houseless, homeless

18 09 2008

I remember once in high school I went to Coaltion for the Homeless event in Portland and there was one of those motivational speeches before the event began where a man — a “homeless” man — said, “We are not homeless — we’re houseless!” I really liked that at the time. Portland is all about Dignity Village and hippie communities and stuff like that, and I was totally into this concept that you could choose to be homeless (or “houseless”), or you could really respect yourself and your lifestyle as a homeless person.

But homelessness doesn’t exist in Portland the way it exists here.

While a steadily increasing number of homeless adults seek shelter in Portland, newspapers all over the country spout horror stories of homelessness in New Orleans, where everything from anti-camping laws to multi-family housing limitations have been considered in an attempt to sweep away this glaring blight.

The thing is, homelessness here wears a lot of different faces. Common, of course, are the kids who live six or seven to two-bedroom apartment, or entire families who motel-hop or sleep in cars, all technically off the street, but far from having a home.

So I’m really torn about yesterday’s article in The New York Times about the Congressional considerations being made to redefine what it means to be homeless:

For more than 20 years, federal housing law has counted as homeless only people living on the streets or in shelters. But now the House and the Senate are considering an expansion of the definition to include people precariously housed: those doubled up with friends or relatives or living day to day in motels, with money and options running out.

Sounds good.

Except that there’s no funding for that kind of expansion. Services for the homeless are drastically underfunded as it is, and if you were to add the several hundred thousand more who would be eligible for government funding under this expansion, the already sparse dollars would be spread far too thin.

Capitol Hill knows it, but they also know that the expansion looks good on paper. It seems like a bill advocating to give to more people, but it ends up being too little for too many.

Still, I wonder if this kind of expansion might raise some kind of newfound awareness. So few of us realize that about 700,000 people currently live in shelters or on the streets on any given day, but federal dollars finance only 170,000 beds. Perhaps this kind of overstretching is the only way to alter government spending to accommodate more social services? Kind of like a little bit of evil to stir up the water enough to bring about some good?

Anyway, it’s worth taking into consideration. And read up on the most current statistics about homelessness. Voting season so fast approaches…

media war on war

17 03 2008

The danger of a presidential election as monumental and central as the 2008 presidential election is that the American public loses sight of everything else going on in the world. The Iraq War, for example, was on everybody’s radar just a year ago — the annual anti-war rally I went to in Portland, Ore. last year was attended by 15,000 people. Although no numbers have come in yet for this year’s rally, I can tell you the numbers didn’t come close to last year’s. And this is the fifth year we’ve been at it.  

a peace rally two years ago

Of course, maybe it’s the five years that’s been the problem. Maybe we’re tired of protesting and we feel like picking a new political leader is the smartest thing we can do to actually make change happen internationally. I get that. For me, a peace rally is a symbolic motion. It’s really something you do more for yourself than to instigate active change. It reminds you, definitely, that you are not alone. It gives you a sense of the massive strength of a movement.But while the presidential primaries have eaten the national daily newspapers alive, even the subject we all swore was so important to us (the Iraq War) seems to have become clutter for the shelf.A Pew Poll released last week reported that public awareness for the Iraq War has not only dissipated in the past few months, it has practically dissolved:

Public awareness of the number of American military fatalities in Iraq has declined sharply since last August. Today, just 28% of adults are able to say that approximately 4,000 Americans have died in the Iraq war. As of March 10, the Department of Defense had confirmed the deaths of 3,974 U.S. military personnel in Iraq.       

That 28 percent is compared to 54 percent last August, and about half in 2004. This percentage is by far the lowest reported awareness since these polls were started in April 2004. To blame, of course, is the media, which feeds on the frenzy surrounding the current presidential election (84 percent of people in the same survey were able to name the talk show host who endorses Barack Obama). While conditions worsen and swell in Iraq, national newspapers appear to care less and less, reporting virtually nothing about the war in December, and even less in January.

If we claim to care about foreign affairs and say we want to fix the mistakes President Bush has made, we’d better know enough about those mistakes to tell our representatives what we want to change.

censor, census

29 08 2007

Before I launch in: My hiatus from upside down again is mostly due to my recent decision to post only “happy” news and opinions articles, and nothing happy has really been happening lately (except for the resignation of Mr. Gonzales, which deserves a Rove-like round up pretty soon). So nix that idea. I’m going to write about today’s release of the 2006 Census Report.

When I picked up the paper today, I wanted to launch into a tirade against the New York Times. The headline, “US Poverty Rate Declines Significantly” is an enormous misnomer and an egregiously erroneous contribution to the Bush Administration’s still-miraculously-inflated communal ego. And Bush did seem rather pleased with the newest statistics, which show a 0.3 percent decrease in the poverty rate since last year:

“”When we keep taxes low, spending in check, and our economy open — conditions that empower businesses to create new jobs — all Americans benefit.”

Sometimes I wonder if Mr. Bush reads. I mean, obviously he doesn’t read a lot, but I wonder if he even really looks at reports like this one, or if he just sees some numbers on a page and draws his own ludicrous conclusions. For if he had just perused and probed the report just a teensy bit more he might find that there has also been an increase in the number of Americans without health insurance, from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47 million last year.

Furthermore, the decrease in poverty rate is not, as might have misguidedly been assumed, due to an increase in wages across the board (in fact, wages  have dropped since last year on a whole); it’s due to an increase in jobs created last year after oil prices momentarily went down because our president felt that millions of human lives in Iraq and Afghanistan were just a price we’d have to pay. If anything, the man finally has an excuse to parade his success abroad: “Look! I’ve created jobs by killing civilians for oil!” But instead he makes it about taxes. I could go on and on about how wrong this is, but I’ll restrain myself.

So, as noted, I was going to berate the New York Times for headlining this front page article so spuriously… until I got to the unsigned editorials. The lead article, hearteningly, is titled “A Sobering Census Report: Bleak Findings on Health Insurance.” There we go. That’s more like it. Keep it coming.

The piece rightfully launches:

The Census Bureau’s report on the state of American health insurance was as disturbing as its statistics on poverty and income. The bureau reported a large increase in the number of Americans who lack health insurance, data that ought to send an unmistakable message to Washington: vigorous action is needed to reverse this alarming and intractable trend.

Yes, New York Times. Good. Well done. Go forth then.

This time, thankfully, the job has been done for me. The Census report today is like that scenario that everyone and their mother falls for on Let’s Make A Deal. It’s like, “You could choose what’s behind door number one… or you could take this wad of cash.” And you don’t know what’s behind door number one, but you see the wad of cash, and on the OUTSIDE, there’s a crisp $100 bill, and you think, “Well, this looks good, there could be MORE $100 bills in there, nestled beneath the first,” so you choose the $100 bill because it LOOKS so good on the surface, and then, of course, buried beneath are just $1s. And behind door number one is, like, a $1 million boat or something.

Bush’s “no more tax” policy LOOKS good… and his $100 bill (for now at least) is the sharp decline in poverty last year. But beneath the surface, there’s bad news: poor wages, bad health insurance, wider gaps between classes. Progressive policy changes are the $1 million boat this country will never receive because they’ll never be able to see past the wad of money Monty Hall is waving in our faces.

rovin’ good time

14 08 2007

In the spirit of Karl Rove’s resignation, spend the morning after (as you nurse your hangover from last nights He’s-Finally-Gone bash) reading this very funny Karl Rove rap, via the wyvern920 Web site. A sample:

Now listen up suckers
Don’t get the jitters
But MC Rove tears the head off critters
That’s true, it’s cruel to see
But he’s gonna be about animal cruelty
He’s a man, he’s a treasure trove
Tell me what is your name?
I’m MC Rove

The full entry is pretty spectacular…

And here are a few more blog entries that did Mr. Rove justice in the aftermath of this August shocker:


sanity, vanity

11 08 2007

A recent surge of frustrating editorials and news stories in the Times on the Iraq War (“How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Wrong;” “Democrats Say Leaving Iraq May Take Years;” “Getting Iraq Wrong“) suggest, erroneously of course, that the intentions behind the Iraq War were well-meaning, loosening the tight grip Progressives had recently gained around the neck of this downright-criminal administration.

Luckily, a brilliant and much-needed column from Katha Pollitt sets the record straight in this week’s issue of the Nation.

americans suck

21 07 2007

Check out my list of My 10 Least Favorite (Living) Americans…

by clicking here

mr. president

10 07 2007

President Bush’s announcement that he will speak tonight on the importance of staying the course in Iraq is no surprise. With ever-eroding support for the war, Bush looks a little like a kid with his hand caught in the (explosive?) cookie jar, trying to justify an error that continues to wreak inexplicacble amounts of havoc across the globe.

Too bad he’s making this ill-fated speech on the same day The Nation is publishing this brilliant article by Chris Hedges on the Web (for print on Thursday) about unheard-of atrocities in Iraq:

“And we were approaching this one house,” he said. “In this farming area, they’re, like, built up into little courtyards. So they have, like, the main house, common area. They have, like, a kitchen and then they have a storage shed-type deal. And we’re approaching, and they had a family dog. And it was barking ferociously, ’cause it’s doing its job. And my squad leader, just out of nowhere, just shoots it. And he didn’t–mother­fucker–he shot it and it went in the jaw and exited out. So I see this dog–I’m a huge animal lover; I love animals–and this dog has, like, these eyes on it and he’s running around spraying blood all over the place. And like, you know, What the hell is going on? The family is sitting right there, with three little children and a mom and a dad, horrified. And I’m at a loss for words. And so, I yell at him. I’m, like, What the fuck are you doing? And so the dog’s yelping. It’s crying out without a jaw. And I’m looking at the family, and they’re just, you know, dead scared. And so I told them, I was like, Fucking shoot it, you know? At least kill it, because that can’t be fixed….

“And–I actually get tears from just saying this right now, but–and I had tears then, too–and I’m looking at the kids and they are so scared. So I got the interpreter over with me and, you know, I get my wallet out and I gave them twenty bucks, because that’s what I had. And, you know, I had him give it to them and told them that I’m so sorry that asshole did that.”

-Spc. Philip Chrystal, 23, of Reno, on raiding one particular Iraqi civilian home.

The more-than-14,000-word article examines at length various inconsistencies, violent crimes, and horrific anecdotes as told by 50 veteran soldiers from Iraq. The interview process, which began last July, must have been extremely emotionally taxing, whereas the article itself is probably the single most disturbing and important piece to be published on the war to date.

John McCain,  ever the hawkish war-romantic, returned from a trip to Iraq this week having this to say about it:

 “I know that senators are tired of this war, tired of the mounting death toll, tired of the many mistakes we have made in this war and the great efforts it requires to reverse them, tired of the war’s politicization and the degree to which it has become embroiled in partisan struggles and election strategies… I understand this fatigue. And yet, I maintain that we, as elected leaders with a duty to our people and the security of their nation, cannot let fatigue dictate our policies.”

McCain is, as usual, way out of line. He is playing on the basic human need to be seen as strong and powerful — at the top of the pecking order. His rhetoric is reminiscent of a high school track coach: “I know you’re tired, but that exhausion is a manifestation of imagination. You’re gonna make us look like pussies if we lose to Benson AGAIN! Now MOVE!”

Except that this isn’t a game. We’re tired of reading pieces like Mr. Hedges’. We’re mentally, spiritually and physically exhausted.

And Bush seriously needs to let go of his stubborn pride. He continues to assert himself as the dictator of an ailing country, thirsty for new direction.