Sunday, February 28, 2016

Bruce Rauner Wants to Make You Crazy

Illinois governor Bruce Rauner recently proposed his new plan for the Illinois state budget to cut mental health spending by nearly 15%, around $82 million. Rauner's proposal to cut $1.5 billion from Medicaid services has mental health advocated enraged. Alexa James, the executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Chicago is one of the many critics of this plan. She claims, "In the long run [cutting mental health program funding] is going to end up being more expensive. All we're going to see is an increase in ER visits and incarceration rates."

Mark Heyrman, a board member at Mental Health America of Illinois, agreed. Mark argued that because Medicaid distribution rates for providers (such as doctors and hospitals) that they are losing money on every client. He claimed, "All of the mental health providers are basically hanging on by a thread, and Rauner [has] proposed  in cuts to Medicaid. So it's disingenuous to say, 'Look, it's all going to be solved by Medicaid, but I'm going to cut $1.5 billion out of Medicaid.'"

Rauner's plan to cut mental health aide will lead to increased rates of violence, incarceration, and homelessness. It is true that Illinois is in need of budget cuts, with a deep state deficit, but mental health care is not the answer. Medicaid provides invaluable services to many Illinois community members, and therefore increased state revenues is one way to avoid such damaging budget cuts. Mental health care affects all aspects of our community and therefore it should be protected. 

For more information, check out this video from a mental health advocate rally against Rauner's proposal:  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Attention Walmart Shoppers

In Louise Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich works many low-wage jobs to test what it's like to have to survive in poverty. One of such jobs was as a Walmart "associate", folding and unpacking carts of tried-on cloths for for $7.00 an hour, eleven hours a day. What she discovered here was that in large corporations, such as Walmart, workers are suppressed by corporate strategies that trap them into unfair wages, health benefits, etc.

One such method, as Ehrenreich learns during an eight our long training session, is the demonizing of the idea of unionization. For example, various associates told her in thus training session of this sense of family all Walmart employees have, leading Ehrenreich to the conclusion that Walmart was trying to convince these new employees that, "Once, long ago, unions had a place in American society, but they 'no longer have much to offer workers'"(145). She continues, "Walmart is booming; unions are declining: judge for yourself" (145). Unions aide workers and establish a fundamental basis at which a large corporation such as Walmart must meet. Unions make workers life easier and by convincing and tricking workers into accepting bellow average wages and benefits such as healthcare. While working there, she explains, "I feel oppressed too, by the mandatory gentility of Walmart culture" (156). And with little to no benefits, Ehrenreich explains Walmart employees are, "real-life charity cases, maybe even shelter dwellers" (175).

The codependent relationship between blue collar and white collar workers in such companies have become a problem that needs to be addressed. Unionization, raising the minimum wage, programs such as Medicare, are all things that can help low-wage workers and establish their rights. No longer shall Walmart, "rather just keep hiring new people [rather] than treating the ones it has decently" (184).

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Let's Talk About Privilege

Barbra Ehrenreich, a successful upper-middle class journalist, set out to expose what poverty is truly like by diving headfirst into it. What she discovered, as written in her book Nickel and Dimed, is that in poverty, "starting conditions are everything"(27). 

This, sadly, is a hard reality many of the United State's 46 million people in poverty. As Ehrenreich describes it, poverty is a black whole that without the proper starting block is quite frankly far to easy to fall into. For example, Ehrenreich tells of a young girl names Holly who she works for a popular Maid company in Maine. Holly works for minimum wage (around $6.50 per hour) all the while trying to feed and support her husband and elderly relatives on $30-50 a week (95). She is quite often too poor to buy herself lunch and resorts to a small cracker sandwich for a seven hour day of manual labor. Cases like these are unfortunate in themselves but the real tragedy is the spiral effect of unfortunate events that result for living in poverty- an example, health care. One in four adults can't afford medical attention they need, even after purchasing health insurance. Without necessary medical attention, many working-class jobs wouldn't be doable. Without money from these working-class jobs, debt starts to pile up which can lead to eviction, starvation, etc. People are suffering, and something needs to be done about it.

These struggles raise the question of how this system of deep poverty and cycle of despair can be changed. It all comes back to the concept of privilege. People who are able to afford a home, be properly educated, etc. are so much more likely to be able to support themselves. Perhaps the question is not how can poverty be stopped, because having a class of the poor is inevitable in capitalistic society, but rather how can we spread equal opportunity- equal privilege- to everyone. There is no distinct answer of how to do this, but with programs such as Obamacare, we are stepping in the right direction. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Let's Talk Body About Image

It seems to me that possibly one of the most insulting questions that a women can be asked is, "How much do you way?" But why is this? Today, our society, especially when it comes to women, are so focused on what their body's look like. It seems to be that today, everyone is suppose to be skinny to fit in. And if your not, you are criticized about how much you weigh. The media has rooted this ideal into our systems. Stick-thin models are everywhere- on our T.V. screens, in magazines, on billboards, their is no escaping them. Skinny, beautiful women are used to sell everything, they are the ideal. But what does this do to members of our society that don't perpendicularity fit this uniform standard of beauty?

Let's face it, almost no one is completely confident in every aspect of their appearance. However, women are told that they have to conform to what society expects their bodies to look like. These ideals, and this stress on one, specific, image of beauty is quite frankly, dangerous. Not only have there been multiple occasions of models starving themselves, some have even died from not eating enough. Serious medical conditions, such as the eating disorder anorexia, have resulted from women trying to slim themselves down and even leading to death.This problem, however, is not limited to women. Adolescent girls (and boys) feel the need to conform to these standards of physical perfection. Children as of 10 years of age and younger have had to be hospitalized for starving themselves. Theses children grow up hating the way they look, even if they are a perfectly healthy weight, their views of themselves are clouded by what society says they have to look like.

My question to you is this- how can we change this? I've heard of so many "you are beautiful!" campaigns in which people go around informing strangers if their "beauty", but does this really make a difference? Being told of your beauty isn't going to change the fact that you don't see yourself as beautiful. The change has to come within society. Seventeen Magazine announced that all of the models in their magazines will "real" people, not airbrushed, starving models. This, a step in the right direction to show girls that beauty isn't found if Photoshop, but rather in everyday life.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

I'm Boycotting Adele and Here's Why

Adele's New Album 25
I'll admit that I've always been a huge fan Adele, her song Love Song is one of my all time favorites. However, I am completely refusing to buy Adele's new album, 25. Why you may ask (a question my brother asks every day)? Because she pulled a Taylor Swift and refused to release her album on Spotify. Spotify is a popular streaming site where premium users pay a monthly subscription of ten dollars to listen to unlimited music. However, now stars like Taylor Swift and Adele,(and soon Coldplay) are refusing to release their music on such streaming sites.

Taylor Swift claimed, “In my opinion, the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work, and the financial value that artists (and their labels) place on their music when it goes out into the marketplace." But this argument doesn't make any sense. If the value of an album is based on the work but into it, as Taylor claims, why does it have to have to be priced at all? I get that income is important and that an album has to make as much money as it took to make, this is common knowledge, but Taylor Swift and Adele are two of the highest paid artists of the all time. Taylor Swift has an estimated net worth  of $80 million dollars, Adele's estimated net worth is over $54 million dollars. I don't see how Taylor and Adele can site not making enough money justify not putting their songs on Spotify. Isn't $54 plus million dollars suitable? 

Taylor also claimed, "File sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.” It is however true that artists make less money with streaming sites like Spotify, making around 9 cents for ever 60 times one song is played whereas the artist makes 20 cents for every $1.29 song sold on iTunes. However, artists are also paid 9 cents for every 60 times their song is played on the radio. Did Adele and Taylor ban their songs from radio stations? Of course not. Practically every time I turn on the radio, I hear one of their songs. So why just Spotify? Adele's most played song on Spotify has 221,434,620 plays (aka $3,690,577 dollars in Adele's pocket for just one song). Again, I ask, isn't that amount suitable? 

As my brother says, I am missing one of the "greatest albums of the century" but I'm staying strong on this one. It might because I'm stubborn, but I think what Taylor Swift and Adele are doing is pure capitalistic crap. Is making more money a justifiable reason to exclude a large amount of your fans from hearing your work? Life isn't all about money, and if Adele and Taylor saw it this way, their music would be available to anyone who wants to hear it, even religious Spotify users like myself. What do you think? 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Nous Sommes Paris

In Paris on Friday, November 13th, one of the worst terror attacks, and most violent attack in France since WWII was executed. With 132 people dead and nearly 300 more hospitalized, people all around the world are in mourning. The attacks consisted of three teams of terrorists and six separate incidents including suicide bombers at the Stade de France, shootings at popular restaurants and bars, and the deadliest attack, at Bataclan, a concert hall, in which around 80 people were killed and at least 180 injured.

These horrific acts have left the entire world shocked. President Obama saying, "We're going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people."With Isis claiming responsibility for these actions, many are worried about what is coming next. President Francois Hollande of France claiming, "We will lead the fight, and we will be ruthless."Does this mean yet another war?

No one can really know what will happen next, but what is for sure is that France is receiving overwhelming support. All over the world, messages of peace and support for France have flooded social media outlets. Monuments from New York to London, Brazil to Australia, and many other places are lit up in blue, white, and red to show there support and prayers for Paris. When Paris tuned there lights off, the rest of the world turned them on.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Tarantino Unchained?

While marching in New York City last month for a rally against police brutality, Academy Award winning director, screenwriter, and producer Quentin Tarantino called police "murderers." Tarantino, famous for his affiliation with particularly violent films, such as Django Unchained and Kill Bill, criticized the use of excessive force by police saying, "I am a human being and I have conscience, and when I see murder I cannot stand by. And I have to call the murdered the murdered and the murderers the murderers." Tarantino, a man who is the opposite of subtle, has created a mass amount of controversy with this statement.

Tarantino protesting police brutality 
This bold statement comes in the wake of an increased amount of innocent deaths resulting from police brutality, reaching nearly 400 deaths in 2015 so far. His statement, seemingly valid, has angered the police force across the nation. In reaction to Tarantino's statements, police in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia have called for a boycott of Tarantino's new film The Hateful Eight. The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective Unit said in a statement, "We fully support this boycott of Quentin Tarantino films. Hateful rhetoric dehumanizes and encourages attacks on us."  

Police fear that statements like Tarantino's will hurt their reputations when in actuality, there own actions hurt their reputations. It is not that all police use excessive force, and it is not that all police are bad people, the real issue here is the reason why rallies and protests against police are necessary. The fact of the matter is that police brutality is serious problem and many feel as though nothing is being done to end it. Perhaps the answer is more restrictions on guns. Perhaps the answer is a change in society. Whatever the reason, it is people like Quentin Tarantino, people willing to stand up for what they believe in, that help aide our society in addressing such societal flaws. Do you have an answer to end police brutality?

For more information, check out these shocking examples of police brutality