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Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

From the New York Press: 

What You Make

A surprising analysis of what mostly white kids, 22 – 32, make in New York. The answer is, apparently, not much – a lot of folks in this city, established, professional, educated, or not, make less than 30 grand a year. 

And here I thought it was just me that was broke.  Small comfort I guess . . . 

This parallels the situation in London where I knew many 20 something producers, directors, graphic artists, admin people,  and so on, who survived on more or less the same – and London is still more expensive than New York. I made more as a housepainter – not that I made much. 

When the folks on Wall Street, the City can make stratospheric salaries for, I don’t know – failing – there’s something wrong here. 

The article would have been a lot stronger if they’d profiled what, say, a black working man in Brooklyn is making, but this gives a good example of the gross income disparity in our society . . .

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From London’s Independent: 

Are the Greek Riots A Taste of Things to Come? 

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Greece Riots in Pictures

From Yesterday’s Guardian: Greek Riots Enter Third Day

Third Night of Greek Riots

They even torched the Christmas tree in front of the Parliament. And why not? 

I was at the anti-globalization protests in Quebec City in the summer of 2001. Kids spent days throwing rocks and even molotov cocktails at lines of riot police. When you asked them, they couldn’t articulate what they were against – because there wasn’t anything tangible to BE against. Coca-Cola, MacDonalds – these aren’t countries after all, these are just banalities in our lives. But we all knew that power was being taken away, that decisions were being made that would alter the world irrevocably. 

   And altered it was. After 9-11, such protests became almost unheard of in the West. In 2003, I was in New York City when some half-million people marched against the Iraq war. It was fifteen below and the wind off the East River was sharp and very cold, and still people marched. My girlfriend and I stopped at a bar to get warm. CNN and NY1 were playing in the corner. CNN showed clips at the top of the hour, NY1 showed nothing. It’s like the protests – the biggest since the Vietnam war – didn’t even happen. 

What’s motivating these kids is apparently a mix of gross inequality, a bailout for the banks, and admiration for an earlier generation of anarchists who fought the military junta in the 70’s. But I wonder if these kinds of protests are going to become more and more common, throughout the West, especially if times get worse.

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What do recessions bring?

On the most basic level, what’s happening now: the collapse of one or many sectors of the economy, a drop or collapse in house prices and, most importantly, a loss of jobs. The latter is the hardest – when you have to struggle all day every day for weeks, months, years just to get a job (‘finding a job is a full-time job’), and kiss ass to some dickhead boss just to keep the job you have – and it’s amazing how many cretins, how many exploitative, bullying little pricks come out of the woodwork when times get bad – a recession is more than just numbers or news of some hedge fund company going bust. It’s real, and it’s now.

But recessions are awful only incidentally because of economics. After all, in purely economic terms, folks around the world and in very recent history lived much worse than us and put up with much more. It’s the way people get. You can see it even now, before the pain has really set in – people withdraw, get fearful, they look inward. Emotionally, spiritually, culturally, it is the equivalent of the banks not wanting to lend to each other. In some cases, if things get bad enough, and go on long enough – people can even get evil.

It’s not the economics, it’s the fear, resentment, the inward-turning loss of spirit you have to watch out for. And in Britain, it’s an open question which way it will go . . .

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They have more money. A lot more money . . .And they come to England to go Partridge Hunting. 

Piece in the News Of The World – lending itself credibility as a newspaper for once – about AIG bigwigs spending £50,000 to go PARTRIDGE HUNTING!! Private jets, vintage wines, private manor – nothing’s too good for our betters in the financial district. At least Maureen Dowd at the Times had the temerity to call for a Wall of Shame for these guys.  But why does it take a columnist? Why indeed aren’t the guilty all over the front page of the Times? Why aren’t they in jail? 

To continue: From the Guardian: Wall Street banks in $70 billion staff payout. This is such a blatant looting of the economy, along the lines of the Soviet nomenklatura and KGB stealing the assets of the crumbling Soviet state before they set themselves up in business as mafiosi and other riff-raff. Wonder if the same thing will happen in the US. 

As Mark Steel in the Independent writes; If we stop their bonuses, bankers are hardly going to go on strike. And if they do, who will miss them? 

People seem to forget that class war existed for a reason. I mean, what do these guys do exactly? Besides hunting partridge and looting the economy? How do they benefit society?

 And, yes indeedy, why aren’t they in jail?

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Black Friday . . .

Work getting so scarce, you have to chase it like a boll weevil through the underbrush. At the JobCentre – known as the dole office in less PC times – they’re hiring more staff to take on the rush. You get £60 a week on the dole now, up from the £28.80 a week you got in my day in the early 90’s. Back when a pint of beer could still be had for £1.50.

Life in Britain . . . called Brook Street, one of dozens of agencies I registered with this summer and fall, none of whom have found me a fucking thing. Woman answers, regional accent, shrewish voice. “We’re busy right now . . . if there was anything we would have called you.” – then she hung up. Last week when I called in, she hectored me for not calling in more often. Hard times brings out this very Teutonic bullying quality in a certain kind of British person – the taste of power.

On the way home, the train was packed. Absurdly – you could hardly breathe. Usual plethora of people nattering on their mobiles. A black girl waving her arms around, acting out everything she was describing, smacking the other passengers. A woman just down the aisle, YELLING: “I can’t believe the fucking shit they make me put up with, I won’t take their FUCKING SHIT!!!”
I mean man. Five minutes on that train exhausted me. Wait ’til the pain really hits.

You see it in the ads: ‘Competitive rates: £7 per hour for admin, or admin work at minimum wage, less than £200 a week. How do you live in London on less than £200 a week?
Meanwhile: Bonuses for City high-flyers will be hard to reign in.

Seems Britain’s high-flying and obviously very valuable City execs, traders or whoever the fuck these people are will simply go to Mumbai Dubai Shanghai if they don’t get the million plus bonuses they feel they deserve. 

Well, let ’em go I say. Enough to make you a goddam Bolshevik. 

How about you readers, are recent events turning you into a Bolshevik?

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The papers were full of it Friday. We are ‘sliding into recession’. So we’re not actually IN a recession yet, but ‘sliding’ into one. Some figure on a ‘shallow but painful’ (whatever that means) slowdown over Christmas, and a ‘difficult’ first half over 2009. Some say we’re in for 1992. But no one is predicting the Apocalypse, at least not for the moment.

This after the headlines, and not just the redtops, but all papers, have been trumpeting the return of 1929 and the Great Depression. For the last two weeks. Since economic cycles are so much about perception and confidence, it’s hard to see how this helps. Why, perhaps, such scaremongering, isn’t illegal.

The real trouble is that all this scaremongering creates intense anxiety without giving a clear picture of what’s going on. Sure, the US gov’t is about to siphon 700 billion dollars into Wall Street – a move that most commentators, liberal or conservative, Stateside or over here, seem to feel is a necessary evil. But will the aftereffects have a greater impact on everyone’s life than, say, the tech crash, the Russians defaulting on their loans in 1997, or even the lull after 9-11? And since the last few years of the ‘boom’ – the post 9-11 years, as far as I can see, have mostly been propped up by debt (‘If you don’t shop, you let the terrorists win’) – then how, in real terms, will the next year or two be different for the average man than they were before?

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