Saturday, February 18, 2017

Donald Trump: A Fascist Billionaire Without A Budget

Donald Trump whom I've taken to calling "Donito Trumpolini" because of his attempts at creating blatantly fascist policies, can hardly go a day without making another outrageous claim or devising another outrageous policy. He wants to use 100,000 national guardsmen to deport undocumented citizens; and, he wants to reinstate the draft -- both of which wreak of a fascistic, militaristic and foul odor. Let me remind you that a marriage of corporations and government is another element of fascism; and, Trump is tapping billionaires who have little or no experience in politics or governance for different cabinet posts. Make what you will of that. It looks like unabashed fascism to me.

It's been said that every dark cloud has a silver lining. The silver lining in this case is that people the world over are becoming more politically- and socially- conscious, though they could still use a strong dose of spiritual consciousness. As Meatloaf would say, "Two out of three ain't bad". Until very recently, I didn't notice many people throwing around the "F" word -- "fascist". Of late, it appears in many of the comments made by my Facebook friends. A much higher percentage of the posts by my friends and myself are of a political nature. They often express worry about where Trumpolini will (mis)lead the country -- and even the world. (Being as my Facebook forwards to Twitter, Trump might read something posted or forwarded by me wherein he is called the "F" word.)

I engage in political conversation with homeless men at shelters and soup kitchens. I walk down the street, as I did earlier today, and hear homeless men talking about Trumpolini and homelessness. Living in DC where everything is political, I see many protests -- some being quite spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment. People are beginning to develop and articulate political views. They're no longer just "leaving politics to the politicians". The ICE raids are showing them in real time how politics affect their lives. Whether or not you support the deportations, you'd have to be keenly aware of how quickly you or a loved one can disappear after Trumpolini sends the word out. That's cause for concern.

While on Facebook earlier today, I read a comment from a friend wherein he quoted one of his friends who thought that comparing Trumpolini to Hitler was a little over the top. The "friend of a friend" held that, if we really thought that Trump was anything like Hitler, we wouldn't speak so openly against him; and, our current exercise of free speech is proof that Trumpolini is no Hitler. I chimed in to tell them that Hitler was the champion chancellor of Germany before going on a rampage and advised them to give him time, but not too much. I'll elaborate a bit more here and now by saying that, even as Obama drew that "red line" (as he called it) or that "line in the sand" which he then told Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad not to cross, Americans need to draw a line in the sand with Trumpolini in terms of his fascist leanings; but, unlike Obama, we need to take action against him when he crosses it. This requires that we have some knowledge of social theory, of how unacceptable systems develop within accepted ones before turning on the parent system and of what indicators there are that we might be reaching the point of no return.

My hatred of unchecked hyperbole (that is, anything beyond a catchy title and introductory paragraph) on the one hand and my not wanting to wait until it's too late on the other hand, when taken together, have me conflicted. Having been raised by a father who frequently admonished my siblings and I "not to cry'Wolf!'", it has become second nature for me to think long and hard before saying anything that might be mere hyperbole. On the other hand, I've watched as Presidents Clinton, Bush 43 and Trumpolini lied to the public. I've also noticed that Bush 43, Obama and Trump have exhibited a propensity for going after whistle blowers who expose wrongdoings by government and its military rather than addressing the wrongs they've exposed. It's clear that a good portion of the voting public, having been fearful of another 9/11-style attack, re-elected a "great protector" in the person of Bush 43 and gave him full run of the house so he could do anything he saw fit to do in order to protect Americans. He used every inch of space that he was given and used it to advance a totalitarian agenda -- albeit Cheney's. It's true that Watergate has gone down in history as the most noticeable point at which U.S. presidents became obviously, and then overtly, corrupt. However, I believe that the 2004 U.S. presidential election is the point at which the faucet of fascism began to be turned counter-clockwise and the flow has been steadily increased since then to its current wide open, pant-splashing force. Fortunately, the "white sink" hasn't overflowed nor the torrent flowed down Pennsylvania Avenue and overtaken Congress.

Congress, even the GOP, is largely at odds with Trumpolini. Members of Congress and of Trumpolini's cabinet have expressed concerns over his low level of honesty (save his propensity for keeping the promises that many people wish he'd never made in the first place), his lack of knowledge about government and his mental health. Cabinet members have said during their confirmation hearings that they'd disobey any unlawful orders from Trumpolini, which would relegate him to being nothing more than a symbolic figurehead -- a very angry and vindictive symbolic figurehead. Cabinet and congress members seem to be somewhat apologetic toward the world as they offer their condolences and assurances to other countries that Trumpolini will be kept on a short leash where he can't do them any harm -- the leash of disobedience from them. How long can and will they keep this up??? The silver lining for Trumpolini in all of this is that he doesn't have a full-on mutiny within his administration yet; because, he hasn't filled very many of the key positions yet.

That brings us to the title of this post: "Donald Trump: A Fascist Billionaire Without A Budget". While the talk about Trumpolini's politics, in-fighting in the "white sink of fascism"...err White House, congressional bickering, the pseudo-presidents weekends at the Mar - a - Lago Resort, his unhinged press conference(s), his disdain for media or intelligence and his wanting to take two courts (so far) to yet another court over their reversal of his Muslim ban are all over the headlines, there are some nuts and bolts issues that have yet to see the light of day. Thank God for Facebook. In the past month I've reposted some of my Facebook memories and, in so doing, have been reminded of how in 2011 Congress wanted to cut funding for HUD and the EPA -- things that have come up again this year, with the GOP controlling all three houses (if you want to call what Trumpolini exercises "control"). As Congress revisits the issue of Obamacare, the Facebook community and at least one of my flesh-and-blood friends have begun to discuss the fact that Congress should have had an alternative to the Affordable Care Act ready to be signed by Trump on January 20th. After all, they've spent at least six years making and remaking it. This speaks to the matter of congressional dysfunction, their failure thus far to have a vote of no confidence against Trump notwithstanding. That said, the GOP replacement to the ACA has yet to see the light of day.

But that's not why I call him "a fascist billionaire without a budget". I spoke to a couple of Hill staffers on Monday, February 13th while visiting a senator's office. One of them explained that a new president must make 200 nominations for positions that must be confirmed by the senate. They include secretaries, under-secretaries and various diplomatic positions. As of 2/13/17, only ten confirmations had been made. In Trump's defense, the senate democrats have sworn to obstruct the confirmation process at every turn. The most vocal staffer explained that, while the cabinet positions are vacant, the budgets for those departments can't be submitted to or voted on by the senate. Fiscal year 2018 begins on October 1st, 2017. If a full annual budget is not passed, then Congress will substitute it with as many three-month-long continuing resolutions as necessary. While each department would have some finances, they'd be wary of spending more than two-thirds of their quarterly allotment (the CR money); because, the final budget (if one is adopted) might leave them with less operating funds per month than they initially thought they'd have.

For those of you who are not budgetarily or mathematically inclined, imagine that you were given $3,000 to last three months -- $1,000 per month. Then imagine that, after much congressional deliberation, you were give another $3,000 to last the remaining nine months. If you've spent the first $3,000, you now have $333.33 for each of the remaining nine months. If you've only spent $1,500 of the first $3,000 after three months, you can add the remaining $1,500 to the second $3,000 and continue to spend $500 per month throughout the year. That said, if a department of government spends down the first installment of CR money and the monthly allowance must be reduced in the middle of a fiscal year, then programs and initiatives of that department must be reduced or eliminated abruptly in the middle of the year.

This concern causes departments to exercise high levels of constraint without having a full annual budget. So, cabinet, under-secretary and diplomatic vacancies hold up the budget process. Congress uses a piecemeal, stop-gap funding measure called a "continuing resolution". Departments are afraid to do much of anything. Not much gets done by government. The people whose sustenance comes from the government -- in part or in full -- might be directly impacted (with the possible...possible exception of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare). Most of the military's budget is an entitlement; and, given Trumpolini's promise to build up the military along with his stated desire to reinstate the draft and use the national guard for deportations, you can rest assured that all of the military's entitlement money and most or all of the discretionary funding that it requests will be given by Trumpolini and Congress. Fascist militarism.

As indicated in a prior blog post, DC's local government has a $13 billion budget of which about $3 billion comes from Congress. About $1.2 billion is discretionary and the rest entitlement money. Long story short, the DC Council might soon find that they must move local dollars around to different parts of the budget to make up for the loss of federal funding. Though they will have lost about !0% of the budget, some parts of the budget might be impossible to reduce, which would mean other parts would be reduced by more than 10%. Social services are generally the first things to be reduced during a budget crunch. That's not to speak of the fact that people whose federal benefits are received directly from the feds would be left to wonder about the future of those benefits. They'd be hit directly by presidential/federal dysfunction and indirectly as the council is forced to reduce services in lieu of reduced federal funding. Much remains to be seen. Unfortunately, the poorest citizens -- the ones who need a social safety net -- are also the least likely to stand up and speak out. This makes them the easiest ones for the likes of Trumpolini to prey on.

Speaking of preying, folk need to increase their spiritual consciousness too. Some of us saw in June 2015 that Trumpolini had the spirit of a grossly irrational demagogue who appeals to the lowest common denominator of people's thinking -- that he promises to give people what they want but fails to devise a rational and viable plan for doing so. Bush 43, under the leadership of Cheney, began an illegal war that cost a lot of lives; but, his administration was not fully dysfunctional. Having served as governor of Texas, his style was a bit more polished than Trumpolini's. People get a pass for not foreseeing what Bush43 would do -- the quagmire he'd drag us into with his war [of] terror. But I question the reasoning of anyone who was so drawn to Trumpolini's campaign promises that they didn't pick up on how unfit he was and is -- this in spite of a 17-month campaign. That said, the continual downgrading of presidential sanity and intelligence from 2004 (when we should have known better than to re-elect Bush 43) should cause us to wonder just how much worse things can get and to determine where we'll draw that line in the sand. We should realize by now that voting for a candidate who promises to protect us by building walls or by engaging in illegal wars only gives us more to fear. We have nothing to fear but fear itself and God. (Saddam Hussein is probably laughing at us right now.) In 2020, if we are still able to vote for a president, we need not vote a demagogue who appeals to the emotions of the masses, but rather for a rational candidate who reasons well and considers all available facts. As for that line in the sand, I think the masses will rise up spontaneously when Trumpolini uses martial law to quell dissent. It might be too late then. So, for me, that line is when one poor person dies (or even comes close) for lack of sustenance as a result of a Trumpolini policy. In the meantime, let's continue to increase our political, social and spiritual consciousness.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Aborting the Mission: Churches, Social Services, Non-Profits and Government Fail the Poor

PREFACE: As I sit here and begin typing this blog post, I'm also thinking seriously about taking people up on their suggestion that I write a book. Several people have made this suggestion over the years. Most have not clearly indicated what they thought the book should be about, though it stands to reason that they'd want me to write about the lessons I've learned as a homeless advocate from June 2006 to the present. I've repeatedly thought about how my having been abused from shortly after birth until my biological mother fractured my skull when I was eight months old, my having spent five years in foster care and my having then been raised by a Polish man and Italian woman who had 36 other children (only 7 naturally) would make for a really boring story. So, I'm not inclined to write an autobiography. I've asked myself what type of book by me would even stand the chance of becoming a best seller. Assuming that the book should be a critique of the "socialistic" services that are offered by governments in America and with me being quite familiar with DC's local government, I've wondered what kind of spin I would put on it.

I think I have the answer. A fellow advocate who lives in London told me some time ago that he thinks the United States is "a capitalist beast with a Socialist heart". For those who don't already understand that metaphor intuitively, he was saying that, while the U.S. Government is caught in the [death] throes of capitalism which caters to the wealthy and exploits the poor, the government also provides for the poor to some degree. His succinct summation of American governance leaves much to be said, such as whether the provisions afforded the poor are the result of governmental compassion or they only serve to "keep the lid on the pressure cooker". That is to keep the poor from rising up against the powers that be. Call me a cynic (or a stoic); but, I'm inclined to believe the latter. My British comrade's comment also leaves one to ponder how we might shift away from settling for charity and begin to demand justice -- how we should reject perpetual social service handouts year after year and begin to demand that government do the math so as to ensure that any full-time worker can afford all of the necessities of life. After all, the same governments that provide food stamps (SNAP), HUD vouchers, TANF and other social services are continually reducing (and, in some cases, eliminating) these public benefits as they claim that the recipients thereof are lazy and shiftless. Government, at its various levels, has admitted to creating a "culture of dependency" and has proceeded to try and right their wrong by pulling the rug out from under needy people. The truth is that government realizes that technology is eliminating jobs more quickly that they can be created; that an ever-increasing percentage of available jobs require specialized training or a college degree; and, that many of the poor won't be able to complete such courses -- due to financial and/or mental limitations. All in all, blaming those who lack advanced education and financial resources for failing to advance and then cutting off their sustenance amounts to "passive euthanasia". That said, it seems that "the capitalist beast is having heart problems".

That brings me to the framing of this book for which this blog post can be considered a preview. I will, in the very near future, begin writing this book in which I'll spell out how the U.S. Government as well as the DC Government ostensibly began working "in earnest" to address homelessness in 1987 and 2004, respectively. I'll show how that, as another local advocate would say, "It's all just a shell game". It's quite shameful that, since the feds began addressing homelessness 30 years ago, DC's homeless population has grown exponentially (possibly six times now what it was then); and, since DC Government began "working" on homelessness, it has increased by approximately six percent -- through several ups and downs. So many of those in government who get paid to end homelessness and many of those to whom government awards social service contracts make six figures. Critics of mine have admonish me to call out these "poverty pimps", one man going so far as to post disparaging fliers about me and my advocacy on bus shelters. With me having been somewhat politically correct for the past few years, these calls for me to return to my more aggressive manner of speech are fully justified. It has crossed my mind frequently in recent months that I should redouble my efforts to make government consider its long-term and expensive failures -- irrespective of how many of their heads roll. There's no better time than the present to undertake this noble effort.

In this blog post and eventually in the book, I'll attempt to convince those who are just now becoming socially and politically aware that, well before but especially during the "Trumpolini" era, the way in which social services are structured in this country is prefaced on not wanting to disrupt capitalism and on wanting to ensure that the super rich class can continue to exploit the poor and others in the working class. The capitalist class averted full-on tragedy following the economic downturn of 2008; but, they are still in crisis mode -- for more reasons than I can spell out in a single blog post of reasonable length, thus the book. However, I will note here and now that technology has made human labor; concessions to labor unions and to the working class as a whole, and the provision of social programs for the currently-unemployed less relevant. It is less likely now than it was 30 years ago that dozens of workers threatening to strike will force the employer to bargain or barter with them. The capitalists are only willing to cut deals for what they want and need; and, they neither want nor need the large numbers of workers that used to define factories. The reduced need for human labor is also the reason that those who actually do get hired are often offered wages that are far below what one would need to earn in order to pay the average rent for that region. It also explains many employers' reluctance to offer health benefits and paid family leave. It's worth noting that, like the aforementioned poverty pimps, these low-wage-paying employers and high-rent-charging landlords are making out like bandits. Nonetheless, the governments that reluctantly provide social services to both the working and unemployed poor also make every effort to allow the laissez faire market to remain intact -- by raising the minimum wage at a fraction of the rate at which rents and the overall cost of living rise. Furthermore, we now have a pseudo-president who is trying to greatly accelerate the rate at which the interests of business are codified into law and made into federal policy -- all this, in spite of the detriments such actions would present to the poor. It's fair to say that all aspects of American governance are designed to give the rich all that they want, even if the majority of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and one or two percent are wondering where they are going to sleep tonight.

In times past, governments and corporations would take steps to sustain unemployed people who they'd eventually need to work for them again once business picked back up. However, as the capitalist class' need for workers diminishes, so does their willingness to assist the poor -- with employment or sustenance, though they might help the disabled in order to save face. Let's bear in mind that, once we correctly identify the motives that drive government and the wealthy, it will be easier to predict their moves well in advance; to devise our plans with the concepts on which the capitalists' plans are premised in mind; and to more deliberately and successfully thwart their plans. Then again, "Donito Trumpolini" is quite unabashedly promoting and implementing fascist policies; and, it might be too late to stop this train -- without another American Revolution. What's more is that it is our electoral system -- but not the popular vote -- that gave us this monster. Democracy -- the current American form, anyway -- has failed us.

There are many ways in which one can tell this story, to be sure. The disease of capitalism has many symptoms that have many variations. Keeping up with the evolving antics of the capitalist class is a full-time job -- for the masses. There is "inverted totalitarianism" wherein a government's constituents are afforded a false sense of choice; but, the reality is that a small cadre of people is actually making choices that affect the masses -- as was the case with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Locally, this concept manifests as what I'll call "NIMBY meetings" wherein someone like DC's Mayor Muriel Bowser arranges public meetings to discuss replacing a large family shelter with several smaller shelters but she only seems to attract those who are against having this social service in their neighborhoods to these meetings. As a result, she can now claim that it was her constituency that came out against the replacement shelters -- and leave us to wonder if that was the outcome she sought all along.

As of January 20th, 2017, she also has some "right-side-up totalitarianism" that she can tout, as Donito Trumpolini's emerging policies threaten to deplete the city's $13 billion budget of $1.2 billion in one fell swoop and thereby offer her a viable excuse for slicing social services to bits. Even DC's homeless are now talking about how she put a half million dollars toward supporting undocumented citizens even as she took steps in late 2016 to bar those whose last known address is not in DC from accessing shelter in the city. Immigrants aren't necessarily poor or in need of social services; so, they are more welcome than people who might have lived in DC before being evicted and sleeping on Mom's couch in neighboring Maryland or Virginia. Being somewhat cynical, I am all but convinced that Mayor Muriel Bowser is flaunting her "love of immigrants" with the full knowledge that Trumpolini promises to stop funding sanctuary cities like ours, even as she hopes that he'll make good on his promise -- which he has shown some propensity for doing. That would, all at once, take the burden of assisting the poor and the blame for failing them off of her. The DC mayor has a game of shifting blame -- just like she did following the 2016 homeless count, blaming the one-year 1,052-person increase in homeless people on the draconian policies of the previous mayor whereby homeless families were prevented from accessing shelter and forced to live doubled-up with relatives in sometimes overcrowded conditions until her policies increased shelter access in early 2015. Her argument does have plenty of merit; but, it doesn't gauge the full scope of unmet, hidden need or get past mere blame and to actual solutions that bring about a just system and reduce the need for charity.

Another aspect of the American system of governance that I'll describe here is what I'll call "inverted fascism". Whereas it is the national government in a fascist system that usually implements the most draconian and oppressive policies, it has become the norm for municipalities to implement these types of policies here in the U.S. where fascism is still in the nascent phase -- some cities jailing people for feeding the needy in public spaces and jailing the homeless for sleeping outdoors. The federal and state governments might issue notices of "guidance" which lack the force of law and which only try to dissuade local governments from creating oppressive policies -- without forcibly mandating that local governments treat all of their constituents humanely.

"Of the aforementioned tactics used by government, the one that is rearing it's head the most right now in Washington, DC is that of inverted totalitarianism -- like what DC's current mayor is using in the family shelter replacement plan and what ushered a 71-year old baby into the White House."

Aborting the Mission: Churches, Social Services, Non-Profits and Government Fail the Poor

Though it's taken me quite some time to get around to writing about it, the negative concept that initially inspired this post was a pattern that I've begun to see emerging where churches, social service agencies, non-profits and governments are aborting their stated missions. Governments like DC's municipal government have spent hundreds of millions of dollars -- possibly $2 billion or so in DC -- since declaring their intentions to end homelessness; but, they've failed to decrease it substantially (if at all) in 10 years or more -- much less, end it. DC embarked on such a journey in 2004. As of the May 2016 publishing of numbers from the homeless census that took place four months prior, we'd actually seen a 427-person increase over the 2004 numbers.

With this blog post having already become quite lengthy and me planning to write a book, I'll very briefly describe some of the systemic flaws that have the local social safety net on the verge of total collapse -- in my opinion, anyway. Decide for yourself if you think that the agencies referenced below are.....

"aborting the mission":

1 -- As stated earlier, DC Gov began "working" on ending homelessness in 2004 when DC had 8,253 homeless people. They developed a 10-year plan that FAILED. (They actually stopped paying attention to the plan about three years in.) In May 2014 it was determined that there had been a one-year increase of 889 homeless people, going from 6,859 in 2013 to 7,748 in 2014. When I called out the city's failure at the end of the June 2014 ICH meeting during which this group of government officials, non-profits and others skipped their usual mid-year discussion of homeless census results, city administrator Allen Lew softened the blow with a euphemism, saying that the city was "not failing" but rather "working on" [ending homelessness]. By the way, I hate euphemisms!!! In 2016 we INITIALLY figured DC to have 8,350 homeless people but found another 330 later on. (8,680 total). Government's euphemisms as well as their way of avoiding hard discussions about grim realities, about the overall thrust of the system and about their own failures leave me to conclude that many of these high earners are nonchalant and might even prefer that the problem that they are ostensibly attempting to solve actually be perpetuated -- giving them job security.

2 -- The Dinner Program for Homeless Women sat next to the MLK Library in a church basement and fed breakfast and men before relocating and changing its name to Thrive DC. It served 400 people six days per week and provided healthcare, employment assistance and other services -- as well as TV's that served to keep the homeless out of the way of the business community above in DC's Chinatown. The church was closed in January 2007 and torn down later that year. The rebuilt church was forbidden by the financier to have a similar program and accepted the terms. It just seems so counter-intuitive for a church to accept that it will be forbidden to assist the poor, with Christ having been a Communist who commanded us to help those in need -- with a job, when possible.

3 -- The MLK Library will close on 3/4/17 for a three-year renovation and this will create a disruption in the daily lives of the many homeless who the city drops off there day after day and picks up there every evening -- having done so for many years. This is happening a full 10 years after the church next door stopped serving the homeless, save a tiny outreach office. The city essentially moved many of the homeless from the church to the library next door in 2007 and must now move them from the library elsewhere -- not yet being fully certain as to where elsewhere is. These high earners in government (across several mayoral administrations) have only been moving the problem around and keeping it out of the way of the capitalists -- not solving it quickly enough to get ahead of the ball.

 4 -- The office of Catholic Charities DC sits across the road from the aforementioned church and library. As many as 200 homeless people line up outside of Catholic Charities' office to eat a meal every Wednesday (sometimes less at the beginning of the month). 3/8/17 will be the first Wednesday that they can't wait in MLK or re-enter the library to eat. There might be a colossal "mass" of people gathered on the sidewalk between 4 and 7 PM, either awaiting food or eating. What's more is that, while Catholic Charities' administration has claimed that they want to do more than provide bare bones shelter for the homeless whom they are in contract with the city to serve, a cog in the government-non-profit machine has prevented Catholic Charities from being able to work that out. I won't attempt to figure out right now where the problem lies. It brings to mind a 10-prison strike in Georgia a few years ago and a very recent prison riot in Delaware with prisoners in both cases complaining that they weren't being afforded adult education or job training. Now we have government only providing bare-bones shelter without proactively offering comprehensive educational and employment services. (In DC Government's defense, they've offered employment services as part of a terribly flawed process that was not designed or driven at all by someone experiencing homelessness.)

5 -- There is another church that sits 4 blocks from the library, serves 200 homeless people every Sunday, houses the office of DC's street paper as well as other non-profits and whose wardens have decided against helping the city mitigate the problems that will arise for the homeless when the library closes. So, now we have a church that has said that it won't take on any additional burden when it comes to assisting the downtown poor, although its stated mission is actually "to serve the downtown poor". That's even more counter-intuitive.

6 -- There is a shelter that has served as many as 1,700 people since 1987 (currently about 1,000) but which, since 2013 has:

A -- Refused to let the city build affordable housing on land that the non-profit which operates the shelter owns, in a manner of speaking (through a 30-year federal lease until 2021 -- or '23 given the quitclaim deed -- with a right to renew for 99 years thereafter). The shelter admin doesn't own the building. The city government recently gained ownership of the building after complying with a federal covenant for 30 years. During a nine-month task force process to discuss the expiring leases and covenant, it was suggested that affordable housing be built on the parking lot. The shelter administration refused.

B -- Refused to allow the city's Dept. Of Employment Services to park their mobile unit in front of the shelter so as to assist the homeless with employment. In all fairness, the shelter administration has had reason (due to a threat from a past mayoral administration) to fear that the city government might withdraw its license to operate. Shelter staff have become so paranoid about what may be a dead threat to revoke their license if they don't keep homeless residents from loitering on the sidewalk in front of their shelter that the staff won't even allow the city government's Dept. Of Employment Services (DOES) to park their RV in front and offer services. Go figure. (DC does not have an anti-loitering law; but, the homeless have special anti-loitering rules at the shelters at which they reside. That's why they go to other neighborhoods -- possibly yours. Go figure.)

C -- Refused to allow people to serve food to the homeless on the sidewalk outside of the shelter, though it is not against DC Law to do so. See above.

D -- Refused to allow the city to put a homeless drop-in center in the vacant parts of the building in which the shelter is located, even though the city actually owns the building. (A certain administration official has tried to play nicely in the sandbox with this shelter admin. She wants to get along with everyone. The shelter admin's intransigence and tendency to take her kindness for weakness might be all that's standing between the city's homeless and a solution to this social ill -- if only to the subset of problems created by the library closure.

IN CONCLUSION: I've concluded that city officials are avoiding addressing affordable housing and housing-wage job issues for the working poor. They'd rather see the working poor just leave town, only coming into DC to work. Churches, non-profits and various social services aren't doing any better. (Then there is the federal government -- another beast altogether. By the way, it recently tried to eat its baby, as Senator Jason Chaffetz, R/UT suggested that DC be folded into Maryland.) What conclusion have YOU drawn???

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Monday, February 6, 2017

World War III in 2018???; When the "Right" is Wrong

Unfortunately, Donald Trump (Donito Trumpolini) is our pseudo-president. It seems -- a mere 17 days into his term -- that, even as Cheney was the "war president" and Obama was the "too-sweet president", that Trump will preside over the implosion of capitalism in general and the U.S. Government in particular. Let's face it: As of February 6th, 2017, his administration is at odds with a GOP-appointed federal judge over a xenophobic executive order that Trumpolini signed. As many as 60,000 travelers have been inconvenienced and the process could end with Trumpolini being decapitated by the guillotine of impeachment. Congress people in his own party are pulling away from him and federal workers whose job it is to implement his policies are expressing their disdain -- which might be a precursor to an all-out mutiny.

Trumpolini has a head that as hard as a rock. He's filthy rich -- probably from swimming in dirty money. He represents the worst that capitalism has to offer. He's tapping multiple American billionaires for various cabinet posts. He's cuddling up to his counterpart in Russia whose national capital has more billionaires than any other city in the world. He's currently residing in DC, a city that seems to be on a track toward becoming as elitist as Moscow.

That said, the Trumpolini era might expedite gentrification and the transformation of DC into the world-class, elitist city that Adrian Fenty tried to make it. The silver lining here is that Trumpolini's rock-hard head might enable us to kill two birds with one stone -- the vulture of capitalism (preying on even the dying poor) and the pelican of U.S. governance (scooping up all of the oil from under foreign soil). Hopefully his neck is soft enough for the blade of impeachment to penetrate it -- and thereby afford us a stone to throw at the aforementioned birds.

Trumpolini is the capitalist's capitalist and the gentrifier's gentrifier. He can do with one fell swoop what local politicians working collectively take decades to do -- spoil the rich, push out the poor and develop an ethos within government that promotes the overall paradigm and mentality of the wealthy. DC's local politicians receive political donations from the wealthy and then make political decisions that take the motives of their donors into consideration -- a process that opens the politician up to a possible bribery charge. Trumpolini is eliminating the need to make decisions on behalf of the wealthy -- who most likely have not made political donations to Trumpolini in recent years -- by just installing the wealthy in his cabinet. Local politicians use the wealthy to fund their campaigns. Trumpolini is doing what he can to give the wealthy overt and direct control of government -- open fascism, by all means. So, while both government's here in the nation's capital kowtow to the wealthy, they do it in very different ways

While it's not good to use sensationalism or emotion to hype up a story and garner support for one's cause, it's even more dangerous to underestimate people in positions of power, only to have them execute a coup against the Constitution and all that we hold dear. (I don't think the Constitution or the forefathers represent perfection; but, people from the 18th and 19th centuries seem to have had a higher collective intelligence than the Americans of today.) When it comes to sensationalism, let's remember that an unsuccessful machete attack against a soldier in France (our oldest ally) was being called "Terrorism" by the French government and that Trumpolini counselor[sic] Kellyanne Conway remembers a Bowling Green, KY massacre that never made its way into the mass media (and which probably never happened -- LOL). So, while I choose not to believe the hype, I don't think it's stretching the truth to say that Trumpolini might just lead us into another American Revolution or even World War III. (The former would prevent the latter by necessitating the return of our forces from overseas, thereby saving the world.) But, given how socially unconscious the majority of Americans are as well as the allies we have retained thus far and the enemies that Trumpolini is making the world over, it's quite probable that we'll see World War III before we see another revolution. Just think:

Russian President Vladimir Putin likes (or just uses) Trumpolini. Russia will fight on our side -- initially, anyway.

China is at odds with us over the fact that Trumpolini decided to forego a decades-old diplomatic norm by communicating directly with Taiwan and circumventing China. Like Russia, China has nukes.

India, which has had a long-standing dispute with its neighbor and fellow nuclear nation of Pakistan over the Kashmir Territory, has also had a few high-profile sex crimes in recent years such that they appeared in the American media. Though India is not on the list of top 10 countries for rape, the notoriety of the few stories that have made their way to the other side of the "pond" is likely reason enough for Trump to consider India a strong ally and to side with them over what he perceives to be a dispute over goats and coats. No kidding. This puts India on our side and makes Pakistan the enemy. Add to that the fact that Pakistan was not happy about U.S. forces going in unannounced in order to kill Osama Bin Laden.

As stated earlier, France is our oldest ally and, if the machete attack is any indication, their government is as prone to hyperbole as Trumpolini and his (mental health???) counselor Kellyanne "CON-(her)-way-to-the top" Conway.

The United Kingdom slapped Trump on the wrist for suggesting who they appoint as ambassador to the U.S. They even voted in Parliament to bar Trumpolini from the country. Even so, I doubt they'd turn against the U.S. any time soon. They'd probably wait until the U.S. has taken a bad enough beating from our nuclear enemies and Trumpolini has learned how to STFU; then, they'd execute a surprise attack on those enemies. Whether or not it would prove to be too little and too late is another matter.

The final country on the list of eight nuclear nations is North Korea. I'm not sure that they deserve mention here -- being as they have so many impediments to their nuclear program -- not the least of which is the American government which has a propensity for telling other nations to voluntarily disarm themselves so that the U.S. will be sure to prevail in the event of a war. Go figure. I've taken the time to mention North Korea, nonetheless. After all, I was among the many people who thought that Trumpolini would never become president; so, I see that I can be as wrong as the masses whose vote or failure to cast a ballot left us with a four-year headache. (I voted -- not for Trumpolini.) It's fair to say that, if Trumpolini can become president, the North Koreans can nuke California. Let's not underestimate them.

Where this leaves us is with the U.S, the U.K. (as a late arrival), India, Russia and France on one side. We have China , North Korea and Pakistan on the other side. The U.S. is the furthest away from all other nuclear nations. It's likely that our enemies would attack American politicians' interests abroad before they'd even think about a direct attack against Washington, DC. After all, we'd have so much lead time to see a trans-oceanic attack coming that it would be a waste of ballistics by our enemies. In all honesty, China could just, abstain from the fighting (for a while), call in all debt and make it harder for the U.S. to finance a war. That might be a good thing. All we can do now is watch international developments and take steps to increase the social consciousness of Americans in the hopes that our fellow citizens see the need for revolution before Trumpolini thrusts us into World War III with his mouth.

Study and discuss social theory.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Why I'm Homeless

I sometimes hear people state what they perceive to be the reason(s) for my homelessness. Some people TELL me that I choose to be homeless -- instead of ASKING me why it is that I lack a home. Some spread the rumor that I was offered housing and turned it down. I was never offered housing. Some say that I should have played crazy when DC Government was housing the "most vulnerable" men from Franklin School Shelter. The most positive assumption people make is that I choose to be homeless so that I can advocate for solutions to homelessness for all who experience it. Facebook actually has the best short answer: "it's complicated". I'll explain.

I believe it was the end of 2015 when I had a one-to-one lunch with a certain professor named Sczerina. During our lunch, she asked me what I was looking to accomplish through my advocacy. I explained that I was looking to create a paradigm shift away from just housing the most vulnerable and toward getting city officials to split their attention and resources between the most and least vulnerable. I believed then, as I do now, that DC's city officials only want to assist the mentally ill, physically disabled and homeless parents as well as their children with housing. The municipal government has never had a robust homeless employment program since it began its efforts to end homelessness in 2004. They seem to only want to help those for whom the masses would clamor if they were ignored -- the disabled and the children. Furthermore, it seems as though city officials -- across multiple administrations -- try to ensure that any plan to address homelessness doesn't create a direct affront to gentrification.

I don't want DC Government to ignore the disabled or the children, but rather to split resources between those groups and the able-bodied singles so that every homeless person in the city fits into some group that is being assisted with a good-faith effort to move them toward housing. I DO want the city to create a direct affront to gentrification. I DO want to help bring about this paradigm shift and this restructuring of services so that I can eventually benefit from the better system that I helped to create -- whether I benefit as a program participant or I get employed by the program to help other homeless people. Having begun my advocacy in June 2006, I was hoping to have accomplished this by now.

City officials will, no doubt, say that I've wrongly characterized what they do. They'll offer explanations that are intended to appeal to an ill-informed public that understands close to nothing about the intricacies of government. (That's accountability for you.) So, let me say that, whether it's by their intent or ignorance, this is the way that the failure of the 10-year plan (2004 to 2014) and the insufficient progress of the current 5-year plan (2015 to 2020) add up. The bureaucratic bull, the refusal to put as much into employment for ALL homeless A-bods as they put into closing a shelter that sits on valuable land, the ways in which the city kowtows to developers, the ways in which the city favors landlords' rights over those of tenants and the nonchalant attitudes that I sense in meetings about ending homelessness strike me as indications that DC Government wants to do just enough to save face.

They want it to seem as though they are genuinely trying to make homelessness "rare, brief and non-recurring"; but, they're probably hoping that certain subsets of the poor and homeless will get tired of waiting their turn and just move out of DC -- even if they work here and should therefore be able to expect to find affordable housing here. Let's add to that the fact that there are homeless day programs that allow homeless people to hang out, have conversations that have nothing to do with getting out of homelessness, draw pictures and knit. Let's also factor it how that, for many years, the city has provided free shuttles from shelters to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library every morning and from the library back to shelter every evening. The MLK Library from which I'm writing this blog post will close on March 4th, 2017 for a three-year renovation and a problem that the city should have solved by now will spill out into the surrounding community. If DC Government IS trying to end homelessness, they need to try harder. (I might stop being a thorn in their side. Maybe.) While I don't pretend to be a mind reader, it's clear that either they can't or they won't do enough to end homelessness -- just move the problem from place to place. Something's gotta give.

Getting back to the matter of why I'm homeless, let's bear in mind that I've invested almost 11 years of my soon-to-be 48 (2/15/17) into creating this paradigm shift toward confronting gentrification head-on. Some would argue that I should give up and walk away from an effort that has consumed almost a quarter of my like thus far. I would argue that I definitely won't walk away without a sizable system-level victory that puts DC on a path toward ending and preventing homelessness and that actively acknowledges that any person who works in the city deserves to have access to housing that they can afford here as well. That hasn't happened yet; so, I'm still homeless.

In 2014 I told DC's ICH director, Kristy Greenwalt, to top-load her agenda so as to do the hardest things first. She told me that she doesn't work like that. I walked away. Three years later I'm still trying to get her and the ICH to top-load their agenda by focusing on homeless employment -- by gaining a full understanding of the insurmountable challenges that able-bodied homeless people have obtaining housing-wage employment and then by adequately addressing those challenges. I have no intention of changing my focus, though I'm quite willing to intensify -- to go harder.

As you can well imagine, a paradigm shift is about much more than a singular effort. It has to do with changing the overall way that people think and with the new thinking then carrying over into many decisions that are made thereafter. Even so, I'll offer a specific action which the city MUST take in order to show me that they are committed to effectively reversing gentrification. They MUST initiate a robust effort to connect as many as possible of the approximately 1,000 people in the CCNV Shelter to housing-wage employment and to housing. They MUST then do the same for able-bodied homeless people at other shelters. Finally, they MUST connect DC's tenuously-housed, rent-burdened community to housing-wage jobs. When they begin the first of these three phases in earnest, I'll begin to say good things about them -- unless and until they lose momentum (which gentrification is NOT doing).

As I push for this paradigm shift, I continue to assist DC Government in its efforts -- even those that don't address the issues of A-bods in a comprehensive way. On February 5th, 2017 (Superbowl Sunday) I connected someone in DC Government to the rector at my church which is four blocks from MLK Library. It was so that my church could help to mitigate some of the problems that will arise on March 5th, 2017 (the first day without the library in lieu of the renovation). When I asked the interim rector to help in this matter, he said, "It seems like a no-brainer!". I'm sure DC Government is glad I made the connection.

However, there is yet another connection between DC Government and my church (not counting the fact that people from DC Government and the advocacy community will likely visit my church to pay me their last respects). It is that, even as I push the ICH to top-load its agenda, I also push the fellow congregants who attend Bible study to acknowledge God's harshness and judgment. I push people to think difficult thoughts and to wrap their heads around various grim realities in both locations -- to put off any emotion or other concern that gets in the way of being effective and recognizing the ugly truth. After all, the homeless have to think this way. So, why can't the privileged, the educated, those in government and the clergy?????

This leads us nicely into a converse pair of truths that further explain my reasons for being homeless. The first is that I am ever-increasingly dismayed by how our society thinks. At almost 48 years old, I look back 20 and 30 years at how people thought and I reminisce about a time when our society's collective intelligence was much higher. I abhor the thought of having to report to work among the same group of social unconscious imbeciles day after day -- especially if there is no angle that affords me the space to demand that they think better. This is NOT to say that they have to share my opinions or do things my way. It IS to say that, if and when we don't see eye to eye, I have to be able to sense a rational flavor to what they say. You don't have to agree with me to qualify as rational, though there are certain types of statements that send up the red flag in my mind and cause me to wonder about your ability to reason -- to wonder if you are "on the level" at all.

The converse truth is that, in the name of accountability, I DO have the space whereby to back government against the wall and to demand that they do better by those whom they've sworn to serve. Any co-workers that I might have in a factory or on a construction site are required to do their jobs; but, I have no vantage point from which to insist that they think critically about their overall paradigm or about a plan that runs across multiple years and uses millions of dollars of taxpayer money. I can also put forth challenging scriptures and unpopular accompanying interpretations during Bible study; but, I must calmly accept when people disagree -- even if they don't present strong logic for their disagreement. However, the 13 years of failure thus far by DC Government to end homelessness, the billions of dollars that have been spent just maintaining homelessness, the exponentially increasing number of homeless people and the ways in which government plays on the public's ignorance concerning homelessness all serve as reasons for me to go hard on government. Government is the only entity with which I can use forceful logic to back them against the wall and make them do better. In a sense, it makes up for the fact that I can't expect to make the average citizen make sense -- even when they obviously lack the ability to connect the dots for their own stated conclusion. In another sense, I'm laying into government for its own shortcomings. in yet another sense, I'm making up for the shortage of socially-conscious people to force government to do better by its constituents and to be accountable to the same. Hopefully, the Trump saga will change that. Until then, I'm here and fighting -- even if I'm homeless.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Don-ito Trump-olini", Failed Democracy/State, Euthanasia & the CCNV Shelter

The last 19 months (beginning in June 2015) should have taught anyone who pays attention to the doings of government (which, sadly, is not everyone) that America is becoming more openly fascist, that the U.S. is a failing democracy (or, worse yet, a failing state), that the GOP is trying to implement a passive form of euthanasia and that various social services at all levels of government are designed to fail. Knowing these things should cause any person of conscience to swing into action -- which I'm proud to say some people have already begun to do 
As the least popular president-elect in recent history was inaugurated, many people around the world protested -- some quite vehemently. The very next day, at least a half million people -- mostly women -- protested his treatment of women and vowed to keep the fight alive. Though the attendees of the Women's March didn't seem to coalesce around a shared goal of preventing the implementation of fascism in the U.S., they were in fact coming out against one of its tenets.
"Donito Trumpolini" and fascism in America
Benito Mussolini is probably the first name to come to most people's minds when they hear the word "fascism". People know that he fought in World War II, was quite brutal and eventually was beheaded along with his wife. It's less likely that anyone can tell you that there was a general malaise in Italy due to lingering conditions from World War I, that Italians had declared a general strike and that it was Mussolini's goal to make people work for and submit to the monarch. He was not a hero to the populace, but rather a tyrant.

In neighboring Germany, Adolf Hitler was seen as a hero for removing Belgium from Germany's Ruhr Valley which they had occupied in an effort to exact payment of war debt from World War I. Though Hitler has gone down in history as a tyrant, it is easy to forget that he was initially seen as a hero by the Germans -- as was Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he ordered that Japanese Americans be interned. Though Hitler belonged to the National Socialist German Workers' Party, some would argue that he was more like a fascist. I'd submit that they might be confusing a "fascist" with a "dictator". Fascists are generally dictators; but, not all dictators are fascists.

Now that Donald Trump has assumed the office of POTUS, he has begun to rule by executive order -- seeming to sign a new one for every day that he's in office -- this being day 11. That makes him something in the way of a dictator but doesn't make him "Donito Trumpolini". However, the business interests that he brought into the White House and the campaign promises that he is actually keeping give us the space to label him a staunch fascist. Before I go any further, let me lay out for you the 14 tenets of fascism as set forth by Dr. Lawrence Britt in October 2011:

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. 
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism. 
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.

It would seem that, with Trump being no Emperor Constantine I, he has not mastered item number eight -- giving him a 93% score when it comes to being a fascist. (That, coincidentally, is also the percentage of DC residents who voted for Clinton -- making him quite unwelcome here.) Though Trumpolini's fascistic characteristics are self-evident upon viewing the above list, his other similarities to Benito Mussolini might require some explaining.

1 -- Like Mussolini, Trumpolini rose to power on the wings of a general malaise. However, Trumpolini promised to be a hero in the rite of Chancellor Hitler, rather than a suppressor of dissent like Mussolini -- initially, anyway. The length to which he'll go to squash dissent remains to be seen, though it was the local police -- not the military -- which took steps to hand down felony charges to people who damaged property while protesting his inauguration, some now looking at possible 10-year sentences. The "Donito" acknowledged the complaints of many Americans during his 17-month campaign -- complaints that could fit nicely into a fascistic agenda and which wouldn't raise any red flags in people's minds, by reason of their appeal as immediate solutions to widely shared concerns.

2 -- During World War II workers were needed and Mussolini was a glorified slave driver. Technology is quickly making workers obsolete. This, in turn, eliminates any need for government or corporate management to compromise with laborers; as, corporate America is always looking to lay off a few more workers and replace them with technology that never complains. In their race to the bottom, these corporations can still move overseas where there is less regulation. Trumpolini has begun to take steps to keep companies here and will likely woo many into staying by  further deregulating American business -- which would allow corporations to become the slave drivers. So long as there are homeless people in the wealthiest nation on Earth, business owners can draw the attention of those demanding fair pay and decent working conditions to the man sleeping on the sidewalk right outside of the office and then telling the complaining employee that they are welcome to join this poor soul if they don't like what the company offers.

Failed democracy
Those who did not vote in the general election for Hillary Clinton or a third-party candidate must live with the thought that they helped to create a monster and to seat him in the White House -- the latter of which even Dr. Frankenstein wouldn't do. In essence, those who didn't want to vote for the lesser of two evils helped to ensure that we got the greater evil -- or the more overtly fascist one anyway. Though it's true that Clinton won the popular vote and lost in the electoral college, it stands to reason that she would have won both if all eligible voters had voted -- whether their votes were actually "for" her or "against" Trumpolini. Some would argue that she was also a deadly poison -- just a different kind. In any instance, America has picked its poison.

What's more is that we can't say that we didn't know what to expect. Trumpolini is keeping his campaign promises. He has taken the initial steps to begin the congressional and public discourse around matters like building a wall along the Mexican border and banning Muslims in seven countries (whose people have not attacked us in recent history) from entering the U.S. -- while allowing Muslims from countries that have indeed attacked us to continue entering. (He has business interests in Saudi Arabia from which the 9/11 pilots came. Go figure.) He'll supposedly protect America from non-violent Muslims and from the violent ones in countries where he doesn't have any current or future business interests while homegrown terrorism from Oklahoma City to Orlando, Florida continue -- allowing the U.S. to fall of its own weight.

The same lack of logic among Americans that caused us to narrow a field of almost two dozen candidates down to the worst one also causes people to settle for the false sense of security that "the great dumb-agogue" offers. This speaks volumes to the failures of the educational system which teaches students "what" to think instead of "how" to think -- effectively turning the population into fleshly robots, even as we are replaced in factories by steel robots. Poor education has made Americans more emotional than rational, which has enabled a demagogue to rise to power by satisfying the very basic and converse emotions of fear and a desire for safety. Trumpolini's demagoguery had only to ensure safety and now he has been given full run of the house so as to destroy our system from within. (It's no wonder that, as I stated in my previous post, Trumpolini has consistently opposed all things intellectual and scientific.) Non-thinking, emotional, one-issue voters helped get us here. Maybe now they'll study social theory and engage in meaningful conversation about politics and governance -- so as to make their next presidential vote a much more informed choice. (This assumes that their right to vote isn't taken away before November 2020.)

Passive Euthanasia
Societies are built on systems of production and expropriation of goods. Some of those goods are necessities of life, while others are luxuries or things that humans have lived without for over 5,000 years since God made the world. Being as paying all workers high wages could lead to us needing a wheelbarrow of money (or a nine-figure debit card payment, in the age of technology) just to buy a loaf of bread, government should factor in "necessary poverty" and ensure that it is a state of being wherein the lowest-paid workers have only what they need -- but ALL that they need -- affordable housing, a housing-wage job, nutritious food, affordable healthcare, peace of mind and a sufficient means for dealing with unpredictable emergencies. The list goes on. When a society doesn't guarantee that a single full-time job can pay the bills, its people need a sizeable social safety net --a smaller one if all able-bodied people are guaranteed housing-wage jobs.

Trumpolini and the current congress have already taken to creating policies of "passive euthanasia" by expediting the destruction of the social safety net that we've had for just over 80 years in this country. That destruction can be traced back at least as far as the Clinton administration with its failed "Welfare to Work" program that failed to take into consideration the fact that modernization had already been destroying jobs for at least 20 years at that time -- thereby requiring a growing populace to enter a shrinking job market. Under Trumpolini, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development might begin to be de-funded by 10% per year for the next 10 years. Neither Trumpolini nor Ben Carson supports enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. Republicans are united in their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- and might even replace it, though you shouldn't hold your breath waiting.

It would seem that this administration and Congress seek to eliminate the social safety net altogether. After all, there is no need for any fascist capitalist to bargain with expendable workers. It goes back to the age-old concept of supply and demand. Capitalists will purchase the labor they need by offering pay, benefits and other amenities to the workers. Those whose labor they don't need they'll just let die, while failing to recognize that they are also shrinking their market insomuch as the workers were also consumers. Therein lies one of the contradictions of capitalism -- letting the unneeded members of the "working class" die and thereby shrinking the market.

It's worth noting that Trumpolini's threat to pull federal funding from all sanctuary cities means that DC could lose a large chunk of the $3B dollars that it gets annually from Congress -- getting another $10B from local taxes. In short, the loss of one-tenth to one-fourth of its budget will lead to some portion of the social safety net being de-funded and destroyed. (We might not have all of the details about the FY 2018 budget until June 2017. There will be much anxiety until then.) Chances are that supports for the disabled will be retained in their entirety while the Bowser admin will have ample reason to pull back supports for job seekers whose work isn't worth six figures or something close to it.

The CCNV Shelter
DC's Community for Creative Non-Violence homeless shelter was created in the late 1980's through the direct action of a group of Vietnam-era vets who'd renounced violence. Through the use of Trotsky-ist antics, they pressured Ronald Reagan into converting a vacant federal building into a homeless shelter which has held as many as 1,700 beds, though its capacity has been reduced to about 1,000 beds -- in spite of DC's growing homelessness.

With upwards of 60% of the remaining residents being able-bodied and needing employment assistance of a better sort than what Bill Clinton offered, it has been next to impossible to get city officials (or the U.S. Dept. of Labor which sits right across the road) to make any robust effort to connect any of these people to jobs. DC's continuing emphasis on housing the disabled (an effort that began in late-2008) is both a moral policy of helping the helpless AND an immoral excuse that is intended to cover-up their reluctance to assist "working-class" people who might never become the high earners that city officials seek to attract. Unlike the terrorist-harboring Saudis, these poor Washingtonians don't have much to offer to the capitalists -- Trumpolini, Congress, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, the DC Council or otherwise.

With DOL sitting to the south of the shelter, there is a ginormous, 2.2 million sq. ft., $1.3B construction project that will take until some time in 2023 to complete sitting to its north. No homeless person from the shelter has been hired there, though many have inquired about employment.

The building that houses the CCNV Shelter is owned by the city, having been transferred to them by the feds. The city pays CCNV to open up its 250 hypothermia-only beds on freezing nights. The remaining year-round beds are run by volunteers. This makes CCNV the cheapest shelter in the city. This leaves me to wonder if CCNV will be kept open in spite of any expected Trumpolini-induced budget cuts. Then again, it sits right on the edge of Capitol Hill; its value will be increased by the construction across the road and land to build on is becoming scarce in DC -- all of which give capitalists reasons to push for the demolition of a building that was built in 1940 and is only four stories high in a part of town where other buildings are 10-stories high. The developer-in-chief or his cronies might find a way to push for CCNV's demolition -- especially since he is so unpopular in this town.....and so vindictive.

In closing.....
The fascist dictator who recently came to power in our failing democracy might soon implement policies of passive euthanasia that lead to the loss of a social safety net and conditions similar to what was seen during the Great Depression. It's fair to say that, when Trumpolini gives America a cold, DC will get pneumonia. So, when you activists from other parts of the country come to DC to protest Trumpolini and the situation that he is putting the country in, connect with the locals and learn as much as you can about the even worse situation that we will soon have here. Even so, come and mobilize against Trumpolini.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser & Donald Trump: "Tearing it Down" Like 2 Peas in a Pod ('buridiocy")

Now that Donald Trump is occupying the White House (as our first "non-president"), many people have taken to expressing their fears on social media. Others, like myself, want to understand what types of damage he'll do and to see what we can do in the way of a "pre-emptive strike" -- like those that Bush 43 initiated against Saddam Hussein in a "buridiotic" war to stop him from using the WMD's that he didn't have in the first place. Though it might seem to be an impossible feat, I've been able to find a method to Trump's madness. In short, he's the "developer/mayor-in-chief". He seems to support the fascistic policies that have become all too common among local governments in the "Untied" States and he'll use the federal government to enforce them and bring about more of the same. Imagine a mayor and a developer working together to operate a tank and you've got the Donald.

For some years now, various American cities have outlawed sharing food with the homeless in parks and other public places; have used money that would've been better spent on housing and employment efforts to instead do all that they can to make a homeless person's life more difficult than poverty alone ever could, and have arrested people for sleeping in public -- even when they had no home or access to shelter. (This was considered torture when American soldiers did it to Iraqi captives -- one of the practices that Trump might bring back, if he has his way.) From Orlando to Budapest the homeless and those who help them have gone to jail (which some cities use as shelters anyway) or been fined for satisfying basic human necessities -- whether their own or someone else's  -- and even if they're 90 years old. (I've witnessed it first-hand in Orlando.) We are NOT a Christian nation.

Just days after Trump's "in-dog-uration", a Facebook friend posted a comment in which he explained how Rudy Giuliani worked on behalf of Donald Trump and others in the business community to clean the streets of Manhattan of the eyesores called "homeless people". The police could mandate that a homeless person go to a shelter or go to jail. Shelters could mandate that residents enter into work programs -- a rule that DOES have moral underpinnings. If the homeless didn't remain in and fully comply with the rules of the work program, they could be ejected from the shelter and return to the streets where they were again at risk of arrest if they didn't enter shelter. (I won't address the employment challenges of the homeless here and now; but, suffice it to say that laziness and incompetence are not the only reasons that a homeless person might not obtain and retain employment. Click the previous hyperlink.) Long story short, mayors and other city officials in the "Untied" States often treat homeless people like animals who are in the way of business -- like rats in a restaurant.

"To the capitalist, the poor are obstacles standing in the way of businesses and of making a profit. To the Socialist, deregulation is the obstacle standing in the way of making businesses spend some of their profit on the poor. To the Communist, the profit motive is altogether greedy; "poverty" (the good kind) is a state of having only what one actually needs and the workers ARE the business -- both the producers and the consumers. Be a Communist -- like Christ."
Though some of my fellow Leftists seem to have the logic of a lemon (or of Trump -- as if there's a difference), I do my best to avoid using irrational, emotion-based sensationalism that can easily be shot down. That said, we know that it is developers who build cities and that no mayor can totally dismiss them. Mayors and developers have a symbiotic relationship (but, the two are rarely met in the person of a president). Though any local police force can undoubtedly outgun any developer, any city would deteriorate without builders and wouldn't remain much of a city thereafter without its builders. It is this type of stalemate out of which the fascistic marriage of government and business is born. "If ya can't beat 'em, join 'em." This same dynamic is at work when it comes to weapon developers and the federal government. Mr. Trump, by the way, just went from being the businessman who was accustomed to local government being a willing servant that was at his beckon call, to "heading"(?) a government while probably hoping that the business community -- replete with the weapon developers he'll need in order to fight ISIS -- won't now use his former tactics against him. If Trump's friendship with Vladimir Putin and his having offered cabinet positions to multiple GOP opponents are any indication, Melania will soon envy the love and affection that Lockheed Martin gets from her husband as he forges a militant marriage of convenience.

The title of this post says that "DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Donald Trump [are] 'Tearing it Down' Like 2 peas in [the] pod [of] 'buridiocy' (bureaucratic idiocy)". Now to defend that statement. It's not hard to see that a developer-turned-chief-executive would have a few things in common with a chief executive who kowtows to her local developers. Given the number of executive orders that Donald Trump signed during his first few days in office and the control that various DC mayors -- including Muriel Bowser -- afford developers, I'm guessing that the Trump-Bowser relationship will not be anything like the Clinton-Lewinsky relationship. It's more likely that Trump will be a "politically abusive husband" and Bowser will be that wife who stays, complains about the political butt-kicking and seems to be loving every minute of it -- because she contact and in a "working" relationship with the non-prez. After all, she'll be able to blame various draconian, gentrifying policies on the Trump administration in much the same way that she blamed former mayor Vince Gray for the 14% increase in homeless people during her first year in office. She'll be able to complete the local business community's 20-year plan for gentrification while blaming the non-president who (like an abusive husband) won't heed her cries anyway. In the meantime, the average ignoramus will sympathize with the mayor as she laughs them to scorn. That said, their political marriage is one in which the wife is the devious but rational one, while Trump (like an abusive husband) is both the victim of rabid emotion and the more powerful partner -- these two attributes of his not being good bedfellows.

It would seem that the singular area in which Trump has been most consistent is his total disdain for all things intelligent. As president-(s)elect he said that he wanted to close the U.S. Dept. of Education. He has also denied the findings of 17 intelligence agencies that indicated that Russia hacked the DNC website. He denies the science of climate change; and, as if the feds going after the likes of Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden were not enough, Trump has taken to all but dismantling the EPA lest it tell any more truths about how we are destroying the planet.

The non-president has thus far proven to be even better at implementing policies of "buridiocy" in his current home of Washington, DC -- but not beyond 1/20/21, hopefully. He's already taking steps to reverse the DC law that previously forbade common citizens from owning handguns and more recently was altered so as to place very stringent restrictions on handgun ownership. Oddly enough, he also wants to reverse a new local law that allows for assisted suicide. Let's also factor in that, in the past couple of years the DC Jail has not been full to capacity, due to the decriminalization of marijuana, which has led to discussions around bringing more educational and job-training programs into the space that is no longer being occupied by inmates. Finally, let's consider that, in the past three or so years, I've not had my subway ride interrupted by a suicidal jumper in another station.

Taken together, this means that, while very ill people won't be allowed to have their suffering ended by a doctor, many more unsuspecting victims will have their lives ended by murderers who then fill the empty beds at the jail and force the educational and employment programs back out -- part of a national trend, by all means. All of this will give DC's bourgeoisie and elitist class -- as well as the mayor -- all the fodder they need to disparage the poor and to say that the city has done all that it can and should do for its poor, respectively. This will serve as justification for de-funding and eventually dismantling social services -- which the Trump administration and current congress are already working on at the national level.
I'm guessing that the DC will figure out by mid-June 2017 that Congress has cut so much of the $3B that the city gets from the feds -- out of a $13B budget -- that the DC Council won't be able to replace the entirety of lost federal dollars for social services with local dollars. Muriel Bowser will have a legitimate reason for cutting some social services. However, that won't excuse her for liking it, failing to fight it effectively or taking other steps whereby to expedite the process of gentrification.
Muriel Bowser, as the smarter wife, doesn't come out so blatantly against intelligence. She's more underhanded and manipulative -- and thus, more difficult to figure out (like any wife who remains with an abusive husband -- real or political). But don't be deceived by her cute smile or her considerable display of charisma. She's counting on the general public not to ask the right questions -- questions that would tease out her intentions. In 2046 when she turns 74, she'll watch the news about the last of her leases for smaller family shelter expiring, call former mayor Fenty whose protege she is and exclaim in the words of Rocky, "Yo Adrian, we did it!!!". In the more immediate future, she'll take her kickbacks from developers for vacating the valuable DC General Hospital-turned-shelter -- irrespective of whether or not she gets re-elected (which no mayor has done since I moved to DC in 2005).

Bowser is, no doubt, elated that the elitists who are coming out against her family shelter replacement plan aren't yet asking what will become of the vacated hospital and may be hoping that they never will. As the non-president whom she politically (albeit secretly) espouses takes active steps to tear down anything that represents intelligence or critical thought, the "victimized" wife is likely glad for the dumbing down of America and the apparent distraction that abides less than five blocks from her office. Two peas in a pod. Let's not forget that Adrian Fenty (who gave Bowser her political start) planned to make DC a "world-clASS city when he took office in 2007 and then lost his re-election bid -- at least, in part, due to ignoring racial and income disparities. (It remains to be seen as to how much more her legacy will mimic his.)

So, we have a non-president who is tearing down all things intelligent and whose executive orders may lead to him single-handedly eradicating the remnant of credibility and respect that the "Untied" States have in the world. He might even be given the go-ahead by Congress to carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion and further destabilize the world with an endless war on terror. Bowser just wants to give away a piece of public property so that it can be torn down, as she waits for Trump-induced budgetary constraints to give her the reason she so desperately wants and needs in order to justify tearing down the remnant of DC's social safety net. Tearing it down together. Two peas in a pod.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Start FORCING an End to DC Homelessness Through Housing-Wage Jobs

The following is a testimony that I, Eric Jonathan Sheptock, plan to read at multiple hearings during the budget season for FY18.

Dear Chairperson,

In late 2012 I was one of several people who met with Chapman Todd to discuss the future of the then-1,350-bed CCNV Shelter. On January 13th, 2013 I sent a FOIA request to the feds in order to obtain information about the property transfer from the feds and the accompanying covenant. That led to the 6/27/13 CCNV hearing and a nine-month long task force from October 2013 to July 2014. Other advocates were part of the effort and dozens of well-paid city officials as well as non-profit employees attended the many task force meetings.

In July 2014 the DC Council (which Muriel Bowser was part of) passed a law that set forth the 17 guiding principles that a mayor would have to adhere to if he or she were to close the current site of the CCNV/Federal City Shelter. Congress passed it in December 2014. This law, while it ALLOWS the sitting mayor to close CCNV/FCS, actually MANDATES that comprehensive services be brought to the site irrespective of a closure.

In August 2015 I began asking about the Bowser admin’s plans for CCNV and was told that there were none. I’m not pushing for a closure of the shelter OR to keep it open. I AM pushing for closure to a four-year conversation and to have services that are geared toward connecting the able-bodied homeless people to housing-wage jobs which the five-year plan called “Homeward DC” put at $28.25/hr [for a full-time worker without a family in 2015]. My intermittent prodding on an issue that would otherwise be forgotten has led to there being a considerable amount of tension between certain members of the admin and myself. (I admit that I have not always been nice about it; but, I maintain that meanness is often in order, given the unwillingness of the admin to follow through on this matter.)

I was appalled by the reaction that I got when I brought up the future of CCNV. I wrote a blog post in mid-October 2015 in which I suspected that the mayor had plans to close CCNV and would not divulge her plans publicly until six months or less before the closure -- when it was too late to stop the freight train. Days later I had a phone call with an administrator who told me that I needed to be careful as to what I said about the mayor. I edited the post in accordance with our conversation. At any rate, I didn’t get the sense that this administrator was upset by the long and protracted process around CCNV’s future or by the lack of communication with over 1,000 homeless constituents who are ever-anxious in lieu of that very process. Neither does she seem to be upset about the fact that many well-paid city officials and non-profit employees across four admins have failed to decrease homelessness, let alone end it by 12/31/14. Those who are paid to end homelessness seem to be quite nonchalant about their failures.

It’s also worth noting that a failure to comprehensively address the employment issues of people at CCNV, at other shelters or who are tenuously housed fits snuggly into the framework of gentrification -- whether by intent or ignorance. Taken together, these considerations begin to paint a very bleak picture in terms of the culture that runs across multiple admins -- a culture that includes but is not limited to aiding gentrification, failing to give answers to those who deserve them and targeting any person who points out these systemic flaws in an effort to discredit them or dissuade them from advocating effectively.

During a hearing in early 2015, Council Chairman Mendelson expressed frustration over what I’m guessing has been $2 billion from 2004 until now that DC has spent while ostensibly “trying” to end homelessness. He rightly seemed unwilling to throw good money after bad. In my testimony for that hearing I suggested better oversight of the ICH and homeless services, having been fully aware that homeless was being made an issue for the Committee Of the Whole (COW) -- whereas it had previously been under a single council member. I’ll now add that there need to be CONSEQUENCES and REPERCUSSIONS when SIX-figure earners in government fail to meet a multi-year goal. We need the council to FORCE results.

When I did construction work at Universal Studios -- Florida in the late 90’s, I was told that the general contractor would have to pay $7,000 for every day that he was late. Workers were allowed to do overtime well in advance of the deadline. Though, like most construction workers, I was not present for the entirety of the job, I’m guessing it was finished on time. I strongly suggest that all homeless service providers be forced to pay -- both out of the agency’s budget and out of their personal salaries -- if they fail to deliver. In a more general sense, they need to suffer (in a way that far exceeds the emotional suffering that they’ll probably say they already endure) from their prolonged failure. This punishment needs to be intense enough to create a constant sense of urgency among service providers to actually succeed at ending homelessness.

I understand that ending homelessness is a tall order -- especially when you consider that we could reach 10,000 homeless people in 2017 or 2018 and that a mayor who is supposedly committed to making it “rare, brief and non-recurring” will be ostracized for failing at her pet project which was supposed to hand a vacated DC General to developers before her 2018 re-election bid (in which she might run against former mayor Vince Gray again). Therefore, in an effort to make the seemingly impossible both possible and digestible, I’ll suggest the following skeleton plan:

1 -- IMMEDIATELY place comprehensive employment and housing services at CCNV for the able-bodied homeless -- even if it only consists of having service providers from various agencies visit a couple of days per week per agency.

2 -- Do the same for other shelters where their are able-bodied people.

3 -- Do similar things for impoverished communities where people are tenuously housed.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Michelle Obama, Hopelessness and Hope

Michelle Obama recently told Oprah Winfrey that America is entering a period of hopelessness and we have reasons to agree and to disagree. However, as a Black man, I will boldly say that we should avoid wallowing in pity while sitting on the dock of the bay and waiting on the world to change (even though it has a nice rhythm to it). We must force change. Before we can do that, we must know what we are changing, what we are changing it from and what we are changing it to. Otherwise we're hopelessly stupid and lacking any notable ability to do any critical thinking. That leads nicely into my first set of observations.

In 2008 Barack Obama ran for president on a campaign promise of "hope and change". The mere vagueness of his campaign slogan and those of other politicians at all levels of government is a sign that those in power are either hopelessly stupid and impotent or hopelessly evil -- like a "political epicurean paradox". As if to play a cruel joke on America, the supposed "god-emperor" who ran his campaign around the slogan of "making America great again" (i.e. bringing the hope and change we were already supposed to have by now) responded to Michelle Obama's vague statement with an even longer volley of vague values that he'll vie for.

The voting (...err registered) public, which is well over 100 million strong, is no better in that they fall for the same trick time and time again, which makes it unnecessary for some 50,000 elected officials at the state and federal levels to step up their game, which means that these politicians don't need to think hard or to keep Americans' best interest at heart by reason of a critically thinking voter base looking over their shoulders. Our public officials slowly but surely downgrade the quality of their governance which decreases the public's trust in government which decreases voter turnout which makes it easier for government to further downgrade the quality of their governance. This, of course, leaves American's hoping for better governance -- whatever that means to your particular party or faction. We are caught in a hopeless and vicious cycle of low engagement and high enragement.

It's not just the first lady and the voting public that feel a sense of hopelessness. Even those in power feel it. Secretary of State John Kerry recently talked about the hopelessness of there ever being peace in the Middle East -- a decades-long and yet unsuccessful effort. It joins the ranks of the war on drugs, the war on terror and the war on poverty -- each of which created more of what they ostensibly sought to eliminate. It stands to reason that wars on intelligence, good governance, affordable housing, housing-wage jobs and other necessities would create an abundance of those very things. War is long as we fight AGAINST the good we want. (Maybe the epiphany that is manifesting here is that we should stop all wars. Hmmm.)

I'm left to wonder if similar logic would work at the local level. After all, DC Government tried to end homelessness for 8,253 people in 2004 and calculated 8,350 such people in 2016 -- having realized recently that they may have missed at least 330 people during the January count. (I'll soon float the idea that they actually try to CREATE homelessness and see if their propensity for screwing things up persists.)

Though there is a seemingly infinitely long list of problems that can make people feel hopeless, the time I have to write this blog post is quite finite. I'll therefore get to some of the reasons as to why I disagree with Michelle Obama. First and foremost is the obvious conclusion that you only continue to hope for that which you've yet to obtain. Many voters hoped for positive change in 2008, only to have those hopes dashed. Then they returned to the polls in 2016 still hoping for something better. A large enough minority of voters gave us Donald Trump. See, when their hopes were thwarted, they shifted that hope to the other major party. Then the Clinton supporters hoped that the electoral college would save us from Trump. That hope too was dashed to pieces. Now we're hoping for a successful revolution wherein the "heroes" would be the lucky ones if we were to lose. You see, hope is like matter in that it is never actually destroyed, but merely changes form. (Actually this is more true of hope than of mass; as, the theory and the reliability of Wikipedia have been called into question.)

If you don't recall learning about the Conservation of Mass theory, it may be that you are the victim of a hopelessly delinquent educational system or you were sending tweets to someone you were hopelessly in love with when the teacher was teaching it. But there's still hope for you; because, hope only changes form.

Another reason for disagreeing with Michelle Obama is that achievement of one's goals is more to be desired than to hope endlessly for something and never have it realized. The founding fathers gave us the right to approach government for redress of grievances and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Neither guarantees that our goals will actually be achieved. That should leave us hoping that achievement will become the focus of our next revolution. Michelle and Barack should not stop at hope, but rather promote successful achievement of our national goals.

That brings me to the final set of considerations. We must force change. Before we can do that, we must know what we are changing, what we are changing it from and what we are changing it to. I won't attempt to lay out a vision for America here and now, as that would take more than a single blog post. No worries. As it turns out, the topic of what government should do for its constituents is a vast one; but, what it succeeds at doing for its people is a very short one. Government, in spite of its other successes and failures, always serves as a target for the disgruntled citizens of a nation to blame for all long-term societal failings and as a slave to be whipped by the same lest it resolve said matters. If the U.S. Government hadn't lost the final remnant of its moral high ground (while retaining its militarism) during the Cheney administration and had it not become almost totally impotent during Obama, then it would still be logical for us to demand that the government do something good for its people. In lieu of Trump's apparent madness and the lingering possibility that the only thing he'll accomplish during his term is to make the federal government fully irrelevant both internationally and intra-nationally, it would seem that our goals need only be to remove the empty suits and dresses from Capitol and replace them actual government. (While you're in DC replacing the empty suits on the Hill with an actual government, please do the same with the empty dresses of DC Government as well.)

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