Wednesday, January 27, 2010

they got nothin': the prop 8 trial

Over at Pam's House Blend, see how the Prop 8 defense's star witness crumbles under cross examination:

He admitted marriage is a "public good" and that marriage would benefit gays and lesbians, their children and society at large.

He also testified (text below as shown on screen):

· "Gay marriage would extend a wide range of the natural and practical benefits of marriage to many lesbian and gay couples and their children."

· "Extending the right to marry to same-sex couples would probably mean that a higher proportion of gays and lesbians would choose to enter into committed relationships."

· "Same-sex marriage would likely contribute to more stability and to longer-lasting relationships for committed same-sex couples."

· "Same-sex marriage might lead to less sexual promiscuity among lesbians and (perhaps especially) gay men."

· "Same-sex marriage would signify greater social acceptance of homosexual love and the worth and validity of same-sex intimate relationships."

· "Gay marriage would be a victory for the worthy ideas of tolerance and inclusion. It would likely decrease the number of those in society who tend to be viewed warily as 'other' and increase the number who are accepted as part of 'us.' In that respect, gay marriage would be a victory for, and another key expansion of, the American idea."

Geez. Those who want to deny gay civil rights don't even believe their own hateful crap.
oh, the time suck.
enjoy The 50 Most Racist Movies.
(some of which i actually enjoyed, at one time!)

(isn't that an interesting thing? you can derive enjoyment from something that is also racist, which does not negate said racism. i think that's interesting.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The feedback from my latest post has been great, here and at Bitch.
And, yes.  This is all going somewhere.  Frak the Trashy Novel. My family's fodder enough.

Thanks for listening, all 12 of you.

Delia Christina

Friday, January 22, 2010

this american marriage

If the past month and a half had been a play, my family and I would be together for a holiday gathering. We would live in a rambling old Victorian, a la August: Osage County, and M- would be an owl-eyed guest, utterly clueless to the cracks in our family facade.

At some point during the 2nd course, my sister and her husband’s obvious unhappiness would spill into the gravy, dragging the holiday spirit into the fire and sending ashes over the rest of us. Revelations would be made; hypocrisies exposed. Confessions spat out. Identities and roles would be forever reversed.

And I, the family black sheep, would emerge the well-adjusted one.

Because if I (anti-authoritarian, knee-jerk, shrill, tarty, boozy, feminist and well stocked with pharma) am well-adjusted, then you know some serious shit has hit the fan.

‘I had an affair,’ my sister L- said. Her text message had sounded urgent so I was huddled in the guest bathroom of a friend’s house with a glass of wine and my mobile, waiting for her to spill it. ‘The guilt was killing me so I had to tell him.’
‘Jesus Christ. You *told* him?? Why the fuck did you tell him?’ All I could think about were all those Dateline episodes of cheated upon husbands who killed their wives, dumping their bodies in places like the La Brea tar pits or a shrubby ravine somewhere in the canyons.

‘There’s more.’
‘Jesus fucking Christ, L-. If you tell me you got pregnant I will fly to LA and take you to Planned Parenthood myself.’
‘I couldn’t if I tried.’ Sniffle.
‘I don’t get it.’

‘It was a woman. I had an affair with a woman.’


My office phone rang yesterday and my father was on the other end. When he told me what he told me, at least he asked permission first.

I groaned. ‘Geez, dad. Every time you tell me something I need a drink after. Why can’t you write it in your journal and I can read it when you die?’

My family has always had secrets. My father’s family secrets read like a black southern gothic: drug use, prostitution, child abuse, mental instability, ‘passing,’ sexual abuse, old-time religion, and denial. Everywhere, denial.

On my mother’s side there’s just a giant question mark. In a reversal of the usual Filipino immigrant narrative, my mother never tried to bring over any of her family. While they wrote often, it was clear my mother’s family was glad to see my mom over here and keep themselves over there. When they wrote my father at the news of her death they said how sorry they were. They also said they were sorry for the hard life my mother had had in the islands and that they were glad she was finally at peace.

The reason for sending her away was never made clear to either my sister or me. If my father knew, he kept my mother’s secret. At least, that secret. Her other secret she was willing to spill on her own.

My sister and I had both been in college when, one afternoon, my sister was home, watching Geraldo with my mother. It was an episode about biological mothers being reunited with the children they had given up for adoption.

Mom nudged my sister. ‘That’s me.’
‘That’s me. Before you and your sister, I had to give up a baby. You have another sister.’
My sister watched the rest of the episode with tears in her eyes. A week later she told me while we were walking down Bruin Walk, on our way to sell back out books at the end of the quarter. We were both laughing and crying while all I could say was ‘What the fuck? What the fuck?!’

Somewhere out there, we have an older Filipino/Hungarian half-sister. With every tv show about reuniting families, I feel a lump of dread. I don’t want to know her. I don’t want her to find us; the family I grew up with is all I need. Or so I thought. Barely three weeks into the new year, it is becoming clear that the family I have may not resemble the family I grew up with.

Back in my office, my father’s voice thickened over the phone.
‘I just don’t want you to hate your mother or me. Don’t hate your daddy.’
‘Dad, I could never. There is shit in everyone’s life. I have shit in my life. I just don’t tell you because, you know –boundaries.’
There was a short bit of silence then he said, ‘Do you remember when your mother stopped sleeping in the bedroom?’
‘When she slept on the couch for two years? I always thought that was menopause.’
‘Menopause? I never thought of that.’ His voice got all viscous again. ‘Your mom and I had stopped being intimate for a long while. She just wasn’t interested in all that anymore. So I had a same sex affair with – ‘

‘Do not tell me.’ I could guess who it was and even if I couldn’t I didn’t want to go back to Los Angeles and bump into my father’s ex-gay lover and actually know it. If it was who I thought it was, my anger toward him had a different source and I wanted to keep that with me. I didn’t want it clouded with empathy or sympathy.

‘Your sister…she’s like your mom but she’s like me.’ He added. ‘Why do you think I’ve always said I’ll never marry another woman after your mom?’

I’ve always known this. Well, I’ve known this since my mother died. I’ve known that my father was curious, was testing the bars of his cage. My friends had always suspected my father was gay and we had laughed about it over wine after every visit. Even now, my friends are sending me joking messages: “OMFG! We knew it! He was too well-dressed for an old guy!”

And so the faded, sepia-tinted mental photos I carried in my head about my family have begun to curl and crisp around the edges. I predict that in about 6 months, they will be all but ash and I will have new, more complicated images of my family and my childhood to carry with me.

What is it about marriage? What is it that squeezes the life out of a person? I’m not talking about partnership or love or devotion. I’m not even talking about cohabitation. I’m talking about the whole blinking thing. The Marriage. What about it turns those who believe in it into clichéd versions of 19th century domestic dramas?

I can’t decide if my sister is experiencing The Awakening or Madame Bovary; my father is wobbling in some kind of Maurice of his own and I’m looking at both of them wondering if any of this would be happening to them if they hadn’t been married in the first place. What did marriage force them to postpone?

There is something wrong with the way our culture packages, practices and defines marriage. Maybe it’s the presumption of monogamous heterosexuality. Maybe it’s the irrational investment the rest of us feel when it comes to someone else’s marriage. I found myself resisting the fact that my sister’s marriage was not the perfectly manicured Garden of Marital Bliss. When she told me they had been having trouble for seven years, the voice in my head whined, ‘Nooooo!’ When she paused after I asked her if she still loved her husband, I answered for her. ‘Of course you do! You do!’

Why try and push her to say that everything was fine when everything was SO NOT fine?

I had been proud of the marriage my sister had made. I was proud of the fact that she and her handsome husband had proven all of the statistics wrong. I loved the optics of their marriage. They were professional, brown, young, attractive, educated, smart, popular, wholesome, Catholic, and socially liberal/fiscally conservative; they had bright, gorgeous Black-y-Mex-y-Pino kids. They were the perfect foil against our low-income childhoods in South Central and Santa Monica. I loved that I could compare my wacky life to it and say to myself, ‘Their marriage makes my un-marriage necessary.’

But the pride I’d taken in their marriage makes me complicit in its disintegration. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who took emotional and visual pleasure in their marital status. Both families saw them as a way of correcting the past. We heaped such expectations on them – not to be like our parents, to do things the ‘right’ way. So when my sister cries out that she feels like she is being crushed and her husband says his loneliness is killing him, I feel as if our families’ (and friends’) desire for someone to have that perfect marriage has been yet another weight upon their chests.

In my office I had been on the phone with my father for almost an hour, looking at the river, listening to his gay affair confession and his notion that all marriage reaches an inevitable point of impasse. It was depressing as hell to hear and to think that my father could only become the fuller person that he is now after his wife died. Is that what it takes to be happy and authentic? For your spouse to fucking die off?

‘LB (my brother in law) wants to have a three-way with you and me,’ my dad said.
‘What the hell?!’ I said. Had my brother in law snapped? Was he reaching out for any freaky opportunity for retaliation at my sister?
‘He really needs to talk to someone, Del. He’s been calling me for the past three days and I think he’d like to talk with you, too.’
‘Dad, the term is ‘conference call.’ He would like to have a conference call with us. Jesus.’
‘That’s what I meant, girl!’

I let it go.

I’m going to have to let everything go. Just like they are.

[Updated to change the title.]

ideas (and preparation) matter: cook county board president candidate forum

Last night I went to the Cook County President Candidate forum sponsored by local domestic violence and sexual violence orgs and I have never had such a stupendously clear example of how *not* to present yourself to an important constituency.  It was really disappointing that not a single GOP candidate (or Dem O'Brien) mustered the energy to attend.  While there may have been legitimate reasons why they were absent (hey, I know schedules can get weird) they've left the women in that packed room no choice but to say to folks, "XX Candidate doesn't give a shit about violence against women."

Is that an unfair characterization?  Perhaps.  Too bad they weren't there to counter it.

Should the Cook County President even care about violence against women?  Considering how domestic and sexual  violence impacts the women/girls and LGBTQ community in this county, and how we may/may not be accessing services through the public healthcare system or may/may not be interacting with law enforcement - yes, the Cook County President should goddamn care how a public health/safety issue is impacting at least 1/4 of the goddamn population.

(You can read my Tweets about it last night here.)

What I learned last night:

1. The importance of a good moderator:  Kimbriell Kelly was awesome.  She didn't let candidates get away with anything.  When Stroger drifted into generalities, she pressed him for specifics and clarification.  When Brown tried to rest on her laurels about funding, she rode Brown to lay out a specific implementation plan to counter violence against women.  When Tresser just looked nuts and repeated himself about fighting corruption and waste, she pretty much called that a red herring.  And, yes, she also pressed Preckwinkle to be more specific about best practices.

2. The importance of having good ideas:  I would gladly stand next to Tom Tresser in a protest.  The guy is relentless.  He fought against the Olympic bid (yay!), the Oprah show (huh?) and has been a non profit leader, a social justice activist and community activist for years.  I bet he even buys organic vegetables.  But as a candidate he is a disaster.  I have no doubt he wants reform in our county gov't and that it needs reform.  But while the spirit is willing, his talk is crazy.  Ideas matter.  Having a few would be a good idea.

When he said that he would defund the sheriff's department as a response to the practice of shackling female prisoners while they give birth, Brown gave him a 'you are so crazy' side glance that made the two back rows snort aloud.  That's your idea, Tom?  Really?  You're going to stand by that?

Speaking of Brown: it's true the county needs cash.  (Take a close look at CTBA's analysis of the county system, sometime.)  But if your only viable problem-solving solution, with the exception of establishing task forces and committees, is to source revenue then why call yourself President?  Why not just run for the Chief Development and Revenue Officer, or something like that?  I don't see the flexibility in her thinking.

It was disappointing that no one had a sufficient answer to my question: how would they prepare county providers for the fallout should a state budget fail to materialize?

I know that Stroger has become sort of a walking joke in this town - and last night did nothing to dispel it.  The guy is checked out.  He looked disengaged from the entire process.  His answers were defensive, vague and lacking in specifics.  Did anyone prepare him at all for that forum?  I mean, give the guy a fact sheet on the issue, for god's sake.  The only fire he showed was when he snapped on Brown for saying he didn't sit on a certain com'tee.  'My representative sits on that com'tee for me,' he snitted.  Brown snitted back and for a couple of minutes it was like being at a Sunday dinner with some crazy deacons.

Jesus Christ, this is what we have to work with.

3. The importance of knowing what the hell you're talking about - and who actually gets the work done: This is Toni Preckwinkle's strength.  I don't know if she's a fast learner or knew this stuff before, but for every question she answered she gave an example of a best practice.  When asked what they've done to combat violence against women, the only thing Stroger could say was he implemented a program to tow johns' cars in the act of soliciting.  Preckwinkle pointed to the excellent work of a program called End Demand and detailed what they did and how she supports programs like that in order to shift the burden away from arresting protitutes which doesn't do anything except to further destabilize women.  That's a smart answer.  That's an answer that shows some little study; it shows a more flexible way of thinking about domestic trafficking - and it's an acknowledgment that domestic violence and sexual violence orgs actually do the work bloated municipalities can't.

She plays to her strength which is knowing what's happening on the ground.  Why couldn't Tom (who's on the ground) articulate that?  If the county is strapped it's going to have to rely more on community orgs to deliver services for it.  She sees that the county is going to have to become more of a facilitator of services and in order to do that, you need the right ideas and the right folks in place to get that done.

(And no. I have never paid Toni Preckwinkle this much attention before last night. She always seemed kind of crabby when I spoke with her.)

4.  If they can do it, so can you: Swear to god, if these people can run for office, show up completely out of their depth, spout inanities and get away with it, so can you.  But don't do what they do.  Be better than they are.  Apply for training with  Or go to a DFA training.  Or register with The White House Project.  Study your issues.  Raise some cash.  Just be better than they are. 

Please.  For the love of our democracy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Book of Eli: Or, Yay for the Chinese!

(spoilers galore)

So The Book of Eli is a post-apocalyptic fable about faith, the Word and, ultimately, the triumph of the printing press.  Sure, Denzel has the knife, the mystical connection to The Book, defends women from predation, and can shoot a vulture from the sky with his handy bow and arrow. But believe me, the real hero of this flick is the printing press. (Which was invented by the Chinese! See? Get it??)

You can read this film in one of two ways: a religious fable about the enduring nature of the Word to triumph over godless evil or the triumph of humanism and western culture over the petty wrangling of global illiteracy and ignorance.

No doubt, Eli is a religious-ish man on a quest to save The Book. He prays. He resists the blandishments of the flesh; while kicking ass, he quotes Scripture, murmuring about accountability in the afterlife after shoving some dude’s nose into his skull; he reads the Book every night and protects it with his life. He gruffly explains to Solara (Mila Kundis) that faith is going where you don’t know where to go. (Or something like that. Whatever. It’s about as clear as ‘belief in things that are unseen.’)
The irreligious psycho Carnegie (Oldham) is also a man of faith. Carnegie is a man with a vision; he is a man who recognizes the patterns and traditions of prayer but wants to exploit it, in much the same way he exploits the fresh water springs he hides or the flesh of his blind concubine’s daughter.

The Word in The Book of Eli is an intangible and elusive thing, which makes me wonder if those calling this movie a piece of religious propaganda ever went to Sunday School. We actually don’t see much of its religious power. No one worships, no one preaches. Mostly, the Word (and the faith that it is supposed to represent) is a nice relic from the Old World, before the war. It is, however, particularly effective when you’re about to kick ass or have yours kicked. Literally embodying the scripture that says the word of God must be written in your heart and mind, Eli quotes the Book from memory. Quoting the Word separates him from those in Carnegie’s world.

But Carnegie knows the Book, too. Aptly named, he is part post-apocalyptic land baron and part religious ringmaster and old enough (like Eli) to remember that religion is used as a force of social control. With the Book, you don’t need henchmen, guns or weapons. The Book itself is a weapon to manipulate and soothe the ravaged populace into submission. This sounds familiar enough to me, with the likes of Pat Robertson and other crazy religious leaders going around urging violence on a god’s behalf today. In fact we learn that the cataclysmic event that burned the earth and turned people blind and sick was perhaps caused by a religious conflict, which led to the eradication of all books (especially religious books.)

In the movie’s climactic fight scene, Carnegie forces Eli to relinquish the Book and misquotes scripture as he fires a bullet into Eli’s belly to prove he is just a man and not the physical embodiment of the Word. It seems the Word has been defeated by gangrenous capitalism.

But it’s in the film’s last 10-15 minutes that the alternate reading of this film becomes clear. The Book itself is a burden. Once he is free of the oversized, leather-bound and locked Book, Eli remembers that it is not the doctrine of the Book that matters but the internalization of its message: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. He reduces the whole of the Bible to manners. (Eli’s manners, by the way, are impeccable.) In sum, the Word is about being kind to one another. Carnegie, meanwhile, takes the Book, struggles to unlock it and discovers it is all in Braille. (Neat twist! Eli is blind but he can ‘see’! How…like a parable he is.) Carnegie’s blind concubine refuses to read it to him and his corrupt world descends into chaos. We last see the Book laying open, unread and useless on Carnegie’s desk.

As a spiritual document, the Book is useless but in the hands of those who are trying to preserve the printed legacy of Western culture (or any remaining culture at all) the memorized verses of the Bible are priceless. On a fortified Alcatraz, Eli recites the Book to an erstwhile cultural librarian who writes it all down and then prints it on an old school printing press. Eli’s version of the Bible is then bound and put on a shelf next to a copy of the Koran, the Talmud and other religious books.

So the sum of religious conflict and doctrine lands on a shelf on a shattered island in the hands of a few bibliophiles and blind Eli is dead, swathed in a white robe and shaved bald, literally becoming the Monk he was meant to be.

As for the Word? I doubt the culturally literate are keeping the books and pieces of art in an armed Alcatraz to create an afterschool literacy program. Keeping the artifacts of culture away from the rabble is a nice jab at cultural elites (folks like us?) and neatly rewrites the revolutionary power of the printing press – which actually removed literacy from the sole province of the privileged. The only other person who followed Eli is an illiterate urchin (Solara) who sets off toward home, carrying Eli’s damaged iPod, his sword and, we presume, his Word: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Upon this rock perhaps the world will be rebuilt. Amen.

a tardy post for MLK day

So I’m in a café yesterday, relishing in Dr. King’s holiday – and the day off it affords me. Yeah, I could do some volunteering but I work my arse off for a women’s org that empowers women and eliminates racism every day. I think I can do with a day off from official do-gooding.

So I’m reading the paper some guy left behind and two stories jump out at me: the one about Matisha Goens who left her 8 mo-old baby at a police station on the south side and the one about the additional costs gay couples incur just to have the bare minimum of privileges straight couples get to have.

Some questions prompted by the Matisha Goens story:
Why are we criminalizing this young mother for doing exactly what she ought to have done (rather than keep her child and risk future abuse and neglect) when it’s clear that more needs to be done to fix a system of care that is overburdened and lacks the necessary capacity for young parents like Goens?

Though she’s being charged with a misdemeanor and not a felony, how will Goens receive the help she needs? If she becomes a mother again, how will she build the skills to be a safe and nurturing mother?

One solution might be something called the Young Parents Program (funded through the Ounce of Prevention) that seeks to give young parenting women the skills and capacity to mother -- and which could prevent what happened to Goens from happening to other young mothers. Through this program, young mothers attend regular support groups, gain parenting skills (which aren’t intrinsic behaviors, incidentally), are visited regularly by program counselors, are observed and taught to be better mothers. If young mothers experience high levels of stress, feelings of isolation and depression, this program helps these young women develop coping skills and regain their confidence in their abilities to mother their children – which also helps them make crucial decisions to strengthen their childrens’ lives. They can see the possibility to attend school or find better employment rather than see no other way out than to leave their children at a police or fire station.

But if our state’s budget takes another header into the toilet, this program goes away – much like it did for 3 mightmarish months last summer when the FY10 state budget proved inadequate and the Ounce lost the funding it needed to keep this program running. As our state’s fiscal crisis spirals further out of control, and our leaders refuse to take action, stories like Matisha’s will become more common.

Another question:  Why don’t we listen to young women who express their doubts about motherhood? It’s rather clear (to me, anyway) that Goens knew she didn’t have the wherewithal for early motherhood. Her own mother says Goens had expressed doubts about her pregnancy and her ability to mother; she had talked about adoption but her mother thought it would get better once the baby arrived.

(I can’t even deal with the kind of wacky logic that is.)

Goens became more depressed and isolated during her pregnancy and had, once she gave birth, had already tried to give away her baby. Why didn’t anyone listen to her? Why are we in the habit of discounting what young women tell us about their own situations?

If a young woman says she can’t handle motherhood, don’t you think she knows this better than others? Beyond this instance, if a young woman expresses doubt about her ability to be pregnant, to be a mother, why in the world don’t we take her at her word and get her what she says she needs in order to alleviate the problem? (And yes, I’m also talking about access to reproductive services like abortion.)

I often make fun of the decision-making skills of teenagers (whose decision-making centers in their brains aren’t finished developing yet) but when it comes to this, I’m willing to give them a benefit of the doubt.

And just a short statement about today’s piece in the Trib about the legal hoops same-sex couples have to jump through just to have the bare minimum of straight people’s legal rights:

When the world works ONE way to the marked benefit of a significant population, it should work the exact same way for everyone else.

That’s what justice is.
That’s what civils rights are.

And anything else is bullshit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What I Learned This Week

1.  I learned 6 strategies and tactics that should help me on the market this year (through these folks) - and simultaneously learned that I've been wasting valuable time on my jobsearch.  Oh, and I finally learned what 'personal branding' meant.  (Do you have an interview bucket list?  Me neither!!  Do you have your communication strategy in place?  I don't!)

2.  I learned that I have a short fuse when it comes to gathering consensus.  It's so clear to me what an action plan should be and it pains me to have to wait until other, dithering folks come around.  In other words, I don't frakking care.  You want something done, or don't you?  Then *do* it.

A note:  if you are a non profit taking an advocacy position you are afraid your Board will not support, take the time to cultivate and engage them on the issue; not doing this leads to vague, unclear, ineffective communication,  your advocacy efforts die on the vine, and your Board becomes a hindrance rather than a help.  They individually may not be 'for' tax increases, but the services your agency delivers relies on increased state revenue - which comes from taxes and which impacts the folks you serve.  Effective issue advocacy can't happen unless you have a Board willing to 'get' it.

3.  I've also learned that we (i.e., the U.S., the 'West', France, the industrialized world) have royally, historically screwed over Haiti; the teeny bit of aid we're sending over there is a drop of relief in a vast ocean of FUBAR we (the U.S.) have left them to drown in.

For example:
However, due to the fact that France and its allies (including the United States) forced Haiti to make reparations to French slaveholders in 1852 in the amount of 90 million gold francs ($21 billion today), Haiti was forced to pay France for the next one hundred years for its independence and has subsequently become the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. (here)

100 years to pay rich countries $21 billion.  What the HELL is that?!

4.  I've learned how important it is to be authentically You.  (This isn't about me, but about folks in general, and women of color in particular, so maybe this is about me. But it isn't really.  It really was prompted by something happening to someone else. Really.)

I thought being an academic was my authentic self; but my years with a coach and a therapist showed me how it never felt authentic to me at all and was a burden to me for a long time.  For years, thinking about being an academic, and then not being an academic, gave me panic attacks.  Authenticity isn't supposed to send you into panic.  Sure, am I a smarty pants?  Yes.  But this right now is my authentic self - a self that couldn't exist without that other one.

My 66-yr old father is finally discovering his 'authentic self' and it has nothing to do with being a pastor, father, grandfather or whatever other box we've put him in.  (His journey has made me closer to him and I can only hope my sister can make it through her journey of finding her authentic self - beyond 'Good Wife' or 'Dutiful Daughter.')

5.  It's also freaking hard to eat only 1400 calories a day - especially during a Chicago winter.  And having a boyfriend is great but hanging out with him watching old horror movies. LOST and Dr. Who is making my ass spread (hey! don't be dirty); add to that the stress of work and the few pounds I'd shed creep back.  Dude.  I need to get back on track.  Deciding how to spread 1400 calories over a full work day without feeling ravenous by the time I get home is fucking hard.

But I also have to be ok with myself.  Getting to the other side of 200 will be a long-term commitment.  I'm not going to get it right all the time but, eventually, I'll get there.

6.  Speaking of M-, I've learned that I've chosen my choice.  He's on my team now.  I'm learning what it takes to be One instead of Two.  And, yes, it's just as wrenching as I thought it would be.

Shit.  I'm going to be late.  M- is coming over for movies and whatnot.  Gotta go and pick up some beer.
(Damn! There go my 1400 calories.)
The text in that Twitter gadget is too light.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010: already some choppy waters

Already, the new year is crazy.

Really, Rod? You're 'blacker' than the POTUS? I guess, for this guy, race and class are all the same.
Really, FOX?  I'll just let this speak for itself:

Her substantive deficiencies, even more dramatic than those that had previously been reported: her lack of understanding about why there are two Koreas, her ignorance about the function of the Federal Reserve, her belief that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

I guess there really aren't any standards left, at all.

And, really, Harry Reid?  But then, who in the world is surprised that some elderly guy from Nevada thinks this way?  I mean, come on!  On the other hand, isn't he really talking about code-switching? And most of us folks of color do it.  Or maybe he really is saying that some black fella could never  be president unless he was high yella and talked proper, I don't know.  I'm not an old white guy. 

But did anyone catch Liz Cheney on This Morning on Sunday? Good lord, the balls on her.  She actually said that this was the way 'liberal elites' talked to each other because no one she knows would speak this way.  It was a neat move:  acknowledge the problematics (but not really because no one around that table with the exception of the bearded guy was thinking about anything other than intent rather than impact) but throw the onus of Raqcism on the liberals.  (Not to say that libs on the left always get race right. Hello, Clintons during the primary.)  Kudos to her for that flexible piece of racial/linguistic gymnastics.

(Ta-Nehisi Coates has an aside on it here. Which you've probably already read because I'm late with this.)

Anyway, the legislative session starts today in Springfield. (God, I hate going down to Springfield.  I hate that there's only one train in/out of that place; I hate that the office maps make no sense whatsoever and I hate that it's so dingy and small and if you miss the 5 pm train, you're basically screwed.)

This session is going to be a hard one.  No one wants to take responsibility for the massive crisis Illinois is facing.  Gov Quinn is trying to do the right thing but he's so...un-smooth, he makes himself an easy target for both the GOP and Hynes.  And his tone-deaf mishandling of the last budget cycle did not leave a good taste in anyone's mouth.  Hynes is doing the best he can and has an inside view of the toilet our state budget is in, and how human services is on the bubble - since his office has about $5 billion in unpaid bills to address.  His plan is modest but, of course, since it relies on increasing taxes, the GOP is going to eat him alive.

[Update: I've heard some scuttlebutt that Hynes' plan to fix things is actually more far-reaching, and potentially painful to human services, than previously expected.  Drastically slimming down human services?? I'll have to follow up on that with some folks I know.]

And what's the IL GOP doing?  Not a single GOP candidate seems to have a realistic clue about the budget.  They all think it's only a matter of structural bloat and not of debilitating structural debt that needs revenue.  We don't have $13 billion in cuts to make in our budget.  If you try to cut $13 billion you start cutting into essential services, like education, medical care, public safety, etc.

A GOP Rep was on Chicago Tonight last week (I met him once - a nice, sincere, faith kind of guy) but when he said that the first priorities for any budget was for things like critical infrastructure like education, healthcare and public safety, I wanted to say, 'Who do you think does that work??' 

Who addresses issues of access and quality education in this state?  Non profits.  Who operates a gamut of services that provide medical care and health care access to communities?  Non profits.  Who often delivers services that impact the public safety of our communities?  Non profits.  Who delivers crucial food, shelter and violence services?  Non profits.  Who educates, trains and professionalizes our child care providers?  Non profits.


How do the Dems respond?  Some of them have quietly signed on to a modest revenue plan.  Some (like D'Amico) are stubbornly refusing to take responsibility and do what needs to be done to fix this train wreck. And what's the GOP response?  Strategic obstruction.

I was on a call yesterday and it was said that the House Republican leader is going to hold his caucus so tightly there will be no movement from any Republican on this budget issue until after the general election in November 2010.  They get to step back and deny any responsibility - they weren't involved so nothing is their fault.  But what do they think is going to happen to 25% of the non profits spread across this state, in the meantime?  And after the general election, and they may/may not have control of the Governor's office, how craptacular is the budget going to be when none of their current candidates  have the integrity to do what everyone knows needs to happen - RAISE REVENUE.

(When I say 'everyone' I'm talking about Crain's, Trib, Daily Herald, Bond Buyer, Pew Center on the States, etc.)

Leader Cross wants to 'move Illinois forward' but how can you do that when your plan is to delay movement - and won't actually fix anything?
So.  Here's to a tough session.

Monday, January 04, 2010

on the unintended consequences of bad policy and parental notifications

I don't think anything I write this year will compare to this post at Fugitivus:
Laws restricting access to medical services are laws restricting access to medical services. They are not laws creating family talks, better worlds, or moral teenagers. They are laws creating restrictions to medical services, which people do not seek unless they need them. Laws creating restrictions to medical services are laws creating restrictions to services people need and need desperately. You can argue that the lawmakers had some kind of noble intentions in mind — I will not buy it, but you can argue that. But you cannot argue that once the law has been in effect and created an inability to comply, and yet remained unchanged. If this was a law about notifying parents, it would have addressed how to notify parents. If this was a law about how to seek a bypass, it would have addressed how to seek a bypass. Since it didn’t address either of those things, this is obviously a law about something else. You only get one guess about what that something else is.
The whole post is long but powerful (especially her memory of what it's like to be on the street and needing to come up with plans b/c/d/e & f.  This section is almost enough to convince me that most policy discussions/solutions need to start with/come from the people who are actually experiencing what others are trying to legislate or control.  Everything else is just academic or intellectual bullshit meddling.)

Because of my job I've become aware that most legislators don't actually read finer points of policy implications for a new piece of legislation; they want the bullet points.  So we give it to them, probably to the detriment of thoughtful policy development.  Some of them ask for clarification but they appear to rely on instinct, some electoral soothe-saying, and a smattering of hope that the nit-picky administrative details will be resolved in committee while all they have to do is jump on as sponsor and then vote on it when it's called.

Well, unfortunately, the devil is in those very details they are likely to overlook.

We rely on our elected officials to take care of the public's trust but they are often too 'busy' (see how I give them the benefit of the doubt there?) to actually do it critically, or thoroughly.

Illinois' parental notification law survived a legal challenge and will be in place as of this year.  At least, that's what they tell us.  Think our bankrupt, overtaxed and janky state system will have a firm enough hand to enforce this badly constructed law?  I'm not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, the anti-woman/anti-choice faction has succeeded in building a wall separating young women in crisis from their legal access to a needed legal, medically-approved procedure.

Golf clap, frakkers.

ringin' in the new year

My liver body has finally recovered from the most kick ass NYE party ever to be thrown in East Ukrainian Village.  What better way to ring in 2010 than to rent a dive bar (thereby giving some older Latina woman a bunch of business she never would have had otherwise) and invite your closest and dearest to drop by and abuse an open bar for 8 straight hours?

M- acted as resident DJ, I was resident hostess and a low-key, yet fabulous, time was had by all.

Generally, this holiday break was a keeper.  One for the books.  But now the fun is over and it's time for me to figure out just what I want to get out of this New Year.  Do I want to be a skinny bitch?  (Not really.)  But I still have to get on the other side of 200. 
Do I want to have a new job? Maybe; I'd really like to build more of a nest egg and have more disposable income. 
Do I want to finally finish that trashy novel?  Yes; I have half of it written!  Only 25k more words to go! 
Do I want to start making money from this blog?  Uh, yes.  (JP, how do I do that?)
Do I want to build deeper, more mature relationships with the folks I love?  Yes, but on my terms. 
Do I want to see my family more?  (Especially my sister...)  Yes, though they are going to give me a stroke.

(Just a word to families of color out there:  therapy is your FRIEND.  Really.  Try it.)

I thought this year was going to be about kicking professional ass but if I look at what I really need, I need a year that will push me further down this road of relationship building and self-building that I've been on for the past two years.  Sure, I'd like to kick professional ass but I don't want to ignore the relationships I've also built and some of which are in flux right now.

What do you want 2010 to bring?