Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What to Make of Things?

Disclaimer: Over time, this Blog has gone from a place to post essays and articles to a more of a journaling function. I still write essays, but keep the aforementioned in mind, in regards to consistency of style.

This morning, around 7:30am, I saw a "Facebook Memory" from four years ago, where I mention presently having dinner with Producer David Levy (Gosford Park, The Player). I remember that dinner. I was in attendance with several others. To name just a couple, there was my ex-fianceé and colleague Simone Barros, and my Faculty Coordinator Miriam Bennett. Several of my then-students were also present. We had just screened The Player at the college and I had made a stupid comment about the film reminding me of Woody Allen's Crimes & Misdemeanors. The comparison in itself wasn't stupid, I just stated it poorly. Having made it past that and having been invited to dinner, I felt in a pretty good place, in many respects.

Many things were going wrong in my life at that time. Some have been rectified. Some haven't. However, many things were going well too; not the least of which was having dinner with a Hollywood producer.

The FB Memory made me think though. At the time, in 2013, I could not envision so much of what has happened since. Simone is no longer in my life. She's with someone I would not have expected (or chosen, though he's kind and smart enough). I'm not teaching. I haven't made it to grad school. I don't know if I will. I live in New York City. Again. I work as a grip. Again. I began (and ended) a relationship with someone other than Simone. Then began another relationship - while still with the second person. I never imagined I would be inclined to cheat on a woman, but I did.

I also now identify as Polyamorous, which I think I always was but never admitted due to stigma.

I make more money than I've ever made, and more than many. I've reconnected with friends with whom I thought our relationship a lost cause.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at, but I do know one thing: in 2013, I had no vision of any of these things. I had an idea of what my future was, and it didn't include any of those things I mentioned. I thought I'd have a relatively new graduate degree in photography in hand, living out west, perhaps. I thought Simone would be doing much the same, the two of us working artists, paying our bills through teaching, continuing our mentorship of students and apprentices. I thought I'd have completed my script and would be actively working on my photoessay.

Today, Simone directs audiobooks for Simon & Schuster, and is working on a pair of documentary films, among other projects. She has that partner to support her. It's not me.

Today, I work on most of your favorite New York-produced TV and Netflix shows. I'm friends with and workshopping with a decorated TV writer, and looking at producing a documentary of my own as well as a narrative series, and planning / prepping for long-term international travels.

I can't say that I'm any happier. In fact, I'm not, really, but things are tangibly better. Intangibly, I'm not sure.

Anyway, #Life?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Two Rants...

1. On Liberals as “Pussies”…

You know, I’m always hearing (from “tough” conservatives) that liberals and progressives and the like, are “entitled”, “weak”, and “pussies”. Supposedly, we’re hateful of war, afraid of conflict or confrontation, soft on crime, enablers, pushovers, and totalitarian socialist communist militant fascists.

Now, I’ve never heard how weak pussy pushovers would form a totalitarian socialist communist militant fascist government, or how totalitarianism (rule by one), socialism (large government), communism (no government – a left form of anarchy), militancy (requires not hating militancy) and fascism would all work as one government. As well, fascism is hard to define, and is really now just a buzzword for any authority one dislikes, no matter what side they’re on, and so when anyone yells it, you can be 85% sure that they don’t know what they’re talking about. However, that is the crux of the matter, since what is clear these days is that conservatives are no longer known for things like “thinking” or “reading” or “educating” (themselves) on matters so “complicated”.

The main people I hear calling us liberals “pussies” though, are conservatives of certain “stations” as it were. The traditionally poor and or rural conservatives, who think the world is literally black and white – or more accurately for them – brown and white – and Jewish. These are the “Bible-thumping”, “gun-lovers” who bristle mightily at the use of those terms, then do nothing to dispel them. In fact, they’ll often tell you how wrong you are by quoting the Bible and threatening to shoot you if you don’t agree, using John Wayne-approved phrases like “you’d better watch what you say next, mister” and “we don’t take kindly to that type of language in these parts”, while fondling their holster lock and / or releasing their safety.

But you know what I’ve come to conclude about these people? They’re actually the pussies! Interesting, eh? They’re the ones afraid of conflict who are simultaneously militant.

They’re the ones stocking up on guns to defend themselves, and they’re the ones who are prepared to violently defend what they believe. And whom are they defending their beliefs against? Well, of course, that amorphous mix of unbelievers, criminals and the government. Amorphous, because none of the three are real threats; just threats imagined by the “victims” themselves, and paranoia’s preyed upon by those using them to seek office or sell more redneck treasures.

In reality, they’re the ones truly scared. That’s why they need so many guns, a big bad God to back them when they’re defenseless, and when all else fails, they can hide behind their one-track, over-simplified version of the constitution – the one that says the government isn’t allowed to intrude into U.S. citizens’ lives, unless it’s the lives of the brown citizens they dislike and feel unreasonably threatened by.

If these characterizations seem overly harsh and simplistic, they’re not. True, these are hardworking people who only want the best for their families. But let’s face it; they’re not too bright. I mean, who ISN'T a hardworking family person? But, the idea that a poor, rural miner would vote republican, when it’s republicans who want to deregulate mine safety and then deny free healthcare to the victims of said neglect, just so they (and their already rich friends) can make even more money, says they’re not thinking. And they’re not thinkers. They’re reactors. And the damage they are causing to this country is becoming nuclear.

Ultimately, they’re not the backbone of this country, they’re the front-bone of this country. Because honestly, they’re just a bunch of dicks.

2. “Give him a break…”

When are liberals, and other blacks, and other black liberals, and comedians, going to stop telling me to leave Obama alone? “Lay off the man”; "Give the man time"; “He just got into office”; “You expect him to change the world”; “He’s the first black president of a western power, how much more do you want?”

I’m sorry - I missed the memo that stated, “Once Obama becomes president, his success is complete. Also, stop telling me “he just got here”. Terms are only four years. This is year three idiots; How long should we wait? Year five? Oh, I mean year one of the next republican. Thanks a lot “wait and see liberals”.

How much more do I want? I want him to do his job as a president. His windfall-to-insurance-companies of a healthcare plan is not that great. There are great things in it – like the “no dropping of people with pre-existing conditions” idea, but this is in few ways a “good” deal. Private citizens are now required to buy health insurance starting in 2014. Well, what if you’re like me and haven’t worked in ages and are not working now? How will I afford that? And how will I afford the penalties incurred as a result of not affording it? Again, the poor get punished for being poor. 

I worked and paid taxes for years! How about using some of that and AT LEAST giving me a public option, if not outright universal government coverage. Oh, that’s right, you can’t, because you’re too busy caving in to republicans’ demand for more of our tax dollars to fund corporate incentives for companies that hold the nation back, like Big Oil and Gas, and the military industrial complex. Well, thanks to lax gun laws, there are plenty of guns on the streets of U.S. cities and in the hands of “rurals”. So how about we take care of our citizens’ healthcare and educations, and cut some of the military spending and take chances defending ourselves in case we’re invaded by Canada or Mexico. If we cut our military budget in half, we would still be spending the most in the world AND add 400 BILLION dollars to our economy. That’s not a made up number – look it up for yourself at the Congressional Budget Office (C.B.O.).

And stop saying China’s a threat. China’s not a threat, we’re their number one customer! Drug dealers don’t kill clients, they kill rival drug dealers. If China offs anyone, it’ll be Japan, South Korea or Thailand. And the way they make things there, maybe they’ll get reckless and inadvertently lead-poison Iran for us.

Pre-existing conditions reform. Student loan reform. Awesome. Oh, wait, is that it? Is that going to be the legacy? Are the days of Roosevelt really gone, or are we just too lazy? What about taking the Wall-Street crisis creators to task? What about Guantanamo? Those would have been huge. Instead, we get half-assed healthcare that the republicans are going to repeal anyway (and I can’t fully say I’m against that at this point – maybe the next democrat can go all in and get us Universal).

Talk about liberal pussies.

Hey, I like the guy, but I like my plumber too. But if he fails to do his job, should I wait and see or take him to task and get my money’s worth? Believe it or not, we’re paying money to be here – a lot of it – and I want my money’s worth. I’m tired of not working, and not getting ahead when I am working because of rich assholes and do nothing politicians – who themselves are often rich assholes.

The conservatives, again, have successfully changed the conversation. We’re talking about the national debt instead of Wall Street. The national debt is a major problem, but it was not the cause of this economy, nor is it the reason it continues. The reason is Wall Street and consumerism. But we’ve let them change the conversation again.

I’m 35, I want kids, but I have no job, no prospects, and I AM college-educated, with a load of debt to show for it. Yet I have to watch Christmas commercials where people are giving each other cars? What the hell is this? After 9/11 the answer was “keep shopping”. Are you kidding me?

Stop shopping.

Wake the fuck up!

And don’t tell me to leave Obama alone. I’M already being left alone – in the cold.

Friday, July 8, 2011

United States of Dumberica....

Obama spoke today about the rise in unemployment and the slow in hiring for June, and I can't help but wonder about his clarity. Is he really this dense? Or, is it just the hard fight the republicans are giving him? Is it a combination?

I realize "there are no easy answers" and "those who think there are easy answers don't fully understand the situation", etc., etc., blah, blah, blah...

That said, here's the two step solution / easy answer to fixing the economy:

There. Done.

Pressure companies to hire people by using penalty taxes or reduced business incentives, as well as higher tariffs on products produced by American companies that import their goods due to overseas production. That is, treat American companies that outsource our jobs overseas, like foreign importers.

When companies hire more Americans AND pay them more (reducing profits from the high billions to the low-to-mid billions - therefore STILL generating huge profits), Americans will have more disposable income to then turn around and spend on all the useless junk and bullshit you want them to buy. This, in turn, will allow companies to continue to turn profits, which will, in turn, allow companies to continue to pay people a TRUE living wage, which they, in turn, can spend on more useless junk and bullshit, etc., see how this works?

Turns out, hiring people and paying them is actually pro-business and pro-American - imagine that?
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jimmy Carter: Crisis of Confidence

I've often said to my love, that Carter was a great man, but a presidential failure. But he didn't fail, the people failed. Mightily.

Watch and listen.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Farewell to Welfare - As We Currently Know It...

Concerning my article on socialism, I felt it was necessary to elaborate on an idea I expressed regarding welfare and reform.

Many people express the desire to reform or overhaul the welfare system in each state. Some of these suggestions are subversive, others are constructive. What I've devised is a way in which welfare can remain in existence but also succeed at its task, which is helping people get on their feet during a hard time. You'll have to keep in mind that reforming welfare in this context would also require reforming our system of economics as a whole. Under our current capitalist system, there is no reform to welfare that can possibly succeed, since our system moralizes the welfare issue, denigrates those who need and use it, and does not allow enough money OR common sense thought to flow into the system to truly assist those in need.

My plan is quite simple, though broad in scope. The necessary money for the system would be achieved by higher taxes on the wealthy and on large corporations, as well as less corporate welfare (tax cuts and incentives) for big businesses. Also, through a system of higher wages overall and reduced costs in other areas of life, fewer people would need to use welfare, thereby rendering more money and peripheral assistance available in the system, but allowing fewer people to need to make use of it.

With that preface, here is my plan:

The basic mandates for individuals in the program are simple:
1. One must have a full time job while receiving welfare.
2. One must have a part-time job and be attending a degree or certificate granting institution part-time.
3. One must be attending a degree or certificate granting institution full time.

These are basic mandates for which there would be few exceptions. For example, if one were taking care of an elderly sick parent, as well as raising a child, one may not have time to attend school or work full time. Situations like these would have to be taken on a case by case basis, but provisions would be built into the system for these types of happenings.

There would also have to be mandates for businesses and state governments.

At the outset, the minimum wage would have to be raised in each state to the True Cost of Living (henceforth TCL) - not an abstract calculation such as is used now. This cost would be calculated on what it truly takes to live in a given environment at a given time, which means it would have to be adjusted regularly. It would also have to be routinely adjusted for inflation. To do both annually doesn't seem too out of sorts. The TCL wage would be different in every state. In a state like Ohio, this may be $10 an hour. In a state like NY or California, this may be $15 to $17 an hour. The federal minimum wage could be abolished if the federal government mandated that each state use the appropriate TCL wage, and have it audited regularly by the United States Department of Labor (USDoL).

Of course, businesses would start griping about going "belly up" with such substantial wage increases. Many would want to start layoffs or at least threaten to create them. The federal government could contain this by mandating that NO company that continues to turn a profit after the TCL wage change would be allowed to terminate an employee for any reason other than poor employee performance or insubordination. If you were making a seventeen billion dollar profit, and now you only make a ten billion dollar profit, you cannot layoff employees. That difference of X-amount of dollars (remember - per company in the US), in addition to shoring up welfare and social security, etc., would go into the social system of making college free, and providing other social services like free health care. Of course, companies can "drum up" complaints in an effort to layoff employees and maximize unnecessary profits, but if all of a sudden there were 1500 complaints against employees in a company at one time, that should raise USDoL eyebrows.

Provisions would need to be made for smaller businesses, and businesses under a certain income or payroll may be exempt from the tax increases. In other words, ExxonMobil's taxes may go up, but Mom and Pop's local cookie store, with ten employees and less than $75,000 in profits annually, would never feel a thing. I personally agree with the current administration's threshold of $250,000 in annual profit.

For companies that can plainly demonstrate that these wage increases wold indeed cause them to head into the red, they could continue to receive the existing corporate welfare (in the form of subsidies, incentives and tax breaks). Of course, all companies applying for this assistance would have to undergo an intensive "faulty accounting" audit by the IRS for good measure - just in case.

With the TCL wage raised, many working people would immediately come off of welfare and many of those who would normally have to go on it would be saved from doing so. Those who still had trouble and would find themselves needing to go onto welfare would have more money available to them in the system. As well, higher general taxes (particularly on businesses and the wealthy) and less welfare to large, profitable businesses would create a surplus of funds that could be used to pay the cost of attendance for any welfare recipient who wants to earn a degree or certificate. Money would also be used by the state to cover child and senior care expenses for those in need of it. The government would not run these businesses, just pay for the expenses incurred by welfare recipients until they completed their degree. They would also cover the same expenses if the welfare recipient worked full time. Now a welfare recipient has options - not just find a job at McDonalds, but actually attend school free of charge or find a job they like - or attend school until finding a job, etc.

Next, and quite importantly, is the time limit. One would not be allowed to collect welfare and food stamps indefinitely. For those attending school, their limit would be one year beyond graduation, or two years - during an economic crisis like the one we've just sustained. After that, they would have to reapply quarterly, documenting that they still need assistance and why. For those who drop out without work, with no explanation (serious family trouble for example) their benefits would end immediately upon discovery of that fact. For those working full time and making the minimum wage, they would have one year of uninterrupted benefits from the first time they are approved. After that, they would have to reapply quarterly, also documenting that they still need assistance and why.

It is my firm belief that under this system, deadbeats would be weeded out, and we would see many more people getting an education. Those who didn't get an education would at least be able to pay their bills and be contributing members to the workforce.

This will require quite a bit of fortitude from our politicians and a lot of focus from the people on what their elected officials are doing. With rulings like the recent one allowing corporations to contribute unlimited sums of money to political campaigns, none of this is likely to happen anytime soon. We are, in fact, heading in the opposite direction.

But with nobility of spirit and a constant struggle for social betterment, it is my firm belief that this would be a great start.

If only it were possible.