Wednesday, April 14, 2010

As Weapons Sharper Than Knives

A very strange little article turned up in the Huffington Post today. It's AP sourced, which is bad blog juju. Go ahead. Read the article. It's ten sentences in six teeny paragraphs.

Let's review. NYC is charging rent for space in homeless shelters. Advocates for the homeless say this is the craziest shit ever. NYC officials say giving poor people stuff sucks because they're - like - icky. This sounds awfully familiar because it is. Remember last May?
The Bloomberg administration has quietly begun charging rent to homeless families who live in publicly run shelters but have income from jobs.

The new policy is based on a 1997 state law that was not enforced until last week, when shelter operators across the city began requiring residents to pay a certain portion of their income. The amount varies based on factors that include family size and what shelter is being used, but should not exceed 50 percent of a family’s income, a state official said.


Vanessa Dacosta, who earns $8.40 an hour as a cashier at Sbarro, received a notice under her door several weeks ago informing her that she had to give $336 of her approximately $800 per month in wages to the Clinton Family Inn, a shelter in Hell’s Kitchen where she has lived since March.

“It’s not right,” said Ms. Dacosta, a single mother of a 2-year-old who said she spends nearly $100 a week on child care. “I pay my baby sitter, I buy diapers, and I’m trying to save money so I can get out of here. I don’t want to be in the shelter forever.”

“I think it’s hard to argue that families that can contribute to their shelter cost shouldn’t,” Robert V. Hess, the city’s commissioner of homeless services, said in a telephone interview Friday. “I don’t see this playing out in an adverse way. Our objective is not for families to remain in shelter. Our objective is to move families back into their own homes and into the community.”

I think it would be hard to argue that there's a bigger dick anywhere than Robert V. Hess, Commissioner of Homeless Services, who plainly has never missed an expensed meal in his life.

Fuck me, what about last July?
The new policy gives the city greater latitude to push families out of the shelter system, which had swelled to a near-high of 9,720 families as of Sunday. Families could always be evicted for illegal behavior like bringing in drugs or weapons, but they can now be ousted for any of 28 violations, including failing to sign in and out or not keeping an active case file with city welfare agencies.

The new policy is also meant to encourage families to more readily accept permanent housing, even if it is not to their liking.

“We would only expect to use this process in the most egregious of situations,” said Robert V. Hess, the commissioner for homeless services, in an interview on Monday. “We do have a small number of families where temporary emergency shelter is really being used as permanent housing.”

Evictions are for a 30-day period.

I've read those four paragraphs about ten times, and if those words make sense in that order I need a new native language. And watch this exhilarating turn of phrase:
Mr. Hess said it was not clear where families removed from shelter might turn. “The most likely outcome is that the family would demonstrate that they do have a place to go,” he said.

Or...they might be homeless and have nowhere but the sidewalk, which by this motherfucker's definition is a place to go. But it's only for 30 days, right?

The articles that repeatedly detonated my frontal lobe contained specifics: contact information, odious policies, affected people, statistics, some description of the projected outcomes, which distressed me. The AP write up in the Huffington Post is blessedly free of anything, really. It's almost as if the article avoids using words. Have another look. NYC is charging rent for space in homeless shelters. Advocates for the homeless say this is the craziest shit ever. NYC officials say giving poor people stuff sucks because they're - like - icky. This was moral horseshit a year ago; now it is merely manure. But why even mention it? Why did the AP publish this? Why did the HP make space for it now? Look for stories in the next few months in which NYC ups the heat on the homeless as the weather warms.

This is not hard to predict. It's almost as if it's happened before.


Friday, June 19, 2009

A Vacant Lot For Any Spirit To Haunt

Oh brudder:
A passenger told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that she noticed Sicily was missing - while she was on a flight to the island. Smaller islands, such as Sardinia, were in the right place on the map.

Alitalia was re-launched earlier this year under private ownership. It had been a state-run company for more than 60 years before going bankrupt.

One Italian Senator, Riccardo Villari, said it was unfortunate the big advertising campaign surrounding the re-launch had been followed by "unpleasant" errors. The magazine editor, Aldo Canale, said: "We have run lots of editions on the beauty of Sicily and we would never dream of eliminating it from maps of Italy."

This reminds me of that time on a genealogical bulletin board when someone said my great-grandfather never existed. I recall shouting a lot, "The proof that he lived is that I'M SITTING RIGHT HERE." See, he married a divorced woman, which was cause for little old ladies to slather White Out all over the family records. Hope Sicily reappears or floating through baggage claim in the Mediterranean's going to be VERY FREAKING TRICKY.

You've got to give it to Chris Dodd. He knows he's about to fuck up so bad Connecticut's voters might finally put him out of a job, and yet he sounds so calm about it.
On the one hand, Dodd expressed his strong support for a public health plan that would compete with private insurers and give Americans to buy into an insurance system that doesn’t fatten corporations’ bottom line. On the other, Dodd signaled his willingness to accept a “compromise.”

“We have the votes to pass a bill that expands coverage to millions of Americans, improves quality, protects patient choice, cuts costs, and averts disaster for our economy and our families,” Dodd wrote. “But, as frustrating as it is to you and to me, I don’t know if we have the votes to pass a strong public health care option. What I do know is that whether we can get there or not is still an open question. What I do know is that I plan to fight hard to convince my colleagues on the committee and in the full Senate that we need a public option. What I do know is that I’m going to need your help.”

I'd sound a little more nervous if I were saying to Americans, "Dudes - can I call you 'Dudes?' - Dudes, we're going to expand coverage by forcing you to buy it, refuse to help pay for it and sit around with our collegial thumbs up our asses while the insurers refuse claims and make your lives an exorbitantly expensive living hell." In fact, knowing that this plan will actually make the lives of Americans much worse would prevent me from saying it at all.

So who knew I had some dignity? Not Siobhan, who just sent an old picture of Ivan and me in Santa suits in a Tewksbury, MA hotel room where she, Ivan and I met up with Johnny and drank Boone's Farm out of bowls. Apparently, paper cups were illegal within the city limits - but whatever: dignity, motherfuckers! Like the Portuguese, I guess:
Notably, decriminalization has become increasingly popular in Portugal since 2001. Except for some far-right politicians, very few domestic political factions are agitating for a repeal of the 2001 law. And while there is a widespread perception that bureaucratic changes need to be made to Portugal's decriminalization framework to make it more efficient and effective, there is no real debate about whether drugs should once again be criminalized. More significantly, none of the nightmare scenarios touted by preenactment decriminalization opponents — from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for "drug tourists" — has occurred.

The political consensus in favor of decriminalization is unsurprising in light of the relevant empirical data. Those data indicate that decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal, which, in numerous categories, are now among the lowest in the EU, particularly when compared with states with stringent criminalization regimes. Although postdecriminalization usage rates have remained roughly the same or even decreased slightly when compared with other EU states, drug-related pathologies — such as sexually transmitted diseases and deaths due to drug usage — have decreased dramatically. Drug policy experts attribute those positive trends to the enhanced ability of the Portuguese government to offer treatment programs to its citizens — enhancements made possible, for numerous reasons, by decriminalization.

You had me at postdecriminalization, Mr. Greenwald.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'll Give You Everything I Have In My Hand

Why bother disguising your racism when you can parade is all over the front page?
"People here are afraid of the police," said Terry Willis, vice president of the Homer branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. "They harass black people, they stop people for no reason and rough them up without charging them with anything."

That is how it should be, responded Homer Police Chief Russell Mills, who noted the high rates of gun and drug arrests in the neighborhood.

"If I see three or four young black men walking down the street, I have to stop them and check their names," said Mills, who is white. "I want them to be afraid every time they see the police that they might get arrested.

"We're not out there trying to abuse and harass people - we're trying to protect the law-abiding citizens locked behind their doors in fear."

This is bullshit cowardice, as everyone knows deep down, and it never, never ends well.
On the last afternoon of his life, Bernard Monroe was hosting a cookout for family and friends in front of his dilapidated home in this small northern Louisiana town.

Throat cancer had left the 73-year-old retired electric utility worker unable to talk, but family members said he clearly was enjoying the commotion of a dozen of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren cavorting in the grassless yard.

Then the Homer police showed up, two white officers whose arrival caused the participants at the black family's gathering to fall silent.

This is pretty bad. The chief wants black people to be afraid when they see cops. Well, mission accomplished:
Four witnesses said he was sitting outside his home in the late afternoon on Feb. 20 -- clutching a large sports-drink bottle -- when two police officers pulled up and summoned over his son, Shawn.

Shawn Monroe, who has a long record of arrests and convictions on charges of assault and battery but was not wanted on any warrants, reportedly ran into the house.

One of the officers, who had been on Homer's police force only a few weeks, chased after him and reappeared moments later in the doorway, the witnesses said.

Meanwhile, the elder Monroe had started walking toward the front door. When he got to the first step on the porch, the witnesses said, the rookie officer opened fire, striking Monroe several times.

"He just shot him through the screen door," said Denise Nicholson, a family friend who said she was standing a few feet away. "After [Monroe] was on the ground, we kept asking the officer to call an ambulance, but all he did was get on his radio and say, 'Officer in distress.' "

The witnesses said the second officer picked up a handgun that Monroe, an avid hunter, always kept in plain sight on the porch for protection. Using a latex glove, the officer grasped the gun by its handle, the witnesses said, and ordered everyone to back away. The next thing they said they saw was the gun next to Monroe's body.

"I saw him pick up the gun off the porch," Marcus Frazier said. "I said, 'What are you doing?' The cop told me, 'Shut the hell up, you don't know what you're talking about.' "

Homer police maintain Monroe was holding a loaded gun when he was shot, but would not comment further.

Oh. My. God. These people aren't even good at being bad. They're just racist fucks. Fortunately, because they've attracted the attention of the Feds.
Now the Louisiana State Police, the FBI and the Justice Department are swarming over this impoverished lumber town of 3,800, drawn by allegations from numerous witnesses that police killed Monroe without justification - and then moved a gun to make it look like he had been holding it.

"We are closely monitoring the events in Homer," said Donald Washington, the U.S. attorney for the western district of Louisiana. "I understand that a number of allegations are being made that, if true, would be serious enough for us to follow up on very quickly."

You know where we might apply some stimulus funds? To hiring investigators and prosecutors to protect us from jackbooted thugs of all kinds, but especially from thugs passing for public servants. I can't wait to watch the judicial system turn the incarceration industry inside out and put bad cops on the inside.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

I'll Tell the Story Again

As I was driving to work this morning, Matt and Leslie were talking about this family that couldn't pay the mortgage and was selling its cave on EBay.

Me: I will gazoogle that when I get to work and write something pithy.
Me: Are you lisping?
Me: Note: don't talk to self while wearing ear muffs.

I didn't really know this but people live in some plush caves with some odd stories.

The family is hoping to raise enough money so they can stay in their home. But if things don't go as planned, they will give it up. The starting bid is $300,000.

The cave home is complete with all the modern amenities - a kitchen, laundry room and even a party room. It also has some unique features.

The eBay description says that geothermal and passive solar keep the house cool and warm without the use of a heater or air conditioning. And the house has its own ground water source, which yields an average of 100 gallons a day.

That sounds fantastic. I'd be heartbroken if that were my in-foreclosure home. From EBay:
The back chamber still has the stage where Ted Nugent, Bob Seger, Ike and Tina Turner, the MC5 and many other bands performed.

I'm speechless. I've worked in bars that felt like caves but - in retrospect - there were few actual bats. So it turns out caves are for sale. Something about that suggests comic disaster in the offing, but if it is, it's at least convenient to wherever you are. In Bizbee, Arizona, one finds a beautiful cave/canyon complex with lovely bathrooms and abright sun room. I didn't expect that. Halfway between Kansas City and St. Louis, the owner of Jacob's Cave is retiring and the cave is for sale. I didn't know cave ownership included employment prospects, but then I'm learning a great deal about handicap-accessible geology, so don't rush me. In Dallas, we find a market for unfinished caves.
Own Your Own Wine Cellar!! Cave Travels 1400' Deep into the Mountain. White River Cave Located Just North of Rockmart in Polk County just Off Highway 113. Cave has Stream & Waterfall Far in the Back. Entrance From Top of Mountain Too! Also 2 Large Caverns far under the Mountain. Beautiful Building Site on Top of the Mountain Above The Cave Entrance. Incredible Cool Breeze Exiting Cave as You Enter Cave. Cave Homes are very popular in Spain. Several Caves For Sale in the USA. All over 1 Million Dollars. Great Investment Property! Call Tim 770-356-0708. See more pictures & info at Asking $139,900

In New Jersey, we call that and a realtor an 'attractive nuisance' and bust out the caution tape. Don't get me wrong, cave living done right sounds fantastic and ecologically sound. People have lived in caves since the beginning of time. Passive solar heating and cooling have a certain timeless appeal. Who wouldn't want a bright sun room and spelunkers ringing the doorbell? I guess this is the uneven hem of my class and location showing, but I'm surprised and I'm not sure why. One of those caveowners is asking about $900,000. That's a high-end cave. At the other end of the spectrum, one imagines people without means taking refuge in modest economy-caves with few amenities, which may or may not be a step up from living under a bridge, as people do here.

I guess the sad novelty of this story lies in the fact that, in 2009, the economy is so bad banks may force people out of caves and onto the street. For me at least, that is an unexpected discovery indeed.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's Me On the Outside

When the Israeli Defense Force sealed off Gaza and began shelling I found myself unable to speak my horror. I haven't written about it or the United States' pallid response that, essentially, the bombing would stop when those being bombed stopped being bombed. I have no words for what the IDF did to Gaza. In the waning days of the brutal and stupid Bush Administration, I admit I put my head down and waited for cooler heads to prevail.

I donated to the children of Gaza and so can you.
U.S. | U.K.

Via Minstrel Boy, we find Juan Cole calling for a Cyberspace Aid Convoy. Dr. Cole:
The United Nations Security Council again demanded that Israel let in food, medicine and fuel unimpeded. Since Israel is still technically the occupying authority in Gaza, insofar as it controls its borders and airspace, for it to engage in collective punishment on the Gazan population is a war crime forbidden by the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, which was enacted to prevent Nazi tactics from being deployed against occupied populatoins. UN relief workers, have been impeded from getting into Gaza by Israeli authorities. Those who managed to get through found between 14,000 and 21,000 homes destroyed and 240 of 400 schools badly damaged. The value of the destruction is estimated at $2 billion, and the essential infrastructure of the Strip has been deeply degraded, with potentially severe human health consequences. Much rubble has yet to be cleared away, so there could yet be more dead bodies found, and bomb clearing has not been completed, so people may yet be killed by accidentally setting off unexploded ordnance.

It is often forgotten that about half of Gazans are children, because of the ongoing population explosion, caused by insecurity, which has brought the Strip's population to nearly a million and a half. When Israel made a total war on the Gaza population, it was inevitably targeting large numbers of innocent children.

I actually don't give a damn who the bombs are falling on. Dropping bombs is barbaric no matter who does it, and dropping them on people who can't even attempt to get out of the blast zone is wrong on a scale where language fails me. Refusing to permit aid to bombed out people and shooting up U.N. convoys is so far beyond the pale I can only summon one thought: Israel has become the thing it fought. I have lost sympathy for our ally, which is painful for me as a Jew.

My father-in-law used to say we can't judge Israel because we're not the ones with the gun to our heads. In better days, I agreed that perhaps I was sheltered from certain realities and might temper my opinion. Not this time, and not anymore.

On a lighter note, direct action is the best remedy for what ails us. February 19th-22nd, we can drop off a new or nearly new women's suit or business separates at any Dressbarn throughout the U.S. to help deserving women entering the workforce. These Send One Suit events take place on a more or less regular basis because it ain't easy out there, so if you clean out your closet and need what you've got, don't sweat it. There'll be a next time pretty soon. But if you've just dropped ten pounds, take a truckload of stuff to Dressbarn this weekend. You'll feel a ton better.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

No Sense In War But Perfect Sense

What in glamorous tarnation?
The Bush Administration's Department of Justice announced Monday that they are suing the city of Gary, Indiana for discriminating against white people.

Seven more more days...
On Monday, the Justice Department announced a lawsuit against the Indiana city, alleging that six EMT technicians appear to have been hired on the basis of race alone in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- which was passed to combat discrimination against African Americans.

The suit alleges that the city told applicants that offers of employment would be based on the order they were ranked. But the city seems to have ignored their own ordering and instead hired several African American applicants who placed lower than the white applicants.

Each of the six who were hired ranked lower than the highest-ranking white applicant, the Justice Department wrote.

"Federal law guarantees equal access to employment opportunities without regard to race," said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a release. "The Department is committed to enforcing all the federal civil rights laws, including Title VII, under its jurisdiction."

Something about this doesn't feel quite right, but what is it? What's missing? What's...?
Gary's corporate counsel, Hamilton Carmouche, told a local paper the list was prepared by the city's previous mayor, and gave preference to applicants who lived in Gary.

"We hire not on the basis of any race, but on the basis of residency," Carmouche said.

Ah! There it is; logic. You want your EMTs to feel connected to the community. Got it. So, the administration's doing what, now?
Use of the Civil Rights Act to protect against discrimination against whites is not unprecedented, but it is a novel tactic by the Bush Administration's lawyers.

Ironically, the Administration hasn't been a big fan of expanding civil rights law.

Earlier this year, the White House fought efforts to elimination[sic] a statute of limitations measure that prevents employees from suing their employers for hiring discrimination if they don't file suit with 180 days from the date of the discriminatory activity.

With one week left of this unabashed oligarchy, I can say with a clear conscience I wish we'd elected a lime Jell-O mold to the Presidency in 2000 because even if the squiggly dessert wouldn't talk about its policies at least it wouldn't have fucked with the American people like this. And sliced pears.

I assume this kind of racist bullshit will stop Tuesday morning, just before lunchtime, so what was the point? What could possibly have been the point? The point has always been to be a really big dick about everything. As jaw-dropping as every day of the last eight years has been, this final press conference is still shocking. At 7:54 in this video, even now, you will not believe your eyes and ears.

At least when desserts fail, no one fucking starves.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Orchids Forgive No One Just Yet

Yesterday, the blogosphere buzzed with this sign of the times story.
Some 691,000 children went hungry in America sometime in 2007, while close to one in eight Americans struggled to feed themselves adequately even before this year's sharp economic downtown, the Agriculture Department reported Monday.

The department's annual report on food security showed that during 2007 the number of children who suffered a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat was more than 50 percent above the 430,000 in 2006 and the largest figure since 716,000 in 1998.

Overall, the 36.2 million adults and children who struggled with hunger during the year was up slightly from 35.5 million in 2006. That was 12.2 percent of Americans who didn't have the money or assistance to get enough food to maintain active, healthy lives.

Almost a third of those, 11.9 million adults and children, went hungry at some point. That figure has grown by more than 40 percent since 2000. The government says these people suffered a substantial disruption in their food supply at some point and classifies them as having "very low food security." Until the government rewrote its definitions two years ago, this group was described as having "food insecurity with hunger."

The Bush administration's response to hunger in America is to rewrite the definition. That, my dahhhhhlinks, is the banality of evil inhabiting a pin-striped suit. But wait, there's more.
"There's every reason to think the increases in the number of hungry people will be very, very large based on the increased demand we're seeing this year at food stamp agencies, emergency kitchens, Women, Infants and Children clinics, really across the entire social service support structure," said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.

Weill said the figures show that economic growth during the first seven years of the Bush administration didn't reach the poorest and hungriest people. "The people in the deepest poverty are suffering the most," Weill said.

Before the internet, our neighbors starved quietly when the food bank ran out of supplies, but now we talk about what people don't have and can't get. The comments thread for this post is enlightening, as more and more net-connected people say the same thing: they're broke, they can't feed their kids, and they don't know what to do.

I don't have any answers to these questions, but I believe that we cannot postpone asking them anymore. Starving children do not routinely become well-adjusted adults in wealthy, indifferent America, and parents who cannot feed their children harden their hearts to pleas for patience. This isn't going to go away. We have to do something about it now.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Goldfish Shoals Nibbling At My Toes

Topaz and Drusy cannot believe their sensitive ears!

Thursday, Pete went to the doctor and discovered that though he works in a toy store with children his insurance does not cover a flu shot. When I got home, he told me his doctor said it would be cheaper if he went to Costco. I stared at him like he was speaking Urdu, certain I'd misheard. Costco? What? On Thursdays, Pete and I work evening hours at the family stores, so figuring out what was going on took on a certain urgency. I had 90 minutes.

I called Costco and asked about flu shots. The woman who answered said there was a line by the pharmacy, it moved quickly, and though there were no guarantees we should be able to get a shot within half an hour. Pete and I looked at each other, gathered everything we'd need for work and jumped into the car, despite the feeling that we were driving into Bizarro Land.

At Costco, we marched with great purpose to the pharmacy and ran down almost zero little old ladies. I mean, they had it coming. Anyway, at the pharmacy, I didn't see anything that made sense to me, so I made eye contact with a person waiting in line and said, "Are you waiting for a flu shot?" She pointed behind her to the intersection of dog food and fabric softener. Pete and I turned the corner and found three tables, six workers, buckets of needles and the deadest of dead-end Costco customers in a blessedly brief line. A blue-haired lady at a table parked in front of bales of kibble squawked, "It's $20 unless you have Aetna! Do you have Aetna?" over and over.

Pete does not have Aetna, but he did have $10. I rummaged through my book bag until I found ten softly rumpled singles. Pete took a clipboard and filled out a form that asked little more about him than where he lived or if he'd ever had a fatal allergic reaction to drugs. Reading over his shoulder, I frowned. He sat down and got a shot. The blue-haired lady who stuck him made him promise he'd walk around the giant warehouse for 15 minutes, so if he had one of those fatal allergic reactions, we could all learn our lesson.

I now know more about bacon-wrapped scallops than I'd like to admit. Pete did not keel over, so we went to work and today, Pete has that touch of flu one gets after a flu shot. It's disappointing, but he doesn't fall asleep long enough for me to draw pictures on him with Magic Markers. The exciting thing is that I'm getting mine next week, lather, rinse, repeat. I'm hiding the Magic Markers.

It makes no sense to me that the bulk merchandise warehouse sells flu shots but doctors' offices can't administer innoculations because insurance companies decide who gets one by criteria that have little to do with the patients' needs. My doctor laughed at me when I said I never imagined I'd need a flu shot. The Stop & Shop three blocks from my house is holding clinics. What's wrong with this picture?

I can only guess what's going on but I don't like it, so here's a present. It's one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite shows Red Dwarf. The episode is called Holoship. The confusion feels ...familiar.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Voca Teria Que Ser Un Genio

1. I Am An Idiot

Topaz disappeared one night about ten days after we moved into this house. We were a little nervous. In the middle of the night, a cat meowed loudly. Drusy often meows in the middle of the night. I called Drusy over and over. She usually jumps on my chest, keeeesses me and that's that, but not that night. Around 4:30 a.m., Pete mumbled, "What's wrong with her?" I said I didn't know but I'd call the vet. At 6:05, the alarm rang. I got up, opened the bathroom door and found Topaz crocheting an escape ladder out of toilet paper. "Moron!" she hissed as she ran past me, stopped suddenly and licked her paw. I promised her when she called I'd come running. And I'd mop the floor.

2. I Am A Genius

I forget Drusy follows me everywhere and I whirl through the house like a dervish. Two days after our mutual sleepless night, I heard a cat meowing urgently. At first, I thought, 'Oy, I'm working here' but then I remembered: I promised. At the top of the stairs, I found Topaz facing a closed door. "It's about time, duh!" she meowed. Under the door, I saw a shadow. Drusy! Topaz led me to poor Drusy, shut into one of the rooms! I opened the door, scritched the distressed pussycat and ran to tell Pete, who was not at all surprised. "Topaz is all 'C'mere, c'mere, Drusy's stuck down the well,' but let Topaz need help and Drusy's like, 'Who?'"

3. I Am An Idiot

Topaz is an escape artist. When we were at the apartment, if the door opened, Topaz was off like a shot: out the door and into the hallway, sometimes up the stairs, so before we moved over here, Pete screened off the back porch. Don't get excited. A little lumber, some screen, a few screws, a latch and - bingo! - a temporary Cat Containment Facility. Topaz sits at the kitchen door and mews, "Mama, I want to go out and play, Mama." If the latch is latched, I let her out onto the porch, where there are millions of new things to sniff. Yesterday, I let her out and forgot she was out there. Finally, I heard a bit of plaintive mewing. As I walked toward the kitchen, I could see Topaz about halfway up the screen storm door, and I have no idea how long she was hanging there, hissing, "Moron! Oh...moron!"

4. I Am A - Oh, Forget It...

Get a load of this shit:

It's election time and your vote counts! So get into the spirit of 1776 with 15 fun and classic songs that celebrate everything that makes our country great in SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK! THE ELECTION COLLECTION! Plus, keep track of the actual voting results in all 50 states with the exclusive Election Tracking Kit with stickers and experience the new to DVD song "Presidential Minute" - with two surprise endings! A generation of young Americans learned that American history and government could be fun with the award-winning animated series SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK. Now a whole new generation of patriots can be inspired by memorable songs that explain how our government is set up in "I'm Just A Bill" and "Three-Ring Government", how the electoral process works in "I'm Gonna Send Your Vote To College", and more! Your house - and the White House - are gonna rock this year!

Rock the White House? The only thing we're gonna rock this year is the poor house.


Friday, May 09, 2008

But the Earth Is All We Know

Despair, Inc.

Email can save your sanity.

Tata: Got any gum?
Darla: Nah, I'm trying to quit. Smoking cigarettes seems to help.

I haven't lit a Lucky in three years but I might need a carton and an intervention after this.
The United Nations suspended relief supplies to Myanmar on Friday after the military government seized the food and equipment it [sic] had already sent into the country.

Earlier, in a statement, Myanmar’s military junta said it was willing to receive disaster relief from the outside world but would not welcome outside relief workers. Nearly one week after a devastating cyclone, supplies into the country were still being delayed and aid experts were being turned back as they arrived at the airport.

In the statement, the government said it would distribute international relief supplies itself.

Yes, and I am the Doublemint Twins, which makes it easier to turn the other cheek several times.
The U.N. World Food Program said on Friday it would resume aid flights to cyclone-struck Myanmar, despite the military government's seizure of deliveries at Yangon airport.

"The World Food Program has decided to send in two relief flights as planned tomorrow, while discussions continue with the Government of Myanmar on the distribution of the food that was flown in today, and not released to WFP," Nancy E. Roman, WFP's communications director, said in a statement.

The U.N. food agency had previously said it would suspend aid flights over the seizure.

In other news, my appointment to get my long luxurious tresses re-blonded couldn't be better timed. This evening, Carmelo and I will discuss great gobs of hilarious nothingness, which will prove theraputic and result in a certain shallow happiness for me. Otherwise, I might stay home and desperately quilt nicotene patches.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Got To Make The Best Of

The primary season long ago lost its tinny glamor. The vote's behind us and I am aware that the Republican noise machine engineers dirty tricks, scandals and rumors into our political campaigns. Until and unless indictments are unsealed, I simply will not listen to rumor or innuendo. I won't listen to the insinuating chatter of reporters who have nothing to say. I'm not going to listen to anyone calling for any Democrat to apologize, to cast off an ally, a secret religion, to consider someone else's penis. No. I won't hear another word on the subject of entitlement, and you shouldn't either.

We are being manipulated. Indulge me just a teensy moment, please!

Perhaps you have a favorite candidate. Perhaps you've invested scads of time verbally excoriating his, her or its opponent. Perhaps you've gone so far as to instigate a comments thread where rash words were exchanged.

Hmmm. My darling, come sit next to me. Comfy? Can I get you a cup of tea? You're cutting down. I see. Okay, then. How's your blood pressure? Pounding in your ears? My sweet, it's time to reconsider.

Recently, I've heard people threaten to vote Republican if their favorite candidate doesn't win the Democratic nomination. These passionate, dedicated people have lost sight of what's at stake. They're not really Democrats, or liberals, or progressives, and they're certainly not people interested in justice or changing the world. No, they're handicappers, more concerned with betting the right pony than Civil Rights. They don't care whether or not children have health insurance, if the wars go on forever, if the economy tanks, if the government spies on its citizens, if the CIA operates secret prisons and tortures. Nope. These fuckers care about stomping their widdle feet and getting their way. Fuck the poor. Screw the Constitution. They'll show you!

That kind of unforgivable selfishness will get us nowhere. Let's look at one thing we must surely always keep before our eyes.

Say you're a human. Say you need medical treatment after January 2009. Say it's something you want to get over with and put behind you. You want and need to address your medical problem with all haste and in the manner you choose without interference from anyone. You want that. And you want to be left alone.

Now, say that means that for whatever reason, and there are many in the wide world of human disasters, you need an abortion. Or your wife needs an abortion. Your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your ward, your sister or your mother needs an abortion.

If you vote Republican, the religious right will be appointing Supreme Court Justices for the next four years. That abortion becomes less probable with each appointment; out with the bath water goes birth control. The Supreme Court is one provincial Republican appointee from grave danger to Roe v. Wade and two away from overturning it and throwing a picnic on the mall.

One more time, my pet: another Republican administration, Roe v. Wade, overturned. And it's not just safe, legal abortion. You know that. This is the tip of the Make Your Own Decisions, Occupational Safety, Environmental Progress, National Park Preserving, Equal Rights For Everyone, No Torturing, Rule Of Law, Privacy Respecting, Trade Balancing, Reasonable Search and Seizure, No Outsourcing Iceberg.

Let's take a deep breath, then, shall we? The other day, one of my blogmates told me on a third person's blog to go Cheney myself, presumably over the assertion that a woman president would be dandy. I did not respond to his vitriol because why should I lose my temper, my stomach lining or - Kali forbid! - develop a wrinkle because he's lost the plot? I'm beautifying the world one room at a time, so leaving a rumpled karmic mess is absolutely O-U-T out!

Appearances may deceive, my love. Nader cannot save us. McCain is not a reasonable centrist. Clinton is not Satan. Obama is not a terrifying racial cipher. Politicians cannot ride to our rescue from global nightmares of our own making. If we know what is good for us and our general health, we will carefully purge the junta and go about the next five years putting our nation, our international credibility, our infrastructure, our scientific community, our economy and our ethos back together. A great deal of work lies ahead of us. Now is the time to rest. When the election comes, you'll know what to do.

Well, I'm glad we've had this little chat. I hope you hear what I'm saying: disengage from the utterly irration media circus. Go for a delightful walk outdoors. This weekend, daffodils will bloom in New Jersey. Gazing at sunny yellow flowers is positively tonic.

Care for a crumpet?

Updated to correct amusing typos.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Your Eyes Make A Circle

Gianna and I are standing in the ladies room discussing my cousin and our mutual hairdresser Carmelo, who's been AWOL since Friday night. His shop is on the main street in our little town and the front wall is glass. When the doctor is OUT, the whole town can see it. So where is he? We discover neither of us knows what Carmelo's doing besides covering our roots just as the lights fail. We are left in total darkness just as Gianna walks into a wall with a thud! and delighted laughter. I ask if she's heard what I heard on the Italian news last night: the Pope's still nursing a grudge against Galileo. Last night, I couldn't believe what I thought I was hearing, though that's perfectly okay since I don't speak Italian. But holy cow, I was right! In a related note: if you want to have fun with an Italian news report put it through Babelfish. Did you know Italian names are nouns and adjectives? It's like someone squooze all the naughty out of Mad Libs.

Today is the actual birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which I would have realized if I ever knew what day it was. Further: if I'd picked up a datebook in December I might've known, for instance, that today was Wednesday. Even so, I was surprised to find that on this day highlighted a king of redneck culture, NASCAR's A. J. Foyt. For me, being small and covered with fur has some distinct disadvantages. Fortunately, Digby and the littlest gator reminded me of what I was missing. I can't write more eloquently than they do on this or any other topic, so those posts speak for me, and for the loving us that we become when we work to make this world more just. We learn, we fail, we learn more. Just this morning, I marveled at my own idiocy. I was mulling over zapping an email to my local NBC affiliate asking what happened to my morning newscaster, when I have been rendered completely and utterly speechless by this by brownfemipower, via Shakes.
Lesbians sentenced for self-defense

That sound you hear is all the oxygen sucked once again from my lungs.
On Aug. 16, 2006, seven young, African-American, lesbian-identified friends were walking in the West Village. The Village is a historic center for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities, and is seen as a safe haven for working-class LGBT youth, especially youth of color.

As they passed the Independent Film Cinema, 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking.

“I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one.

Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend.

The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived.

Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded at least twice that men had attacked him.

There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. In fact, there was never any forensics testing done on her knife. On the night they were arrested, the police told the women that there would be a search by the New York Police Department for the two men - which to date has not happened.

After almost a year of trial, four of the seven were convicted in April. Johnson was sentenced to 11 years on June 14.

It turns out the newscaster was on vacation, so there was no need to write. For details of the actual outrage, please see FierceNYC. These events happened months ago, even more than a year ago. I read about this yesterday and I am still reeling.

A datebook would not have helped except to remind me it is 2008 and our futures can be deftly stolen from us, whoever we are.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To Me In Darkness Not In Light

Image: Suspect Device

Scout Prime at First Draft:
The last count of those missing in Louisiana is 135. The number who lost their lives due to the immediate direct result of Katrina is 1723. However a new study looked at the number of people who have died over the course of time yet related to "Katrina" and this would place the toll at 4081 people as of March 2007. More info on this and above figures is available at Robert Lindsay 's blog.

You'll find remembrances all over the blogosphere today, but nobody ties it together like Jill. President Bush visits New Orleans today. I don't want to sully my karma with futile wishes for poetic justice, but let's say I wouldn't be unhappy to see news footage tonight involving a voodoo doll and a backed-up Superdome toilet.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Rain By Complaining

My sisters have gone on their annual breathless retreat to Lake Champlain, leaving my friend Mary and me with the keys to our financial kingdom. If you recall, last week, I forgot I had those keys and marched to the library, noticed I was on vacation and therefore violating the laws of Vacation Physics by being at work, and marched home. This morning, I opened the store at 11. Ten minutes later, Daria called.

Daria: Did you walk to the right job? I had to know.
Tata: If I shut off the burglar alarm and sold silk scarves at the library, I believe someone might speak to me sharply. Or maybe I'd be gift-wrapping at Reference.
Daria: I gotta go. My children are in an uproar.
Tata: I could fix that too with double-sided tape.

See, I went to the DMV again today. Last year, I went four times, I think, and each time I heard a different story about what documents I needed to change my name. I'd get the new document, and again: nada. Nothing changes. This time, there's a little pressure. My car's up for inspection. My insurance card is correct. My registration has the old address, because no way, no how, can I even update my address if my name is still in limbo. I know how Prince felt when his name belonged to someone else and he switched to unpronounceable symbols; I know a few symbols I'd like to force on fucking Motor Vehicle Services. Notice that it got to change its name.

The agency is no longer in the business, no matter how inept it used to be, of licensing New Jersey drivers. I say this carefully, and I mean this: Motor Vehicle Services' main function is steal what's left of your will to live and make you move someplace less hostile, like Pennsylvania, where neighbors will merely shoot you. Mary, for instance, has lived within a five-mile radius her whole life, got married once eleven years ago and has one child. Seems pretty simple to prove who she is to MVS, right? Last year, she went with three different sets of documents before MVS would renew her driver license, and - eleven years and two license cycles later - they needed to see a better copy of her marriage certificate. Jesus Christ, what happens if your house burns down with all your documents in it? "Fuck you, New Jersey driver, you're a little too flammable to tour the Turnpike"?

So now, I have to file papers to change my name legally. No, really.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Down On A Brand New Day

Last week, one of my favorite relatives - I have lots of favorites for different reasons, don't anyone get bent out of shape - sent out an email blast rant. He was frustrated. I could hear the frustration. In essence he said: if he had to get drug-tested to get a paycheck, why shouldn't welfare recipients be drug-tested to get assistance and sit on their asses? Didn't I agree? Wasn't that a great idea?

I had so many different problems with this scenario it was hard to know where to begin. Let's enjoy the Dead Kennedys during this musical interlude while I see red and continue counting to TEN GODDAMN THOUSAND.

Before I can deal with anything else, I have to quit twitching and say this one thing: my interest in peace, and economic and environmental justice is not a passing fucking phase. Anyone who doesn't know that doesn't know a goddamn thing about me, blood relation or no. It boggles my mind that anyone thinks I'd enthusiastically "Hear! Hear!" an oh so whimsical, thoughtlessly invasive plan to punish poor people for being poor.

So. Now that my bruised ego has an ice pack, I've got a new subject to research and write about and you get more music. Let's not talk, okay? Let's just dance.

I'll be coherent again presently. This isn't about Me, Me, Me. Essays and footnotes will follow.