Archive for the 'Cities' Category

25
Jan
09

Lace-curtain Striving

This is the word that I have come to believe epitomizes my family‘s working-class ethos.  Though we’re firmly middle-class, the lot of us, in fact some quite well off (in the top 10% of wage earners), the reality is that we’ll never shed this sense of wanting to do better.  Better than what, at this point, you ask?  I’m not sure.  Most of my cousins are better off than their parents, I think.  Most of us could probably keep up with the proverbial Jones, whoever they are.

But there’s this feeling, best summed up by my godfather once talking about his daughter getting a promotion at work because “she was looking to do more” and her higher-ups noticed.  This is a good example of how the intangible becomes tangible.  How trying to prove oneself pays off.

Yet, striving includes determination fueled in part by insecurity – am I cut out for MIT?  How did I get here?  Will people find out I don’t really belong?  That I’m faking it?  There’s also how we measure success: for some of my cousins, it’s the size of the house or the paycheck or even the clothing brands they bring home.  Some of those matter to me too, but clearly I’ve chosen to prove myself through education, by going where no one in my family has gone before.

In choosing an adulthood of more or less continuous graduate school, my income has fluctuated dramatically over the years, and I often find myself filled with self-recrimination because money is tight and the future’s uncertain and I am definitely not financially secure like a responsible adult in my family should be.  This post is spurred by the fact that I had to put plastic up over my living room windows tonight to keep out the draft, leaving me feeling ashamed that I am worrying about my heating bill and embarrassed that I’ve had resort to crude and unattractive measures when my parents clearly would not want their only child to be worrying about her utility costs like they did long ago.  I should be beyond this, I scold myself silently.

Seriously, somebody call me a wahhhh-bulance, I know.  But my family’s version of making it is always having enough disposable income for shopping or dining out, and then talking about our purchases (look at us! We can buy what we want!).  And here I am wondering how I’m going to pay my household bills come June.  (Any other debt payments have already been slashed to the bone.)

I’ve started to resign myself to that reality that I will probably not outearn my parents in my lifetime.  In exchange I am trying to figure out the bourgie trappings of academia, to demonstrate a different version of, a slight twist on “making it.” I am a quick study, at least.  I only need to get around my own working-class chip to embrace the intelligentsia lifestyle.  We’ll see.  Sometimes I feel like I’m trying to learn a whole new language out here.  And I need some (lace-) curtains stat, so no one can see my plastic window.

16
Jan
09

Please help Kori!

kori I’m shamelessly using this blog in the hopes that you can help my family:

My 7yo cousin Kori, whose family is very low-income and lives in public housing in South Boston, has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  She has been in treatment for some time, and her short-term prognosis is good.  Long-term, her disease is pretty deadly.  Her family is acting strong but they are definitely struggling.

If you can spare even a dime, please consider making a small donation to help with Kori’s treatment. You can learn more about Kori here, and help with her treatment here.  (There is also the option to contribute instead to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for those not comfortable with donating directly to an unknown family.)

The power of the internet to raise awareness and funds is powerful.  I cannot thank you enough for keeping my family in your thoughts and for any help you can provide for Kori.

I am collecting funds through Friday, January 23.

07
Jan
09

Snitch

I’m 99% sure that in my first post-Katrina New Orleans project, when I was part of a team interviewing community activists for funders, my colleagues interviewed this guy.

17
Dec
08

Oy Vey

As soon as I heard about the Madoff fraud case, I thought, how will this affect Brandeis and the American Jewish community that supports it?  As I expected: POORLY.

The Palm Beach Jewish community is an epicenter of Brandeis philanthropic support.  Every spring my Brandeis quarterly journal arrives with photos of our Israeli president, Jehuda Reinharz, sporting a tan and beaming at the camera with his arms around elderly, multi-millionaire Jewish couples who have just gifted another round of millions for a new science center, student center, endowed chair, etc.

Just as I felt distantly personally involved in the 2000 Florida recount mess, this latest turmoil to roll through Palm Beach, FL leaves me cringing and worrying about my indirect benefactors.  And I need not envision only sunny skies and beautiful beaches as I fret: Boston’s non-profit organizations and institutions are also taking a substantial hit.

16
Dec
08

Bush by the numbers

I received this via e-mail this morning from the progressive NYC think-tank Drum Major Institute.  It’s reprinted in its chilling entirety.

The 2008 DMI Injustice Index: The Bush Legacy

Opening weekend box office gross of Oliver Stone’s Bush biopic “W”: $10.6 million

Opening weekend box office gross of Michael Moore’s 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 911, which intensely criticized the Bush Administration: $23.9 million

Number of days during his presidency that Bush spent on vacation at either Camp David or his Texas ranch, as of August 2008 (including partial days off): 916

Total number of years in Bush’s presidency, if these vacation days are subtracted: 5.5

Proportion of U.S. workers who have no paid vacations or holidays at work: 1 in 4

Date on which President Bush received a presidential daily briefing entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” while in the midst of a month-long vacation: 8/6/2001

Date on which a FEMA report warned that Hurricane Katrina could “could greatly overtop levees and protective systems” in New Orleans, displacing more than a million residents, a warning which came when the President was again on a month-long vacation: 8/27/2005

Date of a second warning, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, that Katrina would “likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching”: 8/29/2008

Date that President Bush told ABC “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.”: 9/1/2005

Date on which George W. Bush announced “I believe we’re overextended… if we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world and nation building missions, then we’re going to have a serious problem coming down the road”: 10/3/2000

Date on which the United Nation’s chief weapons inspector, Han Blix, informed the U.N. Security Council that he had found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, although inspection and monitoring efforts would continue: 3/7/2003

Date that United States invaded Iraq: 3/19/2003

Cost of the Iraq War through 2008: $567 billion

Approximate cost of the privately funded George W. Bush Presidential Library, whose manager insists it will discuss the war “upfront”: $250 million

Year the library is set to open: 2014

Year by which the No Child Left Behind law mandates that all students nationwide must achieve grade-level proficiency in reading and math: 2016

Number of societies on earth that has ever succeeded in achieving universal student proficiency, according to testing expert Robert Linn: 0

Amount by which No Child Left Behind has been underfunded since its inception, according to Senator Tom Harkin: $70.9 billion

Proportion of U.S. public schools that are failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards as of October 2008: 2 out of 5

Percentage increase in overall school performance when previously uninsured children were enrolled in public health coverage, according to a California study: 24%

Change in the number of children with health coverage during President Bush’s tenure: -78,000

Percentage of President Bush’s total vetoes that blocked expansion of children’s health insurance: 20%

Number of times he cited the superiority of private insurance programs in his message explaining the first veto to Congress: 5

Year when President Bush made privatizing Social Security the centerpiece of his State of the Union Address, asserting that “your money will grow, over time, at a greater rate than anything the current system can deliver.”: 2005

Number of points the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped on September 29, 2008: 778

Overall change in stock market wealth between Oct. 2007 and Oct. 2008: -$8.4 trillion

Date President Bush signed legislation phasing out the federal estate tax: 6/7/2001

Increase in the number of U.S. millionaires since that year: 928,000

Increase in the number of Americans living in poverty since that year: 4.4 million

Cost of all Bush’s tax cuts from 2001 to 2007: $1.3 trillion

Date President Bush announced that his tax cuts would “encourage more investment” and “strengthen the foundation of our economy so that every American who wants to work will be able to find a job.’: 5/28/2003

Rank of the business cycle that included these tax cuts compared to all business cycles since 1949 in terms of employment growth: last

Rank in terms of investment: last

Change in the real median income of non-retiree households since 2000: -$2,010

Estimated home equity lost by American families with the bursting of the housing bubble: $4 trillion

Year that subsidiaries of the U.S. Treasury Department struck down laws in Georgia and New Jersey that were intended to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures within those states: 2003

Year in which the Federal Reserve issued its own rules to rein in predatory lending and prevent foreclosures: 2008

Number of home foreclosure filings in the first three quarters of 2008: 2.2 million

Number of surrounding homes likely to suffer price declines as a result of this number of foreclosures according to the Center for Responsible Lending : 40.6 million

Date on which President Bush appeared on the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal,” joking that he was “thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings’: 4/21/08

Percentage difference in viewership of the episode with the Bush cameo, compared to the show’s season average: -27%

Approximate proportion of Americans who approved of President’s Bush handling of the Presidency in October, 2008: 1 in 5

Proportion of American adults currently incarcerated in a prison or jail: 1 in 100

Date on which President Bush commuted the prison sentence of I. Lewis Libby, the Vice President’s former Chief of Staff, who was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice: 7/2/2007

Percentage change in the number of full time staff monitoring hazardous goods at the Consumer Product Safety Commission during Bush’s tenure: -16%

Percentage change in the number of federal investigators who monitor employers’ compliance with minimum wage, overtime, and child labor laws during Bush’s tenure: -23%

Percentage of Bush Supreme Court appointees who ruled that factory worker Lilly Ledbetter would get no recompense from her employer despite proving 20 years of pay discrimination: 100%

Number of judges Bush appointed to the Supreme Court as president: 2

Number of Supreme Court Justices who ruled to stop the Florida recount in Bush v. Gore, effectively handing the 2000 election to George W. Bush: 5

Date on which Vice President Dick Cheney announced “history will be the judge – and history, I believe, will say, job well done.” 10/3/2008

To read more from DMI’s 2008 Year In Review, click here.


14
Dec
08

The Spirit of the Season

To all my friends and loved ones in real life and on-line, and especially for those who worship the goddess of science or no g-ds at all this holiday season – from our house to yours, we send you the spirit and cheer of

The Christmas Amoeba!**

christmas-amoeba1

And by “spirit” I mean my spirited – and first ever – attempt to hang outdoor lights at home, in our third floor walk-up in Boston.  Go me shaking off the Virgo need for symmetry!!

**The Christmas Amoeba is a close relative of the Hanukah Amoeba, Ramadan Amoeba, Kwanzaa Amoeba, Boxing Day Amoeba, and Winter Solstice Amoeba.

12
Dec
08

Friday afternoon news dump

Say hello to Change.org’s newest blogger!!  (No, over here!!!)

Yes, me!

I will be blogging about poverty in the U.S.

It’s expected to curb my personal blogging here, but stay tuned for details.

Many thanks I think to Feministe who originally linked to their job postings.  Many thanks to friends and fellow bloggers for thinking through issues of poverty with me here.

09
Dec
08

Dee Dee Myers Nails It

Favreau’s Sexist Photo is No Laughing Matter

(h/t)

Meanwhile, in other f***ed up news…Blagojevich is insane!!!  What drama!   And I thought 2008 political madness was done now that the election was over.  What a thug!

I’m glad to hear Obama’s clean, and also pleased that this may put Jesse Jackson, Jr. out of the running for his seat.  I don’t like him, for reasons Liss gets at here and I expand on here.   And what does this mean for Andy Stern and SEIU??

08
Dec
08

5 years out of step?

Talking about GOP Candidate Anh “Joseph” Cao’s win this weekend over Bill Jefferson in Louisiana’s 2nd House district, local reporter John Maginnis described the state as “five years out of step” with the rest of the country.  It’s a place where Republicans are “still coming up.”  The main themes of the victory are a) low turnout among black voters and b) white activism to vote the indicted Jefferson out of office.  Many have pointed out that Cao’s win reflects post-Katrina demographic change in New Orleans: the black population has shrunk by at least 7 %, and whites have increased by 5%.  Asian-Americans – mostly Vietnamese – make up 3% of the city’s post-storm population.  Last year, the City Council became white majority again for the first time in 20 years.

What I find more interesting about Cao’s victory is his inspiration to enter politics after Katrina, due to the flooding of his office and home and the poor government response to the disaster.  It is this kind of local activism that I have seen in the city and region since the storm.  It is this burgeoning, organized activism that promises to fill the political and socio-economic gaps in the city and region, given the chronic lack of local government leadership in New Orleans, and/or the willful neglect of local and state governments around the Gulf Coast.  That is, one remarkable outcome of the 2005 storms is the tremendous civic infrastructure that is being built by activists, professional advocates, non-profits and funders, because governments either lack the money or political will to rebuild fairly and responsibly.

As the field remarks, the GOP’s big tent pretty much begins and ends in Louisiana.  Much more so than creationist Gov. Jindal, we might look to citizen-activist Representative-elect Cao for insight on how to expand the GOP to include those who simply want better, more responsible government to fulfill our individual rights to private property and to help us run our small businesses.  I’m obviously not all that interested in strengthening the GOP, but I’m intrigued by the task ahead for the Party, as it must modernize and moderate its platform if it ever wants centrist Republicans to turn up at the polls again.

But Cao’s election symbolizes a broader trend underway in Louisiana: the slow, methodological development of citizen engagement, non-profit capacity building, and political accountability.  Louisianans have their work cut out for them: Jindal has abolished the Department of Labor in this right-to-work state, wants to effectively get rid of the Medicaid system, and has imposed cuts to vital non-profits throughout the state.  This is also the place where only 2 months ago GOP Rep. John LaBruzzo advocated sterilization for low-income women as a poverty alleviation measure, then patted himself on the back for taking a tough, bold, innovative anti-poverty approach.  Then there’s Jena.  And Angola.

I need to stop now before I further inspire my LA and Southern colleagues to remind me of the Northeast’s and Boston’s own dirty laundry of injustice and political chicanery.    But I write from an inspired position.  The people I’ve met in New Orleans and across the Gulf Coast are doing more work than is reasonably expected to rebuild their homes and communities in the absence of government leadership.  It is some of the most impressive mobilization I’ve seen in my shortish life.   And they’re dragging their governments, with their shuttered Charity Hospitals, toxic FEMA trailers and bloated ports, into a new, more progressive era.  It’s like the civic activist version of the World’s Strongest Man contest.  Stay tuned!!

07
Dec
08

hell no, hell yes

Thank goodness someone said it: Caroline Kennedy – the audacity of entitlement?

On the flip side, this is a fabulous appointment.  Here’s hoping we can rectify some of the massive wrongs by the Bush Administration at the V.A.  The treatment of Vets in our country, preceeding Bush but exacerbated by him (like every other inequality) is reprehensible.  The conditions at Walter Reed ranked right up there with life in FEMA trailers in the post-Katrina Gulf Coast.





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