Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lessons for OWS: It's Illegal to be Homeless in Public

A look at one of the lessons being learned from the Occupy movement. From Barbara Ehrenreich at Mother Jones:

What the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, is that most ordinary, biologically necessary activities are illegal when performed in American streets—not just peeing, but sitting, lying down, and sleeping.

It is essentially illegal to be homeless, especially in public.

What occupiers from all walks of life are discovering, at least every time they contemplate taking a leak, is that to be homeless in America is to live like a fugitive. The destitute are our own native-born "illegals," facing prohibitions on the most basic activities of survival. They are not supposed to soil public space with their urine, their feces, or their exhausted bodies. Nor are they supposed to spoil the landscape with their unusual wardrobe choices or body odors. They are, in fact, supposed to die, and preferably to do so without leaving a corpse for the dwindling public sector to transport, process, and burn.

Society acknowledges a "homeless problem," but fails to recognize that the problem is growing, and that more and more folks who were once middle class are joining the "problem." Homeless people are supposed to stay out of sight, and stop reminding the lucky ones that they could be next. The lack of awareness is also attributable to a level of shame that prevents those formerly middle class folks from admitting to their homelessness.

In Portland, Austin, and Philadelphia, the Occupy Wall Street movement is taking up the cause of the homeless as its own, which of course it is. Homelessness is not a side issue unconnected to plutocracy and greed. It's where we're all eventually headed—the 99 percent, or at least the 70 percent, of us, every debt-loaded college grad, out-of-work school teacher, and impoverished senior—unless this revolution succeeds.

Amen. Let us hope that more and more people begin to talk about it, own up to it, and make it a mainstream issue.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Tennessee, the GOP War on Voting is Working

First, a 91 year old woman can't get a voter ID in Murfreesboro. From The Tennesseean:

Ninety-one-year-old Virginia Lasater says she was unable to obtain a voter ID because she was physically unable to stand in a long line at a driver testing center.


A new law requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls. Since Lasater doesn't have a photo on her driver's license, she went to get one. But the testing center was packed and there were no chairs available.

Shame on everyone in that building for not giving up their chair to Mrs. Lasater. Whatever happened to good manners?

On the other hand, it does seem as if the voter ID laws are having the desired effect.

cross-posted at MainSt/

How To Deal With a #BadBoss: Joey Quits

A disgruntled worker explains what was behind his theatrical resignation. From HuffPo:

Like almost anyone who's ever held down a job, Joey DeFrancesco harbored dreams of one day quitting work in spectacular fashion.

The way 23-year-old DeFrancesco tells it, he worked a job he didn’t care for at a hotel in Providence, R.I., for more than three years. He often thought about leaving. In his own workplace fantasy, DeFrancesco would march right up to his boss with a letter of resignation. Upon handing it over, a brass band would explode into boisterous song. Then DeFrancesco would march out of the hotel in triumph, waving to his admirers.

The difference between DeFrancesco and the rest of us is that he actually carried out his fantasy.

Oh, yes he did. Here's the video:

This is from Joey's explanation of why he quit, from the YouTube page where the video is posted:

I worked in this hotel for 3.5 years. I worked while going to school full time to pay my tuition and living expenses. This was not a job I had for two weeks before quitting in a hissy-fit.

The working conditions in the hotel are horrendous. In the kitchen, workers are regularly forced to work 10, 11, 14, 16 hour shifts that begin at 5:30AM and last well into the night. Housekeepers are reprimanded if they fail to clean 16 rooms or more in a 9 hour shift. Anyone who speaks up—especially anyone who is openly pro-union—is disciplined or fired. Managers, like Jared, scream down employees daily.

I worked extremely hard to change the conditions in the hotel. My co-workers and I regularly organized ourselves to push back against management and demand respect. I was also one of many workers who led the fight to organize a formal union at the hotel. For legal reasons I must mention that this specific action was an individual decision and had nothing to do with the union.

The hotel has yet to recognize our union, and they continue a vicious union-busting campaign. They punish and fire pro-union workers, spread lies in captive-audience meetings, and generally attempt to scare the workers out of joining the union. Still, through just being organized and threatening to form a union, we've won countless victories, including raises, new uniforms, lower housekeeper room quotas, etc.

The hotel would never be able to get away with 16 hour shifts in a good economy. With so many out of work, the hotel is holding workers hostage in exchange for their jobs. If that sounds familiar, it's because I've written about it before. Joey is one of the lucky ones - he found another job. Thousands of other workers are stuck in miserable jobs because they don't dare to quit, and those companies take full advantage of the fear American workers have of joblessness.

Most of us have probably fantasized about quitting a job with this kind of fanfare. This would be another cheap viral video trick, were it not for Joey's clear explanation of WHY he quit.

His new boss must have a good sense of humor.

cross-posted at MainSt/

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hits and Mythos

I’d like to take a moment to thank NH House Speaker William O’Brien, and the entire Teabaglican legislature for providing me with endless column fodder this year. Every week has brought a new outrage; an outrage ignored by the careful GOP stenographers that comprise the majority of the NH media. This is an incurious media, media that fails to do any follow up with the Perry campaign to see what they think about supporter Al Baldasaro’s unpatriotic soldier bashing. This is a media that hasn’t followed up with the Perry campaign to see what they think about the ethically challenged Maynard Thomson, who “just happened” to resign his post as Carroll County Republican Chair to serve as a NH Perry campaign Poobah on the same day the AG’s office sent him a “cease and desist” letter concerning his violations of campaign finance reporting laws. Yes indeedy, thanks to the NH GOP, I’ve experienced very little writer’s block this year.

In June, local GOP activist and unabashed racist Ray Shakir made national news because of emails he sent to his fellow Carroll County Republicans, in which he referred to President Obama as a “jungle alien.” Because NH is the home of the first in the nation presidential primary, the national media is paying far greater attention to what goes on in our state. That’s why State Rep. Al Baldasaro (R: Crazytown) made national news. During this last week, NH’s legislature has captured national attention again. And again. During the discussion on forming a House committee to investigate the Local Government Center, Rep. Jordan Ulery attached an amendment that would have given the Speaker the right to send people to jail if they failed to answer subpoenas. Speaker O’Brien had conveniently stepped down from his throne, and was able to cast a yea vote on this amendment. His spokesperson said (unblushingly) that he “just happened” to be taking a break at the exact moment when this amendment came up for a vote. It was voted down. Local Representatives Umberger and McCarthy both supported giving the Speaker the power to jail NH residents. Rep. Pettengill didn’t vote, and Rep. Chandler (despite his role in the O’Brien leadership team) voted nay, as did Rep. Norm Tregenza (R: John Birch Society). The blatant power grab made national news.

Barely a day later, State Rep. Harry Accornero (R: Insanitea) made national news because he wants a commission formed to impeach President Obama for treason. He sent out an email stating his intent to all of his fellow members of the NH House. Being a Teabaglican he couldn’t leave out Obama’s middle name – but being a Teabaglican he did spell it incorrectly. Accornero is miffed about Obama ignoring “illegal aliens” in the US. His level of miffage must have been manfully suppressed during the last administration, when it was a white guy doing the ignoring. Accornero is another example of the caliber of the freshman Republicans elected in 2010. GOP voters didn’t waste any time on learning about the candidates, they just voted for anyone with an R next to their name, as we learned during the Martin Harty incident.

Both of these stories come at a time where other states are trying to make inroads into the early primary season. The sheer lunacy of the current NH House is causing people around the country to question why NH should have any kind of a role in choosing the eventual nominee, given that we’re a state full of crazy white folks. Nice work, NH GOP!

In the category of non-national news, I particularly enjoyed the story about the recent visit to Carroll County by members of the House redistricting committee. According to the story in the Sun, Rep. Mirski announced to the assembled throng, “This is your opportunity to provide testimony.” My experience with testimony has always been linked to proposed legislation or some sort of a plan. This was a truly unique opportunity for local residents to offer testimony on…nothing. The committee didn’t bother to show up with even a rudimentary plan. Nice work, NH GOP!

I also enjoyed the tele-talk comments on the bypass. This discussion has been going on since I was a child, and I expect it will continue long after I’m dead. What amused me most were the comments from those who were annoyed with Governor Lynch for daring to suggest that the community needs to have some sort of consensus on what the bypass should look like. Some callers were quite huffy at the idea that the bypass is really up to them.

What the huffy don’t understand is that NH is about 20 years behind its own 10-year transportation plan. Going forward requires revenue. The Teabaglicans have done their best to eliminate all revenue streams. Remember the dust up over snow plowing and cuts to the DOT budget? The Teabaglicans eliminated a fee that was going to the DOT. The Republican mantra reads: “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem, NH has a spending problem.” That, huffy amigos, is why we have a 19th century infrastructure in the 21st century, and why the bypass will never be built. You folks keep voting for representatives who will ensure that the money is never there to build it. Governor Lynch is correct: this is up to the voters. As long as folks vote in accordance with the lying Republican mantra, they’ll get exactly what they deserve. Nothing.

As NH continues to attract national attention for the increasingly bizarre actions of our state legislature, we move ever further from keeping our first-in-the-nation primary status. We are well on our way, however, to becoming a national joke. Thanks NH GOP!

“If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.”
Bertrand Russell

© sbruce 2011

Published as an op-ed in the October 21 edition of the Conway Daily Sun newspaper.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

GOP Values on Display

The invasion of the presidential candidates has begun. The media is crafting the narrative they prefer, and the debates are in full swing. Silly season is upon us, here in the first in the nation primary state. Since the primary contest is only on the Republican side, the values of today’s GOP are on full display.

Thus far, the majority of candidate town hall meetings have taken place in Rockingham County – the area of our state that gives lie to the GOP myth of “liberals from Massachusetts moving to NH.” Rockingham County is full of angry Republican imports from the state just south of us. Many of them move here to run for office, to ensure that NH continues to be a state that chooses not to fund infrastructure or education. Republicans really hate education. A good education decreases the likelihood that the recipient will vote GOP.

The televised debates have not only been good theater, they’ve been a remarkable illustration of GOP values. During the first full debate (with all of the media anointed candidates), Brian Wallace asked Governor Rick Perry about the execution conveyor belt in Texas. When he stated that Perry had presided over 234 executions during his time in office, the crowd cheered. Yay death! Williams asked Perry if he ever “struggled to sleep at night” over the possibility of executing an innocent person. Perry, of course, said no. Sociopaths don’t experience empathy.

In the second full debate (sponsored by the Tea Party Express), Congressman Ron Paul was asked a hypothetical question about whether a man with no health insurance should be allowed to die, and again, the crowd cheered the death of this uninsured man. Ron Paul, a doctor, mumbled something about letting the churches pay for the guy’s care – which essentially means letting the guy die. Paul should know. Kent Snyder persuaded Ron Paul to run for president in 2007, and became his campaign chairman. In 2008, the 49-year-old Snyder died of pneumonia. He had no health insurance. His mother was given the $400,000 bill. No church came forward to pick up the tab.

During the most recent debate, people who had been videotaped in advance asked some questions. Candidate Rick Santorum was presented with a question on the repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. An openly gay Marine currently serving in Iraq asked the question. The audience booed the gay soldier. Chickenhawk Santorum never even acknowledged or thanked this Marine for his service. Not a one of the candidates mentioned the utter inappropriateness of the audience booing a soldier. The next day a few campaigns tried to repair their image by speaking up, but it was too late by then. This is today’s Republican Party, booing a gay soldier, even as he serves his country. Gone are the days of the yellow ribbons and blustering commentary about “supporting our troops.”

That incident has come home to roost in the form of NH State Representative Al Baldasaro, a supporter of candidate Rick Perry. Baldasaro was caught on video saying that he thought the booing of the gay soldier was great. In an interview with Scott Keyes, of Think Progress, Baldasaro said, “ I was so disgusted over that gay marine coming out, because when he came out of the closet. Bob won’t say it because they’re scared to get in trouble, but their brothers and sisters – brothers especially- that are there, they’ll start getting away from him. They’ll start ignoring him. He doesn’t realize it, but when the shit hits the fan, you want your brothers covering your back, not looking at your back.”

Al Baldasaro is a former Marine. In fact, he’s the kind of veteran that feels compelled to mention his service at least once every 15 minutes or so. This is today’s GOP. A former Marine cheering the booing of one of his own, while the man serves in Iraq. Baldasaro is one of NH’s most outspoken elected homophobes, having testified at a committee hearing last winter that the state of NH sells babies to gay couples. He was later forced to retract that lie. Baldasaro is the chairman of the House State-Federal & Veterans Affairs Committee. Yep. Veterans Affairs. Rep. Baldasaro should be forced to resign immediately, but of course, he won’t be. Today’s GOP is in agreement with Baldasaro’s disgusting comments about a gay man serving his country. Not a peep out of Jeb Bradley or Bill O’Brien. Barely a peep out of the complicit NH media. The only paper that has even mentioned it so far is the Nashua Telegraph.

If we add Baldasaro’s commentary to Ray Shakir’s national publicity garnered by referring to our president as “a jungle alien,” we can certainly see the sort of shamelessness that is a characteristic of today’s GOP. I would be remiss if I failed to remark upon the recent cease and desist letter that the state AG’s office sent to Maynard Thomson and the Carroll County Republican Party. It seems that under the stewardship of romance novelist Thomson, the Carroll County GOP failed to properly report, itemize, and provide receipts for their expenditures during the 2010 campaign. It seems that some expenditures went on Chairman Thomson’s own personal credit card. According to the AG’s letter (which I have a copy of), the report that was submitted just lumped everything together as one big expense, without itemizing. From the letter: “Your conscious decisions to fail to report the committee’s expenditures for political advertisements until after the General Election and to lump them together with the committee’s cable bill violates RSA 664:6.”

Remember the good old days when politicians at least attempted to present a public fa├žade that they weren’t crooks and charlatans? It’s enough to make one long for those halcyon days of Richard Nixon.

“Well, I screwed it up real good, didn't I?” Richard M. Nixon

published as an op-ed in the 10-7-11 edition of the Conway Daily Sun

© sbruce 2011