Yang Gang Party in the Greenhouse Loft

I wasn’t familiar with the Greenhouse loft, a wedding venue that was being used for the rally in Chicago. From the outside it looked like a small place but had enough parking for the people coming from out of town. I assumed from the people who were attending the rally that most of them used public transportation, uber, or walked. As I pulled into the garage, I could see a long line of people being checked in, using their cell phones to show the ticket issued to them while I had my tree killing piece of paper.
Being the odd ball at events like these I stuck out like a sore thumb. Wearing a long beard for the purpose of hunting as opposed to the well-groomed hipster crowd I appeared to be the low-class outsider with a cowboy hat on. My North Face Jacket had seen better days and my leather shoes were covered in mud, something the people of Chicago had not seen in a long time.
As the event hall filled up, I kept looking at my clock wondering why it was already running an hour late. Then I was reminded that Chicago is an hour behind and my phone had not adjusted for the time change. A staffer came over and told me the restaurant next door was serving food and drinks for the event. A person could buy a beer at a Yang Rally. Bernie was never this cool. For $5 I picked up a small IPA and slowly sipped the hoppy beverage wondering if it was a good idea if I was driving afterwards. Still time was on my side and I waited.
In the lobby a table was set up where they sold Yang merchandise. Shirts, posters and books were on display and although I had already read Yang’s book the sign said “have Yang sign your book.” I knew one of two things would happen. I would be face to face with hang with nothing for him to sign or I would buy the book and wouldn’t be able to get close to him. On the off chance of a third option I bought a copy and considered it a donation to his campaign.
The crowd waited. The room was packed. The body heat from the crowd hovered over the room and pulsed down on us like a heat lamp in an incubator. Impatience like an egg was about to crack when a girl took the stage asking us to be patient. More people were still coming into the building and the overflow rooms were filling up fast. The man in charge of the Chicago Yang Gang could have passed at a Chicago version of Zach De La Roche with bushy hair and having the crowd chant Yang’s name gearing us up for the main event.
A local teacher took the stage to talk about Yang’s policies, hands shaking and voice stumbling over words I could tell he wasn’t used to such a large crowd of adults paying attention to him. Then came the head of Yang’s campaign, a young man who had been in charge of his schedule from the beginning. He was stalling. The unprepared gibberish lasted long enough for Yang to come out on stage and the crowd forgot about the waiting that had taken place for two and a half hours.
“Andrew Yang, Andrew Yang, Andrew Yang!!!” the crowd hollered as the man took stage. Yang gave high fives to the crowd before saying “Andrew Yang, Chant my name.” It was at this point Yang had the full attention of the crowd. He moved through his talking points like a professional while cracking jokes along the way. At one point, Yang said “I was told I had to go outside of DC to make this issue big enough for politicians to pay attention to. It sounded like a challenge to me so you know what I said, I accept your fucking challenge.” It was this kind of honesty that had drawn me to Yang from the beginning. His no bullshit stance on what was happening across the country and not lying about how to fix it. I finally learned that day what MATH stands for now, Make America Think Harder. I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. If there is one thing that I know about blue collar America its that the last thing they want to do is think more about anything. Put a television in front of them, have a talking head tell them what they want to know, and make sure their bills are paid. That is all they want while people stay off their lawns, anything else is too much for them to bare.
Yang left the stage and disappeared for a bit. The crowd wasn’t sure where to go as we were promised the opportunity to meet Yang, shake hands, and have our books signed. For twenty minutes we hung around the entryway and waited, then the crowd broke and flooded into the overflow room where Yang was standing against the wall surrounded by bodyguards, large black bodybuilding linebackers who could crush a watermelon with their bare hands. I stood to the side hoping to weave my way inside but the crowd was too dense. Phones flashed, books flew through the air, Yang’s MATH hat disappeared and reappeared in the crowd as the minutes passed. Then like, a Kardashian leaving an abortion clinic, Yang was ushered through the crowd, the bodyguards creating a plow tossing people aside and moving Yang to the back door for the fund-raising dinner organized immediately afterwards. I waved my book around, tried to catch his eye but it was a lost cause. Time and luck had run out and my chance was gone. Yang disappeared and the only option I had was to go to my car, find the Old Town Ale House and wallow in my pity about an over-priced book and never being able to shake his hand. Alas, there was still more to enjoy.
To be continued…

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Reading the Classics

A few months ago, I purchased a set of the Harvard Classics, also known at as the five-foot reading list. When the books are stacked, they are five feet tall. So far I have read The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, and the Dialogues of Plato. There are 50 books all together but well over a hundred titles that fill the volumes.
There are two books that cause me to cringe when I think about reading them. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and The Origin of Species by Darwin are some of the longest titles in the series and could be some of the dullest reading I will ever experience. Did Adam Smith consider how to make economics fun when he wrote his book, I doubt it. Stuck on a boat in the Pacific Ocean would be the best place for someone like Darwin to write about some birds out of boredom and accidently write a classic.
I always hated required reading when I was in school but I will point out that having high school students reading old English isn’t the best way to introduce the classics or good literature for that matter. I could not stand The Scarlett Letter and As I Lay Dying was only readable to those who were familiar with southern white trash. I met some of these characters later in life and had moments where I thought “oh I get it now.” I remember thinking to myself that no one could be that dumb and then life proved me wrong. As for the Scarlett Letter I saw more than my fair share of affairs over the years and the only thing missing was the culture of shame that didn’t exist. This kind of behavior had become a new normal in certain work environments.
In order for a great book to have staying power it has to be written in a way that it will hold up a hundred years after it was written. I often think about Gatsby for an example of this, having known men to fake their lifestyles in order to attract women who were not really into them. Since the Harvard Classics were printed in 1909 Gatsby is not on the list along with all the other classics written during the 20th century. I’m sure I can find a list for those later on.
Some of the classics I am having a difficult time with include poetry and plays, something I always considered separate from literature. I can think of a handful of writers who were successful play writes during their lives, A.A. Milne, Tennessee Williams, and Oscar Wilde all paid their bills by writing plays and having them be a success in the local theaters. For most of these men their fame was later remembered from other literary works like The Picture of Dorian Gray and the Winnie the Pooh series.
When I recently read The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter, I learned how Tolkien and Lewis used poetry as a mental exercise for writing. Publishing such works was still common and people could make a living at it if they had talent. These days the readers don’t exist and writing such things is viewed at the intellectual version of writing rap lyrics in the ghetto, except less successful. While I say all of these horrible things about poetry I will admit there is an advantage to those who do it. It will expand vocabulary as you search for the right word for a line. There is a sense of rhythm that is missing from todays books and the only writers who still have this skill are slowly dying off. The symbolism and descriptions used in poetry is something that is missing from todays books. When a person writes a line such as “that morning he was dehydrated and his pee was the same color it would be an hour after taking a multivitamin” they could use a course or two of poetry.
I will eventually read The Wealth of Nations but I will always have in the back of my mind knowing that Smith lived with his mother, without a job, and was catered daily by her as he wrote. He was living the life of royalty with a serf caring for his needs while writing about capitalism. It would be like Ron Jeremy writing a book about celibacy and having it become a huge hit. The most interesting thing about Adam Smith’s book is that it is regarded as the standard for economics, and it would appear he was very bad at it and this was the only beacon of success he had in his life. I’m sure at some point an adult man still living with their parents, playing World of Warcraft or Minecraft, could write the next big book on relationships or personal responsibility. It could happen, I suppose.

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Liar, Liar, pants on F.I.R.E.

If you are one of the people who are surfing the internet looking for information on how to retire early then you have found articles and websites dedicated to the F.I.R.E. movement, Financially Independent Retire Early. Most of these stories feature people who saved a good portion of their income and had enough after a certain period of time to leave their jobs and tour the world or live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere while typing their financial manifestoes.
The biggest lie these websites love to pass along is that anyone can do this. This is the same mentality that had Mitt Romney telling reporters that he thought middle class started at $250,000. The people who have accomplished this goal are in the upper middle class and those who do something similar under that threshold are referred to as bums, no debt but living in poverty.
The other aspect of these stories that people tend to overlook is the obvious advantage that these people have over the majority of the population, inherited wealth, no student loan debt, six figure salaries, or households with two six figure incomes. The message is always the same afterwards, anyone can do this. Not everyone is like you.
I fall into the category of people who make around $35,000 a year. I have good benefits and no debt except for a laptop and a house. The laptop will be paid off in a few months. I am on schedule to pay off the house in 5-6 years, but when it comes to savings there is about $10,000 in various accounts and other assets far from what would be needed to retire early. On my income, the odds of having enough to retire even at 65 is about 1 in a bazillion. The sad reality is that 52% of Americans don’t have enough in savings to pay an unexpected $500 bill and only 62% of the population that can work does work. That means 38% of working age individuals are either retired, disabled, unemployed, or choose not to work. Translate the numbers into what it really means and most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck with no future in sight.
Is early retirement truly feasible for the average American, no. to say otherwise is to feed hope to those that are already seeking answers to a better life. Does this mean that Americans shouldn’t try to better their situations and live a more meaningful life, no. There are resources available to live a financially secure life even on a lower income. It takes some work, but if one really tries hard enough, they can get out of debt and take control of their lives where others have failed. Dave Ramsey has his famous book Total Money Makeover that is very effective if one follows the principles in it.
Stressed caused by finances can cause people to make bad choices and spiral further into debt instead of climbing out. So, making changes to better one’s situation or finding a solution to that feeling of hopelessness is important. This article isn’t saying there isn’t something to learn from these people that retired early, good for them. What I am saying is that here and there we can find things to take from their experiences to make our lives better. For example, Mr. Money Mustache was able to retire early, at the age of 30. While this is impossible for most of us, what we can learn is how he is able to live on only $25,000 a year with a household of 4. He rides a bike to work and other places around town. His house is paid off, something most of us neglect doing because payments are “low.” He eats at home most days and the wife and him rarely go out for drinks or dinner.
While it may appear appropriate to blame others for our situation, there is one thing we all can take away from these stories, the responsibility of our personal situations comes down to us and how we handle it. We should, under no circumstances, wait for some financial messiah to come save us. We are the masters of our own choices and when we eat out, buy some luxury item we can’t afford or buy a house that is out of our price range we are the ones who put ourselves in that situation. We can’t blame the realtor for telling us we can afford it, or the car salesman for telling us that a seven-year payment plan is really good for an automobile. We are the ones who should know better. Let’s face it, if we really wanted to stick it to the man we would live frugally and watch as the stock market took a big dump in everyone’s portfolios and laugh as people in three pieces suits applied for part time jobs at the local Starbucks and asked if they have benefits for new employees.

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71Republic, Teaching Economics While NOT Understanding it

I read an article today written by Atilla Sulker called “No Andrew Yang, Technology Is Not Killing Jobs.” One should not be surprised to find that such an ignorant article was written by a high school student and depends on Patreon to pay what ever Fortnite bills he might have. Getting past his young age, Atilla tried to argue that technology creates more jobs than it eliminates. I don’t know how much experience Atilla has in the job market but I would guess it isn’t much.
My first job doesn’t exist anymore. I was a bagger at a grocery store when I was in high school. A few years after I left that job and started college that job no longer existed. Other jobs that disappeared from that grocery store includes the people working the bottle return stand, now a series of machines managed part time by one of the stock boys. The normal Sunday shopping would see twenty lanes open for check out all day long. The last Sunday I went shopping I saw four cashiers working at the store’s peak hours and a long line at both self-checkout lanes. The army of cart retrieval boys who would be in the parking lot was replaced with one guy and a “Quick Cart” robot that pushes up to thirty carts at a time back to the main entrance. 25-30% of the jobs this supermarket once had are now gone.
Over the last twenty years the jobs that technology replaced eliminated jobs from the market permanently. With every wave of invention, the participation numbers of Americans declined with the majority of those lost workers leaving the work force permanently. Currently, the US job force is 62% of the population. As the baby boomers continue to lose their jobs to automation, they will choose to leave the work force, retiring years earlier, and those jobs are not opening up to the younger generation coming into the workforce. Atilla, good luck finding a job in journalism when you graduate.
At the Library I work for we have several volunteers who once worked for the Kalamazoo Gazette. The news paper is only printed three times a week now and the majority of their material is found online. What was once a powerhouse of media is now a small office with twenty people writing their witty little click bate adds and offering the poor examples of journalism that litter the internet. Journalist, editors, and photographers now spend their hours sorting through donated books hoping for the day that they might see a job opening at the library they volunteer for.
Technology is killing jobs and it’s doing more than that, it’s taking away meaning from people’s lives. Suicide and overdoses now outnumber deaths from car accidents in the United States. I lost two cousins to both of these in the span of a year. Whatever jobs that are created when trucks start driving themselves, food service is replaced by robots, trees are cut down by machines, and people start checking out their own groceries at the store are going to be such a small fraction of the jobs that are lost you will have massive unemployment, an increase in suicide, and more people turning to drugs to deal with their pain. Add the fact that wages have not increased since the 1970’s to match inflation and that student loan debt is now at 1.2 trillion dollars we are now at a tipping point where the American workers can not support themselves in this economy.
One part of Atilla’s article that made me laugh was the idea that if the production of bolts was automated the abundance of those bolts would create jobs in places like automotive. I live in Michigan, those jobs, installing the bolts in cars, is automated now. I can let my uncle who worked for GM for thirty years tell you about that. Forced to retire early with a fraction of his pension he is one of those people I mentioned that left the work for years before he should have because there were no jobs for him to move to in his field.
Atilla may be onto something. He noticed Andrew Yang popping up in the news and heard his message and like the pseudo journalist infesting the internet he saw a click bate opportunity and took it. Atilla may have a future but he is ignoring the fact that the majority of America’s work force has no future in the current economy. You can help support Atilla and 71Republic on Patreon because automation and the internet killed real journalism in America and producing click-bate they are not directly paid for is the new shitty business model plaguing the industry. This is why we have Trump for president.

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In my own little bubble

I stopped watching the news about two weeks ago. YouTube has a habit of loading my feed with several news stories that I have to scroll through and I’m starting to hate it. I only subscribe to a few channels and besides posting my own videos I don’t know if it’s worth watching anymore. I don’t know if my stress level is any better than before since my daughter has woken up early every day that I stay up late to work on my next book. Today is Friday and the lack of sleep is piling up.
Andrew Yang is the only politician I have been supporting this election and he is the only one that doesn’t comment on the recent news events as part of his election campaign. I follow his post on Instagram and make snotty comments to the Russian trolls that have started to pop up. You know when your candidate is a threat when the trolls start to appear.
Audiobooks have become my vise these days. Last month I read The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria and even thought it was written ten years ago it still applies today. Roughing it by Mark Twain gave some insight into the world of America’s greatest writer. The David Foster Wallace Reader was a struggle like any of his books are only in this case they were lumped into one volume. The Inklings was insightful with the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis explaining the many reasons why these two are still read today.
I awoke with a massive headache yesterday that never went away. It could have been a lack of water, maybe a lack of coffee, or not enough sleep which I need more of in my older state. This morning it was gone and along with a tall glass of water I also consumed two glasses of milk and standing next to me is the first cup of coffee I have had all week.
There was a pleasant surprise waiting for me in my banking app where I found my tax return had been deposited. Most of it was transferred into savings and the leftovers stayed in checking as a buffer for any future “oops” that might come my way. I don’t have a house payment due until April and while I would like to be further ahead and have more money going towards the principle a new washer and dryer ended up on my plate, both at separate times. The proverb of “Shit Happens” is alive and well and while I can sit here and complain the bright side is that I had the money to take care of these problems. 52% of Americans don’t have the money for an unexpected $500 bill. Thankfully I am somewhere in the 48%, and I would like to stay there.

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The Second Coming Civil War?

On January 1 of 2019, James Weasley Rawles wrote a post for his Survivalblog.com about a coming Civil War. Unfortunately, people are taking this poorly argumented post to heart. Prepper channels all over YouTube shared the message with their own interpretations and crappy excuses for why their personal wet dreams will come true. One channel, Praxis Homesteading and Survival Skills, created a video called “USA Food Riots Within 60 Days” using the current government shut down as an excuse to blame poor people for the coming riots they predict. Of course, the logic behind this is the lack of funding for programs like WIC and food stamps, which I would like to point out are NOT affected by the partial government shutdown. While Rawles doesn’t discuss this argument in his essay he instead takes a religious tone instead.
The history book was thrown out for this essay, making claims that the FBI was once nonpartisan and could uphold the law without discrimination. J Edgar Hoover would be wetting himself with this praise if he was here today. Rawles comes across like a Muslim Cleric in post invasion Iraq talking about a war between the godly and ungodly, whatever the hell that means? Then he caters to the Trumpets pointing out the landmass map of red and blue states while complaining about the colors used for the demographics. I can’t figure out what kind of religious purge he is envisioning, or why he thinks 87% of the population that label themselves at Christian are being oppressed and unrepresented. I guess when you live in your own world, isolating yourself from the rest of the country you start to think that people who are different are a danger and need to be “taken care of.”
I have seen this before in my own life. People who are not satisfied with how their lives turned out trying to find someone to blame for their own mistakes in life. If you work in a factory and your job is shipped overseas, well you blame the poor or immigrants. Another school shooting it must be those gun hating liberals trying to take our weapons. Doesn’t matter the shooter came from a conservative home where guns were readily available. Rawles has become the front man of the conservative blame game. Why shouldn’t he? If works great for other outlets like Blaze and FOX news. Give your viewers someone to hate and sent them on their way, hell they will even throw money your way to keep hearing the message. It’s like their own person self help guru feeding the flames of their discontent and pointing them in the direction of their own self destruction. For a group who talks about fiscal responsibility and moral leadership both are lost somewhere on the horizon of their past.
Post that have followed the new years essay have been about funding for the website and asking for money. Rawles won’t use Patreon and instead ask for cheques to be sent to help keep things up and running. Survivalblog.com has become the southern welfare states of America, hating gays, the poor, and minorities while not seeing they are what they attack. In the words of Ron Swanson “people are idiots” and the last day has shown me how right he was.

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A Century of Loss (or All the Dogs will Die!)

With Earth Day come and gone I am reminded at the path our species is taking. I went to the celebration downtown and left disappointed, more so than when I arrived, at what was really a party for middle-aged baby boomers to brag about their high mileage cars and the protest they have been attending over the decades. One doesn’t have to look hard to find that what they accomplished was little, if anything. There was a sense of nostalgia for the 60s as I looked at people with rainbow-colored shirts who had not bathed in days telling people how they were working to save the planet, while driving god knows how many miles to attend a mostly dead event. After a quick round through the park I was done.

Earlier in the week I read a story online about the end of Syrian tobacco and how it would no longer exist once the last of the blends were sold from the online retailers and brick and mortar stores. This may sound like whining to some and in one case i was called a white capitalist pig for bringing it up. “With all the death and destruction that happens over there you are complaining about tobacco?” Sure he had a point but what I was trying to point out is the loss of a species that may never be seen again. Sure, it is tobacco, not food, not a medicine, but still it represents something that is lost from our world. Over the coming years we will start to hear about crops being lost, species of insects and birds that will never been seen again, and lakes that disappear from the landscape. In the coming generations there will be animals and food that our descendents will only be able to read about.

I watched a documentary about a chef who was trying to reconstruct a recipe from a hundred year old cook book. many of the technics had been lost over the years but slowly they were able to piece together the ingredients and make what was close to the original meal. There is one difference between this story and what is happening in the world, the ingredients will be lost forever. I learned on earth day that the sugar maples that i grew up with in my yard and the syrup i savored on my pancakes will no longer grow in my home state of Michigan. Many of the birds I listened to outside my bedroom window will be gone. The insects I watched crawling on the plants in the garden will no longer exist. My daughter might be the last member of my family to experience these things that have been a staple of our life here, the end of an era with unknown repercussions in the future.

Many people were bragging about their electric cars at the Earth Day event, talking about the need to convert our power sources to renewable, their point was to boast about being ahead of the curve on climate change while they charged their cars on electricity produced by coal and natural gas. They didn’t consider the power it took to manufacture the car, the oil that went into the tires, the fuel to transport the materials for the batteries over the oceans so that they could enjoy a vehicle with less guilt associated with it.

While my city discusses how to waste a 30 million dollar gift given to it by donors the only things I have seen done with the money was provide free WIFI in the park and the planned removal of a racist fountain that is crumbling to pieces and should be destroyed since it provides no social or historical merit. There was one obvious use for the money that they could have done, one that would provide financial security for the city and helped the planet a little bit. The city has several large plots of land that were once the factories for paper and automotive manufacturing, contaminated land that they are constantly talking about “cleaning up” but instead sits there unused. Why they didn’t consider putting a solar farm on these lands is beyond me. providing the majority of the city’s power, reducing the tax burden on its citizens and providing jobs for locals, it is a win win all around and yet they are more concerned about a fountain crumbling in the park. Priorities are, needless to say, fucked up when it comes to our political appointees and I have to wonder why these people stay in these positions as long as they have.

With choices like these I hope you come to understand why my vision of the future is bleak at best. Instead of talking about climate change and pushing the agenda that we need to discuss we are preoccupied with where Donald Trump put his dick before the election. The last male white rhino died this year and more species are disappearing from the planet than we can talk about. Maybe if we changed the discussion to a different topic we can make a difference. My suggestion “all the dogs are going to die!” get the dog lovers involved, they tend to care more about their dogs than their own lives or the lives of other humans for that matter. So when talking about climate change start out with “all the dogs are going to die!” If you have a friend who smokes a pipe tell them “all the good blends will go extinct if we don’t solve climate change.” Those guys, myself included are already concerned about some of the big loses we ahve had in our hobby over the past year. Thanks FDA, you don’t know how to regulate opiates but you have become concerned about an ancient hobby that built this country? Again, messed up priorities.

I do my best when it comes to helping with the problem but then policy sometimes contradicts what is best for everyone. My place of employment offers a reimbursement for parking spaces downtown but no incentives for people who walk or ride their bikes. While I live less than a mile away I am told to use my parking money or lose it, weird right? In my garden I grow heirloom plants that may go extinct with the changing climate, saving the seeds each year in the hopes they will keep growing and not die out half way through the season like some of them have.

Today I ordered a can of the Syrian blend that will be no more. Yes, i know that by having it shipped I will have added to my carbon footprint for my own selfish desires. My goal is to sit down, open the can, smell the aroma, taste the flavor, and write the most accurate description i can muster so that those in the future will know what it was like to experience something that no longer exist. Think of it as cataloging a vintage of wine that has come and gone. It’s all I can do, document what this world was like and hope that people care in the future while blaming us for ruining everything.

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