Archive for the ‘economic reality’ Category

Book review: Candy Girl, by Diablo Cody

October 31, 2019

 

 

If you saw the movies ‘Juno’ , ‘Tully’, or ‘More’, you know this woman can tell a story. She can really set a scene, and it’s easy to see how her description of a somewhat sleazy undertaking became a launching pad for her.

Candy Girl is about her foray into the world of ‘exotic dancing’: stripping. She claims she was bored with her job at a marketing agency. Although she was well-liked and promoted, she felt unfulfilled, so she decided to try stripping at local clubs in Minneapolis.

Her boyfriend is all for it, and very supportive. She walks into a club, says she is interested in dancing, and is hired. Just like that. She meets women from all walks of life, and learns how the system works, which she explains in detail. If you’ve seen the Jennifer Lopez movie, ‘Hustlers’, you get a sanitized version of the life. Most women do not do that well. However, they are making more money than they would as elderly companions, cooks, or child care workers.

She explains this, and how she saved enough money for a car and a down payment on a house. This is not erotica. It is a description of work for a better income than she could make from what her college education prepared her for.

I’d like to think of myself as a writer, but this Cody Diablo really paints a picture. This should be a classic. I’m sure you can find it on Amazon. If you’ve ever wondered if this is a possibility for you, read this book. Even if you say, “I could never do this, you will find a brave writer here vividly describing what she and others did.

Daler Singh: Human Trafficking

October 5, 2019

Jimmy Paxon asked me to be on his show, We had been friends since he was a young comedian, so now we’d known each other over 10 years.;  We had stayed in touch, and when I told him I was moving to the USA, he asked if I’d come on the show.  We had been on several times as a group, but now I was solo.  We decided we’d play a duet. Him on trumpet, me on piano, and do the Brian May song, ‘Let me Into Your Heart Again.’  With him on trumpet, it didn’t pay to sing it, and his house orchestra could fill in.

Of course, there was light banter, first, and he asked me how I met Amara.  I answered, “She’s the granddaughter of the man who bought my father.”  That’s how the conversation started.

Jimmy responded, laughing, “You mean brought, don’t you?”

I looked at Jimmy, seriously, and responded, “No, bought. Mr. Glazer bought my father off the port in Dar es Salaam.    Then he brought my father to Arusha.     You know I am from Tanzania, don’t you?”

Jimmy  sort of stared at me, speechless.  My father went on, “ Africa.  My father was a slave. In fact, both he and my mother were trafficked.  They were orphans in India, and they got rounded up and sold as slaves to East Africa.  My father was a houseboy and learned Glazer’s business, and then he bought my mother about 10 years after he came to Africa. Same deal. He went to Dar with Glazer, saw my mother standing there, on the dock. She was a teenager, and he  bought her.”

 Jimmy didn’t know how to respond.  I  guess th8is was a lot to  digest. He sort of hesitated, then he asked, “What year was this?”

 I knew the story.  “It was some time  at the of World War Two, around 1945, Baba thought.  He didn’t know how old he was. He  was going through puberty, he told me.  He  barely understood English. He spoke Hindi, and Glazer started teaching him English, but he also learned what he thinks is Yiddish, and he learned KiSwahili out in the street.”

“Do you know Yiddish?”  Jimmy asked me.

I laughed and said, “No…in fact, I think besides mishegas, the only other Yiddish I know is ‘shtup.’”

The audience laughed at this, because those words vaguely translate into ‘bullshit’ and ‘fuck’.

So Jimmy Paxon was trying to formulate a question, and didn’t know where to go with it, and my I said, “You see,  lots of Europeans didn’t  want black Africans to be houseboys because  they weren’t really used to doing physical labor, certainly not used to doing cooking or laundry,  the main tasks. The women did that.   But the women were kept on a ‘short leash’, to use an expression.  The men wanted wages, but they didn’t want to be disrespected or  subjected to the  racism and insanity of the Europeans, so they’d go back to their homes when they’d had enough.   They’d run away, as the Europeans characterized it.  Sometimes, they’d steal household goods, too.  So, whomever could afford it wanted  an Indian worker, because they couldn’t run off. Where were they going to go? Back across the ocean? To what?  Most were orphans.  After they bought out their contracts, and the Europeans gave them the opportunity to do so, most started some sort of business.  Many were Moslems, and they got absorbed into that community, but my parents both knew they were mixed caste and religion, so they  identified  as Sikh.  So my father was with the Glazers about 10 years, and he knew that Glazer’s son didn’t want to stay in Africa.  He was being educated in England. Anyone with means sent their children back to Europe  or America for education.  So…my father asked to learn the business.  Then he wanted to marry, and because of his social status knew it might be difficult.  He considered marrying an African girl, but he needed bride price in cattle, so it was easier to go buy a girl.  My Ama was as young as he had been, so the Glazers convinced him to actually wait until she was more mature, because if she got pregnant too young she might die or become barren, and he’d lose his investment. So, he did wait, and taught her the household tasks, and Mrs. Glazer also taught her a lot.  When the grandparents  felt it was time to retire, their eldest son didn’t want to live in Africa. He found there was a community of South African Jews in Chicago, where he went to college, and he also met Amara’s mother. They’d return every other summer for a few weeks, to Arusha,  and a his daughters got older, he brought them.  Amara knew me before I had a beard.”

“Interesting,” Paxon responded.  You have older brothers, though.  How is it…”

I laughed, and replied, “How is it neither of my brothers  got Amara? I am not sure. I think either they were afraid of her, or knew my parents would raise holy hell, but I didn’t think of that. When I started going through puberty and the family came to visit, I decided I wanted her, and took advantage of an opportunity.”

The audience started laughing, and Paxon sort of laughed in embarrassment.

I went on,  “I really loved her, but she told me my parents would not allow it. I had to finish my studies.  She went back to America.  She discouraged me because she knew my parents would be  unhappy. So, I met Sita, decided she’d be a good wife, and it lasted 10 years. But both of us were unhappy, so I decided to divorce and find Amara.  I can’t tell you how happy we are.  She completes me, She really does.”

The audience applauded.  Jimmy, though, was still curious about slavery.

“So, in Africa, is there still slavery?”  he asked.

I  looked at him, sighed, and  then said, “You know, you Americans.  You think at the end of your civil war, that was the end of slavery.  Yes, of course. Probably not many are brought from other continents, but there  is slavery.  Some people are born into it.  In fact, humans are still trafficked  all over. From Russia, Ukraine, Cambodia, Bangladesh.  Mostly women. They are lied to, told they’d get good wages. Then ,  their passports taken away. Some are brought by diplomats or other elites.  I’m sure there are slaves in the USA. I mean, why would you have to import a house keeper? Right?  But really, you guys, you allow your  politicians to give aid to countries that  ignore human rights. Your congress people vote on aid packages, and not only don’t ask for an accounting, but don’t tie aid to  government transparency and respect for rule of law!  You give aid to Tanzania, my country of birth.  Granted, we’ve always had high literacy, but for what? An economy that can’t absorb us, so we have to leave—-become essentially, economic refugees, which is why I live in Switzerland half the year.  Look at the social indicators for all the countries you give aid to.  Infant and maternal mortality  remain high, communications infrastructure is lacking. Were it  not for the  Malaysians, most people in Africa wouldn’t have telephones.  Women don’t have access to education or family planning services. You all think you are giving humanitarian aid.  Granted, you do, when there is some sort of natural disaster, but mostly you m give military aid, and the corrupt leaders  use it to terrorize their own people.  “

I  was on a roll.  I went on, after taking a breath, “I work here. I pay taxes here. In your country. Many of us foreign nationals do, and you’ve elected leaders who demonize us foreigners, yet they are ripping you off. My  gosh, they tell you that you can’t have single payer health services,  your ‘Medicare’, for all, but they  take that money & give weapons to dictators.  Wake up.  You don’t have  to futz around for an envelope and a stamp. Email them and tell them you know they do this!  Quit paying attention to  lobbyists and public relations people  who  tell you what to put into  foreign aid appropriations budgets, and. take care of Americans first.  And quit saying  foreigners are not contributing to your tax base!  Start supporting  groups that  address human trafficking!”

I got rousing applause, and then  I said to Jimmy, “Are you sorry you asked? Really, if people want to help the less fortunate in our poor countries, you can  be better environmental stewards, recycle and plant trees and address your carbon footprints.  Quit  supporting  organizations  that withhold family planning services. Don’t support missionaries. We Africans  already know what Christianity is! Support Peace Corps. Were it not for them, I would be a servant in Africa, not an engineer.  In fact, come visit us.  See how we actually live.  For most Africans, the big issue is fresh water. “  I was so worked up.  I hadn’t realized that he didn’t know. There was a lot of applause and of course they went to a commercial, which gave us a little time to recover.

Jimmy said to me, “That was great!  Are you ready?”

I nodded, but looked to Amara. She was in the front row, and she was smiling. I always wanted her there.  I walked over to her and started to kneel, but she stood up and hugged me.  I whispered to her, “What did I do?”

She whispered back, “You were great. You said what needed to be said, It’s true. Americans have no idea.”

I took her hand and said, “Sit next to me on the bench while we do this. You give me strength.”

I was shocked went it went viral on the internet. Well, when I got back from New York, and went to my office,  both my email folder and  voice mail at school were full.  I called Amara and asked her if she had time to help me sort through all the messages, because I wanted every one  addressed.  I had my office secretary change my outgoing  voice mail message until I got  everything cleared up. Amara and I  formulated a response to all who emailed

book review: “Can’t Buy Me Love,” by Chris Kenry

June 29, 2019

I found this book in a neighborhood book bin.  The main  character, raised  upper middle class,  was the ‘boy toy’of an older gay man who was killed in a freak accident. Suddenly Jack is destitute. His college major was art history.  He never had a plan.  Meanwhile, due to self-indulgence, he got himself into massive credit card debt.  He had no idea what to do, but  because of a gay friend, he, by chance, met  Ray. He also had to apply for public aid, but since he  was not a good waiter,and could brely manage ‘custoner serive’,  he  signed up for an entrepreneurship program .  One thing led to another, and he  found he and Ray were into what we’d euphemistically call the ‘escort’ business.

I  found this book (published in 2001:  https://books.google.com/books/about/Can_t_Buy_Me_Love.html?id=Q0ATjNjLMdMC&hl=en),  very funny and well written.  I’d suggest it to anyone with an open mind who  might be interested in starting a business.  They guys do get caught…but they couldn’t ber nailed on tax evasion!

Mayor Lightfoot: Here’s Your Chance!

June 3, 2019

I am sure most people in the rest of the country, let alone Chicagoans, wonder “What the f**k happened?” A true long shot whom hardly anyone knew, got elected mayor.

Let me give this a bit of context. Our mayor, Rahm, who sold himself as a ‘progressive’ (after all, he was Obama’s Chief of Staff…). made things worse, if that was at all possible. Our biggest problem was and is paying for running the city. Shootings? Please. Yes, there are a few pockets of neighborhoods that are totally out of control, but there is no mystery about why this is: absentee landlords who don’t do credit checks on landlords, lots of poorly educated adults who can’t make a living wage bearing children they can barely parent, no jobs for the unskilled… a true lack of both literacy and numeracy…and police designating that, since they will never eliminate crime, ‘containing’ it to certain neighborhoods.  Yes…that’s right:  the police know who the problems are…they  just don’t  make arrests because they do a poor job of collecting evidence & they  know  too many judges give probabtion (meanwhile, we have  non-violent people taking up space for drug violations…,.go figure…)

We had about 14—yes—14 candidates running for mayor, and virtually all had either (Democratic) machine ties, or were outliers: Not funded well, unlikable supporters (Amara Enyia— Kanye West and Dorothy Brown. Dorothy has been under indictment…Amara, you blew it…). Where had Gery Chico been all these years? Bill Daley? Totally clueless. He felt there would be enough white people votes, and that everyone would forget his father and brother. I had voted for Susana Mendoza for comptroller, but she really offered nothing new. I was leaning towards former school teacher Toni Preckwinkle. I was almost ready to forgive her support for corrupt assessor Joe Berrios, and then it came out she put Alderman Ed Burke’s totally useless son on her payroll at $100,000 for doing virtually notnhing but harass and annoy people (while cutting other county jobs).

So, essentially, due to so many candidates running (Unless you went online and looked at their platforms, you wouldn’t know what their actual platforms were), and a very low voter turnout, Lori won by default.

We all know what the problems are, and many of us know the solutions, In fact, Ken Dunn, of Resource Center, who started out as a Peace Corps Volunteer, then developed a reputation as a community-based recycler, has helped to create more income generating projects for marginally employable people than just about anybody in Chicago. Yet, because he’s not an elite and doesn’t contribute to political causes, he’s virtually ignored.

But I digress. Rahm declined to run. He would have won based on inertia, But he bowed out, leaving us with a bigger mess in terms of debt & the proverbially underfunded pension funds than he came in with. He had the intelligernce and the means to fix this. He just chose to enrich elites. Several great examples of this are:

  1. His predessor, Richard M. Daley, bought a shuttered hospital for….? Oh, right… the city was acquiring land for the Olympics before we got the bid to host (we didn’t—-dodged a bullet there! Ask any city that has hosted since the 1970s if they made or lost money on hosting!). So with taxpayer money, Daley bought Michel Reese Hospital for way more than it would have sold for. It sits there, akin to a shuttered nuclear power plant. Then, Rahm decides that the city needs a $9 million training center for the police—-way across town. Why? Why couldn’t this site be reconfigured? Nobody gives a clear answer. I partly blame the press in Chicago for pandering. In fact, Georg Lucas wanted a site for a Star Wars museum. This site would have been perfect! Very easily accessible by public transportation. No, Lucas and his wife, who don’t live in Chicago, wanted a site on the lakefront. It was the lakefront or nothing. So, it turned out to be nothing. They took their toys and went home because the lakefront belongs to all of us. Rahm tried to get his way for them, but a fluke, democracy prevailed.
  2. By having an appointed rather than elected school board, Rahm got us Barbara Byrd Bennet, a military veteran who had been a school administrator with no apparent record for improving educational outcomes anywhere. Worse, she committed massive fraud. She cost the citizens a huge amount of money (she was convicted) and closed down many schools instead of improving them. We had implemented Local School Councils over 20years ago, which never got enough support from CPS, but no matter. Rahm should be held as accountable as BBB, and we need an elected school board.
  3. The pension fund shortfall. What sense does it make to have about half a billion dollars (according to journalist Ben Joravsky and a few others who have analyzed the budget) sitting there in a Tax Increment Financing Account, and then issue bond funds to pay for what this TIF $$$ should be paying for?
  4. In fact—- did nobody in city government at all DO THE MATH of giving $900,000,000 to Lincoln Yards developers? Forget about the traffic, and that any jobs to be created for our proverbially ‘low income/unskilled’ citizens would be temporary in nature. How much does this actually add to the cost of each housing & business unit…and how do we get paid back? The reason for TAX INCREMENT FINANCING is to support a project that—but for the lack of money—-would not be built. This complex only benefits elites. If the developers could not get financing from the private sector, it should not have been approved. That’s how capitalism works. For our aldermen to approve this project shows that they are grossly overpaid…. and arrogant, and innumerate. I don’t know if we will be able to overcome this because we also have…
  5. The pension funds being underfunded…hello! Wasn’t Tony Rezko, the politically connected fundraiser for both political parties, for some reason on the committees that approved pension plans for public employees? No matter. Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union members and teacher had a great idea: tax trades at the Chicago Board of Trades. I know from working for elites that they’d never miss the money. they may ultimately move out of the city but until then… what’s the alternative? To continue adding to the hotel tax?

 

Mayor Lightfoot— embarass the incumbents who got re-elected—for being arrogant, innumerate, and failing their constituents. They waste money and reward their friends. They pander.You really have nothing to lose!

What’s it Worth?

April 27, 2019

I’ve been amusing myself writing erotica. If you had told me even six months ago I would be doing this, I would have laughed at you and said, “Hardly likely.” Sometimes I embarrass myself and I have to stop before I begin typing. It’s not that my imagination is that vivid. It’s that my memory is.

I think a lot of us who write in the genre have something to say aside from the fact that we know what good sex is. I know I put up with some crappy behavior from the men who provided me with good sex. But nobody wants to read about the reality of that.

Then just about everybody got a cell phone, and…

In the December 2018 issue of The Atlantic ( https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/12/the-sex-recession/573949), writer Kate Julian explored why younger people are having fewer sexual encounters and relationships than in the past. At least that’s how it is in the developed world. In the less developed world, men are still exploiting women, and women are still acquiescing. In the post-industrial countries, not just due to AIDS, but also due to how much time people are now glued to their phones and devices, people are having less physical contact.

In the late 1980’s, I read an essay written by an architect about how interaction between people was becoming more fleeting and trivialized. His solution was making housing in communities more structured in a way that your neighbors could see you if you were at home, and visit you if you were in your public rooms—like a living room. They’d see you through your windows. No privacy unless you went to some length to achieve it—like going into private rooms. His solution was architectural, not really social. In fact, the essay was written in the decades before social media was even a thought.

Fleeting social encounters? In China now, there are internet stars that do nothing other than live stream their lives doing mundane things…and they have fans. I was sort of bemused that people would watch shows like the Osbornes or Keeping up with the Kardashians. Didn’t anyone learn anything when TV cameras followed the Loud family ( Https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_American_Family ) around in the 1970s? Is your life that boring that you think watching other people do nothing that it’s better than…actually living your own life? I am also amazed that people think it’s cool to have Alexas or Siri in their homes spying on them. Well… according to the Atlantic, they aren’t having sex. I’m not sure I understand.

What got me thinking was an incident I recalled a good friend telling me about over four decades ago. Her roommate had started seeing this guy she had met (where ever…it was in a public place. She was not introduced by mutual friends). The roommate complained to my friend that she was seeing so much of this guy that she wasn’t able to get her laundry done.

My friend asked her roommate, “Doesn’t he have a laundry room in his building?” and the roommate responded, “I’m sure he must, but I don’t know him well enough to ask if I can use his washing machine.”

My friend responded to the roommate, “If he knows you well enough to have sex, then you should know him well enough to use his washing machine.”

When she relayed this story to me, I laughed and said, “Tell her to ask if she can drive his car. If he doesn’t know her well enough to let her drive his car, she doesn’t know him well enough to have sex with him.” Frankly, if she doesn’t know how to ask to use his washing maching, how is she going to be brave enough to ask for the sex she wants? It’s not like none of us hooked up with guys we barely knew into the early 1980s. Didn’t we girls all hope a romance would emerge? What per centage resulted in any kind of relationship? We all saw the movie “About Last Night.” Anyone hook up with Rob Lowe and have mind blowing sex? All that sex that wasn’t mind blowing…was it worth it?.

It’s just a fact that women still have a different expectation of sexual encounters and the vulnerability we risk. It’s way different from what most men expect or want.

This is what’s really good about the erotic romance genre: girls have great sex, and it is described, so you don’t have to guess if you’ve never had it. We tell you what the guys want, and what we want. But I digress….

I’ve written about this in my book, “Polyandress” (not published yet—but hopefully by the end of 2019). My main male character tells the polyandress (a woman with multiple sexual, economic, and/or emotional partners ) that he wanted a relationship with the woman he has sex with. Someone he could interact with regularly. He wanted that because of what he had had with the polyandress. He actually wanted what most women want. He didn’t want what his male friends wanted, to have what we’d call casual sex. He wanted a woman to take time with him, and he wanted to take time with a woman.

So, in addressing teenagers who aren’t happy with their sexual relationships because they aren’t getting the type, duration. or frequency of the sex they want, and they are not interested in the other aspects of the interactions they are having with their sex partners, I’d have to ask: if the sex isn’t worth it, why are you still thinking this is a relationship? If you can’t talk about it, or come to an understanding that you are both happy with, why bother?

As an aside, this wonderful song that Bobby Caldwell sings: What you won’t Do For Love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8GhXtfthgk


The Coton de Tulear

April 18, 2019

3 Coton de Tulear in Specials coat.

About three years ago, I responded to a Craigslist post for a groomer to come to a home and groom five small dogs. I’m thinking Yorkies or Maltese. So, since the distance was not far from where I lieve, I responded.

The guy who placed the ad said they were Cotons. My gut reaction was, “Oh.”

For those who don’t know, Cotons are from the island of Madagascar. Off Africa—that’s right. Now, how would small, fluffy white dogs get there? Dig this: the ‘explorers’ and their crews from Spain and Portugal, where the generic (at the time—this is the ‘breed’ that all those who don’t know anything about dogs say ‘they all were at one time…and so it was…) small white dogs that later turned out to be Maltese, Bichon Frise, and white Toy Poodles, came from. The Teneriffes, and those that came from the Canary Islands. The Coton de Tulear are the ”National Dog of Madagascar ( http://caninechronicle.com/current-articles/royal-dog-of-madagascar-the-history-of-the-coton-de-tulear ).

Very cute, very smart, very sweet and outgoing. The problem is…their coats. Clearly, from the historical photos, one can see that the ‘foundation’ dogs (that is, the dogs everyone used 40 or so years ago to establish the breed in Europe and the Americas) had a coat texture that was a mix of silky and cottony . The coat draped. But the foundation breeders, for some reason (I think they really didn’t have any idea how this would play out) decided the ideal coat was a COTTONY COAT. A coat that is dry and stands off from the body.Certainly, the Cotons you see at the dog shows are magnificent as presented. They have big bushy coats. But it is not a coat you can scissor like a Bichon or a Poodle. It mats. The breed standard says that no clipping is allowed….not even ‘sanitary’ trims. You wash it, you brush it…& that’s what you get.

I know the handlers showing dogs for clients have their assistants bathe and brush the dogs out every other day. Othewise, just the static and dirt from living would cause them to mat. I know what causes matting. I’ve been grooming long haired dogs for over 50 years myself.

To their credit, these clients of mine with the Cotons do not have any carpets, and all their furniture is leather. That cuts static. But, the dogs still live. When I started working for them, they had just two dogs in specials coat, and one had an improper (meaning silky) coat. But they had a litter and kept one, and bought another bitch (she became the top winning Coton, (in terms of dogs she bested in the ring in 2018), had another litter and kept two, and are now up to seven dogs, with three in specials coat.

I am an experienced dog groomer, but I can see, now that these younger—just about one year of age—are going through the coat change, that it is overwhelming. In fact, both young dogs are AKC champions and ‘finished’ (as we say in the fancy—once the dog gets a title, it has finished) their titles in record time due to excellent structure underneath the coats, and good grooming/training/handling. There were several buyers who wanted the young male. Unfortunately, my client—the breeder—-thinks that none of these buyers who are willing to pay several thousand dollars for this dog, can handle the coat.

It’s an issue. Like I said—I’ve groomed long haired dogs for about 50 years, and these Cotons are challenge for me. My solution would be for anyone who wants the dog to come stay for a couple of days and help us groom. They then can decide if they really want to get into this. If not, no harm, no foul. After all, how are you going to get new fanciers into your breed?

This is the problem. The Coton de Tulear is one of those ‘low registration’ (AKC statistics) breeds actually in danger of dying out. Considering the low number of fanciers, and the genetic tests that those with the most integrity do, and the number of breeds anyone who might want to show a dog would consider for ‘getting into’, how are the current fanciers going to attract new fanciers to the breed?

The pragmatic thing to do—if they want to save the breed from extinction, is to either change the breed standard to allow a different kind of coat texture or allow the dogs to be shown styled like a Bichon.

Another thing that might help would be to offer grooming symposiums whenever the parent club has a specialty show. However, ther is so much arguing within the club that it is amazing they are able as a collective fancy, to maintain a gene pool. & that’s the fancy in a nutshell.

Irritating issues in American Life: Problems & solutions

October 6, 2018

Is America a great country—or what?   In what country can you criticize government practices & not be thrown in jail for  being an enemy of the state?  My  current beef is about  a getting  a city sticker for my car.  See, in Illinois, you don’t just get a license plate for the car,  which is a state fee…you also have to buy a  new sticker every year.  It’s a tax. And in Chicago,  you need to pay another tax, and the city sticker is evidence you paid the tax.  In fact, they mail you a notice that you have to pay & tell you that you can either pay  for a stamp & mail it in go to a currency exchange & pay—but then you have  to bring in evidence that you have the car registered (to the state) in your name (something I  do NOT understand—who is going to pay a tax for a vehicle they don’t own?)…or you can pay online with a credit card & you don’t have to prove anything.

I opted to pay online with a credit card….but I noticed they listed a car model that wasn’t right.  I  haven’t owned the car listed in  six years.  Here, I’ve been paying for the  sticker…yes, I bet I went to the currency exchange a few tines, or I paid on line, and they had the wrong model number  (& VIN) for the car. So, I called the city clerk’s office—-where they have the computers listing all this data, and asked to have them change the incorrect information.

A snooty woman answered the phone & was clearly put out having to actually talk to a citizen.  I asked her to change the model  type in the computer.  She told me she would not do that—-that I should go to a currency exchange. Then, she read me off my license plate number. Well, that was to the old car, too. I now have a totally different plate number.  I just sighed and hung up and bought the sticker…online.  I posted this information on a social media site for our neighborhood, and most people agreed with me—just buy the sticker—& here’s why:

If the car is in an accident, the police will look for a current  license plate & sticker for that plate. They will look at the permanent VIN number for the  car. They will look to make sure I have a sticker—but they won’t bother to trace the sticker.  They only care that I have paid the tax.

Have I broken the law?  It’s just a clerical error that somebody in the city clerk’s office didn’t  take care of when I originally bought the car & had to pay to have information transferred. Their mistake, not mine.  Move on.

Our street lights were out on the street behind my house. In some places, this is an alley…because there are no residential addresses on  the street.  However, the treet does have a name and it is on official maps.  This was not an emergency, so I called 311, the non-emergency  phone number, to report it. So did several of my neighbors. After  about six weeks & at least 4 of my phone calls, I called the alderman’s office to ask why this was not being taken care of.  The answer:  since there are no actual street addresses, and although I gave the 311 operator the  block number for the  street, they could not process the request without an actual street number, so it sat there.  The  alderman’s office just called the department of electricity directly—something a citizen could not do—and in 48 hours, problem solved.  You have to wonder how much the 311 operators are paid and who trains them.

A police officr was recently convicted of 2nd degree murder for shooting a teenager 16 times.  A whole can of worms here…from  several  police cars  and at least a dozen  other police officers already on the scene, all lying in their official reports of why  the shooting was justified. The problem—for them?  Dash cam video of the whole thing—of the kid walking AWAY from the shooter—not towards him.  & why were all the police standing around? They were waiting for a …taser.  We pay our millions to families of people ‘accidentally’ shot by police…why can’t we afford to equip every police car with a taser?  And—just as important—-we know all these police lied about the incident. What do we do with them?

I have some friends who just found out that—horrors—immigrants who are not citizens are voting in our elections.  They want this …fixed.  Here’s the problem of why it will not be fixed:  All  boards of elections are local. They get federal money filtered through the state, but they are charged with running free and fair elections….and, statistically,  for the most part they are….and that’s the best we can do. Why? They hire regular folks, like you and me—only more  addle brained, to actually sit in the polling places and run the elections.  You do get training, but it is really up to YOU to  ask what you don’t know.  Having done this for over 30 years, I try my best—-but there are usually  six other people serving with  me, and thy are all friends, are bored, and not paying attention. They do not take the  time to make sure the people they hand ballots to understand what they need to do to make their vote count.  In Chicago, we use a specific type of marker to mark paper ballots. Someone got a contract,  and that is what we do. We don’t have enough computers for everyone to vote electronically.  So, if some election judge is talking to her friend & ‘forgets’ to make sure you have a  special magic pen, yuor vote won’t count.  We also don’t generally tell people that taking a ballot is voting, and you don’t have to vote for anyone you don’t know. Don’t vote for judges if you don’t know how they judge—-this is how we get bad  judges.  But the parties don’t like this. In any case, since you can now register to vote on the same day you vote, all you have to do is show up with proof of i.d. listing your address.  You fill out a form and you can vote. Simple….except the  Secretary of State sends a postcard to everyone holding a driver’s license to tell them to vote.  & some of those people aren’t citizens.  In fact, many of those green card holders can’t even speak enough English to ask for a ballot, but they damn sure want to vote.  There is no citizenship test. You can’t ask, all you can  ask is for proof they live in the precinct at the address on their forms.  Usually, they can find at least 1 person who speaks their mother tongue to help them  sort this out.  Yes, this bothers me, but keeping it in perspective, it bothers me that  40 to 70 percent of Americans who are eligible to vote don’t bother.  That’s the real problem.

Refugee Children

June 22, 2018

I am generally uncomfortable around a gang of children.  I can manage  one to one conversations, but  a bunch of  kids under age 5 leaved me flummoxed.   There are a number of reasons I never had children of my own.  My parents  didn’t seem to be overly thrilled with the four of us.  I could see how much work a child would be, and what if I bore a handicapped child?  It was all I could do to keep myself afloat.  I had thought at some point I might foster, but when I looked at the economics of it, and the time constraints on all other activities, I knew I couldn’t manage this.

I was able to become a Peace Corps Volunteer because I didn’t have children.  In the country I served in, Malawi,  about 10% of the people living in country were refugees, mostly from Mozambique. And since everyone was dirt poor, it made no difference.  People farmed what they had as best they could.  I could not  imagine the strain of uprooting, the fear.  After I was out of Peace Corps, the Rwandan genocide happened, and there was ethnic cleansing in Bosnia,  I’ve met a lot of refugees.  You have to admire their determination.

But, in 2018, in the United States, the President—Trump—and the Republicans have turned desperate people into evil-doers.  I’ve met so many white Americans who think these people should ‘get in line’ & not cross ‘illegally’.  Americans  have no idea how many wealthy people ‘jump the queue’ and , while it is legal, they have often cheated people  in the countries they came from & continue to do so.

First of all, if you own a small business, you constantly meet foreigners who came ‘legally’ & overstayed their visas…who then finagle. Virtually all these people speak English and have  friends/relatives who might sponsor them, and they are mostly white, so they have a leg up.

Now, imagine you can’t read, and you don’t have access to a radio or TV…or the television stations are run by  your government.  You get all your info as either rumor or propaganda.  Men come to your community and know you are vulnerable, and they harass and threaten you and your children. Maybe your  husband has gotten into debt with them, or killed one of them, or caused 1 to lose a job. Your government won’t help you.  Worse, your government has been getting aid  from the USA (my government) to strengthen ‘civil society’ but has never been asked for an accounting.  The rumor is to go north to the USA ans ask for asylum.  You don’t know that there are ‘official crossing  points’.  You just go.  You are walking with  very young children.  Are you walking a mile?  No.  10 miles?  No.  You are walking hundreds of miles with kids, risking your lives, because  you would for sure be hurt or killed had you stayed.  You’re dealing with  finding food, a place to sleep, maybe transportation.  Gambling with the odds?  These people don’t know from the odds.  Can you imagine being this desperate?

Then, for reasons you don’t understand, you are separated from your children & told to wait.  So many Americans really believe these refugees knew they were breaking the law and would lose their kids.  Not true.  So this serves as no deterrent.

And can you imagine the terror of the children—some so small they can’t speak any language?  I remember the terror and panic I experienced  several times as a child. I am in my 60s and I still remember the physical feelings.

So, in the name or ‘rule of ‘law’ we have traumatized thousands of people for no other reason than enriching a  major GOP donor who charges my government over $700 a night per person to incarcerate them.

My government is raiding  Social Security & Medicare—-monies taken out of our paychecks for  security in the future, to pay for the  lavish lifestyle and  wants of their  leader…the president…and trying to make us think this all benefits us American citizens.  We should really be ashamed that we allowed the president to lie about this.

The New Bait & Switch: Long Term Care Insurance

June 9, 2018

Insurance. Everyone loves the topic. The first thing you need to know about insurance is that the business is modeled on fear that you won’t have the money to fix something, or to live, after a disaster, and the company not paying out. That’s it, pure & simple.  The odds are, your house won’t burn down (as an ‘act of God’, like a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake are not covered unless you specifically pay for that kind of additional coverage).  You may have an accident in your car, like by sliding on ice or being  pushed by another car, but odds are  it won’t happen…but if it does…

In an ideal world, our government would offer the same kind of  insurance for citizens that  all the governments of all developed countries offer: health insurance, a decent old age pension, assistance for the elderly.

This is not the ideal world. This is America, where insurance is not considered a right, but a commodity to be  bought and sold.

I totally understand the need for home owners liability and fire insurance, as I understand the need for car insurance, but for the last several decades, the  insurance industry has been  promoting  long term care insurance.  It had been sold as an annuity:  you pay in  every year for  a certain number or years, until  you are vested, and the fee is the fee…no matter how old you get…and the benefit is locked in with the fee. For me,  It WAS  $1564.91 per year as offered by  Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance, and offered, after a 90 days ‘exclusionary period ‘(where you actually had to pay  for care on your own, at a rate of well over $100 per day..), once you notified Northwestern Mutual that you needed to benefit, it started paying $220 per day for  a nursing home, There were other benefits as well if you didn’t need a nursing home, ‘but assistance’.  However, the cap on benefits— ‘defined benefit’ as they call it, for my plan, is $481,800.  That’s it.

This seemed like a decent value 10 years ago.  How did Northwestern Mutual come up with the cost of the policy? Why…they paid actuaries:  mathematicians not only trained, buy licensed by the state, to  come up with fees, costs, and what the company  would need to  still be profitable if they paid out.  Really.  I-thought—BY LAW—the contract I signed was the deal.

Apparently not.   Apparently, all those actuaries that were employed by all the companies offering  Long Term Care insurance, in a phrase, fucked up royally. They are claiming now, 13 years into my paying the locked in rate for locked in benefits, that “….thanks to medical advances, people are living longer today than ever before.  While this is something we are thankful for, it has increased the anticipated cost of future LTC claims for the industry as a whole….”  So. long story short, they want to raise the rates $380 a year, to  $1942.60 until  2021, and they the rate will be  $2460.60. They claim they don’t anticipate a rate increase after that.  Riiight—-as I have a contract that says the rate is $1564.91  PREMIUM PAYABLE FOR LIFE.  What did I miss?

More bullshit follows.  People are not living appreciably longer than they were 10 years ago when they sold me the policy.  While there is a lot of ‘fake news’ out there, you can Google life expectancy. https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/table4c6.html  or how about: http://www.data360.org/dsg.aspx?Data_Set_Group_Id=195

They are raising rates because they know nobody is going to charge them with fraud.  Or,actually,  after I complained to my state representative that the the foxes watching the henhouse at the Illinois Department of Insurance approved a rate hike of 25% for the next 3 years, and then 50%  I  got a  letter from the president & CEO explaining that they had to justify the increase to the Illinois Dept. of Insurance.  The whole point of buying the policy while I was ‘young’ (in my very late 40s) was to keep premiums low, but alas, you can’t beat the house—ever.  To make this even  crazier….insurance is based on a pyramid scam:   new policies help fund  old policies…but they are not writing any new policies, at all, at any price.  I have  very wealthy friends who would like to preserve wealth for their children in case they have to go into a nursing home, and these parents can’t buy a policy at even $20,000 a year.

What I learned was, not only is Northwestern Mutual raising their rates, but Unum, Allianz, and  several other companies are….same excuse:  “People are living longer”   and interests rates are  down..all the same  per centage. What are the odds?  Also—-very  funny—-this  insurance policy is only good in the USA.  You can’t go to Mexico, India, Viet Nam, etc, where the cost of  care is much cheaper.

Capitalism  relies on  integrity.  It relies on the concept that if  a seller says a product is a  certain price, you pay that price.  Otherwise, there is no trust. That’s what Adam Smith said in so many words.  But if Trump can change the terms of a contact when it is inconvenient for him, why not everyone?  As I said, people are not living longer. What is happening is that  the people who bought this policy are expecting it to pay out and are taking advantage of the benefit they paid for. The actuaries were wrong (and whether you like it or not,  our rates paid their salaries as well).  This is right up there with the GOP  insisting that Social Security is an entitlement after we’ve all paid for it….and they are convincing journalists to call it an entitlement.  But I digress.

So, they’ve given me 3 options:  to accept the rate increase, to continue to pay the same rate at a vastly reduced benefit, or no longer pay anc accept  the benefit of the premiums I have already paid, which are $20, 334.

I am still mulling over pros and cons of keeping this policy in force, but no matter what the law says, i…and many others I know, feel defrauded.

 

Paris & NYC

March 19, 2018

Eiffel tower from below

On my ‘bucket list’ of destinations to see and experience,  Paris and the Eiffel Tower were big ones. I am in my 60s, and had only  been to Paris on a stopover from Bosnia.  I just never had the opportunity until Gate One offered this 6 day deal–airfare and hotel for about $700.  Huh?  How do they do it so cheap?  A bunch of  reasons:  One was to  offer  the deal in the OFF SEASON.  Not many people really want to go to Europe during cold weather, so this gives hotels and airlines the opportunity to fill  seats. Keep in mind that hotels and airline seats are what they call ‘perishable commodities’.  You can’t store them.  Also, we had a window of about a week to decide.  The tour operators need to know if there is interest.

I asked my friend, Gloria, to go with me.  We spent  four days in New York City, first.  I had never been to NYC, either.  We stayed at the Wellington, just  across the street from Carnegie Hall, in Midtown.  Perfect location.   A really nice, elegant place, but breakfast did not come with the room. Just  4 blocks from Central Park and  across the street from an L stop.  Because I had never been to NYC, I got  Big Bus ticket.  I think this is a good value because they take you all over, and if you have a guide-book,you get to see  for real what you read about.  The thing about NYC, however, unless you go for a specific purpose—like to see plays or  specific museum exhibits, you can see what you want to see in a day or 2. We did go to the Statue of Liberty and the  really nice Ellis Island museum (which I am sure that if Trump knew what the museum was about…he’d shut down), and we went to an over priced comedy club.  I wanted to go to the top of the Empire State Building, but not for $30!  Indeed…everything is expensive in Manhattan (as it is in Paris),  I guess I’m spoiled living in Chicago (I also don’t buy anything in the Loop). We walked around Greenwich village but all the cute shops are gone.  Real estate is just so expensive.    We took a city bus back from the Village to Midtown & really saw a lot.  The actual highlights of  NYC?  There is a subway food court off  58th ST. & 8th Ave, and we ate at a Japanese place, and the food was cheap and really good.  We also ate at a place called “IndieKitch” on 8th ave off 57th st.,   which offered Indian  fast food, and that was really good, too.

We then left for Paris via Icelandic Air.  Read the online reviews.  Bring snacks.   They charge 6 euros for a cup of oatmeal! A brief stop over at the airport in Reykavik (we got in around 3:00a.m., so missed the northern lights), and on to Paris. We got into Orly at about 9:30a.m.   We got our bags and….no immigration!  Just walk out!  We were a bit dismayed we didn’t get stamps in our passport.  This was, apparently, because we came from Iceland, where we DID get stamps.  Oh well.  A fellow tourist told us to take the Orly bus to the

Gar d’lest, train station across from Holiday inn in the 10th

Denfert-Rochereau metro stop, which  would have taken us all the way to Gare de ‘lest had we been better map readers—but we weren’t, so we changed trains at Gare du Nord  for no reason.  A little disoriented, and because the  sign was so hard to see, we walked around for about 20 minutes before we found the Holiday Inn, which was DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE  GAR DE L’EST!,  In any case, we got settled in.  Made arrangements for the  Hop on/Hop off bus (there are 2 companies, both  ok,tho we saw more red Big Busses), paid for the ‘skip the line’ to the Eiffel Tower for the next afternoon (I wanted to see the sunset over the city, but even at 5p.m. we were still too early ), and went to dinner at a local cafe, where I had a wonderful chicken in mushroom cream sauce for about 15 Euros.

Holiday Inn, 10th, cross from Gar de l’est

The Holiday Inn came with an excellent breakfast buffet, which included cheese, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fresh fruit, and  of course, croissants, so we scarfed some for late as we went around.  Paris is expensive. From taking the bus, we got a feel for where everything was, and most places are easy to get to via the metro.  However, there  are at least 10 metro lines.They are  by color &  number on  the map,but you really have to kinow the difference between pink, rouge, lavender, and magenta.  No joke.  But in any case, we got  to see Notre Dame, which is falling apart, and  lots of interesting sites, then went  in the afternoon to the Eiffel Tower, which had huge long lines. Then, I reread our tickets, and we were to meet our  guide at a souvenir shop 2 blocks east. That was fine, and  she took about a dozen of us back to the tower where we had to pass through  what they call ‘airport style security’—where your bad is checked for metal (guide told us that  no  metal—knives, keys, locks, etc,. were allowed)& they wand you.

View of Seine from Eiffel Tower

So, even with ‘skip the line’, it takes about 1/2 hour to get in. But it’s worth paying an additional $30 or so.  Really.    The guide told us some interesting facts and then set us loose.  I had wanted to eat at the tower, but a friend told me that the Jules Verne Restaurant was really over prices…and indeed…all the little restaurants were. A slice of pizza was 12 Euros (about $15). Gloria had wanted a glass of champagne—20 euros.  Not worth it. So we took photos and walked around.  It was the  one sunny day we had in Paris…the rest were rainy.  Just  what you’d expect of Paris in the Springtime!

Another tourist told us the Louvre was actually free—it’s the galleries that are 15 Euros each.  The Louvre is open

Me at the Eiffel tower—on top!

until 9 on Friday nights. so, there was no line, and we did get it, but it was about  8 by then. Gloria looked into it, I went to the gift shop and got a s little view slide toy with the ‘highlights of the Louvre’.

Gloria wanted to try a walking tour early Saturday, so we met up at Musee D’orsay late in the morning. This was where all the impressionist are.  I could have easily spent a few more hours there.  It was crowded (and I think about 15 euros to get in), but there was no line, and you could move around. We then went to l’Orangerie, where the Monet water lilies are.  I didn’t know that this building was built for Monet, and we’ve all seen  those water lilies. Well, there are six giant murals in  two rooms, and frankly, you can see  that he could not see.  Giant size blurs. His smaller paintings are better.  We saw some  great paintings in the rest of the museum.   I bought water lily socks and an interesting book of  paintings.  Then we went back to the hotel and decided to walk to the canal, which is about 1/2 mile away from the hotel. There are cute shops there, too, but all expensive.  We stopped at a small bistro and had crepes, which were wonderful.  We then got a little lost, but  got back to the hotel and had seen a lot of Paris.

On the first Sunday of the month, the museums are free. I wanted to go to the Rodin museum, which is not far from Musee D’Orsay, in a mansion. Riordan was really not that prolific  You get to see the Thinker & The Kiss, and a few of his other works, but the museum is mostly his studies of what he planned to do, as well as what some of his students/apprentices did. Still, I felt it was worth seeing.

We had dinner at the Strassbourgiouse which was steps from he hotel, splitting a salad, crepe, and dessert.  We left Monday morning, early.

Paris is just like you see in the photos:  all old buildings  seven stories or less, with wrought iron work, cobblestone streets, and rain.

Now, the trip  got stressful. We got to Orly 3 hours early, and Icelandic did not have a check in desk—not until 11, for a flight at 1…and the people in front of us, well, 1 had to  get rid of some of the junk in her luggage, as she was overweight, and another couple was at the wrong airport.  We were lucky  security is more ‘relaxed’ at Orly—we didn’t have to take off our shoes.  We got to Reykjavik, and Gloria was flagged for additional screening. it’s apparently a statistical thing. We then went to the gate for our flight, were there weren’t enough chairs, and the  sign said B0ARDING NOW…but we actually stood in line for about 1/2 hour more until the FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS  were boarded…and then, it was a free for all. it’s as if Icelandic has never boarded a flight.

We returned from Europe to JFK, and, knowing there might be delays, as well has having to take a shuttle from JFK to LaGuardia, we booked the  early March 6 flight –Tuesday morning…. back to Chicago.  However,  we got to LaGuardia about 7:30p.m..  on Monday, March 5. We attempted to fly ‘stand-by’ but were told—twice—that  we would be charged  an additional $99 each to change our booking.  In fact, the  9:00 p.m. flight did not leave until after 10:00 p.m.,  We also attempted to check in our baggage and they would not let us do it.  This does not make any sense. We  were  not only freeing up our seats for you to resell the next morning, your unsold  seats on that Monday evening flight were wasted You can not recover that in any way.  We ended up spending the night in arrivals sleeping on the floor.  We ultimately,  around 2:00 a.m. ,slept in wheel chairs & were chased out of those at 4:00 a.m.   Not that anyone needed the chairs.  Just policy.  LaGuardia was under construction. We could have  walked to another terminal, but   we didn’t want to do that & possibly miss the morning flight, and obviously it didn’t make sense to  go into the city for a room.

But it gets worse.

So…people started arriving to check in for  morning flights about 4:00 a.m.  There wasn’t a line, so we, again, attempted to check in about 4:30.  Your staff would not allow us to do this and made us wait an additional 10 minutes.

What I’ve seen happening more & more…due to ‘policy’—is airline staff making people wait until they are ‘ready’, a long line  happens, things get  bogged down due to  issues over luggage, then there is a crowd at TSA security screening, and everyone is frazzled & flights leave late. Makes no sense.

I’ve traveled internationally and have never had this happen even on an African airline.   “It doesn’t make any sense, it’s just our policy,”  is why Northwest folded.

So, except for the airline travel, it was a great trip.