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Every so often, a Republican politician or conservative think tank comes out with the argument that American poor people are not really poor, because they have refrigerators and televisions and even video game consoles. There are all sorts of factual reasons to slam these arguments. People have windfalls. They get hand-me-downs. They own relics of more affluent pasts.

But philosophically, morally, politically, the truth is this: I want poor people to have televisions and video games. Oh, of course, within reason. Any luxury can be taken too far at any level of wealth. But, at base, if poor people seek joy and distraction as I and the people I love seek joy and distraction, who am I to judge? I am not poor, have never been poor, and likely never will be, but why would I believe that anyone else's need for relaxation and comfort is less than mine? Some of us may always have more, but the right to judge others for reaching for small pleasures is not something any of us really have.

When Republicans, and sometimes liberal Democrats, get the vapors at poor people with televisions, they frame it as a modern affliction. "Televisions, my word! Why, back in my day ..." But there's a long tradition on the left that says that progress and justice aren't just about nutrition but about beauty. As the great poem and song "Bread and Roses" puts it:

Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

As we come marching, marching, unnumbered women dead
Go crying through our singing their ancient cry for bread.
Small art and love and beauty their drudging spirits knew.
Yes, it is bread we fight for, but we fight for roses, too!

To say "because you have less than me, you do not deserve joy or beauty; because you have little, what you have should be grim and colorless and flavorless" is simply inhumane. It's also profoundly unrealistic. We live in a country with a whole lot of poverty and a lot of very cheap, very tasty junk food. Our political and economic systems make that junk food one of the few immediate pleasures available to many people—and then we judge them for eating it, rather than actually fighting poverty or making bigger and healthier pleasures available and affordable. A politics of bread and roses would challenge the idea that having enough food to avoid starvation and enough shelter to avoid freezing is all unemployed people or low-wage workers can reasonably expect.

We should also acknowledge that, as we'll see below the fold, sometimes, what appears from the outside to be wasteful luxury actually conveys real benefits in negotiating the challenges of poverty.

After stories of black shoppers facing suspicion or being detained by police because they bought luxury goods hit the news, Tressie McMillan Cottom wrote about "the logic of stupid poor people" and the politics of respectability. Her own family, she explained, had a little more money and a little more education than many of the people around them:

I remember my mother taking a next door neighbor down to the social service agency. The elderly woman had been denied benefits to care for the granddaughter she was raising. The woman had been denied in the genteel bureaucratic way — lots of waiting, forms, and deadlines she could not quite navigate. I watched my mother put on her best Diana Ross “Mahogany” outfit: a camel colored cape with matching slacks and knee high boots. I was miffed, as only an only child could be, about sharing my mother’s time with the neighbor girl. I must have said something about why we had to do this. Vivian fixed me with a stare as she was slipping on her pearl earrings and told me that people who can do, must do. It took half a day but something about my mother’s performance of respectable black person — her Queen’s English, her Mahogany outfit, her straight bob and pearl earrings — got done what the elderly lady next door had not been able to get done in over a year. I learned, watching my mother, that there was a price we had to pay to signal to gatekeepers that we were worthy of engaging. It meant dressing well and speaking well. It might not work. It likely wouldn‘t work but on the off chance that it would, you had to try. It was unfair but, as Vivian also always said, “life isn’t fair little girl.”
If you're white and college educated, you can maybe get away with looking like a slob without drawing suspicion or condescension or harassment. Everyone isn't so privileged, so if you have that privilege and can't imagine your way outside it, understand that what looks like needless, frivolous luxury may actually be an armor or a strategy.

Yet again, I come back to the notion that looking good or being wrapped in soft fabrics from time to time shouldn't be an off-limits luxury for 30 or more percent of the population.

It's also worth noting that the objection to pleasure-in-poverty is very often nothing more than a dodge. It's about justifying hunger, coming from the impulse that led House Republicans to push for $40 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cuts over 10 years, cuts that would kick millions off the program even though it only pays for food, and not for all that much of that. And it's advanced in a context in which the very wealthy make endless, huge philanthropic gifts to institutions of art and culture—roses, too—while not giving nearly as much to bread for the hungry:

[In late November] the New York Public Library acquired the papers of Tom Wolfe for the sum of $2.15 million. The material, which fills about 190 boxes and includes correspondence between Mr. Wolfe and his tailor, was paid for largely with a private donation, and while the figure is hardly exorbitant in the realm of cultural philanthropy, which vastly outpaces social-service philanthropy, it represents more than twice the amount of the biggest gift ever made by an individual to the Food Bank for New York City.
The fight for bread and roses, too, is a political and systemic one, one that relies on decreasing inequality and fighting not just poverty but widespread near-poverty. It's also a cultural one, one that requires saying "those people are like me and like me they deserve pleasure" or makes a million-dollar gift of a lot of food for the hungry as glamorous and prestigious as a name on a museum exhibit.

To take it to a personal level, a few years ago I was leaving a workout at the YMCA and I saw a tree decorated with gift wishes from disadvantaged local children. I scoured the tree and was frustrated and dismayed that a great number of the kids were asking for video game consoles. Such a big present! Video games, pah, they're not my values! Luckily, a friend pushed me on it. He found a refurbished PlayStation for sale and split the cost with me.

Ultimately, it was a gut check. Why shouldn't these kids get to play video games? On a practical level, if you live in a dangerous neighborhood, video games are a way of passing time safely indoors. And sure, I don't enjoy them myself (okay, unless you count Angry Birds on my phone or Candy Crush Saga on my computer, and doesn't that say a thing or two about privilege) but everyone doesn't have to share my hobbies. Realistically, it's a gift that a child would outgrow much more slowly than a particular doll or book or board game—the things I guess I'd been looking for on that tree. So when I read the statistics about poor people with video game consoles, I know that I contributed in a very small way to them. And I'm glad of that and proud of that. That's my politics. Bread and roses, too.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 07:40 AM PST.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing, Hunger in America, and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (123+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tommye, SoCalJayhawk, Cassandra Waites, mkor7, Sybil Liberty, Mark Sumner, belinda ridgewood, isabelle hayes, NH LABOR NEWS, Jakkalbessie, divineorder, trebligoniqua, Azazello, Egalitare, Bugsby, xanthippe2, sagansong, Happy Days, ratcityreprobate, Social Contract, nancyjones, JamieG from Md, BenderRodriguez, 88kathy, CalifSherry, swampyankee, gramofsam1, Eowyn9, FloridaSNMOM, Kirochka, Sychotic1, JayRaye, Joes Steven, Desert Scientist, ExpatGirl, Youffraita, Tara the Antisocial Social Worker, eeff, countwebb, Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees, Burned, i saw an old tree today, rebel ga, Lorikeet, Aunt Pat, Ageing Hippie, Tamar, Temmoku, shermanesq, remembrance, caryltoo, Mark E Andersen, 4mygirls, AJayne, NCJan, jarbyus, Justus, Alexandra Lynch, Orinoco, VeggiElaine, wasatch, Nannyberry, No Exit, jck, htowngenie, Laurel in CA, malie, side pocket, anodnhajo, fiercefilms, CA Nana, Lencialoo, glitterlust, VPofKarma, ER Doc, BobboSphere, not a lamb, gfv6800, bumbi, nomandates, Cinnamon, Steve Singiser, sow hat, tofumagoo, allenjo, Klick2con10ue, America Jones, kj in missouri, Zaq, ManfromMiddletown, BeninSC, dotdash2u, Leslie in KY, helpImdrowning, mookins, catly, Kentucky DeanDemocrat, katrinka, scilicet, nevergetfooledagain, allergywoman, MarkW53, rbird, YellerDog, annieli, Deep Harm, LittleOldLadyWho, FindingMyVoice, alice kleeman, Amber6541, RazzBari, Glen The Plumber, alx9090, anastasia p, Calamity Jean, Meteor Blades, Kingstongirl, theKgirls, Ahianne, fcvaguy, aaronburr, willyr, splashy
  •  Laura Clawson thanks for the gift of your words (25+ / 0-)

    and "the bread and roses."  

    Will make it a point to pass them on!

    Move Single Payer Forward? Join 18,000 Doctors of PNHP and 185,000 member National Nurses United

    by divineorder on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:07:23 AM PST

  •  powerful beautiful cognition (31+ / 0-)

    when i grew "mature", it came to me just what this diary is about;

    before then, i was a middle working class educated woman with children, and would begrudge poor women who were on welfare who had fancy strollers for their babies

    such thoughts made me sour to myself and it was when i began to see that we all deserve such amenities, that life is hard enough for us all, even the rich get sick and die,

    that my insides got well and a very big load was taken off my heart, and a valuable identification with all other living beings became mine

    •  except (5+ / 0-)

      this continues the false paradigm (that underlies our economy) that happiness comes through "things". It doesn't, but we are so conditioned by the onslaught of advertising that hits us every day, advertising that relies on billions of dollars of research that helps sell things to people that they do not really want or need, that we have totally lost sight of what "amenities" we really need.

      It is essentially a very unfair fight. They on their side with tons of dollars and an army of behavioral researchers and us on the other with nothing but a few dollars to spend, and an unfamiliarity with the techniques that are being used against us. We think we have free will, but we do not. We are on so many levels mere lab rats, running through the mazes they planned for us. Of course we want this pair of shoes, or that stroller, or ..... No bloody wonder given the advertising dollars spent ... but all we are doing is becoming a slave to their game.

      The solution is to stop playing their games. Turn off the conditioning - no TV, no internet ads, no .... After a short time you will be happier, even if you buy nothing. You will feel better about yourself. You will realize that even those little amenities are tools being used to keep you as a slave to the system.

      That said, and maybe this highlights the point, one of my little discoveries is that it is a lot easier not to buy something when you have the extra money to buy it (as opposed to having to borrow it). Knowing you can have it if you want to seems to trigger an ... "oh well I can get it anytime" thinking process, as opposed to the more "refugee" mentality of I have to get it now, because I may not be able to later.

      I am a big fan of a minimum annual income for all citizens, but I am not naive enough to think that it will stop poverty. As long as we stay slaves to the consumer society. we will stay poor.

      There's room at the top they're telling you still But first you must learn how to smile as you kill If you want to be like the folks on the hill

      by taonow on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:47:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice story (28+ / 0-)

    Though I'd argue that video games aren't totally empty. If they were food, they would not be cotton candy. They teach a lot about programming logic. They can be a gateway to tech careers for kids that are really good at them.

    When I used to live in New York, they had a place to pick up letters to Santa at the main post office. The ones that really got to you were ones like the kid who wanted his grandmother to get a towel for Christmas. "Never mind about me, Santa."

    Mark Twain: It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:09:38 AM PST

    •  Disagree with most of this. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kj in missouri, taonow, Amber6541, gagme
      [Video games] teach a lot about programming logic.
      Really?  I'm a programmer and I really don't see how playing a video game teaches programming.  Console video game systems give virtually no exposure to the underlying logic that causes the game to run.  It's like saying that driving a car teaches you how to be a mechanic.  
      They can be a gateway to tech careers for kids that are really good at them
      Video games are gateways to tech careers only in the sense that exposure to something will cause some to realize that people make a living doing/making that thing.  I'm sure that many kids in high crime neighborhoods are inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement because the cops are always around arresting people in their neighborhood, so we could say that exposure to crime and cops is also a gateway to a good career.  But does that make being in a crime ridden neighborhood a good thing overall?  Of course not, because there are other, not so good things that come with being in a high crime neighborhood.

      So you have to look at the pros and cons of video games.  And it's not just that video games are empty, they are dangerous.  They glorify violence, encourage sedentary lifestyles, and can crowd out personal relationships and other, more productive pursuits for those that become hooked on them.  I had a friend lose his fiancée because of a video game addiction.

      •  Says who? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassandra Waites, rbird, sagesource

        Who are you to decide what's a more "productive pursuit"?

        You pick something people do for personal pleasure or enjoyment, and I can find you someone who pontificates long and loud about what a waste of time it is and how some people who engage in it get carried away, and why aren't they doing something more productive? Which is, of course, what the questioner considers productive, because none of their pursuits are ever non-productive, a waste of time, or something that they put too much emphasis on.

        •  I guess he's never heard of game modders (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sagesource, Ahianne

          It's mostly a PC phenomenon, but console modders and crackers do exist, it's just a little harder to do.

          I'm mostly familiar with modders active in Valve Source games, the Fallout mod community, and the Unreal Engine mod community.  These people are very talented.  Valve and Bethesda both support their efforts.  Valve even goes so far as to integrate their work into the games and even has a rewards program for them.

          As to video games promoting or glorifying violence, that's a myth.  There are elements unique to American society that glorify violence and encourage violent acts, which are NOT PRESENT in other societies.  Those other societies, in Europe and Asia, have large, active gamer communities and lack most of the murders and mayhem present in American society.  Of course there are those, everywhere, at work in the promotion of violence and hatred, mostly for a buck, and they aren't game developers.  Watch this and gain enlightenment.

          Just in case DK has a stroke over the embed, here's the link:
          http://www.youtube.com/...

          Join Essa in a revolt against the gods. Continue the fight, Causality.

          by rbird on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 01:43:54 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're just illustrating my point. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gagme

            When you say that "console modders and crackers do exist", I think what you meant to say was that there aren't very many people who do any programming to modify console games, and most console "modding" is just to defeat built in protections of intellectual property.  So mostly what they learn by doing it is that it is okay to steal.

            Video games do glorify violence, and do inspire actual violence.  There's lots of evidence that the Columbine HS shooters were inspired by a violent video game, for just one high profile example.  Most other countries have stricter gun control than we do, so there's not the opportunity for actual violence that exists here.  Access to guns + lots of glorified violence is a deadly combination we have here.

            •  This is rubbish. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rbird, Ahianne, bryduck

              To begin with, there has been NO study ever conducted that showed persistent tendencies to violence from playing video games. The only way you can get such effects to show up is to measure the audience immediately after playing.

              The first mass-popular "violent video game," Doom, was released in 1994. That was the year that the youth violent crime rate in the United States took a downturn that has to date been more or less permanent. So.... if video games cause violence.... where's the violence? Where's the increase in violent crime? Nowhere, because it hasn't increased. It has decreased.

              I don't care if you have a "gut feeling" that video games must make kids violent. Most guts are full of s**t.

              "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

              by sagesource on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 03:44:41 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's not just a gut feeling, (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                gagme

                When you read stuff like this:

                "[Columbine killer Eric Harris] actually made a level of Doom that was the same layout as the high school," one metro area young man, who asked not to be identified, said during a visit to the memorials set up at the school. "He called the level "CHS.' It was as close as you can get for a computer game. It wasn't the entire school - you couldn't make levels that big. But it was definitely part of it."

                "That game was basically kill everything that moves," he said.

                Did Harris preview massacre on 'Doom?"

                and this:
                While other players of his favorite game 'Combat Arms' sought out codes to cheat the system, Lanza's managed to get 83,496 kills, and 22,725 head shots all with a 'clean' record - without shortcuts. He was in training, and his Combat Arms profile showed he played 4,901 matches over more than 500 hours to hone his skills.

                Lanza's descent to madness and murder: Sandy Hook shooter notched up 83,000 online kills including 22,000 'head shots' using violent games to train himself for his massacre

                and even this:
                The 8-year-old boy suspected of fatally shooting his caregiver Thursday afternoon is believed to have been playing a version of the video game “Grand Theft Auto” minutes before he got a gun and fired it into the back of her head.

                Investigators say shooter, 8, played violent video game

                I don't see how anyone can even argue that Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Adam Lanza were not acting out exactly what they had done in the endless hours they had played violent video games.  But if you want to try, go for it.
                •  That's a pathetic argument (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ahianne, sagesource

                  For every person like Harris, several million people played Doom and guess what? They didn't go on murder sprees or kill anyone.

                  And as for Lanza, here's a goddamn clue: how many assault rifles in real life are manipulated and fired in real life exactly like you use a mouse and keyboard? "In training" is complete and utter bullshit.

                  Let's see, Manson claimed the Beatles had sent him a secret message about a race war which he tried to instigate with the murders. Obviously listening to the Beatles causes mass murder.

                  In order to impress Jody Foster, John Hinckley tried to kill Reagan. Obviously Jody Foster represents a danger to US Presidents, because who knows who else might try to impress her?

                  Catcher in the Rye: stereotypical favourite book of mass murderers and serial killers. Obviously we must prevent people from reading that. Oh, and probably the Bible too, because we all know nutcases driven by that.

                  Because some people with serious issues do the same activity that orders of magnitude more people do doesn't mean the activity causes the crime, it means seriously disturbed individuals can do the same sorts of things other people can do.

                  •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
                    For every person like Harris, several million people played Doom and guess what? They didn't go on murder sprees or kill anyone.
                    Sure, lots of people play violent video games with no problem.  I've played them before.  Lots of people drink alcohol without any discernible negative effects also, but that does not erase the tragedies in which alcohol is a contributing factor.  
                    Let's see, Manson claimed the Beatles had sent him a secret message about a race war which he tried to instigate with the murders. Obviously listening to the Beatles causes mass murder.

                    In order to impress Jody Foster, John Hinckley tried to kill Reagan. Obviously Jody Foster represents a danger to US Presidents, because who knows who else might try to impress her?

                    The difference is that it was not foreseeable that the Beatles or Jodie Foster could inspire a shooting.  It would be useless to try to predict and prevent the next random thing that might inspire a shooter.  On the other hand, it's entirely foreseeable that a video game in which the player shoots and kills the students and teachers in a school might inspire them to shoot up a school in real life, because the player has merely acted out what he has experienced in the video game. Adam Lanza played a game called “School Shooting” in which you go into a school and shoot at kids and teachers. It's not a far-fetched or hard to understand connection.
                    •  But you still have to PROVE it. (0+ / 0-)

                      Your "imagination" is worthless except for writing fiction. Which is what you're doing here.

                      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

                      by sagesource on Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 01:04:05 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Prove? (0+ / 0-)

                        I doubt I can prove anything to your satisfaction, but at least I am bringing some evidence to the table.

                        What have you proven?  What evidence have you brought to the table, except a false claim that there are no studies that link violent video games with violent behavior?

                •  But which way does the causality go? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  skymutt, sagesource

                  Do psychotic would be killers seek out violent video games?  Apparently so.

                  Do video games make troubled or insane people more likely to act out violent fantasies?  I don't know and I don't think anyone else does either.

                  Is giving video games to an ordinary poor kid likely to make him more violent than he otherwise would be?  I am not aware of any evidence of it.

                  All of those things said, I would be more likely to give more utilitarian gifts - books, warm clothing for winter, etc.

                  •  These are good questions (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Beelzebubs Brass Bs

                    I don't know the answers either, with certainty.  They may not be knowable.   Perhaps I go too far when I say that video games "inspire" violence;  I do not know that for sure, and in that sense, I am relying on my gut, which tells me that there is some cause-effect relationship.  I base this on other observations that kids tend to mimic what they see.

                    •  Good point (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      skymutt
                      I base this on other observations that kids tend to mimic what they see.
                      Which is why they also jump through plate glass windows like they do in every action movie, right?

                      Five year olds?  Sure.  10 year olds?  Maybe.  15 year olds know better.

                      •  Some older kids apparently do just about that. (0+ / 0-)
                        One incident hit the news in 2001 and stirred up the controversy anew.  According to one report, a young teen set his friend on fire after seeing the same stunt acted out on the MTV program Jackass.  His friend suffered bad burns over most of his body.  Another ongoing concern about copycat violence centers on the potential effects of televised wrestling events.  At least four children have died as victims of violence that may have been linked to exposure to professional wrestling events. In the case of Lionel Tate, a 13 year old boy convicted in 2001 for killing a 6 year old girl by lifting her in the air and dropping her onto a table, the legal defense specifically sought to place some responsibility for the incident on televised wrestling events.  As you might suspect, the World Wrestling Federation denied any culpability in the girl's death and maintained that Tate's defense was simply a "contrived hoax."  In another well publicized incident, two young people from Oklahoma killed one person and paralyzed another while on a killing spree that was apparently intended to duplicate the behavior they had seen many times while watching the movie Natural Born Killers.

                        ...

                        More recently, in March 2011, nine middle school students were expelled after school officials discovered that they were involved in a "fight club" that was apparently inspired by the movie Fight Club, which starred Brad Pitt and Edward Norton.  The movie has also been blamed for other copycat fight clubs in the past few years.

                        link, see page 93

                        And this is just talking about media violence.  These kids/young adults may have just seen these TV shows/movies once or a few times.  Adam Lanza spent 500 hours playing just one violent video game.  I think it's fair to wonder whether that kind of prolonged exposure increases the risk of violent copycat behavior.
                •  Thank you.... (0+ / 0-)

                  .....for proving your argument empty and worthless.

                  It's not often that one's rhetorical enemy commits rhetorical suicide right in front of your face. Sincerely hope you're more careful in the real world.

                  "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

                  by sagesource on Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 01:02:34 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  as far as violence overall declining since 1994... (0+ / 0-)

                ...there are so many other variables in play that it's not possible to suss out the effect of violent video games.  For just a few other factors, the assault weapons ban was passed (also in 1994).  The economy began to improve around that time, and continued to improve for the rest of the 1990s.  Both of these events would have likely had a far greater effect than any effect video games had.

                •  Oh, I see how that works (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  sagesource

                  Correlation doesn't mean causation when it's against your position, but it perfectly okay to equate the two when you want the correlation to support your position.

                  •  Correlation never means causation, (0+ / 0-)

                    and to an extent you are right... just because the school shooters played violent video games does not mean that they caused the shootings.  It could be that the urge to do real life violence inspired the video game use.  It could be that they were going to shoot up the schools anyway, and were drawn to the video games merely because the depicted the violent shootings that they had already envisioned.  

                    But you're not even arguing that, so far.  You seem to think there is no connection whatsoever between, for example, Adam Lanza playing a video game in which he shoots up a school and Eric Harris designing and playing a game where he shoots up a level laid out as the school he later shot up.  There is no difference between what they did and what millions of others people do, you seem to be saying.  They were just playing an innocent video game, period, according to you.  Nothing to see here, we should not even look into causation-- that seems to be the gist of your argument.

                    •  We've looked into causation... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...it wasn't there.

                      End of story.

                      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

                      by sagesource on Mon Dec 23, 2013 at 01:05:21 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  NOT end of story (0+ / 0-)

                        You aren't even correct about this.  You said that "there hs been NO study ever conducted that showed persistent tendencies to violence from playing video games. The only way you can get such effects to show up is to measure the audience immediately after playing."  That is not true:

                        Children and teenagers who play violent video games show increased physical aggression months afterward, according to new research that adds another layer of evidence to the continuing debate over the video-game habits of the youngest generation.

                        The research, published today in the journal Pediatrics, brings together three longitudinal studies, one from the United States and two from Japan, examining the content of games, how often they are played and aggressive behaviors later in a school year.

                        The U.S. research was the first in the nation to look at the effects of violent video games over time, said lead author Craig A. Anderson, a psychology professor at Iowa State University and director of its Center for the Study of Violence.

                        http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

                        Fortunately, people will continue to look into this, despite your insistence that the matter is settled merely because a study exists that confirms your preconceived beliefs.  Tragedies like Sandy Hook demand that we look for answers, not put our heads in the sand.
            •  You didn't watch Total Biscuit's video, did you? (0+ / 0-)

              Join Essa in a revolt against the gods. Continue the fight, Causality.

              by rbird on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 04:00:33 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  We're talking about kids here, for one thing. (0+ / 0-)

          Kids who don't have adults making some value judgments about how the kid ought to be spending their time usually don't turn out so good.

  •  Appreciation (37+ / 0-)

    Thank you, Ms. Clawson.  It's people like you who make me hopeful.  As a barely middle class person who spent his entire youth in poverty, it's really nice to know people can understand how it is.  When I was a kid, my middle-class uncle bought us a TV and an NES for Christmas one year (and two games!), and it really helped to limit the despair we kids had to deal with.  I suppose if you think of that as "luxury" you could ignore that we had to sleep in our coats one winter because of heat being unaffordable.  Life shouldn't be about surviving, but thriving.

  •  I always dig reading you (16+ / 0-)

    and you outdid yourself with this one.  My favorite of yours so far, thanks!

  •  It's a Hard heart that needs others to suffer (21+ / 0-)

    just to feel good about one's self.  

    Thousands will die homeless this winter too.  

    Automation and  tech allow us to offer tax paid free education, healthcare and modest room and board for all who need it.  

    Other countries do it, so can we.  

  •  Those seeking to slash food programs (25+ / 0-)

    suffer the greater poverty, poverty of the human spirit. It might be possible, and even good, if they were to slash those programs, once a concerted effort were made to restore equality of wealth at the starting point >>> most immediately, raising the minimum wage.

    Meantime, Billy Holiday:

    "You've got to have something to eat and a little love in your life before you can hold still for any damn body's sermon on how to behave."

    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:14:07 AM PST

  •  It's astounding that conservatives even count (30+ / 0-)

    things like refrigerators in the "luxuries" that poor Americans have. It's as if conservatives want the US to be more like a third world country! They have a narcissistic mindset, one lacking empathy, unable to imagine circumstances unlike their own.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:16:06 AM PST

    •  Cell phones, too (24+ / 0-)

      which stopped being a luxury item a long time ago, and have taken the place of land lines for a lot of people.  Rich pundit logic:  "I demand that unemployed people get jobs - but they have to do their job-hunting without a phone!"

      I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

      by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:29:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Is it worse to be poor amid luxury (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM

      than to be poor among those who have never known luxury?  

      Why not imagine a world in which we ostracize those who take too much, refuse to work for them, deny them our cooperation.

      Why is it OK to lower wages to where we can only afford to buy goods made cheap by paying lower wages.

      Logically, there must be limits, at some point there will be no middle class, no poor who can afford to buy goods at all,

      Why do we begrudge the third world country jobs and employment we think should be reserved to us.

      What we speak of as a race to the bottom is to some extent the same argument made by the 1%.

      That is the message the third world may unleash on us as its worst form of terror, a failure to cooperate.

      I have both bread and roses, no money but life is still good for me. I live in a country with affordable healthcare, my vote hasn't been stolen yet, the sea hasn't risen to take my home.

      Sometimes, especially this time of year, I can see the luxury. Where some see the glass as half empty and some see it as half full, I see it as something there that can be enough to be useful.

      From not to each according to their abilities; to not from each according to their needs. Redistribute the wealth starting with making wealth confer a negative status.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:52:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Refrigerators, PCs, TVs, game consoles are cheap (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MissGayle, Cassandra Waites, Ahianne

      Compared to groceries, very cheap.  And considering that you can buy used appliances, PCs, TVs, and the rest for a fraction of their new prices, makes the argument that the poor aren't poor because they own a few things ludicrous in the extreme.

      News flash, you can even buy cars used.  You can buy a used car that functions fairly well for under $500.  The AC might not work well, or at all, but it'll get you where you need to go.

      If you know where to go, and believe me, poor people are very familiar with the local discount stores, shops, and flea markets, you can find what you need for almost nothing.

      Groceries on the other hand - rent, utilities - that's where there are no discounts.  You can own a refrigerator, a TV, a microwave, an old car, and still be homeless at the end of the month.

      Most of the Republican talking heads spouting this nonsense are wealthy.  They may not be Koch Brothers rich, but they have a lot of money.  They've never known poverty or even lower-middle-class desperation.  They don't know what they're talking about.

      Personal note.  The guy with the storage unit next to mine, back when I had my stuff stashed while taking care of my mom, had lost his job and was living with his sister's family.  Somehow he found the $90 a month to pay for his unit.  He'd be there every time I came to get something from my unit, sitting amid the remains of his life, imagining himself back in his own home.

      Join Essa in a revolt against the gods. Continue the fight, Causality.

      by rbird on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 02:02:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Laura, thank you very much (28+ / 0-)

    for your defense of our fellow workers who know what poverty is.

    I have lived in poverty, and likely to be poor again, once I can no longer work. Like a whole lot of other people.

    I remember telling a friend that if me and my kids ended up eating at the church, wouldn't people look down on us for driving up in a nice car and wearing nice clothes. Yes, I bot some nice stuff when I was a 49er making good money, before the Reagan/Bush recession threw 30% of our membership out of work, and not just for one season either.

    My friend said don't worry, a lot of people are in the same boat. It's hard to be down and out, worse when people are throwing terms around like "welfare queen," and "freeloader" and "not really poor."

    But you can't eat that nice stuff after the unemployment runs out. Then they want you to sell the car in order to get food stamps or go on welfare. What you are supposed to use for transportation when/if you can get back to work, they don't say. The buses don't run to where most of the construction sites are. Our society beats people down so hard, they can barely stand back up.

    And without nice clothes, how are you supposed to go on job interviews. And try and get a job at lower wages when you've been making top wages. So an unemployment counselor said not to tell them how much I had been making, just put down "union scale." Well, that only made it worse.

    I did finally find work, making about 1/3 rd of my former wage with children to support.

    Bottom line is that the rich want the so-called middle class to hate poor people hoping that the so-called middle class will never look at the real cause of their declining standard of living. And sadly, many in the so-called middle class go wherever the ruling class leads them. The ruling class has its work cut out for it, as far as getting the nation to hate poor people, as the middle class becomes more and more a thing of the past.

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:17:35 AM PST

  •  It seems at some point we imprint (25+ / 0-)

    with the cost and value of various goods, and we carry a shard of that forever.

    Thus, people over a certain age Know that cell phones are for wealthy executives who can't be out of contact for even a minute, a luxurious extra that you would have your company pay for. They see someone on the street with a cell phone and think 'What a ridiculous extravagance' and yet they would not at all consider it ridiculous for this person to have a land line in an apartment - a land line that has set up fees and is a big hassle to change if you move a lot and costs... about the same per month, possibly more.

    Their brain is so imprinted with LUXURY ITEM that they cannot recognize the practical implication - that if you have a cell phone, no one has to know you're homeless, including your employer or potential employer. Or the flexibility it may give you with your child care arrangements.

    Not only are hand-me-down electronics easy to come by for free, but the actual cost of them again is quite small compared to our mindset. Even a big screen TV and video game console... I could buy a new one every month plus probably a big grocery trip for what my health insurance costs.

    And I'm always interested by the internal biases we have. The same people who will cluck disapprovingly over the expense of a $5 coffee will think nothing of spending $10 on gas to go to a particular store.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:19:05 AM PST

    •  Don't forget all the used appliance stores... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MissGayle, Cassandra Waites

      ...the used furniture stores, the used computer shops, used car dealers...

      We truly are two societies now.  One gets its stuff new and thinks the poor are rich because they have "stuff" too.

      The other, we count ourselves lucky to find a used laptop for our kid at $100, or a "new" bed at a used furniture store.  This other half is growing, however.  There is class mobility in this society, except it's all on the downward slope.

      Join Essa in a revolt against the gods. Continue the fight, Causality.

      by rbird on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 02:09:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  One problem is that the world moves too fast. (15+ / 0-)

    Many conservatives are older or from backward ares and they can't catch up. They don't understand that things that were new-fangled luxury gadgets just five years ago are now basic necessities without which many people can not hope to find employment. I'm old enough that I was taught to write cursive and expected to do so when handing in my assignments until about the first year of high school. By my first year of college everyone was expected to use a word processor. I really think that some of the anger about "luxuries" is really anger about being old and out of date. Poor is a disease that can be, however difficultly, cured. The same cannot yet be said for age. Eventually it will take us all. But we can at least rail about the new-fangled luxuries these poor people didn't have back in the day.

    But when you come right down to it, "the day" kind of sucked compared to what we've got now. And some people just can't get over that.

    Ceterum censeo Factionem Republicanam esse delendam.

    by journeyman on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:19:30 AM PST

  •  Bread and Roses, Too (11+ / 0-)

    is a good young adult book on the Bread and Roses strike. I read it recently, and the author did a fantastic job of weaving together likable characters and the historical and social context of the story.

    Bread and Roses, Too

  •  Thank you! (35+ / 0-)

    I feel this way frequently.. when people tell me I shouldn't be able to buy a cake mix for a birthday cake for my kids with my food stamps. Or I shouldn't be able to buy a pack of oreos... or ice cream. OR I should be able to get by on beans and rice 'because it makes a complete protein'.

    Getting a little bit of 'roses' isn't easy, but it is something that my kids should have, just like every other kid. Just because their parents are disabled and on food stamps doesn't mean they are any less deserving than other kids. In some ways, they are more deserving because they do a lot around the house,t hey help out a lot (kitchen not accessible, they run and fetch drinks and food for their father), and they do it without complaining because that's the way life has always been. Why shouldn't they have a birthday cake, or cookies once in a while? Why shouldn't they be able to eat steak when I find it on sale and can afford it? Give me ONE good reason, other than "my tax dollars shouldn't pay for cake".

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:20:37 AM PST

  •  "If you have ____, you're not poor" (24+ / 0-)

    Fundamentally, the argument that if you're poor, you can't have a refrigerator/AC/microwave oven/TV/game console/etc comes down to two things.

    The first is the idea that if you're poor, you shouldn't be able to enjoy life.  Instead, you should be forced to sit and contemplate your moral failings in ascetic solitude.  Any joy or distractions that might distract from this moral self-examination are, of course, unacceptable.  In essence, being poor is a crime, and you should suffer as any criminal.

    The second is just self rationalization on the part of people who utter this idotic lines -- because if the poor aren't really poor because they have a DVD player, then you don't need to feel bad about the fact that you're espousing policies that do everything possible to screw that person.  After all, they're not really poor, so they don't actually NEED the help.

    I do remember going through times when I had very little income, and being able to fall back on possessions that I already had as sources of free or cheap entertainment was a good thing.  I think it is disgusting that so many others would like to deprive the poor of these things.

    Political Compass: -6.75, -3.08

    by TexasTom on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:21:27 AM PST

  •  I am from an upper middle class family (23+ / 0-)

    spent my childhood as working class and then middle class and then upper middle class and my adulthood as poor, working class, middle class and now reside in the top 15-20 percent of incomes.  So, I have seen it all and I have friends in many income brackets.

    What you say is the bald truth.  People who have never been poor tend to look at the poor and working class and judge any luxury.  "That could have paid for new shoes, or this could have paid for a slightly better apartment, or they should be saving for their child's college," which is unadulterated bullshit.

    First, there is no amount of money that can reasonably be saved by a poor person that will pay for their child's college.  That trope is so freaking outdated it makes me want to cry.

    Second, moving to better places takes a huge investment in cash.  First month, last month, security deposit, moving trucks or friends with trucks, time off to do it, etc.  It is far more likely that moving is a forced event done at the last minute either through inability to pay, break up of a relationship, or some other tragedy.  

    Because money is so tight, every time you get a little cash on hand it is far more likely that the car will break or the dryer will break, or your son will ask you to go on the school field trip to Disneyland or Washington D.C. or to by the very expensive choir or cheerleading or football uniform.

    Ugh, there you went and got me started.

    "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

    by Sychotic1 on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:25:26 AM PST

    •  So true. Poor people don't get to plan. They get (15+ / 0-)

      to grasp at straws. Rich people are sitting there judging the straws as 'too good for you'.

      Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

      by 88kathy on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:34:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Like many I was poor in the 1980s (9+ / 0-)

      This was in Reagan's America, when greed was good and worth (moral and otherwise) was measured by the purchase of designer sheets and the consumption of Dom Perignon.

      The ability to buy a house or condo was beyond my wildest dreams.  Living in New York City, I certainly didn't need, nor could I afford to keep, a car.  But I did have an Atari and a VCR, and cable TV.

      In short, I spent what little extra money I had, after rent and food, on exactly those luxuries that the GOP sneers at poor people for having.  

      Because if you have no hope or means for getting the big things, you settle for the little things.

      Fox's Brian Kilmeade on Starbucks' decision to ban guns in stores: "Real simple - if you have a gun, go to Dunkin Donuts."

      by NCJan on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:06:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not to mention... (8+ / 0-)

      saving for your kids college gives you an asset. And too much in assets and you cut off all your safety nets. No food stamps, no medicaid, no nothing. Then your 'assets' are more of a liability.  People who have never dealt with these systems don't realize how restrictive they are. You can't save up for a move, not if it costs too much, at least not in any way where you can 'make your money work for you'. You can't save up for college. You can't save up for anything. Even if you have an extra $5 a month to save, because once you get to a certain point, that extra money will cost you a lot and you'll end up spending it to replace what you've lost.

      Heck, the SSI Cola increase this year... dropped our food stamps by $7. Maybe we'll have enough extra to buy some boot straps for them to cut off.

      "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

      by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:27:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  And if you're on SSI? (6+ / 0-)

        The things you can't save up for include durable medical goods such as those used in managing the condition you're on SSI for having.

        You're allowed the powerchair once you buy it - that's an excluded asset - but it had better be bought on someone else's bank account or paid for in installments.

        Providing someone on SSI the direct funds in any medium but untraceable cash to purchase a needed medical or accessibility device not covered by Medicaid or another program they may have access? Can mess up their lives and finances for months or years to come, depending on what they get kicked out of when the money hits the bank and how long it takes for them to get back on.

        •  I have a friend that is on SSI (6+ / 0-)

          She has had three different types of cancer which has been linked to the contaminated ground near where she lived.  As a result, she was one of the highest classes in a class action lawsuit.  For her trouble, she got something like $40,000, which she had to spend in a record amount of time.  She bought a car, paid off her debt and paid her rent for the next like six months because she couldn't show any assets in her account.  

          "I watch Fox News for my comedy, and Comedy Central for my news." - Facebook Group

          by Sychotic1 on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 10:23:33 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thought provoking (13+ / 0-)

    By concentrating only on "immediate need" we are marginalizing the skills and talents of the economically challenged. I now wonder how people like Charles Mingus ever got hold of an acoustic bass and lugged it around long enough to become an internationally acclaimed artist.

     Maybe the Financial Elites have known this all along. And have essentially rationed artistic expression or access to broader knowledge to a "containable few" of us lesser mortals.

    Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:25:49 AM PST

  •  My cousin got denied help because her kids were (22+ / 0-)

    so well dressed. Our family was poor so long everyone knew how to 'cut down' a coat or any other garment.  Rich people are so mean, they don't know you can't cut a coat up in size, only down in size.

    My cousin was so artistic she could take contact paper and cut out the flowers and turn it into a million dollar mural. So no help for you, you have a million dollar mural in your kitchen.

    How these Republicans can think that the distended belly brain damage starvation is the only hungry they need concern themselves with makes me so angry. They probably want to cut out water fountains because they have plenty of bottled water and haven't seen anyone die of thirst.

    Now they have the 2nd (safety net for sloppy) Amendment, and can't be infringed to actually treat their gun like a gun and not a video game controller.

    by 88kathy on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:26:34 AM PST

    •  My older daughter buys almost all her clothes in (12+ / 0-)

      thrift stores. She and her low-paid or student friends have meets where they bring clothes they no longer want and trade them with each other. My bet is she has less than 5 or 6 things that were bought new.
      Her aunt, a very well-heeled, well-dressed person, told me how my daughter would love a new designer clothes store that just opened up. I thought I heard wrong -- my daughter would have been horrified at the amount charged for a blouse and would have been railing at the outrageousness of some people having that much money while others went hungry. But the aunt had no idea of my daughter's views because, apparently, my daughter is so good at putting together her thrift store and hand-me-down clothes, that this aunt thinks she spends many thousands on her clothes.

      While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

      by Tamar on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:03:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My well dressed mother (10+ / 0-)

      My mother grew up poor.  Her parents, like most parents in her neighborhood, used to send their kids to the train tracks to gather the coal that had fallen out, so that they could keep warm.  In the spring, they would take the kids to the farm to pick strawberries, where they would earn two cents a quart.

      But my grandmother had apprenticed as a tailor when she was a girl in Italy.  Because of her skill, she could replicate any piece of clothing, just by looking at it.

      Every year before the school year started, she would take her two daughters by bus into the city.  There, they would stare into the windows of department stores at the clothes they could never afford.  The two young girls then told their mother which dresses they liked, and my grandmother bought the material and make the dresses for them.

      No one could ever tell the difference between the expensive department store clothes and the clothes my grandmother made.

      How would Republicans judge these two well dressed girls?

      Fox's Brian Kilmeade on Starbucks' decision to ban guns in stores: "Real simple - if you have a gun, go to Dunkin Donuts."

      by NCJan on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:15:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The only distended belly Republicans care about (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      88kathy, Ahianne

      has a fetus inside it.  And shame on you, you dirty Jezebel, for getting that way.

      And when the child is born, the caring ends there.

      Quidquid id est, timeo Republicanos et securitatem ferentes.

      by Sura 109 on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 12:12:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  People like to judge. It's what we do. (14+ / 0-)

    It was really brought home to me about a dozen years ago when we were having an earlier bout of hard times.

    We drove an Infiniti Q45A which was a very nice car indeed.  

    We bought it off-lease with 40,000 miles for about the price of a new Honda Accord -- and we bought it in a year when we paid our debts down by nearly $20,000 and were on our way to paying off all our debts, mortgage included, in less than 5 years.  It was a luxury we enjoyed, but not an extravagance.

    Then work disappeared and we were hurting for money.  Our car was now 8 years old, and nearly paid for.  There was no deal to be had that would have left us appreciably better off financially than just keeping it.

    But -- the eye rolls from the folks who bought the new Camrys for as much money as we paid (or more)...you'd have thought we were running a brothel at the local elementary school.

    People get jealous and people get ugly.  Oftentimes the answer to "How can Joe afford that car/vacation/television is that Joe saved up, didn't go out to dinner as often, didn't buy the premium cable package, etc."

    But nobody cares.
    BTW -- an awful lot of old analog TVs are given away free these days.  You need a converter box to watch them, but...heck, they work.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:29:27 AM PST

    •  It's what we have done. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac

      It doesn't have to be what we always do. I believe in evolution, that we evolve. We are the first species that can make conscious choices to influence the path of our evolution. In examples like this, perhaps we should.

      I'm sorry you've had that experience. May your circumstances soon improve!

      Thanks for the Lou Grant quotation! Always enjoyed that!

      "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT -9.62, -9.13

      by BeninSC on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 10:27:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hit the nail on the head! (11+ / 0-)
    (okay, unless you count Angry Birds on my phone or Candy Crush Saga on my computer, and doesn't that say a thing or two about privilege)
    Whenever I hear of someone berating a person with an iPhone while collecting any benefits from the state pisses me off in no time.

    As a spoiled middle class person, I am blessed with an iPad and a laptop and have access to my partner's iPhone when away from the house.

    I often point out that the person with an iPhone on food stamps probably doesn't have a laptop or iPad at home and the phone is that persons only contact to the Internet.  Additionally, that one iPhone is probably SEVERAL people's only connection to the Internet.

    Thank you for a wonderful diary!

    "The first duty of a revolutionist is to get away with it.". Abbie Hoffman

    by Joes Steven on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:36:38 AM PST

    •  My daughter's friends, living on peanuts, all (9+ / 0-)

      know how to get used iPhones cheap, and where to get iPhones fixed (hint: not at the Apple store).
      The real expense with smart phones in general is the monthly data fee. I have an iPhone that I got free because I signed a 2-year contract (I passed on paying lots for the newest version). But it costs me $30/month over what I paid monthly for my dumb phone.
      However, her friends seem to find cheap plans that may not work as well as mine, but they mainly work.
      They know how to sell rather than give away anything they are no longer using (her friend sold my daughter's very old and barely functional macbook for $150. I wouldn't have thought anyone would buy it and I would have donated it the computer-refurbishing organization in our county). They are geniuses at making do or making over. If you look at them, they don't look "poor." But they are operating on the edges, and there are times when they just fall right through -- can't pay the rent, haven't been able to buy food for a few days.

      While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

      by Tamar on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:18:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  About that game console . . . (18+ / 0-)

    Money was really tight when our kids were growing up and I remember clearly how important it was to the boys that they didn't "stick out" as poor.

    It took real sacrifice and careful shopping on our part, but we got the clothes they needed to dress like the other kids. Of course they wanted the bikes and the toys that would also help them "fit in" and we did what we could to get those too.

    Why would we use what little money we had to buy these things? Because shame is corrosive, it eats the heart out of a kid. We did what we could to support their dignity.

    BTW this is something we think carefully about when we donate to charities. We don't buy the bundle of cheap socks and underwear. We give the good stuff. The stuff that says to a kid: You're worth it.

    I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side. ~ Steven Wright

    by Bugsby on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:38:57 AM PST

  •  Having been in poverty in a family that .... (13+ / 0-)

    never took welfare, I know what this is like.  You get a dime in your pocket - you spend it on a comic book (back when comic books cost a dime,) because you never are sure when you are going to get another dime and because a dime even then would not buy that much good food.  A hamburger cost the magnificent sum of 35 cents. I was so proud when I was getting a 60 cent allowance and could buy one of those with relish and onions, not to mention mustard. Even when my father worked and had a reasonably decent living (he was blue-collar) we lived in a one room shack. When he was out of work and we nearly had our utilities cut off we were living in a two room apartment off an agricultural barn. I still remember the shame of having the Methodist Church drop off a totally inappropriate Christmas present for me because we were poor.  

    I am now comfortably middle class, but those years on the edge make me aware that that could change.  However bread alone is only a start. People have to have something for which to live!  

  •  A few years back (14+ / 0-)

    There was an especially heartless politician - I forget which state - who came up with a proposal to pay foster care funding with debit cards that could only be redeemed at secondhand stores.  He tried to sell it as a way to keep foster parent from committing fraud, but I'm sure it had more to do with whichever donor would get the lucrative deal for the debit cards.

    Fortunately, the proposal got shot down.  But I'm amazed that there was any consideration at all for something so mean-spirited:  what a horrible way to say to "you're not worth it" to kids who were already suffering.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 08:46:01 AM PST

    •  Particularly given there are some items (11+ / 0-)

      like oh say UNDERWEAR that are not going to show up often at secondhand stores. Certainly not in the sizes foster kids need and ABSOLUTELY not in the volume required.

      And that's ignoring completely consumable items foster kids predictably need that the funding is supposed to cover, like shampoo and soap and toilet paper and maxi pads (for those who need them - foster kids aren't just adorable little elementary schoolers but good luck getting people to remember that), that no secondhand store would stock.

      •  And thrift stores are not on every block. (7+ / 0-)

        How much would it cost in transportation to get to a thrift store to buy the regular necessities of life? Not to mention what it's like to take a couple of buses when you have to bring a few small kids along. Maybe that politician should offer to babysit the kids while the foster parent spends most of day getting to and from the thrift store.

        While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

        by Tamar on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:24:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right. And some of the other things that make it (5+ / 0-)

          a useable strategy for families like the Duggars are missing - no guarantee the kids in the home will be of relative ages where a hand-me-down chain is viable, potentially no cleat legal standing for the foster parent to force a hand-me-down chain even if it's viable size-wise, fact a hand-me-down chain requires focusing clothing purchases at the largest child instead of an even distribution.

          Unless you can do hand-me-downs within the home, with enough kids of enough sizes that you can trust anything will fit someone eventually, it's not feasible. You have to take the time for trying things on, even more so for used because things shrink or stretch over time, and that means bringing every kid who needs anything with you every time.

          The Duggars buy and then sort out who gets temporary possession of what shirt later on at home. And they can do that, and have hand-me-downs, because the state isn't giving them money per head that is supposed to be spent on the upkeep of that specific child.

  •  Re-Frame the Argument (5+ / 0-)

    The "haves" are never going to accept that the "have nots" deserve anything more than bare bones subsistence. That debate has been going on for decades in this country and the "haves" always win:  you deserve nothing.

    The powerful argument is that helping those in need benefits the "haves" more than the "have nots"  because the former own the businesses, e.g., Walmart, where poorer people shop regularly.  Since demand drives the economy, the more customers that government can provide to businesses in a recession the better off the economy will be for everyone. The current recession has dragged on so long because demand is weak.

    More jobs are ONLY created by more demand which government can enhance by enabling the poorer Americans to spend more.  OTOH, cutting taxes for the rich does not increase demand because those tax cuts are not spent buying goods and services; rather, they are invested in real estate or gold or stocks.

    Everyone wants the economy to grow faster and the way to do that is to put more spending power in the hands of those who will spend that money to create jobs resulting in more spending power.  That is the winning argument.

    •  because money isn't actually about money (3+ / 0-)
      Everyone wants the economy to grow faster and the way to do that is to put more spending power in the hands of those who will spend that money to create jobs resulting in more spending power.  That is the winning argument.
      Remember that money is how the rich keep score, precisely because they have far more of it than they could ever need or spend in one lifetime.  They don't care if the [real] economy only creaks along because of weak demand, so long as they're floating high above it in their world of paper, cackling madly at the rush of power and the ability to indulge any appetite no matter how grand or gross.  Think Baron Harkonnen.

      The goal is to maximize the gap between themselves and everyone else and not just materially, but in terms of honor and dignity as well ... and it's far easier to push others down than it is to lift yourself up, especially at the top where there is so little room.

      Remember Milton:

      Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
      to reign is worth ambition though in Hell:
      Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.
      Explains everything there is to explain about the rich.

      Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

      by Visceral on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:10:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Then Why Does Walmart Keep Growing? (0+ / 0-)

        The Walton family is insanely rich but they are spreading Walmarts everywhere.  Obviously Walmart cannot grow if the poorer people who regularly shop there cannot afford to buy their merchandise.

        The only way for the rich to get richer and raise their score compared to their peers is for their customers to achieve higher incomes so they can buy more.  Apple cannot bring out new expensive products every few months if their customers are jobless or their incomes are stagnant or falling.

        Re-framing the argument to show the benefit of job and income growth to the 1% is the only way forward given that the 1% couldn't care less  about lives of the poor per se.  If they don't see the benefit to themselves they will never do anything.  I think that should be clear.

        •  Walmart is not a good example (0+ / 0-)

          Walmart grows as people get poorer since 7-11 only sells food.  They have every incentive to impoverish people since the more poor people there are, the more customers they have and the more money they make.

          They also follow the same long-term agenda as Starbucks, in that their expansion is not purely a reaction to growing demand; there's also a supply-side dimension in that people can't shop at Walmart if there isn't one around.  They set up shop proactively in a new area and their genuinely competitive prices eventually squeeze out anyone who doesn't offer some must-have that Walmart can't deal with or won't bother with.

          Apple is at completely the opposite end of the spectrum.  While Walmart makes its money off of sales volume, Apple makes its money off of fat markups; nobody ever went broke selling to people with money for gadgets.  Apple also has popularity to balance Walmart's necessity, in that people will spend money to have an Apple product even if they shouldn't spend that money.

          Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

          by Visceral on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 03:12:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Supply Side is Not Correct (0+ / 0-)

            J.M. Keynes proved decades ago that only demand drives the economy and business expansion.  If customers' incomes are not rising, then demand will be deficient and businesses cannot expand.

            Of course if you believe in Reaganomics, then supply side is the way things work, but in reality, Keynes is correct.  Paul Krugman would agree with me.

  •  Funny, isn't it (11+ / 0-)

    that all the "make the best of yourself" gurus prescribe giving yourself small rewards along the way towards a goal to encourage yourself... if you're well-off.

    If your poor, forget it -- pure desperation is to be your motivator.  If you're not working -- well, why the fuck aren't you working?  Why are you relaxing?  Why are you sleeping?  Why do you need a bed -- you should be working to improve yourself (that is, improve as in "make yourself over into whatever we need you to be at this precise moment and be prepared to re-make yourself into what we need you to be when we no longer need you to be what we told you to be the last time, whether or not that is something in which you find intrinsic satisfaction").

  •  Tuna for the food bin? I get albacore. (9+ / 0-)

    I want the kids to know what GOOD tuna tastes like. And I get Star*Kist or Chicken of the Sea - brand-names are a luxury and a status item too, when you're so poor you only eat off-brand or generic stuff.

    At my job we get a government subsidy for using public transit, and when I mention it, I usually make a joke about "getting my government cheese" - mostly to remind myself that I too get government handouts and not to start looking down at other folks getting assistance.

    I cannot begin to wrap my head around glass-eyed poliiticians who can afford to buy entire grocery stores - and who've never missed a snack in their lives, let alone a full meal - gloating over taking food away from poor people because starvation is such a wonderful motivator for third-graders.

    Thank God, the Bob Fosse Kid is here! - Colin Mochrie

    by gardnerhill on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:32:37 AM PST

  •  People who have been poor are often very (8+ / 0-)

    concerned about being seen as poor. My former MIL grew up with virtually nothing. When she heard that my (former) husband and I often shopped at thrift stores, she was horrified. "Someone might see you!" We were college students at the time and buying at thrift stores was considered great fun. Since I came from a well-educated middle-class family, it never occurred to me that shopping there might affect my social status. But for my MIL, it was a possible terrifying descent.
    I still shop occasionally at thrift stores because you can really save lots of money. I was at a huge one, the best in the area, last week and I noticed that lots of shelves were empty. My bet is that it was a combination of fewer donations, the long recession -- and people buying their Christmas presents at the thrift store rather than at the mall. It's the first time I've ever seen empty shelves at this store.
    It's also interesting to observe who shops there -- lots and lots of mothers and little kids of all races. A fairly large number of elderly women, some of whom have real mobility problems. Welfare queens, all of them, I'm sure, living high off of taxpayer dollars!

    While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

    by Tamar on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:33:41 AM PST

    •  I worked at a Catholic school for many years (7+ / 0-)

      It was a reasonably progressive school in a working class area of South Side Chicago run by nuns who had a social justice mission. The school's pay scale was lower than that of the neighboring public schools.

      One day I was in the office with the office staff and several of the lay teachers. People where talking about where they like to shop for clothes. People mentioned Target, Kohls and places like that.

      I said I did most of my shopping at thrift stores and mentioned an especially good one in my community. You could have heard the cliched "pin drop". There was silence for many seconds. Then one by one, almost everyone in the room admitted that they too did a lot of shopping at thrift stores also.

      It was as we like to say in the education industry, "a teachable moment".

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:48:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think middle-class status in this country is a (4+ / 0-)

        very important thing. And plenty of people think that shopping at thrift stores means you're not middle class.
        It's sad nowadays since so many people have lost their middle-class status in financial terms. It's extremely painful for them. And it's bad for the country.
        The only silver lining is that thrift store buying is a really good recycling activity.

        While Democrats work to get more people to vote, Republicans work to ensure those votes won't count.

        by Tamar on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 10:03:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you Laura (3+ / 0-)

    You nailed it with this one.

    When I hear phrases like: "employers want" or "employers need" I start asking questions. Why don't we have better employers?

    Such as ones who don't mind paying taxes to support public employment if they don't want to hire the unemployed? Or better employers who pay at least a living wage? Or  better employers who enthusiastically support public education? Or better employers who don't poison the biosphere?

    Maybe if we had a better class of employers, we would be able to seriously deal with the problems of poverty.

    So how on god's green earth do we get a better class of employers. Or wait! I'm a socialist. I think I just answered my own question.

    "Don't believe everything you think."

    by BobboSphere on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:36:08 AM PST

  •  Awesome essay. (3+ / 0-)

    It's disturbing where and when the sort of "poor shaming" you describe can crop up, how ubiquitous it is. True, it is the go-to position toward the less fortunate of your average GOPer, but I hear shades of it, or worse, judgmental comments about "THAT person buying/owning THAT thing!", from otherwise compassionate people, and it boggles my mind.

    •  The old 'divide and conquer' game of the rich. (3+ / 0-)

      Turn the middle class against the poor and they can keep taking all the money and paying none of the taxes.

      Why do you think they own so many media outlets - where they continually hammer poor people that dare to have working refrigerators and hint that the money's coming out of Joe Sixpack's paycheck?

      If Joe Sixpack grew up in the era when news outlets were REQUIRED to be even-handed politically (thanks for killing the Fairness Doctrine, Ronald Fucking Reagan), he still has the mindset that it must be true if serious talking heads on TV and radio say something.

      Thank God, the Bob Fosse Kid is here! - Colin Mochrie

      by gardnerhill on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:59:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for taking this on (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FloridaSNMOM, kj in missouri, Bugsby

    Very eloquent.

    one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. MLK

    by Klick2con10ue on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 09:57:05 AM PST

  •  I'm not so keen on the video games for kids thing. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dinazina
    On a practical level, if you live in a dangerous neighborhood, video games are a way of passing time safely indoors.
    Passing time indoors, mostly alone, in a sedentary activity, viewing glorified violence... I mean, if you're okay with kids growing into adults that are overweight and unhealthy, desensitized to violence, and lacking people skills, then I guess that the safety garnered by kids playing video games instead of venturing out into their possibly dangerous neighborhood is worth it.  But it seems to me that you're just substituting one problem for another.
  •  eloquent (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LittleOldLadyWho

    i have loved the 'bread and roses' poem/image also... and you have done it fantastic justice with this essay, Laura.   bravo and a bow.

    "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

    by kj in missouri on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 10:06:59 AM PST

  •  Education comes in many forms, including TV (4+ / 0-)

    Sesame Street (and before it, Captain Kangaroo, Kukla Fran & Ollie, and of course Mister Rogers) have provided generations of preschoolers with tools for learning.

    I visited a family within the old city of Rabat, Morocco, on a tour there several years ago. The 20-something daughter spoke passable English, as her 4th language. When I asked her how she learned it, she beckoned at the TV. They got programming in at least 6 languages. I found many people there who were barely literate, even in Arabic -- but spoke and understood three or four languages passably, because of TV.

    So it's not just entertainment that's at stake in electronic equality; it's also information and education. That's why people all over the world are fighting for full Internet access, against governments which are hesitant to have their populations that savvy about the world outside their borders.

  •  I've never been poor (4+ / 0-)

    But I have been on that edge. That edge where one financial miscalculation or hiccup can have you begging for money from relatives. Or heaven forbid not being able to pay a bill and finding out that the companies you do business with do hire people that live under rocks to do their dirty work.

    I think about the time just after my second child was born and the management at my firm decided to cut everyone's pay by 10%. To them it was all fair. But that 10% pushed me over that edge. I shopped for business wear at second hand stores. I sold possessions to put food on the table. It's at times like that where you stand with the refrigerator door open assessing what you don't have while your young children mill around your feet that you believe you don't deserve a refrigerator either.

    Republicans keep messing with that edge. The fact that they push people over it means nothing to them. They are heartless.

    The USA and the rest of the world face a dangerous enemy that not only threatens our freedom but our very existence. This enemy is deeply embedded within society and is actively working towards our annihilation. That enemy is ignorance.

    by Ex Con on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 10:53:42 AM PST

  •  wonderful diary.thank you. (0+ / 0-)

    Conservatism is killing this country. Jayden

    by swampyankee on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 11:01:09 AM PST

  •  Thank you for this diary (4+ / 0-)

    I was raised in a rural area in Iowa with parents who had lost the farm in the farm crisis. For many Christmases after that we relied on gifts from distant family and even strangers because of the limits of my immediate family. I didn't understand any of this at the time.

    I was clearly one of the poorest kids in my tiny elementary and I was always a few years behind on fashion and toys. Those gifts often allowed me the illusion that things weren't that bad. I wasn't thinking about economics while I was playing Pitfall. In truth, I never understood how poor we were until I got older and had a real job.

    People who criticize the poor for having these 'luxuries' have a tremendously unrealistic view of these items. They are rarely owned through the resources of the parents, like in my case. Owning an Atari (or eventually a Nintendo) did not illustrate my family wasting money, it simply showed a support network.

     

  •  Cable TV (5+ / 0-)

    I did a stint as a cab driver in Austin, Tx, one of many odd jobs that I happened into over the years.  

    I remember that cable TV was something I thought was a curious case of the bread and roses paradigm.

    It turns out that a large customer base for taxi cabs is poor people whose cares are out of repair and who need to pay through the nose to do things that have to be done.

    One of those things was paying the cable bill - in person.  It might cost 20 bucks to go over to the office and pay the bill in person.  Why do this?

    During a recessionary period I happened to run across a graph that showed clearly that, as the economy worsened, the number of cable TV subscribers increased.  

    What was going on was that people who needed to pick up an extra job to support kids at home, especially single moms, needed the TV as babysitter.  It was cheaper than daycare.
    It was cheaper than going out to the movies.

    I remember one Saturday morning when an Hispanic couple with five or six kids, some possibly relative's children, got into the cab and were all excited about going to the movies.

    The father, or possibly the boyfriend of the mother, sat in the front seat next to me and stared fixedly at the meter.
    The theater they had chosen to go to was across town.  The meter kept on climbing and his expression got more fixed.

    Finally we got to the theater and he took out a wad of bills, probably from a construction job and most likely his whole net worth.  He paid out the 30 bucks and watched as the kids ran really fast through the doors of the theater and over to the concession stand.  What a real man does for the woman he loves and the children he wants to be a good parent for, is to support them no matter how much it may hurt him at the moment.  He could add up how much the movie and the return trip would end up costing.  He had a grim set to his face as he went into the theater to follow them.  

    The fact is that poverty can be cruel, but precisely because it tears you up to see the smiling faces of children who are for the moment, happy and know that the cost of a trip to the movies will take a whole week's wages.  

    At dawn on Monday morning, he will have had to face that music.  If it was one of those construction jobs where some are chosen and some are not, it could have meant starving for a day or two until another job materialized.  

    People who are more well off never have to face those issues and to deny them the dignity they deserve because they face reality in its most naked terms honestly, is not just cruel, but criminal.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 11:34:47 AM PST

  •  I lived in a 3rd world country (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    And most of my neighbors, who never made more than $400 in a single month, had televisions and refrigerators. Does that mean that 3rd world countries are actually affluent? And thus there is no poverty in the world?

    None are so hopelessly enslaved, as those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. -Johann von Goethe

    by gjohnsit on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 11:37:09 AM PST

  •  The likely response from Fox news pundits (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    would be that you're "fomenting class warfare."

    As Warren Buffet best put it, "There is class warfare going on. And my class is winning."

    The programs on which these overpaid idiots appear are sandwiched in between advertisements. After all, Fox News and other media are in the business of delivering audiences, any "news" or other content is merely a by-product of the process.

    If you spend any time watching the ads, you'll see that they are almost invariably set in an upper middle class world. Note the houses, clothing cars, etc. that you see on display on any typical ad. That seems to be what advertisers and the media hold up as an ideal to which we all ought to aspire.

    So it's no wonder to me that people who may not always be in a position to afford the trappings of this ideal world attempt to emulate it by going into debt or splurging on some item when they get a rare small windfall, in an attempt to conceal their "lesser status."

  •  Unlike dinner, heating and child care, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites, Ahianne

    televisions and games are not daily expenses and rarely need replacement. Amortized over their lifetime, they are very minor expenses (especially if purchased used).

    To evaluate this honestly, one must project that entertainment expense as a percentage of income, in which case, I'd bet that the poor spend a much, much lower percentage of income on entertainment than the pompous pundits criticizing them.

  •  ornaments... (3+ / 0-)

    Having never had much -- for many years, my Christmas tree was twigs collected in Central Park and stuck into a jar -- I usually was able to find enough money each December to buy myself a nice ornament or two.  I didn't have a big meal on December 25th, but I had the sustaining artwork of the ornaments to appreciate all through the season.  

    And now, these many years later, I still have all those ornaments, and they still warm me as I recall getting beyond the discouragements of any individual year.  They remind me of the real treasures:  the people I knew around the time when I bought one ornament, or the positive experiences that occurred around the time when I bought another.  

    In short, the ornaments bring back memories and the message of Christmas, and it's a joy to unwrap them each year.  

    I buy ornaments for my less-than-wealthy friend's small sons now, and I keep a tiny Santa Claus figure (from a cousin) on my desk all year through to keep the spirit flowing; however challenging times may be for me, there is always another person who needs some hope and some comforting sense of tradition even more, and art can provide that.  

  •  forwarded to my Sunday School class (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites, Ahianne

    Since we had a storm last night, we only had a half-dozen in class. One of the things we discussed was the recent delivery of Christmas Bureau packages to the several families that our congregation sponsored. Apparently one of the folks delivering (not from our class, thank goodness) was mightily offended by the presence of a big-screen TV in the living room of the recipients. Led to a great discussion of how we judge others without having the 'rest of the story'. Shoot, we shouldn't even be judging if we do have the rest of the story.

    Wonderful essay, am now off to look up the bread and roses backstory.

  •  life in the 21st century (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    It is impossible for a child to succeed in school now without internet.  With parents working multiple mc-wally-wort jobs, a microwave is often the only way the kids can prepare hot food for themselves.  A cheap prepaid cell phone is actually less expensive than a landline, at least in my area, and texting may be the only way kids have to let a parent know they arrived home safely or need to stay after school, or that something is wrong.   These things are not luxuries, they are everyday necessities of life in the 21st century.  And denying kids used or older games puts a further social stigma on a disadvantaged child who is already likely to be ridiculed by the tea-partier's child for the heinous crime of not having the in-crowd items, not to mention leaves them unfamiliar with how to operate modern technology that is increasingly being adapted to the workplace.  How many businesses rely on twitter, facebook or linked in to communicate with customers and colleagues?  How many decent jobs are there available to someone who is not able to use the latest software and hardware?  It is ridiculous to say poor parents and kids should be kept out of the electronics market.  The entire economy now runs on this market!  What kind of idiots think this is a good idea?  They are simply trying to guarantee "that class" of people stays out of their businesses, neighborhood, and lives.  Those who want to keep the poor poor by making them live back in the 70s or 80s are a moral and ethical disgrace.

    "Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead." -Thomas Paine. "It's a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent." - Miss Gayle

    by MissGayle on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 03:15:30 PM PST

  •  Also in the Jewish Talmud (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne

    specifically in the Mishnah, the earliest part,

    Pirke Avot 3:17: Without bread [literally “flour”], there is no Torah; without Torah there is no bread.
    and no security, and no justice, and no culture…

    Ceterem censeo, gerrymandra delenda est

    by Mokurai on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 07:10:30 PM PST

  •  Such a great diary. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alexandra Lynch

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Sun Dec 22, 2013 at 07:33:36 PM PST

  •  Actually, those video games (0+ / 0-)

    Prepare them for the world as it is, as opposed to board games. Video games get their brains trained to work with computers and other technology that they otherwise might not experience.

    In fact, the more that they are given things like tablets, computers, and other technology to have fun with, the better for them. It helps them to "fit in" with the world of the more well-to-do.



    Women create the entire labor force.
    ---------------------------------------------
    Sympathy is the strongest instinct in human nature. - Charles Darwin

    by splashy on Tue Dec 24, 2013 at 06:44:15 AM PST

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