Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Welfare Sucks

For those who may not know, I've been working in workforce development for about two-and-a-half
years of my adult life.  And for the even less initiated, workforce development (WFD) is sort of a branch of social work.  As the name suggests, WFD deals in helping people who are unemployed--many of whom have found themselves unemployed because of some barrier in their lives--find employment and to attain/regain self-sufficiency.

For a year and some change, I was a job coach for people with disabilities.  Las year, I left that position to return to working with TANF recipients.  Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is more commonly known as "welfare."  It refers specifically to monthly cash assistance given to families who meet certain income requirements.  Before we continue, readers must understand that TANF has nothing to do with food stamps or medicaid.

I truly believe in the importance of my work because, presently, we are faced with a very serious problem that not many Americans think about: third and fourth generation poverty.  We're talking about young adults whose parents were on welfare, their parents' parents were on welfare, and their great-grandparents were on welfare.  For these families, welfare is as much a way of life as the idea of getting a job, working your ass off, and supporting your family by the sweat of your brow is a way of life for most Americans.

It would seem that those who defend welfare and welfare recipients believe that most welfare recipients are just honest, hard-working Americans who are down on their luck.  But those are people who have never worked with the TANF population, and I am not one of those people.

While it's true that many of my clients have very real barriers that make it difficult for them to secure long-term employment, for most of my clients the only thing truly holding them back is themselves.  Their attitudes towards work, responsibility, and how to conduct oneself in public make it nearly impossible for many of them to land a decent job, especially since most of them are unwilling to change.


Believe it or not, this is how many of my male
clients would dress if I didn't tell them how to
dress appropriately for the workplace.
What attitudes do I speak of?  Well, for starters, I've heard this one on several occasions:  "This is not enough money!  I shouldn't have to work for only $400 a month."  Another variation of that is their response when we tell them their cash will be cut off because they didn't participate in their monthly work hours: "I don't understand why I have to do this."  I'm not exaggerating, either--these are true stories.  Many of my clients truly believe that they do not, and should not, have to work for their benefits.  Some of them even call it "slavery."

Many of my clients do not even possess a basic concept of responsibility, or what it means to be a responsible adult.  Just last week, two of my clients found out that they are pregnant again.  Both of them already have one child each, and since they are my clients that means they can't afford to take care of the children they already have.  Despite the fact that they know that they can get birth control for free at Planned Parenthood, they simply don't bother.  But that's okay, because the system will help them take care of their children.

Lastly, some of them can't even conduct themselves in an adult manner when they're out in public.  Many of them act like petulant children when their cash assistance is cut off due to their intransigence.  Often times they will try to pull on your heart strings in order to sucker you in to giving them a break.  Then when they discover that I don't give anyone a break, they become angry.  That anger is quickly met with scolding from me. 

Yes, I have to scold them like children--because they act like children.  They don't know any better.  Growing up, no one taught them a lick about treating others with respect.  They were only taught that they themselves are deserving of respect regardless of how they treat others.  It's no wonder that these clients of mine have never held a job for more than a year.  Hell, some of them can't even hold a job for more than a few months.

So why does welfare suck?  It's because of the people.  Welfare itself is a good program for those who fall on hard times.  But the problem is that an overwhelming majority of welfare recipients are serving a lifetime of hard times, and for whatever reason, they're totally fine with it.  They live in squalor, they raise their children like animals, they can't even muster the strength to be polite for 15 consecutive minutes, and guess what: they're all totally fine with all of that.

Some people think that welfare provides a disincentive to work.  I can tell you right now that is not the case.  Where I work, we tell every client that comes through the door that even a minimum wage, full-time job will triple their monthly income, and they can still receive food stamps and medicaid until they find a job that earns them more money.  Even knowing that, they're still content to stay on welfare until time runs out (Fact: TANF has a 5 year lifetime maximum).

They're a whole different breed.  They simply do not care about anything, and they bring down the whole system.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Case In Point: Hypocrisy about Race and Movie Casting

Orphan Annie was a white character.  Heimdall was a white character in the Thor comics.  Johnny
Storm was white in the Fantastic Four comics.  In Spider-Man, the villain Electro is white.  What do all of these characters have in common?

They've all had African-American actors cast in these roles, despite the fact that the characters are white, and everyone is told that we're supposed to be okay with that.

Okay, so maybe race doesn't really matter all that much when it comes to characters.  Afterall, being white is not really essential to their identity, so it's okay to cast non-white actors in these roles.

Well here's an interesting little factoid for you.  In the upcoming movie Pan--which is based on the story of Peter Pan--the role of the Indian princes Tiger Lilly has been cast to Rooney Mara.  Rooney Mara is most known for her role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Here's the kicker: she's white, and people have a problem with that.

Check this out.

So, let me get this straight.  Although it's totally fine to cast people of color in the roles of white characters, it's not okay to cast white people in the roles of people of color.  Do I have it right?

You see, in my article from the other day where I griped about Johnny Storm being retconned as black, I made the assertion that people would make a big fuss if a white person was cast in the role of a black character.  Some people disagreed with me on that.  But here we are, a white woman cast in the role of a person of color (mind you, a FICTIONAL character), and that's simply not okay.

I heard somewhere--maybe it was one of the commenters here on CFGM--that it's okay to cast people of color in the roles of traditionally white characters, because those characters' identities are not really based on their race.  Do we see the implication here?  If you're black, Asian, Native American, or whatever, race is a big part of your identity and therefore should not be meddled with.  But if you're white, then that means nothing.

I understand that people of color historically have been marginalized by white people, but do we honestly think that racial pride, and the supression of racial pride, is the appropriate solution to greater harmony?

For the most part, it has already been ingrained in the minds of most white people.  Speaking for myself, the notion of being proud of being white is a foreign thought.  It makes no sense to me, because, well, I'm white.  I didn't choose to be white, I was just born that way.  I suppose that there are certain cultural things particular to being white, but I don't really see it that way.

What's more is that under no circumstances would I ever be permitted to say "I'm proud to be white," in a public forum, lest I be branded a racist and a hatemonger.  My entire life, society has taught me that being proud of my race is offensive and racist.  I've been taught that the color of my skin doesn't make me special.  If anything, the color of my skin should make me feel ashamed for the transgressions of my like-skinned ancestors.

A friend of mine, who happens to be black, said to me once in reference to women "dude, we're men.  Women blame us for everything."  I said to him, "well, how do you think I feel?  I'm a white man.  Everyone blames me for everything.  I'm blamed for sexism, slavery, white supremacy, racism in general.  And as luck would have it, I'm also Catholic.  So I get blamed for the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Conquistadors, and pedophilic clergymen."

"Because I am a white, Catholic male, I'm blamed for over one-and-a-half thousand years of sexism, and brutal oppression of everyone not white.  Even though I've spent a good portion of my life fighting for social justice, none of that matters.  Because of the color of my skin, everyone's suffering is ultimately all my fault."

My friend thought that was pretty funny, because of course I was being facetious, but the sad part about it is that this is actually going on.  People of color are taught to be proud of the color of their skin, and white people are taught to be ashamed of it.  This goes to show you that when given the opportunity, most humans will do their damndest to marginalize "the other."

To anyone who is a person of color, I have one bit of advice for you.  If you truly desire social equality, if you want to stop being discriminated against because of the color of your skin, then you need to stop believing that the color of your skin makes you special.  If I'm not special because I'm white, then you're not special because you're not white.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Big Data" bigger than NSA let on, no one with a brain surprised

When Ed Snowden originally leaked the classified documents that exposed the NSA's "meta data"
collection program--the NSA insisted that the collection did not include recorded phone conversations.  The claim was that "meta data" just provided call information such as when the call was made, on what carrier, and to what country that call went to.  They balked when nearly everyone on the planet accused them of recording the phone calls of innocent American citizens which, by the way, is 150,000% illegal.

But today, the fears of any American with a brain were substantiated.  Through NSA's MYSTIC and RETRO programs, the NSA is able to retrieve and listen to a recorded phone conversation made by any person in the U.S. up to one month in the past.  Essentially, 100% of American citizen phone calls are recorded and kept in data storage for a month.  I just have one question:

When will all of the charges against Snowden be dropped so he can return to the US unaccosted?

I find it absolutely baffling that there are still people out there who actually believe Snowden to be a traitor who deserves punishment.  I've heard it all.  "Well, he technically broke the law, and there are committees and processes that handle this sort of thing."  The problem with that is the fact that despite the "committees" and the "processes" in place to handle the malfeasance of the US intelligence community, these illegal programs still came to fruition.

There are two conclusions that we can draw from these revelations.

1.  Congress has completely lost their grip on these agencies, and the folks at the NSA and CIA are essentially allowed to run amok and do whatever they want.  The intelligence oversight committee is so uninterested in anything, that it has unknowingly allowed the NSA to spy on American citizens at-large, an action that is in violation of so many laws that it should make anyone's head spin.

2.  Congress is in on it.  They are fully aware of the illegal activity going on in the NSA, and they're fine with it.  Not only are they fine with it, they are complicit as they have failed to prosecute and punish those who have willfully broken the law.  Their complicity also must run much deeper, because programs like RETRO and MYSTIC don't just spring up over night, and "big data" certainly didn't just manifest itself out of the ether.  It has taken years to develop these programs, and Congress has bankrolled these illegal actions.

Sadly, scenario #2 is more likely to be the truth, and that is precisely why Ed Snowden was justified in doing what he did.  The "secret courts" and the "committees" and the "processes" would never have stopped these programs, and they never would have prosecuted those involved.  One can argue that if these processes truly worked, then these programs would never have existed in the first place.  But Ed Snowden knew--as anyone who has ever worked in intelligence knows--that the secret courts and the committees are just puppet shows.

So what do we do?  Well, let's start with a simple list:

Dianne Feinstein,
California
Chairman

Saxby Chambliss,
Georgia

John D. Rockefeller IV,
West Virginia

Richard Burr,
North Carolina

Ron Wyden,
Oregon

Barbara A. Mikulski,
Maryland

James E. Risch,
Idaho

Mark Udall,
Colorado

Daniel Coats,
Indiana

Mark Warner,
Virginia

Martin Heinrich,
New Mexico

Angus King,
Maine

Marco Rubio,
Florida

Susan Collins,
Maine

Tom Coburn,
Oklahoma

These are the members of the Senate Select Committe on Intelligence.  If justice is to be served, then those who failed to identify and punish the perpetrators should be held accountable.  Not one of these fools stopped what happened, and so far I've not heard a peep out of any of them about working to scrap the illegal programs.

Write letters, make phone calls.  Demand from our representatives that something be done about this assault on American citizens.  And, should you reside in one of these states, for the love of God: Don't Vote for Them!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

News Flash: Johnny Storm Is Not Black

Why didn't we get Denzel
to play him?
I was reading around a week ago or so, and I saw that a new cast for the Fantastic Four reboot was  revealed.  I've never really been a fan of the characters, but something bothered me with the new cast:  the actor playing Johnny Storm is black . . .

Now, at first many of you might be inclined to say "woah!  Jack, do you have a problem with black actors?!  That's incredibly racist of you!"  First: no, I don't have a problem with black actors--or black people for that matter.  And secondly: no, it is not racist of me, and here's why.

I have a serious problem with the new trend of casting actors who do not match the race/ethnicity of the characters from the original source material in some cases.  Let's consider this particular case.  For those who don't know, the story behind Johnny Storm, a.k.a. Human Torch, is that he is the biological brother of the Invisible Girl.  If you notice in the article, the actress playing Invisible Girl is as white as the driven snow.

So now, the writers have to make up some shenaniganry about them being half-siblings, or maybe siblings through adoption.  They could go with some sort of mixed race idea, but it is rare that a mixed child takes the traits entirely of one parent.  I suppose it doesn't really make a difference, but this underscores a serious problem with post-modern American thought.  They don't really care about making a compelling story:  they just didn't want an all-white cast.

I know there's no way to prove that, but what other explanation can there be?  I watched the Les Miserables 25th anniversary concert a couple years ago, and the actor playing the role of Javert was black.  I think the woman playing Fantine was Asian.  Both actors were very talented (especially the actress playing Fantine--amazing voice), but the problem is that the characters themselves are supposed to be white.  In 19th century France, it would have been virtually impossible for a man of African descent being a high-level police inspector in the capital city.  But more importantly, Victor Hugo's character was white.

I've contemplated this for some time now.  I wanted to be sure that my thinking was straight before I voiced this opinion.  I considered the idea that perhaps there is some sort of artistic reasoning behind it.  But more than likely, it's more about diversity and inclusion than it is about art.  Considering the Fantastic Four film will likely have a terrible script and will probably fare no better than the previous F4 attempt, I highly doubt the decision to cast a black Johnny Storm had anything to do with art.  A majority of Hollywood writers churn out steaming piles of garbage on a regular basis, so forgive me if I have little faith in the artistic integrity of modern film writing.

It is not about art: it is about agenda.  Liberalmerica wants to send a message: people of color are allowed to play characters that are traditionally white.  It's sort of like the whole "Black Jesus," thing.  For a while, many people were saying "Jesus was black."  I understand what they were trying to say, that the common depiction of Jesus being a white man is historically inaccurate, but Jesus was not black, either.  Jesus was of Middle Eastern descent, so if anything, Jesus would have looked more Arab than anything.


He would make a great Jim!  Or maybe
we could cast him as Shaft!
If you don't believe this is about agenda, then consider this: would it be socially acceptable for a white actor to play a traditionally black character?  What if we got Benedict Cumberbatch to play Jim in an adaptation of Huckleberry Finn?  Or how about casting Michael Fassbender as Black Panther?  We know what the public outcry would be:  "These characters are supposed to be black!"


Here's the deal: Jesus was Middle Eastern, Jim in Huckleberry Finn is black, and Johnny Storm is white.  If you can convince me that any of that can or should be changed in the name of art, then I'll take it all back.  But don't be fooled if you think a black Human Torch has *anything* to do with art.