Food-Stamp Companies

Newt Gingrich openly called President Obama the ‘Food-Stamp President’ earlier this year when discussing the economic crisis and middle-class crush. Throughout all the blowhard meandering, his intent was to cast the Obama base as dependent and idle, a sentiment oft-shared by many far right conservatives. The GOP often uses such (bigoted) code-language to discredit the values and wants of a vast majority of Democrats that do not wish to return to business as usual on Capitol Hill. Why, we liberals couldn’t possibly be interested in equal pay for women, gay rights, a full military withdrawal from the middle east, bank regulation and education. No, we just like Obama because he gives us free stuff. Oh and he’s just really cool.

In June, Leslie Marshall– a nationally syndicated talk-show radio host and Fox *gasp* News contributor– reported that more Americans signed up for food stamps under Bush.

I had to laugh…or perhaps I should have cried. Sure, there are lots of Americans who partake of what the government has to offer. Sure we, especially the right, can blame President Barack Obama. But there are a few realities I want to point out:

1. More people signed up for food stamps under President George W. Bush than President Obama.

via America Is Less Dependent Under Barack Obama – Leslie Marshall (usnews.com).

A touch misleading perhaps, since Bush had eight whole years to rack up the debt and help crash our economy with the war on Iraq. Personally I would be surprised if her data were entirely accurate, with the understanding that recessions tend to create desperate aggregate need. The country was hemorrhaging jobs when @BarackObama took office– people from all backgrounds applied for some assistance. Causality, my friends.

I am really not here to talk about Newts but of companies that reduce overhead costs by hiring part-time workers and contribute to the problematic surge in applied-for government assistance. Over the last decade the involuntary part-time workforce has exploded. Involuntary because these workers prefer full-time employment. So why is this, you might ask? Well its cheaper for starters. Not as cheap as sending your job overseas where CEOs can get the most bang for a buck but cheap. Part-time workers are generally paid less than their full-time counterparts and do not always receive medical, vacation or sick time packages. And they can forget about workers compensation and retirement benefits. These employees then must rely upon government programs such as SNAP (food stamps), TANF and Medicaid at the expense of John and Jane Taxpayer.

So here I am, stuck within the part-time trap. Even with my accumulated skills and experience, I was hired in May to work as a Merchandise Associate at a popular, multimillion dollar retail store for 8.60 hourly. The orientation session consisted of a few pamphlets read and videos played on a dilapidated VCR. I stifled a giggle or two when a segment began with a very stern woman launching into a passionate lecture on the evils of unions and when to alert a supervisor if contacted by their representatives. Organized labor is bad. Bad! Bored and lazily nursing a water bottle, my eyes roamed the tiny break room as I planned future lunch breaks and escapes from the sales floor. I noticed a poster on a bulletin board announcing the national 800 number for SNAP assistance. In 30 minutes I had learned all I needed to know about this company:

1. If any associate attempts to support a unionized effort within any of their stores, your ass is grass.

2. We are not going to hire you full-time so that you can actually take care of yourself and pay your bills.

3. Apply for food stamps because we ain’t feeding ya.

Sounds like Walmart.

I quit after a few short months. Not that I didn’t need the money. I didn’t need the headache. I found it more advantageous to spend the time I would have toiled within their slave-shop of a store to look for a better job, however difficult. I have been working at part-time jobs for about 5 years now and it has been the same thing time and time again. My educated guess would be that many part-time workers are ticked off, as I am. We are not sitting around waiting for a handout. We are being forced to take jobs with companies that are doing well in spite of the economy but won’t offer living wages, utilize scare tactics and encourage their employees to apply for government assistance to supplement their needs. Food-stamp companies. It is wrong and it is disgusting.

Rosen Was Right

Back in April this year, Hilary Rosen made a few possibly disparaging comments regarding Ann Romney, quipping that “she has never worked a day in her life”. Her words were met with a firestorm from all sides– the GOP with panic-struck Dems needlessly leaping to Mrs. Romney’s defense. Needless because Rosen was absolutely correct and unfortunately a very important topic was passed over while the political machine engineered ways to spin this positively in favor of Republicans who sought to acquire and champion the female agenda. Can I get an eye-roll, please?

Ann Romney was a stay-at-home mother who raised five very handsome sons to plague us all with. Ha! I’m kidding, but come now- five little Mitt’s? God help us. Add in the fact that it is quite likely she had assistance from nannies, maids and so on. It is tiring just tidying up my apartment so to find myself able to relate to Ann’s struggles, I try to visualize myself caring for a mansion with five screaming children running about. Yeah, she had help. A millionaire husband didn’t hurt things either.

I don’t begrudge the Romney family their millions. Whether by hard work or devilish scheming, they are rich and that’s fine. So long as he keeps those tax returns hidden, we won’t know either way. What I can’t understand is why Mitt Romney felt the need to insert his wife in such a way, to present her as some sort of economic strategist who understands the issues many women, many MOTHERS, face. It was a bold move and a foolish one, using his wife as a bridge to lure women voters. He got called out for it. Simple as that.

Rosen was not insulting homemakers. She was merely pointing out that Ann, a kept housewife, could not understand the struggles of single or married mothers that have to work outside the home. Perhaps for Ann the fairy tale came true and she married her rich prince but it isn’t the reality for the majority of mothers in the United States. If I had a rich husband, I’d breed like rabbits and stay at home as well. It would be a joy, not a JOB, to take care of my own children. That’s another thing that irks me– that taking care of your home and children is somehow deserving of pay. I believe the current salary estimate is at 70k annually. Oh brother. It is mainly a defensive argument used by stay-at-home mothers who feel threatened by working-class mothers who smugly cast themselves as do-it-all superwomen. Many women believe that raising their children gives them purpose and is deserving of adulation and then there are those of us that want more. Women are powerful and do not have to be mere incubators and child care providers all their lives. They can and ARE doing it all and not always by choice. Working one or two jobs, picking the kids up from the sitter before heading home to a grumpy husband (if she even has one) to make dinner and help with homework. I don’t think Ann gets it.

Yes, taking care of children is hard work and should be taken seriously but to be lauded for it? It’s like congratulating someone for never having been to jail. You’re not supposed to go to jail. You’re supposed to raise the kids you create.

I wonder what Ann thinks about single mothers. I am sure her views aren’t far off from those of other GOP nuts. From transcripts uncovered by those at Mother Jones, Rick Santorum stated:

What we have is moms raising children in single-parent households simply breeding more criminals… We will never solve the crime problem unless we solve the welfare problem. They are deeply intertwined.

Lets try to ignore that he was singling out black mothers, pressing the falsehood that all of us are welfare queens. So we live in a society that bolsters rich, married, stay-at-home mothers while demonizing poor single moms. Well I am a single mom and I have to work. If I opted to stay at home and look after my children so that they don’t become monstrous criminals as Rick the Dick Santorum suggests, I would be called a moocher. One of those 47% Mitt callously spoke of. I will concede that its decidedly more difficult to raise children without the help of the father– no shit. I have to do it all. I’m no Bristol Palin, with rich parents to help me sweep up my mistakes while my baby-daddy (let’s call him Levi for fun) refuses to marry me, take care of his kid and goes about happily impregnating other women. Oh, I guess that sort of thing DOES happen to rich white republicans. Thank god for the Palin family.

This mommy-debate has become stale and still it persists. So to Ann Romney: Get over yourself. You had five kids. Big whoop. You did what you were supposed to. You didn’t do the world a favor by raising your children. You had help. You have money. Many women don’t have the options you do and are doing the best they can with the hand they’re dealt.

Game Faces

I play this really nifty game called League of Legends. Its time-killing entertainment that requires a bit of cleverness and quick-witted playing style– where teams of five are pitted against one another in a battle to claim and destroy the enemy base. Fun fun. One of my favorite champions is Ashe, a bow wielding archer in all her animated glory. The graphics are quite lovely and its free to play, though you may opt to use real cash to purchase an assortment of champions.

I have only one major gripe about this game: the lack of diversity in the champion designs. Most of these champions are as white as snow, not a single champion of darker hue. Except Evelynn, who is blue and from planet Kolob for all I know. There are a few Asian champs but they’re few and far in between. I wonder why that is? Sure, it shouldn’t be a big deal but when I consider my own childhood and the barrage of white dolls received that made me feel diminished and irrelevant, it is.

Young black kids play this game. Young people of all ethnicity.  I play this game. I have seen firsthand how ugly it becomes during battles, where racist taunts are hurled to and fro like candy, for even the slightest of infractions that have little to do with one’s melanin content. I’ve heard players (Summoners, as they’re referenced in LoL) state that black people don’t and don’t know how to play the game. I suppose we don’t like golf, or swimming or bungee jumping and all other things ‘true’ Americans enjoy. The exclusion of ethnic champions from the roster only attributes to the false perception that black people, and other people of color, are predictable and disinterested sheep, a sideshow and not to be included or taken seriously. An ‘other’.

Ignorance runs rampant through the gamer world. Only through broad inclusion can we change or erase such close-minded views and yes, even something as silly as a game can promote prejudice. If a game or program can foster prejudice, it can certainly do just the opposite. We have to expose people to ‘other’ people, so much that our differences began to mean very little at all. Diversity is one of the keys to accessing equality.

So back to whiny-mode. Can we have just one black champion? Someone cool, with a sword and a cape and a bad ass daemon that follows them around snacking on enemies? Black guys can be heroes too, I’m just saying. 😦 The hero isn’t always the white guy, even if most movies and games support and enforce that way of thinking.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d say it were by design. Oh wait…

I am weary of stereotypes that root blacks in a special category. So persists the idea that other groups or whites in general, cannot relate to us. Well– they can. We’re quirky and nerdy and we like skydiving, technology and putting carrots up our friend’s noses while they’re asleep. We cry at movies, play RPGs, watch Braveheart several times a year and are patriotic Americans, not mindless drones in search of a leader. We giggle and say ‘like’ a LOT. We like golf and hockey and NASCAR. If anyone thinks otherwise, they’re not looking hard enough. As for minorities that shy away from certain things, it does happen and is often a result of their limited options in life. Environment. Culture. Fear and insecurity. For hundreds of years, blacks weren’t even allowed to participate in many things. The mind can become a prison when fear of reprisal and rejection supersedes curiosity and a sense of adventure. That same fear has oft reduced me to a quivering jellyfish when I attempt to do new things, things no one expects a BLACK girl would be into– and this girl is into a lot of neat things. Like really, a black girl that is a hardcore gamer, loves sci-fi and lists The Lord of the Rings as her favorite movie series of all time? Unheard of. 😛

Presidential Debate 2012

Where shall I begin?

I apologize in advance for this rant but what the fuck? Mr. President? Really now? Perhaps this is a trick, designed to throw the enemy off the trail before expertly leaping from the bushes with renewed vigor. Or just wishful thinking for my part.

I am disappointed.

Mitt Romney left himself wide open for various attacks. His view on Obamacare with regards to Romneycare, comments about the 47%, women’s and LGBT rights, government level regulation, corporate ‘welfare’ (I did like that one), the 716 billion medicare LIE– that Mr. Romney has not fully disclosed his plans except but to say how he’ll simply do everything’s better– all these things were there, ready to be pounced upon with ravenous glee. Mitt Romney postures with smug certainty as if his mere whiteness will fix everything and calm the masses that fear the re-election of our black and white President. Where was the cross-examination? I expected it and yes, words cannot describe my dismay.

The President appeared calm, if not a tad bored. I detected a measure of irritation in him when Mitt mentioned small businesses and other distortions but these false claims went unanswered by Obama. And the mediator didn’t help things much with his sputtering interruptions and mismanagement of time. What I heard tonight were reiterations of policy points I have studied for the last four years. I believe in our President and he has done much for us and against great odds and opposition. Mitt attacked him shamelessly, taking zero responsibility for how our crisis began or how the Republican party has stonewalled on a number of bills and issues the last 4 years. Mitt’s plans, the little he’s shared, mimic many of George Bush Sr/Jr’s ideas. In other words…nothing new there. 12 million new jobs Mitt? Really? Do tell, because inquiring minds want to know. Why wasn’t he forced to explain himself?

What the fuck?

Mitt Romney is a bold-faced liar and has no plan to help the American people. The only thing he clearly states is how he wants to erase everything President Obama has accomplished and take us back to the Republican way of doing things which are to: erase social safety nets, kill Big Bird, send gays back into hiding, send our young to war, drill for more oil, roll back regulation, pussyfoot around environmental assurances and regulations, tell women when or how she should have sex and make babies, include banks in the student loan process and keep up current loopholes that allow rich people to exploit the very country that helped make them just that, rich. Cayman Islands, Mitt? Anyone? (crickets)

Where is the Secretary of Explainin’ Shit? I need him to make sense of all this.

Mitt and Ann Romney: The Veruca Salt Couple

Throatchop Politics

Full Disclosure here: “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is my favorite movie of all time – so much so that I can recite the entire script backwards and forwards. Lacing my every day conversations with quotes from the classic movie, or abruptly belting out the “Oompa Loompa” song in the most public of settings has provoked more than a few people to question my sanity over the years. Because of my affinity for the film, last week when Ann Romney complained to an Iowa radio station about how hard this election season has been for her – I immediately thought about the “Veruca Salt” character – the ridiculously petulant girl who wants everything given to her. Immediately.

Sure, Ann Romney’s “Stop it. This is hard” comment was irritating, especially when you imagine all of the things that Michelle Obama has had…

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An Early Probe

I learned about myself the hard way.

Now I could recount personal tales of woe and all things experienced but who has time? And even after spilling the sordid details, there would lie nay specific answer. I will dive right into it. Race. Who I am. My purpose, feelings of exclusion– kept me within a shell most of my life.

Race has always been a point of interest for me. Not as a source of pride but of curiosity. When I was a wee little girl, we’d sing all sorts of Black pride songs at school. Black is Beautiful chants, Young, Gifted and Black, yada yada. I suppose those songs were meant to promote high self-esteem and morale. I think I was too young to understand their importance but I can say with much certainty that they do not work. They were just songs. Like, the marching ants song (loved that one) or that ditty about twinkling stars. The lyrics along with the tune were quite easy to recite in chorus.

I didn’t feel empowered by those songs. Black History month never made me feel like I truly belonged. I couldn’t relate to the valiant beings that came before us, who paved the way so that I could partake of a mediocre educational and societal system in the grand city of Chicago. Who gave me…what? The right to sit wherever I like on a bus? Okay okay, so I know it was the principle and not necessarily about planting one’s boo-tay on a bus seat. Equality and what not. True privilege for me would be to plant my ass in a nice car without worrying about accumulating mass tickets. There is absolutely zero parking in my North side neighborhood! Hmph.

When I was around eight or nine, my grandmother gave me a gift. It wasn’t a birthday gift or pertaining to Christmas. She was a Jehovah’s Witness and I grew up within the grip of her faith. I’ll get into that at some other time, don’t you -worry-. Anyhoo, what she gave me was a doll. Now, this wasn’t just ANY doll, this was a monstrous life-sized doll with curly golden locks and big blue fiberglass eyes. This monstrosity was as tall as I- I loved her! Its name is engulfed in the past, forgotten, but wherever I went, she went. Tried to take her to class but surely the other kids would have been much too jealous and I couldn’t have them ripping her poor plasticky arms out or something equally dreadful. One night I was lying in bed resisting sleep and was consumed with a desire to comb her golden hair. I crept out of bed and into the bathroom where I hoped to find a comb or brush- brushes are better suited to such purposes. Doll hair can become matted so easily. So I acquire a comb and here I am combing, combing away when it dawns upon me, that this doll, like every other doll ever received, looked nothing like me. Why hadn’t that mattered before? Did it even matter? I didn’t fully grasp what was felt but I wondered why my hair wasn’t so golden, so silky. I wondered why my skin wasn’t as fair, my eyes not as blue. If my doll was pretty, did that I mean I wasn’t?

I started to envy my doll. Not in a vengeful, angry way. I grew up appreciating the small things, I wasn’t an angry child. Just confused and sad. Wistful.  From that point on, I became invisible to myself. White dolls, white girls…hell even white boys, became the standard. Every book I read, and I was quite the reader, was stock with tales of dashing heroes and beautiful fair-skinned maidens and damsels in distress. The emphasis on the ‘paleness’ of one’s flesh, the pinnacle of beauty. I didn’t own a single dark-skinned doll. When I outgrew my life-sized dolly, I ‘graduated’ to the more grown up and sophisticated Barbie dolls. Now those plastic ladies were hot! Obscenely perfect proportions, long blond or brown hair. Big huge green or blue eyes. I would dedicate hours to playing out their wonderful imaginary lives within makeshift dollhouses made of milk crates and other fixtures constructed out of whatever trash I could find around our apartment. It was an unhealthy fascination perhaps- living out the life I should have had through my dolls. Obviously I should have been born white and beautiful, not brown and boring. Any other life would have been better, put to a side-by-side comparison. But never mind all that, I had my dolls, my books- I was set. I sank into a false reality only snapping to when faced with the actuality of my situation.

My school, set within a violent, poor and urban backdrop, was filled with black kids. The only white or Hispanic people I saw were on TV or at annual JW conventions. In a world so black, so…like me, I missed the mark somehow. We were not a necessary component. Some cosmic farce or case study for others to observe. Hardly ideal or beautiful. Sure, there were many pretty black girls in my classes but somehow they paled next to the women described in my books or those shamelessly perfect Barbies.

With more clarity, I now realize that we weren’t the only group left out of those fairy tales. I did not read of Chinese or Indian princesses. Such material wasn’t so readily available. Jasmin was gold- the love of Aladdin, a brown skinned princess that one could admire. Otherwise, the majority brown people of the world were left out. Either they weren’t pretty or interesting enough or perhaps, they weren’t the standard. Whiteness, being the standard by which all others are compared.

I’ve grown quite a bit and have tried to level my fears, reason with myself. After all, there is scientific data that explain the reasons for the physical differences that exist between humans. All of us belong here. All of us are equal. There have been numerous reports that support the theory that environment and not genes play a huge part in our overall mental and social well-being. Still, none of that matters when I enter an upscale boutique or restaurant with a predominantly white clientele and feel like running for the hills. In tears. Nothing explains that irrational fear and insecurity. Not as adequately as I might like.

CK