The Sharp, Sudden Decline of America’s Middle Class

They had good, stable jobs – until the recession hit. Now they’re living out of their cars in parking lots.

Photo: Mark Seliger

Janis Adkins lives in her van at the Goleta Community Covenant Church in Santa Barbara.

Every night around nine, Janis Adkins falls asleep in the back of her Toyota Sienna van in a church parking lot at the edge of Santa Barbara, California. On the van’s roof is a black Yakima SpaceBooster, full of previous-life belongings like a snorkel and fins and camping gear. Adkins, who is 56 years old, parks the van at the lot’s remotest corner, aligning its side with a row of dense, shading avocado trees. The trees provide privacy, but they are also useful because she can pick their fallen fruit, and she doesn’t always­ have enough to eat. Despite a continuous, two-year job search, she remains without dependable work. She says she doesn’t need to eat much – if she gets a decent hot meal in the morning, she can get by for the rest of the day on a piece of fruit or bulk-purchased almonds – but food stamps supply only a fraction of her nutritional needs, so foraging opportunities are welcome.

Prior to the Great Recession, Adkins owned and ran a successful plant nursery in Moab, Utah. At its peak, it was grossing $300,000 a year. She had never before been unemployed – she’d worked for 40 years, through three major recessions. During her first year of unemployment, in 2010, she wrote three or four cover letters a day, five days a week. Now, to keep her mind occupied when she’s not looking for work or doing odd jobs, she volunteers at an animal shelter called the Santa Barbara­ Wildlife Care Network. (“I always ask for the most physically hard jobs just to get out my frustration,” she says.) She has permission to pick fruit directly from the branches of the shelter’s orange and avocado trees. Another benefit is that when she scrambles eggs to hand-feed wounded seabirds, she can surreptitiously make a dish for herself.

By the time Adkins goes to bed – early, because she has to get up soon after sunrise, before parishioners or church employees arrive – the four other people who overnight in the lot have usually settled in: a single mother who lives in a van with her two teenage children and keeps assiduously to herself, and a wrathful, mentally unstable woman in an old Mercedes sedan whom Adkins avoids. By mutual unspoken agreement, the three women park in the same spots every night, keeping a minimum distance from each other. When you live in your car in a parking lot, you value any reliable area of enclosing stillness. “You get very territorial,” Adkins says.

Each evening, 150 people in 113 vehicles spend the night in 23 parking lots in Santa Barbara. The lots are part of Safe Parking, a program that offers overnight permits to people living in their vehicles. The nonprofit that runs the program, New Beginnings Counseling Center, requires participants to have a valid driver’s license and current registration and insurance. The number of vehicles per lot ranges from one to 15, and lot hours are generally from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Fraternization among those who sleep in the lots is implicitly discouraged – the fainter the program’s presence, the less likely it will provoke complaints from neighboring homes and churches and businesses.

20 Obvious Lies That Will Shock Conservatives If They Ever Bothered To Read A Book Or Two

 

Whenever conservative bloggers try to be clever and “expose” liberal myths, you just know it’s time to pull out the rain coat, ’cause there’s gonna be a whole lot of bullshit flying around. The latest example of this is John Hawkins’ “20 Obvious Truths That Will Shock Liberals” whose real title should be “20 Easily Disprovable Stories That Conservatives Chumps Buy Hook, Line & Sinker.” Let’s take a look shall we?

 

1) The Founding Fathers were generally religious, gun-toting small government fanatics who were so far to the Right that they’d make Ann Coulter look like Jimmy Carter. That’s nice. They also thought leeches could cure illness. Does that mean we should stop advancing medicine or building on their ideas for a better future? I’ll keep this mind the next time some gibbering buffoon demands that “original intent” be the only guide for interpreting the Constitution. The original intent of the Founders was that slavery was just fine, black people counted as only 3/5 of a man and women couldn’t vote at all. Let’s get back to basics!! Warning: you might find that women and African-Americans have some objections.

 

As for “small government?” Pure ignorance. They had laws dictating what kind of public behavior was acceptable and what size barrel could be used to transport food stuffs. Small government? Don’t make me laugh.

Read more…

 

Milestones

This past week I have added a few milestones to my life. The major milestone was the high school graduation of my daughter Alexis. I can still vividly  remember her first day of pre-school. Her tiny face anxious to leave me, but eager to join the other children in the brightly decorated classroom. Now in a couple of months she will be off to college. The anxious little face will be replaced by a beautiful excited smile.  Another milestone was being able to sit with my husband, best friend and most of all, my two sisters who each flew in to celebrate with us. It had been a number of years since we have all been together. The milestone was seeing our differences and also our similarities. It was a very busy week with sightseeing, dining out, a small unplanned wedding which was the best wedding my sister said she had ever attended, and talking about our past.  My daughter also went with her aunt to get tattoos. They are tasteful and a memory they will always share. It was a wonderful week, but now I feel a sence of sadness. Hopefully it will not be so many years until we see each other again. Family is too important to miss out on.

Common Pesticide Makes Honey Bees Picky Eaters

A new study offers further evidence about the dangerous effects of pesticides on honey bees. Biologists at the University of California at San Diego have found that a commonly used crop pesticide makes honey bees picky eaters and also makes them reduce the number of waggle dances they perform. Waggle dances are how the bees communicate the location of a food source; bees exposed to the pesticide performed four to ten times fewer dances.

Indeed, as Daren Eiri, a graduate student and the first author of the study in the Journal of Experimental Biology, says, some bees simply stopped performing waggle dances altogether after exposure to pesticides.

The chemical in question is imidacloprid, which is a type of neonicotinoid — which has been linked to bees’ deaths. Imidacloprid has come under increasing scrutiny in the US and is banned for use in some crops in some parts of Europe. James Nieh, a professor of biology at UC San Diego who also authored the study, notes in Science Daily that, in 2006, imidacloprid was the sixth most commonly used pesticide in California. Besides being used in agriculture, it is also used in home gradens.

Read more…

Onion Rings

Prep Time: 15 Min                Cook Time: 3 Min                Ready In: 18 Min

Yield 3 serving

I think these are the best onion rings I’ve ever eaten. They are light and crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, Yum.

Ingredients

1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup milk, or as needed

3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

seasoned salt to taste

1 quart oil for frying, or as needed

Directions

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 365 degrees F (185 degrees C).

Separate the onion slices into rings, and set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Dip the onion slices into the flour mixture until they are all coated; set aside. Whisk the egg and milk into the flour mixture using a fork. Dip the floured rings into the batter to coat, then place on a wire rack to drain until the batter stops dripping. The wire rack may be placed over a sheet of aluminum foil for easier clean up. Spread the bread crumbs out on a plate or shallow dish. Place rings one at a time into the crumbs, and scoop the crumbs up over the ring to coat. Give it a hard tap as you remove it from the crumbs. The coating should cling very well. Repeat with remaining rings.

Deep fry the rings a few at a time for 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain. Season with seasoning salt, and serve.

Messing With Our Minds: The Ever Finer Line Between News and Advertising

The manufacturing of consent is endemic within modern societies. Throughout history, the need to “persuade and influence” has always been manipulated by those people in power as a means to maintain authority and legitimacy. In more recent years, the overall manipulation of the mass public mind has become less about making speeches and more about becoming a pervasive presence within the lives of each of individual.

Edward Bernays has often been called “the father of public relations,” as it was his teachings and research that spurred the postwar years of propaganda. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, utilized psychological and psychoanalytical ideas to construct an informational system – propaganda – capable of manipulating public opinion. Bernays, apparently, considered that such a manipulative apparatus was necessary because society, in his regard, was composed of too many irrational elements – the people – which could be dangerous to the efficient mechanisms of power (or so-called “democracy”). Bernays wrote that, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”[1] Bearing in mind that Bernays was working in the early 1920s, we can expect the mechanisms of propaganda – mass manipulation – to have progressed to a very advanced degree since then. Within the context of our modern mass societies, propaganda has morphed into a mechanism for not only engineering public opinion, but also for consolidating social control. Read more…