Archive for November, 2013

Anti-Man Goes to Work Part VII: A Sobering Reminder

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Every so often an event occurs that inspires an introspective reflection on the fragility of life.  These reminders come in many shapes and sizes for myself, as I imagine they do for most people.  It was over this past weekend that I was given the opportunity to reflect on the sense of purpose, and what some people will do when it is ripped out from beneath their feet.  Last Friday a man was found hanging from a crane in a warehouse building at the compound I am currently employed.  The death of this man is currently being investigated as a suicide – and many believe it is linked to the recent layoffs and cutbacks at the plant.

 

 
Jobs will come and go, but there ultimately comes a time when losing employment can result in a serious deprivation of purpose and stability.  The deceased in this stark example was fifty-seven years-old, and likely closing in on retirement.  If he was in fact laid off, it is understandable to experience the crippling feeling of uselessness that must come with an unwelcome transition.  Many of the plant workers here used to be among some of the most well paid industrial laborers in the country – but due to cutbacks the financial security of the job is vanishing.  To come to work this morning knowing that a man purposefully ended his own life some few hundred yards away from my office, is a wake-up call to the loyalty we falsely place in the Man.

 

 
We like to think that if we are hard-working responsible people, this will ultimately pay-off for us in the shape of a comfortable 401k or pension, leading to a comfortable retirement.  This is our first shortcoming as a society that has grown too trusting of large companies.  We must learn that we cannot rely on these companies to make decisions that are beneficial to personal development, that is not how things work despite what we would like to think.  Things like honesty, dedication, and loyalty are all thrown out the window when it comes to making a budget work.  Maybe the man who died was always on-time, or even early, worked overtime, and even covered for his co-employees.  For thirty years this man dedicated his life to working for this company, and is rewarded with a likely lowball severance package and a kick out the door.  In this case the valuable characteristics of the employee do not reflect on the bottom-line of the company.  The same qualities we look for and value in one another are not valued at the highest level when it comes to making budget decisions.  In this instance the deceased employee might have been the hardest worker for thirty years – but the reality is that his job can be performed cheaper and more efficiently if relocated or outsourced.  We like to think that our hard work will eventually pay off, but sometimes our noble ideals fall short in the place of realism.

 

 
Every morning now when I pull into the lot to park my car – and trudge through the wind and rain to the office – I’ll be thinking of this man.  Not a day will go by where I wonder if my own job impacted the company’s decision to cut his position.  There won’t be a single week that goes by where I don’t ponder what could have been done differently to spare this man’s life.  Chances are, there were more factors at play than just possibly losing a job – but we will never know for certain.  All I do know is that a man, a coworker, took his own life at my place of employment – and for the most part, nobody here will speak a single word about it.

 

 

-Spencer James-

Pondering Obamacare on Election Day

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Voting_United_States

 

 

After I cast my vote on November 5th I had a drink with a friend.  When the topic of voting in the recent election came up he said to me, “voting is for suckers.”  I had a chuckle to myself and soon the topic changed, but I found myself pondering his words long after the discussion.  I knew that his opinion reflected the attitude of a sizable minority in our country, a minority that seems to be growing.

 

I appreciate my right to vote but the more I reflected the more I felt and understood that my vote mattered little, if at all.  Admittedly I did not do a ton of homework on the candidates; much of my knowledge of local politics was based upon the recommendations of friends and family.  While I have made more efforts to educate myself about local candidates as I have gotten older, it is a priority that ranks with learning to work on my own car.  I felt I had to vote because I am disgusted with the efficiency of our government and the path our nation seems to be headed down. 

 

Upon looking at the ballot I was surprised that nearly half of the candidates ran unopposed.  When I was thinking about the choice between two options, who were in an actual race, it seemed relatively unimportant.  Electing a local judge seemed frivolous compared to the enormous cluster-fuck our government has become.  I was considering the fact that the Federal government completely shut down while people who were “democratically” voted into congress sat home collecting paychecks and toasting champagne to the good life (50% of Congress is part of the wealthiest 1%).  

 

It is not a functioning democracy when the government action does not reflect the will of the voters, a brief case in this point is the campaign promises of Barack Obama back in 2008 when he was a dazzling young politician.  I voted for him for several reasons, but mostly because he claimed that he would radically overhaul the healthcare system.    After gaining office, partisan politics quickly dispelled the hope that a single-payer system would even be a possibility, and as conciliation he promised to include a public option as part of his healthcare reform and polls showed that as much as 77 percent of the population was in favor of the public option.  Ultimately what we got was the Affordable Care Act (nicknamed “Obamacare”), which was a watered-down, 2000 page miasma that almost nobody, aside from possibly a few special interest groups, wants.  What we have looks nothing like the original proposals.  By adding roughly 50 million more paying customers, it is, in practice, a hand-job for private insurance companies.

 

I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 because of his campaign promises, but even when the candidate I elected made it to office he did not follow through on his promises, which made me feel betrayed and powerless.  There is obviously less incentive for citizens to vote if the proposals that their favored candidates champion do not go through.  If the people who I vote for eventually make it into office and do not do what they say, how much authority do we have over our government?  Voting for Obama has had a direct impact on my life, but not one I had expected.

 

I have to switch my health insurance, again, since my state-subsidized plan (Healthy New York, which was difficult and time consuming to enrollin) will be terminated as of the end of the year, because of Obamacare.  Obamacare has been a nothing but pain in the ass so far, the website has been tedious rather than helpful, when it has been functioning at all.  It looks like my insurance premiums will actually increase!  Aside from the pre-existing conditions clause most of Obamacare seems marginally useful, at best.  But what else can I do but voice my opinion, go to the polls, and feel like a sucker?

 

Loren

Blog Update: Former US Soldiers Hired by Mexican Cartels

Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Nine  months ago I published an article for CTM called The Shadow War, a behind the scenes look at some of the darker consequences of the War on Drugs. In that story I mentioned that the US media has greatly downplayed the country’s involvement in Mexico’s struggle against organized crime, and specifically the recruitment of soldiers by the cartels. Since that piece was published, there has been new evidence suggesting that an end to the war is nowhere in sight, and America is being pulled slowly deeper and deeper into the weeds.

 

At the time the article was posted, information was still coming to light concerning Michael Apodaca, a U.S. Army private who was hired as an assassin by the Juarez cartel. Since that time, Apodaca has been convicted of his involvement in the killing, and is now serving a life sentence for the hit. The young American soldier was the public face of a push by the cartels  to recruit skilled soldiers.

 

A confidential FBI memo concerning criminal recruitment from beyond the border has recently been released, and indicates that the bureau has been tracking the recruitment of veterans as early on as 2010. But like all great criminal organizations, the cartels have begun changing their business model in response to law enforcement. Right now the primary concern is not that the cartels are continuing to employ former US soldiers, though that may still be happening, it is that they are now pursuing new criminal alliances. The FBI report notes that the Zetas, one of the most feared and powerful of the cartels, is now looking to partner with American gangs instead of skilled soldiers for their muscle within the US.The change in tactics has been described as such:

“In the past, accurate FBI reporting indicated Los Zetas previously focused its recruitment on members with prior specialized training… However, current FBI reporting indicates that Los Zetas is recruiting and relying on non-traditional, non-military trained associates.” (1)
The important thing to point out about this push is that the cartels really have no standard way of getting their dirty work done, they do whatever is necessary.  If the DEA picks up on one method of trafficking, then a change will be made overnight to get drugs over the border.  A recent hit orchestrated by the Cartel seems to support claims that change towards street violence in the US has already happened.  Just this May, in the quiet town of Southlake Texas, Juan Jesus Guerrero Chapa (a known lawyer for the cartels) was shot dead in his Range Rover during the middle of the day. The report suggests a kill that anyone familiar with gang violence would recognize. A car pulled up, and someone with a black mask fired a pistol through the driver-side window. The case remains unsolved, and  it doesn’t take a seasoned detective to make the connection between Mexican organized crime and American muscle.

 

 

-J.A. Young

 

(1) http://fusion.net/abc_univision/story/los-zetas-recruiting-americans-2010-fbi-document-shows-22570

 

The Listless Ship: America Lost at Sea

Monday, November 4th, 2013

 

When was the last time you heard good news on the television?  Each day there is something horrible for the world to talk about and lately very few topics do not include the United States of America.  We have long been the lynchpin of the globe, standing firm and resolute when other nations would not.  However that facade of toughness and drive is beginning to show cracks and signs of collapse.  Our government just sent out a red flag to the world when it shut down for three weeks—not to mention the revelations about our international snooping policies.  The bridges are burning fast and the country is functioning like a captain-less ship as our President hides behind the curtains with denial and lies.  As the world begins to desperately look for a leader, the supposed heir apparent is nowhere to be found.

 

Barack Obama has been “leader of the free world” for five years now, and the last six months have certainly been some of the most trying.  Think back to government contractor Edward Snowden dropping bombshell after bombshell of sensitive information regarding the USA’s secretive NSA spying program.  Many of these “leaks” are still becoming known, as it was recently revealed that the NSA has secretly tapped the mobile phone of German leader Angela Merkel.  President Obama has since stated that he had no knowledge of the program and did not give the order to tap her phone, but conflicting reports suggest otherwise.  Perhaps I should mention his noted absence and stubbornness during the three-week government shutdown over his own healthcare law.  I understand the need to stand firm because one small part of the house should not be able to cripple the government, but this happened nonetheless.  The bill to keep the government open was eventually signed and passed, but not a moment too soon.

 
Might we also note the repeated attacks Obama has faced regarding the constituents of Obamacare, and the obvious shortcomings of the website.  The project has run quite significantly over budget, like most government programs, and healthcare.gov is undergoing serious reform.  We can even extend our conversation to the misleading reports on Benghazi, Syria, and foreign drone strikes as well.  Often our President has been invisible when the country seems to need him most.  Many republicans and pundits are calling for impeachment—but at this point, is there anyone else in the world we would rather have?  As I see it there is no leading contender for either party at this moment with 2016 on the somewhat near horizon.  Unless a prospective candidate arises in the next year there is trouble in store for everyone.

 

 

It is perhaps even more troubling that Obama still gallivants along with a sense of smug accomplishment despite his relatively nonexistent presence.  At a recent appearance in Massachusetts to promote Obamacare the President was interrupted by people protesting the Keystone Pipeline.  Instead of acknowledging their concerns, Obama brushed their comments aside and responded rather nonchalantly, “This was the wrong rally!”  We are all aware that this country is being led by seriously misguided politicians who do not have our best interest at heart.  But to see such and unconcerned and ghostlike leader of the free world terrifies me.  It is even scarier when one considers the other leaders in the world and the candidates to lead the U.S. in the future.

 

 

-Spencer James-