I’m angry about the new slave trade

The average wealthy (or at least not poor) American has a wonderful cheap supply of slave labor, and the great thing is that these new slaves have even less rights than the ones of centuries ago (yes I know this is absurd, and insulting, but think about rights and social values in the context of history). You do need to pay these new slaves, but a salary, which is only a small fraction of the minimum wage.

You don’t need to offer them any job security, health benefits or holiday pay or care in any way about their welfare. Hire as many as you need for a pittance of pay, stop paying them and they are not your problem. If you’re wealthy and happy to not think about the ethics this is a great deal.

But then along comes some bleeding hearth ethical types and they want to give your slaves rights. What the hell!

Of course we all use different words to describe this situation. If you’re a bleeding heart you call these people immigrant workers, while if your making hay while the sun shines you call them illegals.

The bottom line is that the deck is stacked against these workers. The very people they come to work for are doing everything they can to keep them status-less, while the people who are trying to help them are almost powerless.

If people who come to America for economic reasons (and didn’t follow the legal process) were ever to get legal work status, that would require them to be paid at least a minimum wage, and get the same protections as any other humans in the workplace. That would be very expensive.

Eventually it has to happen, slave labor is not a socially acceptable practice, and people are just starting to be called out on it.

Obviously it’s wrong for people to come to any country without following the approved process, but I feel that the very people who are hiring these workers are in effect directly supporting this illegal practice.

A simple fix is always to punish those who are hiring illegal workers. When the cost of breaking the law outweighs the cost of following it, then people (however unethical) tend to either follow the law or go underground.

Making it easier for people who are needed to perform work, to get legal work status, along with making it harder to hire illegal workers, seems like a reasonable course of action.

Yes it will make the costs of farming, manufacturing and construction increase (as wages and benefits will increase), but it’s one part of the process of fixing the new slavery.

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The GLORIOUS London Olympics.

A London eye view of the Olympics

Imagine if you will, you’re going to have a big party.  A huge one, like your birthday, and Christmas and the queens coronation and your nans funeral all rolled together, and it’s all so exciting that you walk around in circles not knowing how to start preparing.

So you start by doing a bit of tidying, mow the grass, paint the house, buy the nibbles and a little bit of booze, change the furniture, build an extension to accommodate all the guests, decide on the music and start recording personalized cassettes… you get the idea.

Sounds great?  Sounds ambitious? Sounds like it’s going to drive the neighbors up the wall.

Well, if you take that, throw in that half the family are unemployed and can’t afford the party, and then scale it up to a whole country, you have the London Olympics.

The GLORIOUS London Olympics.

I’m sure that when the Olympics finally arrive, it’s going to be absolutely fabulous.  Shiny new stadiums, beautiful parks, improved stations, a whole legacy for our children.  A boost to our economy, and all the other bullshit that our government peddles on a daily basis.

But at the moment, we have the house being tidies, but we’re not allowed to walk on the new carpets.

Here’s an example:
As I’m a wannabe ex fatty (okay, I AM fat) I decided to dust off my super slick folding bike, and start cycling part of my way to work.  My route takes me through some of the greatest and most famous parts of the city.  As some people reading this might not be uber familiar with London, I’ll try to treat you to some descriptions of the landmarks I pass daily.

So welcome to this micro guide to London, home of the Queen, the Kebab, and the core blimee cocknee spara.

In the morning I cycle down Abbey Road, and over the crossing made famous by the Beetles on the album cover of the same name, through the middle of hyde park, which is like central park, only with more statues, history, and slightly less rules. I then take a right, past the Royal Albert Hall , Kensington Palace (home of many of the poorer royals), down Kensington High Street, and to work.

My homeward bound journey, which takes me back across London to my station of choice, takes me back down Kensington high street, through the park, to hyde park corner, which is holds a pointless huge arch, down the Mall to Buckingham palace (home of the Queen, gawd bless her governor), past the houses of parliament, Big Ben, red telephone boxes, soldiers in big fuzzy hats,  the London Eye (a big ferris wheel that can only spin at 3 revolutions per hour – hold onto your hats now), past waterloo (NOT the site of the famous battle) and to Blackfriars station.  So called because it used to be the home of Monks who burnt the chips – absolutely true!

Good route huh?  Even if you aren’t familiar with the route, it’s still a decent itinerary for your next trip to Europe.

But here’s the rub.  For a cyclist, nearly (but not quite) all the route has either had the available cycle paths closed, or in the case of the parks, swamped by pratts on hired bike – don’t get me started on Boris Bikes.

Why?  For the Olympics of course!

And for what, a games much of which is paid for by us, the public.  But with over half the tickets going to commercial sponsors, and we.. Okay, I, haven’t even been able to get tickets.

We can’t travel to work, as the public transport system is being swamped by visitors – whoopee for tourism!

We can’t cycle, as the roads will be congested and cycle lanes closed.

Many of the major roads will be allocated VIP lanes, which we can’t drive OR CYCLE down.  I will mind you (naughty me) but I mus’n’t.

And the bus drivers are threatening to strike.

The Olympics are good for the country?  Possibly.
The Olympics are good for Londoners?  Certainly not!

I’ll tell you one thing however, I do agree that they’re good for tourism.  I have friends in the States who actually managed to get tickets.  I didn’t, I only live here., I couldn’t get squat.  But our friends in Washington DC did fine!

So I’ve given up.  I’m taking my family on holiday, and my American friends can have my house for the two weeks.

The Blobster Blogster (44)

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I like kids, but I couldn’t eat a whole one…

Kids.

I like kids.  I couldn’t eat a whole one – well, not in one sitting anyway.  But on the whole they’re quite pleasant creatures.

What irks me is their owners.  Some people call them parents, and apparently some of these parents can even have names.  That’s fine, don’t expect me to remember them all, that’s simply impractical and slightly unfair. But I accept that kids have owners, and the owners feel some insane obligation to make outrageous demands.

Like play dates.

It is my firm belief that play dates were invented by the devil, just after flies, and just before bubble gum.

It goes like this.  Would your child like a play date with my child?  Yes, good, then you can pick up my child from school, take it to your house, where it can behave like a trained circus monster, then you can feed it – here’s a list of things it won’t eat – and a list of things that it WILL, which is shorter – and finally could you pop it back to me at such and such a time.

Nannys and childminders charge a fortune for that service, but child owners happily trade tit for tat trade offs like that all the time.

But that’s not the worst of it.  Play dates are a doddle compare to the identity theft which is parenthood.  Before : You’re Quentin. A 32 year old financially systems synergiser.  You have a reasonable social life.  Go to he bar, meet friends, have the occasional late night with missed last trains and shared cabs, and everyone knows your name.

Then you have kids.

Now you’re thingumy, you know, play dates dad.  You do something, can’t remember what, but finish work at five and is dropping my kid off around six, after he’s refused to eat the lobster which was the ONLY thing he ate last week.

I love my kids, but only sometimes am I sad that they’re only on loan.

 

 

 

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They must be laundering money

It seems to me that half the stores on Madison Avenue and Lexington Avenue in the Sixties and Seventies in New York City and fronts for money launderers.

Each of these stores seems to be open for about half an hour a month, stocks incredibly expensive tat made of a mix of semi-precious metals, wood, plastic and baubles that no one could honestly think are “that” valuable, and clearly has no practical purpose.

I believe there is a special price tag made for these stores that is extra long to deal with the additional digits required for the prices.

I walk past some of these stores on a regular basis, and for several years I’ve noticed exactly the same items in their darkened depths. They seem to be dust free, so I assume someone visits them regularly.

I can only assume that these are not legitimate businesses but are in actual fact fronts for some sort of nefarious money transactions. Either that of there is some incredible tax break to be had from running a business from a shop front with a lease that would take the GDP of a few small countries (I’m talking about the places that are not yet bankrupt of course).

There could be an entirely different reason for these stores existence. Maybe there is even a market for their goods! It’s possible that given that the apartments in this area range in price from the low millions to a place where the dreams of avarice seem inadequate, that maybe the dwellers at the higher end of this demographic actually buy this stuff.

It’s a mystery to me.
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What the hell is going on with healthcare?

It seems to me that there is nothing more deeply personal than your health and that of the ones you love and care about. If you get sick, you don’t just ‘want’ to get better, it will become the most important thing in your life. It’s emotional, and will take precedent over everything else, and it should.

This means that any contract that you enter into about healthcare is loaded with stress and duress, and the basics of contract law are that any contract entered into under these conditions is not fair and equitable, and as such is not a fair contract. This may seem technical but it simply means that those papers a hospital or a doctor makes you sign saying that you are personally responsible for any costs not covered by your insurance shouldn’t be allowed. But yet they are.

The insurance companies, the hospitals, the lawyers and the doctors have created a special legal framework that is entirely weighted to their benefit.

And to add insult to this situation the American system means that the costs you are charged are list price, whereas the insurance companies get a massive discount on the bits they cover.

The costs of medical care in America are incredible, and the quality of the service is directly related to the amount of money you can pay.

Every doctor swears the Hippocratic oath. I’ve read this oath and frankly I feel that most US doctors are not living up to the spirit of the thing

Here’s a couple of sentences from the oath, they I’m sure your will agree are not the normal practice here in America :

“I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”

In this country today people die because they cannot afford to get timely treatment, others go bankrupt because the costs that are not covered by insurance companies consume their entire worth and then some. Millions of people don’t have adequate or even any coverage, either because they cannot qualify due to pre-existing conditions or just cannot afford the monthly costs and still be able to eat.

Some say that for these people there is always the option of going to the emergency room. Well there are two huge issues with this. Firstly the emergency room will just treat them to the point where they are not going to die on that particular day; this is not an answer to a problem, but a stop gap. And secondly the costs that are incurred by doing this are just passed onto the ones who do have insurance, as increased premiums which have the effect of making premiums higher and so making them ever less affordable, exacerbating the situation.

The issue (as I see it) is the huge amounts of money involved. No one wants to give up his or her part of this gravy train. But it is clearly unsustainable.

The concept of reform in healthcare driven by government seems to be the only way to break this logjam.

But the size of the powerbase involved has so far warped the political process beyond anything reasonable. They are many great improvements within the healthcare changes that President Obama has lead. But it is just a small step on a very long road, and some critical elements of any good plan are missing or just wrong.

The cost of healthcare is far too high, and the quality available (on average) is far too low. We need lower drug costs, medical services driven by results and not on a per service basis. And we need to trust that doctors are doing the best they can, by us accepting that suing doctors is not the first step in fixing a mistake.

Healthcare that helps avoid medical issues by preventative support has been proven to be the most cost effective and rewarding way to maximize the quality of life.

This is a very hard problem to solve, but it must be improved. When politicians use any change or proposed change as a political weapon, rather than trying to work together to find the best solution, they are failing everyone.

We all deserve better.

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Why I’m Angry about the mad drivers out there

I think I’ve found the perfect test for low intelligence. Now you might wonder why that is a useful thing to measure, obviously there are lots of written tests you can take to measure your intelligent quotient (IQ), but here’s my cut at a really simple test.

Put the test subject in the driver’s seat of a car, and then have them drive around New York City. When they find themselves behind a car at a junction, and that car in front is stopped due to pedestrians crossing in front, then if your test subject blows their horn, they have confirmed instantly their lack of intelligence. It’s that simple.

And next time you’re driving your car in New York City, and you happen to be in that situation and you blow your horn, please recognize that everyone within the vicinity now knows you have the intelligence of a carrot!

For years I’ve been amazed that yellow NYC taxi’s blow their horns to tell the cars ahead of them that the traffic light will shortly be turning from red to green. I believe now that they do this as a public service.

Luckily all of these taxis are in constant communication via their cellphones in a special taxi language, which I believe is a mix of Hindi, Spanish, Russian and Chinese. It must be very hard to learn as they spend the whole of their shifts practicing it.

But nothing can beat the cyclists in the city. When you cross a street you have to watch all directions, as bikers don’t need to follow any kind of rules. As they ride in full body condoms I suspect they feel justified acting like dicks. Clearly road signs and traffic lights don’t apply if your mode of transport requires you to have the fashion sense of a lobotomized circus clown who performs in a wetsuit.

The exception of course is the takeout food delivery cyclist. Clearly they are on a timeline and I respect their need to deliver Chinese food piping hot. These guys actually amaze me. Last year when the hurricane hit New York City (albeit more of a tap that a hit), and the city closed down it was impossible to get a pizza or a curry, but Chinese was still being delivered as normal.

When the end of the world comes and the human race is all but wiped out, and the roaches own the world, I suspect that Chinese food delivery cyclists will still be out there delivering on time.

In fact if the conspiracy theorists out there (who are buying gold and building up their caches of food and weapons) were to stop and think about it, they just need to move within delivery distance of a good Chinese restaurant and they can be secure in the knowledge that there future is protected.

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I am the average angry American and I am tired.

I am tired of commercial media that comments on the news instead of reporting the news. And I’m tired of the people who believe that commentary as truth. AND I am tired of these lemmings having the right to vote for someone who affects ME!

If you cannot give me ONE good reason why your flipping the lever for your candidate, other then spewing some rote memorized data  that a taking head has told you, or defend ONE position your candidate stands for, or telling me exactly and TRUTHFULLY  and HONESTLY  and IN YOUR OWN WORDS how this person is going to make this country a better place….you don’t get to vote.

You can vote for your local mayor, counsel person, school board or any one who has no presence or sway on the national stage and can ultimately effect ME!

It is common knowledge that if you want to drive you need to take a test to get a license. Why? Because your driving effects me. If you don’t know how to drive you can get into an accident and kill someone. Well the same thing goes for ignorant voters….your lack of knowledge can kill someone. Voting through ignorance and because some idiot talking head has told you to has lead us to a tea party, two wars, oil spills, poison groundwater, the near end of any social safety net, in fact the near end of any social conscience at all. I’m tired.

 

I am FUCKING tired…maybe I just need a nap! (6)

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Pharmacy Checkout Hell

Is there a special certification people need to work at a Duane Reade, Walgreens of CVS that expressly requires them to avoid checking people out speedily. There can be twenty people queuing up to checkout, and there can be five staff behind the counter, but four of those staff will be “off duty”, tapping away at touchscreens or stocking already packed shelves. They will find anything to do except open the next cash register and help to alleviate the delay the queuing public is feeling. And the one person checking out people has refined to an art the ability to avoid eye contact and to move at a speed, which is both consistent and incredibly slow.

The only time they will look up is when the octogenarian on the walking frame eight people ahead of you in the queue asks them to check the price of each of the forty seven items they have bought from the discount aisle to make sure they are getting the right price on each item and they have all the right discount vouchers in that little paper envelope they keep deep in the handbag.

The designers of the stores clearly had in mind the need to have multiple checkout stations, and one would assume that this was so that multiple checkout staff could checkout multiple people at the same time. But it seems that I am wrong, and that each checkout station is in fact the personal space of a designated checkout member of staff. And while Jenny from Checkout three may not be in this week, no one else could possibly use her space. Maybe it’s as personal as a toothbrush and in the etiquette they are taught at pharmacy checkout school it’s the height of rudeness to use another’s personal till.

Or maybe it’s a misguided attempt to make people spend longer in the store so they can consider purchasing additional items. I suggest that this is misguided because once you are in the queue there is absolutely no way you are giving up your spot to go and get additional items. You will be in this queue for (what seems like) an hour anyway, and there is no way you are going to risk your spot on the hope that the people behind you will keep a place holder for you, or even remember you when you get back from the aspirin aisle.

Actually I suspect that when you enter a pharmacy, you are actually entering a parallel universe, where the normal rules of shopping are replaced by sadism. I am starting to think that the staff gets a bonus from making you suffer.
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Neighborhood Cosmetics Invasion? (or Have I Become the Average Angry Male Neighborhood Shopper?)

Is it just me or has there been a quiet invasion in my NY neighborhood?  Cosmetics.  Expensive cosmetics.  High-end, women’s cosmetics stores have taken over my Lincoln Square neighborhood. Within a 5 minute walk from my apartment, there is now a: Fresh, Mac, Kiehl’s, Therapie, Lancome, L’Occitane, Space NK, Clarin’s, Lush, Get Glow, Sabon, The Body Shop, and of course the mother ship itself… Sephora.

I’m not even counting the places that do the “permanent makeup” – where they apparently pull out your entire eyebrows and then give you makeup “tattoos” in their place and around your lips.  These places remind me of a line from Jerry Seinfeld that seems as appropriate as ever, “I don’t understand how a woman can take boiling hot wax, pour it on their upper thighs, rip the hair out by the roots!… and still be afraid of a spider.” – but I digress.

Yes, I do miss the dive bars, bodegas, diners, electronics stores, news/candy/cigars, and hardware stores that used to be all around my place but what has replaced them all is what makes me scratch my head and makes me a bit angry.

Were we “under-cosmetized” or “cosmetics deficient” before?  I don’t think so – we already had 6 drug stores, a “Love’s” and a “Ricky’s” and other places that sold a range of cosmetics before so I don’t think women were having to ration their Urban Decay lipstick due to supply shortages.  And our Columbus Ave. Duane Reade drug store was already reinventing itself as a chic, cosmetics-focused shop as it was, so what gives???

As I take the long, angry walk to buy things that used be so close by I ponder, “Why, why has this happened here?”  Brainwashing of our women perhaps?  No, the ladies shoe companies already did that and “own their hearts and minds.”  So I try to “follow the money” but the numbers don’t add up.  Even that rich local neighborhood woman who has been surgically altered to look like a cat can’t support all these new places so I have to wonder how are they all staying afloat?  Money laundering is the only thing I can think of at this point.  Perhaps this is just the replacement for the clusters of wig stores that were surely fronts for money laundering back in the day.

So I try to be glass half full on the subject and think about the women for a moment.   Convenience of beauty is good for all, right?  Are the women pretty in my neighborhood?  Yes, they look great.  But… (here comes the glass half empty part),… they looked pretty great before the extra 15 high-end cosmetics stores opened up too.  And who’s ultimately paying for all these ridiculously priced creams, lotions and serums?  Men like me, that’s who!  We’re not happy about it and we may need to organize and occupy to take back our streets!  [We’ll run the idea past the beautiful ladies in our lives first of course].

BTW – Two other long-time local storefronts have the construction permits up and I’m betting one of them ends up as a Molten Brown.   Average Angry Shopper is getting upset!

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The Average Angry New York City Walker

One of the most amazing things about the most amazing city in the world is the ability to walk for hours and see every type of person out and about doing things that seem to only happen in New York City.

But there are a number of incredibly annoying things that make these walks harder than then should be.

My pet peeve these days is the walking dead, they seem to have become more prevalent over the last few months, and I believe I understand why. There are four classes or these zombies out there on the streets, and they can be differentiated by the make of brain they are carrying, Apple, Android, Blackberry and Microsoft. What they all have in common is that they all walk slowly, stopping in the middle of sidewalks, crossings and particularly right on the corner of streets looking down at the lump of glass in between their thumbs. Like all zombies these are entirely brain-dead, and uncommunicative and have a distinct slow shuffle with their feet hardly rising above the level of the stone.

There has been a lot of activity my action groups to stop these zombies from driving, but I think we need a campaign to stop them from walking while smart phoning. A friend of mine has suggested on numerous occasions making use of electrified cattle prods to fix the issue. I can see a lot of merit in this idea, and while the police may not agree recent SCOTUS decisions suggest that if a case of prodding a phone zombie were ever to get before them it may elicit a surprising result.

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