Archive for November 11th, 2004

Help Unwanted

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Jessica
the Cyber Librarian
writes of people
who found jobs through their Blogs
:

This Globe
and Mail article
discusses how companies might use someone’s blog
to influence their hiring decision and interviews some human resources
people and bloggers who got jobs because of their hobbies. A list gives ways
a blogger
can use the medium to make her-/himself a better candidate.

Our own experience has been somewhat different. We have
been advised by people we know well and trust, who seem to know what
they are talking about, to be careful not to lose our present position
because the accumulated content of the Dowbrigade News basically makes
us unhireable by anyone who knows how to use Google.

As it is we are self-editing mercilessly.  Anything
involving in anyway drugs, personal sexual encounters, our co-workers,
our straight-world side-jobs, any incident on which the statute of limitations
has yet to expire or personal knowledge of public personalities is strictly
off-limits.  Our best material, out the window! And that is besides
the blood oaths, vows of silence, memory wipes and binding non-disclosure
agreements we have been subjected to over the years and around the world.

Someday, when we are fully retired and/or independently
wealthy, and too old to kill for some fantastic 40-year-old stories,
we will be able to tell all. In the meantime, we hide behind the flimsy
facade of the Dowbrigade and try to offer a little illumination around
the edges.

What would Jesus Do?

6

The Presidential election is already fading
into the rear-view mirror, years of hope and effort either safely in
the bank for some (political capital) or suddenly turned to ashes in
the mouths of many others. Of course, memories are short and the need
for
stimulation
constant in this brave new society of ours, so we should not be surprised
by how
quickly the national attention turns to football, the new TV shows,
Christmas shopping and celebrity scandals. And yet we are inevitably
disappointed and disillusioned by how quickly we forget. For the most
part, American
interest in politics is limited to leap years, and life in households
across the country has already returned to what passes for normal these
days.

But the issues of the election have not gone away, and
unresolved are bound to get worse.  For millions of American families,
in the Red states as well as the Blue, the American dream has turned
into a nightmare. They are slowing being crucified by easy credit and
rising debt.

Despite the rosy projections of the Office of Management
and Budget, it is obvious to anyone whose life involves private economic
transactions of any kind that there IS inflation afoot in the economy,
and not in a theoretical sense – in a constant and widespread attack
on family budgets and fixed incomes.

What are the main expenses of a wage-earning American,
the millions of working and lower-middle class citizens who lack club
memberships, stock portfolios and vacation homes? The simple, irreducible
necessities of modern life: rent, gas for the car, groceries, clothes
and utilities.  These have
to be paid every month, or you risk slipping into the "poor" "criminal"
or "homeless" categories. All are up.

Rents in this part of the country have gone through the
roof the past ten years as limited housing stock and increasing population
have pushed the average two-bedroom apartment close to $2,000. Gas –
don’t get us started. It affects the prices of everything from airline
tickets to Pizza delivery. The grocery stores raise and lower their prices
every week, offering specials and coupons, so that you don’t notice that
the raises are a little bigger and more common than the lowerings,
and that you are spending more every week. And ALL of our utilities
are up this winter; oil, gas, electricity, cable TV, car insurance, drug
co-payments, insurance. Middle class Americans are getting hit from all
sides, and it is insulting their intelligence to tell them there is no
inflation.

At the same time, the availability of easy credit is at
an all-time high.  People KNOWN to have bad credit are getting
multiple credit card offers.  Dogs and infants are getting credit
card offers. Simple, honest working people, gullible elderly and naive
high schoolers are bombarded daily with come-ons, offers of big bucks,
purchases on credit, low-interest loans and easy lines of credit.

These credit lines are made to sound so attractive and
normal that is is a miracle that ANYONE can resist their lure.  The
simple fact is that the average American is already tied down by a hundred
lines of credit and debt, car loans, credit cards, rental payments, memberships
and personal loans.  The average consumer is like a Gulliver, tied
down by a thousand lines and obligations and debts. The total personal
debt load in this country has reached $20,000 for every man woman and
child.

In addition to the strictly financial implications of these
facts, we belive that they are having a profound effect on the health
of the body politic and psyche as well as our national capacity for both
personal and economic
development.

These debts and ropes and lines, which constitute financial
maturity and sobriety in our society, tie each individual to a specific
set of circumstances – to a job, to a house, to a bank.  They limit
his or her freedom of choice as to where to work, live and contribute.
They are the cement that holds our society together, and the chains which
hold each person in one place.

They limit our freedom of choice, our freedom of movement
and our freedom to change.  For example, how many people might
have woken up one morning to discover they have developed a conscience
overnight, and want to go help refugees in Dafur or endangered turtles
in Galapagos, only to realize in the light of day that the mortgage payments
and flood of bills make that impossible?

How many people had to give up dreams to go back to school,
quit an abusive job, change careers, learn a new language, create art
or join the circus because they were so mired in petty debt that the
consequences of upsetting the delicate economic balance of their lives
would be so dire as to be unacceptable.

These consequences include dunning, harassment, revocation
of citizenship in the consumer nation, and for those who crack and cross
the line into criminality, jail. People who can’t pay their bills or
debts are considered weak, inferior, and dangerous, as though they had
contagious sex disease.

We speak form personal experience. In the interests
of full disclosure, the Dowbrigade had a close call with out-of-control
debt. When our kids were teenagers and our expenses outweighed
income, we built up a personal debt which approached the national ave
rage..  We
wised up several years ago and though consolidation and budgeting have
paid off over 60%, including 100% of the high-interest debt.

Our culture is drowning in debt, at every level.  We
live enmeshed in a network of debt, not only on a personal level, but
on corporate and governmental levels as well. And despite what your
bank and your government will tell you – debt is anti-American.  Debt
is anti-Freedom.  It limits the freedom of individuals, companies
and the government itself.

Jesus reportedly cast the moneylenders from the temple.
Today, the moneylenders OWN the temple, baby.  They own the malls
and the airwaves, and the airlines, and the INTERNET, for God’s sake
(is nothing sacred?) and they own the government.  Face it, folks,
they own YOU.

We all owe. Our system and our lives are based on owing.
Collectively, we are in debt up to our eyeballs. Debt clogs the arteries
of American commerce and social life. We have borrowed against our
children’s
earnings.
We have mortgaged our culture and heritage. We have leveraged our future.

This is not a healthy state of affairs.  The Biblical
day when all these debts come due may be a lot closer than we think.  Who
will throw the moneylenders from the American temple?

(painting by El Creco)

Architect of Evil

1

If
Yassir Arafat had not existed, the Israeli government would have had
to invent him, and maybe they did. Observing his unkempt
appearance, slovenly dress and caricaturistic profile, for
years we were convinced he was a golem for the Jews, erected as a lightning
rod, to mire the Palestinians in unproductive internecine warfare and
counterproductive posturing.

His main instrument of survival seemed to
be the ruthless elimination any challenges to his power, thereby nipping
in the bud the
emergence
of
any younger,
more
honest
and dangerous
(to
the
Israelis) revolutionary leaders.

But like many brilliantly subtle plans for world or regional
dominance (including the original Golem story), it eventually came back to bite them in the ass. Fate can also be subtle, cruel and ironic.

When
the situation eventually evolved to the point that the Israelis wanted
an
honestly
negotiated
end to the
conflict, there was not an honest negotiator to be found on the other
side – Arafat had eliminated them all. Jeff Jacoby has an apt eulogy
in today’s
Boston Globe
:

In a better world, George Bush would not have said,
on hearing the first reports that Arafat had died, "God bless
his soul."

God bless his soul? What a grotesque idea! Bless the soul of the man
who brought modern terrorism to the world? Who sent his agents to slaughter
athletes at the Olympics, blow airliners out of the sky, bomb schools
and pizzerias, machine-gun passengers in airline terminals? Who lied,
cheated, and stole without compunction? Who inculcated the vilest culture
of Jew-hatred since the Third Reich? Human beings might stoop to bless
a creature so evil — as indeed Arafat was blessed, with money, deference,
even a Nobel Prize — but God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity.

from the Boston Globe