Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Apply for this Job if You Need a Job

Thank God, my days of job hunting are over forever!  I always thought there was a special place in hell reserved for what we called Personnel Managers back in the day, now more likely known as Human Resource Directors. They always made it sound as if you had the job in the bag so you went home, cleared your calendar and camped by the phone, waiting for the call that never came. Three weeks later, you'd get a letter saying, "we appreciate your interest in our company but we've found someone who more closely meets our needs."

Funny, how it so often turned out to be the superintendent's son - whom they knew they were going to hire from the git-go. They just held interviews to "go through the motions".

Or, perhaps, you never heard back from them at all. They just let you arrive at your own conclusions, as your mood tailed down from joy to doubt to despair, depending on how badly you needed the position.

I always wondered if they enjoyed the power they held in being able to toy with applicants or if they were simply unconcerned about the effect their actions had on others.

So, I guess, in a perverted sort of way, employers are actually being kinder to desperate job seekers by telling them right up front that if they are already unemployed, don't bother applying.Why give them false hope?

Yes, it seems that some employers don't want to hire you if you're already out of work. It implies something negative about the kind of human being you are, something distasteful and, well, it makes you appear to be a bit of a deadbeat. Obviously, if you were desirable, someone would already snapped you up, wouldn't they?  Never mind that we're creating a self-fulfilling prophesy.

What would you guess that most of the employers who take this position are Republicans because Republicans have the most unbelievably fucked-up attitudes about working and workers? It's no problem for them to believe two, or more, conflicting ideas at the same time.

1) We should not extend unemployment benefits because that encourages people not to look for a job;

2) But companies should have the right not to hire the unemployed, thus ensuring they'll need their unemployment benefits longer;

3) Corporations are the "job-creators" so they should be given big tax breaks so they'll have more money to hire more employees;

4) Never mind that we already gave them tax breaks and they didn't create any jobs with those dollars;

5) But we're sure it will work the next time because where we went wrong was not rolling back regulations to go with the tax breaks;

6) In the meantime, let's cut public assistance to the people who are struggling to survive because their unemployment checks are running out and they can't replace them with a real paycheck because of the reluctance of companies to increase hiring, although they they wouldn't get hired anyway because they're unemployed;

So, in theory, the best way to fill a position is to snag an employee from another employer, who will steal from another, who will steal from another. Sort of like musical chairs. If a job disappears for good, the unlucky person left standing will not get another job because they're unemployed. In the end, only the same dozen Americans will be trading the same dozen jobs amongst themselves.

Yes, I know, stupid and irrational but damn, trying to figure out where the Republicans are coming from drives you to irrationality.

What do you suppose they think will happen to all those laid-off people when they end unemployment extensions,  reduce public assistance and refuse to hire the non-working? Will they just dry up and disappear like so many puddles on a sunny day? And then, Employers, who will buy the cars and refrigerators and carpet and prime rib and plane tickets you must sell to survive yourself?







Thursday, September 22, 2011

Execution American-Style

Well, they did it. Georgia executed Troy Davis even though there appeared to be subtantial doubt about his guilt. His trial was based on the testimony of witnesses with no forensic evidence to back them up even though it has been proven that human memory is notoriously unreliable and can be easily manipulated. Seven of the nine witnesses have since recanted.

Davis even offered to take a polygraph but the State said no. God forbid, if it indicated that he was telling the truth - what a monkey wrench that would throw itno the works!

There were other weaknesses and errors of judgment in Davis' case but you can read them all in a million different websites so I won't go into all that.

It is enough to say that the state of Georgia seemed bent on killing a man who may or may not have been guilty. It is almost as if guilt or innocence was beside the point by execution time. They'd had their trial, got their conviction and sentence and, by God, they were going to proceed regardless of any later questions.

I am not opposed to capital punishment. I have always believed that some people are like cancerous tumors on the body of society. In those cases, society has the right to surgically remove them to protect itself from their malignant poison - if, and this is the big if, we are absolutely sure we have the right person. Being kind of sure or fairly sure or sort of sure isn't enough to execute someone. That's what reasonable doubt is all about. Unless we are 100% positive, then the death sentence shouldn't be an option. A humane community errs on the side of caution when it comes to putting its citizens to death or, at least, it should.

Of course, the prosecutor will try to convince the jurors that there is no reasonable doubt. The problem is that most poor and/or minority defendants rarely have access to equal justice. They aren't O. J. and taking their case won't garner their attorneys face-time on television. Their public defenders tend to be young and inexperienced or old and tired. Some of them are cynical. They just want to get the trial over with and collect their fees so they urge a plea agreement that may not be in their client's best interest. Furthermore, they aren't allotted the funds to compete fairly with the State in matters like hiring investigators to search for exculpatory evidence or hiring experts to analyze forensic evidence.

In most cases, the accused aren't paragons of society. They may have grown up in a ghetto with little or no adult supervision, gang members as their role models  and a sub-par education. They may "look like" criminals and sometimes they are.  And on the other side are the police officers who are trained in how to present themselves on the witness stand, people the public consider heroes and authority figures.

The conservative south is the worst, of course. The bloodthirstiness of  the kind of people who cheer when Texas Governor Perry states unequivocably that he's never suffered a moment of indecision or remorse for being the "killingest" governor in the U.S.  is shocking to those of us who might be able to imagine allowing an execution to proceed under certain circumstances but not without some measure of soul-searching and psychic trauma.  By contrast, Perry and his supporters seem to consider taking another man's life as blithely as they would swat a fly.

And these people claim to be religious. They proclaim that life is sacred to the one they call Almighty. Isn't it they who should insist on every possible safeguard with the possibility of calling off an execution should there be any doubt at all that they might be ending an innocent life instead of someone like me who isn't even sure there is a God who cares what we do?

And the families of the murdered confound me. It is almost as if they want a death for a death and it doesn't really much matter if it's the right death. I honestly believe if it was my son or father who'd been killed and questions arose about the supposed perpetrator's guilt, I'd want to call a halt until I could be convinced. Because if we were wrong about Troy Davis, then the real murderer got off scot-free and another victim, just like my loved one, died in his place.




Thursday, September 15, 2011

The World's Worst Farmer

I bought an electric pressure cooker months ago but only got the nerve to actually use it yesterday. Ever since I exploded a pressure cooker full of green beans years ago (necessitating a complete repainting of my green polkadot kitchen cabinets) I've been intimidated by these appliances. But I love chicken gizzards and the only way to cook chicken gizzards is in a pressure cooker so....I bought one.  And my gizzards turned out fine, although I had to guess on time because the cookbook that came with the pressure cooker didn't include gizzards. (Imagine that.)

Thinking about my exploded green beans got me to thinking about other failures I had as a beginning farmer. When my husband and I bought the farm at Possum Holler, he was freshly back from Vietnam with an urge to go to ground. I just wanted horses and cows and chickens and dogs and cats and rabbits and.....

Our neighbors, who were real farmers, laughed at us for calling Possom Holler a "farm". But we were armed with a book called "Five Acres and Independence" and a new subscription to Mother Earth News so we were ready to jump into self-sufficiency.

My first livestock purchase was buying my son a gold pony. This was the fulfillment of a dream, one step removed, as my entire childhood had been spent wishing for a pony. The only problem: John wanted a mini-bike instead. He ignored the pony so she spent her days breaking into my neighbor's soy bean field, eating his beans, getting me in trouble.

My husband bought me a beautiful blue merle Collie for my birthday. He'd been de-barked by his previous owner. A friend gave us six Muscovy ducks. Muscovy ducks don't make any noise when they quack.Visitors who pulled into my drive must have thought they'd gone deaf when confronted by an obviously wildly barking dog and six crazily quacking ducks....and total silence.

I bought a milk cow (after my husband forbid it) from an old farmer/preacher who said, "this 'ere ole cow is so gentle, your lil chile cud milk'er." But, after she had her calf, she wouldn't let me get anywhere close. Meanwhile her udder continued to swell until it was the size of a beanbag chair. I kept her in a 2-acre pasture that mostly consisted of a blackberry-bramble covered hill. I went to Tractor Supply and bought a lasso (discovering that new lassos are as stiff as wire). I asked my husband for help catching her. He said, "cow? what cow?'

I tracked her up the hill and down. My entire body was one long scratch. Finally, the calf collapsed in exhaustion and Mom stayed with him so I was able to snub her to a tree. I milked her on the side of the hill, bracing the bucket with my foot. As soon as I was done - oh, that lovely white foamy milk! - she aimed a wild kick. The bucket smacked me in the knee, then flew down the hill, drenching me before it went.

I limped back to the house, soaked to the skin  in milk. Jim was sitting on the porch, grinning. "Hey," he asked, "how's it going with your cow?"

Jim (a tool and die maker who did everything with precision) built a chicken park for our new chickens. It was a perfect park with every post exactly equidistant from every other post. He had just stepped back to admire his work when the the cow came racing down the hill with me, once again,  in hot pursuit. She headed directly for his new project and crashed into it. The chicken wire caught in her horns, pulling all his posts from the ground. She busted through our gate and continued down the road with the chicken park banging along behind her, heading for the highway.

I paused long enough to look at Jim, who said between clenched teeth - Get. Rid. Of. That. Fucking. Cow." So after I finally caught her, I did.

We raised a pig from a baby. His name was Chauncey. When it was time to send him to be butchered, the guys from the packing plant couldn't get him loaded in their truck. Jim got into the bed and whistled. Chauncey trotted right up the gangplank with complete trust. As the truck pulled out, Jim and I sat on our back step and bawled our eyes out, hating ourselves. When the pork came back, all nicely packaged, we sold it to a neighbor.

The first year garden was trial and error. We didn't know how many tomatoes each plant would yield so we planted 40. We could have opened a small cannery with the results. We tried giving them away but everyone in the country already has tomatoes.

We raised rabbits then discovered that neither of us could bring ourselves to butcher them. "You were a soldier, for God's sake," I told Jim.

"Exactly," he said.

He enjoyed gardening, which meant raising things instead of butchering them....and owning and operating a tractor and driving a battered old pick up truck.

In spite of our spectacular screw-ups, we loved those years on our little farm. We never got over feeling every egg we found was a small miracle. And the ones the banty hens hid from us were equally as pleasurable when they emerged from their secret nests followed by a Pied Piper-lines of downy chicks. Or when the calico cat proudly showed us her new kittens. Or when the Collie, previously a pampered showdog, could be sent to fetch the calves to the barn. The son eventually got his mini-bike and I bought myself a horse although thanks to once having been thrown and drug, I could never make myself get on him, so I walked him up and down our road. Our neighbors sent us their special molasses cookies and jars of honey and strawberry jam.

Some times things are good even when you're not very good at them.



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Come In Guns A'blazing, Mr President

Well, we're getting close to the president's big speech on job creation. Much discussion on television and in newspapers and around the 'net about what his proposals should be. Most of his base wants something big, not just playing around the edges. That would be my preference too. Make a bold statement. Pick a fight with the Republicans. Dictate a battleground on which to fight the next election. Go in with guns blazing to set a tone. Because that's all you're going to get out of this speech.

If you're still harboring hopes that any actual policy might result, you might want to consider changing your name to Pollyanna. Okay, I got the yearning for change and hope we could believe in and the heartfelt desire that Obama could get all our congresspeople to sit around holding hands and making S'Mores together that carried the day in the last election. Being an old political warhorse, I didn't believe it, but I got it.

If you still believe, then you're a cock-eyed optimist, with the emphasis on cock-eyed.

Obama may as well take some chances in this speech because the Republicans are going to say no to all of it anyway. If he says, the grass is green, they'll swear it's red....and call in the same scientists who back them up on climate change to testify. If he says two plus two is four, they'll claim it's nine....and bring the charts and graphs to prove it.  If he says Mary had a little lamb, they'll declare it was a little woolly pig....and do it with a straight face.

The Americans who voted for Obama in the naive expectation that he could magically sooth the savage beast that is today's Republican party (did they not pay any attention to Bill Clinton's impeachment?) should certainly have come to their senses by now and so should have Obama himself.

The Republicans aren't interested in bipartisanship to help the economy or put Americans to work, folks. Not if they'd have to share any of the credit with the president. They've got the next election in their gun sights. Better for everything to stay bad until then.

We should have been talking about job creation for at least the last two years. Instead, they bogged us down with a fight to the death over deficit reduction even though they have to know that providing jobs causes the most positive kind of deficit reduction. Well, positive for working people, not necessarily positive for the party that wants to take over the White House.

So their answer to the unemployment problem? Lower taxes and de-regulation. Seriously, de-regulation! Oh, so, that's why businesses haven't responded to the tax breaks with which their Republican cohorts have showered them by increasing their hiring? It's those damn regulations that keep them from it. Give me a fucking break.

I know being a warrior isn't Barack Obama's natural style. He prefers cool, calm, rational discussion...and that's fine when you're dealing with rational opponents but he's not.

So, it's back to the drawing board for a speech that is full of fire and creativity and, yes,  some threat as well. You're never gonna' make your enemies happy, so at least do something to please your friends.