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Year: 2018

Fritillary Butterfly

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The Old Need Not Apply


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The Old Need Not Apply

Published at CounterPunch on September 5, 2018.

Employment discrimination is as old as this nation. In their turn, blacks, Latinos, Jews, women and others have all seen employment opportunities that needed to have been somewhat buttressed by the strength of their resumes and experience given short shrift.

With older workers, unemployment is no mere chimera. The Center on Aging and Work at Boston College cites research from Kosanovich and Theodossio  in “Trends in long-term unemployment” (2015): “The incidence  of long-term unemployment increases with age.” Those 55 years old and older looking for work for 27 weeks and longer had a 44.6 percent unemployment rate. Talk about age discrimination!

The first premise of a job search has almost universally been that “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Given that American Exceptionalism falsely holds that we are living in a meritocracy, most know better. When the shoe leather hits the streets most already have learned a different lesson. There is a startling contrast between job searches and job offers for those who are old. A good guess is that if a perspective employee lied in a resume and listed a phony and younger year of birth, that that person would get many, many more interviews. Of course, that person would be rejected once he/she showed up for an interview for obvious reasons. Employers can blatantly discriminate against prospective workers, but a job applicant can’t lie on a resume.

I began looking for work a few months ago. In terms of the jobs I was applying for—library supervisor, academic advisor, test administer and test administration supervisor, I naively thought that my prospects were excellent since I possessed a solid resume of work experience, education, and a myriad of community volunteer experiences.

What a shock when I began receiving stark email rejections or no rejections at all… just  silence in some cases. Sometimes silence feels better than a lie like emails stating that you were one of an amazing array of highly qualified applicants. This was all very, very frustrating because I’ve got skills that would enable me to actually be of use in the work environments for which I had applied. I could actually help people, but that often doesn’t matter to employers.

Since names are named here and facts matter, let’s start with a school in northwestern Connecticut that caters to the elite who happen to be of a particular social, economic and political class (and usually of the same religious persuasion looking at the school’s list of notable graduates). That prep school’s online application was tortuous to complete. When a person has an extensive work history and education, the time it takes to fill out one of these kinds of applications is astronomical. For that effort, I received a form letter rejection a few months after applying for the job via email touting the pool of candidates. Readers might think that all of the professional talent of the world is centered around the Litchfield Hills of northwestern Connecticut.

Next, I applied for the library job mentioned above. The hours were bizarre, but hey, I’ve got time on my hands and lots of library and research experience, so I thought I was a shoo-in for at least a first interview. Wrong again, and in this case I didn’t even receive the form email congratulating me for being an unseen and uninterviewed genius.

The list of applications does go on, but after three, maybe there was some magic there. I received an offer to come for an interview from a company that has a contract with the government to administer standardized tests at three grade levels for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the data from which the “nation’s report card” for education is gathered, which actually is quite useful data for studying trends in education.

Here I struck it rich and it appeared that the interview would be just a formality. I also received an email of interview guidelines and was somewhat shocked to read that the dress requirements for the work were somewhat like those for my freshman year in college many decades ago. I would have to dress as if I was to attend a semi-formal dance or dinner each morning and be at a classroom desk fifty miles from my home at 7:00 AM each day. And now here’s the kicker: All of these requirements and the educational experience to administer these tests would garner $13.15 per hour. That’s right readers, your eyes are not deceiving you… $13.15 an hour. I calculated that I would probably wreck a car with that daily roundtrip commute during the winter months that can be quite severe here, and I would have pocket change left to show for those Herculean efforts.

Pretty amazing conclusions can be easily drawn here, and in the current anti-worker and anti-union environment many won’t be shocked in the least. All of this reminded me of a make-work job I had while I was in high school. I got the job through family connections and the work involved the daily sweeping of the floor of a huge U.S. Navy warehouse on a naval base in Rhode Island. The place was humungous, but that was all that was available because the young don’t exactly have great job prospects in this society either.

Howard Lisnoff is freelance writer.

He is the author of Against The Wall: Memoir Of A Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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John McCain: “War Hero” in an Immoral War

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John McCain: “War Hero” in an Immoral War

The polarized nature of the articles about, and responses to, Senator John McCain’s death are breathtaking! The sheer amount of militarized tributes are too many to mention. I followed articles about McCain in the New York Times-Reuters and the Guardian, in addition to the left press, Facebook, and read an occasional tweet. I also subscribe to a Facebook page called Blue Revolution, and that site was so full of gushing superpatriotic tributes that I gave up following the threads after a few dozen comments. It was as if the messiah had come down to Earth as a fighter pilot. This was the stuff of Orwell’s 1984… touting both the glory of war and the warriors! We could have been be at war with Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia… it really didn’t matter since it was all about the beauty of war-making. From the comments about McCain, readers might think that war was full of glory without any of its gore!

Even those comments about McCain’s death that did not agree with his policy positions and votes in the Senate were followed up with remarkably similar tributes using words such as “great American,” “patriot,” “man of superior character,” … ad nauseam. The adulation went on for pages. At least both Medea Benjamin and Caitlin Johnstone were consistent in their condemnation of the bellicosity of the late senator. Even the Bone-Spur-In-Chief  belatedly climbed up on the bandwagon of so-called “respect” and had the flag over the White House lowered. The press decried Trump’s insufficient show of patriotism

I think that celebrating the death of anyone is a huge mistake, even those with whom we have nothing in common save the planet on which we live. If I were going to choose one issue upon which I could agree with the late senator, it would be his rejection of torture. But even that position existed with his love of war and all of the preparations and profit that go into making war. I don’t think that he ever found a war that he didn’t like and therein lies the rub. He was opposed to attacking Yemen by way of a special navy operation, but not turning Yemen into an ash heap as a way of sending a message to Iran. Remember “Bomb, bomb, Iran,” sung to the tune of the Beach Boys “Barbara Ann?” In essence, McCain was an authentic and dyed-in-the-wool warmonger. No doubt he suffered tremendously, and that is a real human issue that merits intense scrutiny, but he was gung-ho about bombing the holy hell out of the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War, and that fact alone hardly makes him a hero, or great statesman, or superpatriot, or someone worthy of emulation. But neither was the torture of McCain something that needs to be overlooked and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible way. 

Missing from all of this, however, is the utter wrongheaded Cold War anticommunism that ended with the deaths of millions of innocent people, led to massacres such as My Lai, allowed for the use of napalm and Agent Orange, offered up free-fire zones and strategic hamlets rather than a reasoned assessment of what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam in the first place. More tonnage of bombs were dropped in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War than in all of World War II and the U.S. didn’t offer one cent in reparations for all of that damage. Also missing is the emerging bullying power of a superpower against an opponent with a largely agrarian economy. The late senator took part in the murderous Operation Rolling Thunder as a fighter pilot.

McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in 2008, a Know Nothing if ever one existed, is probably also one of the lowest points of his political career. Remember how she told the American people that she knew about Russia because she could see Russia off of the shore of Alaska. By the same logic, I could anoint myself a nuclear physicist by watching the footage of a nuclear blast.

All of the hyperbole about John McCain came as I accepted an offer from a reader of CounterPunch to help me put my memoir Against The Wall: Memoir Of A Vietnam-Era War Resister into a readable Kindle format. I was amazed at the offer for help since that sort of thing does not often come from members of the political left and the person who offered, an author in her own right, completed the book from soup to nuts, so to speak, and it is now on the Internet.

As I finished the review of the completed book, I thought about how John McCain and I were at 180 degree opposite poles on a continuum about the issues of war and peace. I doubt that those who read my memoir will find words like superpatriot and the like applicable, but they certainly will take a trip on the roller coaster of what it meant to oppose the same war in which John McCain killed people he would never see or meet.

As school begins and the accolades flood the stratosphere for John McCain, remembering the slain students and the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and the connections between violence and war and profit are hard to miss.

Howard Lisnoff is freelance writer.

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Sand Hill Cove

Path at Roger Wheeler State Beach (formerly Sand Hill Cove). Narragansett, RI) Photo credit: Howard Lisnoff

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