There Goes the Ruddy Two-shoes

Archive for April, 2008

Money Matters

Posted by ruddytwoshoes on April 28, 2008

A lot of my time has gone misused in anxiousness over money, or lack thereof. Rent, auto insurance, health insurance, utility bills, student loan, auto loan, credit card payments, gas, food . . . these expenditures, side by side with a monthly salary that is at times barely enough for cover, causes a great amount of disquietude I am trying my best to learn to decimate.

I would like to think I have no right to complain; I have everything I need for subsistence. I am not burrowing through garbage bins for chow or standing by freeway off-ramps soliciting alms. I can afford to keep an apartment, drive a six-year-old sports car (which would be out of my garage if not for my outstanding loan balance), put some of my earnings into savings, and periodically coddle myself with the simple luxuries I crave.

So what I worry about, I am not sure myself, but every day, I feel like I am on rickety economic ground. Supernatural beings forbid, but if I get seriously ill one of these days, I would not know how to handle the hospital fees that may come leaping at me beyond my health insurance. I would like to start working on my Master’s next year, but my savings are far from enough to pay for the cost, and I am intimidated by the thought of another towering set of student loans. My husband and I would like to bring a baby boy out into the world within the next five years, but, man, can we really afford it?

Based upon the numbers, I would be part of America’s middle class. Based upon my anticipations about the kind of lifestyle America’s middle class is opportune to take, I am not sure I would be part of it. I distinctly remember living with my parents, part of the same class, about seven years ago and feeling as if a security blanket is encircling the home. We were a two-income family with two children who did not at all contribute to paying any of the household expenditures. But there was always that sensation that we were doing well, and it is not just because I was not made in charge of managing the bank accounts fueling the house. Generally, my family was never indulgent in whopping degrees of — I borrow from Thorstein Veblen — conspicuous consumption, which used to be so difficult for me as a lost, young spirit seeking acceptance in a society ruled by the well-heeled. My parents were always astute where money is concerned and would rather save pennies for the rainy days, which I did not comprehend until I was living in California by myself and paying for my own groceries. Anyway, notwithstanding the mortgage, insurances, food, and financial support for the children, my parents were able to put considerably much into savings.

My June 2006 graduation from arguably one of the best universities in the world has brought me to where the difference between the amount of security that engulfed my parents’ house in the past and the seemingly scarce security I can grab today is readily apparent. It might be that my husband and I are only starting to establish ourselves within the parapets of the socioeconomic classes, or it might be that this is just a super-bad time. I can take either answer, although sources tell me the latter is probably more accurate.

No, I do not look at our MSM friends, who insist that America is doing superbly in the economic department, for news. The methodology they use in assessing the quality of the national economy does not appear to include taking a glimpse past profits gained by the 1% of the American population who own a third of the country’s wealth. In other words, that the GDP is high because Citigroup, Intel, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Exxon, Wal-Mart, General Electric, Microsoft, Boeing, and others — Google them if you want — are productive is supposed to indicate a thriving economy, but as I said, this does not take into consideration ordinary Americans like myself, whose paltry earnings are threatened by the burgeoning economic blunders.

Larry Beinhart helped me gain a little more understanding of this economic situation we now face through an article he wrote for Alternet.org today. The link is below.

What is particularly interesting to me is the concept of “trickle-down” economics, in which wealth ideally trickles from the rich down to the poor because the rich would invest in businesses that would give more people jobs and more money as a result, cause more production and more things for purchase and consumption, and consequently, generate more tax revenue. The concept is feasible, but as we can now see, it is not reaching its potential. How often does the rich become interested in opening up more businesses for people to work as opposed to buying a house in the Caribbean?

The Bush administration employed a principle of excessive spending on the wrong things, the most obvious example being the Iraq war, and then cut the rich people’s taxes. So the loaded gets more load, and the load does not drizzle down on those below because the loaded does not invest in businesses that would make it possible for Americans in the lower classes to get the trickle. What they decided to do is — and this is perceptible in the current subprime mortgage and credit card industries crises — created loans for Americans and racked up the interest rates, so those in the financial sector can collect more money from Americans in the lower end of the economic hierarchy, who can then lunge into more unaffordable debt.

Also worth mentioning is the current globalization phenomenon that is very profitable for those on top. They close out factories in the United States, causing the unemployment of many Americans, and send their jobs to third world countries, where they do not have to worry about paying their employees more than $2 a day and providing them with benefits.

I am not an economics major, so I am just now learning my lessons. I feel as if I am caught up in this ripple of financial burdens I did not help create, and I do not want to get powerlessly thrown around by it without some comprehension of the whys. Pages and pages of information await me, and I am compelled to get to as many of them as I can. I have to make sure I am making the right decisions for myself and the family I will someday try to build. Furthermore, I have to make sure I do something to cut the amount of time misused in worrying that gets chalked up in my calendar. I do not know what that is yet, but there has to be something.

Anyway, you can find the Beinhart article here.

Advertisements

Posted in Economics, Life, Politics | Leave a Comment »

“Body of War”

Posted by ruddytwoshoes on April 27, 2008

A big antiwar crowd, including a number of Vietnam vets and members of IVAW and Veterans for Peace, flocked to the NuArt Theatre this weekend to see Body of War, which I fervently, fervently, FERVENTLY hope everyone would watch. It is extremely well done, and while many of us have already been led to the correct conclusion that little Georgie’s lies about Iraq are not bringing this country any good, this documentary provides us with a more up-close look at what his bellicose policies have done to our troops. Co-director Phil Donahue appeared after the presentation for a little Q&A with the audience, and he is so wonderfully bullshit-free you would wish to see him on TV everyday.

Take a few seconds to watch the trailer below, and visit http://www.bodyofwar.com/ for locations and showtimes. DO NOT MISS THIS MOVIE. You need this kind of enlightenment.

Posted in TV, Film, and Literature | Leave a Comment »

Race, Sadly

Posted by ruddytwoshoes on April 27, 2008

Something is wrong when trigger-happy detectives fire a storm of fifty bullets without warning — wounding three unarmed men of color and killing one of them because they were PRESUMED to have a gun — and get acquitted in the court of law due to what is proclaimed a failure of the prosecutors to present evidence that the detectives’ actions were criminal.

Something is just utterly, appallingly wrong.

But is this farce a genuine surprise? No. That makes it a sadder, sadder state of affairs.

The acrid conclusion of the Sean Bell trial accentuates a reality that the law, in essence, is supposed to repudiate. However, why is this so unsettlingly far from unheard of, and why does it feel as if this is not going to be the last case of racial discrimination not only in our judicial system but also outside of it? Somewhere, another member of an ethnic minority group is falling victim to this quicksand merely because of his non-white skin color, and tomorrow another one, and another one, and another one.

Perforations like the Sean Bell case verdict, which reminds us of other victims of police brutality like Amadou Diallo and Rodney King, whose assailants were exonerated, as well as other instances in the recent past that glaringly exhibit bias against ethnic minorities (remember Jena Six and Pedro Zapeta?) — coupled with idiotic racist media emissaries like Bill O’Reilly, his buddies on Fox News, and film companies engaging in the exploitation of racial stereotypes — perpetuate the quagmire. It poisons the social relations we should all be capable of making, and something has to change.

I moved to Hagerstown, Maryland from the Philippines before my 18th birthday. I had received notice from my stepfather, the Hagerstown resident, of the possibility that people in Hagerstown might discriminate against me because I looked different. Confident in my known garrulousness and level of proficiency in the English language, I took it as a grain of salt. However, the time it took for Hagerstown to stun that confidence was short. In an instant, the identities of an intolerable Chinese math geek, a Japanese karate master, an Asian prostitute, a Vietnamese nail stylist, and a Latina immigrant! were being positioned upon me by absolute strangers who had not even a pitiable modicum of idea about where the hell I came from and who I was. Friends did not come easy, and I enjoyed very limited opportunities to show people how erroneously I was portrayed in the movies and/or pornographic materials they saw. It is incensing, but I am directing my rage towards those who propagate these stereotypes and not those who are made ignorant by these socializing agents.

I am not able to offer new viewpoints on this issue. I expect everyone to be aware of the dreadful consequences that racial discrimination and stereotyping yields. What I can offer is a piece of advice (seemingly overused but evidently not, considering the rampancy of the problem) that we may easily be able to utilize in a hopeful attempt to lessen this problem of premature, groundless hatred that is ogling at our increasing isolation, waiting to pounce: Let us educate ourselves. Let us wander off the path of ignorance our television screens, filmmakers, and other media organs are manufacturing for us. Let us open our minds and carry a healthy skepticism in us so that we may be able to question what our “reliable” news and entertainment sources are communicating to us. And where it applies, let us not stop at buying only one version of a story; there may be two or more sides to it, and every side deserves a hearing. Let us remember that what may be true about a member of a minority group may not necessarily apply to another member of the same group, because everyone is different – genetically, biologically, mentally, and socially. Most importantly, let us not stand by the hatred sported by others. Let us speak out, for failing to do so may well imply that we support them in their hating, too.

Posted in Society and Culture | Leave a Comment »

Make Their Lives Beautiful, Too

Posted by ruddytwoshoes on April 25, 2008

I exited 6303 Owensmouth and was greeted by the loud, joyous chirping of birds that appeared as if they were celebrating my momentary release from the confines of the corporate world. The cool Southern California breeze playfully caressed my face and wrestled a small bundle of hair against my right nostril to give it a little itch. A flock of cars passing through the highway spawned a cacophony of rumbles, toots, and wails — laced with a hip-hop song blaring from someone’s bass-laden speakers — that is characteristic of urban Los Angeles. I gingerly walked to my car, which I park across the street everyday because of my indisposition to pay absurd parking fees, making sure I do not lose either of the slightly oversized pumps. As my vehicle came into view, I felt a strong sense of affirmation that the workday had ended, and I was going home.

The rush hour traffic lengthened what would otherwise be a three-minute drive and kept me in union with the ubiquitous madness of Los Angeles public roads for an extra ten minutes. My anticipation of being shielded in and stolen from all the hullabaloo by the white walls of my apartment grew so fierce, and I felt an incipient case of useless road rage inside me. I thought it best to preserve my energies and keep my lips zipped, so I did, and I then shifted my attention to The Doors, who did an excellent job of keeping me gracious.

A few moments later, I entered my scruffy apartment and found it to be the most amazing thing I have experienced in years. It so powerfully hints at the sloth of tenants who live here, but it is marked with those elements that make my life so damn beautiful. The good old sofa that cradles me as I submerge myself in some glorious piece of literature or audiovisual gratification streaming from the television screen . . . two towering shelves of books that annihilate all the dullness the strenuous nine-to-six injects into my brain cells . . . the tidy fridge devoid of murdered animals . . . the pleasant commode not necessitating a paper toilet seat cover . . . the only bathroom in this world where I can extremely brazenly walk in and out of unclothed . . . the bed that harbors my fatigued physique. . . and the most marvelous of all — the man currently scouring the kitchen sink who makes me the most fortunate woman in the world because I call him my husband.

Tonight, as any other night, I am able to rejoice in the presence of this beauty around me. Today, as any other day, despite the stresses that find a way to trickle in, home makes it such a beautiful day to live.

Every human being on this planet should have the privilege to this beauty I speak of every single day. Every human being should have the privilege to see the end — and a light at the end — of a tunnel of distresses propelled upon him by seemingly uncontrollable currents of life. Every human being should have the privilege to live like I do.

A budding awareness of the ills now beleaguering the globe has alerted me to the very unfortunate fact that there is a great inequality separating me from others who I rightly find to be my equals. I do not and do not have a desire to reside in an overly lavish Hollywood Hills mansion or drive a glistening Bentley or whatever else that makes one fall under the category of “wealthy” in California. I hold a position one is likely to undervalue in a Fortune 500 company that pays me a salary I deem meager, considering the elevated cost of living Los Angeles lays upon me. I cannot brag about assets or contribute to conversations relating to pecuniary investments others consider so important, but my living condition is one I will not complain about at this juncture because I have everything I need. I have more than what many of my equals will ever hope for.

Millions of Iraqis mourn the death of friends and family members haplessly victimized by a war begun by a vile superpower that has nonchalantly shoved their rights under the rug. They do not know where to find the end of the tunnel; they are not so certain there is going to be one. The carnage may end, but I question the possibility of their scathed hearts being able to recuperate enough for them to again live a life as beautiful as mine.

On the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, thousands of homeless Palestinians are trying to locate some hope that they will be recognized as human beings equal to those who forced them out of their land. There have been hopeless hundreds who blew themselves up, knowing no other way out apart from suicide bombing. How could they and those they left behind — like a Palestinian woman who was not allowed past an Israeli checkpoint despite an urgent need to be transported to a hospital because she was going to give birth and had to be acquainted with her newborn’s immediate death as a result — be so mercilessly violated as if they do not deserve to live? Why must they be denied their right to live a life as beautiful as mine?

And what about the 200,000 forgotten, destitute veterans in the United States who are not receiving adequate assistance from the government that forced them to stand up and bear arms for a country engaging in a war so foolish? And the indigenous peoples of Mexico who are dispossessed, disregarded, and disrespected by NAFTA and its profit-only-oriented proponents? What about the Haitians who are existing in tremendous poverty, whose only means of alleviating hunger is a mudpie I have never had to resort to? And the denizens of Darfur who are not allowed to live in peace? And the powerless sweatshop workers in third world countries so heavily battered by this atrocious globalization? And those members of the United States population, young and old, who may not see what tomorrow looks like because they are so sick and so poor they cannot afford to procure health insurance? And what about those whose love is not acknowledged because they are gay?

Are they not human beings, too, who deserve the quotidian privileges I savor in my existence?

I do not claim to have an enormous ability to understand how to cure these grave social ills that ought to be heeded by any person who has an eighth of a heart, but I would like to somehow light the candles of hope the groups I mentioned above — and all else who are at the negative poles of bitter realities who join them in their affliction — are not able to put a match to. I have found the best place to start, and that is the effort to have a growing consciousness of these maladies many people have preferred to ignore. I live a beautiful life, and I am not going through this life keeping it all for myself. I will do my part so that these disadvantaged human beings may soon see the beauty I am able to experience. I will attempt to speak of them, for them, and with them, and unite with the few others who have chosen to give them a voice and the kind of life they well deserve.

You should join me.

Believe me, you can.

Posted in Life, Politics, Society and Culture | Leave a Comment »