Archive for the 'politics/government' Category Page 4 of 7

NYC public housing: a shambles in need of fixing

the CVH public housing tour

Many low-income people in NYC rely on public housing as one of the few sources of affordable housing available to them in this city of sky-rocketing rents. However, the conditions in public housing are often sub-par, with poor maintenance and major repairs left undone for years. These conditions are threatening to get worse, even while residents are forced to pay higher rents.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which runs public housing, is facing a budget deficit of $225 million, largely due to major funding cuts from the federal and state governments. NYCHA has been scrambling to make up for this deficit, but most of the measures that it’s taking wind up hurting the residents of public housing: rent increases, additional fees charged for basic household appliances, delays in making urgent and essential repairs, and the planned layoff of more than 500 workers from an already understaffed agency.

Last Thursday, Community Voices Heard, a member-led grassroots organization of low-income New Yorkers, led housing advocates and elected officials on a tour of public housing developments to show them just how important it is that NYCHA gets much-needed funding (and utilizes it well, of course – just because the money’s there doesn’t mean it’ll be used right.)

In one apartment on the the tour, a bathroom wall had been left without repairs for two years; a sheet of plastic has been hung over a gaping hole, leaving pipes and hazardous materials exposed. In another building, the walls of a fire-damaged hallway have not been cleaned for over a year. Residents complained of stoves that haven’t worked for ages, one of which was removed two years ago because of a gas leak and not replaced until last week, when the media contacted NYCHA after the CVH tour.

Agnes Rivera, a CVH leader and a resident of one of the housing developments, spoke of the worsening situation in public housing and how important this housing can be:

We are bringing our elected officials on this tour to show them that our housing is deteriorating. The Housing Authority doesn’t have the money to make the repairs that the families living in public housing need…

I was in the shelter system, due to a domestic violence situation, and was lucky to have public housing as my safe haven. Public housing has helped me live in an affordable home and to afford sending my children to college. My children want to be able to afford the same things for their children.

At the press conference after the tour, CVH and their allies called for Governor Spitzer to sign the shelter allowance bill (S.4329/A.7905) which recently passed both houses of the New York State legislature and could add $47 million to NYCHA’s suffering budget. The bill would make the state’s contribution to NYCHA for residents receiving public assistance the same as the state’s current contribution to private landlords who house public assistance recipients. Coucilmember Rosie Mendez was among those calling on Spitzer to sign the bill:

There is no explanation for public housing authorities receiving less than half the payment private landlords receive for the same size apartment. I urge the Governor to sign the bill and avert the unthinkable consequence that NYCHA is financially unable to continue to provide quality, low-cost housing for New Yorkers that are least able to afford shelter in our city’s overheated private housing market.

Now, maybe Governor Spitzer is a little distracted by the whole Bruno debacle, but his attention needs to be drawn back to signing this crucial bill. Despite our capitalistic society that gives to each according to cash instead of need, public housing should not equal sub-standard housing for low-income people. Email, write to, or call Governor Spitzer to demand his prompt signature of the bill so that the much-needed funding can soon reach NYCHA and ultimately public housing residents.

Louisiana’s fashion police

Several parishes (like the counties, not the Catholic congregations) in Louisiana have banned saggy pants, clothes that leave underwear exposed, and “dress not becoming to his or her sex.” Parishes are proposing fines up to $500 and even jail time for violators of the new laws, which may yet be unenforceable since they’re most likely unconstitutional.

Of course, the numbskulls who support this legislation have already started with the cries of “we’re not racist!”:

Despite concern that enforcement could result in racial profiling, supporters of the ban insisted that the dress code would be applied uniformly.

[Lafourche Council member] Toups argued that this isn’t a black and white issue but said he sees the ban as opportunity to put parents and grandparent back in charge.

“If you are Canadian, Serbian, or Afghan and your pants are hanging low, it doesn’t matter what color you are. We will ticket or arrest you,” Young of Pointe Coupee said.

Oh, that’s comforting. A fashion style that’s typically associated with (though certainly not limited to) Black folks and other people of color is banned, but it has nothing at all to do with race! Next, dreads and cornrows will be banned, but you know, some white folks have those, too. The law will be applied uniformly to any Black folks and folks trying to dress like Black folks! Can’t have those white folks trying to imitate Black people, you know.

However, the part of all of this that I find to be really chilling, personally, is “dress not becoming to his or her sex.” Um, what? Does this mean that people can’t wear clothing that’s typically designated to be worn by a person of the sex to which they weren’t assigned? Man, remind me never to visit those parishes in Louisiana or I will be screwed. KatRose at Pam’s House Blend says that a representative from one of the towns appeared on MSNBC and said that the law wouldn’t be used that way. But, like KatRose, I’m not really willing to buy that. The law will be on the books as such and I don’t see that much is going to stop people from applying it in a way that cracks down on people who aren’t conforming to their assigned gender roles. As if trans and gender non-conforming people aren’t vulnerable enough.

goodbye, tony blair

Tony Blair

At long last, Tony Blair has resigned as Prime Minister of the UK. As I listened to the end of his parting address to the House of Commons, which he ended with “That’s that, the end,” I actually felt myself feeling a bit wistful, a bit sad. Yes, yes, I know that I disagree with the majority of what he’s done (at least, what I know of what he’s done, since I admittedly don’t know much about his domestic policy). And yet, there’s that bit of sadness. Feels kind of like that wistful feeling I get for Bill Clinton, despite knowing full well that he did a whole lot of crappy things and is responsible for a not-so-small part of this country’s move to the right.

Guess I’m just a sucker for an intelligent, charismatic, eloquent national leader to whom I can actually listening without wanting to smack them. At least when they when they’re talking about piss-poor policies, they sound good doing it.

I may not have much time to miss Blair, however, since he’s apparently a lead candidate for the role of special envoy to the Middle East. Given that his track record on the politics of the region basically amounts to supporting Israel 100% 24/7/365, I expect that I’ll get the chance to be infuriated with him soon enough. That’s likely to cut my deluded nostalgia right quick.

And now Gordon Brown, the newly confirmed Prime Minister, is speaking from 10 Downing Street, so I may as well say hello to him. From what I’ve heard and read, he may be better than Blair on a few points, including foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular. Let’s see what he does. And hey, as far as new European leaders go, hell, he’s bound to be better than Sarkozy! (Shudder.)

america loves a fall guy

Hi, everybody. I’m back from my month plus blogging sabbatical, during which I did many constructive things like playing hours of World of Warcraft, closely following women’s and men’s March Madness basketball (somehow, my first try ever brackets got first place in both my pools, woohoo!), and most recently, setting up a fantasy baseball team called Orgullo Boricua (which had a dismal first week, but I have faith in ’em!)

But now I’m back, after weeks of guilt over not posting, anxiety over how to start blogging again, and a few gentle prods. I’ve missed a lot, especially in other folks’ blogs – when I’m not writing, I’m usually not reading, alas. But hopefully I’ll be able to get back into the swing of things and stay there for a good long while.

This morning, I saw this headline from TIME: “Conservatives to Bush: Fire Gonzales. A group that calls themselves the American Freedom Agenda, dedicated to promoting conservative legal principles, sent a letter to the president calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ resignation. From the letter:

“He has brought rule of law into disrepute, and debased honesty as the coin of the realm… He has engendered the suspicion that partisan politics trumps evenhanded law enforcement in the Department of Justice… Attorney General Gonzales has proven an unsuitable steward of the law and should resign for the good of the country… The President should accept the resignation, and set a standard to which the wise and honest might repair in nominating a successor…”

TIME reports that this is “the first public demand by a group of conservatives for Gonzales’ firing;” however, I’ve heard grumblings to this effect from conservative politicians and pundits for the past few weeks.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve got no love for Alberto Gonzales, and I do think that he bears much of the burden of responsibility for the politically-motivated firings for U.S. attorneys.

However, this does seem like Scooter Libby all over again – Gonzales is simply the fall guy. Sure, he was an active participant in this fiasco and should therefore probably be fired; but he’s certainly not the only one who was involved in this, and is probably not the highest up of the guilty parties. And yet, he’s most likely the highest up person who will face any real repercussions – punishment, even – for his actions.

There has been a bit of a stir up over Karl Rove’s connection to the firings, centering around his “deletion” of four years’ worth of emails, some of which may discuss the firings. As a technologist, I find this particularly interesting, in that it’s got politicians, pundits, and the media talking about the technicalities of email and servers and how “deleted” usually doesn’t mean “gone forever (see this article from CNet for more on how those emails are probably not gone for good.) However, I can’t see that this will really amount to much of anything. Rove really does seem to be made of Teflon, despite the many flaps in which he’s been implicated. And it’s not as if he’s really at the top, either.

So, it looks like Gonzales is going to lose his job, most likely for following direction from higher-ups who will never really be forced to face the music. And I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think that lots of those conservatives were a bit too eager to give Gonzales up as a sacrificial lamb. Apparently, according to the TIME article, they’ve disliked him for quite some time:

Conservatives have long distrusted Gonzales, but until now many hesitated to criticize him publicly in the current controversy out or respect for the broad latitude they believe a President should have in selecting his cabinet. Behind the scenes, however, their opposition helped dissuade Bush from nominating Gonzales to the Supreme Court and, over the years, they have regularly disparaged him as too soft on key issues such as affirmative action and abortion.

Now, maybe I’m just being my usual paranoid brown self (that’s sarcasm there, folks), but I can’t help but think that if his name was Albert Gordon instead of Alberto Gonzalez, maybe those conservatives might not be quite so quick to hang him out to dry.

At least Trent Lott is a living, breathing bigot*

From yesterday’s headlines on Democracy Now!:

FEMA Gives $3 Million to Restore Jefferson Davis’ Home
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to pay about three million dollars to help repair the former home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Davis led the Confederacy in the South during the Civil War. Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the 150-year-old home in Biloxi Mississippi.

New Orleans Public Housing Residents Fight For Homes
In New Orleans, low-income residents are still fighting to prevent their homes from being demolished. On Saturday some residents of the Central City public housing complex defied government orders and moved back into their old apartments. The city is planning to demolish four large public housing developments even though tens of thousands of low-income New Orleans residents remain displaced.

So. While tens of thousands of low-income residents of New Orleans, most of whom are Black, remain homeless, and while the vast majority of New Orleans homeowners haven’t seen a dime of that vast amount of money supposedly dedicated to helping them rebuild, FEMA is setting aside a whole huge chunk of change to rebuild the house of the man who served as president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

While structurally viable public housing is being demolished (to make way for what, and for whom, we must ask), and while the low-income Ninth Ward still looks much like it did directly after the storm (though I hear the tourist-friendly French Quarter is looking quite well these days), and while thousands upon thousands of people remain scattered and displaced, FEMA is making sure that a monument to man who was at the fore of one of the darkest times in american history is fully restored.

I’m willing to bet that the Jefferson Davis home will see their $3 million in rebuilding funds far before most of the residents of New Orleans see even a fraction of that in federal funds.

Shall we gather, then, that the former home of a long-dead white man who lead the Confederacy in fighting for the continued enslavement of Black people is perhaps more important to FEMA and the rest of this government than the current homes of thousands of the living descendants of those who he wished to keep enslaved?

* FYI: This post’s title is in reference to Bush’s heartwarming demonstration of concern for one of the few hurricane victims about whom he actually gave a damn – Senator Trent Lott: “Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott’s house — he’s lost his entire house — there’s going to be a fantastic house. And I’m looking forward to sitting on the porch.”

A smart Puerto Rican

I’m sure that most everyone has already heard about Sen. Joseph Biden’s inspired description of Sen. Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” As if we needed yet another ignorant white presidential candidate. Less reported was that the current ignorant white president made similar remarks on Fox News, describing Obama as attractive and articulate.

Much has been written about the incident and the true meaning of those words, both in the mainstream media and the blogosphere (which I’ve been too busy to keep tabs on lately, so I unfortunately won’t be linking to any of the wise words that I’m sure my favorite bloggers have written on the topic.) Today I read two good pieces on the incident; from the New York Times, ” The Racial Politics of Speaking Well,” and another spotted on the blackfolk LiveJournal Community, entitled “An Inarticulate Kickoff.”

Both articles discuss how the frequent labeling of certain Black folks as “articulate” belies racist undertones. First, it indicates a certain degree of surprise that a Black person is intelligent or well-spoken – as if this is an anomaly, rather than something as commonplace as, say, a white person possessing the same qualities. As Reginald Hudlin, president of entertainment at BET, is quoted in the NY Times article, “It’s like an educated black person is a rare sighting, like seeing a spotted egret. We’re viewed as a fluke. How many flukes simply constitute reality?” (A spotted egret! Gotta love it.)

The articles also discuss how the “articulate” label is reserved only for Black folks who are not just well-spoken, but well-spoken in a very particular way. From the Times:

… such distinctions discount as inarticulate historically black patterns of speech. “Al Sharpton is incredibly articulate,” said Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. “But because he speaks with a cadence and style that is firmly rooted in black rhetorical tradition you will rarely hear white people refer to him as articulate.”

And from the piece by Eugene Robinson:

What’s intriguing is that Jackson and Sharpton are praised as eloquent, too — both men are captivating speakers who calibrate their words with great precision. But neither is often described as, quote, articulate. Apparently, something disqualifies them.

I realize the word is intended as a compliment, but it’s being used to connote a lot more than the ability to express one’s thoughts clearly. It’s being used to say more, even, than “here’s a black person who speaks standard English without a trace of Ebonics.”

The word articulate is being used to encompass not just speech but a whole range of cultural cues — dress, bearing, education, golf handicap. It’s being used to describe a black person around whom white people can be comfortable, a black person who not only speaks white America’s language but is fluent in its body language as well.

And the word is often pronounced with an air of surprise, as if it’s an improbable and wondrous thing that a black person has somehow cracked the code. I can’t help but think of the famous quote from Samuel Johnson: “Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

I’ve had quite a few of my own experiences with being labeled exceptional or articulate in a such a way that the words “… for a Puerto Rican,” though left unsaid, came through loud and clear. The first such incident that I remember came in high school, when a white acquaintance was thoroughly surprised to hear that I was Puerto Rican, because I didn’t sound like other Puerto Ricans she’d encountered. When I asked what she meant, she said something to the effect of “you know, you sound smart.” My budding racial consciousness was offended, but I more saddened to hear almost the exact same thing from a coworker at McDonald’s a few years later – this time, another woman of color.

My mother, who was born in Puerto Rico and was poor for much of her life, likes to jokingly say that she’s a “smart Puerto Rican,” usually in response to some ignorant white jerk acting the racist fool towards her. The joke relies on “smart” and “Puerto Rican” being somehow contradictory. She’s always been extremely insistent that I learn “proper English, discouraging any slang or “street talk,” correcting me every time I said “yeah” instead of “yes” and whenever she thought she heard me leave the “be” off of “because.” It wasn’t enough that I knew the rules of English grammar and could speak and write within those rules when in an academic or work setting; it was a constant requirement, even in casual speech.

I never sounded anything like cousins my age, whose parents weren’t similarly obsessed and couldn’t afford to send them to private school, like my parents could. Language was among many things that created a cultural gulf between me and them, that made me something of a weirdo in my family. My mother was indeed raising me to be fluent in white America’s language, both the spoken language and the body language, because to her, that was the key to my success.

And was she wrong? Probably not. When it came time for college interviews and applications, and later, job interviews, none of my abundant nervousness was about my ability to speak or write; I know that I can talk the talk, and talk it well.

However, in cracking the code of white America, I think there’s also a great deal to be lost. I’m fluent in “standard” English, but when it comes to Spanish, I’m left struggling to express myself. I can understand a great deal, though with some effort, but I can’t speak very well at all, despite it being my family’s native tongue, and despite having studied it for four years in high school and a semester in college. Usually, I’m too ashamed at my lack of skill to even attempt to speak Spanish to Latino strangers. When I meet a white person who can speak Spanish better than me, that shame and frustration becomes tinged with anger. And that feeling of being the weirdo of the family never quite went away (though being a politicized, butch, raging homo might have something to do with it, too.) Class, education, and cultural differences all add up to a significant amount of privilege that most of my family – and far too many Puerto Ricans, Latinos, and people of color in general – will never be able to access.

But while that privilege affords me many an opportunity and many a comfort, it comes at a price: a distance, a disconnection, a weirdo status. I’ve got all sorts of deep down insecurities about being perceived as “too white” and “not Puerto Rican enough” by other people of color. The racism that we’ve internalized tells us that to be highly educated, upwardly mobile, and well versed in the rules of English grammar is to be white, or at least closer to white; that these are things that are not really meant for us; that, if we possess or attain these things, we have in fact lost a little of ourselves, our authenticity, our connection to our people. And mostly, that’s just racist bullshit meant to keep us down; but in another, sad way, because of a certain trade off that can exist between cracking the code and preserving your ties to your culture and your people, it’s true.

Tancredo’s platform: too many Mexicans, and Blacks who identify as Blacks

On Monday morning, I was listening to the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC while getting ready for work. Lehrer was interviewing Tom Tancredo, a Republican representative in the House from Colorado who is planning on running for the presidency. Now, this guy is a real gem; his recent antics include singing Dixie at a Confederate-flag-displaying barbecue organized by the South Carolina League of the South, which is classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. The barbecue was a fundraiser for Tancredo’s non-profit coalition, “Americans Have Had Enough!” (Enough immigrants, Mexicans, or brown people, I’m guessing.)

So, his newest crusade is unsurprising: he’s calling for the abolition of the congressional Black and Hispanic caucuses. From the interview (which you can listen to in its entirety :

TANCREDO: I do not believe that there should be a Black caucus, I do not believe that there should be a caucus based on race. The Black caucus, Hispanic caucus – these are not things that the Congress of the United States ought to provide finances for, ought to have as a formal part of the House of Representatives, which these are; and, which send a horrible message I think again about how we are split up on racial lines and that’s exactly where we should not be going. What would happen, I wonder, if anyone was to suggest the creation of a white caucus. I mean, certainly they would be roundly criticized and rightly so, for being racist.

LEHRER: Well, do you think that those are moral equivalents, a white caucus and a Black caucus, given American history?

TANCREDO: I absolutely believe they are, when you have, uh… The issue is surrounding the concept of a race-based, formally organized and formally approved part of the congress of the United States. That is, I think, sending a horrible message.

Right. Because Black folks and other people of color don’t need to gather and work together as a result of racism. It’s actually the other way around: things are all messed up because they’re sending the wrong message. If they’d just stop sending the wrong message, then poof, racism and racial divides in this country would disappear! White people, of course, have nothing to do with it. Didn’t you know?

The interview continues, and at some point Lehrer asks:

LEHRER: So the two issues you’ve picked your most public fights on as a presidential candidate so far are too many Mexicans, if we can call the immigration, the illegal immigration question that –

TANCREDO: You can’t.

LEHRER: – I’ll let you respond to that; and Blacks who identify as Blacks. So should I conclude that too much Black and Latino power at the expense of whites are your two major concerns?

Bullseye, Brian. Tancredo predictably chuckles this off and delivers some manure-laden line about how of course this is not the case. But Lehrer, about whom I generally have mixed feelings, had me saying, “You go, white boy!” with that zinger.

Barack Obama: SECRET MUSLIM (gasp!)

Like me, many of you probably expected that CNN’s little Where’s Obama “accident” was only a hint of things to come. Well, far be it from Fox to disappoint on this count. From ThinkProgress: Fox & Friends aired a segment on Senator Barack Obama, focusing on his supposedly hidden Muslim background. Ignoring the fact that writing about said background in both of his books is basically the opposite of hiding, the anchors and their callers proceed to question whether this past is “ancient history,” or if it matters – apparently, in a way that would make him unsuitable for the presidency.

From the segment transcript:

DOOCY: Why didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised — spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father — as a Muslim and was educated in a madrassa?


DOOCY: We should also point out that Barack Obama’s father is the one who gave him the middle name of Hussein. And the thing about the madrassa, and you know, let’s just be honest about this, in the last number of years, madrassas have been, we’ve learned a lot about them, financed by Saudis, they teach this Wahhabism which pretty much hates us. The big question is was that on the curriculum back then? Probably not, but it was a madrassa and the big question is whether or not any of these revelations about the fact that he was a Muslim — right now I understand he does go to the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, although not a regular parishioner — but raised as a Muslim, went to a madrassa.

And some brilliant insights from callers:

CALLER: I think that ultimately this will probably be one of the main reasons is he not elected.

DOOCY: Just the fact that his father was a Muslim, he was raised as a Muslim for awhile, and went to a madrassa school in Jakarta?

CALLER: Right. I mean, you think that would possibly give him better insight on the enemy, maybe he doesn’t consider terrorists the enemy.


CALLER: I think a Muslim would be fine in the presidency, better than Hillary. At least you know what the Muslims are up to. [Laughter]

But wait – Gretchen Carlson wants to reassure us that this isn’t about being anti-Muslim; no, not at all:

CARLSON: We want to be clear, too, that this isn’t all Muslims, of course, we would only be concerned about the kind that want to blow us up.

Oh, all right. Only those kinds of Muslims. Thanks for clarifying, Gretchen, I feel a lot better now.

That’s Why I’m Voting for Alison Duncan…

… for lieutenant governor of New York.

Also, because she got me on TV. Heh.

But seriously – yes, I’m voting for Alison Duncan (and, in turn, Malachy McCourt, since you vote for the ticket, not the individual candidates.) And you should, too! And not only because they have a solid, truly progressive platform, and not only because I can personally vouch for Alison and say that a whole lot of people who never get paid much mind in Albany will get paid a whole lot of mind if she’s there.

I think it’s also important to vote for Alison and Malachy because we really need to break out of the two-party system. Especially when the two parties always look so damn similar. And a good way to do this is to get third parties, like the Green Party, a line on the ballot, so that their candidates actually show up as an option for people’s votes. If Alison and Malachy get 50,000 votes, then they’ll get ballot status back again.

And for voters who’d normally be more inclined to vote for Spitzer – he’s clearly a shoo-in (or is it shoe in? who knows), so if you agree with me that we need more parties and more options, why don’t you make your vote do some heavy lifting? 50,000 isn’t much, but it’s the kind of number where every vote truly counts.

So, head into that voting booth, look for Row F, and pull that lever for truly progressive, independent candidates. Pull that lever to make a clear statement about the need to break out of the stale and stagnant two-party system. And pull that lever for someone who’s just a right-on person and who I know would do a brilliant job. Yes, that’s an official endorsement – AngryBrownButch endorses Alison Duncan for Lieutenant Governor of New York! Hehe.

(ps When we speak about “our community” in the commercial above, it’s always about the LGBT community. it was a commercial for Logo.)

Surprise! Rush Limbaugh is a total fucker.

Yes, not the most eloquent critique, but hey, it’s 12:53am, and I haven’t blogged in months, so I’m sleepy, lazy, and rusty all at once. But anyhow, this from an ABC News article on Michael J. Fox’s commercial in which he endorses Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democratic congressional candidate who backs stem cell research:

…conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh … leveled a false and offensive charge against the entertainer.

“In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease,” Limbaugh said Monday on his radio show. “He is moving all around and shaking. And it’s purely an act. This is the only time I have ever seen Michael J. Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has.”

Limbaugh said Fox “either didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.”

After listeners contacted the conservative radio talk show host and told him it wasn’t an act, Limbaugh apologized for his statements a tad, but by that time the television spot, as well as his own comments, had become the focus of a widespread, national discussion.

Don’t really have much to say; this just made me hella mad. Finally, something that makes me angry enough to blog again!

Just kidding. Of course there have been tons of things that have made me angry enough to blog, I just haven’t gotten around to the actual blogging part. This was just the right article at the right time, I suppose. Let’s hope that happy coincidence happens more in the near future.