New Feature: Survival Hints

I wear whole lots of different hats which is one major reason I feel extremely constrained by identity politics.  None of the neat identity packages really fit.

Over my life time I’ve picked up whole bunches of skills from cooking and sewing to page layout and computer construction.

Many people whose lives have been impacted by trans-prefixed words are facing hard times economically.  Un-employment and under-employment particularly if one is older or not so passable are  real facts of life.

Identity be damned though… It isn’t just being trans ******… Many other formerly middle class people are facing the same problems thanks to Extremist Capitalism and the Free Market waging class war on the working classes.

Hence… The new column “Survival Hints”…  I want this to be a co-operative effort…  Especially on the part of people outside the US.  There is an e-mail address for this blog suzan.wbt@gmail.com I’ll run articles submitted by others that address this topic.  Some suggested topics might include negotiating Name Changes, free or low cost medical care etc. Others could include tips on turning various skills into income producing endeavors that do not require conforming to some sort of corporate standards.

If you have a blog and have posted articles on these themes this is an opportunity for links and a link back to your blog or website.

Today I am featuring an article I found on Alternet.  It particularly hit home as I have spent a great deal of money on glasses this year that I am not all that happy with.

The following is reposted with the permission of Anneli Rufus.

She has written several interesting appearing books and has the following sites:

http://www.annelirufus.com/

http://scavenging.wordpress.com/

Wow — the Eyewear Industry Is an Incredible Ripoff, But There Are Alternatives

By Anneli Rufus, AlterNet
Posted on August 31, 2010, Printed on August 31, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/148024/

Those of us who need prescription eyewear need prescription eyewear. Are you wearing yours to read this? Imagine if you weren’t. Imagine life without your glasses for a year, a week, an hour. Yet many health insurance plans, especially for the unemployed or self-employed, don’t cover them.

Mine doesn’t.

Last year, I went shopping for no-line progressive bifocals in small oval metal frames. Name brands mean nothing to me. Price does. My high astigmatism and need for bifocals disqualify me from those buy-one-get-one-free deals, which almost always involve only single-vision specs.

In store after store, megachains and optical boutiques alike, small oval metal frames fitted with lenses matching my prescription started at $300. One popular shop quoted me $582 for the lenses alone.

I bought a pair of no-line progressive bifocals in small oval metal frames for $44 online. I’m wearing them right now.

Perhaps because prescription glasses are where medicine meets fashion, they’re among the world’s most overpriced merchandise. Imperfect eyesight isn’t your fault: You can’t make yourself nearsighted by eating too much fudge. Yet if your health plan excludes vision care, you’ve spent years at the mercy of a $64 billion industry characterized by 500-percent markups.

This has begun to change over the last few years. A knowledge-is-power, power-to-the-people, Web-driven DIY wave is rocking the optical industry’s very foundations. Dozens of companies now sell prescription glasses online, frames and lenses included, for as little as $7.95.

It works like this: Google “cheap glasses” to find a frame you like at a price you like at a site you like. (Among the most popular are 39DollarGlasses, ZenniOptical — where I bought mine — and Goggles4U.) Use the virtual fitting mechanism to “try it on.” Type in your prescription (obtained from an actual eye doctor), pupillary distance (aka PD, derived by measuring the space between your pupils with a ruler), address and payment information. Send.

It’s a virtual myopian/hyperopian/presbyopian Tea Party, led largely by Minnesota software engineer Ira Mitchell, who launched his revolutionary GlassyEyes blog (its motto is “Saving the World from Overpriced Glasses!”) in 2006. Packed with forums, product reviews, discount deals, and tips for buying specs online, it’s the vision-impaired version of Yelp.

“There is no appreciable functional or material difference” between prescription eyewear bought online and bought in brick-and-mortar stores, Mitchell tells me, but in stores “the cost to the consumer is anywhere from four to ten times more. It turns out that they’re making ridiculous margins on the frames, the lenses and the coatings.”

Complete with antiscratch coatings and other pluses, his own glasses cost between $30 and $60 per pair online. Over the last three years, he’s bought around 40 pair — because, at that price, he can.

Mitchell was appalled when he first began researching wholesale prices for optical merchandise and realized that opticians acquire lenses for as little as $3 each. “I’ve easily paid twenty times that when I didn’t know any better,” he says.

Granted, these glass, plastic, polycarbonate or polymer blanks must be ground to fit frames and prescriptions, and this takes work, but it’s not rocket science. Typically, lens grinding is done by optical laboratory technicians. According to PayScale.com, OLTs in the United States earn between $9.73 and $14.40 per hour. Most learn on the job, and have only a high-school diploma or a GED. No specific certification is required.

The fleecing, Mitchell says, is just as bad on frames.

“A consumer-level frame costs significantly less than $10 to manufacture. The rest is operations, licensing and profit. Think about that the next time you pick up an average $150 frame. These aren’t markedly different or superior to the $30 glasses available from reputable online dealers — and those include lenses, probably the same ones you were just about to pay $200 for in the store.”

A key to the industry-standard overpricing is the fact that a single corporation — Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear firm — owns many retail eyewear chains and many popular eyewear brands. Based in Milan, Italy, Luxottica owns and operates LensCrafters, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Ilori, and other chains in the United States, along with yet more chains throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, India, the Antipodes and the Middle East.

Luxottica owns Ray-Ban, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Vogue, and other brands, and makes glasses under license for over a dozen designer labels including Versace, Prada, Bulgari, DKNY, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Tiffany, and more. As if that isn’t enough, Luxottica is also the parent company of a vision-care benefits program, EyeMed.

Eyewear prices in brick-and-mortar stores stay artificially high, Mitchell says, due to “the lack of real competition, inasmuch as Luxottica owns massive manufacturing, licensing, retailing and insurance interests” — albeit EyeMed is “not so much insurance as a marketing ploy to get people to buy from their stores at a discount and to force the remaining independent stores to buy Luxottica controlled frames. But, again, most people are unaware of this.”

Because one company holds a near-monopoly on brick-and-mortar eyewear stores, “pricing models are somewhat static across the lot of them. They also have a knack for using the mattress sale model … constantly running sales that seem too good to pass up when in reality they’re still making enormous profits.”

“Semi-Annual 50% Off Sales Event,” reads a current LensCrafters ad. But the frames in question range from around $100 to around $300, and that’s without lenses.

“People pay what the brick-and-mortars are asking, primarily because the vast majority don’t know there are better, cheaper options,” Mitchell says.

As with any purchase — in fact more than with most purchases, as this involves eyesight — it pays to research each company’s delivery and return policies, Better Business Bureau status, and accessibility. Does its Web site list a phone number? If not, why not? If so, call it. Can you reach live people? Are they knowledgeable about your prescription? Does the company have its own in-house optometrists? It should. If you care about brand names, can you ascertain that the logo-bearing frames sold by any given company aren’t counterfeits? Factories churn out fakes.

While many online outfits sell real and bogus designer frames, the least expensive frames available online are unapologetically nameless generics: current and classic styles, sans logo. As is true with most consumer products, they’re not necessarily worse than their name-brand counterparts. After a year-plus of daily use, my $44 generics still look new. (That being said, I should have paid a few dollars more for higher-quality polycarbonate lenses and I should have sought bifocals with a wider middle-vision band, but these errors were my own, not the company’s.)

“Very high-priced frames may have somewhat better materials,” Mitchell says, “but from my experience, the no-names have been very well made.” Having owned dozens of generic pairs, he’s experienced “no more issues with them than with the name brands from LensCrafters. I think they’re pretty much on par.”

These days, he notes, “there are a lot more online retailers now than at the end of 2006. There aren’t a whole lot more reputable ones, however. I’ve shopped at over a dozen, and narrowed things down to about three or four that I feel comfortable recommending to others. As this is a fully custom market, mistakes can enter the process anywhere from the initial customer entering prescription information to the production process. I’ve found that a few of the sites do a better job than others at fixing mistakes. Some do better at this than the traditional stores.

“Prices haven’t dropped at all in the traditional brick-and-mortars, but downward price pressure from Wal-Mart will undoubtedly start to make an impact in certain parts of the country. I saw a sign in a
Wal-Mart recently for $38 glasses. The selection was tiny, but we’re starting to see a price intersection.”

The first online eyeglasses company was Houston-based FramesDirect. In 1992, optometrists Dhavid Cooper and Guy Hodgson closed their several Texas brick-and-mortar shops, then pondered their future.

“We knew that we wanted to sell eyewear in all fifty states 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Hodgson says. “We had no idea how to do this.” Renting a small office, they installed computers.

“When you talked about the Internet in those days, no one knew what you meant. Search engines were in their absolute infancy. We thought a 56k modem was blisteringly fast.”

Cooper had won a Surgeon General’s Commendation Award in his native South Africa for creating a program providing the poor with recycled glasses for free. Hodgson specialized in treating the nearly blind. Barely fluent in email, the pair created a basic Web site, offering designer glasses at low prices because, unlike brick-and-mortar opticians, they needed to pay neither storefront rent nor employees’ salaries, nor did they need to keep large quantities of merchandise in stock.

“Everyone around us thought we were completely mad: Eye doctors, giving up their lucrative practices to go into this weird thing,” Hodgson laughs. But once orders started pouring in, “The whole optical industry completely shunned us. They said we were ruining them.”

At eyewear conventions, he and Cooper wore their nametags backward to avoid verbal abuse. Since then, dozens of imitators have emerged, many based overseas and most able to offer even lower prices because they sell generics. Buying prescription eyewear is like buying prescription drugs: It’s cheaper online. It’s cheaper when it comes from outside the U.S. GlassesUnlimited, for instance, can afford to sell hundreds of different stylish frames fitted with prescription lenses for only $9.99 because its entire operation is based in Thailand.

“We don’t have big margins here. That’s how we are serving our clientele. That’s why we’re getting hundreds of orders on a daily basis, 70 percent of which come from the U.S. and Canada,” GU manager Sam Davis tells me. “We have virtually no expenses. We have our own home brand and do our own production. We don’t outsource anything.”

Based in the U.S., FramesDirect still undercuts retail-store prices for guaranteed designer goods.

“What we sell and what the brick-and-mortar stores sell are the exact same products,” Guy Hodgson says. “How can they afford to charge the prices they charge?”

Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, most recently The Scavenger’s Manifesto (Tarcher Press, 2009). Read more of Anneli’s writings on scavenging at scavenging.wordpress.com.

Posted in Economic Issues, Frugal Living, Hard Times. Comments Off on New Feature: Survival Hints

Wing Nut Daily

Headlines at the Nazi Ninny Pages says it all…

If marriage is lost, we lose everything

Don Feder
Posted: August 31, 2010
1:00 am Eastern

Last Saturday, Glenn Beck held his Restoring Honor rally in Washington, D.C. An estimated 300,000 to half a million people came from all over the country. The Fox News host made the event an interfaith revival. “America today begins to turn back to God,” Beck declared.

But while America turns back to God, Beck turns his back on God’s law. Hey, that’s catchy!

A guest on the “O’Reilly Factor” in early August, Beck was asked, “Do you believe that gay marriage is a threat to the country in any way?” Answer: “No I don’t. Will gays come and get us?” Apparently, this jocularity was meant to belittle the bumpkins who oppose turning marriage into a free-form institution.

Beck then quoted his hero, Thomas Jefferson (who thought the French Revolution was groovy): “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket what difference is it to me?” Apparently, demolishing the institution of marriage, and undermining the family, should be matters of supreme indifference to those fighting to save America from the clutches of Obamaism.

No link.. The Nazi pukes don’t deserve one.

Although their eating their own is some what amusing in an Animal Planet sort of way…

Posted in Nazism, Uncategorized. Comments Off on Wing Nut Daily

Strong Suggestion or Order… Bookmark and Read Paul Krugman

You make the call.  One of the best of the best voices regarding the economics issues that govern our daily lives is Paul Krugman.  He is a Nobel Prize winning Economist and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and has a New York Times Blog.

Bookmark his Blog and read his column. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/ Read his column in opinion http://www.nytimes.com/pages/opinion/index.html

What brought this on was his blog entry today.

August 31, 2010, 9:50 am

The Unbearable Pettiness Of Being Rich

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s column today makes Wall Street honchos sound like spoiled kids; they went for Obama because he seemed like their kind of guy, then turned on him with a vengeance because they think he’s looking at them funny.

Based on what I know, that’s about right.

I talked to some financial-industry backers of Obama back during primary season; they really didn’t know or care much about policy issues, but were in love with Obama over his style — and also over the prospect of being in his inner circle, something they knew wouldn’t happen with Hillary. Now they’re mad because they don’t feel that they’re getting enough stroking.

And you have to bear in mind that this comes after Obama has made immense efforts to placate the financial industry. There were no bank nationalizations; there were hardly any strings attached to bailouts; the financial reform bill was by no means draconian given the scale of the disaster. But Wall Street is furious that Obama might even hint that they caused the crisis — which he does, now and then, because, well, they did.

And as far as I can tell, hardly any of the new anti-Obamanites is thinking at all about what will really happen once John Boehner is speaker.

You know, one might have thought that having all the money in the world would make people less petty, less concerned about whether they feel that they’re in the in-group. But nooooo </Belushi>

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Strong Suggestion or Order… Bookmark and Read Paul Krugman

Council of Europe – Human rights of transgender persons are still ignored or violated…

[2010-08-31 commissioner.cws.coe.int]

http://commissioner.cws.coe.int/tiki-view_blog_post.php?postId=74

Human Rights Comment
Council of Europe
Commissioner for Human Rights

Forced divorce and sterilisation – a reality for many transgender persons

Posted on 2010-08-31 10:02

The rights of transgender persons are still ignored or violated, but some signs of understanding now begin to appear. One example is the outcome, at long last, of Lydia Foy’s struggle in Ireland. She was registered as male at birth but has lived as a woman since 1992. This summer she finally succeeded in her battle for legal recognition by the Irish state as a woman and for a birth certificate that reflects this reality.

Most people legally defined as man or woman will experience a corresponding gender identity. Transgender persons, however, do not have such a corresponding identity and may wish to change their legal, social, and sometimes also physical status.

The case initiated by Lydia Foy in 1997 led to a High Court ruling ten years later that Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by not providing recognition of Dr. Foy in her preferred gender. It took the Irish government another 2.5 years to accept that Irish law is incompatible with the European Convention. In June 2010 the Irish government withdrew its appeal to the Supreme Court and will now recognise Lydia Foy as a woman.

The Irish government will introduce legislation to recognise transgender persons in their preferred gender including the possibility for them to obtain new birth certificates. An inter-departmental working group has been set up by the Irish government to develop a legal framework which respects the human rights of transgender individuals. It is crucial that representatives of the transgender community as well as other experts be represented in this working group. This could become a good model for other states which are currently considering improving their legal framework for transgender persons, including Portugal, Hungary, the Netherlands.

Still viewed as a mental disorder

Ireland is not the only country where transgender persons have faced obstacles in obtaining legal recognition of their preferred gender. Some Council of Europe member states still have no provision at all for official recognition, leaving transgender people in a legal limbo. Most member states still use medical classifications which impose the diagnosis of mental disorder on transgender persons.

Even more common are provisions which demand impossible choices, such as the “forced divorce” and the “forced sterilisation” requirements. This means that only unmarried or divorced transgender persons who have undergone surgery and become irreversibly infertile have the right to change their entry in the birth register. In reality, this means that the state prescribes medical treatment for legal purposes, a requirement which clearly runs against the principles of human rights and human dignity.

Some positive legal developments can however be found. The Austrian Administrative High Court ruled in 2009 that mandatory surgery could not be a prerequisite for gender change, and in Germany the Federal Supreme Court indicated in 2005 that operative interventions as a precondition for the change of gender are no longer tenable.

Full right to physical and moral security

All countries need to develop expeditious and transparent procedures for changing the name and gender of a transgender person on official documents, in accordance with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

In 2002, in Goodwin v UK, the Strasbourg Court’s Grand Chamber stressed that in the twenty first century the rights of transgender persons should be effectively protected by states. They should have the same right to personal development and to physical and moral security enjoyed by others in society. One cannot but agree.

There is a strong need for an informed dialogue about the widespread discrimination against transgender persons in Europe today. One contribution will hopefully be a comparative study, the result of which my office will present early next year, on continued discrimination in all parts of Europe on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thomas Hammarberg

Forced Sterilization?  WTF?

Sex Reassignment Surgery includes sterilization.  It is in the nature of the procedure.  I swear sometimes it seems as though transgender folks are opposed to sex reassignment surgery and want to end it the same way they insist on erasing Transsexual in the name of some imagined unity of identity under the rubric of “Transgender as Umbrella”.

This is bad form and discourages people with transsexualism from acting as part of a coalition on issues that concern all.

It is a denial of our needs and has been one of the major causes of the TS/TG War that has gone on for some 20 years now.

Sometimes, I swear I would be better off devoting energy to tree hugging and general worker’s rights issues.

Class War, not just for the rich anymore.