Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Those dreams in which a phantom
Of the beloved appears: those
Are a true haunting. A trick
Of the mind to make you think
She's lost, that he will never
Come again.
You wake
In the dark, weeping. You hear
The river outside your window,
Flowing to the sea. You think:
Who could read poems
In this darkness? And all the time
Your sorrow is the poem of hope
And the beloved is there beside you.
- Gregory Orr, from Concerning the Book that is the Body of the Beloved

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Housing is a Human Right

In her book, The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein includes a chapter about New Orleans. After examining the mismanagement of disaster relief work, that the government outsourced to private contractors (using tax payers' money, if that's not clear), Klein writes

"The attacks on the disadvantaged, carried out in the name of reconstruction and relief, did not stop there. In order to offset the tens of billions going to to private companies in contracts and tax breaks, in November 2005 the Republican-controlled Congress announced that it needed to cut $40 billion from the federal budget. Among the programs that were slashed were student loans, Medicaid and food stamps. In other words, the poorest cities in the country subsidized the contractor bonanza twice---first when Katrina relief morphed into unregulated corporate handouts, providing neither decent jobs nor functional public services, and second when the few programs that directly assisted the unemployed and working poor nationwide were gutted to pay those bloated bills."

She goes on to write about the lack of progress in New Orleans, two years after Katrina hit. She writes,
"The vast majority of publicly owned housing projects stood boarded up and empty, with five thousand units slotted for the demolition by the federal housing authority...New Orleans' powerful tourism lobby had been eyeing the house projects, several of them on prime land close to the French Quarter.
Endesha Juakali helped set up a protest camp outside on of the boarded-up projects, St. Bernard Public Housing, explaining, 'they've had an agenda for St. Bernard for a long time, but as long as people lived here, they couldn't do it. So they used the disaster as a way of cleansing the neighborhood when the neighborhood is weakest...This is a great location for bigger houses and condos. The only problem is you got all these poor black people sitting on it!'"

As I read Klein's chapter on New Orleans, I was reminded of something that I had read on La Chola's blog before I went on vacation for the holidays. She has several posts on the Public Housing advocates protesting the New Orleans City Council meeting convened to approve the "untimely demolition of the 4 largest housing developments during an unprecedented housing crisis in this city." (Quote on her blog came from here.) I urge you to watch the video in her post Public Housing Advocates Attacked part 4 (which is linked above) as well as check out the link to the video of the protesting outside of the court house.

Think New Orleans provides a round-up of some links to blogs covering the controversy here.

The Coalition to Stop Demolition (I may have the name wrong, it may be called Defend New Orleans Public Housing) provides a Fact v. Myths page and a Demolition Fact Sheet. The home page provides regular updates of the Coalition's work.

In its latest update, the coalition writes,

"The City Council approved demolition plans for the four major housing developments in late December. Hundreds of people were locked out of the meeting. About a dozen people were arrested for loudly demanding that the council let people in to the empty seats. Police used pepper spray and tasered several protestors. The Council urged HUD to develop one for one replacement of affordable housing and asked for quarterly reports.

The Mayor of New Orleans has promised that there will be no demolition at Lafitte or St. Bernard until HUD shows a full-funded plan for one for one replacement of affordable housing. He announced he would allow demolition to begin at B.W. Cooper and C.J. Peete as soon as he was provided with a Memorandum of Understanding between the HUD and the residents.

Demolition on St. Bernard and Lafitte has not started. Demolition has started on C.J. Peete and B.W. Cooper"

Please check out their calls to action here. Their call for action includes urging U.S. Senate Committee on Banking Housing and Urban Affairs to finishing deliberating on Senate Bill 1668: Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007. The bill has to get through the committee before it can be voted on in Congress (and many bills never make it out of the various committees, so it's important to let them know which ones are a priority!). This form will allow you to contact the committee with a statement in support of SB 1668.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Since I'm going to be drunk for the rest of the election cycle

I like beer, probably-over-priced beer, to be a little more specific. So, for my fellow beer lovers out there, here are two brief news items: A New York Times Dining article about American brewing styles and a Bryant Park Project blog post on the rising cost of hops. (Bonus: For those of us actually considering drinking everyday from now until the first week in November or playing the Feministing drinking game, it might be wise to check out this segment from today's Bryant Park Project.)

I have to say, the NY times article makes me feel silly about liking fancypants beer so much because apparently the American style of brewing involves making our beers, like, TOTALLY XTREME. Although perhaps I can take comfort in the fact, that my love of beer does not extend to actually knowing much about it. I drink what my local expert puts in front of me and then either I like it or I don't.

Still, I think it says something about me that I am more interested in knowing more about the rising cost of hops than I am in knowing about the subprime mortgage crisis.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Must have Photo ID to Rock the Vote

Please check out this article from the New York Times on the case before the Supreme Court challenging the Indiana voter ID law. The law says that either you have to produce a photo ID when you vote or, if you don't have photo ID, vote provisionally and then go to the county courthouse within 10 days of voting to validate your vote. Proponents of the law claim that it is necessary to prevent in-person voter fraud. Challengers of the law claim that the law will, in effect, disenfranchise minorities, poor people, and elderly people, all of whom are less likely to have photo IDs. Voting is a fundamental right and this law infringes on that right, so the court should use "strict scrutiny" as their standard of review. (Sorry to use Wikipedia as a link, but I think this particular article does a good job summarizing strict scrutiny from what I can remember from my law school days.) Strict scrutiny means that the law must protect a compelling government interest and be narrowly tailored and use the less restrictive means to achieve that interest.

The Times article does a pretty good job of summing up how things are going (not well; divided along party lines). It really pisses me off and makes me sad that Kennedy said the law causes a "minor inconvenience" for people. I feel like he's not thinking about how truly difficult it is for some people to get to government office buildings during their hours of operation, because of the hours the person works, or not having child care, or being physically disabled. It has not been proven that there is any problem in the U.S. with in-person voter fraud, but I think it's entirely apparent that we do have a problem getting people out to vote at all. I think it's horrible that states are writing laws that make it more difficult for people to vote.

If this law gets upheld, then I really hope that registration drives start to include helping people obtain photo ID. I wonder if there is some kind of fund that could be put together to help people with the fees that accompany getting a photo ID in some states.


In international news, the Times reported yesterday that abortion clinics are shutting down in Spain, while the workers go on strike to protest the lack of government protection from violent and threatening pro-life protesters. I do think the Spainish government should do all it can to ensure the safety of the clinic workers and the women who use the clinics, but I can't help but think that by shutting down the clinics to protest, the clinic workers are hurting their own clients (an estimated 2,000 women will be affected) more than making a statement to the government or to the pro-life movement.

(Why does the NY Times author call the pro-life people "anti-abortion?" I would call them anti-choice. Out of politeness, I have chosen to call them pro-life here, but calling them "anti-abortion" implies the other side is pro-abortion. As I have said before, I believe both sides of this debate are committed to reducing the number of abortion; pro-life people generally believe that the way to do this is to make all abortion illegal and teach abstinence-only sex education and pro-choice people generally believe that the way to reduce the number of abortions is to keep it legal [read: safe] and promote pro-contraceptive sex education. It's disingenuous to present one side as anti-abortion and, in doing so, imply that the other side is pro-abortion. Although maybe the pro-life movement in Spain is commonly referred to as anti-abortion and that is why the NY Times has chosen this nomenclature.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

It's time to have a talk (aka LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU)

Ever since I saw this piece by Gloria Steinem about Hillary Clinton and the role of sexism in her campaign, I have been passing it around to friends. Well, after reading this piece by Angry Black Bitch and scrolling through the comments accompanying the post, I have to say I'm completely ashamed I didn't give more thought to Steinem's piece.

I know where Steinem's piece came from. As I glance around on the internet this morning, I see a lot of backlash against Clinton taking the form of sexist attacks. And that makes me angry, sad, and afraid.

However, even with Steinem's disclaimer that she knows all about the intersections of racism and sexism, the article still reads like this: "Obama, as a black man, has an easier time getting the democratic nomination than Clinton, as a white woman." This is a dangerous game because even as Steinem's disclaimer sits there shouting about how tangled up identities are, the rest of her article claims to separate out identities so neatly that supporting Clinton is supporting the (mythical single) cause of all women/feminism. This game is going to lead to a lot of shouting, a lot of deeply hurt feelings, and absolutely no resolution.

I am all for having discussions about the intersections of race and gender and I'm not about to tell people when they can and cannot have these discussions. I am just not looking forward to having this "discussion" played out on the national stage through presidential primaries and the subsequent presidential race. I'm apprehensive about this, mainly because I don't think it will be a discussion at all. Discussion requires an attempt to understand another person's opinion. I don't know if you've been on the internet lately, read a newspaper, turned on your television or radio, or stepped outside, but there's not a lot of that going on.

I see a lot of conversations about who the candidates are in these terms: Clinton is a woman, Obama is black, Huckabee is a preacher, Romney is rich, Kucinch/Paul are the outsiders. These handles tell us something about the candidates, but not much. The also tell us something about the candidates' supporters, but, again, not much. And I think, perhaps, they disguise a lot more than they tell. We are told again and again that voters care more about superficial aspects than they do about the "issues." Even when we care about the issues, our interest can supposedly be summed up in one easy phrase, "Change." How are voters supposed to care deeply about the issues when we are force-feed this cliff-note version of things? What does change mean? What do we mean when we say people support/don't support Clinton because she's a woman? What do we think being "a woman" means? What do we think being black means? What do we think being an white means? What do we think being rich means? What do we think being an outsider means? What do we think "we" or "the nation" means? WHAT ARE ALL THESE WORDS CODE FOR?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Where had I heard this wind before
Change like this to a deeper roar?
What would it take my standing there for,
Holding open a restive door,
Looking down hill to a frothy shore?
Summer was past and day was past.
Somber clouds in the west were massed.
Out in the porch's sagging floor,
leaves got up in a coil and hissed,
Blindly struck at my knee and missed.
Something sinister in the tone
Told me my secret must be known:
Word I was in the house alone
Somehow must have gotten abroad,
Word I was in my life alone,
Word I had no one left but God.

- Bereft, Robert Frost

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Give to the Charlottesville Free Clinic

In order to honor my New Year's resolution to "Give More" each month this year, I plan on selecting a different organization and giving them a $30 donation. This month, I will donate to the Charlottesville Free Clinic which provides health care to the "working uninsured." You can read their most recent (at least from what's online) newsletter here.

When I was a teenager, my family moved to the U.K. While we were house hunting, I fell down a flight of stair, bouncing the whole way down on my tail-bone. It was really embarrassing to take that fall in front of my family, the home owner, and two relators, but even more embarrassing when I passed out trying to get out the front door so I could cry from the pain in privacy. After I passed out a second time, trying to get up from my prone position, an ambulance was called and I was carted off to the emergency room. By the time I saw a doctor I had completely recovered. One of the main things I remember from the whole thing (besides the embarrassment and being offered a plastic donut to cushion my bruised butt), was that my parents were really surprised when it turned out that we didn't owe the hospital anything because the UK has the NHS.

I believe in the Charlottesville Free Clinic mission to provide “high-quality health care to the working uninsured,” because I believe that every human being deserves access to adequate healthcare. I also believe that it is our government's job to ensure that every citizen, but especially every child, has access to adequate healthcare. However, until the government steps up into this role, there's a desperate need for free clinics in our country. I hope you will join me in giving what you can this month to the Charlottesville Free Clinic or your own local free clinic.

Check out this interesting article by Laurence J. Kotlikoff, author of The Healthcare Fix, Universal Insurance for All Americans, on a voucher system for health insurance.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Last night, I celebrated the end of 2007 with good food and drink. For dinner I used a recipe from the Better Homes and Garden Vegetarian Cookbook to make "Miniature Mexican Frittatas."

1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 C cottage cheese, drained
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese (2 oz)
4 eggs
1/4 C milk
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TBS snipped cilantro or parsley
Salsa, warmed
Sour cream (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl stir together the spinach, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, and cheddar cheese. In another bowl stir together the eggs, milk, cumin, pepper, and cilantro. Combine the two bowls. Spoon the mixture into 12 lightly greased 2.5-in muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 min or until eggs are set. Cool for five minutes. Top with salsa and sour cream.

Here's what the finished product looked like:

While I was on my lunch break yesterday, I stopped at the Market Street Wine Shop to pick up some fancy-smancy beer. I love that store so much. I am a bread-fiend and their bread always looks so amazing. I've heard that on Mondays you can get bread-ends there for free, but I have yet to try it. Here (minus the champagne, which my parents gave me) is some of what I picked up:

For dessert, I broke out the muffin tins again to make cupcakes (from the box). Those suckers were really tricky to frost. I have too many of them on my hands now:

I did make a resolution for the New Year, which I am planning on writing more about later today or tomorrow. I generally make specific, goal-oriented resolutions like "go the the gym everyday" or "start writing fiction again," but this year I've decided to do something different. My resolution for the new year is embodied in the word "Give." I want to give more. I'm not sure how yet and I don't plan on settling on one specific way to give more. I'd rather just focus the idea of giving and see where it takes me. I already have one idea of something I would like to do with this, but that's for another post.