Hotel California

The Mayor of Los Angeles announced today that he wants to build 20,000 units of affordable housing in that city over the next five years. The cost will be high, somewhere near Five billion dollars. He hopes to raise the money from the Federal government (a hard task considering the state of things), charities, and philanthropists. He recognizes it will be a hard road, but he also realizes that something needs to be done.

LA is one of the cities with the highest rent costs in the nation. It has 44,000 homeless people–the largest population of homeless in the nation. Some of the new housing units would be devoted to the homeless in an attempt to deal with the problem of people on the streets. High housing (renting and buying) prices keep people from moving to Los Angeles and cause people who work there to have to commute long distances from the cheaper suburbs.

I think this is a great idea. There should be more government involvement in providing affordable housing for people with lower incomes–or anyone for that matter. The structure don’t have to be glamorous, only functional. It will be a difficult process, especially if the financial situation continues to worsen, but it is a noble and worthwhile effort to undertake. It’s nice to see any city take the initiative and propose something like this. Now all we can do is sit back, offer support in any way we can, and hope that it works out. Chances are it will not–there is always something to kill a great idea–but we have to hope. Sometimes it feels like that’s all we have left.

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Closed Down

Just read something disturbing: One in five employers does research on the web about potential employees. Yikes and double Yikes! This is scary, unsettling, and maybe even a little wrong–but that doesn’t change anything. Big brother IS out there, only now he’s not just the government, he’s the corporation, or little mom and pop business that is looking to hire (or fire) someone.

Man, I knew from my current job that employers were googling their employees, and potential employees (one of my current colleagues told me that he did a little research on me to see if I was reliable). I smiled at my colleague, but it also weirded me out a little bit.

I have a myspace account, and a facebook account. I have friends who take pictures of me, sometimes in less than glamorous situations, and then post them to their accounts. I do not mind this; it is kind of what those accounts are for. However, I do not like the idea that an employer would look at my profile, or somehow see pictures of me and then decide to a: fire me, or b: not hire me.

In general I am a law abiding citizen (sure I jaywalk every now and again, or sample the random grape from the grocery store) but that doesn’t mean that some of my antics/photos on the web are roses and bumblebees. Nor does it mean that I want to have to act like a saint all the time because someone might take my picture and put it on the web, where some future employer could find it, and then decide to fire me for it.

Get rid of your facebook account, then. I can hear people saying. And while that might solve some of the problem,  it won’t fix everything. My friends can still put pictures on their profiles, the only difference is they wold have a harder time tagging me. And I shouldn’t have to get rid of my facebook or myspace accounts. I am a privater citizen and what I do in my free time (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else) is my business, not my boss’s.

Right now, it’s one in five, but I bet, unless some kind of legislation is enacted it will soon be close to 100%. I mean, why not. There could even be whole divisions of companies devoted surfing the net, looking into their employees’ (or potential employees’) activities, and deciding if someone should be fired because they’re taking a shot off of a bare belly.

Sure, maybe we should think about the kinds of things we post on the net, but the net is there for us to share with other people. We shouldn’t be punished for what we share, unless of course it is illegal. That is a completely different story.

And it is not just social sites like myspace and facebook that are used to check up on people. Blogs are used too. In fact, the Yahoo article claimed that people have been fired from their jobs for blogging. Now, if they were blogging on the job, that is one thing, but if they kept their work life separate from their blogging life, there is no reason for this. It’s a free country, and people should be able to think (and write and say) what they want. This world just keeps getting stranger and stranger.

I did get curious, though, as to what kinds of things about myself I could find on the internet, and I ma happy to say I only found three hits. One of them was a response to a questionnaire about Free Comic Book Day in 2005, one was my current job, and the third was a statement I made to my college newspaper way back in 2002. I think all of these things are pretty innocuous and would not be cause for an employer to shun me, but I just don’t know.

The Mercy Seat

What is up with the San Jose Sharks? I know it’s still the pre-season and that they are getting used to a new couch and a new system, but come on. They’ve played four games, and won only one. In all of the losses they have allowed at least five goals. They have yet to score more than three goals in a game.

Again it is the pre-season and the hockey season is a long one so it’s a little early to start wallowing in despair, but I was hoping that the Sharks would come out hard this year. That they would bring it, as they say. After three years in a row of disappointing losses in the second round of the playoffs, the fans are hungry to have their hopes realized, and the Sharks should be hungry to prove to themselves, to the fans, and to the league that they are the real thing.

You cannot do that if you let teams run all over you, scoring five goals plus. It’s time for them to start acting like Sharks, and go for blood.

Nice Dream

So the bailout didn’t happen, and Congress has had to go back to the drawing board, as they say. McCain is apparently at the end of his rope. There is a long road ahead of us, blah blah blah. I’m getting sick of all these cliches, and just want something to happen. Something that will help the average American. You know the voters, the people who work crap jobs for crap pay. Or even the people who have slightly better jobs with slightly better pay. I’m sick of hearing about Main Street and Wall Street, and I’m sick of hearing that to save Main Street we must first save Wall Street. That cannot be true, or at least, it cannot be the only solution.

Sure, if we want business as usual to continue, we need to save Wall Street to keep Main Street safe. But maybe that is not the way to go about it. Maybe we should let Wall Street fend for itself for a bit, and work on reconstructing Main Street (see how annoying this gets?!?), and devoting our attentions there. And what about Broadway, or Elm Street, or First Street, or any other numbers of roads where you will find people?

My point is, maybe the government–since they feel like doling out cash–should give that 700 billion to the everyday American. You know, the people who are one missed payment away from losing their houses, or have insurmountable medical bills. This would do three things: One, it would get money into the economy, much like Bush’s tax rebate economic stimulus package was supposed to. Two, it would then get that money to the corporations that Congress is trying to give it to right now. Three: it would reduce the overall debt felt in the nation right now. Sure, the government would, ultimately, be giving the money to the mega corps, but they would be using the middle ground of the American citizen, and the country, I think, would be in better shape all around. Debts would be cleared, and company’s would have the cash that they so desperately say they need. Everyone’s a winner.

Of course this is too radical of an idea to consider, so it won’t be, and there is no chance it would ever come about. Still, it’s nice to dream.

Idioteque

Well, get ready to run to the bank. Put your cash in the shoe box, and start investing in canned food, shotguns, and water. Make sure you have lots and lots of water, you’re going to need it. Things just got a whole lot worse, and now there really is no end in sight.

The 700billion dollar bail out is not going to happen. The House, Democrats and Republicans alike, voted against it. Some of them cited that they were afraid for their jobs if the bail out backfired. Others said it was because they were rebuking President Bush, and maintaining the “free market will fix itself” mentality that this bill challenged. There were even some allegations of hurt feelings because apparently Nancy Pelsoi said some mean and hurtful (read true) things about Bush and some Republicans.

I cannot believe this. I mean, I do not think it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to save multi-national conglomerates. But, it kind of is when those are the companies responsible for the economical health of our nation, and when those institutions get sick, it is up to the government for the people and by the people to try and heal them. However, it must be said, that measures (such as OVERSIGHT) need to be put in place to help prevent things like this from happening again. I can believe the bill was defeated, but I cannot believe some of the reasons given.

They’re afraid for their jobs? Why, because it’s an election year? Because they are afraid of making unpopular decisions. One might say, tough decisions. Well, here they made a decision, and it was to not resolve the issue at hand. They spent the weekend (and those guys never work on the weekend) to try and come up with a plan that could be agreed upon and implemented. And what happened? Nothing, except that the situation got worse, and it will just continue to get worse.

The idea of the free market fixing itself is fine and all, but only when there is something there to drive the market, and help it fix itself. What do we have in the market right now? Nothing. We have a rapidly declining housing situation, and we have a credit system that operates based on its ability to borrow more credit on credit. How does this make any sense? America needs to start producing things again. Get back into production and export, not just of intellectual properties, or fun internet sites like facebook and myspace, but actually making stuff.

Like what?

Like anything. Get some blankets out there. Get some clothes. They’re called textiles, and we used to make quite a bit of them. Refrigerators, computers (as in whole computers, like the processors and modems and everything else, made in America from scratch, not just assembled from parts all over the world.) Medical equipment, whatever. Just start producing things again. That will give us something concrete to work towards and look at. Also, it would build a more solid foundation on which to base our economy.

These firms that are in trouble make (lose) money on things like real estate and the ability to lend and borrow money. Now land is a fine thing to get into, but why not develop it? Why not put something on that land, like community centers, affordable housing, construction plants?

I don’t know, but it is clear that something has to be done, and America has not been making enough tactile and empirical things in the last twenty years, or more, and it has come back to bite us in the ass. But why should we make anything, when we can just get it so much cheaper from China?

Anyway, back to the point of this post. These members of Congress voted against the bill because they are afraid for their jobs (40% of Dems voted no, and about 66% of republicans voted no, in case anyone was wondering). What, do they think that they will still have their jobs when things go from worse to downright terrible? They’re idiots, cowards, cronies, lackeys, kowtowers, and deserve to lose their jobs. Hell, I’d be for taking their salaries and applying it to social security or education programs. At least there it would be serving a useful purpose.

A Perfect Mess

So while I was trying to stay awake last night, I wandered down to the international television viewing room in the dorm where I live. Sometimes you can find stuff in English, like the other night I watched some of the Metallica documentary Some Kind of Monster, or whatever it’s called. I’ve seen it before, or at least parts, but I can never watch too much of it at once because it just gets super annoying hearing them bitch and moan.

Anyway, last night the only English I could find was CNN, and they were of course talking about the bailout plan. I listened half-heartedly to the Senate and House members as they gave their press conference, and I listened about as intently to the commentary afterwards. But one thing kept coming up, and it gave me such a WTF moment, that I still can’t shake it.

One statement/goal of the bailout that was repeated last night went something like this: If the bailout does not work, the taxpayers will not shoulder the burden. The company’s who benefit from the bailout will have to pay the money back, if it doesn’t work, not the American taxpayer.

Wha?

Seriously, WHA?

If the bailout doesn’t work, the companies have to pay the money back? How is that exactly? These corporations and firms are not going to take the money and sit on it. They are going to use it, i.e, SPEND it. And if the economy does not recover, that money will be spent and gone. How are they supposed to pay it back, if they don’t have it?

Better yet, if they are able to pay it back in some futuristic hypothetical failure of the bailout–why do they need to be bailed out at all? Wouldn’t stand to reason that if they can pay the money back in the event of a failure, that they don’t need the bailout because they already have the money?

I don’t know the specifics of this clause of the deal (I’ve been in Berlin all day after all), but the sentiment was repeated so much last night, that it must be part of the bailout package. It just doesn’t make any sense to me, but then again, not much does these days.