I’ve known for a long time I don’t contain the natural empathy or feeling of the average person. This could be how it’s always been. This could also be (in part) desensitization from a career in social work…twenty years of witnessed experiences and darker narratives:
– Doing paperwork in a crisis house when a woman walked up to me with a towel over her arm, “I think I made a mistake,” she said removing the towel, uncovering a clean incision from elbow to wrist…I nodded sympathetically, “Okay, wrap the towel back around and I’ll grab my keys. We’ll go to the hospital.”
– In the emergency room, listening to a young woman with broken front teeth and a bloody eye detail the horrific abuse she had been receiving from her husband…while I made steady, softened eye contact, nodding appropriately and formulating a plan to provide assistance.
Twenty years of horrendous situations, traumatic stories from people dealing with homelessness, abuse, people who have been beaten and thrown away. I’m not trying to say that I feel nothing. I do, but it’s muted, and comes less from an emotional response and more from an analytical choice of what the next correct decision should be given the situation. It’s learned. When my grandfather passed away, I left work early, not because I really felt the need to go home, but because the look of concern from my supervisor indicated that would be the appropriate response. When my client came to terms with her terminal diagnosis from untreated breast cancer, I sat with her for two hours as she tearfully processed this, leaving only to go get her some popsicles from the corner store because they were her favorite and seemed to be what she needed in that moment, or the times spent marching in the streets with thousands over the Chicago Police Department’s murder of another young man – this was correct because racism is wrong.
I used to try to see if I could fix this lack. I thought that perhaps my sense of humor was too dark or that there might be something wrong with the anger being my most frequent go-to, or strongest felt emotion. I knew, intellectually, that my muted responses made me a little different and also that my father was similar in these respects. I also learned from the myriad of social situations most everybody finds themselves in that certain responses are more socially acceptable than others, and if I was going to give up trying to fix what wasn’t going on within me that I was going to need to become practiced in what those responses should be, as well as really put in the time to develop a sense of ethics and social justice as an overall guide.
This past month a co-worker unexpectedly passed away. I had known this person for about a year as we had shared an office with others, her sitting directly behind me. We’d gone to lunch once or twice, had conversations. We’d discussed the sadness she had felt recently when she’d had to put her dog down. I knew about some of her struggles, her difficulties with her family and some of the challenges she was working to resolve. I received news of her death via text while working at a different site. The person who sent me the text was pretty busted up over it, you could see it through the characters and while reading the successive texts I didn’t have too much of a reaction, but I also knew that would be the incorrect response.
So I answered in kind, “That’s terrible. How is everyone doing down there?” (south side clinic) and we engaged around this for a few more texts, and being this person’s supervisor I suggested that if they needed, they were free to leave for the day in order to take any self-care necessary. This was the right thing to say as a supervisor. Also being the right thing: knowing another co-worker at my site was very close to this person, and that it might be better if I told them in person rather than potentially finding out by group e-mail later in the day. So I found them and told them what had happened. I watched them cry. I watched another person sit next to them and put his hand on their shoulder, and made a mental note that next time, in this situation, that would be something I might do.
I once had a conversation with my wife where we discussed social work, a profession she also enjoys. She told me one of things she admires is the compassion I have and how much I care about people. I was a little drunk at the time, and a bit honest about it all as I told her the reason I felt I was good at my job was because ultimately, I didn’t care too much. Writing that might make me sound bad. I get that, and it’s not something I enjoy about myself, rather I’ve learned to accept it. I told her I was able to look at social work situations like Chicago, not like New Orleans, meaning my approach is more clearly analytic, unclouded by an emotional heart. I’ve been successful doing things this way, but I wouldn’t have been nearly so without constant interaction and correction by other people, by observation, by learning that even if I don’t necessarily feel any which way, the right thing to do is this or that; it’s the ethical thing, the thing most likely to get justice for a particular individual in a situation that inherently contains very little.
So next week Saturday, I’ll be going to a memorial for my co-worker who passed away, deep on the south side of Chicago at a small park where a tree will be dedicated in her memory. This gathering will be attended by friends and family of the deceased as well as many people from the non-profit where I work. Emotionally, I feel no real compunction to go, but do I understand it is the right thing to do.
Directly across the Illinois border from Chicago stands British Petroleum’s Whiting Oil Refinery in Whiting, Indiana and this huge facility creates petcoke, which in turn creates a bunch of problems in Chicago, problems that only get magnified by the involvement of the Koch Brothers and the lack of involvement by Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel…
Yeah – BP, Rahm and the Kochs.
What a clusterfuck of a combination and what a typical addition to the horrible legacy of British Petroleum.
I mean, it was just this week that BP, the “Make it Right in the Gulf” company filed an appeal to the US Supreme Court to try and weasel out of the Deepwater Horizon settlements, agreed to quite some time ago down on the Gulf Coast and like theose shenanigans down there, up here in Chicago, BP continues with in its irresponsibe ways. After a 3.6 billion dollar expansion that tripled the refining capacity for Whiting, BP’s begun buying up property in Marktown, a 130 year old town originally built to house steel workers’ families and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And whereas BP says they are just trying to increase the green space around the massive refinery (green space, really) others say BP is trying to shield itself from future liabilities the refinery could pose to town residents, living so close and all. Then there was that oil spill into Lake Michigan back in March, occurring just seven miles from the intake valve that supplies seven million Chicago residents with drinking water. BP initially low-balled their estimate of spilled oil, but they later doubled the actual figure (doesn’t that sound fucking familiar) and in response to the spill, Congressman yelled, BP placated and guys in white suits laid boom and cleaned (again, so very familiar).
But really, the latter two were just the warm-up for the big petroleum coke problem, which of course begs the question for those unfamiliar, what the hell is petcoke?
Well, petroleum coke is a byproduct of the process that removes heavy crude from those ever-famous Canadian tar sands, and petcoke can be burned as fuel. It’s high in heavy metals and has been compared to coal, “only dirtier,” and thanks to British Petroleum’s refinery there are mountains of this shit in Southeast Chicago, right in the city, right by residential neighborhoods, parks and schools and when the wind blows, this stuff gets blown all over said neighborhoods.
And it turns out British Petroleum is the preeminent petcoke dealer in the greater Chicagoland area and their main buyer? Why that’s a corporation called KCBX Terminals, a company owned by none other than the Koch Brothers.
That’s right, British Petroleum and the Koch Brothers…what could possible go wrong?
According to the people who live around KCBX Terminals, much is going wrong and they are understandably upset. They report having to keep windows closed against petcoke dust and particles, about finding picnics covered with the black stuff on windy days, or on their hanging clothes, or on windows and outside walls…or their lungs, and there are quite a few concerns about asthma and other breathing problems this petcoke could be causing.
A member of National Nurses United, Rolanda Watson-Clark had this to say:
“Petcoke contains a mix of chemicals including heavy metals, sulfur, carbon and volatiles, but even if you set the chemical aside — the dust particle size is also a killer…the small particles can get deep into the lungs and possibly the bloodstream, leading to problems like aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, non-fatal heart attacks and other negative health effects…while we are glad that the city council took some measures to curb the effects of these petcoke piles, we believe that our patients and communities can’t afford to wait two years for the relief.”
Yeah…they can’t wait two years.
Wait, what does she mean by that…two years?
Well, when Chicago residents in the affected neighborhoods started to tell their stories back in February, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago came out big, he came out swinging, all declarative statements and such, pointed at the likes of the Koch Brothers KCBX Terminals. He said things like:
“Through the regulations we’re going to put in, it’s going to be very expensive to operate here and therefore they are going to choose to leave…we’re going to make sure the ordinance puts up a ‘not wanted’ sign in the City of Chicago as it relates to pet coke.”
Oh yes, he did…how definitive.
He then went on to propose an ordinance to the city council that would prohibit new petcoke and coal facilities from Chicago while at the same time, banning the expansion of existing facilities. This would have applied to any operations that processed, transported, stored or handled the stuff.
Oh yes, he did again…how declarative.
And it was this ordinance the council was supposed to vote on last March, but then the ordinance got delayed, and then in April the ordinance was simply replaced. Yes replaced…at the last minute, John Pope, Alderman of the 10th Ward (where the offending companies are located) replaced the definitive, declarative ordinance with a substitute nobody had seen before and this one wasn’t quite so ironclad as the one Rahm had been touting a few months prior. The new ordinance permits companies that use petcoke to set up shop and/or expand the places they already have, which means that larger facilities that burn petcoke and coal are free to go on as before, which of course means neighborhood residents are free to go on breathing this shit, also, as before. And when it comes to big storage facilities like KCBX Terminals, even though they have been ordered to enclose their huge piles of this poison, the ordinance gives them two full years to do it…
Two years, that’s what Rolanda Watson-Clark meant, two more years of this shit blowing across playgrounds, schools and residential neighborhoods. Rahm has apparently realized none of the people in these neighborhoods were going to vote for him anyway and for that matter, neither will the Koch Brothers. Turns out they’re upset about the two years too, among other restrictions and are now contemplating a lawsuit against the city. If they absolutely have to enclose these mountains of toxins, they want four years to do it. Oh, and the thirty foot height limit for the piles of petcoke? Too low, way too low, they want 45 feet, because why not?
So this is where we are in Chicago right now:
British Petroleum tripled the capacity of their Whiting Oil Refinery, is spilling oil into Lake Michigan, is buying out a historic town for “green space” all while producing enormous amounts of petcoke, a dusty toxic byproduct that is even dirtier to burn for fuel than coal. To the Koch Brothers, petcoke is not merely pollution, it is a product to buy en masse and store in residential neighborhoods while looking to sell it for profit. Other factories on the south side of Chicago are planning to use it to fuel their operations, leading to more pollution and more storage and the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel though originally all definitive and declarative, saying he was going to run these companies out of business by way of expensive regulation for the sake of his constituents’ health, switched the bill at the last minute, gutting the ordinance’s effectiveness and giving the Koch Brothers two more years to poison the south side of Chicago, while the Koch Brothers…well, they feel two is not nearly enough time and want four.
Oh, and British Petroleum just keeps making this shit, because hey, who fucking cares about people and their families, right right?
Right, now that the news cameras have long since gone, BP doesn’t seem to care about those on the Gulf Coast anymore, so why should Chicago families be any different? Did I mention that also this week, a new study came out pointing to evidence that shows the damage to the Gulf is likely far worse than previously thought? Uh-huh, researchers found partially dead, deep sea coral reefs further and deeper than any other damaged reefs previously discovered…though BP was quick to point out that there is not conclusive proof…though the researchers were then quick to point out that oil found on the dead reef was the same oil from the spill…to which BP yelled “Mulligan!” and grabbed the next plane for Russia…which might suggest they are not properly concerned with the general welfare of, anything but their bottom line and certainly not with what others are doing with the petroleum coke they sell, and certainly, certainly not where these people might be storing it in Chicago.
It would in fact seem, none of these parties are properly concerned about any of this shit and after all, I’m sure that both BP and the Koch Brothers have well paid scientists who will claim (the world is flat) that not only is petroleum coke not toxic, but that it isn’t spreading anywhere.
Of course not.
And all that leads to just one conclusion for this writer, which would be to agree completely with the initial push by residents, nurses and activists after the mountains of petcoke first started climbing on the city’s South Side: petcoke needs to be banned from inside the Chicago city limits. For BP and the Kochs, it would appear petcoke is mostly about profit and rationalizations, and if Rahm Emanuel really wants to stand for something bigger than that, if he really decides to care about the residents of Chicago’s Southeast side, he would do something about all of this, something meaningful, something now. Fuck your two years. Chicago needs more than empty words and bullshit rhetoric from a failed mayor. Chicago deserves more. Rahm should do what’s right for the city and stop the Koch Brothers and British Petroleum at the Illinois border.
I was standing outside the Converse All Star Store on Market Street in San Francisco when it became clear to me it was again, time to leave this city. The sign in the store window yelled, “SHOES ARE BORING! WEAR SNEAKERS!” in large, capitalized letters and behind this sign stood an equally loud, colorful scream of red sneakers, white sneakers and blue, all arranged on the wall to form a huge American flag of Converse, Chuck Taylor All Stars. It was a catching display, big and bright and then further inside the store, large banners did their turn, celebrating the rebelliousness of the shoes themselves, of the purchasing, owning and living in these shoes (or…sneakers) and what doing so might say about you and your lifestyle, about who you really are and hey…you know, you can step right inside and go to the “Create lab” and with the able help of a “Maestro,” actually design your own sneakers while playing “loud raucous tunes” to further express your unique individuality in their biggest store ever for the low, low price of $75.00! Yes-sir! Express all that you are, and can be:
With. Fucking. Footwear.
Yes sir, time to fucking go…Converse told me so, reminding me clearly of the power held in reputations and the potential emptiness existing below their surface. Them All Star’s got a reputation, an individuality image and so does San Francisco, often defined round here as: “Kook City,” and that is only one example. Some also consider it the land of gay rights, gay marriage and the Castro, or maybe it’s the hippies in the Haight (smaller in number, but still there). It’s known as a liberal playground of civil rights, of compassion and care, as the land of a truly progressive politics that tries to see the big picture for the benefit of everybody. Good lord, by reputation alone this is clearly not a city in America, it’s a nation unto itself, a utopian peninsula where the best of American liberalism has taken it upon itself to finally shine from the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay.
Honestly, if any of that was ever really true, it’s bullshit level has been increasing exponentially the past five years or so, leaving a lot of longtime residents disillusioned about the myths they chose to believe in, kinda like the people who buy into that All Star reputation as some sort of independent status symbol only to later discover the black death of child factory footwear, Nike, bought out the whole chain years ago. Oops.
And who bought San Francisco?
Well, the San Francisco of today is real estate developers and speculators flipping properties and evicting people to work around rent control. It is tech companies getting tax breaks to stay in town while they make money hand over fist. It is the gearing of an entire city towards a luxury class while our compassionate citizens, lead by story after story in the Chronicle demonizing panhandlers and the homeless, help enact a set of brutal homeless laws that make it a crime to sleep in a park or sit down on a sidewalk. It is a wealth gap forming like a canyon between the quite well off and those unable to afford even the most basic needs, continuing an ever-increasing homelessness while the city also cuts shelter beds and mental health support in the same shelters. It is a glut of tech workers moving in and greedy landlords going batshit insane, raising rents to a place where the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco is around $2400 dollars and at those prices, now left out of the new San Francisco are such mainstream salaries as teachers, nurses, cops, social workers and city employees (just to name a few) all being forced out by these high rents, forced to commute in from the East Bay or go away altogether. Right now, I pay $1000 a month for a tiny studio in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. The only reason my rent has stayed so low over the past couple of years is rent control. New rentals in my building now go for $1,450 dollars, and by market rates this is still pretty cheap. If I were to be evicted I would have to leave this city, no longer able to afford it and I work a professional job, and that’s a fucking powerless feeling, and Jesus Christ, what if you were dumb enough to be here with fucking children? How do you put down roots knowing if your landlord decides he’s had enough of owning his building and sells to the speculators constantly knocking on his door with ever increasing offers, you would have to abandon everything?
Yeah, even childless, I say fuck that.
And that’s a big part of the problem, a lot of people are saying “fuck that.” People like…the aforementioned teachers and nurses, but also the musicians, artists, designers and writers. So many are leaving, and though many have tried Oakland…Oakland is now going the way of San Francisco and as their rents keep climbing, it too is being abandoned. The cultural center of San Francisco is hollowing out, leaving behind a shell of wealthy techies and other higher paying professionals who run around this playground trying hard not to get bored while people commute in from all over the Bay Area to serve them doing retail, restaurant, hotel and other service jobs.
Let them have tips. Let them eat cake.
That’s not a city.
It’s a pretty fiefdom of entitled, dull dilettantes wearing Google Glass and buying eight dollar cups of coffee. It’s a place that hosts the America’s Cup boat races. It’s the land of foodies and food snobs, and so many of the (new and old) wealthy entitled. Now, this doesn’t mean the city’s all bad, and not even bad for me. I love my job, the Bay, the views and the movie houses. I enjoy how most bands on tour stop here, the hills, the never-ending series of taquerias (I have a favorite in every neighborhood in the city and can recite them like poetry). These are all good things, but it’s not enough anymore. Not for me and not for many others, and certainly not when you have other options because everything I like about this town is also available somewhere else. Even one of the strongest reputations San Francisco is known for is losing it’s luster; the city may still be a gay mecca of sorts, but the country’s changing and is it really anymore of a Mecca than many other cities? Even the famed Castro neighborhood is now filled with families complaining about the noise of a scene they once were a part of, back before they decided to get married and adopt kids. It’s all changing. The reputation has expired. One hanging dick from some naked guy on Folsom street no longer makes you “Kook City” when your city council actually went to the trouble to outlaw nudity. Little by little, the unique character of the city gets stripped away. Hell, they even kicked the chess players off of Market Street, stating they (were homeless) attracted crime. The Castro Halloween party? Gone. The Lusty Lady? Gone too. The long trite phrase “Only in San Francisco” becomes vain and rather pointless when there’s far crazier and far friendlier shenanigans happening in Austin, Chicago, New York, New Orleans, Denver, Pittsburg and Seattle…just to name a few. Oh, and with the exception of New York, I can actually afford to live in all of those other cities (and many more) and much more comfortably, and with a much cleaner conscience, especially when I know that the guy who got my coffee or made my tacos or helped me find that book in the bookstore is actually living in the same city I am…maybe more difficultly than in the past but he or she is still there.
But not in San Francisco, here they would need several roommates in their studio to try it, and even then they still couldn’t afford a pair of fucking All Stars.
One more example: a couple of weeks ago, they had the Filmore Jazz Festival. The Fillmore District in San Francisco is a legendary neighborhood once known as the “Harlem of the West.” It was where Louis Armstrong played, where Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday performed in the clubs and shopped at many black owned businesses, historically important and culturally iconic. Every year, they still hold the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival in the district, but today Fillmore Street is a fucking joke, a collection of high end shops, pricy eateries and a Starbucks on every block. The only reason one might ever know the history of the neighborhood is by spotting a banner that hangs off a light pole when you walk out of the Mac cosmetic store or the cute little homemade organic soap shop. They might call it the “Jazz District,” but that’s about as accurate as referring to the famed Cable Cars as anything but a tourist trap. In truth, the Fillmore is nothing but a series of cosmetic stores and clothing boutiques punctuated by the occasional artisan cafe all tailored to the new gentry of yuppies and other assorted professionals who can somehow afford the exorbitant rents.
And this is your new San Francisco.
Many people like it. These people often own and work in tech companies and/or own a lot of property, or maybe they own high end restaurants or shops that sell five hundred dollar handbags, three hundred dollar pairs of sunglasses or expensive organic food. The CEO of Apple? He fucking loves San Francisco but the people who work at the Apple Store…not so much. They all live in fucking Pleasanton or with their three roommates in Oakland or in their rent controlled studio hoping the owner of the building doesn’t decide to Ellis Act their ass and kick them to the streets so he can flip the building and double or triple the rent on new tenants. Cities change. I get it. I can accept that, and sometimes you roll with that change or you decide that the dissonance between what a city claims to be is too great from what it actually is and you get the fuck out. Sometimes you take a look around you and just get disappointed, and then maybe you even get bitter and start doing your research and realize how places do exist in this country that actually are what San Francisco (still) claims to be…
Growing up I used to wear Converse All Stars. Great fucking shoes…I mean, sneakers, but then they got bought out by Nike and the prices for them tripled over time and their reputation became only that to me, a reputation and I moved on…to shoes that didn’t define me, but were authentic and affordable and they’re fucking shoes! Who fucking cares! It’s not a lifestyle.
It’s. Fucking. Footwear.
And San Francisco is just a city, just another city, not really all that special anymore and sometimes, it even feels kind of ugly being here so very soon, it’s off to Chicago again and yes, I understand it suffers from many of the same problems as San Francisco but it’s way better off for a few reasons: hell 0f a lot more room to maneuver, it’s still affordable, there’s a real chance they might kick Rahm Emanuel the fuck out of there and maybe most important of all…it’s a hell of a lot easier to get to New Orleans from Chicago than it is from San Francisco. And I really love New Orleans too, despite what’s happening in the Bywater, and you know? Maybe because of what’s happening in the Bywater, you can bet your ass I’ll be watching for any sign of a Converse store on Canal or Magazine and if that should start to happen, I’ll be ready…
It’s only fifteen hours by car from Chicago to NOLA and even though I don’t smoke anymore, I seem to always have a lighter around and I’m betting that shoes burn a lot easier than a reputation, no matter how empty.
That’s right, compassion… I keep hearing politicians talk about hard choices, about tough decisions and being realistic…you know, their usual line and all of it typically means only one thing…but I’m getting ahead of myself here…
Let me start over…
So, few days ago I was blocking traffic on a bridge as part of a national day of action. Good time, didn’t necessarily agree with the tactic but felt it important enough to be a part of the overall message, the anger at the destruction wrought by income inequality in this country, the idea that people, wealthy people and corporations need to pay their fair share for a society they reap untold benefit from yet seem to feel they have little to no responsibility towards, this despite all the assistance they get, be it the use of roads, protection from the police, fire, maybe even generous financial subsidies from the government. Would seem pretty simple. If society goes to shit, wealthy people and corporations are going to be affected same as anybody else…perhaps not as severe but affected nonetheless. In any case, on the bridge, good feelings of doing something active, being a part of things and making a positive choice, myself and everybody else made a choice to be on that bridge…don’t know what everybody else gave up but I gave up needed sleep, some time to myself and it turned the better part of my day into a rush job so I could get back to work: third shift all night talking to and assisting people who have reached their end of it, either with thoughts of suicide, or actual attempts…and that night, like last night, like tonight…finances are a tremendous stressor and in these hard financial times, this is precisely when many people need help the most…but then, in between my time on the bridge and going to work I read in the news about how the mayor has passed a new budget, and surprise, surprise…the talk is about “hard choices,” about an “honest budget,” and while he and the city council talk solemnly about their honesty…they lie their asses off, either that or they are absolute bastards and either way, it doesn’t speak much to any of their character.
Their “hard choices” meant they chose to close budgetary holes by attacking the needs of the poor and middle class.
These politicians chose to privatize city health clinics, thus ensuring fewer people get medical care and those that do,wait longer…all so someone else gets a profit and the city saves money. They chose to close half of the city’s mental health clinics, thus ensuring people with mental health issues either cannot get treatment or also must wait much longer. They also chose to lay off people working the 911 lines, this ensuring people who call for help, they too will wait longer…and they chose much more…higher city fees and penalties which will affect those of meager means far more than their wealthier neighbors…and by neighbors, I mean the people who live on the other side of town, far away.
These austerity measures are the politicians’ “hard choices,” for their “honest budget,” but in truth, there wasn’t anything hard about it at all. That’s just a vernacular they use at get togethers, or with the press to make themselves feel better for the damage they cause to real people.
You see, these politicians have been making these choices for forty fucking years and these politicians, and the corporations and the wealthy? They are the ones who benefit the most from these “hard choices.” Everybody else? Yeah, screwed just a little more, year after year after year…budget cut after cut after cut… The only way these choices would really be hard for the politicians who make them is if they truly cared about those who suffered as a result, but I would argue they don’t care, not really for if they did they simply wouldn’t do it. They would raise taxes, they would cut spending on subsidies for wealthy corporations, they would do a number of things that might even be the kind of hard choices to jeopardize their future electability…all in the name of compassion, and doing the right, moral thing.
Yes, compassion is the hard choice, the choice they are unwilling to make…and because of that people will suffer.
Some who are mentally ill will lose jobs, alienate family, abuse drugs and alcohol, or only receive treatment in prison where some will wind up as a result of their symptoms and what they do to alleviate them, which is especially sad as the city will pay more to lock them up then they would to provide treatment in the first place. Some people will die from physical illness or perhaps not go to the doctor until their ailments grow far worse and even more expensive, again to the city. Longer response time for 9-11 calls…again, suffering and some will die.
How many degrees of separation need to occur before these politician can sleep at night, distancing themselves emotionally from the blood on their hands as a result of their ballyhooed “honest budget?”
Hard to say, you’d have to ask the politicians themselves, but not just the politicians in my city, go across the country because these same decisions are happening nation wide and the same people are suffering as a result throughout the entire country.
Oh…but some will say we just can’t afford compassion anymore.
Yeah? Why is that?
I know…because for the past thirty plus years, politicians have been deregulating the markets, signing free trade agreements that are anything but, deregulating the banks and lowering tax rates on the wealthiest all so they can get elected, and as a result all the money that used to be used to pay for people, for compassion has been concentrated, hoarded, moved out of the country by the constituents these politicians actually do care about…the people who are not you or me and certainly not anyone who needs anymore help…They only really care about the job creators, those same job creators who aren’t creating any jobs…
And how long until this bullshit charade ends in the United States?
I don’t know…look in the mirror and ask yourself that question, because it really is up to you, up to all of us…and we’re all going to have to be patient in this fight because great change takes a long time…so if you’re game, settle in and let’s rebuild a nation that again gives a damn about the people living in it, and when this fight is over, it will be worth it…and if you have kids they’ll thank you for your trouble…everybody will except the 1% that loves it the way it is now…
Just a thought.
Oh, and on a more personal note…
You are truly pathetic and it’s easy to see how you were Obama’s chief of staff…the both of you only pay lip service to helping those who need it…especially around election time you lying sons of bitches…
I lived in Seattle back when you played your corporate lottery to see which city would give you the sweetest deal for the headquarters of your corporate offices. Yeah just the latest company at the time to play community blackmail, thus forcing “hard choices” and “honest budgets” so you can line your coffers with blood money. You were a part of Seattle’s history and once a vital part of its community and identity, and you just betrayed them for profit.
Oh, and Twitter?
The progressive company…right. You threatened San Francisco with moving your company out of the city until they gave you a huge break on payroll taxes amongst other goodies that cost the city millions, all the while the city is forced to cut back on services, cut bus routes, cut, cut, cut…but hey, as long as you greedy assholes and frauds are getting wealthier…who cares, right?
Which is probably why when I heard of the Occupy Wall Street protest, my first question was: if they are trying to cause trouble on Wall Street, why the hell are they doing the protest on a Saturday? At the time, I didn’t know it was going to be an ongoing thing, but even when I found that out my cynicism remained. I expected the usual mish-mash from the left, individuals with individual signs representing each and every cause, from PETA to Anti-Police Brutality, from ending the wars to ending whatever else they now wanted to end. I used to live in San Francisco and it would oftentimes seem not a week could go by without some kind of march down Market Street, just like it also seemed that the same people came to every protest; there was no unified message, just everybody cradling their pet cause, making a lot of noise, but really, doing very little.
After all, the civil rights era is long over and the police/government have had forty plus years to figure out how to marginalize a march into nothingness. Sure, maybe marches help build community, but what do they actually accomplish?
So, Occupy Wall Street…cool, yeah…okay.
Well, I’ve been working on my cynicism of late, trying to mute it a bit, which doesn’t mean I now feel protest marches are effective.
But this occupy Wall Street thing?
Been watching it build over the past couple of weeks and yes, their appears to be no unifying message beyond anger at the banks for screwing over this country and anger at the government letting them do it, and believe me you, I get that. I personally wouldn’t have a problem if Wall Street erupted in flames, burned all the way to the ground. Nope. I’d bring beer and marshmallows, celebrate…just like I celebrate these rumors about Bank of America being in real financial trouble, especially now that Kamala Harris and California have backed out of the mortgage fraud settlement. Good. Bank of America belly up? No problem. Fuck ’em. All those bank bail-outs, too big to fail? Government gives the money directly to the banks rather than giving it to the people in trouble with their mortgages so they could then give the money to the banks…you know, banks still get rescued, plus the people get to keep their houses too. Might have been a good idea. Apparently, politicians thought not, you know, because banks give politicians way more money than home-owners and banks wanted to cut out the middle man so yeah, okay, fuck the politicians too, but…I digress. Point is, hell yeah I get it.
So like I said, I been watching the occupation protests, the arrests, the developments, the growth, the union endorsements, the increase in news coverage, their unwillingness to be moved and over time I realized something…
I don’t want to sit around and be a cynic anymore.
That cynicism is too self-defeating.
True, at the end of the day…after the occupation is all said and done, who ya gonna vote for, whatever sociopath the GOP puts up or Barack Obama’s austerity-lite? Those choices won’t change, but something else could, something more important than two political yahoo’s running for president, and that something is the narrative.
That’s what the Occupy Wall Street protests seem to be changing right now.
For the past few months all we have been hearing from politicians, both Democrat and Republican is how this is the age of austerity, cutbacks, tightening our belts. The mainstream media outlets echoed it, the commercials preached it, the banks and corporations nodded their heads in assent…but that is beginning to change. The occupation is helping to prompt questions, getting people to think about Wall Street greed just a bit more. Fucking Sean Hannity actually called in and interviewed/trashed a protestor on his show, so yeah, even the corporations/banks/GOP apologists are now paying attention to the occupation, at least inasmuch as they are trying to discredit the whole thing, and that acknowledgment is change.
And it isn’t just 5000 people in the park in New York anymore, yesterday it was also 3000 people marching against Bank of America in Boston.
The narrative is altering, and the narrative can be more urgent and more important than both the politicians and corporations combined.
People, in their homes, in the bars, in the parks, in the restaurants and at the grocery stores…people talking about the wealthy, the top 1% and how they don’t pay their fair share. People are talking about Wall Street, not as that faraway place with the stock markets and the investors and whatnot, they’re talking about the role of Wall Street, of those markets, of the costs those who work there are exacting on the rest of the country. People are talking about the banks, about withdrawing money from the big banks and going local to their community institutions.
It’s much more talking than usual, and that ain’t a bad thing. This could be the beginning of something bigger and this is not the time for cynicism. Alas, true, this whole episode could fizzle out rather quickly, kind of fade into just another series of left wing war story, like more lost tales from the Seattle WTO uprising, but it doesn’t have to. Much will depend on our cynicism, both individual and collective…yours, mine and theirs.
If you want to write these protests off, dismiss them as nothing, as hopeless, you certainly can, just as you can slag the protestors because maybe you don’t particularly care for their methods…or because they look funny, they’re disorganized or more importantly…maybe you trash them because they haven’t given up. Well, if that’s the case, then you have two choices really, you can leave well enough alone and go figure out why you thought it better to complain from the sidelines, or you can suspend your doubts and get involved, be creative, help, give it a chance and be a part of building a newer narrative because really, what else we got going on?
Sitting around, waiting to vote next year?
Besides, cynicism is precisely what politicians and Wall Street are counting on and I’d rather not give them what they want.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage. They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses. They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions. They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay. They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce. They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them. They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil. They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit. They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
Seems pretty reasonable, these and many other concerns, most based on problems with a system and its institutions that place profits over the lives of people, both at home and abroad, oftentimes accomplished through the contribution of large sums of money from the banks and corporations, and the wealthiest few of this country, making sure they are heard by the politicians…not the other 99% of us.
So yes, the protestors are out there getting heard, and asking for others to join them in being heard and yes, we can certainly make fun and do nothing, but when done with that, what do we got but the same fucking problems we had before so…
Nah, don’t want to be cynical anymore.
Rather read up on what’s going on, be a part of it and think about change with an open mind and a sense of the possible as opposed to the safe self-conceit of the negative…
It’s our choice, they’re our freedoms.
And we might want to think hard, because if this should continue to grow, if this should eventually provoke change, if this should teach a new generation about what they can do, what they can make happen…do you really think the banks, the mainstream media and the powers that be are going to let something like this ever happen again?
Sometimes all you get is one shot.
So, make it count, seek solutions and let’s all change this narrative for good.
I used to know a bartender at Molly’s on Toulouse, small bar on Toulouse (duh) between Royal and Bourbon, and I loved the place…small, pool table, open windows to the street…old feel, and it was close enough to Bourbon and all the idiocy contained therein one could step outside for a smoke and look the half block up to watch fraternities, sororities, christianit-ies, stupidities and every other -ies, along with the more amusing level of criminalit-ies, without actually having to deal with any of it firsthand. A good distance, the kind of proximity that lets you watch it like a television show, harmless and unreal.
One of my favorites illegal scams was the stripper(s) at the Bourbon Street joint(s) who would entice the traveler to go to her place for something a little “extra” only to lead him down towards Burgundy or Rampart where her “associate” would be waiting to rob the drunken guy blind. Hey, live and learn, you wanna get that drunk and that stupid…well… Was a time I used to hang out, wait, and watch the unsuspecting be led away…I took a few of their pictures actually, just for the fun of it…
Anyhow, one day I was hanging out, slow Sunday afternoon and I heard a clamor, and being sporting enough I looked down that half-block to see what was the matter…this was back during the build up to the Iraq War, GW hadn’t officially thrown out the first pitch yet but he, Rumsfield, Cheney and all those other assholes had been throwing warm ups for weeks and brother, opening day was coming! Turns out though, there were a number of people worldwide who thought the idiotic invasion of Iraq was kind of well, idiotic and a number of New Orleans residents were no different. That day, they’d decided to march against the war (don’t get me started on the ineffectiveness of political marches, really, don’t) and for some reason, the planners of that march thought Bourbon Street was a good place for their parade to head on down…
It wasn’t going well.
You see, a lot of people on Bourbon Street were rather intoxicated.
And a lot of intoxicated people on Bourbon Street thought invading Iraq was a swell idea.
So, I left the front of Molly’s and ambled on over to the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse, cigarette and beer in hand.
It was hot, really hot that day and the sweat, well, you know how you can swim in it, so I was trying to see through perspiring eyes and the parade was loose, the people marching were having fun, but they were taking it from all sides. Being so soon after 9-11, this was a particularly patriotic time for the country and anger (fear) was at an all time high (remember the whole sealing up the cracks of your homes anthrax deal, in a French Quarter apartment…right!) Well, being a person who errs on the side of logic, has a lot of anger of my own and kind of thought this whole Iraq thing was a bit incorrect, I sidled up between a woman dressed in denim, big blonde hair and the reddest lipstick I’ve ever seen and a man who I assumed was her boyfriend, American flag t-shirt, cop sunglasses and a red bandanna wrapped tight round his sunburned head.
There appeared to be a conflict of philosophy going on.
The couple thought the protest marchers were incorrect in their belief system, felt they hadn’t thought it completely through and they were eager to help these wayward souls understand the error of their thought process… that, and implying they all must be homosexuals, or a specific part of the female sexual anatomy who apparently had lost their way somewhere between Moscow and Beijing…communists of some sexual kind. Being fairly new to New Orleans, a place I liked and like very much, I was always trying to make new friends so I felt I might have something to add to this conversation, and holding up my beer between them, which drew their attention long enough for them to hold up their beers as well, I let fly… “Hey you reds, go back to fucking Zaire!”
The couple liked that, the guy clapped me on the back and we grinned together and took another drink of our prospective beers and the woman, she turned to me then and said something about teaching men who apparently find it comfortable to wear towels upon their heads a lesson, oh yes…a very important lesson, a lesson patriotic as fuck.
I took that opportunity to make eye contact, directly and intense as I could muster, which apparently worked for she looked directly into mine when I responded, “Whatever man, I’m just very pro-death, so war’s cool and all, really, guns and such but for me it’s all about the blood, a whole lot of blood.”
She looked at me then, questioning, but I smiled again to put her at ease and raised my beer, “Blood!”
It was about this time she took two distinct steps to the left, away.
I laughed, raised my eyebrows, maintained the eye contact, shrugged my shoulders and added, “Bloody violent as fucking possible, blood, blood, blood…”
Then I laughed again, and I went for my cigarettes.
By the time I lit one, they were gone. So, the moral of the story? Ain’t one really…except I suppose, love it or leave it, when you ask anyone what they think of when one mentions New Orleans, especially if they have never been there, they almost always say “Bourbon Street.”
That and the fact that the town runs a great deal on tourist dollars so all these killings/shootings on Bourbon Street of late, they gotta stop. And since every time I read about another shooting I seem to invariably hear “100 block of Bourbon” or whenever a club is mentioned, I read “Bourbon Street Blues Club,” which round my parts with the people who know the town, BBB club is one big fucking punch line to violent stupidity, and since I keep reading these things, it would seem how a constant police presence at the corner of Canal And Bourbon, and also at Bourbon St, halfway between Canal and Iberville might be a good idea. Oh, and Serpas? You probably want to put a few out front of the Bourbon Street Blues Club as well.
It’s a thought.
Because when I mentioned being pro-death, I was just trying to creep out a couple of drunken tourists, but these shootings, well they’re creeping out a lot more tourists than I ever could and that ain’t a good thing. Having lived in a lot of tourist cities, the toleration of their species kind of goes with the territory. Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans, I can think of a number of days I swung open my gate onto Royal Street, took one look at all the people in t-shirts and sandals and said, “Oh, hell no, not today…” and the gate slammed as I went back upstairs to my apartment.
Anyways, speaking of tourist destinations…love it or leave it and the subtle war between tourists and locals…I offer the following, which is just one of many songs mentioning places where tourists thrive, and where much of the locale might not want them to, but need them to anyway…New Orleans and San Francisco…and the tale of Operation Ivy’s end.
Rancid – Journey to the End of the East Bay
“Matty came from far away, From New Orleans into the East Bay He said this is a Mecca, I said this ain’t no Mecca man, this place’s fucked 3 months go by, he had no home, he had no food, he’s all alone Matty said fool me once shame on you, didn’t fool me twice He went back to New Orleans”
And if I told you how many times I listened to that song on Molly’s jukebox, beer in hand…you wouldn’t believe me. Okay, and please forgive me one more, for the sake of being momentarily egocentric…about the neighborhood in San Francisco I miss, a neighborhood I once worked and lived in…
Rancid – Tenderloin
Realize you’re dehumanized, you criticize your existence It’s your demise when no sun arise, when you’re paralyzed by your lack of resistance
She know she is, she knows she’s going, down below where the fire’s glowing… Tenderloin
The tricks she gets them she’s not a victim, she makes a list of them and reads them all alone For money she’s walking down on Larkin’, in the TL they’re rocking all night long…
See you soon, friends of both regions…
And astonishingly enough…the war I mentioned earlier in this post…who’d a thunk the blood would still be flowing, almost ten years later.
In a shocking development affecting both the Gulf Coast and the nation, BP joined in with GOP finger pointing and now argue if they are required to tighten their belts any further, the same goes for the rest of the Gulf too. The oil company argued their case in a 29 page document made public Friday and filed with both the GCCF and the White House.
The company says the free ride is over, the Gulf is vastly improved so the time for fiscal responsibility is now, lest any more than necessary from the $20 billion oil spill fund be handed out to claimants and real deficit reduction for the Gulf Coast and this country becomes endangered.
A GOP spokesman reiterated the company’s position, “Spending is out of control and must be curtailed so BP and other corporate clients do not have their privileges endangered. Jobs are needed now and a rise in taxes will only curtail job creation from oil platforms across the Gulf to servants’ quarters across the Hamptons. Claimants, BP argues, though suffering from oil spill damages must give up their fair share of compensation now, or the country’s fiscal solvency and their childrens’ futures will be placed at the brink.
Though Ken Feinberg and the White House did not give an official response, several aides who wished to remain unidentified spoke with reporters late Friday afternoon, “It would certainly seem unreasonable at this late stage to end these payments,” said one, “We gave the GOP their no-sue clause and the extension of the Bush tax cuts and they gave us nothing. If we were now to put on the table Social Security cuts, the future feasibility of interim payments, or extra compensation to oyster fishers or even Medicare and Medicaid, what possible leverage would we have?”
Another undisclosed aide offered, “Feinberg and Obama have all but said if the latest studies find people have been poisoned by the oil they will have no recourse to the GCCF and in doing so, have not only already saved BP millions more in potential damages, but hinted to Cantor, Boehner and the rest of the Tea Party faithful their willingness to put the interests of corporations and the top 1% far above the needs of everyday Americans, and in response to these concession, BP then demanded the whole negotiation be moved even further to the right, more cuts, more savings, and not a dollar more revenue, non-negotiable.”
“The GOP wants to argue that British Petroleum creates jobs and therefore should not have to be taxed the entire $20 billion dollars,” added another, “but the simple fact is British Petroleum’s present problems are their own fault. Like investment bankers demanding spending cuts and government protection from the effects of the recession they caused, BP and the GOP seem to think people without jobs, or who need additional assistance should suffer so BP CEO’s and stockholders can hang onto their tax loopholes and private jets. This argument should be a non-starter.”
Other people outside of the White House also weighed in on the latest developments, James Carville, caught by one reporter seethed, “This is ridiculous! They’ve only just started studies into the health of the Gulf Coast, the GOP has done nothing about creating jobs, fishermen are finding red snapper with lesions that the NOAA says should be handled with gloves, the brown shrimp season was pathetic, unemployment is up and the housing market continues to suffer, tourism hasn’t reached pre-spill levels, sand dollars and starfish are turning up dead, some Louisiana beaches are still closed, we still got places that need cleaning, lives that need fixing and people who need to be paid, all while restoration of the coast has yet to even begin and BP is arguing that things are fine, things are improving? Well, why don’t we just throw Bob Dudley into the still remaining oil in Barataria Bay, see if that son of a bitch will float? If Ken Feinberg and Barack Obama do anymore sacrificing of the safety net, neither one will win a second term. They will have finally sold out everyone they were supposed to protect and in doing so changed the entire value system of this country!”
But not everyone was so dismissive of a compromise. In a statement by now Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, uttered over steaks at Harry Carey’s, “Look, those Gulf Coast whiners can either get with the program or go the fuck home. We got an industry to save and a region that needs to learn the art of compromise. If they don’t like what our President and Ken Feinberg are doing to cover America’s butts and their futures, what are they gonna do, vote BP and GOP? I don’t fucking think so. Eat it, bitches…”
Despite continued White House talks outside of the public eye, it would appear negotiations have reached a standstill. British Petroleum and the GOP demand spending cuts their critics say will bolster the corporations and the wealthy at the expense of those harmed by the oil spill, and the elderly and by other Americans in need during this recession. Obama and Feinberg, seeming confident that they can work on their own legacies at the expense of same said Americans, appear to believe their core constituents will have no other option but to vote them a second term, no mater how painful the cuts they agree too might be.
In the opinion of this editor, it appears that both parties, and both BP and Feinberg make their decisions all while ignoring the clear polling numbers that say the majority of Americans believe the wealthy should pay higher taxes and BP should be forced to spend the entire $20 billion while entitlement programs and damages, both present and future should remain untouched and certainly not used as bargaining chips, demonstrating clearly how the GOP, BP, Barack Obama and Ken Feinberg continue to play legacy politics with peoples’ lives and futures at the behest of corporate interest in some sort of vacuum, where real people, American citizens are mere afterthought…no more than another batch of dead sand dollars washing up on the beaches of Florida.
Or, as Eric Cantor said about the tornado victims in Joplin, Missouri, any disaster assistance given to the victims, American citizens, will have to be offset by budget cuts elsewhere, or the emergency spending bill won’t be passed by Congress.
No longer breathing as citizens…be it the debt ceiling arguments by politicians, or disaster compensation by corporations and their employees, it would appear our function is that of a bargaining chip. The $20 billion dollar compensation fund, and the economy are there to be threatened by companies and politicians with persecution complexes, and an utter lack of respect for the suffering their decisions inflict on others.
I had initially planned to begin and end this post with one simple sentence, “Damn, the NOPD sucks, we knew that, but thanks for spelling it all out for us, in detail, just how much they suck…” But before I hit “publish,” I decided I should perhaps, elaborate on this so I did just that:
My former apartment in New Orleans was located at the corner of Royal and St. Ann. Yeah, another newbie moves to the city and sets up shop in the French Quarter, well, please don’t begrudge me my stereotype, I liked living in the Quarter and upon my return, it’s probably where I’ll choose to live again. Why not? I like a lot of noise, I keep odd hours and there’s a feeling there unlike any I’ve ever experienced, living in a museum so to speak…I should also note, I’m a white male, and being of such human classification in this part of New Orleans, who beyond certain political opinions and philosophies, has a clean record and doesn’t make a habit of breaking any serious laws, one might think that walking down Royal Street or up Decatur in the middle of the night, when a passing squad would hit the lights while it crept the streets, it would be of no concern. Wrong. I always, and still do feel that fast adrenaline jolt, and I also immediately look for the escape route.
It might sound overly dramatic, but I can’t help it.
And this response of mine, it brings me to the Department of Justice’s report on the NOPD…you wouldn’t think such reactions would be necessary, that my instincts wouldn’t take over and make such dramatic demands…especially in light of the report which states white males in the city of New Orleans are the only race and gender in the city the NOPD isn’t biased against. You’d think, but nonetheless those darker feelings always came over me quick, each and every time the squads lit it up and dashed the shadows with blue light…
So, if I feel this way about the NOPD, I can only imagine what it must be like for everybody else, the dismissing of complaints made by women, the unwarranted brutality, the racial profiling. The NOPD has a reputation that precedes them, and the many examples in the report show those reputations are hard-earned by years and years of their criminal behavior, leading to a public perception that the officers in New Orleans are best avoided by all.
I can think of many a time my friends and I would be sitting around a certain favorite haunt on St. Phillips and somebody would be discussing the occasional crime perpetrated against him or her, a break-in, a mugging, a stolen bike, etc…and inevitably someone would say the magic words, “Did you report it to the police?”
Such a question was always met with outright laughter. It was kind of an understanding we had that at best the NOPD wouldn’t catch anybody and at worst, whomever called would wind up in trouble when they ran his or her name for unpaid parking tickets or some other such minor offense that comes with the age and the time.
I don’t mean to imply there aren’t decent cops on the NOPD. I’m sure there are good officers on the force who are deserving of respect, much like the police in other places I’ve lived, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco, but the problem is I never really seem to run into those particular officers. In Chicago, it was because I was in the punk rock and anarchist scene and we were targeted. In Seattle, I was part of the Battle in Seattle down with the “just say no to the WTO” crowd, so we were targeted. In San Francisco, I lived in a neighborhood that was all homelessness, drugs and prostitution 24/7, and with my skin color in the middle of the night, I’d get targeted. A friend of mine in the social work world who also lived in the Tenderloin would commonly refer to it as being stopped for “walking while white.” The SFPD would seem almost disappointed I wasn’t on the street to buy crack or pick up a prostitute, that I actually lived there, by choice even.
But nervous around the NOPD? A white guy? In the French Quarter?
Simply put, the other understanding my friends and I shared was the NOPD could and would pretty much arrest anyone they felt like and once the NOPD arrests you, anything can happen. Law and due process are more of a pesky “guideline,” and one that can be ignored if you catch a cop in the wrong mood. The NOPD always had the reputation of being Wild West types who really played without any sort of rule book, and when they are the same ones to enforce any rules that do in fact exist, ultimately there are no rules beyond what they feel like at any given hour.
From the report:
Although the report identifies several instances of improper gun discharges by police — often in cases where officers shot at moving cars against NOPD policy — the department during the past six years has not found that any officer violated policy. Each of the homicide investigations into officer-involved shootings from January 2009 to April 2010 was “deeply flawed,” the report found.
Among the flaws:
Investigations were too cursory to determine whether the shooting was justified under the law, which requires that an officer perceive he or somebody else is in imminent danger of death or bodily injury.
Officers under investigation were temporarily assigned to the homicide division, a practice that seems to be a conflict on its face.
Sometimes, homicide detectives would tell the officer under investigation that his statement was being “compelled,” meaning his statement could never be used against the officer in a criminal prosecution.
“It is difficult to view this practice as anything other than a deliberate attempt to make it more difficult to criminally prosecute any officer in these cases, regardless of the circumstances,” the report contends.
Exactly…if the police who are in charge of policing the police, don’t actually police the police, not really, then nobody is safe from the whim or overzealous behavior of any particular officer…especially, like I previously mentioned, not anyone who isn’t a white male:
“The patterns of policing in New Orleans are biased against several demographic groups, including black residents, people who don’t speak English fluently, gay and transgendered people and women, the report says.”
Back at Rising Tide last August, many of us listened to Ronal Serpas, the new chief of the NOPD speak, and despite most of his comments sounding like canned portions of a politician’s stump speech (understandable as he was speaking to a room full of bloggers, fingers on the keyboard trigger), you also got the sense that maybe this guy, finally was someone who could be taken seriously…
Course, the NOPD was under his stead when the Krewe of Eris paraded down the street, and then closed down the Iron Rail…
Nonetheless, I do remember much of what he said, and I hold out hope that he was sincere and will really try to fix things, not that it will be easy…far from it, especially in a city with the levels of poverty that are found in New Orleans.
Okay, I would probably be remiss before I went on if I didn’t at least point out here something most people already understand, most people it would seem except for Republicans, and not just a few Democrats:
Poverty and crime are linked.
I know, I know, not especially groundbreaking, but you might be surprised by this fact if you spent the majority of your time being force-fed information by most mainstream media news outlets, especially the 24 hour news networks. And this is why Ronal Serpas’s job is going to become increasingly difficult, for not only must he work to fix the climate of the NOPD, he has to do this in an economic climate that is breaking the backs of the middle class and the poor, especially when politicians like Governor Jindal are balancing a budget in such a way that it slaps everyone across the face, repeatedly, unless you happen to be someone of higher means…
Ever here the old saying, “Hungry people don’t stay hungry for long?”
Well, the middle class and poorer neighborhoods in New Orleans are getting hungrier by the year.
Jindal’s new budget cuts back on health care for the poor. It cuts education programs for at-risk youth. It dramatically increases costs for higher education. When the city and state already had a dramatic need for social service programs and assistance for its residents, and the governor responds by cutting back, every year on what is already not enough, well, the end results ain’t gonna be good.
Not to mention a charter school system that funnels poor kids or kids with behavioral problems, precisely those who need the best supplies and the most attention from teachers, into the schools that don’t have the resources to give due attention to their needs…
Not to mention Obama cutting LIHEAP energy assistance funds, which keep the lights on for thousands of people across the city…
Not to mention a Congress that would seem to like nothing more than steal the lunch money from a kid on his way to school so they could give it to their friends, and their K Street friends’ friends.
Jindal says all these cuts are necessary, one reason being because Jindal won’t raise taxes on business, while on a national level, they become suppoisedly necessary because Obama bought in to extending tax breaks for the wealthy…
The working middle class and the poor?
Well, you’re just going to have to do what you can…
And like any city across the country, as in New Orleans, what do you think some of the “what you can” will entail?
So yes, the NOPD’s gonna have an even bigger job to do. Here’s hoping that Serpas can do what he said, change the police climate because the items in this report speak directly to a climate of in-house crime, especially when officers break the law by covering for other officers, or setting up the system of investigation to be a roadblock to the very same internal investigations meant to assess wrong-doing…Now, to be fair, the NOPD has made a start, essentially decriminalizing minor possession of marijuana to free up officers’ time to pursue more serious crime. A college degree is now required to advance up the NOPD ladder. And along with accepting this investigation by the DOJ, a federal judge will be overseeing the actions of the NOPD.
It’s a small start, but it must continue.
Maybe, along with giving the keys back to the people at the ARK building in the Marigny, the NOPD could start to earn back the citizens’ trust by arresting every person in business or government whose decisions set the stage for more economic suffering in the poorer neighborhoods across the city?
Yeah, probably not…
Changing the inner operations of the NOPD, all the way down to the cops walking the street would certainly be a positive and it is so very necessary for the safety of the city. It will take time, but imagine a day when the NOPD does the job the right way, and not just because a judge is watching. Imagine a time when the average citizen, no matter the skin color or gender has the honest expectation they will be respected by an officer in the NOPD, simply because that’s the norm.
It could happen…why not?
Personally, it’d be nice this time round to not have a flight instinct when I see police lights circling behind me on a dark French Quarter street, let alone anywhere else in the city of New Orleans. This place is just too amazing for that, it deserves much better than its gotten and it has deserved it for years. I don’t care what district you’re in, all people are deserving of protection and respect by the police.
And nobody should need protection from the police, ever.
So good luck Ronal…here’s hoping you mean what you said when you promised to take the DOJ report seriously. Maybe you can even be one of the first officials in the entire country to seriously try to do something about the problems of climate change, even if it’s only the climate inside your own department.
I come before you today to say that the era of rationality is dead.
What do I mean?
Being rational has led to hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes. Being rational has led to the hyper-inflated salary of CEO’s such as Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America. Being rational has led to crumbling infrastructures, the failings of the levees in New Orleans and the abandonment of Charity Hospital in favor of a huge medical complex that takes even more of your money and destroys a residential neighborhood. Being rational has led to the privatization of water supplies, the destruction of health care, your schools and local business. Being rational has led to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Politicians, they love when the American public is rational, so does Wall Street, the insurance companies, and your local police department.
Let me give you an example…
In San Francisco a number of years back, on the anniversary of one of those wars, there was quite the large to-do. Thousands of citizens engaged in a march and rally against the war. The organizing groups applied for the proper permits, stated the appropriate times when it would begin and when it would end. The San Francisco Police Department ushered the crowd along, down Market Street on the pre-planned parade route from the Embarcadero Plaza to the Civic Center in front of City Hall where music was played, vendors sold food and you could even buy the T-shirt to say you were there…
It was entirely rational and everybody was happy, festive, engaged and…nothing.
Nothing happened, a bit of television coverage, and nothing else.
The wars went on, the people went out to dinner, to the bars, home to try to see themselves on television that night.
But here’s a different kind of example…
In Chicago a couple of years back, at Republic Windows and Doors, this factory was set to close down. The employees were all issued their walking papers, they were told to leave, they were given nothing…and they went nowhere. They occupied the factory, they said they weren’t leaving, not until their demands were met, demands that included severance pay, health care…options. The community of Chicago rallied behind them, brought them food, made a spectacle and five days later each employee walked out with severance pay and extended health care.
Those employees were not being rational.
Couple of years ago during a May-day parade, again in the city of San Francisco…there was a hidden group amongst the marchers heading down Market Street and they had a plan. They told nobody about their plan. They didn’t ask for permission. They didn’t apply for permits. At the right time, and the right place, while the SFPD were occupied elsewhere, they stole into the business district, took advantage of the street layout, blocked traffic by rolling dumpsters into the street and began smashing the windows of the GAP, Urban Outfitters, Pottery Barn and several others. They then dashed back to the downtown alleyways, changed back into street clothes and walked away. The news media was all over it. It was a story for days. People talked about it at home, at work, both negative and positive. None of the activists were ever caught, and over time they have become legends inspiring hundreds of other people into active participation, either other activists or the hundreds of tourists who watched their movements and went back home, across the country and perchance, dared to ask why it happened?
These people were not being rational.
So, rationality or irrationality…which methods make the difference?
Well, was Ghandi being rational? How about Martin Luther King or Malcolm X? How about our founding fathers, were they being rational? How about the union members and activists in Seattle who shut down the meetings of the World Bank, were they being rational?
When those thousands of people marching in protest to war in San Francisco those years back, what if they had suddenly turned right and headed off the pre-planned parade route, would that have been rational? What if they had not stopped at the lawn before City Hall, what if they had gone straight through the door and occupied City Hall, would that have been rational?
Nope, but it would have been more interesting, inspiring and done more for people and their belief in their own power than just buying a t-shirt and having a story to tell…a boring story.
These are not rational times, and they are not rational times because the American people have been cowed into rationality by economic and terrorist fear, fear for their families, their homes, that last bit of the American Dream that Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, that James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley have so far been unable to take away from you…oh, but they’re trying and yes, they are winning… for in the White House, in the Commerce Department and in the Federal Treasury sit their co-workers and former employees, all busy at work trying to find a way to help them do it, to you, right now.
You didn’t vote for them. No, you voted for change, for the Audacity of Hope and what did you get?
You got proposed austerity cuts and tax cuts for the wealthy. You got the state of Arizona denying life saving medical procedures to people who have since died. And why did they die? Because they couldn’t afford the required medical procedure to live.
So how about you…can you afford to live?
Can you afford to be irrational?
What does being irrational even mean?
What does it mean to me, a disenfranchised citizen, now…today?
That doesn’t matter. What does matter is, what does irrationality mean to you? And in coming up with a definition, what can you dream up, alone, in your communities, in your families…and then what will you do about it?
Because the people of rational belief…oh yeah, they’re doing it, twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week, even as you read this, while none of the powers that be are doing much, if anything to stop them. America is a fire sale and every last one of you, every last one of your kids is on display, on the shelf, discounted, and the rational are greedy and they are buying wholesale in the store that don’t close, ever.
Not unless you close it down, irrationally.
Dream it up, and do it…we’re left with little choice because the rational, both democrats and republicans have set the social contract on fire and the only thing that can put out the flames are you.