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rd95  ·  803 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Paymentsx 3

I'm taking the time to pause A Fistful of Dollars to respond to this (great movie by the way, as is Yojimbo) because I like you and hate this topic, not for what the topic is, but because of the emotional weight behind it. I think though, that it's important, because here in the States, the poor are villianized by everyone, even themselves and I think a bit of perspective is important if we're to try and fight this issue.

    The problems you are talking about are related to crappy public transportation and expensive healthcare, not student debt. If people finish school with $8 900 in debt they likely dropped out or got a useless diploma from a private college. Sure that isn't a small amount to everybody but relative to what others spend on tuition it's very small. Even if they didn't have student debt to pay for the public transportation would still be garbage, healthcare would still be too expensive and they would still be struggling to keep their heads above water.

The problem with being poor is lack of money. Period. This lack of money manifests problems in so many ways and they often overlap and intersect each other that it creates a weighted net, to keep you tangled up and weighed down. There are a lot of problems in America. In some parts of the country, things are a bigger problem than others. In New York City and Chicago for example, public transportation might not be an issue, but rent is expensive as hell and food deserts are a threat to the well being of you and your family. The neighborhoods the poor can afford to live in often have problems with crime and disease and the general environment has a psychological impact on the people that live there. In places that are less dense, like my example of Ohio and Wisconsin, rent is much more manageable, but since things are more sprawled out, transportation becomes an issue. Food might be more abundant as well, but if the nearest Wal-Mart is three towns over, you might have to settle for the mom and pop grocery store down the road for the majority of groceries. Their selection won't be as good and you'll pay a higher price. A quarter or two on every piece of food you buy from them quickly adds up. Under normal conditions, people can balance things out relatively well, but it is very much a balancing act. Once you start having problems with your car though, or your personal health, or the people in your lives that are supposed to help support you, things can go pretty sour pretty quickly. What's harder, is sometimes the social safety nets you think are there for you, really aren't. For example, when I was having money problems, I knew there was no point in my going to a food bank. They'd see that I worked two jobs and had no dependents, so they'd turn me away. When you're poor, your options are limited, robbing you the flexibility to creatively solve problems.

    What's fair to say is that I certainly didn't understand just how bad things are in American, because 1) I don't live there and 2) for every person who tells you how bad things are 3 more downplay the hell out of it.

That's okay. True story, America is a huge place. Poor people in Maine probably have a different experience than poor people in Florida who probably have a different experience than poor people in Texas. Poor people in the South West probably don't have to complain about their heating bill, but poor people in Maine probably don't have to worry about suffering from heat stroke because they don't have central air. Different people have different problems and experience them to different degrees.

As for the people who downplay how hard it is being poor, we only have our selves to blame. For some reason, Americans in general have no problem with victim blaming, so when people who are poor fuck up and get taken advantage of, it's obviously their fault. Another issue is, a lot of Americans have a lot of pride. When I was going through money problems, I never once thought about going to my parents for help nor did I try to seek help from my local community like the churches around here. Would they have helped me if I asked? More than likely. Did the thought of asking ever cross my mind? Not once. But I did ask my peers for help, because they know what it was like to have the problems I had and so I didn't have to fear their judgement. When my car was broken down, I asked for lifts from anyone who was willing. When I was desperately hungry and pay day was two days away, I asked people to float me for lunch. The thing is though, the only reason I got help when I asked for it because they knew I would repay them when their time to ask me for help came. If I didn't, they wouldn't help me again.

    I have no desire to pretend like everybody who is poor is merely bad with money but I don't see the point in ignoring that we don't teach people anything about personal finance either. We also don't teach people to take out student loans unless they are sure they will actually pay off.

My parents did teach me about personal finance and responsibility. They taught me the importance of a good work ethic and to playing safe bets. The thing is though, when your income is really limited, all it takes is a mistake or two to throw you over the edge. My money problems came from renting a place I couldn't afford and having an irresponsible room mate that couldn't hold down a job. It took a while to get myself out of that hole and it took even longer to recover from it. It also took me willing to be homeless, swallow my pride, and live on my friend's couch for a month, commuting 45 minutes to and from work each day to make it happen. It was not fun and I think I would rather die than go through all of that again. I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that.

The thing is, a lot of people who are poor know they're being fucked with. Check cashing fees, pay day loans, wage theft and last minute schedule changes from employers, bad landlords, on and on it goes. When you're poor though, a lot of times those are the only options you have. Back to my homelessness and living on my friend's couch. I had to leave my living situation, room mate and all, but I had absolutely no chance of paying a security deposit and first month's rent on a new place. So I cancelled my lease, left that place, and crashed on my friend's couch. The only reason I was able to get out so early was because my girlfriend at the time, now wife, was an angel and was willing to trust me enough to get a place with me. The security of living with her, her being responsible and making money to combine with my income, was exactly what I needed to get out of debt. I'm now in a much, much better financial place today and I live a good life because of it. But, I literally could not have done it without her. Not a lot of people get a saving grace like that.

    Nobody teaches young people anything about this shit and instead just tells them they have to do it.

This is indeed a problem. Landlords and employers take advantage of people all the time because they don't know the laws. Predatory lending companies take advantage of people who lack the financial savy to understand how interest and late fees work. Ignorance is a huge issue, but the fact that there are people out there who are willing to prey on the ignorant to make a living are a huge part of the problem.

    I'm not saying opinions on the internet are invalid, what I'm saying is that I'm not going to completely abandon an opinion that many people just need help figuring out personal finance because other people have different experiences. That doesn't override what I see from a lot of people who would have been helped a lot by a simple finance class in high school. What I will admit is that on top of this issue America has A LOT of other issues which I wasn't aware of to work on whereas that's not such a problem where I live.

Don't feel bad about having an opinion and trying to think this stuff through. You actually have a very good idea about the whole cars thing in general, but not specifically cars themselves. Cutting unnecessary expenses to help tackle debt goes a long way. It's also important though, to not look down on poor people who spend money on things like movies and booze. Entertainment and leisure is important for everyone and it gives us a much needed psychological boost to help deal with the hardships of life.

Look, this stuff is hard. It's heavy. It is devastatingly painful to witness and it is even more painful to live. When people like kleinbl00, mk, steve and others talk about this stuff, it's because why they themselves might never have had this problem, they're smart enough to understand some of the trends and what causes them. (Edit: That's not to say you're not smart, because you very much are and I love seeing your comments on Hubski.) They're people you can listen to about this stuff because they probably know. You can listen to me, because I lived it and the majority of my peers are still living it, it's such a part of me that I don't think it'll ever go away, no matter how badly I want it to.

Let me just end with this. There are a lot of outreach programs for poor people out there, from churches to food pantries to social programs. They help tackle issues of all types caused by poverty, taking care of both short term problems and helping to fight the fight in the long run. If this is something that even remotely causes you concern, I highly encourage you to educate yourself on some of the resources out there and how to find them, that way if you ever see someone you love going through a hard time, you can lend them a hand.

cW  ·  1287 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Can we cogently refute "stealing is stealing"?

Note: I wrote this essay length reply to thenewgreens post on my smallest laptop in the world workaround, currently my window into the cyberverse. My eyes will take their vengeance on me presently. Meanwhile, I see there is much more discussion here, probably much of which refers to that which I refer, and much more. Hopefully, someday, I'll catch up. Realistically, I won't. Cheers to all nonetheless!

Well, thanks for looking out for my interests, my friend, and I hate to do any injury to my theoretically possible future self/career, but at a moment like this, it would be simply perverse not to adduce the following:

Copying is Not Theft

The fact that it doesn't serve my personal economic interests would be no worthy excuse not to confess the following: the foundational problem here is that ownership (the basis by which theft can be assessed) is itself nothing more than a contingently necessary mass-hallucination. It has no self-evident qualities, no a priori claim upon being. It might as well have been a dozen other ways, and in fact, it has. Even among societies which have participated in the belief in ownership, modern western notions of ownership remain distinct, the most highly augmented and elaborate. This distinction reveals primarily the importance of ownership, i.e., the regulation of access to stuff as a means of controlling reality, to our society. The most fantastical of these notions, the furthest abstracted from any basis or grounds in material reality, is that of intellectual property. The above video does a brilliant job of illustrating this fact, along with a hilariously nursery rhyme-esque ditty and animation to boot, which is why I love it so much, and am so delighted to share it. The laws that protect intellectual property serve to reward and thereby fuel visionaries (and any of those legally capable of appropriating said-visionaries breakthroughs), and as such, we must regard it as a powerful tool for discovery and progress. This rationale is, however, entirely utilitarian, and therefore contingent. It has no basis in reality, and is in fact contrary to what we see in the natural world, wherein discoveries, developments, evolutions, etc., are distributed, disseminated, inherited, etc., equally, and without any thought for compensation or establishment of paternity.

I ought to say that the difference between taking bread and taking files of music/what have you does demonstrate something significant about different kinds of ownership, as defined. While the taking of bread for the hungry is palpably more urgent, it also deprives the former bread-holder of actual calories. Dude now needs another loaf. On the digital download side of things, we see no urgency of acquisition, but also no deprivation of anything previously held. The mp3 is the digital equivalent of Jesus Christ's loaves and fishes, broken 5,000 times and still remaining entirely whole.

I do believe it is important to support our artists, and I am incredibly grateful to all those who have, and who will, support my own artistic endeavors. However, I would argue that to protect my own wellbeing, and indeed the vitality of our culture, we must take a different tack than that which our production/consumption based society would offer us. Instead of regarding our art as units of production, which are expected to go out into the market and return us ducats from faceless consumers in whereverland, as would a pair of tennis shoes or a smartphone or a spool of floss, we might regard it as a vital medium which connects us all, and in which we all are welcomed to have ownership, not the ownership of exclusive access, but the ownership of active participation, of engagement, and of the enfranchisement which attends active engagement.

Someone once said (and I think it was Billy Corgan, though I can't track it down ... any help?) that the music industry had basically invited the scourge of illegal downloading by pushing its artists for so long to make songs which were ever more disposable. The pop song is meant to hook you on the first listen, infect you on the second, and sicken you on the third. That way you'll be ready to welcome the next one. So what if we instead create work that is meant to outlast us, and welcome a community of listeners to be as actively engaged as were any of Shakespeare's rambunctious penny audiences?

I'd like people not to download music illegally, but not because I think it's theft, or because I think it's wrong. Rather, I'd like them to consider what they are cheating themselves out of by not committing to the works of art they are consuming, and how much more rich will their experience of it become once they show up and participate in the experience, and contribute, not just financially, which is an expression of what we value, but also with their focus, their thoughts, and their vital life energy. We don't have to swallow the modern Western faux-divides of audience/performer, connoiseur/virtuoso. This is something we're meant to do together.

humanodon  ·  1372 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Your home grill: Charcoal or gas? Lets see your set up

Ah. I no longer own a grill. However, at one point I had a deck on the second level of a triple-decker house in a shitty part of Boston, on which I had arranged my hammock and grill such that I could grill while in the hammock. Now, the thing of it was, I would get some drinks in me while grilling and then fall asleep and more than once, woke up with burns on my elbow.

I also used to drink at a place on the beach in Viet Nam that had a grill right next to the bar and of a weekend, would rock up with my crew and make ribs. We used hardwood charcoal because that's what was available. Fantastic stuff, if insanely long lasting. The best compliment I ever got was when people walking by on the beach wandered over and tried to buy the lunch out from under my friends and I.

My man, you are in NC. The Carolinas have their own distinct barbecue tradition that I would absolutely love to explore. Though grilling is distinct from barbecue, I would imagine that in NC there are far greater grillmeisters than I. Does yours by any chance have a rotisserie? I have to say, some of the best chicken I've ever made was with a rotisserie and it was dead easy too. A pork shoulder is also nice that way.

If I recall, your wife is vegetarian, no? If so, a gas grill is capable of making some pretty good baba ganoush but then, I love eggplant and I know that not everyone does. I've never had the opportunity to check out smoking as a method of food preparation, but with a really nice gas grill, I bet you can make some decent bacon or salumi if you are willing to be nontraditional about it.

Ah, before I forget. A fish in foil is pretty perfect for a gas grill. Some of the best fish of my life has been prepared this way.

You will need:

1 whole fish (a big one, or a few smaller ones)

A big onion

Some good tomatoes

Some green onions

Some herbs (dill is nice, as is basil, long cilantro if you can find it, even woody herbs like rosemary and sage)

Some lemons or limes

A whole lot of garlic

Good olive oil

Coarse salt

Some black pepper

Chili peppers (optional)

Lay your foil down on the board and put down a layer of sliced tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle with salt. Add a layer of lemon slices too. Throw some crushed garlic on top and some sprigs of herbs. Coat lightly with the oil. Rub the fish with the oil, rub it with salt and pepper and then put a layer of lemon slices and herbs (including the whole green onions, washed with the roots sliced) on top, followed by a layer of lightly salted and oiled onions and tomatoes, with the crushed garlic. I like to put my chili peppers next to my fish, so the spice enters it. If the fish is really big, do all of that but first cut slits in it about two inches apart, perpendicular to the back, down to the belly and stuff herbs and garlic into them. Oh, also stuff the cavity of the fish and make sure to season it with salt.

Wrap very tightly in the foil and then grill it . . . uh, until it's done. It's a pretty forgiving preparation and the lemon helps to ensure that it will be cooked. If it is kind of bland (in that the salt hasn't really penetrated the fish) make a 1:3 mixture in a ramekin of coarsely ground salt and black pepper and dissolve it in a squeeze of lime and maybe some of that olive oil. Add some chili if desired and dip bites of fish into it as you go. The drippings of the fish will go very well over rice/pilaf or even just with a very crusty bread.

AnSionnachRua  ·  1390 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Let's talk about two things they say never to talk about:

Apologies if I don't know what I'm talking about. I've never been in a lived situation that had any relevance to either of these issues.

1. Abortion is an interesting topic because it remains illegal in Ireland except in cases where there is a threat to the mother's life. There have been some high-profile cases in the media in recent years - including the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, who was refused an abortion alllegedly because this is a "Catholic country" and ended up dying of sepsis. More recently, a rape victim was refused an abortion and had to be given a Caesarean section (by the time she was assessed by a psychiatrist, it was too late to terminate the pregnancy).

It's a banal truism to say that abortion is a complex issue (as is capital punishment). Personally, I think it should be legal, and have participated in a few of the protests in Dublin precipitated by the Halappanavar case. What others have already said rings true for me, I suppose - that it is better to abort a foetus than to bring an unwanted child into the world, and that women should have control of their own bodies.

There remain, however, some interesting issues in the life v. choice debate; either side stems from fundamental beliefs about personhood that are ultimately irreconcilable. Deciding when a foetus is a person deserving of life strikes me as fairly arbitrary - some people think it begins at conception, others after a certain number of weeks, and others at birth. These seem to me like a priori beliefs that do not, and possibly cannot, have any real justification. And it's from this that the whole notion of murder arises; a pro-choice person can say that abortion is not murder, because the foetus is not a person; a pro-life person can argue that it is murder, because the foetus is. These ideas are so fundamental to either side that they seem impossible to resolve, for me. What I take from it is simply that it is insufficient for either side to argue that abortion is or is not murder, because the argument is reduced to people shouting at each other about their own ideas of personhood.

It's important to acknowledge that cultural ideas about what constitutes personhood are extraordinarily varied, and more importantly, I don't think it's possible to argue that one constitution of "personhood" is more valid than another.

Which brings us to what galen is hinting at below - the problem of infringing on another person's rights because of your own beliefs, and the problems that poses for any democratic system. We do not allow people to commit murder - and that's the rub, because for pro-life people, foetuses are people and abortion is murder.

I think it is also important to consider that religion is embedded into society, rather than existing as some sort of separate stratum.

2. Capital punishment is a big issue, though not a salient one in Ireland (where execution is no longer carried out as a means of punishment). It seems reasonable enough to suggest that executing someone is a better idea than imprisoning them for the remainder of their life, whether for economic reasons or moral ones (is imprisoning someone for decades really better than killing them?) Naturally, it seems clearer in cases (possibly imaginary) in which the criminal has committed multiple heinous crimes (like a recidivist murderer rapist). Sort of what bioemerl is saying.

But the death penalty has its own problems, namely that of sufficiently ascertaining guilt, without which innocent people can and have been executed. That, or the extreme cost of keeping someone on death row, because the process isn't exactly quick (that's today; in England a hundred years ago, it usually took about three weeks for someone to get hanged, rather than twenty years). Consider the Japanese man who was on death row for decades before being released - and in Japan, they apparently don't tell you when it's coming, so for him every day could have been his last.

Then, of course, there are the logistical matters of the execution itself, although I think they're secondary to the moral justification of capital punishment in the first place. Naturally, I think it's best if it's quick and painless. I remember hearing about a recent execution in the US in which it took two hours for the victim to die, which is quite horrific. Maybe bring back the guillotine?

Capital punishment, to my ill-informed mind, seems like too much of a headache, really.

I did have an interesting conversation about corporal punishment recently, though, in which the other person claimed that whipping would in many cases be preferable to a prison sentence. It's extraordinarily painful, yes, but after the healing period the criminal can integrate back into society, instead of going to prison, or "crook college", and building up a network of criminal contacts for when they're back on the streets. I actually think it's a very interesting idea.

We do have to think about the purpose of imprisonment, which I think has a hell of a lot more to do with attempting to remove people from society than it does to reform them or even to act as a deterrent (which I think 25 lashes probably would do), and, in the States at least, with feeding money into private companies.

OftenBen mentions the problem of granting a particular body (i.e. the judicial system) power over human life, when perhaps they are not to be trusted. I haven't given any thought to this before.

mk  ·  1447 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: Religious groups want exemption from hiring LGBT after Hobby Lobby ruling

Hey, I called it.

Of course, these businesses should be exempt! I shouldn't have to hire Lutherans. I was raised Catholic, you can't oppress me in such a way. I also have religious objections with atheists; as an agnostic, they all seem a bit too 'cock sure' of themselves. It's my right not to associate with them. Anything else would be tyranny. I don't think I should have to send my kid to school with Pentecostals either, I am not sure why, but my family has a right to religious freedom. I should be able to find a school that doesn't let them in. I definitely shouldn't have to hire any Republicans, or children of Supreme Court judges either. Or people from Malta, or people that buy burgundy Buicks, or people that use double negatives, or the word 'literally' too often.

These are not intellectually honest decisions being made in the SCOTUS. Religious freedom in the US has never been absolute, and it's absurd to think that now it should be. The functions of a democratic State seeking to treat all citizens equally supersede religious practices in the public sphere when the exercise of public services is in question. You can't religiously object to my equal treatment under the law. The Hobby Lobby decision wiped away what lines of common sense there were, and we are left with little but the personal preference of those that are in power. It was a stupid, short-sighted, and cynical decision.