An on-line journal of articles and musings forbidden by the mainstream media.
Monday, July 21, 2003
A Different Drummer
(Suppressed amazon.com Review)
Who'll Stop the Rain?
Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive
Welfare and Low-Wage Work
by Kathryn Edin, Laura Lein Russell Sage Foundation, March 1997 $22.00, ISBN: 087154234X
3 1/2 stars out of 5
During the early 1980s, social scientists noticed that welfare mothers were spending three to six times their official incomes. In his exquisitely written foreword, Harvard sociologist Christopher Jencks argues persuasively that in a "conspiracy of silence," conservatives didn't want to admit that mothers could not survive on welfare checks alone, while "liberals" didn't want to admit that clients had unreported resources. Jencks and his colleagues asked where the additional money was coming from. Making Ends Meet provides some answers.
Aided by over thirty research associates, sociologist Kathryn Edin and anthropologist Laura Lein interviewed 379 single welfare AND poor working mothers in Chicago, Boston, San Antonio, Charleston and rural Minnesota. The authors compared the groups, with the purpose of undermining welfare reform.
Virtually all of the mothers studied derived income from their children's fathers, from boyfriends, relatives, off-the-books jobs (e.g., babysitting), selling stolen goods, prostitution or dealing drugs. Despite unreported income, uneducated, unskilled women working at "dead-end" jobs were barely treading water.
The authors report that single, working mothers have more cash, yet suffer greater hardships than their non-working counterparts. Working mothers must pay for additional transportation, and for services such as medical and child care that welfare mothers get free. Edin and Lein thus conclude that poor women are usually worse off working than being on welfare.
The authors tend to exaggerate the difficulty of finding affordable child care. Although a respondent told of getting babysitting services from a welfare mother for a bag or two of groceries per month, the authors speak of "market-rate" (read: exorbitant, state-licensed) child care. As NYU political scientist Lawrence Mead noted in The New Politics of Poverty (1992), as Jencks corroborates, and as I know from direct experience, poor working mothers are able to negotiate affordable, unlicensed child care without "service-providers" from inflationary, government programs. The supposed lack of child care is a rehearsed response that welfare mothers know to give to credulous, "Suzy the social worker" (a term a foster-care caseworker colleague taught me) types and socialist/radical multicultural academic researchers: "I really want to work, but ..."
Edin and Lein alternate between the role of "Suzies" and that of dogged interviewers. They re-interview respondents who initially gave unrealistic budgets, or ambiguous or misleading answers on whether they were receiving child support, or engaging in casual prostitution. The pervasiveness of casual prostitution matched my own observations in New York's slums; that of informal child support surprised me. However, when it comes to the mothers' rationalizations for not working, it's "Suzy time" again. The conflicted authors emphasize mothers' concern with avoiding criminal activity, despite chronicling their involvement in prostitution, and in contracting with shoplifters to steal clothing for their children.
Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, and the Democrats' ensuing Northern Strategy's revolutionary anti-morality put dunce caps on millennia-old moral teachings prohibiting premarital sex. Armies of sexual "educators" and "helping" professionals and their university and media apologists told girls they had a right to "non-marital births," and demanded that hardworking, married folks support those children. Implicitly re-defining a family as an unwed mother and child(ren), the authors are shocked, shocked, that this results in a poor, unskilled girl raising her fatherless child(ren) in poverty.
(As liberal Democratic historian Fred Siegel (The Future Once Happened Here) has chronicled, the Marxist National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO) sought to bankrupt New York City, and precipitate a revolution. From 1966-73, liberal Republican Mayor John V. Lindsay's social services commissioner, Mitchell "Come and Get It" Ginsberg, more than doubled the welfare rolls, from 538,000 to 1.165 million. At the same time, the NWRO pursued a politics of racial polarization, a politics it later attributed to Republicans. Instead of a revolution, the NWRO precipitated the moral collapse of urban black society.)
In seeing life in "some of the country's most dangerous neighborhoods" as driving concerned mothers onto the dole, rather than leave their children unsupervised while they work, the authors confuse cause and effect. It is the spread of illegitimacy and welfare, and their accompanying vices, that has made such areas so dangerous.
In Why Nothing Works (1987), "liberal" anthropologist Marvin Harris "explained" that welfare clients raised their sons to be violent, the better to protect the mothers (from other women's sons). Hence, to the degree that poor young blacks and Hispanics embrace crime, they do so not in response to (white) racism, or lack of opportunity, but to their rearing.
Millions of American couples avoid poverty through pooling modest paychecks, one spouse working extra hours, sharing responsibilities, relying on relatives for child care and limiting their wants. The authors have unwittingly made a compelling case for demolishing the welfare state and its "alternative" family models. The solution is marriage.
When I was a foster-care caseworker, one of my clients almost always missed agency visits to see her seven children. "I didn't want to leave the house, 'cause it was rainin,'" gradually became "It looked like it MIGHT rain." Edin and Lein deny the morality of work and responsible living, yet portray welfare clients as always a government program away from employability. But government will never be able to stop the rain, just as it will never be able to guarantee uneducated, unskilled women "good jobs."
I doubt that Making Ends Meet will cause an uncommitted reader to suddenly empathize with welfare clients. In a New York Times puff piece, Edin inadvertently clarified the book's (for me) peculiar sensibility. Reporter Jason DeParle related that while Edin, who is white, found black children beautiful, "white children at times began to look 'homely'" to her. Rather than caring about ALL poor kids, Kathryn Edin apparently feels a blind loyalty to poor black women and their children, and a corresponding obligation to be repelled by children of her own race. How sad.
Originally published in the February, 1998 Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.
Cyber-Censorship at Amazon
If you go to my Amazon About You Area, you'll see two instances of this review. But if you hit the links to the book, Making Ends Meet, you will not see either copy of the review. An Amazon employee has hidden my review, so that other customers will not be able to read or vote on it. (Note that as one's rank is determined in part based on the ratio of reviews to votes, having reviews that no one votes on, will cause one's ranking to fall. Then again, since Amazon staffers have either hidden or refrained from posting my last five reviews, at this rate the issue of the ratio of reviews to votes will soon be moot.) Upon seeing this scam once, I resubmitted the review, and Amazon (presumably a different employee) posted both reviews first on the book's page. But then an Amazon staffer (the first one?) hid both reviews yet again.
The trick to finding the reviews, is that you have to hit the "customer reviews" link high on the left side of the book's information page. Right here. For any other item, reviews are posted on the immediate page, with a big, bold link to all other customer reviews immediately below them.
If you check the reviews of Cinema Without Walls posted at my current Amazon page, you'll not find them posted on the book's page at all. Thus do Amazon's people create the illusion of having posted the review. When I figured out what they had done to the first review, I resubmitted it. It was immeiately posted to my "About You" area, suggesting it had been automatically re-routed. Amazon's people have so far refused to even feign posting the review I sent them on July 7, of William McGowan's book, Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism. I sent the McGowan review again, seven days later, and then a third time, under a different title, on July 19.
I originally sent this review, of Making Ends Meet, to Amazon on September 27, 2000, and it was posted some time in early October of that year. At the time, I would have to send in reviews as many as six times, including sending them to the office of CEO Jeff Bezos (firstname.lastname@example.org), before they would be posted. An Amazon politburo employee clearly didn't like what I was saying. In spite of the sandbagging, I had risen to #4469 in the rankings, based on customer votes. When I wrote letters of complaint to Amazon, its flunkies insisted that all reviews were posted in the order in which they came. I actually went to the trouble of determining that Amazon's favorite reviewers, such as Harriet Klausner (#1), would send dozens of reviews in at the same time, all of which would often be posted the next day. Obviously, this would cause the house favorites to get many more votes than someone who had to spend up to two months sending and re-sending the same, bloody review.
If I'm not mistaken, this whole situation is a case of consumer fraud, since consumers are being led by a seller to engage in activity based on the seller's false claims. Having been a magazine publisher for a few years, and a freelance writer for twenty, I also strongly suspect that the claim at Amazon's web site, that "Submissions become the property of Amazon.com," would not hold up in a court of law, especially given that Amazon has re-published, without special arrangements, many previously published customer reviews whose copyrights belong to the original publishers. Copyright is something that one has to formally sign away, using a legal contract. And I'd love to hear Amazon's lawyers explain how their clients fully intend to suppress, without paying for them, reviews they have induced people to send them, while Amazon claims ownership of the suppressed, censored or illegally altered reviews. Discovery would be a hoot!
I know, I know: There's not a snowball's chance in hell of any of this coming to pass. But what's wrong with indulging in a little harmless speculation, as long as the wife doesn't know what I'm doing with my time? (I tell her I'm viewing pornography; I don't want her to think ill of me.)
(Note that some Amazon employees liked my reviews. One of my earliest Amazon reviews, of Ruth and Neil Cowan'sOur Parents' Lives, won a reviewing prize and a $50 gift certificate.)
Back in 2000, my letters grew more sarcastic, and Amazon's response more aggressive. In October, 2000, an employee moved most of my reviews, including the one above, to a "private section," where only Amazon employees and I could read them. In November, the "private" reviews were all purged, their votes subtracted, and my ranking sent into Amazon oblivion. Had Amazon staffers, and at least one supervisor not put their thumbs on the scale, I am sure that by now, I'd have cracked the circle of "TOP 1000" reviewers.
A handful of my reviews from 2000 are inexplicably still available at my old "About You" Area. Note, however, that an Amazon staffer illegally deleted my note at the end of my review of Ted Pappas' book, Plagiarism and the Culture Wars, acknowledging that it had originally been published in The American Enterprise, which owns the copyright.
Meanwhile, racist, black reviewers are able to operate with impunity at Amazon, even when they fill their "reviews" with lies, as a New Jersey reviewer (sometimes he identifies himself as being from Somerville) has done in a series of posts in which he lies about the O.J. Simpson case, in order to make Simpson appear innocent of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.
Why do I bother sending reviews to a clearly corrupt organization? The short answer is, I'm clearly nuts.
The longer answer is, Amazon asked me to. "Me" means that the firm solicited reviews from everyone, with the come-on that it could help make obscure writers famous. And what writer was more obscure than yours truly? Hence, any ideas I had about sending reviews TO Amazon, came FROM Amazon, and not my own fevered imagination.
The Amazon attraction should be obvious. Freelance writer who toils for low-circulation (25,000-100,000 reader) publications while working on book, gets to promote himself to hundreds of thousands of potential customers who read his book, movie, and music reviews, and eventually remember his name.
After Amazon started purging my posted reviews, I stopped sending in new reviews, except for an experiment I performed, writing a brief, lame review of the Mike Myers movie, So I Married an Axe Murderer. (Not that the movie was lame; on the contrary.) Amazon's people promptly posted my review. So, I was permitted to write short, puff pieces, but forbidden from writing any serious pieces that might actually have some value.
This past spring, I broke my rule against doing business with Amazon, in using it to buy a book for a friend.
Since I'd forgotten my Amazon password, I had to get a new one. That gave me the notion of sending in reviews again. Maybe the new password would change my cookie, and Amazon's computer wouldn't recognize it. The first few reviews were posted without problem, but then Amazon's staffers were back up to their old tricks again. I guess I'll be getting purged again, any day now.
A "reasonable" person would say, 'Forget about it; move on.' Aside from the fact that "reasonable" people don't touch the topics I routinely tackle, when you've been censored as many times as I have, by socialists and Republicans alike, "moving on" is not an option. You'd end up without anyone ever reading your work. And so, if I'm going to be a "nut," anyway, I might as well get some publicity for myself, and embarrass Amazon and Jeff Bezos, in the bargain. If Bezos is going to let his employees censor reviewers who don't toe the pc line politically -- which is clearly done with his blessing, since I alerted him to it, three years ago -- then let him say so officially, and end his little charade.