born in the U.S., you could not get a job that paid a living wage if you did not have a college degree.  Period.

Of course, that has graduated to “if you were born in the U.S., you cannot get a job.  Period.”

And so I found myself in the job market again and again, being pushed to the bottom of the barrel in spite of my long experience because I did not have a college degree.  You see, by the 1990’s, a secretary had to have a two-year degree; later they wanted a four-year degree.  It was and is, of course, ridiculous.  But the claim was (and is) that people who only had high-school educations lacked the skills necessary to do secretarial work.  The skills they were talking about were mainly grammar and writing skills, and as a person who spent part of the 1980’s correcting the grammar of a master-degreed English major who used hyphens to the point where entire paragraphs consisted of completely hyphenated sentences, you might say that my view on this was a little dim.  (This was also the era during which corporations, using their new-found might, attempted to alter the English language to suit the spelling deficiencies of their own college-degreed executives.)

Later they went to hiring British and other foreign secretaries, usually on the excuse that not only was their accented English better, but they worked cheaper and heck! a lot of them could speak second languages (not that they had to prove it with degrees, mind you — how racist!). But this was not before years of insisting on the bogus college requirement for the rest of us who were born in the U.S.

Fact is, the whole thing was and is bogus.  In spite of the requirement of a college degree, the average salary for a secretary sunk.  Considering that it was never good to start with, that’s pretty revealing.  See “cheap labor” comment above.

Here’s the absolute truth behind it all: once upon a time, women graduated from college and were made to prove themselves by becoming Girl Fridays.  Pretty often, they were Girl Fridays for good.  Women, you see, could not be relied upon to remain in the workforce and thus were bad bets as hires and/or career candidates.  And as a woman, you could forget the idea of earning a solid wage; if you were lucky, you might be able to live on your salary — just barely — after several years on the job.

Not surprisingly, most secretaries did not have degrees.  It was considered a waste of time.  And believe me, English skills in the days of yore were no better than the English skills of today.  And isn’t showing a college girl to the nearest word processing program just an update of the old “Girl Friday”situation?  Yes, it is.  So let’s add sexism into the mix.  It’s so fashionable right now, anyway.

Back to the point, however, the fact is that it was never about degrees.  It was about cheap labor.  That’s all this ever was about.  Anyone who told you otherwise, including Reagan, Bush, and the Clintons, was lying.

For the majority of people, college degrees have no value.  They are an expensive waste of money, rather like a luxury car.  Once upon a time, a college degree had a certain social status, and in a way it still does — but only as long as one has a master’s degree (in the job market, having a PhD is almost as bad as not having graduated from high school).  For a while, college degrees were like drugs for employers: first they required an AA or AAS, then a BA or BS, and then came the “must have” MBA, and after that, the MBA from a short list of choice colleges.  Clubs formed for the advanced-degreed only (of course, not too advanced).  The rest of us need not apply no matter what our experience.

But the thing is, college degrees are so ubiquitous nowadays that…get this…there’s even a degree for hotel/motel management.  Now that, folks, is carrying things to the nth degree for no reason.  It’s kind of like requiring a secretarial job candidate to have any sort of degree at all past high school.

And so I give you my story about secretaries.  They’re nearly extinct now, but the few you do see are usually degreed, foreign, or just damn lucky to have a job that pays a living wage (sort of, maybe, eventually).  And it was never about college.  It was always about cheap labor.

That’s why your degree is not getting you a job, friend.  My sympathy to you as you stand in the unemployment line, wondering how you will pay off your student loan.

Slightly OT: A note to (some) Facebook militants

Specifically I’m talking about those vegetarian types who supposedly love animals so much that they post to Facebook the worst sort of pictures and stories of food-animal destruction and general animal mutilation and cruelty that they can manage to find.

I mean, that’s a bit like being against murder and posting pictures of murdered people.  You know, sort of like if the President had chosen to release pictures of bin Laden’s dead body.  Think about it: where would that get us?  The way it worked out, in fact, was the greatest STFU in history: Obama indulged the chronic conspiracy theorists and at the same time discredited anything they might have to say, and the majority of people believe that bin Laden is dead, anyway.  And so we go on with our lives never having seen a photo of that particular corpse.

I’m off on this slightly OT tirade because I have a Facebook friend who is a very militant vegetarian.  He posts this sort of crap so frequently that I’m starting to conclude he actually enjoys it.  And I’m about to unfriend him because of it, but not before I say a few words on the matter.

I noted that this same person was against the murder of bin Laden and was preaching about how good people felt bad about it and bad people felt good.  I felt neither way, so where does that leave me?

And if there had been a photo available, would he have posted it?  Probably YES.

And does posting pictures of mutilated animals stop animal cruelty?  NO.

Does posting these pictures make this guy a better person than I?  NO.

Has looking at these pictures turned me into a vegetarian?  NO.  In fact, I eat very little meat but am not a vegetarian because MY HEALTH WON’T ALLOW IT.

And BTW, is my friend (who is a Pagan) aware that a prominent modern-day Druid thinker believes that there is no solid reason for Pagans to be vegetarian, since a majority of animals die horrible, cruel deaths even without human assistance?  Then look at the writings of John Michael Greer and try to argue with them.  You’ll lose.

Is continually pulling crap like this on an otherwise benign outlet such as Facebook appropriate?  NO.

All I can say is, thank God for the “Unfriend” button.

The Gathering Crowds

All Glenn Beck hysteria aside, (and he IS hysterical in every shade of meaning of that word), there is the fact that in the past few years, crowds have been gathering.  In the most recent cases, Tunisia and Egypt, the crowds forced revolutions.  In Europe –Italy to be specific — they expressed dissatisfaction over sexism.  There’s still no word on what Beck’s blather on London may have been about.

There is word of gathering crowds in Iran, which actually has had a lot of crowd scenes in recent years.  But from what I heard, there may be a difference this time.

The U.S. has had its crowds, too: the Glenn Beck crowds…two of them…that no one really knew the reason for, but some nice billionaires paid for so people could talk about their love of guns and revolution against the black guy in the white house because, well, he’s black, but not the RIGHT KIND of black like Dr. King who is safely dead so Glenn Beck can claim his legacy and turn it nearly all white without anyone noticing.  And then there was the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert crowd that existed merely to counter the Beck crowd, and which was bought and paid for by other rich people.

None of these resulted in anything much.  Bread and circuses, you know.

I look at Egypt and wonder if anything similar could happen here, and I have my answer in Beck’s tearful blubbering and Hitleresque theatrical rage (people seeking liberty!  Oh, it’s AWFUL and our STUPID MEDIA refuse to see it!) and Stewart’s bubbly response (they’re looking for freedom, what’s so awful about that?): probably not.  The Tea Party is being groomed to be the U.S. version of Mubarak’s thugs, but if push comes to shove, their groomers are set to be disappointed because the Tea Party is like the rest of us: too timid to face our formidable enemies here at home.  And who are they?  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, certain members of the Supreme Court, and a majority in the House.  And let’s not forget the Koch brothers who paid for it all, and that Australian guy who runs Fox News, a.k.a. the propaganda department.  That is to say, the same people who are running the Tea Party.  And who are the Tea Party?  Well, in office they have been revealed as misogynists.  They blame women’s reproductive systems for the U.S.’s economic woes, and so they have launched an all-out war on women, as well as on that other horror: freedom of speech.

Nope, I guess even with millions out of work and the unchecked loss of jobs to cheaper countries (shrugged off in the media as merely “inevitable” and “the jobs aren’t coming back” — no solutions offered except that for some reason “we need to be more educated”), and people losing their homes in every neighborhood…nope.  No response except for a bought and paid-for rally (or two or three) hosted by TV personalities.

I guess we haven’t suffered enough.  Or maybe we’ve lost our grip on reality.  The reality is this: power is given, not taken.  This seems to have been forgotten in the U.S.  It will be interesting to see what it takes to remind us.

Looking for a Silver Lining (and only seeing a tornado)

(edited 12/9/10)

Okay, almost everyone’s together on this one: progressives, conservatives, even people like me.  The only ones who probably haven’t worked it out yet are the teabaggers. That’s no big surprise because, well, they’ve yet to work anything out.  Think about it: they just got what they wanted, or did they? What do you want to bet that even they don’t know for sure?  And that they’re furious with Obama anyway, for caving in on their own candidates’ demands?

I mean, if you’re a Fox News commentator, what the hell do you say? (I am positive that they’ve already thought of something; certainly Sarah Palin has because she Tweeted an incoherent attack that lashed out at everyone while at the same time trying to exonerate the Republicans in the scenario — they were, after all, the ones that got what they wanted but that’s not what they got, or it’s exactly what they wanted, but anyway it’s all Obama’s fault according to Sarah…or something like that.)

So what am I talking about?  What is it that we are all together on?  We are together, for once, in being against the extension of tax cuts for the rich because it’s a scheme that has not shown much, if any, benefit for our economy in 30 years and it showed no benefit whatsoever during the Shrub Administration.  Yet the cuts are about to be extended.  Again.  (Note: I spend most of this blog entry talking about the extension as if it has already passed Congress because it’s such a phenomenally bad idea that I assume it will.)

No surprise that no one is happy about this but the Republicans/teabaggers who had their way paid into Congress by the very rich folks they have now paid back by merely threatening to hold their breath until they turned blue if they didn’t get their way on the issue of tax cuts.  Oh goody!  Now to turn our attention to pressing matters like the war on Christmas…and on soliciting donations for the RNC from the very rich people they just liberated!

Of course, most of us wanted to see them hold their breath until they turned blue and dropped dead.  But somehow, that did not include Obama.  And we are left to guess why.

All I can think of is that there are a few things on the horizon: the election of 2012, and a possible economic collapse in China.

How does China figure into this?  Because they are loaning us the missing money that we won’t be getting, that would have come from from our rich folks if the tax cuts had not been extended.  China has money right now; we don’t.  But you see, the Chinese economy is on the same sort of bubble our economy was on for about 7 years before it imploded.  That’s right.  Some folks in Australia, which is currently partially dependent on the income from massive raw-materials exports to China, are beginning to get nervous about that.  We should be getting nervous too — too nervous to borrow money to pay for a tax cut, if nothing else.  But teabaggers never look that far ahead.  All they think about is that they want to pay back their benefactors and do it now, and then get on to the real important stuff like handing out rifles to first graders.  Gotta make our apocalyptic visions come true, you know!

Anyway, I’m thinking that it could be that the Obama Administration is betting that the Chinese economy will collapse before 2012, taking with it all the remaining excuses to extend tax cuts to the rich (and tax increases for the poor) beyond that.  Why?  Because there will be no other place to get the money after that, except at home.

It could be that the Obama Administration also sees some benefit in the extension becoming a unifying factor for all the warring factions within our country — except the teabaggers, that is.  And who cares about them?  If they continue on their mad, merry way, 2012 will be the end…of them.  You can only try to turn the U.S. into a creationist theme park for so long before reality catches up with you, or at least the bills come due.

I should mention that I’m pretty much alone in finding any silver lining at all in this catastrophe.  Most folks are looking at the horizon and only seeing a huge tornado sucking up everything in sight.

It’s hard to keep positive in a case like this, and I’m probably wrong about everything.  And maybe it would be more fun to get swept away by that twister, anyway.   But we’ll see.  The next 2 years will tell us everything.