Disenfranchised Citizen

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Independence Day…

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The 4th of July…

Tis’ a holiday of conflict.

Maybe it’s twenty plus years of social work that has done this to me. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of giving a damn about people I’ve never met in towns I’ve never been to, concerns about whether they have enough to eat, a place to live, a sense of safety and hoping these random strangers don’t have to wake up to fear, or massive oil spills, or exploding factories or unemployment. Maybe it’s all simply a matter of wanting this country to yes, encourage entrepreneurs and people who pull up their flags by the bootstraps, but at the same time take care of those who haven’t yet, perhaps as a result of being lost, sick, mired in obsessions or failures and yes, even the ones who are just plain lazy.

Some believe there’s a place for everyone at the table, even if the food’s been purchased by food stamps…and I would be one, believing that as a country of citizens we need to care for one another, especially for those who don’t seem to care for themselves at all right now. Either that, or soon enough when we try to look away from those desperate scenes that cause us such discomfort, we’re only going to find more scenes, even more desperate staring right back at us.

So yeah, tonight I’ll be up in North Beach, standing on Broadway looking to the fireworks over San Francisco Bay and I’ll be thinking about this country’s future, same as everyone else looking up nationwide, with a lot on my mind and a lot in my heart and I’ll be thinking about all of you…all of us, caring and doing better.

Ani Difranco – Coming Up

 

Independence…from bias, from fear, from ignorance, from a lack of common care, from hate, crass judgement, superiority, misplaced nationalism and American exceptionalism, consumer lifestyles and politics, from the distractions we create and those created for us while the futures are looted by those who left their compassion on the wrong side of that boardroom door, or political office or bank vault or dust from a limousine lobbyist as he or she sped away to the next gig that divided all of us just a little bit more.

Yeah, it’s the fourth.

Let’s go get a beer and think about how we can improve these scenarios. I, for one, have more mistakes than fingers and toes and I think I might like to change that some…

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

July 4, 2013 at 10:57 AM

So, this is the Tenderloin…San Francisco…

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Always liked the rain...

The Tenderloin: the TL, Little Saigon, the Loin, Tenderloin Heights…

Fifty square blocks or so wedged between San Francisco’s downtown Civic Center – City Hall, the courthouses and Federal buildings – and the main Shopping/Financial Districts with your Niketown’s, Apple Stores, Macy’s and rapists like Bechtel, the banks and their assorted bullshit…fifty square blocks crammed into the center of San Francisco that too many people of this city either try to ignore or take great pains to avoid.

Fifty square blocks that in my opinion, form one of the most interesting neighborhoods in the country…

Why?

Because, as a person, I don’t fit into a box…like so many I can be complex, conflicted and contradictory…and I never saw all these elements so put together and on display as the five years I lived in an apartment building at the corner of Turk and Leavenworth, and the affection I have for the place is one of many reasons why, one month from today, I’m moving back…

Oh…but it’s so rundown, so crime-ridden, drug infested and it smells like hella piss, don’t ya know…

Yeah, I know…

But I find it so much more vivid than so many of our American suburbs, or Home Depot homogenized cities, these monotonous places on a fast track to mass consumer conformity, so ugly that when one walks out the door, one knows precisely what headache one will get: a Burger King, a McDonalds, a strip mall Barnes, Bath and Beyond Noble Starbucks, and maybe a convenience store or two, a newly insatiable Wal-Mart and a few miserable, but shiny people walking quickly past you on the street, some hello’s maybe, so mundane, definitely… Things ain’t like that in the TL. In the Tenderloin, anything can happen, both good and bad and if you stay on the streets long enough, you’ll see all of that anything. Very few semi-lawless places still exist in this country, and take it or leave it, the Tenderloin is one of those last remaining, crumbling demonstrations of the best and worst of American culture and its consequences.

We got colorful street art covering whole buildings and public drunkenness stretched out for blocks…loud games of Mahjong played behind steel security doors and that guy, sleeping below an afternoon blanket strung between two stolen shopping carts…We got Vietnamese sandwich shops and human shit between parked cars. We celebrate great music at punk rock bars, drag shows at Aunt Charlie’s and classic bay window, SRO architecture. We vibrate with the neon signs, the gyrating strip clubs and the dimmest of dive bars, and not the trendy kind of dive bars either…but real honest to goodness dark and damp closets without windows or fresh air, stale and in need of repair and when the outside doors are propped open to the streets, we have a beer while watching some of the most interesting public observation the city has to provide. The TL’s got small neighborhood parks where kids play, and our people walk by chanting “klonopins,” or “OC’s” or “solids,” maybe we’ll see a fist fight on the corner, watched from a window eating cheap, but great tacqueria food. Maybe we’ll step past discarded hypodermic needles in the gutter or another lost soul hitting another crack pipe beneath his t-shirt, stretched over his head, too high to realize he’s not wearing pants while we listen to shrieking siren after siren after siren as the police race the one-way streets or the fireman jumps off the fire engine, races inside the SRO only to walk stiffly back out, grumbling as he gets behind the wheel and drives back to the station from this, another false alarm.

The Mitchell Brothers, O’ Farrell Street Theater and Behind the Green Door?

The Tenderloin.

The Compton Riot in 1966 that predates New York’s Stonewall?

The Tenderloin.

Tessie Wall, Sam Spade, William Vollman, the Nighthawk jazz club and Fantasy Records?

The Tenderloin…this place where there’s always something to see, hear or avoid twenty four hours a day…and though it is sometimes dangerous, it’s never boring and it’s an amazing place to be.

Oh, and I suppose it helps that I’m a social worker…

I’ve been in the field for twenty years, been everything from an adult crisis counselor to a mental health worker in shelters and support service hotels, doing the job by day while at night, I take in my surroundings on midnight strolls, emerging from my old apartment on Pill Corner and walking until three am…walking and watching and watching some more…and despite the neighborhood’s reputation, believe it or not, I was never terrorized, robbed, beaten up…

None of it.

In all those years of wandering, nothing ever happened to me, not while talking to the dealers I came to know while sitting and smoking cigarettes on the front steps of my building, or the odd corner conversation with those who live on the streets, maybe handing out a cigarette or joking around…I never even got hassled by the addicts I came to know through my work by day or the streets at night.

Sure, I spotted the precursors to a couple of robbery attempts: the baseball bat inside the trenchcoat on Turk near Jones, or the guy coming up behind me on Larkin, between O’Farrell and Geary while the guy in front tried stopping me for a light. Once I called 911 after the stranger I was talking to got jumped at Ellis and Hyde, and I waited around to make sure the ambulance came and hell, I even called in a body I stumbled across underneath the Moser Apartment overhang on Turk Street, right by the grocery store, the one owned by that cool Asian couple who let me borrow their hand truck when I moved…and that’s what I’m talking about…for all the bullshit reputations this neighborhood is forced to take on, the good stuff I’ve seen creates a more than equal balance. From the happiness of the toothless woman who begged change outside the Walgreens on Van Ness and Eddy, introducing me to her boyfriend, proudly telling me they were now engaged, to the guy I often spoke to out front of the corner store at Eddy and Leavenworth, telling me about his successful heart surgery…and I won’t soon forget the client I worked with at the shelter for just two weeks before he disappeared, only to have him break down and cry when I ran into him on the streets a year later outside Ken’s Kitchen at Polk and Eddy, emotional just because I remembered his name, and addressed him by it.

People.

They’re all people.

I don’t care how hard so many San Franciscans try to forget that basic fact, they’re still people.

The main newspaper in town, it loves to celebrate the occasional entrepreneur who raises himself up, out of the ashes of these streets, makes a success of himself and though these people should be celebrated, they shouldn’t be held up as a beacon to judge those not yet in the light. What about the guy who cries as you walk him into his first hotel room, the first place he’s been able to call his own in ten years. I’ve seen it…let’s celebrate that guy’s success too and let’s celebrate the people who made it through their haze, the needle or the pipe to get to another day, and another opportunity to do better, to be better. Yeah, celebrate them and don’t use the guy who made it shining shoes as an excuse to condemn those who pissed on yours. Rags to riches make a nice narrative, but they are the rare reality and surely not the benchmark with which to judge the rest of the Tenderloin, the rest of this amazing, colorful neighborhood.

Wanna know when you give up on an individual, for every poor choice he makes?

You don’t.

And wanna know when you give up on the Tenderloin?

Never.

Shit, you really want to fix these fifty blocks? Create jobs, lower rents, provide drug treatment, treatment, treatment… You want to get rid of panhandlers? You gotta do more than give people a room and call it a day…

That’s the reality.

The rest is just bitching from behind your closed, locked doors.

How can you give up on a place that is home to so many, and so unique, block after block of SRO’s and cheaper apartments, so many of which were built soon after the earthquake in 1906, and one of the few neighborhoods where low income individuals, families and for that matter, a social worker like me can afford to live…

And enjoy, and wander through and help to build…

It was my home a few years ago, and in a month it will be home again…and I couldn’t be happier about it…poetry readings at Edinburgh’s Castle, punk shows at the Hemlock and art shows at the Shooting Gallery…yeah, so the next time you find yourself in the TL, maybe having a beer at the Brown Jug, the 21 Club or taking in a Sharks game at the Outsider…

Take a look around, I just might be there…watching. Next to New Orleans, I can’t think of any place I’d rather be…

Have a nice day.

On Koch: Mental health, Martin Luther and martyrs…

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Martyrdom? I could build you some crosses...

It would seem if one wanted to get an idea of a person’s mental health, about their emotional disposition, one thing to do would be to take a look at their reactions to receiving hundreds of death threats. Would they brag about it in the media? Would they become introspective? What would they do, especially if they were very wealthy and a captain of industry and the founders of Tea Party activist group called (couple of) Americans for Prosperity?

Well, now’s our chance to find out…

Charles Koch recently gave a phone interview where he said, “We are under attack from various directions, both with threats of violence against us personally, and with threats of attacks on our business.”

Okay, so like I wrote, if one receives death threats, a lot of death threats, it would seem there are a couple of ways to go with this…

1.

Stop a moment and think, why do all these strangers hate me so much, what am I doing that they consider so wrong? Is there anything I want to change about these practices or at least, perhaps, really listen for a moment to what to others might be saying?

2.

Ignore all that by way of megalomania, and then proceed to take a martyr position.

So, let’s see what happens…

“The threats,” Charles Koch continued, “are obviously worrisome to me, but I kind of relate to what Martin Luther said ‘Here I stand; I can do no other’…the importance of helping to save America from a financial disaster that is going to hurt everyone…the threats against us are nothing compared with that disaster, if we fail…”

Jesus…so I suppose we know which way he went on that one.

Yep, Koch then goes on to say how continued spending will cost America its competitive edge, and lead to the decline of its culture and political system…

Interesting…

Interesting that he leaves out the part about our competitive edge diminishing because our nations schools are falling apart over lack of funding, our culture is imploding in part due to lack of cultural programs in our schools, again because of lack of funding and our political system? Well, the majority of Americans believe it’s a shambles in large part because of decisions like Citizens United which allows people like the Koch Brothers to form Super PAC’s and flood election campaigns with corporate money for corporate favors, all the while drowning out the voices of your average everyday American…and, of course, when tax codes and loopholes are kept in place to allow the wealthiest in this country to not pay their fare share, this is when we run into all this economic inequality and revenue problems that lead to all this lack of funding for education and basic needs which then destroys our competitive edge…

But them’s just details.

Not to mention, Koch gave this phone interview from Koch Brothers headquarters in Wichita, a city in a county doing so well financially they recently had to stop prosecuting domestic violence cases because the county cannot afford to prosecute them any longer…

So, I don’t know…

If Koch really wants to play martyr, maybe his significant other could just, you know…because it’s not like she’d be prosecuted.

Read the article:

Charles Koch, employees reveal e-mailed threats from past year

Have a nice day.

Dear Chris Dodd of the MPAA…SOPA/PIPA NSFW version

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Cash your check!

Hey Chris…

It’s me, Drake…

Just letting you know I haven’t forgotten what a whore you are/were for your big buddies of capitalism, those corporate cronies idolized in your wistful wet dreams of power that left you swooning so hard, you just had to become one more pathetic lobbyist…

A lobbyist…do the world a favor and step on the third rail!

So, now you work for the MPAA?

Okay, fuck you and SOPA.  Fuck you and PIPA.

You and your bullshit legislation have  been revealed for what it is, an end run around due process, and you and your cohorts are no more than a censorship loving, greedy bunch of assholes that would just as soon burn the internet to cinders if you don’t get your last goddamned royalty dime, a cause which you claim to have taken up for the artists…the artists!

Since when do you corporate assholes care about artists?!?!?

Please…fuck you, you fuckers!

Oh, and Chris?

Thanks for being just one more asshole congressman who sells their soul to whatever corporation for their own profit at our expense. May I someday run into you to personally laugh at your utter lack of integrity…and just in case you’re wondering if I’m one of those people who maybe gets meek when actually running into the kind of prick who feels their practiced political grin somehow insulates them from their hypocrisy, just enough, so they don’t actually get called out in front of whomever happens to be there at the time? Umm…nahhh! I would be glad to do it. I would be glad to follow you and the other bastards just like you around everywhere you go, slashing your car tires, shaving your heads, dumping every plate of food you order on the floor and throwing every drink you buy in your pasty white face…right before I officiate over your getting dragged out of whatever French Quarter bar by your red, white and blue tie, into the street where your face is pushed into authentic, mule shit, in front of the hotel where Elvis Presley shot a scene from King Creole…

Fucker…

And when you wake up in the morning, stand at the bathroom mirror all steamed up and in a towel…wondering just what has gone wrong with this country?

Recognize, you ass! It’s you! People just like you!

You tell yourself this, you explain to yourself that, you rationalize every last shred of your decency for the profit of your next pimp and…integrity? You got no clue what the word even means, you ridiculous disaster of a human void and I got no problem telling you what you’ve become…

Asshole!

Fucking MPAA, RIAA…you serve no purpose but censorship and profit for everyone but the artists!!

In other words…you’re useless, you and your compromised beliefs, if you ever had any you stood by in the first place…

Sincerely,

- Drake

Oh, and God Bless America…

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

January 18, 2012 at 12:01 AM

Romney: I like being able to fire people…

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Ever see that South Park episode where people defecate out of their mouths?

Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate one pundit described as the candidate who most looks like the guy who laid you off during the recession had this to say in New Hampshire today:

“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.”

Granted, the line was taken out of context as he was discussing how people dissatisfied with the service they are getting should be able to take their business elsewhere…but seriously, this is politics so you can take your “out of context” and put it in the same fucking coal bin as your “it’s not a lie, it’s spin…” argument.

All of them…this charade…Republican and Democrats where these tools march around stages, smile insincerely and tell you whatever you want to hear, whatever they think we need to hear to make us feel better, more positive, as completely in the dark as possible…

Well, I like being able to fire people too…

And I’d like to fire the entire mainstream news media for participating in this bullshit charade, then heading off to the bar to pat each other on the back for the service they’ve done for nobody.

And speaking of bullshit disservice…

How about Chefs Emeril Lagasse and John Besh, doing their part to feed the BP Public Relations Machine…

Mitt!

There’s some firing to do…

But more on that for tomorrow…

Have a nice day.

Written by Drake Toulouse

January 9, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Republican coincidence and payroll tax holidays…

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"The finest day that I've ever had, was when I learned to cry on command..."

At the end of this month the payroll tax holiday will expire, and if allowed to lapse, it will come as a tax increase for working lower and middle class Americans. The Democrats, including Obama, are in favor of an extension while many Republicans are not. Many Republicans are demanding the extension be offset by spending cuts elsewhere or simply done away with altogether.

Why? Simple…

According to Macroeconomic Advisers, allowing it to lapse “would reduce GDP growth by 0.5 percent and cost the economy 400,000 jobs.” An analyst at Barclay’s estimated that letting the cut expire would knock 1.5 percent off of first quarter growth next year. Ameriprise Financial Services, meanwhile, estimated that extending the cut “is likely to add between 750,000 to 1 million jobs.” “Payroll tax cuts are very powerful,” added Allen Sinai, chief economist of Decision Economics. “They provide a boost to direct income and, in turn, spending, which is important to growth.”

Oh wait…forget that part…no, the reason some Republicans would be so willing to let it expire is our out of control deficit…fiscal prudence at its best, yes-sir, so fiscally responsible these Republicans, the cult of Norquist clan, they would allow a tax cut to expire. What an example of sacrifice? Imagine that, they finally agreed, not all tax cuts could be forever sacrosanct…oh, and the fact this party is oft accused of defending only the wealthy, and the fact this tax cut only benefits the working poor and middle class, not the wealthy…

I’m sure this is coincidence.

Has to be.

Just as I’m also sure it is only coincidence the Bush tax cuts, those gifts to the rich and a large part of our current deficit, weren’t required to be paid for while the payroll tax holiday, so many Republicans demand, must be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Yes, this Republican coincidence is but one of many these days…

Take a look at the job creators, for instance. Nick Hanauer, a successful venture capitalist recently wrote an op-ed, stating:

Consider, for example, that a puny 3 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million would be enough to maintain and expand the current payroll tax cut beyond December, preventing a $1,000 increase on the average worker’s taxes at the worst possible time for the economy. With a few more pennies on the dollar, we could invest in rebuilding schools and infrastructure. And even if we imposed a millionaires’ surtax and rolled back the Bush- era tax cuts for those at the top, the taxes on the richest Americans would still be historically low, and their incomes would still be astronomically high…Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit.

Yet, the Republicans would rather it be discovered they wet the bed than raise taxes on the wealthy, on those job creators…God save the job creators, even if they call bullshit on their actual ability to create jobs…and I suppose this only makes no sense at all, none…I mean, the Bush tax cuts have been in effect for what, 10 years or so, yet strangely enough we’ve had a recession, we’ve watched a looting of pension plans, a housing collapse and high sustained unemployment for years… And through it all, the fact those taxes on the wealthy, meant to create jobs have done everything but create jobs?

Coincidence.

But I digress, back to that tax break the Republicans are so sketchy about, the one that coincidentally doesn’t help the wealthiest of this country…when John Boehner was asked if letting the tax cut expire would hurt the economy, he replied, “I’m not an economist. I don’t know what kind of impact it’s going to have on the economy.”

Not an economist?

Yet he was sure the deficit didn’t matter when Bush was president, growing exponentially due to unfunded wars, tax breaks for the wealthy and that huge gift bag to pharmaceutical companies.

Just as he is now sure, that since Bush is no longer President, the deficit is destroying America as we know it, that if allowed to continue, not only will the deficit destroy our ability to manufacture American flags for the waving, but your mother’s apple pie? As a country, we will no longer be able to support the cost involved in using ovens, ever again. We will be one flag-less pie-less country, that much closer to gay marriage if we don’t do something about the deficit, like yesterday. He means…now. 

Oh, but that Boehner suddenly lost his economist credentials, that he devolved into financial confusion when it was time for this tax break that doesn’t expressly help the wealthy?

Another matter of simple coincidence.

However…to be fair…Boehner has come around the past day or so, the GOP is coming around and now say the payroll tax holiday should be passed. John himself has said, ““The fact is that Republicans are doing everything we can to allow American families and small businesses to keep more of what they earn.”

Course, that was Public John Boehner. And what did Private John have to say about the payroll tax holiday?

Well, behind closed doors, he told his membership they were pushing a package that not only included the extension, but also more environmental deregulation, more sales of broadband spectrum and a change in policy to help pass the Keystone XL pipeline so, you know, he could  turn “chicken shit into chicken salad.”

The ingredients of chicken salad of course being heavier pollution, sick kids, global warming, monopolies on spectrum leading to a lack of diversity on our airwaves, and a big fucking pipe to take oil all the way across our country from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, oil from tar sands development which is about as environmentally friendly as, well, as most Republican policy.  

Oh, and that John Boehner didn’t refer to this tax break, which doesn’t help the wealthy, as “chicken shit” in public?

Coincidence…you know it.

Yes…coincidence…of course this is what it is, what all of this is.

Cutting taxes on job creators so they continue to not create jobs, unfunded tax breaks for the wealthy while tax breaks for the working poor and middle class must be offset by spending cuts, spectrum sales and pollution, and Boehners ability to be an arch-economist who sometimes, economically speaking, is dumb as a stump…

All of it coincidence…surely.

What other explanation is there?

Have a nice day.

BP and Zucotti Park, the divide ain’t just about money…

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Nope, nothing at all, because we told you so...

Last summer, when the Macondo Well was still flowing, the US government allowed British Petroleum to keep the press out of the immediate, oil impacted areas. A number of reasons were given at the time…encroachment on private property, safety of cleanup workers, or keeping press boats from running over boom meant to contain the oil.

These reasons were all bullshit, of course.

Hell, at first they even tried to deny they were attempting a media blackout, but what it all comes down to is a private company, with government ascent was allowed to restrict the rights of the press, thus negating much information and imagery that we, as American citizens have a right to read and witness, to be informed about.

And this media blackout is not an anomaly, it is part of a larger overall pattern, evidenced again by the eviction from Zucotti Park of the Occupy Wall Street protestors. When the NYPD entered the park, they also attempted to keep the media out, keep them from documenting the raid:

At a news conference after the park was cleared Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg defended the police behavior, saying that the media was kept away “to prevent a situation from getting worse and to protect members of the press.”

Some members of the media said they were shoved by the police. As the police approached the park they did not distinguish between protesters and members of the press, said Lindsey Christ, a reporter for NY1, a local cable news channel. “Those 20 minutes were some of the scariest of my life,” she said. Ms. Christ said that police officers took a New York Post reporter standing near her and “threw him in a choke-hold.”

Journalists were arrested, pepper-sprayed and beaten by the police, to keep them safe, protected, out of harms way…again, bullshit. It was an obvious attempt to hide what the police were doing, and how they were doing it. Much like British Petroleum tried to keep images of the oil spill from the mainstream press, or limit them however they could to better enable BP to construct the narrative, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD do a similar thing, keeping images from the press knowing full well that more images of the NYPD beating down or pepper spraying protestors would provoke greater sympathy and hamstring their ability to say whatever they like about how the events occurred.

Facts and law are not important…in fact, laws are mere guidelines, something for lawyers to argue about later…

Laws are something for the people to follow, not for those who see themselves in charge…

Press freedom and the rights entailed therein are handed down, controlled from on high – not from the courts, but by larger business interests, politicians and their police departments…

Yes, the great wealth divide in this country is not just about money and who has it, it’s also about who must follow the rule of law, who gets to be heard and by whom and who gets to be on the blunt end of the ongoing militarization of this country’s police departments.

From British Petroleum to Michael Bloomberg to one more police beat down of Berkeley college students…at what point do the laws of this country protect us and our freedoms, instead of protecting those who move so quickly to take these freedoms away in order to protect themselves?

Have a nice day.

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