Thursday, July 27, 2017

Recycling

What can you learn from my recycling bin?
The crushed cans of flavored seltzer, 
an empty cardboard box that held Vervain eau du toilette,
an occasional bottle of vodka, lots of Gatorade and yogurt containers,
Saturday and Sunday newspapers, still folded and unread.

Can you tell that my heart has been ripped from my body along with half of my memories?
Can you tell that all I see before me is an ocean of loneliness with no land in sight? 

My husband is dead.
The memory of all he was swirls around me.
It lives in the spices in my cabinets,
In the plates and cups,
In the teapots on their shelf
In the library books and the wood that holds them.
The wood he cut and planed and stained.
In the half empty bed, one side never unmade
Like Tally's sandcastle in the Ray Bradbury story. 
But my husband is not caught in the weeds of a summer lake.
He is gone. 
His ashes sit in an urn on my work table waiting to be incorporated into stones that we will wear around our necks/
A stone to grasp.
A stone to fondle.
A stone to be warmed by our living bodies that have no choice but to go on without him. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Worry

I don't usually park in back of the daycare center, but the few spaces in front were full so I drove around to the parking lot. The view past the chain link fence and the playground is of the south side of the city where we lived when we first moved to Pennsylvania. The mountains in the distance were softened by fog. It was humid, but there was a breeze and some sun after days of rain. The birds were singing. It was Friday. I was feeling happy and then as usual, I began to list the possible disasters that could befall me this weekend. I thought of two: 1. something could happen to the house in the Poconos since I had to turn off one of the circuit breakers to the baseboard heat due to over heating. 2. Something could happen to my daughter who is a heroin addict in and out of treatment for the last seven years. I had turned off the circuit breaker to the offending unit and turned the heat down to 50 degrees, so I was not particularly bothered by the house issue. It has been warm all week so not much heat would be needed. I know who I can call to fix it when I am up there next. There is nothing I can do that I haven't tried before to help my daughter who will be 40 on her next birthday. I'll keep trying when I can, when I see her, but for now there is nothing I can do. So I dropped my grandson off at daycare and went to work happy that it was Friday and it was sunny and warm and I had the weekend before me.I realized that my anxiety level has decreased significantly since my husband died. The daily worry about him falling, or getting cancer again or just waiting, waiting for that day to come when it would end is gone. The worst thing that could happen has already happened. The worst thing that could happen has already happened. The chores that I have set for myself-the painting and cleaning and de-cluttering and rearranging-will pull me through the next months and maybe over a year as I prepare to live the rest of my life without him after 42 years. The worst thing that could happen has already happened.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Loss

Cleaned up the back garden today. It's a small yard with just two strips of dirt on either side of a concrete slab. The terracotta tile stenciling is fading. I cut down the dead plants and sawed off the branches of the nuisance Rose of Sharon that is growing between the raised bed and the neighbors fence. I was getting annoyed trying to pull out the deep roots of the bronze fennel that is taking over my little gardening space. I turned to look at the back door and suddenly I started crying. He will not come to that door anymore to see what I'm doing and then go back in to fetch the correct tool for the job or a cold drink urging me to take a break. I don't know if I can live here anymore, facing season after season of the same place without him. I cleaned off his desk yesterday and found so many things: little Soviet clock in a box; our late dog, Sandy's picture ID with the note I wrote for him to give to the vet with her symptoms and the bill for the euthanasia and cremation that he had to face alone since we had no warning that she was so ill; cancelled checks for our rent on Vine St and for Orchard Park Nursery School; the credit card bill for the tile we bought in Union for the living room in our first house on Moravian. I thought as I made each room my own by moving things and storing things and painting things, I might be able to handle it. I moved my things into the top drawer of the bathroom vanity, but I keep going for the bottom drawer, still. We lived here for 17 of our 42 years together. I don't know if I can stay. I am dreading next Christmas already. It's been 15 weeks since he died and the knowledge that I will never see him again is becoming more and more real.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The "Stuff" I want.

Bill O'Reilly's statement that the Americans who voted for Barack Obama did so because they want "stuff" that Obama can give to them, was so obviously racist that it's hard to believe he still has  job. His obvious shell shock that even with all the money and power harnessed by the richest and most powerful people in the country, people came out and stood in line for hours, sometimes in the dark, to vote against the corporations. As a woman who has worked full time for most of my life, who was laid off three years ago and spent the last two years getting a master's degree in social work, but have yet to find a job, and who voted for Obama, I just want to take this opportunity to talk about the "stuff" I want and the stuff I don't want.. 

The “stuff” I want:

  1. Meaningful work at a living wage.
  2. Safe and decent housing.
  3. Education, free and true.
  4. Help not incarceration for substance abusers.
  5. Freedom to marry the person you love.
  6. Social Security from birth through death.
  7. Healthcare for all
  8. Sustainable agriculture
  9. Sustainable energy policy
  10. Expansion of mass transit.
  11. Expansion of locally grown organic food.
  12. Expansion of cooperatively owned local businesses.
  13. Equal pay
  14. Freedom for women to control their bodies.
  15. An end to war.
  16. Reparations
  17. Clean air and water
  18. Respect for our elders
  19. Love your neighbor as yourself
  20. Community
  21. Public television
  22. Funding for the arts


The “stuff” I don’t want:
1. Drones.
2. Nuclear energy.
3. Racism
  1. Sexism
  2. Homophobia
  3. Bailouts of banks.
  4. Bailouts of corporations
  5. Corporate funding of paramilitaries
  6. Oil
  7. Killing sharks and gorillas and tigers and wolves and anything else
  8. Cutting down the forests to grow palm oil
  9. Fomenting unrest in sovereign countries.
  10. White “political commentators” announcing the end of the world as we know it because democracy worked in spite of all the money and dirty tricks that were used to try and stop it.
  11. Americans who hide their money to avoid paying taxes.
  12. Mobil Masterpiece Theater
  13. Young people dying in wars.
  14. Poverty
  15. War
  16. Hate
  17. Fear
  18. Mendacity

Monday, November 05, 2012

The Election


I recently saw the movie, “The Hunger Games.” The defeat on the faces of the townspeople as they trudged to work or lined up for the lottery reminded me of something I read about the Homestead strike in “The War on Labor & the Left” by Patricia Cayo Sexton. In 1892 the striking workers at the plant owned by Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick successfully fought the Pinkerton strike breakers who arrived by boat on the Monongahela River for thirteen hours, the governor of Pennsylvania, Robert E. Pattison, and a Democrat, sent 8000 National Guardsman to Homestead and declared Marshall Law. The Guardsman protected the strike breakers and the plant was reopened with scab labor. The company then pressed charges against the strikers for murder and conspiracy although no charges were pressed against the strike breakers. Although the juries would not convict the strikers, the union crumbled under the costs of the trials and the presence of strikebreakers in the plant. Strike leaders and the Mayor of Homestead were blacklisted and lost their homes. The returning men had their rates cut in half and the 12 hour, seven day week remained the standard for the steel industry. International reaction overwhelmingly condemned Carnegie and the use of government forces and mercenaries against the workers. The workers who remained in the broken down town were described as “discouraged and sullen” in 1894 by the American writer Hamlin Garland. (Sexton, 1991.)
            Multiply this scenario through the years of labor history before and after the Homestead strike. Multiply the poverty of the workers contrasted with the wealth of the owners. Multiply the dead fallen in battle against mercenaries and military and then add in those killed in industrial accidents, disease and hunger. Combine the workers dead and defeated with the enslaved human beings who built much of the wealth of the wealthy and the Native Americans who continue to be denied their rights while the scraps of lands they are allowed to keep continue to be polluted with toxic waste. Add in those who died fighting prejudice and racism and those who are victims of racism today. Aside from the enormous human cost, how much money-government money, tax dollars- is spent on our own repression? How much money is spent to keep us down? We are unarmed for the most part, mostly untrained in the art of violence. We have nothing but our minds and bodies to fight with and yet, millions if not billions of dollars are spent to make sure we do not stand up like human beings.
            In the October 16-31 issue of CounterPunch, there’s an article by Daniel Kovalik called, “The Blood Toll of Plan Colombia.” In speaking about the presence of multinational corporations in Columbia, he writes, “the rise of right wing paramilitaries in areas designated for multi-national exploitation is a common one…the best documented example of this grim phenomenon…involves North Carolina based Chiquita Banana which actually admitted, in a criminal case brought by the US Justice Department, to paying paramilitary forces $1.7 million and running them 3,000 kalishnikov rifles between 1997 and 2004.” Who was the defense lawyer for Chiquita? Eric Holder.  Also from this article are the following facts from a report by Peace Brigades International, “Mining in Columbia: At What Cost?”
  • “In the past 10 years 40% of all Colombian land has been awarded to or solicited by mining and crude oil companies.”
  • “80 % of the human rights abuses of the past 10 years were committed in mining and energy producing regions.”
  • “87% of Colombia’s displaced population originates from these areas.” (Kovalik, 2012.)
According to a BBC article, the US has spent $6 billion dollars allegedly trying to stop the drug trade with Plan Colombia. (BBC, 2012)
            All over the world, through centuries common people have been subjected to inhuman violence. Most of us in the US have not seen or experienced this violence but it is coming closer and closer. I do not believe the Democratic Party or Barak Obama will change this course, but I do believe that if Romney and Ryan win the election with their attitude of corporate entitlement – everything that contains life, anything than can be exploited for personal and corporate gain belongs to the corporation – things will get worse faster.
            One man does not run the country and one man or woman cannot change or stop the evil that is so intertwined with racism and sexism to the point where the cradle of civilization is being routinely bombed, where the birthplace of all human beings is being routinely and violently exploited, where the bountiful earth is being raped and polluted with chemicals, where the waters are filled with toxic and nuclear waste, where the diversity and uniqueness of our planet is being destroyed by the madness of men who want everything to be tasteless, odorless, colorless and dressed in a three piece suit. They’ll keep a stable of women. They’ll look out over the dying planet with puffed up chests and smile at their metal and plastic world.
            We can at least slow that down. Voting doesn’t stop anyone from doing anything more. We’ve already seen so much evidence of voter suppression over the past few elections that it’s clear that those who are suppressing the vote do not believe in democracy. We may not have actually existing democracy and Barak Obama may not be bringing it along, but voting for those who openly express contempt for the majority of Americans is irresponsible. Some people want to be on what they think of as the winning team. They want to stand next to the important person. They want to be rich and brush against fame. But most of us are not rich or famous, we are the majority and we can make a difference if we recognize who we are and act together for our own interests instead of against them.
References
BBC. Q&A Colombia’s civil conflict. August 28, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-12447532
Kovalik, D. CounterPunch. Vol. 19, No. 18. p 2,3. October 16-31, 2012.
Sexton, P. The war on labor and the left. Understanding America’s unique conservatism. San Francisco, 1991, Westview Press, p 80-84




        

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Real Election Fraud


While voter fraud by individuals is rare, preventing legitimate registered voters from casting their ballots has become common. Studies by the California and Massachusetts Institutes of Technology found that 4-6 million votes went uncounted in the Florida 2000 Presidential election.

2000
  • 36,000 newly registered voters were not added to the rolls. 
  • State Troopers search voter’s cars, delaying them from getting to the polls on time. 
  • Ballot boxes went missing or were uncollected, particularly in African-American districts.
  • Polling places close early in some Democratic districts.
  • Legitimate voters were purged from the rolls.

2004
  • Tens of thousands of voters were purged from the rolls.
  • In Ohio, particularly in African American neighborhoods, people waited for 4-7 hours to vote due to insufficient number of voting machines and breakdowns.
  • In one Ohio precinct, the polls never opened because the key to the office with the voting machines was lost.
  • In two Ohio counties there were more votes for Bush than registered voters.
  • In New Mexico, there were more votes counted than cast in half the counties.
  • In New Mexico, John Kerry lost in all precincts utilizing touch screen technology.

2006
  • A Democratic candidate in Florida lost the election after 18,000 ballots were lost due to glitches in touch screen voting machines.

            The voter ID law comes from the bowels of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a collaboration of legislators and corporations that incubates “model” bills and uses elected officials in state after state to peddle a corporate agenda. There have been no documented cases of voter fraud in Pennsylvania. The bill is a diversion. Its sole purpose is to stop historically democratic voters from being counted and bring “our” country back to a time when only white men of property could vote.

References:
Parenti, M. (2007). the stolen presidential elections.http://www.michaelparenti.org/stolenelections.html

More information can be seen at:


Monday, August 20, 2012

Prisons and the Economy (private profit)

African Americans face a number of obstacles even though it has been nearly a hundred and fifty years since the end of the Civil War. According to the American Psychological Association:
•African American children are three times more likely than Caucasian children to live in poverty.
•Unemployment rates for African Americans are typically double those of Caucasian Americans. African American men working full time earn 72 percent of the average earnings of comparable Caucasian men and 85 percent of the earnings of Caucasian women (American Psychological Association, 2012, para. 4) The ecological perspective takes into consideration the social environment in which people live. This includes their homes, their type of work and all of the systems they interact with. It includes the way the person in environment interacts with other systems including the legal system. More African American men are involved in the legal system than were enslaved before the Civil War. (Price, nd) In addition to the economic issues that are facing almost everyone in this climate, African Americans face institutional racism even when the practice is legal. Changes to the drug laws in the 1970’s have resulted in a 500% increase of American’s in prison. Nine-hundred thousand of these 2.2 million people are African American (Mauer & King, 2007). Understanding the difference between what is legal and what is just is important to the person-in-environment perspective. We do not live in a post racial era, but we do live in an era where the media frames our vision of the past and with few, if any, exceptions leaves out the terror and violence that occurred from the post-reconstruction period to the Civil Rights era and beyond. The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley held a meeting with a representative of Governor Corbett outlining the proposed budget cuts to social service agencies. The United Way 2011 Non-Profit Budget Survey found that although 69% of agencies had their funding cut, 80% of agencies saw an increased demand for services. Funding from donations and foundations have either remained flat for 36% of agencies or decreased for 38%. Twenty percent of agencies saw their state funding cut by 77%. Twenty one to thirty percent saw their funding cut by 9% and thirty one or more percent saw their funding cut by 14%. The cuts resulted in 52% of agencies laying off staff; 32% cutting programs; 46% cutting program hours and 45% expanding their waiting lists for services. Those affected are the least powerful members of our society: neglected and abused children, the mentally disabled, the homeless and the physically disabled (The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, 2012). The panelists at the meeting who represented major social service and educational interests in the area pointed out that prevention programs save money while incarceration, hospitalization and institutionalization cost more money. The only budget not being cut, according to the representatives power point was the prison budget. This meeting exposed the fact that financial crisis is not the main issue. The crisis is a conflict of values between people and profits. Warehousing people diverts funding from social services that employ social workers “to enhance human well being and help meet the human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty” (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2008, para. 1) to increasingly privatized institutions of incarceration.

•Between 1990 and 2009 the number of people in private prisons increased by 1600%.

•6% of state prisoners, 16% of federal prisoners, and, according to one report, nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government are housed in private prisons.

•The federal government is in the midst of a private prison expansion spree, driven primarily by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency that locks up roughly 400,000 immigrants each year and spends over $1.9 billion annually on custody operations. ICE now intends to create a new network of massive immigration detention centers, managed largely by private companies, in states including New Jersey, Texas, Florida, California and Illinois (ACLU, 2011, p. 5).

•In 2011, a Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison after being convicted of taking bribes and kickbacks for sentencing juveniles to a private prison (Peralta, 2011).

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) stated in their 2010 Annual Report that: “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws… any changes with respect to drugs…or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them...Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities” (ACLU, 2011, p. 12).

GEO Group made a similar statement in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings. “Our growth depends on our ability to secure contracts to develop and manage new correctional, detention and mental health facilities, the demand for which is outside our control …. Any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs and controlled substances could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, sentenced and incarcerated…Similarly, reductions in crime rates could lead to reductions in arrests… requiring incarceration at correctional facilities. Immigration reform laws … could materially adversely impact us.” (ACLU, 2011, p. 13)

These two corporations are the first and second largest private prison corporations in the country. They also both support the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that brings state legislators and industry together to draft model legislation favorable to corporations (ACLU, 2011). ALEC has promoted legislation like the “truth in sentencing” law that requires inmates to serve up to 90% of their time before being eligible for parole and the “three strikes” law which requires a sentence of 25 years to life after the commitment of a third felony by an individual. In addition to this, private prisons divert local money when they receive government subsides, tax exemptions and utilize water and sewer services. Private prison lobbyists from both CCA and GEO are working in many states including the state of Pennsylvania (ACLU, 2011, p. 38). Both corporations receive major subsidies from the federal government. One study reported that “78 percent of CCA's and 69 percent of GEO's prisons were subsidized” (Fisher, 2011, p. 1). In a time of record unemployment, prisoners are being paid as little as twenty cents an hour to produce everything from food for school lunches to guided missile parts, a picture far removed from the image of Rosie the Riveter during WWII. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) introduced the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program that allows private industry to partner with prisons to manufacture everything from office furniture to rocking horses. (Sloan, 2012) In order to understand why programs that help people and create a better social system are being cut we have to understand power. “Families may not fare well, and their needs may not be addressed, if money and power interests define the agenda…the persons and groups who are able to name and frame the issues, and control the discourse, have the power” (Briar-Lawson et al., 2001, p. 261).

It is difficult to know what most people think about the current situation. Political commentators and local business owners are frequently published in the local newspaper. Their views are mostly pro-business and pro-budget cuts. I feel that many people are fighting over crumbs. Ethnic issues also come into play with many long term Allentown residents and residents of the surrounding suburbs. If you read, as I do, the comments from readers of The Morning Call, many have very intense feelings about minorities that they have no hesitation to express anonymously with monikers like “Staberdeath” and “sick of crime.” I also don’t think there is enough community organizing of those of us who are outside the social service family. Citizens who want safe neighborhoods, good schools and a vital neighborhood could be organized to do a number of things including making sure that all members of their communities have a valid picture ID to vote in the upcoming elections. I don’t believe that most people are aware of the money saved by prevention as opposed to incarceration. I don’t believe they are aware of the various kinds of subsidies businesses receive to come into a community. I don’t believe they are aware of the types of low paying service jobs that do not pay a living wage and that will only put more of a burden on social service agencies that do not have adequate funding.

References
ACLU. (2011, November 2). Banking on bondage: Private prisons and mass incarceration. ACLU. doi:http://www.aclu.org/files/assets/bankingonbondage_20111102.pdf

American Psychological Association. (2012). Ethnic and racial minorities & socioeconomic status. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/ses/resources/publications/factsheet-erm.aspx

Briar-Lawson, K., Lawson, H. A., Hennon, C. B., & Jones, A. R. (2001). Family-centered policies and practices: International implications. New York, New York: Columbia University Press.

 Fisher, W. (2011). The corrupt corporate incarceration complex. Retrieved from http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1905:the-corrupt-corporate-incarceration-complex

Kirst-Ashman, K., & Hull, Jr., G. H. (2009). Generalist practice with organizations with organizations and communities (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Kirst-Ashman, K. K., & Hull, Jr, G. H. (2009). Understanding generalist practice (5th ed.). Belmont, California: Brooks/Cole.

 Mauer, M., & King, R. S. (2007, July). Uneven justice: Rates of incarceration my race and ethnicity. The Sentencing Project. doi:http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/rd_stateratesofincbyraceandethnicity.pdf

National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics of the national association of social workers. Retrieved from http://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp

Peralta, E. (2011). PA judge sentenced to 28 years in massive juvenile justice bribery scandal. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/08/11 /139536686/pa-judge-sentenced-to-28-years-in-massive-juvenile-justice-bribery-scandal

Price, D. (nd). More black men now in prison system than enslaved in 1850. Retrieved from http://www.laprogressive.com/black-men-prison-system/

 Sloan, B. (2012). The prison industries enhancement system Why everyone should be concerned. Retrieved from https://www.prisonlegalnews.org /%28S%28ecx1bqfnc5bdvwudrukj3zip%29%29/displayArticle.aspx?articleid=22190&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley. (2012). 2012 Pennsylvania budget analysis. Retrieved from http://www.unitedwayglv.org/Home/Advocate/PA-Budget-Forum.aspx