Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Job

An email I just received...."Great news! I have a message from someone at (.......) wanting you to start training tomorrow! Looks Like I just got a job. It is only temporary, through February, but it is something anyway. Going home now to iron my good shirt.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Wish List

Although I've been off the streets for 3 years now, I'm still struggling to meet my day to day needs. Keeping food in the cupboard is the hardest. I have an Amazon.com wish list of things I could use. Thanks. My wish list.



Saturday, November 26, 2011

OWS The Reason For This Season Of Protest

The following comes from The Guardian, a British newspaper.

US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.

But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk."

In New York, a state supreme court justice and a New York City council member were beaten up; in Berkeley, California, one of our greatest national poets, Robert Hass, was beaten with batons. The picture darkened still further when Wonkette and Washingtonsblog.com reported that the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the Department of Homeland Security had participated in an 18-city mayor conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests.

To Europeans, the enormity of this breach may not be obvious at first. Our system of government prohibits the creation of a federalised police force, and forbids federal or militarised involvement in municipal peacekeeping.

I noticed that rightwing pundits and politicians on the TV shows on which I was appearing were all on-message against OWS. Journalist Chris Hayes reported on a leaked memo that revealed lobbyists vying for an $850,000 contract to smear Occupy. Message coordination of this kind is impossible without a full-court press at the top. This was clearly not simply a case of a freaked-out mayors', city-by-city municipal overreaction against mess in the parks and cranky campers. As the puzzle pieces fit together, they began to show coordination against OWS at the highest national levels.

Why this massive mobilisation against these not-yet-fully-articulated, unarmed, inchoate people? After all, protesters against the war in Iraq, Tea Party rallies and others have all proceeded without this coordinated crackdown. Is it really the camping? As I write, two hundred young people, with sleeping bags, suitcases and even folding chairs, are still camping out all night and day outside of NBC on public sidewalks – under the benevolent eye of an NYPD cop – awaiting Saturday Night Live tickets, so surely the camping is not the issue. I was still deeply puzzled as to why OWS, this hapless, hopeful band, would call out a violent federal response.

That is, until I found out what it was that OWS actually wanted.

The mainstream media was declaring continually "OWS has no message". Frustrated, I simply asked them. I began soliciting online "What is it you want?" answers from Occupy. In the first 15 minutes, I received 100 answers. These were truly eye-opening.

The No 1 agenda item: get the money out of politics. Most often cited was legislation to blunt the effect of the Citizens United ruling, which lets boundless sums enter the campaign process. No 2: reform the banking system to prevent fraud and manipulation, with the most frequent item being to restore the Glass-Steagall Act – the Depression-era law, done away with by President Clinton, that separates investment banks from commercial banks. This law would correct the conditions for the recent crisis, as investment banks could not take risks for profit that create kale derivatives out of thin air, and wipe out the commercial and savings banks.

No 3 was the most clarifying: draft laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors.

When I saw this list – and especially the last agenda item – the scales fell from my eyes. Of course, these unarmed people would be having the shit kicked out of them.

For the terrible insight to take away from news that the Department of Homeland Security coordinated a violent crackdown is that the DHS does not freelance. The DHS cannot say, on its own initiative, "we are going after these scruffy hippies". Rather, DHS is answerable up a chain of command: first, to New York Representative Peter King, head of the House homeland security subcommittee, who naturally is influenced by his fellow congressmen and women's wishes and interests. And the DHS answers directly, above King, to the president (who was conveniently in Australia at the time).

In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens.

But wait: why on earth would Congress advise violent militarised reactions against its own peaceful constituents? The answer is straightforward: in recent years, members of Congress have started entering the system as members of the middle class (or upper middle class) – but they are leaving DC privy to vast personal wealth, as we see from the "scandal" of presidential contender Newt Gingrich's having been paid $1.8m for a few hours' "consulting" to special interests. The inflated fees to lawmakers who turn lobbyists are common knowledge, but the notion that congressmen and women are legislating their own companies' profitsis less widely known – and if the books were to be opened, they would surely reveal corruption on a Wall Street spectrum. Indeed, we do already know that congresspeople are massively profiting from trading on non-public information they have on companies about which they are legislating – a form of insider trading that sent Martha Stewart to jail.

Since Occupy is heavily surveilled and infiltrated, it is likely that the DHS and police informers are aware, before Occupy itself is, what its emerging agenda is going to look like. If legislating away lobbyists' privileges to earn boundless fees once they are close to the legislative process, reforming the banks so they can't suck money out of fake derivatives products, and, most critically, opening the books on a system that allowed members of Congress to profit personally – and immensely – from their own legislation, are two beats away from the grasp of an electorally organised Occupy movement … well, you will call out the troops on stopping that advance.

So, when you connect the dots, properly understood, what happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for now, only one side is choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organised suppression against the people they are supposed to represent. Occupy has touched the third rail: personal congressional profits streams. Even though they are, as yet, unaware of what the implications of their movement are, those threatened by the stirrings of their dreams of reform are not.

Sadly, Americans this week have come one step closer to being true brothers and sisters of the protesters in Tahrir Square. Like them, our own national leaders, who likely see their own personal wealth under threat from transparency and reform, are now making war upon us.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving

I have received a lot from a lot of people, (everything from material goods to emotional and spiritual encouragement), and I am grateful beyond words for all of it, and for all of you. You have made an otherwise unbearable life worth living. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Police Still Harass Food Ministries

I just got word from the director of a non-profit organization here in Nashville that the police are still attempting to discourage people from feeding the homeless.

I live in a building with 16 other formerly homeless people, part of the Housing First program run by the City of Nashville. Being that some of the people in my building are newly off the streets, they have yet to assimilate to life off the streets, and so still need some assistance. One group that brought food to our building on occasion had stopped coming here, so I emailed them about it. The director told me that the people delivering the food to our building and other homeless people in downtown Nashville were being harassed by the police. This is how I responded to her email:

If money = speech, then food = speech as well. Cops, and really, the people they answer to, are not so interested in other people's rights. And so long as you cave to the pressure placed on you by the police, you, I and everyone else loses their constitutional rights to things like freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of religion. I would implore you to stand up against "snarky comments" from the police. More over, I would encourage you to press back against this police tactic by taking the police department and city to court so to defend your rights, and the rights of the homeless. Some homeless that you service aren't even in downtown proper. The formerly homeless people living in my building are few, but our needs are just as important as any other, mostly because we are taking ourselves out of the network of regular homeless services and are attempting to be more independent. Food is not as readily available to us, especially for the newcomers, who are fresh off the streets. We need your help more than ever, especially since the police are working against you, instead of with you. Please, don't give in to the pressures of the police and other's who could not care less about the homeless.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Job Lead

My case manager has informed me of a job lead for which I am well qualified. It's a temporary job, 3 months long, but it is full time and will get me back in the swing.

I am more than ready to get back into the work force. I'm sure everyone else is too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another Bullshit Night In Suck City

It is the best first person account of homelessness I've ever read. No, the author was not homeless himself, although he did come close to it. The story is about the author's relationship with his father who was homeless. One night, while the author was working at a homeless shelter (a public shelter, not a "mission"), his estranged father came into the shelter looking for a place to stay for the night.

Another Bullshit Night In Suck City

The author, Nick Flynn, is an accomplished writer. And his talents as a writer come through in this book. More than any other book I've read about homelessness, this one, with it's particular literary style, creates the "feel" of homelessness.

The book was eventually picked up for a movie, and I found out today that the movie has been completed and is scheduled to hit the theaters in 2012. Considering Robert De Niro plays the homeless father, I have high hopes for it. It's easy to misrepresent homelessness. I've got my fingers crossed for something good.

Yes, I too wondered what they would do about the title of the movie. I doubt that theaters would want the word "bullshit" on their marquees. They changed the title to, "Being Flynn".

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Occupy Nashville And Homeless People

Since the dawn of civilization, homeless people have been drawn to metropolitan centers. And history has proven that nothing will change that. Homeless people cannot be driven out of a city, they always find a way back in. Legislative actions are useless for the same reasons. Of course not all homeless people inhabit city centers, or disregard the rule of law. But some do. And those particular homeless people are most often those suffering from mental health issues, and drug addictions, which makes it near impossible to reason with them on any subject of importance.

Homeless people in Nashville, as in every city really, are used to having the run of the place, especially at night, after all the homed people have returned to the suburbs, or high rise lofts. So, for the homeless, Occupy camps are an intrusion into their daily existence. Some of the homeless have it together enough to find a way to peacefully coexist with the protesters, and will perhaps even support and join in with the protests, but some homeless people will not. And those homeless people would wish the Occupy people to go away.

Although most homeless people will not be a problem for the Occupy group, the few who are, will be very annoying and distracting to the cause.

Since the Occupy movement involves people who have never really spent much time downtown, I'm sure few or none of them anticipated having to deal with this issue. It is a tricky one, mostly for the fact that homeless people are citizens who also have rights, and as fellow human beings, deserve a level of respect and equal consideration.

Here are my suggestions for the Nashville Occupy group.

Contact the folks of Open Table and the Amos House Community. They have the experience dealing with, and a genuine concern for, homeless people. Hopefully they can provide information and resources for dealing with the homeless people you encounter.

And, if at all possible, raise funds to pay for a legitimate security company to provide security to the camp. You might even be able to hire an off duty police officer from Metro.

In the mean time, have a few people patrolling your camp, and equip them with flashlights and cell phones so that they can quickly call the metro or capital police when necessary.

A Wall Street Journal article on the subject.

Here is an article that I found on this subject at the Nashville Channel 5 website:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Without the fear of arrest, members of Occupy Nashville are once again settling into Legislative Plaza. Now, the group is looking for ways to ensure their safety during its occupation.

"We have females who want to occupy up here and they don't feel safe when they see a bunch of drunken people running around up here and creating fights, and what not," explained member Devin Pena.

Monday night, occupiers had an issue with an injured, intoxicated man who came to their camp after his involvement in a fight elsewhere.

"And that's not fair to us. We have our own issues to deal with right now, and having that on top of everything just brings everybody down," Pena said.

Pena sent an email to two unions who have voiced their support for Occupy Nashville. He asking the local United Steel Workers and United Auto Workers to help with security.

"To hopefully see if they have any barricades that we can put up around our perimeter, so we can feel a little safer inside our own area," said. Pena.

He also asked if union members would volunteer to patrol the plaza.

Occupy member Eva Watler did just that during the overnight hours of Tuesday, walking Legislative Plaza with a group the named the "vibes patrol."

"Keeping the vibes good, you know, keeping things up and happy and focused on what we're doing," Watler explained.

She said Occupy Nashville have set up to on the plaza for the long haul.

"Occupy means occupy your home, this is our home," Watler said.

Now the group is determined to makes sure their make-shift home is secure as the wait until their message is heard, and understood.

The temporary restraining order issued Monday in federal court allows Occupy Nashville to stay on Legislative Plaza until November 21, 2011, without the fear of arrest.