Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Atlantic City: A Sad Place

I recently took a vacation to Atlantic City, NJ with my family. It was the second time I had been there, the first being about 23 years ago, and the first time for the rest of the family. We stayed at one of the many hotel/casinos that line the shore and act as a "wall" separating the beach and boardwalk from the rest of the city. While we enjoyed the trip and the vacation. I could not help but notice the stark contrast between the big, fancy hotel/casinos filled with gamblers from out of town, the boardwalk and beach filled with tourists and vacationers, and "the rest of the city", which is pretty much a dump. Just inland from the hotel/casinos is a scummy, grimy city filled with poor people and crime. We were warned not to venture inland after dark; it "wasn't safe". Obviously we heeded the warnings, but how did things get like this? Was it always this way? I suspect not, but maybe I am wrong. Even along and near the boardwalk, and during the day, there were beggars asking for a handout. It strikes me that Atlantic City is a microcosm of our entire society, or at least where our society seems to be headed. In Atlantic City, there are the "haves" (the owners of the hotels and casinos, those who go there to gamble, and the rest of the tourists that come for the boardwalk and beach), and the "have-nots" (the regular residents that live in the city...many of whom probably work for the "haves" at low wages.) In society in general, there are the "haves" (owners and ceo's of large companies -- especially oil companies -- career politicians, celebreties, professional athletes, doctors and lawyers, and others) and the "have-nots" (the rest of us, who, while we may be employed --at low-paying service jobs rather than manufacturing --, are barely making enough to pay the bills as it is and who continue to fall behind as the price of energy, health care and other necessities skyrockets much faster than our paychecks grow.) The "middle class", once a large part of the American economic, social and political scene, is quickly shrinking. Most are dropping out into the "lower class" as their expenses rapidly exceed their income. A few lucky ones are somehow joining the "upper class", but these are very few. Soon the entire country will be one big Atantic City. There will be a tiny minority of very rich people; the rest of the country will be filled with poor people, crime and blight.

By the way this is not intended to discourage anyone from visiting Atlantic City. Go, have a good time. But be mindful of those who are less fortunate; if you win some money, be generous...buy a beggar lunch. And be careful; if you lose too much money, you might end up being one of the beggars yourself!

So Sayeth The Shack

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Gas Price Fixing

You cannot tell me that gas prices in the State College area are not fixed at an artificially high level. On a trip to the Jersey Shore and back, prices dropped as soon as I went over Seven Mountains and continued dropping the farther away from State College I got. Prices from Lewistown to Harrisburg and beyond were 5 to 10 cents per gallon lower than around here. And there was actually competition between the stations with prices varying by a few cents from one station to another; not the same at every station like around here. So we are definitely being ripped off.

So Sayeth The Shack