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…

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.

fair care

23 07 2007

Another heartening article in The Times today: The House is attempting to push a bill that “calls for major changes in Medicare and promises to intensify the battle with the White House over health care.” While the Senate had recently passed a bill that would increase coverage for lower-income children (provided, brilliantly, by tax increases to the tobacco industry), House Democrats flexed their ever-expanding political muscle today and said that the bill just wasn’t good enough.

And if there’s a time to do it, now is that time. Following the overwhelming success of Michael Moore’s latest documentary endeavor Sicko, the American public has finally received a blunt awakening to the frankly embarrassing statistics of our country’s medical inferiorities. With more doctors and nurses than ever standing behind a more universal health care plan, and with Republicans floundering at large in the face of an increasing progressive majority, the Dems should take advantage of their power on Capitol Hill.

The American people want a change. The regime under Bush has not fared anyone (excluding, of course, a handful of billionaires and Fox pundits) well. If the Democrats fail, it will really only end up making Bush look worse — and more like a dictator in a supposedly Democratic nation — than ever.

Plus, his argument is flimsy:

President Bush has threatened to veto what he sees as a huge expansion of the children’s health care program, which he describes as a step “down the path to government-run health care for every American.”

His argument has a pretty gaping hole: America is no longer terrified of socialized medicine. Major political voices are too young to remember the blood-chilling threat of Communists infiltrating America — and even those who do remember have come to realize that the whole movement was a bit of sham (McCarthyism anyone?). What we as a people want more than anything — Conservatives and liberals alike — is for our families and friends to be safe and healthy. It is obvious that the current middle-man-oriented, insurance-driven Medicare system is not doing that. We need a change.

What the Democrats are currently suggesting may seem controversial, but it’s a long time coming. They could even up the ante a little bit — as they may be planning to do later. They are wise, however, to try to push this through Congress before the summer recess. We want to look at the last half-a-year and see that the Democratic-controlled Congress has done something we can be proud of. And if they do, that could be just what the Democratic ticket could need to secure that coveted spot in the Oval Office in ’08.

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.

meet, meat

2 07 2007

I was at a Christmas party this year where I ran into my high school Chemistry teacher — also the overseer of the school’s “Students for Environmental Action” group. He had brought to the party a home-made spinach and feta quiche, and I have to say, even though I am a stalwart vegan, I was very impressed. However, upon complimenting him on his quiche, my former teacher lamented that he had faced an ethical dilemma while buying the spinach.

There were two spinach options at the natural food store he shopped at. One option, at $3.99 a bunch, was an organic brand of spinach which had come from China. The other, at $4.99, was a non-organic brand which had come from upstate, made by a company owned by Nabisco. Which spinach should he buy?

He went for the latter because to him, no cause was greater than buying locally (or as locally as possible). There are hundreds of advantages to this: Local food supports American farmers (who really need support as free trade and corporate-controlled agriculture become more and more prevalent), contributes less to global warming (the less your food has to travel, the fewer carbon emissions are made), and is often safer and better for your health (foreign produce, fish and meat have come under investigation recently for spreading various disease).

One thing Congress has tried to do about this problem is to institute a country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law, which would require all meat, fish and nuts to be labeled with the country they came from. That way, consumers would be able to decide for themselves (as my old chemistry teacher did) what they put in their mouths (or in their quiches).

But, as with most good Congressional ideas, Republican members of Congress (Henry Bonilla especially) have managed to push back the enforcement of this law. For five years. While pocketing enormous sums of money from the livestock industry, who fear higher costs with the instigation of the law.

But good news: As we have been witnessing over the last few weeks, the Democrats have finally learned to speak. And the Times says things are looking good for the law these days.

Reading that article reminds me how fucked up the American livestock farming system remains. Considering that one of the leading arguments against the enforcement of the law for meat is:

They also say it would be difficult and expensive to label ground meat like hamburger, since it often includes meat from different cows.

There are just so many things wrong with that. Animal abuse aside (although that’s another horror story in and of itself), worker’s rights are pathetic in slaughterhouses, which means they regularly employ undocumented workers who are subject to frightening racism and bigotry. The work is dangerous, unhealthy and rigorous. Standards are lower, not higher, in countries like China and Mexico.

I’m constantly surprised that this system isn’t more thoroughly examined. The meat industry is as corrupt as any other industry in the country — except it alone explicitly abuses the right every living being should have: basic respect.