Anthony W. Orlando: The Best Monetary Policy Is Strict Financial Regulation

Anthony W. Orlando: The Best Monetary Policy Is Strict Financial Regulation 2014-04-19

On Wednesday, in her first speech on monetary policy, Janet Yellen, the new chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, pointed out a discouraging paradox: In recent years, private-sector forecasters have been surprisingly accurate at forecasting changes in the unemployment rate, but they have been equally inaccurate when forecasting changes in the federal funds rate, the baseline interest rate controlled by the Fed.

Since interest rates supposedly have a strong effect on unemployment, how can forecasters be so right about unemployment if they're so wrong about interest rates?

Three economists at the Bank of International Settlements -- Morten L. Bech, Leonardo Gambacorta, and Enisse Kharroubi -- have been studying this question, and coincidentally their results were published this week in the journal International Finance.

Bech and his colleagues amassed a dataset of interest rates and economic output for 24 industrialized countries from 1960 to today. Over that time period, these countries experienced 78 recessions, of which 34 were the result of financial crises like the one we experienced a few years ago. In each recession, the BIS economists measured how much the central bank lowered interest rates to stimulate recovery -- and then how long it took for the economy to recover its lost output.

Unsurprisingly, they found that "normal" recessions -- the ones without a financial crisis -- were much less severe. On average, they resulted in an output loss of 1.9 percent, which it took the country 3.8 years to recover. Financial crises, on the other hand, resulted in an output loss of 8.2 percent, which it took 5.1 years to recover.

What was perhaps more surprising was the fact that "accommodative" monetary policy -- i.e. lowering interest rates -- had no effect on the economy after a financial crisis. This wasn't the case with normal recessions. Typically, the more the central bank lowered the interest rate, the faster the economy recovered its lost output. But not so with financial crises.

In times like these, interest rates simply don't matter as much as they normally do.

That doesn't sound like good news for Janet Yellen. What's a central banker to do?

Fortunately, the BIS economists did find one thing that accelerated recovery from financial crises: private-sector deleveraging. After a normal recession, it doesn't seem to matter whether households and firms pay down their debt, but after a financial crisis, it significantly speeds up economic growth.

As luck would have it, the Federal Reserve has a tool at its disposal that can reduce the economy's reliance on debt. It's called the "capital requirement," and it refers to the difference between what a bank owns and what it owes.

When a recession strikes, asset prices fall, and since banks own a lot of assets, their value goes down. If they go down too much, they can fall below what the bank owes to its lenders and depositors, meaning it's basically bankrupt. It doesn't own enough to pay what it owes.

So the Fed sets a minimum capital requirement. The more capital a bank is required to have, the more it has to own relative to what it owes. It's a buffer. The bigger the buffer, the more room asset prices have to fall before the bank becomes bankrupt.

Unfortunately, banks don't like high capital requirements. They want to rely on debt. Why use your own cash when you can use somebody else's cash? Lower capital requirements are cheaper -- but they're also more dangerous because it's easier to go bankrupt when you owe so much relative to what you own.

Banks argue that high capital requirements restrain lending because they can't borrow as much debt to fund their loans, but another paper published in the latest issue of International Finance debunks this myth. In it, the German economists Claudia M. Buch and Esteban Prieto study the behavior of German bank lending for the past 44 years, and they find that banks with higher capital actually issue more business loans.

This doesn't come as a surprise to those of us who understand how banks actually operate. They don't lend based on how much debt they can borrow. They lend based on how many loans they can sell. The more, the better. The only question is, will they fund the loans with cash or debt?

Janet Yellen may have her work cut out for her in this post-financial-crisis economy, but there is a way to stimulate the economy and prevent future crises. It all starts with financial regulation.

==========

This op-ed was published in Friday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Huff Tv: Arianna On Hillary Clinton In 2016: 'she Could Be An Amazing Role Mod

Huff Tv: Arianna On Hillary Clinton In 2016: 'she Could Be An Amazing Role Model' 2014-04-18

Arianna discussed her new book Thrive: The Third Metric To Redefining Success And Creating A Life Of Well-Being, Wisdom, And Wonder with CNN's Jake Tapper on Friday, reflecting on how its tenets might benefit Hillary Clinton.

Addressing her efforts to maintain a well-balanced life in a world that is increasingly competitive and consumed by the pursuit of money, Arianna told Tapper, "We need to realize that we're living under a collective delusion that equates burn out with success." She added, "When we take care of ourselves, get enough sleep, meditate, do yoga, whatever it is that recharges us, and learn to unplug from our ever-present devices, we are going to be more effective."

Arianna offered guidance to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who also has a new book and is a potential 2016 presidential election candidate.

"She could be an amazing role model of someone -- if she decides to run even -- who'd run a presidential campaign without completely burning out as most of them do, and show there are other ways to do it."

Watch the full video from CNN above.

Marian Wright Edelman: Making Strides For Preschool

Marian Wright Edelman: Making Strides For Preschool 2014-04-18

New York City received a lot of attention recently with a bold promise made to some of its youngest residents: Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on a campaign to fund full-day public preschool for all New York City children through a modest increased income tax on residents making more than $500,000 a year. Although Mayor de Blasio’s tax proposal was not approved by the state legislature or supported by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, the legislature did approve statewide funding for pre-K that included a $300 million increase for New York City’s preschool program. This means that for the first time fully funded full-day quality preschool will be available for all four-year-olds in the city. New York City is moving forward for children -- and it isn’t the only major city and school district making strides towards providing high-quality public preschool programs to as many children as possible. Several large districts that have been doing this for a while are already seeing strong results.

In Massachusetts, the Boston Public Schools system (BPS) offers a full day of prekindergarten to any four-year-old in the district regardless of income, although funding limitations prevent the district from serving all eligible children. BPS ensures the quality of its prekindergarten program through high-quality teachers, professional development delivered through individualized coaching sessions, and evidence-based curricula for early language and literacy and mathematics. Prekindergarten teachers have the same requirements as K-12 teachers in BPS and are paid accordingly. And it’s working. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education examined the impact of one year of attendance in the BPS preschool program on children’s school readiness and found substantial positive effects on children’s literacy, language, mathematics, emotional development, and executive functioning.

Tulsa is another city making great strides. Oklahoma has offered universal preschool to four-year-olds since 1998, and in the 2011-2012 school year three-quarters of all four-year-olds in the state were enrolled in the preschool program. High-quality year-round programs are also available to some at-risk Tulsa children from birth through age three through the Community Action Project (CAP) of Tulsa County, which combines public and private funds to provide comprehensive services for the youngest and most vulnerable children. Oklahoma’s preschool teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree with a certificate in early childhood and are also paid equally to K-12 teachers. Preschool is funded through the state’s school finance formula, although districts can subcontract with other providers of early care and education by putting public school teachers in community-based settings and Head Start programs. Researchers from Georgetown University have conducted multiple evaluations of the four-year-old preschool program in Tulsa over the last decade and found evidence of both short and long term gains, with the most persistent gains in math for the neediest children who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. A long term economic projection of the future adult earnings effects of Tulsa’s program estimates benefit-to-cost ratios of 3- or 4-to-1.

New Jersey has offered high-quality state-funded preschool to three- and four-year-old children in 31 high poverty communities since 1999 in response to a series of state Supreme Court rulings starting with Abbott v. Burke that found poorer New Jersey public school students were receiving “inadequate” education funding. In the 2011-2012 school year more than 43,000 children were served through these preschools, and a partnership between the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services has established a wrap-around program of daily before and after school and summer programs to complement the full school-day year-round preschool program. These programs, often called Abbott preschools after the original court decision, are delivered through a mixed public-private delivery system overseen by public schools. Head Start programs and other community providers serve roughly two-thirds of the children. Researchers at Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) have conducted a longitudinal analysis of the impacts of the Abbott preschool program on the cohort of children served in 2004-2005, and the fifth grade follow up shows participation has had a sustained significant effect on students’ achievement in language arts and literacy, math, and science and reduced grade retention and special education placement rates.

Other cities also are finding new ways to move forward. In 2011 San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julian Castro convened a task force of education and private sector leaders to identify the best way to improve the quality of education in the city. The task force concluded the most effective solution would be a high-quality, full-day four-year-old prekindergarten targeted at low-income and at-risk children. The San Antonio program was launched after city residents voted for a small one-eighth of a cent sales tax increase in November 2012 to fund it. It will serve 3,700 four-year-olds annually when fully implemented. The majority of these children will be served by model Education Centers, which include master teachers, professional development and training for teachers, aides, and community providers, and parent support, including training and education.

We know high-quality early childhood development and learning interventions can buffer the negative effects of poverty and provide a foundation for future success with lifelong benefits, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable children. Studies have shown children enrolled in high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate from high school, hold a job, and make more money and are less likely to commit a crime than their peers who do not participate. High-quality preschool is a critical piece of the early childhood continuum — and we need to celebrate and support the cities, states, and political leaders who are successfully providing this experience for all children. Congress needs to follow their good example now by enacting the Strong Start for American’s Children Act to enable millions of the nation’s children — not just thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands — to get quality early childhood education including home visiting through kindergarten and be better prepared for school and for life. This should be a litmus test for our vote this November. If leaders don’t stand up for children, they don’t stand for anything and they don’t stand for a strong American future which requires educated children.

Robert L. Cavnar: Four Years After The Blowout... Has Anything Changed?

Robert L. Cavnar: Four Years After The Blowout... Has Anything Changed? 2014-04-18

Four years ago this Sunday night, BP's Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well blew out, killing 11 workers, destroying the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible rig, and putting an estimated 5 million barrels of oil into the water. The Gulf continues to suffer the effects of oil that remains, and many shore-based businesses are still struggling to get back on their feet. At the same time, our rig count in the Gulf has returned to its pre-blowout level.

Beyond the obvious effects of this massive oil spill, and the ongoing court battle between the government, plaintiffs, and BP, the question needs to be asked: After the worst offshore blowout in US history, did we learn anything? Have we changed the way we work in the offshore, and have we changed national policy to make it safer and to make ourselves less dependent on deepwater oil production? The answers to these questions, as you would expect, are not easy, and not necessarily very comforting.

There is no short answer to safety improvements, even though the industry is paying much closer attention, we really haven't changed the fundamentals of drilling in 5,000 feet of water. We use the same rigs, the same blowout preventers, the same control systems, and the same safety systems. The industry has yet to undertake an effort to change the way we operate in the deepwater, short of improving maintenance, testing, and documentation. Progress is being made by manufacturers to improve the performance of shear rams, that can cut pipe and seal the well bore, and some companies (including BP) have introduced a double-blind ram configuration for redundancy. Is deepwater drilling safer than four years ago? Only if the industry continues its vigilance.

Also, 2 well containment consortiums have been organized; the Marine Well Containment Company, with membership made up of larger integrated and independent companies, and the Helix Well Containment Group (now called the HWCG), whose members are primarily smaller independent operators. Both consortiums keep deepwater well containment equipment on 24 hour standby should a well control problem occur in the Gulf. This development is clearly an improvement since the BP blowout.

Having said that, though, there has been little, if any progress made in cleanup technology. We still use the same old boom and the same old skimmers, neither of which actually work in anything but flat water. Remember, too, that in deepwater spills, over 80 percent of the oil never comes to the surface. If you don't collect it at the wellhead, it will get into the deepwater column, affecting the marine food chain with still as yet unknown consequences. After a blowout, rapid containment is key.

Sadly, what hasn't changed in offshore policy and safety is the politics. Because of the gridlock in Washington, in addition to the huge influence of special interest money, no progress has been (or can be) made towards comprehensive energy policy and regulation of drilling in deeper and deeper water. Not that regulations are the panacea for safety, but certainly raising the bar for safety and accountability is necessary.

One glaring example of the disconnect between policy and reality is the statutory cap on liability for oil spills. The Oil Pollution Act, passed in 1990 after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, established a limit of $75 million for the fines levied against companies unless negligence or gross negligence is proved. After the BP blowout, Congress failed to raise the limit, so the Obama administration is attempting to do so through new rule making, opposed by the industry. Keep in mind that if the government's oil volume number stands in the BP litigation, and gross negligence is proven, the bill will exceed $18 billion. That doesn't count the $20 billion already committed to cleanup and remediation. There are only a few companies which could survive such a financial blow, meaning that, if this disaster had happened to a smaller deepwater operator, they would have easily gone toes-up, and the cleanup would have fallen to us, the taxpayers.

Most frustrating, though, is that our leaders in Washington and in the states continue to stick their heads in the sand, failing to address any comprehensive energy policies. In fact, some states, like Oklahoma, are actually going backwards by punishing homeowners who install their own solar panels or wind turbines, charging them a fee for any power they generate above what they use. Charging customers for power they deliver. Now that's constructive. The reason politicians pass these kinds of laws and abdicate their responsibility to establish sane policy? Money and ideology. Special interest money floods into cooperative politicians' coffers to symie progress. Ideology also plays a huge part with some still chanting "drill, baby, drill" as if energy policy is some kind of cheap partisan issue that lends itself to bumper sticker messaging.

The problem with energy is that it's invisible for the most part. You go to the gas station, pump gasoline that you don't see into your car, then drive around, converting that gasoline to energy and exhaust. The exhaust you can't see. You flip a switch in your house and the light comes on. Few people ever think about where that comes from, breeding complacency, the true enemy. As long as the people are complacent (and/or ignorant) politicians are happy to go from re-election cycle to re-election cycle, doing little in the way of actual governing along the way.

The problem with our lack of energy policy is us. We are taxpayers, members of a society, who, for the most part, are happy to watch The Voice or Entertainment Tonight, driving our SUVs to the store and to soccer games, not taking responsibility or actively participating in that society. As long as we do that, nothing will change; that is, at least until the next catastrophe that causes massive damage and costs lives. The politicians will take action only if we, as a society, demand it.

Annette Insdorf: New Movies For Foodies

Annette Insdorf: New Movies For Foodies 2014-04-18

Popcorn is the perfect crunchy, salty accompaniment to film viewing, but it might be insufficient while watching two new mouth-watering movies -- Tasting Menu, opening today at Manhattan's Quad Cinema, and Chef, a Tribeca Film Festival selection scheduled for May 9 release. In both contemporary stories, when the camera captures the sensuous preparation of dishes, our taste buds are aroused.

Tasting Menu, an English-language Spanish-Irish co-production directed by Roger Gual, focuses on one particular Catalan meal. Jon Favreau's Chef is by contrast a culinary road movie that begins in a tony LA eatery and makes its way to Miami, where Cuban sandwiches are the delicacy.

A small group of diners gather in Tasting Menu at an exclusive Costa Brava restaurant for its last supper, as super-chef Mar (Vicenta N'Dongo) has decided to close at the peak of its success. They include a widowed, impoverished countess (Fionnula Flannagan); a curmudgeon (Stephen Rea) who makes secretive phone calls; a separated couple who booked the dinner reservation at an earlier, happier time, and two Japanese men competing to buy the restaurant. Misunderstandings, confrontations and touching connections play out while they taste delicacies like snail caviar, or sip a margarita inside an aloe vera plant.

When Tasting Menu premiered as the opening-night selection of the Galway (Ireland) Film Festival in July, Gual lamented that -- despite the enticing dishes onscreen -- he and the crew got to eat only sandwiches. But at an intimate dinner created in Manhattan by chef Mario Batali on Wednesday night -- inspired by the film -- the director acknowledged that the cast was luckier: "It's the only film I've directed whose actors were delighted when I asked for another take," he said over a scrumptious first course of Root Vegetable Salad with Foglie di Noce, Bee Pollen Cironette and Tomato Marmellata. 2014-04-18-TastingMenuphoto A scene from TASTING MENU. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

At the Galway Film Festival, Flannagan recalled the shoot as the happiest of her career: "Eating in films is always a horror," she added. "But because each of the little dishes was divinely small, it was intoxicating food. Most of Catalan cooking is magical anyway. And Roger has a sense of humor as well as of the human condition."

Comedy is more central to Chef, an enjoyable ode to food, freedom and Twitter. Favreau plays Carl, a chef whose boss (Dustin Hoffman) forces him to cook old standards, especially when a famed food blogger is about to dine. Carl reluctantly complies and receives a nasty review that throws him into a deep and angry funk.

His 10-year-old son Percy (Emjay Anthony) teaches him to use Twitter, but can't prepare him for the fallout of Carl's vitriolic response to the critic Ramsey (Oliver Platt): what he thought was a personal message goes viral, as does a subsequent video of his verbally attacking Miller.

His ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) encourages him to join her and Percy on a trip home to Miami, where Carl had honed his craft as a chef. In a delightful cameo Robert Downey, Jr. plays Inez's former husband, who gives him a used food truck to start his own business.

Carl gets his mojo back, creating a traveling mobile eatery. (Warning: the mere sight of the increasingly popular Cuban sandwiches that he prepares so lovingly with his son and loyal buddy John Leguizamo may increase your cholesterol, given the generous helpings of ham, cheese and butter on display. Ditto for the deep-fried beignets in New Orleans.)

2014-04-18-chefCHEFOS_Image_rgb.jpg Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Jon Favreau, and Sofia Vergara in CHEF. Photo Credit: Merrick Morton.

It's no surprise that a filmmaker who has been directing such mainstream crowd-pleasers as Iron Man would make an independent film about a chef chafing at his restaurant boss and wanting to cook with originality and autonomy. Maybe preparing a movie and a meal are not worlds apart: both require skill, passion, the ability to galvanize a staff, and "proof in the pudding"--seeing the recipients of the concoction appreciating it.

The tension is similar too, between 'give them what they want' (which Carl calls being in a creative rut), and invent something unique that might not be embraced by the majority. Both Tasting Menu and Chef succeed in navigating between personal vision and audience expectation, as the characters create dishes that reflect their own juicy emotions.

_____________ Annette Insdorf, Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University, is the author of PHILIP KAUFMAN.
Andrew Deyoung: Dc On The Tv: Why We Love Shows About The Nation's Capital

Andrew Deyoung: Dc On The Tv: Why We Love Shows About The Nation's Capital 2014-04-18

This post originally appeared at The Stake.

On Scandal, Olivia Pope's merry band of DC fixers call themselves "gladiators." GLADIATORS. Think about that for a second.

This is what a cultural theorist might call slippage, a rupture, the intrusion of the Real -- that rare place where the pervasive irreality of our postmodern copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy culture begins to tear and What's Really Going On comes crashing through. That's not how it's intended, of course -- mostly, Shonda Rhimes and the characters she's created seem to regard the "gladiator" thing as a point of pride, a label signifying unassailable professionalism and badassery. Still, every time a character on Scandal pauses to call themselves or someone else a gladiator (and they do it constantly, "I'm a gladiator," "Don't forget, you're a gladiator," "Gladiators in suits, remember?") I sit up where I'm planted on my couch as if Kerry Washington just looked at the camera, breaking character and the fourth wall, and said to me, and me alone:

"None of this is real. All of this -- the melodrama, the sex, the intrigue, the power, the OMG plot twists and the silly scenery-chewing speeches -- it's a distraction. We're gladiators, and you're the mob, your thumbs held out, preparing to decide whether we live or die. Bread and circuses, get it? Rome is burning."

Rome is burning.

Now that's a scandal.

***

There are no less than seven shows set in Washington, DC on the air right now. ABC's got Scandal, HBO's got Veep, Netflix has House of Cards, FX has The Americans -- and that's just the shows I watch; there's also Homeland, Alpha House, and The Blacklist.

Did I miss any?

Regardless of the exact count, the DC show is clearly experiencing something of a moment right now, occupying the same position of cultural prominence as, say, the lawyer show did in the late '90s. But what does the DC-based show's dominance mean? What is it about the current cultural consciousness that has allowed these shows to park so squarely in the center of the American zeitgeist?

The most obvious answer to that question is that Washington has captured our collective imagination because Washington is widely held to be broken. Americans may disagree on the source of the brokenness -- some trace it to ideological intransigence on the right, other to federal overreach in Obama's ACA -- but the sense that Something Is Deeply Wrong exists on both sides of the ideological divide. No one knows where the apocalypse is coming from. Will it be the national debt? An NSA surveillance state? A terrorist attack? Economic decline? Corporate oligarchy? But everyone agrees on one thing: there's a storm coming, and Washington is to blame.

In this analysis, TV shows about Washington are so popular because Americans are looking to diagnose the world's current malaise by looking for signs of sickness in the nation's -- and the world's -- capitol. The current crop of DC TV offers plenty of symptoms (spoiler alert, kind of, I guess): lobbyists, big money, interest groups, cynical politicians, backdoor deals, rigid ideology, 24-hour media, election rigging, electronic surveillance, torture, murder, terrorism. It's a sobering list.

How odd, then, that these shows aren't perceived as being sobering. On the contrary -- their portrayals of Washington DC as cesspools of corruption and human degradation are lauded as juicy, twisty, fun and entertaining in a guilty-pleasure sort of way.

What's going on here?

***

Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself, "first as tragedy, then as farce." Something like that appears to be happening with the DC shows currently on offer, in which the specter of our recent history comes back to haunt us -- but in its second iteration, it's no longer scary. Instead, it makes us laugh. It makes us thrill. It entertains us.

This is perhaps most true of Scandal, ABC's blatantly ridiculous DC show in which presidents have affairs, staffers arrange murders, spies torture each other with drills and pliers and pruning shears, and Olivia Pope and Associates rush around town making sure that none of this mess is visible to the American people, that the facade of DC respectability is intact regardless of what fresh insanity is taking place underneath. It's not farce, exactly, but it certainly is outlandish, and in three short seasons the show has enacted the following American tragedies: the Lewinsky scandal, the Florida recount, the Global War on Terror, NSA wiretapping.

House of Cards seems less farcical than Scandal from the outside, but that's mostly Hollywood trickery -- behind the stellar production values, behind big names like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, behind the veneer of respectability that the association of David Fincher brings, lies a show that is just as preposterous as any soap opera. The show is, perhaps, slightly more perceptive about what's wrong with Washington -- to the horrors evoked by Scandal, House of Cards adds lobbyists, government shutdowns, and obscure fears about China. But these things mostly exist to foreground the juicy stuff: the killing, the scheming, the sex.

Veep is the most farcical of the bunch -- literally, since it's actually funny. (Scandal and House of Cards can be unintentionally funny sometimes; it doesn't really count.) It's also the most ruthless in its portrayal of the capitol, though it's hard to see that at first. Scandal and House of Cards show us a Washington in which everyone's cynical and evil -- Veep gives us a capitol where those things are true but everyone's incompetent to boot. If the people in Washington were half as good at governing the nation as Selina Meyer and her crew are at firing off foulmouthed insults, this would be the most well-run country in the world. If Veep's right about Washington, what's wrong with the town is cynicism, venality -- but above all, pervasive stupidity.

2014-04-18-veep.jpg

That paints a depressing picture of the reality -- and, of course, the reality may well be exactly that depressing. But what's odd about these shows is that they aren't depressing. They're kind of fun. That's what distinguishes this crop of DC shows. Unlike The West Wing -- a show that ran from the Clinton era to Bush's second term but which sometimes seems to be much older than that -- these shows don't package politics inside entertainment. They package entertainment inside politics. When something undeniably real does break through -- when Huck from Scandal gets waterboarded, for instance, or when Selina Meyer honestly wrestles with how to express her stance on abortion -- it's a surprise. Often, it comes as a punch to the gut. Something entirely foreign to the experience of the show.

But maybe that's what we need. More punches to the gut.

***

So, which of these shows gives us the best vision of what Washington is really like?

I don't know. I'm not a Washington insider. I'm told that President Obama loves Homeland, for whatever that's worth; that Joe Biden is a fan of Veep; that, perhaps protesting too much, many in the House and Senate object to House of Cards' cynical portrayal of what they do. No one seems to think Scandal has much to do with what's real. Which is perhaps as it should be.

But maybe it's the wrong question.

Maybe none of them are real. Maybe all of them are.

And maybe that's the point.

At some point, we all tend to ask our favorite fictional worlds to reflect reality, but verisimilitude -- literally, similarity to the real -- is the one thing TV can't give us. Art, however much we might want it to, doesn't reflect reality. It creates its own reality. Veep, Scandal, House of Cards, even The West Wing -- they all create an alternate reality for us to live in. In some ways, the realities they create correspond with actual reality. In other ways, they don't. And which is which and who's to say, nobody really knows. Washington wonks may well spend their time crafting brutal, obscene insults, as they do in Veep. The town may be overrun with torturers, murderers, and spies, as it is in Scandal. And powerful politicians may be motivated more by pride and personal vendettas than they are to their constituents, as they are in House of Cards.

Or maybe not.

But who's to say that the portrayals of Washington that we see on ABC, HBO, Netflix, and the rest are any more or less real than what we see on CNN or Fox News? Who can blame us for choosing an unreal Washington when even the portrayals of the "real" capitol are becoming more and more fake? When we're losing hope that the portrayals we see of what's going on in the halls of power in our nation's capital, of the people who hold such power over the shape of our lives, will ever come close to meeting the reality of What's Really Going On?

And so, faced with a choice between falsehoods, we pick the irreality that appeals most to us. We watch. We tweet. We recap. We dish. We wait for the next OMG plot twist as the gladiators battle it out on our TV screens.

Are we not entertained?

Susan P. Joyce: Staying Employed: The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

Susan P. Joyce: Staying Employed: The Best Defense Is A Good Offense 2014-04-18

Don't assume that your job is safe. In the 21st century, every job is temporary (even CEO). The reality is that layoffs can happen anywhere and any time. Even highly profitable companies like Google have had layoffs. So it's best to be prepared, particularly if your employer feels a little shaky or the work situation has gotten unpleasant.

Even being a "top performer" may not protect your job.

An HR executive once described to me that most layoffs are done with an ax rather than a scalpel. In my experience, that is definitely true -- who goes and who stays is more a matter of right-place-right-time than competence (unfortunately for everyone).

The Best Defense Is a GREAT Offense

You are much more interesting to a potential employer when you are still employed. The prevailing theory is that you must be a good -- or, at least, an acceptable -- employee because you have a job. So job hunting while you are still employed is the best defense. If you see the signs that a layoff is coming, ramp up your job search so you can leave before the ax falls on you.

1. Go into "stealth job search mode."

Look for a job without making your search visible to anyone you work with, particularly management. Don't announce your availability on LinkedIn, even in a group for job seekers (your discussions and comments may be shared in your updates!). And, don't make announcements anywhere else in social media or at work.

2. Do NOT job hunt from work.

A big mistake often made is job hunting while at work. Very bad idea! This ban definitely includes not using your work computer or smart phone to browse job postings, update your resume, send email about your job search to anyone, or do any other obvious job-hunting activities.

Using work computers and networks for your job search may result in your web browsing and email usage becoming visible to anyone who might be watching. This caution applies even if the email you are using is your personal Gmail account (why is this employee spending so much time on Gmail?). And, being discovered in a job search usually results in a quick job loss or a very uncomfortable discussion with your boss.

3. Establish non-work electronic contact information.

Purchase your own smart phone, so you have a personal number to put on your resume or give out to your network. Don't call people from, or have people call you, on your current work numbers (see #1 above), and don't send or receive your job search email using your work email address (see #2 above).

A Gmail account is a good alternative. Or, check to see if perhaps your college or university offers free email accounts for alumni. Many do, and those can be very impressive email addresses for your job search.

Set up a computer or tablet at home for your job search so you aren't stuck using your employer's networks, computers, and printers for your job search (quick way to blow your cover and lose your job).

4. Carefully increase your LinkedIn visibility.

Your LinkedIn profile is a "live" resume that is very important to recruiters and potential employers. They will use it to verify the contents of your resume. Don't go "from zero to 100 MPH" on LinkedIn in one day, but do become more active and visible.

Be sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete. Expand your summary to include quantified accomplishments, but be careful not to compromise your employer's confidential information, like plans, product or service specifications, the names of customers or clients, financial information. Only share information that a good employee would, promoting your employer's products and/or services.

Grow your network of contacts with a focus on recruiters and other employees of your target future employers (see #5 and 6 below).

You can belong to up to fifty LinkedIn Groups. Since those groups offer both the opportunity for visibility (to recruiters and potential employers) as well as a method to communicate (people in groups can send each other InMail even if they are not connected). You can manage the visibility of those groups on your LinkedIn Profile (via the privacy settings) -- highly recommended!

5. Figure out which job you want next.

Hopefully, unless layoffs have already begun where you work, you have some time to figure out what it is that you really want to do next. Continue on this career path, move to a new one, or go back to an old one from your past?

So, get started! If you can afford it, go to a career counselor -- perhaps your college or grad school, as appropriate for you, provides assistance to alumni (even if you graduated 5, 10, or 20 years ago). If career counseling is not readily available, grab a copy of the classic book, "What Color Is Your Parachute?" Read it completely, doing all of the exercises along the way. It is a tremendously useful book, updated every year -- look for the year on the cover. You'll find this book in every bookstore and library.

Set up a few informational interviews (no resumes allowed!) with people who have the job you want. See how they got started, what their work is like, and how their career path has unfolded. Ask who are the best employers for this new field. Then, set up informational interviews with employees who work for those employers (STILL no resumes allowed!) to see if the work and the employer sound good to you.

Through informational interviews, you collect good information and expand your network. A great two-fer!

6. Choose a few target employers.

Since you still have a paycheck, take time to look around to see where you might like to work next. That company down the road or in the next town. Perhaps a supplier or client company. Maybe a competitor (careful!). Or, an employer recommended by someone in an informational interview (see #5, above).

Research those employers. Use Google, LinkedIn, and your other networks. Follow those employers on LinkedIn, if they have "company profiles." Sign up for their job tweets (using your personal Twitter account and personal, non-work computer, of course).

7. Expand your face-to-face personal networking activities.

Networking doesn't require you to spend hours in large rooms filled with strangers (although they can be useful). Reach out to people you have worked with in the past, particularly those who have left your current employer for better opportunities.

Those informational interviews also help you learn more about the employers on your target list -- maybe some on the list should be removed and others should be added.

Give as much -- or more -- help as you receive. Build your "karma balance" by helping others.

After You Find That GREAT New Job...

Don't assume that you'll never been in a job search again, even if you are in your 60s and planning to stay in your new job until your retirement in one or two years. You have no guarantees how long the new job will last! So, keep up with LinkedIn, build Google Plus (carefully, as with LinkedIn), and maintain your other professional/job-search connections. You never know when you'll need them for that next job search. Unfortunately, that next job search could be just around the corner... Follow me on Google Plus for more job search tips!

Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. This article was first published on WorkCoachCafe.com.

Peter M. J. Hess, Ph.d.: The Sun Revolves Around You? Narcissism On A Cosmic S

Peter M. J. Hess, Ph.d.: The Sun Revolves Around You? Narcissism On A Cosmic Scale 2014-04-18

The center of the universe might be closer than you think -- in fact, it might be right under your feet. A conservative Catholic crank, Robert Sungenis, is now resurrecting the long-discredited geocentric model in a bizarre movie called The Principle.

Geocentrism is the idea that the Earth is at the center of a sphere of stars and galaxies and that everything in the universe revolves around us every twenty-four hours. It's a toddler's perspective, the kind of self-centered conclusion you might draw if you didn't know anything about how the world works. But even a smidgeon of exposure to science shows this naïve observation to be incorrect. Indeed, it's been centuries since scientific and religious institutions accepted the falseness of the geocentric model.

But even hundreds of years after the career and trial of Galileo -- and long after the gradual acceptance of heliocentrism even by the Catholic Church -- Sungenis argues that Galileo was fundamentally wrong. He is also a holocaust denier, but I'll leave a discussion about Sungenis' anti-Semitism for another day.

It boggles my mind that the anthropocentric narcissism of geocentrism exists anywhere but in books on the history of science. Astronomer Phil Plait roguishly echoes my thoughts in noting that

Of all the wrongiest wrongs that ever wronged wrongness, Geocentrism is way up on the list. The idea that the Earth is the center of the Universe makes creationism look positively scientific in comparison. It might be edged out by people who think the Earth is flat, but just barely.

On the other hand, garden-variety geocentrists might be much more common than you realize. At this moment a geocentrist might be changing your tire, or steaming your latte, or cleaning your teeth, or teaching your children. Polls shows that one in four Americans clearly falls into Robert Sungenis' camp. On the 2012 edition of the National Science Foundation's "Factual Knowledge Quiz," only 74 percent of adults correctly answered this question: "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?" Now I wonder, are these 60 million Americans really geocentrists, or are they just profoundly ignorant of how the world is actually structured?

Sungenis proclaims on his website that his 90-minute documentary The Principle challenges the foundation of modernity: the view that "neither are we on Earth special nor do we occupy a special place in the universe." This is revealing. Much as some creationists reject evolution because they reject the concept that humans are animals, Sungenis seems to think astronomy has taken away the "specialness" of our place in the universe. It's the same kind of juvenile complaint an older child might make when a new baby sibling joins the family.

Sungenis also proudly tells us that the film is narrated by Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. (The idea that narration by an imaginary spaceship captain on a fictional show lends scientific credibility to his movie makes about as much sense as does anything in geocentrism.) But last week Mulgrew vigorously denounced any implication that she endorses the film:

I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew

Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Arizona State university who directs the "Origins" project, discovered that some public-domain video clips of himself had been co-opted for the film. He was less tactful in describing Sungenis' geocentrism and holocaust denial: "It is tempting to say that both claims are obscene nonsense, but I believe that does a disservice to the word 'nonsense'." Krauss's approach to Sungenis' fraudulent film is consonant with NCSE's response to science denial for the past three decades:

It is, after all, impossible in the modern world to shield everyone from nonsense and stupidity. What we can do is provide the tools, through our educational system, for people to be able to tell sense from nonsense. These tools include the scientific method, skeptical questioning, empirical evidence, verifying sources, etc.

For most of us, the very premise of the movie The Principle is so incoherent that it isn't even wrong; dealing with it is simply a waste of valuable time. Watching an interview with Sungenis and Bennett is like trying to make sense of a Stockhausen symphony in an amusement park while tripping out with Timothy Leary. After watching it I was tempted to respond as Alvie Singer did to Dwayne in Annie Hall: "Right. Well, I have to - I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth."

For those with a taste for the bizarre world of reality denial, the captain of Geocentric Airlines has turned off the seatbelt sign; in fact, you may abandon your seatbelts altogether because the captain has discovered that we were never in motion at all. Here is the blurb from the website "Galileo was Wrong and the Church was Right."

Your world will be rocked, literally and figuratively...modern science has documented for us in bold fashion that the Earth is motionless in space and occupies the center of the universe (yet has done an equally remarkable job in keeping these important facts out of our educational system).

Sungenis' denial of astronomical truth will appeal to only a narrow segment of the most fundamentalist Protestant or Catholic population. And don't be surprised if even Young Earthers quickly try to put as much real estate as possible between themselves and Robert Sungenis. One hopes that a geocentrist might one day wake up to the fact that if even YECs are giving you the cold shoulder, your world view must really be lost in space!

Reflective Bride: Why I'm Not Changing My Last Name For Marriage

Reflective Bride: Why I'm Not Changing My Last Name For Marriage 2014-04-18

Some of the most common questions I was asked as a newlywed were, "Does it feel any different to be married?" "Have you got used to calling him 'husband' yet?" and, of course, "So are you taking his last name?" When I answered in the negative (for all three questions, actually), the latter query was followed up with further questions. "Oh, are you keeping your name for professional reasons? Is it because of all the paperwork hassles with getting new ID? Are there no boys in your family to carry on the name?" And then, in a conspiratorial whisper, "Do you not like your husband's last name?

That's not it, I would reply. I just don't believe in changing one's identity for marriage.

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I decided at the ripe old age of 15, almost 10 years before I met the man who would become my husband, that I would not change my name for marriage. At that age, the decision mostly sprung from the fact that I just plain liked my name. I have an unusual first name and last name. Several times I've introduced myself to someone on email and received a message back signed off with "P.S. cool name!" In my brooding teenage years I gave a lot of thought to my name; if asked right now how many letters and syllables are in my first and last names, or in my full name, I could answer without blinking.

To me, as it would be for many other people, my name is my identity. If someone asks you "who are you?" the answer that you give is your first and last name. For me, my name is who I am.

As I grew older, learning more about gender politics and the inequalities that women still face in society cemented that teenage decision to keep my name. The expectation that women should change their last name for marriage, swapping their own identity for their husband's, is -- inarguably -- sexist. And I say "inarguably" because no one could claim there is an expectation of the same name-change in men. I remember a class in college about gender and the media, where a male student asked in our discussion group, "Would you change your name for marriage?"

"No. Would you change your name?" I answered coolly.

"What?" he sputtered. "No! Why would I change my name?"

"Exactly," I replied.

To put it bluntly -- as I sometimes do when people really grill me about my decision -- it's not 1950 and I'm not cattle that needs to be branded with my owner's name.

So identity and equality are the two most important factors for me in keeping my name. However, other reasons reinforced my decision, after receiving the following reactions to my matrimonial surname plans...

"It's tradition": So was slavery. So was women not being able to vote. Tradition doesn't make any of them a good thing.

"You could still keep your name, but add his with a hyphen": That would still be changing my name and identity, and would not be much of a move for equality unless my groom were doing the same.

"Well, what if your husband did hyphenate his name, too?": Great for equality, but then it would be two people changing their identity for marriage.

"What will your children have as a last name?": They could have both our last names hyphenated, mine as a middle name, or just take their father's surname -- none of which I have a problem with. I do think it's unequal that children automatically take their father's name, but other approaches are not yet as widely accepted as women keeping their surnames -- though I think this is will change with time.

"Won't you not feel like a family if you have a different last name from your children?": I'm quite sure that if I birth and/or raise a child, that's plenty to qualify me for feeling like their family. Whether or not I have the same last name as my child won't stop me loving them or feeling attached to them. Also, with this logic, would I no longer feel like I'm part of my parents' family if I take a different surname from theirs? In these days of blended families, the idea that everyone in a family would have the same last name is a touch old-fashioned.

"Keeping your maiden name is keeping your father's name; isn't that also sexist?": Yes, it is. However, that's the name I had for the first 29 years of my life before my wedding, and that's who I see myself as.

"People will refer to you as 'Mrs Reflective Groom' anyway": Yes, they will. A few decades ago it was common to assume any married woman you met was a housewife; that's not a good reason for women to stay out of the workplace. People more familiar with my husband indeed call me 'Mrs. Reflective Groom' on meeting me for the first time -- just as people familiar with me greet him as. 'Mr Reflective Bride.' I'm not going to give them a lecture, just as my groom has not made a big show about correcting people.

"Ah, you're just afraid of divorce": That's not a reason for my decision, but it is something to consider. I love my husband dearly, and hope we are together until we die in each other's arms at the exact same moment at age 100, but it would be naive not to realize that something like a third of western marriages end in divorce. Would I then change back to my birth name? And if I re-marry, do I change it again to the new husband's name? What am I, a baseball card?

Then there is the reaction I get from brides who have taken their husband's name, who often look a little hurt by my decision: "It's just nice." If you think this way, I applaud you. After all, the same thing could be said about weddings: they're stressful, expensive and time consuming... but, you know what, they're just nice. But the things that make weddings nice are that they bring together family and friends, celebrate your love, and are an excuse for an awesome party. Really consider what you find so nice about changing names. And if it is so nice to have the same last name as your spouse, perhaps it shouldn't only be women stepping up to make the change.

These are my own, personal reasons for maintaining my birth name. If you, however, are not as fond of your name or do not see it as part of your identity -- perhaps because it's from a parent you don't have a good relationship with, the name is something you got teased for, or you just feel it's not particularly you -- then I think marriage is a great opportunity to take a new name. But I believe this should be the case for men as well, and that neither gender should feel obligated to switch names.

If you are debating whether to change your surname for marriage, don't listen to the people who question your decision -- don't even listen to this article -- but take time to ponder for yourself your thoughts on name and identity, and what's important to you. If you, too, do think "it's just nice", ask yourself what you find nice about it before committing to a decision. It's your name, and only you should decide what to do with.

S.r. Hewitt: 10 Fascinating Facts About The Ten Commandments (the Movie)

S.r. Hewitt: 10 Fascinating Facts About The Ten Commandments (the Movie) 2014-04-18

Watching Paramount's The Ten Commandments is, for many, an annual part of the spring holidays. While there have been other film versions of the story of the exodus, none have the epic staying power of the 1956 classic. Indeed, many have now grown up with the image of Charlton Heston irreparably set as the image of Moses.

Bringing a bible story to the big screen often warrants certain liberties. In the case of The Ten Commandments, this meant the introduction of a love story between Moses and Nefretiri, a power struggle between Moses and the young Ramses and the creation of Lilia, the love interest of Joshua.

Surprisingly, many of the places Cecil B. DeMille appears to have gotten creative are actually based on extra-Biblical Jewish sources:

1 ) Moses, Conquerer of Ethiopia The grown-up Moses is introduced in The Ten Commandments when he returns to Pharoah after bringing Ethiopia into alliance with Egypt. There is no record of Moses conquering Ethiopia on behalf of Pharaoh. However, there is a Midrash (narrative from the Oral Torah) that details how, after fleeing Egypt, Moses went to Ethiopia and was named king. This occurred before he came to the tent of Jethro, where he married and became a shepherd.

2) The Day of Moses In trying to instigate trouble for Moses, Prince Ramses tells his father (Pharaoh Sethi) that Moses not only gave the Hebrew slaves extra grain, but one day in seven to rest, a day that the Hebrews now called "the Day of Moses." While the reference to the "Day of Moses" is a little over the top on drama, it is true, according to the Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 1:28), that Moses convinced Pharoah to give the Jews a day of rest each week. He did so by noting that Pharoah gave his horses time to rest, so why not his slaves.

3) The Evil Dathan The vile Dathan, played by Edward G. Robinson, is one of the most memorable and unlikable characters in the movie. Dathan and his brother Aviram, who is mostly a silent presence in the movie, appear repeatedly in the Torah as troublemakers. In Egypt, Dathan was an Israelite overseer. Rather than Joshua being the Israelite whose life Moses saves by killing the Egyptian taskmaster, as presented in the movie, there is a Midrash that implies that this was Dathan's story (in the Midrash he is referred to only as the Hebrew). One night, Dathan's Egyptian boss sent him out on assignment and went into his home. In the dark, the Egyptian pretended to be the man and had relations with his beautiful wife (Shelomit). When the man let the taskmaster know that he knew what had happened, the Egyptian began to strike him.

The next day, Moses tried to intercede when Dathan and Aviram are fighting. Dathan is the one whom the Torah quotes as saying: "Will you kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" (Exodus 1:29).

4) The Known Redeemer In the movie, Prince Ramses is set on finding the foretold redeemer of the Hebrew slaves. With information from Dathan, he is led to Moses, whom he presents to Pharoah Sethi as the one whom they have sought. Unable to kill Moses, who is like a son to him, Pharoah Sethi commands that Moses' name be stricken from all records and that he be sent into exile. In fact, Exodus 2:15 clearly states that "When Pharaoh heard this thing [Moses killed an Egyptian], he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled..."

5) Muslims in Midian Jethro and his seven daughters are subtly presented as followers of an Islam-like faith. They claim Ishmael as their forefather and state that Ishmael was the son brought to the mountain as a sacrifice to God. While Jethro is portrayed in the Midrash as a man who tried a wide variety of religions and who was serving as a priest in Midian when Moses met him, he is never associated with Islam -- perhaps because Islam developed hundreds of years later. Even if one were to assume that he was part of a pre-Islamic tribe descended from Ishmael, this would be false because the Midianites were descendants of Abraham and Keturah (his wife after Sarah) and not from Ishmael.

6) Joshua Makes Moses Move Throughout the movie, Joshua is a bigger-than-life, hunky hero. He's a stonecutter in Egypt who stands up to Dathan, a protector of the elderly Joshabel (meant to be Jochebed) and, most significantly, the man who spurs Moses forward on his search to understand who he is. Alas, none of these instances have any foundation. There is no record of Joshua suddenly appearing in Midian and pushing Moses to go seek God on the mountain. Perhaps this was meant to reflect the biblical account of Aharon coming from Egypt to meet Moses in the wilderness. However, this took place only after Moses had agreed to go and lead the Israelites out of slavery.

7) Hey, That Bush is on Fire Speaking of the mountain, it appears that everyone in the region can see something special about it. A dark cloud hovers over it at all times, and it is referred to as God's mountain. Additionally, Tzipporah and Joshua tell Moses about the bush that is on fire but does not burn. According to Jewish tradition, Moses did not deliberately go to find God on a known holy mountain with a burning bush visible to others. The biblical text states "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb" (Exodus 3:1). According to the Midrash, he found the burning bush when he was following one stray sheep to make certain it was returned to its flock.

8) Korach the High Priest By the end of the movie it appears that the film-makers just wanted to include as many Bible stories as possible. Once the golden calf is made, Dathan takes charge. He declares Korach the high-priest and debauchery and chaos ensue. It is true that Korach was a Levite who wished to be the High Priest and led a rebellion against Moses and Aharon. It is also true that Dathan was one of Korach's prime supporters in the rebellion. However, the events of Korach's rebellion are recorded in the Book of Numbers and took place elsewhere. The story of Korach is additionally misapproprated when the ground opens up and swallows the unrepentant worshippers of the golden calf. This is actually another piece of the story of Korach. The Torah clearly relates that those who chose the calf over God were slain by the swords of the Levites.

9) One Man Struck Down In a small but fascinatingly accurate incident in the movie, one man cries out against the licentious worship of the golden calf. Another man comes from behind and strikes him down, presumably killing him. This was not added as random violence but is a reference to the death of Hur, the son of Miriam and Caleb, that is presented in Talmud Sanhedrin 7a: "Rabbi Benjamin ben Japhet says, reporting Rabbi Eleazar: He [Aharon] saw Hur lying slain before him and said [to himself]: If I do not obey them, they will now do unto me as they did unto Hur... Better let them worship the golden calf, for which offence they may yet find forgiveness through repentance."

10) Moses Final Words The final scene of The Ten Commandments has Moses saying goodbye to a small group of significant characters. After commanding Joshua to be strong leader and to have faith, he presents a copy of the Torah to Eleazar to place in the ark and than tells all those gathered (and perhaps the crowd far below) "Go, proclaim liberty throughout all the lands, unto all the inhabitants thereof!" Beautiful as this verse is, it is actually a reference to the celebration of the jubilee year and comes from the 25th chapter of Leviticus. If it is a quote that you recognize, it is also inscribed on the Liberty Bell.

Guillermo Rodríguez: The Day Charlie Chaplin Won Over Disney Channel

Guillermo Rodríguez: The Day Charlie Chaplin Won Over Disney Channel 2014-04-18

I suppose that, when it comes down to it, I'm an average dad.

In moments of paternal exaltation, my wife and I follow the manual down to the letter: we think that our 5-year-old and 10-year-old daughters are the prettiest, kindest, and smartest that the world has ever seen. But when lucidity returns, we arrive at the conclusion that, yes, they're great, but they also have multiple defects.

Of course, I'm responsible in large part for any deficiencies my girls suffer. Most of the time, as a father, I know I'm just not doing as well as I could: I don't spend enough time with them, I sometimes try to shirk my responsibilities. For example, I don't keep them from using video consoles or tablets, or watching TV. Some nights, looking back on the day, I realize they've spent hours and hours with their Nintendo. The next day may be the same.

I allow it, even though I know it's not the best for them.

My daughters are normal. They read, they think, they do their homework... and like good girls, they're unpredictable. One night -- sick of them watching American TV series in which the characters, handsome boys and attractive girls, live in luxury apartments in Manhattan, drive Porsches, and have parents who, luckily enough for the kids, are never home -- I took an initiative that was wholly successful.

I turned off the show they were watching and put on Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. As I recall, that evening I had been listening to a radio show celebrating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Chaplin, without any doubt one of film history's great geniuses.

I must admit that when the movie started, I was convinced that my experiment was going to end up shipwrecked in a sea of mistakes. The movie was in black and white, silent, starring a mustachioed man in a bowling hat. It did not exactly feature the stuff that based on what I've seen, seem to interest kids these days.

Despite that, I triumphed. Few times have I seen my kids laugh so hard as that night. They asked me to replay the scene in which the kid flees from the police running as fast as he can at least five times.

And, with tears in their eyes, they turned away when the same kid was separated forcefully from his vagabond father. During the 52 minutes that the movie lasts, I explained everything that they didn't understand, jumped ahead a few scenes to pique their interest ("Just wait and see what happens next!"), and overacted, laughing in big guffaws at scenes that I already knew by heart. Five days later, they'd seen The Kid many more times.

Weeks later, I did the same thing with another Chaplin film, Modern Times. In various moments, I had to stop the movie because my eldest daughter, who's 10, was actually crying to the point of tears (during the celebrated screws scene) or screaming from all the suspense (at the end of the movie, when Chaplin almost roller skates off a cliff). My 5-year-old laughed, screamed, and enjoyed everything just the way a little girl would.

At this point they've seen The Kid, Modern Times, and The Gold Rush -- well, with the last few minutes of that one muted. It's not a revolution, I know. But it's a small victory, at least for me. They haven't and won't stopped watching Disney Channel series that I hate, like Jessie, My Dog Has a Blog, or Shake It Up. But they know who The Tramp is. They have seen top-notch cinema and have worried about how it's humanly possible for a worker to have to spend eight hours a day screwing in screws on an assembly line.

In short, I've been witness to the fact that with a little effort, any kid can have their attention captured, can be asked a little more than normal -- and will respond well to the challenge.

You only need the will to do it. And the genius of Charlie Chaplin.

The Daily Meal: How To Make Beautiful 'dyed' Easter Eggs At Home

The Daily Meal: How To Make Beautiful 'dyed' Easter Eggs At Home 2014-04-18

Finding Easter eggs during a hunt is only half of the fun. Dyeing, painting, decorating, and beautifying the delicate shells are an adventure of their own. Whether hand painted, tye-dyed, or colored with other food (or drink) products, just like snowflakes and their different shapes and various designs, no two are alike!

Click Here to see the Complete Slideshow for 9 Recipes for Naturally "Dyeing" Easter Eggs

The tradition of painting Paschal eggs (aka Easter eggs) dates back to when households would give up eating eggs in observance of Lent. Fat Tuesday was known to be the last day people were able to enjoy dairy and eggs before the celebration of Easter. Sometimes Easter eggs were dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ.

With all of those egregious color tablets and strange kit contents, you may be less than thrilled about getting crafty. The answer to gorgeously colored eggs could be right in your refrigerator. We've compiled advice from egg-cellent experts to assist in giving us great recipes for dying Easter egg naturally! They're more natural and, in many cases, less messy and safe for kids. Safeway executive chef Jeff Anderson suggests keeping things lighthearted.

"Have fun with this!" Anderson exclaimed. "Pick your favorite produce and experiment with formulas to create different colored eggs. Make sure to pick the freshest fruits and vegetables for better color."

You can make everyone green with envy by using spinach for a grassy hue. With the help of beets you can tickle your Easter eggs pink! Break out the ingredients (not the eggs), roll up your sleeves, and maybe put on an apron for good measure.

-- Hilary Sheinbaum, The Daily Meal

More Content from The Daily Meal:

11 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs Without Dye

10 Pimped Out Easter Eggs

25 Easter Eggs That Look Like Celebrities

The World's Tallest Chocolate Easter Egg

10 Highest Calorie American Holidays

Kiri Westby: What Happened Next? The Good, The Weird And The Ugly Of Coming Ou

Kiri Westby: What Happened Next? The Good, The Weird And The Ugly Of Coming Out Of The Pot Closet 2014-04-18

As far as I know, no one had done it before -- declared to the world that they smoke pot, practically daily, that they're also in charge of raising children and that they're not going to be ashamed anymore.

But I did.

Naturally, there have been a lot of questions along the lines of "Sooo? What Happened Next? We're dying to know! Does your mother-in-law still love you?"

I'd like to think that these come from folks who genuinely want to avoid the land mines and labels that may accompany coming out of their own "pot closets."* So, with the hope that more of us begin to speak up about the role that marijuana plays in our lives, I share the story of what happened after I wrote this blog and hundreds of thousands of people around the world read it.

THE GOOD: 90% of the feedback I saw in the comments was positive. Folks who do, and folks who do not smoke marijuana chimed in to agree that despite their personal choices around pot, given the changing legal landscape, we need to have open conversations with our kids about it. This was, first and foremost, a parenting blog.

Some folks, conversely, called me a drug addict and predicted that I will have a drug-addicted kid one day... but then again, some parents believe that not talking to their kids about sex is an effective way to prevent teen pregnancy (despite alarming new statistics proving the opposite), so that didn't surprise me much.

My mom, who has been put through the paces during my work in war zones, plus a short stint in Chinese prison, had a predictable response: "What's all the fuss?"

My dad was concerned that I felt shame from the terrible choice parents in his time had to make: Either hide their occasional pot use or make their children complicit in illegal activity (a choice many parents must still face today).

My extended family is still speaking to me, though weeks of uncomfortable silence can be expected. Change is rarely comfy, and it can be painful to adjust the sails on one's thinking. Also, I experienced a layer of judgment for smoking pot and a layer for "airing dirty laundry" in public, so I suppose it depends how you come out. I expect some family felt tainted by public association... there's that stigma again.

It affected a lot of my close friends as well, and my personal message boxes were flooded with notes supporting me privately while wishing they could do so publicly (but they work with kids, they practice law, they enforce the law, they've already had trouble with the law or they still face very real consequences where they live).

I like to think that the days after prohibition were a little similar, as the wine bottles slowly made their way onto the dinner table. It takes time to change culture...

...Or cultures? After my blog went viral in the U.S., The Huffington Post sent my blog to HuffPost Germany and El HuffPost, the Spanish version. Suddenly, the conversation was global and I was having Twitter convos with parents in Andalucía, Berlin and Chile. It seems my suspicions about there being a lot more of us were right and I've made some fun new e-friends in the process.

I've also received dozens of requests to smoke and while I'm flattered, for the record, if I don't know you, I'm not gonna get stoned with you. In fact, I usually smoke alone at the end of my day, between the time my daughter sleeps and my husband gets home from work, and most of the time I fall asleep from exhaustion shortly after. I mainly use pot to help me sleep and to work through some serious PTSD (and if I have to wake up at 3 a.m. to a crying child, I am stone cold sober, which wasn't the case when I tried over-the-counter sleeping pills).

And lastly, a teenager made a YouTube video about my blog, commending me for having the courage to start the conversation, and admitting that when her dad switched from alcohol to pot, "it was like night and day." This was the cherry on top for me and I hope that one day, my daughter is just as smart and brave.

THE WEIRD: I have been blogging on HuffPost for more than five years. Most of my pieces have been well-received, shared around a few hundred times and then faded away into the white noise of the Internet. In my naiveté, I didn't realize that there is an entire world of mainstream media that picks up on popular blogs to take the topics further onto TV.

Imagine my surprise when my husband's cell phone rings at 9 a.m. the next morning with Muriel, a producer at ABC's "20/20" asking for "an exclusive" (An exclusive to what? I wonder, it's all pretty much in the blog). This is particularly shocking to hubby, considering he doesn't even have an email address and thinks Facebook is the world's biggest waste of time (we are still not sure how they got the number). In addition, we haven't watched mainstream TV in a decade and we both think Barbara Walters is still anchoring "20/20." I happily grant them an exclusive (I love Barbara Walters!) though I'm still wondering what more they're looking for? Luckily for me, I get to hide behind this "exclusive" when FOX News gets in touch and my Twitter feed blows up with media requests.

Muriel didn't care much about my doing Canadian press, and I love Canada, so I then went on a live call-in radio show out of Vancouver. They sent producers to the streets asking folks to read my blog and provide comments, as a way of setting the stage for the overall debate (all I could think was wow, you sent people to the streets of Vancouver and asked them to read my writing? That's incredible!). One caller couldn't help but compare me to a crack addict, smoking crack in front of a child... an image out of her sheer imagination that provided the perfect opportunity to discuss all of the fear that still exists around weed, the extent of the stigma and the entire reason I very consciously used the word "pothead" in my title.

Several folks disagreed with the use of that word. It struck a chord down to the very shame and stigma I wrote about. For many regular marijuana users, the term "pothead" is a pejorative that speaks more to one's character than to one's use, and it's a label they've worked hard to transcend.

My experience tells me, however, that the only way to dismantle harmful stereotypes is to own them and redefine them by exposing how baseless they are. The moment we admit we toke up, there are a whole slew of assumptions and images based on stereotypes and scare campaigns. If we call ourselves potheads, then the term loses power and legitimacy. In fact, the week after my blog got attention, an anonymous piece popped up full of lawyers, doctors, youth pastors and police officers admitting to regular marijuana use.

This is the stigma we must begin to erase. We are all sober when we are sober and we can make safe choices around Cannabis use, just as we have learned to do around alcohol, without our entire character being called in to question night and day.

THE UGLY: I set a Google alert for the title of my blog and took my own voyeuristic journey through the land of the Internet. This was fun at first, as I watched the debate unfold and deepen on every major parenting website (which was the entire point). More blogs on the topic emerged, saying much of what I didn't have the space to say. But then the commentary took a dark turn and my stomach lurched as the misogyny emerged, (out came the words B*tch and C*nt and calls for violence). I suddenly felt like a target and started watching my back, my PTSD from being kidnapped in Sri Lanka flaring up like a bad rash. How does admitting to smoking pot warrant a call for rape? It's a leap that can only come from a place of hatred for "uppity" women who create change. It's antiquated and abhorrent and instead of responding to you trolls individually, I'll just take this chance to say GROW UP and GET A LIFE OFFLINE.

In the end, I decided not to go on "20/20" either. I set three restrictions with Muriel:

1. My daughter is too young to be on national TV around this issue.

2. Given the violent comments, please don't show my home or my neighborhood.

3. I'm not going to smoke pot on camera (because I do not believe we can simultaneously break down stereotypes while upholding them, and strong images have a way of being edited and reprinted in nefarious ways).

Apparently, that was enough to make my story less compelling. I was hoping they wanted to have a serious conversation or debate on the issue and they were hoping to film "a day in the life of pothead mom" (which I can tell you would make for some pretty boring TV... there's that stigma again).

I began to wonder if any media producers actually read my blog or if NPR is right? One thing was certain: I didn't write this for 15 minutes of TV fame and I'm nobody's dancing monkey.

So, I decided to limit further public commentary to this keyboard and to control the follow-up story myself. Instead of being framed and edited into "The Pothead Mom," I like to picture myself as a brave woman who is delicately navigating the line between motherhood and a career, all while modeling honesty and self-acceptance. I am pretty sure that wouldn't have been the headline on "20/20."

To echo the sentiments of the latest pot-smoking mom blogger to come forward, smoking weed is only one thing about me in a pool of a million talents. And in that vein, for those who read my writing on more serious topics, I promise this will be my last blog about marijuana... because my mom is right, "what's all the fuss?"

Truthfully,

Kiri Westby

*I want to add something here about my use of the closet metaphor. If it weren't for the queer rights movement and the sacrifice of millions of gays and lesbians to live honestly, we wouldn't have this term. It has become colloquial, and is being used more and more to describe the process of living one's truth... and I agree with my fellow Boulderite Ash Beckham that "coming out of any closet is hard... and we need to stop comparing our hards." But I also believe that if we don't know where we've come from, we won't know where we're going. My choice to come clean about how I choose to relax is fundamentally different than someone's choice to be honest about who they were born to be; I may face social or professional rejection, but LGBTQ folks often face violence or death for being honest about their sexuality. By no means do I mean to make light of that.

Elaine Mckewon: Why This Is A Dark Time For The Field Of Climate Science

Elaine Mckewon: Why This Is A Dark Time For The Field Of Climate Science 2014-04-18

These are dark times for science -- in particular, climate science and related fields of study.

Hate mail, harassment campaigns, accusations of scientific fraud and threats of lawsuits have become the new normal for climate scientists and researchers who study climate change denial. These problematic conditions have a chilling effect on scientific research.

So what happens when a scientific journal becomes part of the problem?

Last month, the journal Frontiers in Psychology retracted a paper, 'Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation', by cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky and colleagues. It is a narrative analysis of blog posts published by climate deniers in response to Lewandowsky's earlier study in which he and his colleagues found that endorsement of free-market economics and conspiratorial ideation are associated with the rejection of science. Recursive Fury further examined and reaffirmed the link between climate change denial and conspiracy ideation.

As soon as Recursive Fury was published in February 2013, Frontiers received a series of complaints and threats from climate deniers who said they had been "libeled" and "defamed" in the paper. After a year-long investigation into these complaints and threats, Frontiers concluded

This investigation did not identify any issues with the academic and ethical aspects of the study. It did, however, determine that the legal context is insufficiently clear and therefore Frontiers wishes to retract the published article.

As a reviewer of this paper, I've shared my own first-hand account of the peer-review process and early negotiations to re-publish the paper, adding that I'd have expected a scientific journal to have more backbone. As you might expect, the journal copped a fair amount of criticism from other academics as well, appalled that a scientific journal would cave in to threats from climate deniers and abandon its responsibility to defend academic freedom.

What has been shocking is the journal's response to academic criticism. In an effort to deflect the growing backlash from scientists and negative media reports, the journal has issued false statements, changed its story on the retraction and exposed the authors of the paper to reputational damage.

First came the journal's statement which included the claim that "Frontiers did not 'cave in to threats'; in fact, Frontiers received no threats." I had to read that sentence twice. Surely Frontiers would not issue a statement that is patently and demonstrably false?

As it happens, a number of these threats are a matter of public record. When environmental journalist Graham Readfearn broke the story days before the paper's retraction, he posted 118 pages of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request. Readfearn's article even directly quotes one letter from a blogger who made explicit legal threats against the journal:

I have sought legal advice which has confirmed that, as long as a reasonable number of blog readers are aware of my true identity and professional reputation (which is the case), I could potentially have a defamation action against the authors and publishers of this paper for an outright lie that was told about me.

As a reviewer, I was privy to some of the earliest threats sent to the journal following the paper's publication. Email exchanges between the journal's management, legal counsel and editors and reviewers clearly demonstrate that the journal received threats and responded to them as threats.

In one email, the journal's manager warns the journal's legal counsel, "This is not looking good. See doc attached from the blog writer." In the attached document, the blogger threatens to use his bully pulpit to expose the journal's "anti-science position," while his use of the word "libel" implies the threat of legal action:

I have been libeled by Stephan Lewandowsky in his most recent publication in your journal ... I demand that an immediate retraction be made. If I do not receive a reply in two days, I will pursue taking this to the next level ... in addition to pursuit of other action I will use my blog's public influence to explain to my readers your Journal's anti-science position when it suits your agenda.

In a later email (in the same exchange), the journal manager advises editors and reviewers, "We will have to keep this article back until we can establish whether it is libellous or not..." This email exchange culminated in a conference call to enable the journal's manager, legal counsel, editors and reviewers to discuss how the journal should proceed. Let me be perfectly clear: the very reason the journal convened the conference call was to deal with threats that had been received from climate denialists.

So the journal's claim that it "received no threats" is demonstrably false. Not the kind of behavior that instills confidence in the journal's integrity, professionalism and commitment to the truth.

In that same statement, the journal subtly began to change its story about why it had retracted the paper, explaining that its decision had been guided by concerns that the paper "does not sufficiently protect the rights of the studied subjects." With a bit of charity, this might be construed as a mealy-mouthed affirmation that it had bowed to legal threats and retracted an academically and ethically sound paper.

However, a more recent statement on the Frontiers web site by Henry Markram, who identifies himself as "Editor-in-Chief, Frontiers," leaves no doubt that the journal has now adopted the position that the paper was retracted because of academic and ethical issues.

In his statement entitled Rights of Human Subjects in Scientific Papers, Markram argues that the paper should never have been published owing to "fundamental errors or issues that go against principles of scholarly publishing". At the same time, he absolves Frontiers of all responsibility and points the finger squarely at the authors and reviewers: "[W]e fundamentally believe that authors should bear the full responsibility of submitting papers with the highest standards and that scientists should bear the full responsibility of deciding what science is published."

This latest position is rendered all the more suspect in light of the fact that the journal commissioned a report by an independent expert panel to further investigate such ethical issues. This panel concluded:

[B]log posts are regarded as public data and the individuals posting the data are not regarded as participants in the technical sense used by Research Ethics Committees or Institutional Review Boards. This further entails that no consent is required for the use of such data."

In other words, the experts made a clear distinction between a discourse analysis of public statements (on which the paper was based) and a scientific experiment involving human subjects.

So the journal now appears to be creating academic and ethical issues with the paper in order to justify its retraction, while off-loading any blame onto the paper's authors and reviewers. Again, hardly the kind of behavior that inspires the trust of scientists.

It does not help that Markram made some rather intemperate comments below his lengthy statement in which he questions the value of studying climate denial, suggests that the authors of Recursive Fury look like "the biggest nutters" (presumably compared to climate deniers), and clearly implies that the authors of the paper "abused science" to conduct a "public lynching" of climate denialist bloggers.

The whole episode has so far resulted in the resignation of three of the journal's editors in protest.

Professor Colin Davis, Chair in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol, told environmental journalist Graham Readfearn: "My resignation was in response to Frontiers' handling of the retraction of the paper by Lewandowsky et al. The retraction itself was very disappointing."

Chief Specialty Editor of Frontiers Ugo Bardi, a professor of physical chemistry at the University of Florence, said in his resignation announcement that Frontiers had "shown no respect" for the paper's authors and referees, and that the journal's actions reflected a "climate of intimidation" around climate science.

Frontiers Associate Editor Björn Brembs, a professor of neurogenetics at the University of Regensburg, describes the retraction as an "outrageous act" which shows that the editors at Frontiers "are not really on the side of science":

Essentially, this puts large sections of science at risk. Clearly, every geocentrist, flat earther, anti-vaxxer, creationist, homeopath, astrologer, diviner, and any other unpersuadable can now feel encouraged to challenge scientific papers in a court.

Meanwhile, Australian climate scientist Roger Jones, Professorial Research Fellow at the Victoria Institute of Strategic Economic Studies and a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says he is now reconsidering his decision to become an associate editor of Frontiers' newly established area of Interdisciplinary Climate Studies. This is because of recent statements by the journal which made him doubt their understanding of research ethics:

I see this behaviour from Frontiers as counterproductive to science in general and climate science in particular ... If the statements made by Editor-in-Chief Henry Markram are representative of Frontiers at large, I can't see how it can be supported by the research community.

It's worth noting that the Frontiers "progressive publishing group" scored a partnership with the prestigious scientific journal Nature because of its stated commitment to provide an innovative platform for open-source publishing "by scientists, for scientists."

That is, unless those scientists dare to study the phenomenon of climate change denial.

Dj Cook: Living In A Converted Garage With A Master's Degree

Dj Cook: Living In A Converted Garage With A Master's Degree 2014-04-18

I am suffocated by student debt. I am 36 years old, I'm employed, and I live slightly above the poverty line.

I flirt with falling into poverty every single year. I'm sure most of these stories start out the same way. I would love to be a spokesperson or an activist for the plights of the indentured servants of student loan debt and/or the working poor, but I already have two jobs (full-time high school teacher and part time economics tutor), I have no savings nor any prospect of savings and with student loan debt being the only debt in this country that you cannot wash away with bankruptcy I can't afford to take off a single day of work to even attempt to organize or be part of an organization that fights for the millions of American who find themselves in the exact same situation.

I graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2000 with an Economics degree (cruelly ironic, I know). My student loan debt was minimal from my undergrad and I ended up paying off about $6,000 from 2000-2007. In that same time I bounced from job to job, ultimately looking for a career. In 2007, I realized that my passion was teaching. I went back to school, obtained my teaching credential and a Master's degree in Education. At about the same time, the economy collapsed, taking most local, state and federal budgets for education with it. My Master's degree cost $36,000 with a 6.8 percent APR. But I was lucky enough to land a teaching job the first year out of school. I thought I had finally captured the elusive "American Dream."

Thinking that I would be able to keep my job for as long as I wanted based on good performance, I was excited to start the process of looking for a house to purchase. My student loan payments started to kick in six months after I graduated and that is when I realized that a home purchase was far away for me. I didn't realize what I was agreeing to when I was signing my student loan documents for graduate school because it had never been explained to me. I had no clue about the difference of borrowing from Sallie Mae or the federal government. I had no clue what the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized meant. I thought my loan repayments would be similar to my undergrad experience. One payment per month that could easily be paid off if I had a decent job. I knew a $36,000 education would take more time to pay off than my undergrad degree, but I didn't realize I was really signing up for four separate payments. This added up to about $400 in payments that I was not ready for. I contacted several banks to see if I could consolidate, but because of the types of loans, each bank informed me that I was unable to consolidate.

While this rude awakening was taking place, I was informed that I was being "laid-off" at the end of the school year due to budget cuts. I was distraught. I just devoted the last three years of my life to teaching and it appeared to be all for naught. I was fortunate enough to be rehired at the same school and actually received a nomination for "Teacher of the Year" in my second year as an educator (and also won Tri-Valley Coach of the Year for the varsity baseball team). But in that same week I was informed that I was being laid off again. After three lay-offs in four years I decided to move from California to Colorado in order to continue to teach but pay a lot less for rent, gas and everything else that is cheaper outside of California. In my two years in Colorado, I was laid off both times, so I moved back to California to take another teaching position. In my seven years as an educator, I've been laid off six times.

I am currently in a temporary teaching position that will ultimately leave me looking for work at the end of the school year again. On top of all that, there is a low key war in education between public education and for-profit charters, online schools and private schools. The for-profit machine has undermined the unions, backed standardized testing and refuses to acknowledge that our failing education system is due to social and economic issues rather than "bad teachers." The fact that I have seven years of public education experience also makes it very unlikely that a charter or private school would hire me due to the fact that I now come from the world of unionization and workers rights. I have pursued switching careers, but I find myself running into two different problems:

1) The longer I teach, the less desirable I become to any other profession. I recently interviewed with a bank and although I was offered the job, the salary was the same entry level wage that a 22-year-old college student would start at. I could not take a $17k pay cut, as I already live paycheck to paycheck.

In 2004 I registered with AppleOne (a temp agency) and received dozens of offers for executive assistant work. When I contacted several temp agencies in the summer of 2013 I couldn't even get a call back from the agencies, let alone a job offer.

2) The erosion of respect for the teaching position in general allows potential employers (whether intentionally or not) to discriminate against former teachers using the logic that teachers in the U.S. are bad at their jobs and held up by their union, therefore former teachers are bad employees.

I currently live in a converted garage (500 sq/ft) with no heat, no air conditioning, and no kitchen -- and all of that costs $900/month. I live paycheck to paycheck, with no savings. I have a dog, which I use to fill the biological urge to have children. At 36 years old, it's slowly starting to dawn on me that I will most likely never have children, as I would never intentionally bring another child into the world of poverty. A house and/or a family is a laughable proposition at this point.

My life prior to student loan debt and the economic collapse of 2008 was one of promise. I was a straight A student in high school and I have earned two degrees. I am a law abiding citizen and have never been arrested. In six and a half years I have paid off $2,000 of principle even though my payments have been roughly $400/month. Most of the payments have gone towards interest. In these current economic circumstances I have experienced the following emotions, thoughts, events and actions: 1) My financial situation has caused a level of depression that is hard to overcome sometimes; 2) My financial situation has made it impossible to buy a home and build equity; 3) My financial situation has caused so much stress it has inadvertently cost me two very important relationships; 4) I have thought about moving out of the country for good, abandoning my family, my friends and most importantly, my debt; 5) Worst of all, my financial situation has broken my spirit and leaves me with a sense of hopelessness most of the time.

I feel like this situation is turning me into a bad person. What happened to the American Dream we all strove so hard to reach? I've done everything that I was told to do in order to be successful. I earned excellent grades, I was in all kinds of extra-curricular activities, I went to college (twice), I pay my bills on time, I'm a good citizen and all for what? I'm in a lifetime of debt with no foreseeable answers. I would legitimately be better off if I was working for $15/hr with no student loan debt than making $56,000/year, getting laid off every year, only paying off the interest of my student loans and facing the possibility of defaulting on my student loans which would lead to a garnishment of my future paychecks.

Something needs to change and it needs to change now. Too many people are affected by this for it not to be something that everyone is aware of. For the vast majority of citizens of the U.S. and the world for that matter, we are not in a recession. We are in a depression disguised as a recession due to the fact that the upper one percent continue to pull obscene amounts of wealth out of the global economy, which ultimately covers up the loss of wealth the rest of us have suffered through. I would like to help in this cause because the alternatives are not the type of person I would like to be. I'm using this forum to literally beg for help from the American people. When good people are forced into bad situations the stitches that have held our society together for so long are at a great risk of tearing open and I do not want to speculate on what the effects of such a societal collapse would look like. One thing I know for sure though, is that such a collapse would come with even more pain and suffering.

poverty

DJ's story is part of a Huffington Post series profiling Americans who work hard and yet still struggle to make ends meet. Learn more about other individuals' experiences here.

Have a similar story you'd like to share? Email us at workingpoor@huffingtonpost.com