Spam and Eggs

As anyone with a blog knows, a significant number of comments are received by spam-bots. Until now, I’ve been deleting them. Today (April 12), however, I received one that I had to post, which gave me the idea that I should post all of them! Of course, I only had Thursday night’s and Friday morning’s at that point, so it’s a small start.

It’s probably a good idea to post them as screen shots, though. If I post the text, future spam bots will know these were posted, and I’ll be inundated. I had to reorganize things to make them fit, too, so the sender’s URL and email address is gone, and the post being responded to is beneath the comment, instead of off to the right of it.

Enjoy!

Rattling Enthusiastic!
spam-comment-0411-2354

My favorite:
spam-comment-0412-0620

This led to a vacation/resort web site:
spam-comment-0412-1753

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Quilas International, Update

On the 9th, I discovered that I had a reader from Hungary. I thought that was my first international reader. Was I wrong! Today, I checked the Summaries and discovered that I’ve had many international visitors.

In the past 30 days:
quilas-stats-30days-0411

All-time:
quilas-stats-alltime-0411

Thank you for following this progress.

No 7-Eleven NYC, Labor, and “Free Markets”

This past Saturday (April 6), the local small-business association No 7‑Eleven NYC (N7E) held an event in Tompkins Square Park. This is how they advertised it:

n7e-tsp-announcement

I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it — I usually have a lot of work to do on Saturdays. As luck would have it, though, my mid-afternoon appointment got cancelled, so I was able to go. This is my review.

I guess the first thing I’d say is that N7E is undisciplined. They were supposed to begin at 1:00pm, but none of them arrived on time. Reverend Billy, an invited guest of theirs, paced back and forth waiting for them. They finally showed up around 1:10, carrying their signs and Wheel of Fortune.

I will discuss their activities in another post (perhaps). Today, I’ll just limit myself to their writings. This is the flier they handed out (I commend them for printing double-sided; at least they don’t waste paper):

n7e-tsp-flier1 n7e-tsp-flier2

Don’t strain your eyes trying to read it; I’ll enlarge the points I want to discuss.

n7e-tsp-flier1-blurb2

This is just deceitful. 7‑Eleven employs between seven and ten people per store (depending on the location), up to three-times more than a bodega.

The labor issue is probably the most significant one when comparing 7‑Eleven with bodegas. I’d like to point out something that happened just last week:

The workers at fast-food restaurants across the city went on strike. This is something that could never happen with bodega workers, for a number of reasons, the most important of which is that bodega workers are fragmented. Concentration of capital can enhance the solidarity of the workers, as more are brought into cooperation with each other by working in bigger firms.

On their web site, N7E’s propagandists insists that, in addition to employing more people, bodegas are, for workers, superior to chain stores, because bodega owners will hire convicted felons. I would love to see the statistics on this claim! However, on a more relevant note, they ignore that bodegas are exempt from most labor and health & safety laws:

  • Unemployment Insurance – Employees are paid in cash, so there is no record of their employment.
  • OSHA Requirements – If you have fewer than 25 employees, your penalty is cut by 60 percent. If your business has fewer than 10 employees, you’re exempt from many requirements that obligate you to report workplace injuries.
  • Discrimination Laws – Federal laws against discrimination in the workplace do not always apply to small businesses. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to employers with 15 or more employees. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies only to employers of 20 or more people.
  • Employee Health Insurance – Beginning in 2014, employers will be expected to pay a “shared responsibility fee” for health insurance coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Small businesses are exempt from this rule. If your company has fewer than 50 employees, you have no healthcare responsibilities.1

Because bodegas workers are paid in cash, no taxes are withheld, leaving them with a large tax liability at the end of the year, and with no Social Security credits. Bodegas also frequently hire undocumented workers, whose protections are nil. Not only can they be fired for no reason, they are oftentimes threatened with deportation if they raise any objection.

nelp12

***

N7E claims that 7‑Eleven’s presence in the neighborhood threatens the “free market”.

n7e-tsp-flier2-blurb1

I’ve already discussed this claim with an N7E ideologue in the Comments section of another blog, but I will point out to them, once again, that rather than it being threatened, this is exactly how the “free market” operates:

    The battle of competition is fought by cheapening of commodities. The cheapness of commodities demands, [all else being equal], on the productiveness of labour, and this again on the scale of production. Therefore, the larger capitals beat the smaller. It will further be remembered that, with the development of the capitalist mode of production, there is an increase in the minimum amount of individual capital necessary to carry on a business under its normal conditions. The smaller capitals, therefore, crowd into spheres of production which Modern Industry has only sporadically or incompletely got hold of. Here competition rages in direct proportion to the number, and in inverse proportion to the magnitudes, of the antagonistic capitals. It always ends in the ruin of many small capitalists, whose capitals partly pass into the hands of their conquerors, partly vanish. [Emphasis mine]

I’m certainly not against fighting the “free market,” but people who know better can see N7E doesn’t know what they’re saying. A real grassroots campaign would be up-front about wanting to subvert the “free market” in their effort to establish the type of neighborhood they desire. They would understand that there’s no way that could be avoided. They would advocate for the people who work in the bodegas, instead of for the owners. They might even want to restrict the number of bodegas, as even they realize there is an over-abundance of them:

n7e-tsp-flier1-blurb1

***

The same organization that works to protect the rights of undocumented workers has an unfavorable assessment of bodegas as places to shop, as well:

nelp23

***

So this was an assessment of parts of their most current flier. I addressed their main fallacies. In the second bullet-point on page two, they claim that there is a ban in New York City on the sale of sodas over 16 ounces, which isn’t true, but isn’t worth the time to refute at any length.

I shot some video of the event. I have to watch it again to see if I want to comment on it. I might just upload it to YouTube and post a link to it.

=-=-=-=-=

1Small Business Exemptions
2Good Food and Good Jobs for Underserved Communities
3Unregulated Work in the Grocery and Supermarket Industry in New York City

Quilas Goes International!

I checked my Stats just now, and right away I noticed the color bar, that usually runs from 0% red to 100% red, had a different color in it. So I looked below the U.S. flag and there it was: Hungary. (For my American readers, I added an arrow pointing to Hungary).

quilas-stats-0409

Quilas would now like to salute Hungary, population 9,971,000.

Saaaaa-lute!!

Gentrification Is Not Neutral

There’s a documentary called “Gut Renovation” that released last year, that I read about on another blog, that tells the story of the film-maker, Su Friedrich, who moved into a loft space in Williamsburg many years ago, fixed it up, and then became incensed when the zoning laws were changed in 2005 to allow towering condos to be built, which eventually drove her out of the neighborhood. Her anger is understandable: she and others had created a living-space, and helped repurpose a neighborhood, that appealed to them (I don’t know if it appealed to those who were living there before she arrived). Her wrath is directed at that the new developers and residents: the gentrifiers.

But Su Friedrich was a gentrifier. Owner/occupiers are gentrifiers, the same as any others, qua gentrifiers. They’re oftentimes the first, and most persistent, since they’re able to either work within existing zoning laws, or more easily evade them.

So this, added to all of my reading and writing on gentrification lately, had me wondering: is it possible that gentrification is neutral? All buildings have a lifespan. All buildings will require significant renovations, or even razing, at some point. Most buildings in a neighborhood ripe for gentrification are of approximately the same age, which means that they will have deteriorated at about the same pace, and require renovation at about the same time. Even if the cheapest materials are used, the result will be a building with a higher-capitalized ground rent than what preceded it. Is it even possible to renovate the buildings in an area without making it unaffordable for those already living there? That is, without gentrifying it?

I was puzzling this while walking to work one day when it finally came to me, or came back to me rather, as I had already stated the problem in a response to a comment on Follow the Money. These options — ungentrified, devalorized neighborhood vs. gentrified, unaffordable neighborhood; quaint, gentrified block vs. over-built, gentrified block — are what we’re limited to when the root of the problem, capitalism, remains outside of the discussion. When housing is an exchange-value instead of a use-value, it’s clear that gentrification is not neutral.

Acting within this straightjacket, a strategy has arisen to prevent the proliferation of luxury towers and franchise stores by restricting what can be razed, or be permitted to open, within an area. This is really the crux: this action will not halt the advance of gentrification, only the direction it takes. One’s preference matters only to this degree. High-rises, or single-family townhouses? Starbucks, or Bluebird Coffee Shop?

When one group of gentrifiers does battle with another group, why take sides? Our gut reaction might be to oppose the large real estate developers, but that doesn’t mean we should side with those actively involved in the same process. Fossilized neighborhoods are no more appealing than glass and concrete neighborhoods. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum should not be the entire Lower East Side.

les-tenement-museum

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