Djcnor’s Weblog

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Isn’t it ironic that Americans are willing to come out into the streets to show they care about the Iranian election being stolen when they wouldn’t come out into the streets after their own elections were stolen in 2000 and 2004?

When I began this blog, I had already tried blogging before but never managed to consistently write regularly and often. I had read that in order to build readership a blog had to have a focus, but I decided just to write each day about whatever interested me and see if a theme developed.

For a long time now, I have been a fan of the movement toward interdisciplinary activities of all kinds. Only rather recently have academics been divided into subjects and sub-subjects. Science, chemistry under science, biochemistry under chemistry, molecular biochemistry under biochemistry, and so on seemingly to infinity with each tiny segment developing its own jargon, its own points of reference, its own celebrities.

I know there’s more information out there than any one person can ever manage to stuff into one brain, more than any one person can become well acquainted with, but why force the choices among a preset branching path? Especially when the most world-shaking ideas often come from crossing paths on different branches.

One example, and a fascinating one to read about, was the deciphering of the Maya written language. The story of how it happened is entertainingly chronicled in Breaking the Maya Code by Michael Coe. The problem was that studiers of the Maya culture tended to specialize in one particular area. There were dirt archaeologists excavating and interpreting the material culture left behind, linguist studying the language current spoken by Mayan ethnic groups, art historians studying Mayan art, and so on and so on. No one held enough pieces of the puzzle, until the kid.

The kid was the child of two people involved in different aspects of the Maya story. The family spent a lot of summers at digs. There wasn’t a whole lot for a kid to do at the digs, aside from plague the assortment of adults studying various other aspects of the story. The result? The kid was the one who collected and connected all the different pieces and began to put them together to make sense of the Mayan hieroglyphics. He did it so well that at 18 he won one of those  MacArthur Genius Awards.

My point is the world is not split into neatly catagorized discipline. In truth, every single one of us invents his or her own discipline, and if you look hard enough but not in a particularly organized manner, you might eventually be able to come up with a good description of it.

Readers of this blog will soon figure out that I am interested in politics. But it is not the practice of politics that interests me. I’m only interested in practical politics. I look at every political issue in terms of the effects of particular policies on individual lives. And I look at those lives holistically, refusing to narrow it down to any particular area of those lives.

I’m also interested in arts, particularly fine craft arts, well practised, no shortcuts, and particularly textiles. Textiles because of structure, and because textiles are so intricately woven into our lives, woven into them in such a way as to minimize human discomfort, and doing that at the expense of the textiles themselves. Of all arts, textiles are made to give way and be worn down, to show the history of  human interaction with them.  One fine example is the shroud of Turin.

There’s another excellent book on the history of textile arts. It’s Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. It’s about women,  cloth, and society in ancient times, and every word of it interested me.

I could write much more, but mostly what I want to say is that I believe I’ve found the focus of this blog, as much as it has one. I want it to sit at the intersection of arts, politics, and life.

While the American public has been keeping its eyes on the bonuses given AIG employees and the bail-outs for for the car companies and who Obama bows to, something else has been going on that they ought to be howling at the top of their lungs about.

They have probably received one of those small print innocuous-seeming letters from one or more of their credit card companies. “This is just to let you know that the terms of your credit are changing.” It’s never good news, is it. But the things in the latest ones go beyond, or rather below, the minimal standards of morality we have come to expect from our credit card companies.

Here’s a list of the types of things you might find in your letter(s):

1) The due date for your payment is changed. Moved forward of course, and you’ll have to look over the letter pretty thoroughly if you want to know when it’s changed to. In fact, my letter didn’t give me that information at all! It just told me to watch my next few bills because there would be an announcement in one of them. And you’d better be diligent about it, because if you should happen to miss it and send in a payment late….

2) Your interest rate could change, or rather CHANGE! The list of things you might do that would trigger such a change is getting larger and larger, as is the size of the CHANGE that is the consequence. In my case, the CHANGE in interest rate would be to THREE TIMES my present interest rate. On that list of things you might do that would trigger the change is going over your limit, which might be all too easy to do because…

3) Your credit limit could change, or rather CHANGE! Downward of course, or rather DOWNWARD! In fact, your limit could be reduced to BELOW the amount you owe or just above it. Should you not pay up immediately in order to come in below the new credit limit, guess what happens? (Review point 2.) 

Congress is working on tightening the rules that credit card companies operate under, so the card companies are doing a whole lot of this lately while they can still get away with it.

Those rates in question could be 30% or higher, and you know what that is?

USURY

which means an exorbitant or unlawful rate of interest. It may not yet be unlawful, but it will be, and it should be. And lawful or not, USURY is what it is.

Naturally, British news has been full of the G20 meetings and the protests surrounding them. It’s interesting for an American to watch because Obama and all he represents is such a very large part of it all.

The Brits are fascinated by Obama’s car. You wouldn’t believe the amount of coverage being given to it. Its name. Its features. The fact that the Pres was told to move his car in favor of the Queen. The funniest part is the amount of time given to full coverage of the process of moving and reparking the car.

Another thing that caught my attention was the  way that Brit police dealt with the protesters. I’m sure this country has kidnapping laws. Yet the British police walled off large groups of protesters at several different places. I can understand, for the sake of safety of the protesters themselves, who were converging on the spots from several directions, limiting the influx into the central recipient space. But the policy of the Brit police in not letting protesters leave that space after the police had cut off further entry, not even to receive medical treatment for injuries caused in confrontations with police, amounts to kidnapping. It is also a policy designed to discourage participation in protests. It says, “Don’t dare to come if you might need to go to the bathroom, or eat, or treat your diabetes, or any number of other things within several hours.” It could result in totally unnecssary medical emergencies.

It is wrong. It is kidnapping. And I hope it is brought to court.

The third thing, of course, is the ultimatum delivered in concert by Sarcozy of France and Merkel of Germany. demanding binding reform of world financial markets as the price of their participation and agreement to whatever the meeting produces. The news I’m reading seems to see it as aimed at Britain. Mind you, I absolutely agree that concrete steps must be taken to curb tax havens, hedge funds, and rating agencies.

Last, never doubt that the significance of a black American President has been fully appreciated by European blacks. Their smiles were as broad and their eyes as moist as those of American blacks on inauguration day. They came just for a glimpse, just to see it with their own eyes. The times have changed, and I am glad to be around for it.

The G20 meetings are coming to London, and so are the protesters. Naturally, the protesters have planned a number of events, among them a giant monopoly game, a march ending at Hyde Park (of course), an Onion type fake issue of the Financial Times on the traditional pink paper, a tent city, fake money and many more. It makes me nostalgic for the week of the GOP convention in New York City in 2004.

However, there is one event with a description that sent me into howls of laughter. When you live in a culture not your own, there are certain idiocentricities that are intrinsic to the way of life of the natives that have outsiders shaking their heads baffled. In Poland, one of those things was their custom of creating patches of ice  to serve as fun short-cuts on the sidewalks. To a balance-challenged outsider like me, these patches were booby traps.

Anyhow, here’s the description of the event:

http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/2009/03/27/20090327biz-Eu-G20Protests0327.html

“The Meltdown group’s most talked-about event is slated for April 1, as summit delegates trickle into the capital ahead of the meeting the next day. Thousands of demonstrators were expected to converge on the Bank of England, led by anti-globalization’s take on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – a red horse against war, a green horse against climate change, a silver horse against financial crimes, and a black horse against homelessness.

“With any luck April 1 at the bank will be a revival of all the best part of the original 90s anti-capitalist movement,” Mark Barrett, the group’s spokesman, said in an e-mail.”

And here’s the part that sent me off:

“Participants are being urged to come in costume and (this is Britain, after all) bring tea. Barrett added that the protest would be nonviolent – “a picnic, not a riot.”

Everybody knows about Britain and tea. But nobody really knows just how deeply tea seeps into British bones until they actually live here. Just as I could solemnly swear that Krakovians, no matter how worldly, believe in the dragon under the castle who has kept their city safe for centuries while other cities of Poland were flattened over and over, I could solemnly swear that Brits of all classes and backgrounds believe that any problem this world offers can be successfully cured with tea.

This being so, on reading the passage above, I could not help summoning up a picture of the most radical protesters gathered in a smoky room plotting deep deep plots when someone heavily tatooed and pierced says in a deep rough voice  and an extremely serious tone “We’ve setting out to solve some major problems. We’re going to need a lot of tea.”

All of this being the case, it get’s even more hilarious to read about American protests, with entirely different aims, to be held on April 15.

http://taxdayteaparty.com/about/

These protesters are not happy with Barrack Obama’s stimulus package, calling it “pork”, in a twist of the original meaning which is money spent in a way that benefits only a specific small group. It bothers me to see words that trail negative connotations and associations twisted away from its original literal meaning, but perhaps that  comes from spending too much time in the presence of Brits who do really care about the precise use of the language.

Anyhow, the inspiration for these Tea Parties is, of course, the Boston Tea Party in which American colonists threw tea into the bay in protest of having to pay taxes (on tea) imposed by the British Parliament in which they had no representation. Yes, I know these protesters happen to be well represented in the American Congress, so the analogy is by no means exact. And yes, I know they will be drinking tea rather than throwing it away. A part of me even expects them to get it even more mixed up and wear huge hats, and face card and  Alice costumes.

In any case, isn’t it interesting to see tea such an integral part of two very separate protests. Are there more out there? Is there a conspiracy of tea merchants? Should we start worrying about them rather than the evil bankers? And what is it about using tea in protests that gets the authorities in such uproars?

I know many Americans are worried right now about the huge amount of money being invested in pulling the US out of the economic slump it’s in. Europe is taking a more leisurely approach to relieving the crisis, and the New York Times had an interesting article today that suggests why they have that luxury.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/27/world/europe/27germany.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

“VIENENBURG, Germany — Last month Frank Koppe gathered together all 50 of his employees at Koppe-Apparatebau for coffee, cake and the kind of bad news that has lately become all too familiar. He told them the small company’s business, designing and manufacturing custom equipment for industrial plants, had been sliced nearly in half.

But rather than resorting to layoffs, Mr. Koppe asked half his employees to come in every other week. The government would make up roughly two-thirds of their lost wages out of a fund filled in good times through payroll deductions and company contributions. ”

It’s the safety net, folks.

A strong safety net prevents extreme hardship among the losers in an economic downturn while keeping a certain amount of money in even the most lean pockets, money guaranteed to be spent locally to support the most necessary businesses in the communities and providing an amount of stimulus in proportion to the amount of people losing their jobs.

Programs such as the one described above maintain the skills of the workforce. Workers affected by the downturn don’t fall behind and have none of the kinds of resume/CV gaps that make finding new jobs harder. No one loses access to the level of healthcare coverage they had before. What’s more is it costs considerably less than the American version of stimulus.

According to the story, when Obama goes to the G20 meeting, he plans to press the Europeans to take more actions parallel to those the US is taking, but maybe it would be a better idea to listen and learn from EU methods.

Read the article and tell me what you think.

I have to admit this is really doing serious damage to my confidence and self-esteem. It’s very hard to pick myself up and get back to work on the next three applications I am presently filling out, two for teaching positions, and another to sell upholstered furniture.

You’d think my application for the upholstered furniture salesperson would be pretty strong, since I’ve actually had to design and weave a set of coordinated fabrics for a target market area for upholstered furniture.

Note that I’m not saying anything about the school jobs after the day-long in-house substitute interview that I wrote about in another posting.

My husband is pushing me again to drop that Ph.D. from my CV and applications, but then how would I explain what I did between 1972 and 1999, since the jobs I held were directly related to that qualification?

Meanwhile, my brother, who did not graduate from college, and lost his job maybe three weeks ago has two job offers already.

Something is very very wrong with either employers or me. I’m wondering again how much of this has to do with ageism, how much to do with discrimination against immigrants. And, frankly, at this moment, I don’t know what to do about it.


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