Thursday, February 8, 2018

Life's Little Injustices (Take XI): Two Lives, Interrupted

<Photo/Collage: The Reckoner>

36 Years (& Out)
I'd just finished a hard day's night of proofreading, which happens to me every couple o'weeks, I've worked with this client, a local newspaper publisher, for a dozen years now, so we've got the routine down. This week, we spent an hour or two going over the latest edition at 2:30-ish, then adjourned, for various boring reasons, until 11:30 p.m. 

Some editions take longer to sort out than others, so we didn't wind down until 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. ... which is when the usual small town gossip creeps into the conversation. My client asks, "You heard what happened to Lady B?"

"No," I responded. "Not good news, I take it?"

"She put it out on her website about a month ago," my client said. "She got pushed out the door at the radio station, because they want to hire younger people, and pay them cheaper."

"No surprise there, I guess. So what's she say, then?"

"Well, she's found some other lower-level job, and she's barely making it. She almost lost her house, but managed to save it. She's really depressed."

"Gee, I can't imagine why," I said. "Well, guess I'll have to check that one for myself. Goodnight, then."

"Goodnight." Click!

The minute we hang up, I head to Lady B's website, where (sure enough) she's posted her account. She recounted watching her station's "money-grubbing management" methodically run off other older (now ex-) colleagues, and replace them with younger people, part-timers, or nobody (as so often happens). Lady B thought her lengthy tenure would ensure a place on the payroll, but, of course, that assumption turned out to be mistaken ("the only job I ever had").

So that's how she found herself escorted off the premises, during the first week in January ...without a chance to say goodbye to anyone, let alone a going away party, nor even a token recognition for her service. The stress associated with such a sudden, drastic loss of income has left Lady B racked with anxiety, depression, and shortness of breath. If it weren't for her son's support, "I'd have immediately moved away," she writes. "I feel so alienated here now."

And that's before we get to the people who melted away, once the word got out -- who only befriended her, apparently, "because of what I did for a living,"  as Lady B writes, leaving a potential support network shredded, without a second thought. "We're talking about losing a lifetime. And I'm still broken." Having been voted off the island myself a couple of times...I can relate, to put it mildly.

What's really disconcerting here is, we're talking about someone who's well-known locally, who's emceed at beauty pageants, and served as grand marshal for this parade, or a judge at that cooking contest, things of that nature. One time, Lady B gave a presentation to our depression support group: just one of many projects on her day planner, it seemed, that she did without fanfare.

Obviously, if someone like her isn't secure, nobody is. But, then again, I find myself thinking -- Trump's words to the contrary -- America won't make itself great again, until we embrace we start lifting each other up, and embrace that idea once more. Until that day arrives, we won't even be middling. Or something like that.

<Photo/Collage: The Reckoner>

Dumpster Dive (Take I)
The next night, I found myself driving back from a music rehearsal, heading back to my apartment complex in the kind of frigid, unforgiving weather that only the Midwest can dish out.

I swung around the corner of our building, and the dumpster behind it. I noticed a bicycle leaning against the dumpster. Two or three plastic bags crammed with returnable pop cans were tied to the handlebars. I spotted a larger garbage bag sprawled across the top of the dumpster.

Just, then, a young man began hoisting himself out of our dumpster (which had only been emptied the day before). He wore a knit cap and a plaid Carhartt jacket. He didn't look a day over 30, even if the black patch of five o'clock shadow creeping across his face seemed to suggest otherwise.

Not wanting to spook him, I looked away, and rounded the corner, following the oval drive to  our building. I parked in front of it, and began hauling out the groceries.

Just then, the young man shot around the corner. He briefly waved at me, and I waved back. Hope his haul was good, I told myself. Only yesterday, we'd had a brief outburst of spring-like temps in the 40s and 50s. He must have gotten most of it then, I thought, since we'd fallen back today into our familiar teeth-chattering mode (high of 20 degrees, real feel, 10), so I'm sure he wouldn't have found too many cans then.

I wondered how often he plied his trade. The scene reminded me of a comment made by the guitarist of a certain well-known '60s proto-punk band, on his efforts to get a record deal on his own recognizance: "Whenever I actually get these guys on the phone, they're always saying, 'Wow, cool! It's great talking to you!" Then came the punchline. "But you know how it is. It's a young man's world."

Which world? I wondered. And what kind of world is this, anyway?

Not that I had time to ponder the point. Tonight, the world of transcription awaited me, and I'd need to rack up X amount toward my weekly goal ($200, $250-plus and up), in my never-ending quest to make that monthly nut. So hustled inside, with two or three grocery bags in my hand. Duty called, I guess. Or something like that. --The Reckoner

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "Yer Tax Cuts Passed? Tax THIS!"

<"Yer Tax Cuts Passed? Tax THIS!": The Highwayman>
<click the image to get the full size/flavor!>

>A Few Passing Thoughts...<
“How can you vote for tax reform if it’s going to increase the taxes in your district?” Mr. King asked, suggesting lawmakers would have to say: “Great victory! We got the first tax reform through in 30 years. Your taxes are going up, but it’s O.K. because we got it through.”

People will think you’re nuts,” Mr. King said.
<New York Times: 11/08/17)>

"Republicans need not have proceeded in this fashion. They could have undertaken revenue-neutral corporate-tax reform and tax cuts only for those making, say, less than $75,000. That, however, would not have pleased their big donors. 

"Now the GOP will pay the political price for a bait-and-switch, just as it did on Trumpcare, which paid for tax cuts for the very rich by cutting Medicaid. 

Republicans seem incapable of avoiding these reverse Robin Hood schemes. Perhaps they really do care only about the rich."
(Jennifer Rubin, "Right Turn," Washington Post)

"The foundation of the Republican tax plan is a massive $1 trillion corporate tax cut that isn’t paid for at all. From the beginning, Republicans gave themselves space to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit in order to make the corporate tax cut even bigger.

"Yet the party of fiscal conservatism had no qualms about supporting it. They simply placed their faith in unsubstantiated projections of economic growth to fill that hole — and if it does not, they are already talking about cutting spending for Medicare and Social Security to make up the difference."

"The end result is sheer absurdity: a reform that actually complicates the tax code further, and that must contradict itself and partially self-destruct to attain some semblance of the fiscal discipline Republicans claim to value. It’s hard to imagine a more egregious waste of time and energy, or a worse outcome for taxpayers and the broader economy."
(Bloomberg View)

“The test of our progress is not 
whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”
(President Franklin Delano Roosevelt)

I think they are going to spend millions of dollars
trying to put lipstick on this pig. But unfortunately
 there’s nothing they can do to change it from being a pig.”
(Ezra Levin, co-executive director, Indivisible)

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Life's Little Injustices (Take X): "Hey, Where's Mike?"

Something seemed wrong lately at our friendly neighborhood Spartan grocery store. The rhythms of life seemed, somehow, a little bit off. I'd noticed it building, slowly but surely, over the last couple weeks. The standard employee banter had lost its usual edge, or even seemed a tad forced, at times. The eye contact became more hit and miss. But those weren't the only indications, as I quickly discovered.

Before long, odd little signs started popping up at the checkout lanes: "WE ARE SORRY, BUT WE CANNOT ACCEPT WIC OR BRIDGE CARDS (Reckoner's Note: for food stamp recipients) AT THIS TIME. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE." Soon enough, we'd end up feasting our eyes on this little gem: "21 AND OVER IS THE LAW! YOU MUST SHOW ID WHEN PURCHASING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. NO EXCEPTIONS!!"

How odd, I told myself, since 21+ is the gold standard in most jurisdictions nationwide? Or is somebody trying to underscore something that we already know? What gives, exactly? 

I got my answer soon enough, on my nightly trip to score a two-liter or two of Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi.

I found myself standing behind a gent with his own modest haul of beer -- a six-pack of something or other, if I recall correctly -- and assorted snack food items. Suddenly, he popped the question: "Hey, where's Mike?"

The cashier furrowed her brow. "What you do you want with him?"

"You know, Mike," the customer persisted. "The guy with the shirt and tie, carrying the big, oversized cell phone..."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," the cashier responded. "He was here 10 years. Well, he's not here anymore."

"Really?" The customer frowned. "Why not?"

The cashier sighed. "We got bought out a couple weeks ago, by the son of the current owner." She explained that his father wanted to get out, retire, enjoy some well-earned rest, that type of thing.

The customer jerked a thumb at the signs. "Oh, and that's why you can't take..."


A-ha, I thought. They're transferring the license owner to the new regime, which is why the food stamp cards are on hold for awhile.

"Okay, so what became of Mike?"

"Well, whenever a new owner comes in," the cashier explained, "they typically prefer to bring in their own people, new blood, whatever you call it. The only way that Mike was gonna stay here, they told him, was that he'd have to start over..."

"Wow!" The customer sucked in a breath or two. "You mean, he'd have to go back out on the floor?"

"Pretty much, that's what it would have meant." The cashier frowned. "He didn't wanna do that, so that's why he's gone."

The customer finished counting out his change. "Man, that sucks. I liked the guy."

"Well, that's what's happened," the cashier sighed, a little harder this time. "Anything's possible when a new owner comes in. Right now, there's a lot of changes going on..." She gestured toward the signs. "And we don't know yet what's gonna happen."

"Wow, that's too bad." The customer finished scooping up his change into his pocket, grabbed his six-pack and snacks, now safely tucked into their cheap plastic bags, and walked out.

Within a minute or two, I followed out the door. I thought about all these times that I'd seen Mike, who presented the upbeat facade of the local store manager better than most of his cohorts I'd seen. Then I thought of him coming home, and breaking the news to his family, a forty- or fiftysomething-plus man effectively hearing, "Sorry, kid. Time to start over." 

Most likely, I'd never see him again, unless he found a similar foothold with the competition...Aldi's, Martin's, Meijer's Walmart, take your pick, you name it, there's quite a few locations...another domino rolled over in the never-ending quest for corporate profit.

I couldn't shake those images out of my head for most of the week. --The Reckoner

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Punk Rock Art Corner: We Salute The Senate's Glorious Strong-Arming of Trump's Tax Scam

<"Now the GOP will pay 
the political price 
for a bait-and-switch, 
just as it did on Trumpcare, 
which paid for tax cuts 
for the very rich by cutting Medicaid. 
Republicans seem incapable 
of avoiding these 
reverse Robin Hood schemes.">

<Jennifer Rubin, 
"Right Turn," 
Washington Post>

<USA Today>
"Together, we will give 
the American people 
a big, beautiful Christmas present."
<President Trump>

 "Our focus is on 
helping the folks 
who work in the mailrooms 
and the machine shops 
of America; 
the plumbers, 
the carpenters, 
the cops, 
the teachers, 
the truck drivers, 
the pipefitters -- 
the people that like me best."
<President Trump>

"My donors 
are basically saying, 
'Get it done 
or don’t ever 
call me again.'"
<U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)>

“I think
 not having the estate tax 
recognizes the people 
that are investing
as opposed to those 
that are just spending 
every darn penny they have, 
whether it’s on booze 
or women or movies.">

<U.S. Senator 
Charles Grassley (R-IA), 
Des Moines Register>

<Political Algebra>

“I have a rough time 
wanting to spend 
billions and billions 
and trillions of trillions 
of dollars
 to help people 
who won’t help themselves. 
Won’t lift a finger, 
and expect the federal government 
to do everything.”

<U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)>

<XVI Poem>
Laws are created to be followed
by the poor.
Laws are made by the rich
to bring some order to exploitation.
The poor are the only law abiders in history.
When the poor make laws 
the rich will be no more.
<Roque Dalton>

<See You In 2018 ...
...The Reckoner>

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "Seen This Movie Before" (Just Say No To Trump's Tax Scam)

<"Seen This Movie Before": The Highwayman>
<click the image to get the full size/flavor!>

Is Trump's tax plan a scam? Let's put it this way: I''ll cite one of my favorite recent factoids from Vanity FairFor Republican magical thinking to work -- splendiforous results occur, and don't blow up the deficit -- the U.S. economy would have to grow at five percent, per year, over 10 years, "in line with emerging economic powerhouses China and India," Vanity Fair reports. "Guess what sports fans? That’s not happening, especially in an economy that has already supposedly been benefiting from absurdly low interest rates for close to a decade, and that is already at or near structural full employment."

I'd call that a fair statement. In contrast, the Federal Reserve's median forecast for growth is 1.8 percent -- which sounds a tad more realistic, given what we've seen lately -- while the Congressional Budget office foresees the dueling U.S. House/Senate versions add, at best, a tenth of a percentage point to growth, "bringing us to a whopping 1.9 percent," according to Catherine Rampell, of the Washington Post

We'll see soon enough what emerges from behind closed doors, which is why I've held off on commenting -- this is the bunch, remember, that cobbled together four increasingly poor health bills -- but, by and large, the public isn't buying this particular our latest guest cartoon from my good friend, The Highwayman, makes abundantly clear. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry, Before The Trumpkins
Vacuum What's Left Of Your Cash Flow):

Atlantic: Why The GOP Tax Bill Is So Unpopular: GOP Deficit Hawks Fear
Tax Plan Is Secret Budget-Buster:

Vanity Fair: It's A Ponzi Scheme: Wall Street
Fears Trump's Deranged Tax Plan
Could Kick Off Economic Euthanasia:

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Lucky Day Forever

Full Closed Captioned Edition in English
"Prole 514 dreams about winning the Great Lottery. The lottery winner is transformed and allowed admission into the elite White society, where everyone is beautiful, young and happy and people spend their carefree lives solely on fun and partying. One day, 514's wish comes true... but was this what he really wanted?" Lucky Day Forever (2011) by Alek Wasilewski

---The Squawker

Are the Robots Taking Over?

I noticed in my old ho-dunk town, they remodeled McDonald's, and are putting computer ordering kiosks in. This is a bad sign, that in a small town in the middle of nowhere, they are already pushing the fast food workers out. I rarely shop at Wal-mart and was in one the other week and noticed they expanded the self-check outs, and there was only ONE cashier working. The majority were using the self-check outs. It used to be they were pushed off to the side and the majority were still using the cashiers. What are they going to expect people to do for work? With Republicans, since they don't care about anyone but the uber-rich, they certainly aren't talking about this growing issue of automation taking the jobs away. Why do they want machines to do everything, so we end up having no one to talk to...not even service people?---The Squawker.