Monday, January 31, 2011

Counting The Homeless

Last Thursday night I went out to hunt homeless people. Found seven of them. Me and Tucker.
Not to shoot them, mind you, and have them stuffed and mounted on the wall of my box... heck no! What a sick, disgusting thought, dear readers. I'm shocked you would come up with something like that.
No, we went out to count them, and apparently they can only be counted at night, making them nocturnal, something I didn't know before.
The federal government, through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires a manual count of the number of homeless people living in communities which determines how to distribute the approximately $74 million in national, state, and local funds for vital services, housing help, and community outreach.
In Los Angeles the Homeless Services Authority organizes the mandated count every two years, tallying the number of homeless individuals and families living in areas not meant for habitation.
“The count will be the largest in the nation just based on the size,” said Calvin Fortenberry, spokesman for the Homeless Services Authority, covering 4,000 square miles of Los Angeles County over three nights.
In 2009, the last time the count was made, 43,000 homeless people were counted throughout Los Angeles County, a 38-percent decrease from 2007 during a time of recession. That result was a tad controversial and had many experts wondering about the accuracy and the methodology of the count itself.
“No one will tell you counting the homeless this way will give you an accurate count,” said Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the homeless.
“It was statistically impossible to have housed that many people in two years,” said Donovan. “It makes you think there was something wrong with the counting system.”
But how else is it going to get done, dear readers? I ask you. As of yet we have no way to differentiate between homeless people and regular people that have homes to go to using satellite imagery. Perhaps one day.
I don't wish to make light of this, really, as I could be considered to be homeless myself. Homelessness in this country, purportedly the richest country in the world (or at least the most in debt country in the world), is a national disgrace. The Obama administration has begun a ambitious program which calls for ending child and family homelessness in 10 years while wiping out chronic homelessness and homelessness among veterans in five through it's "Open Door," initiative. That won't happen of course, there will inevitably be other programs and situations that will pop up in the future, like prolonging tax breaks for the richest Americans, that will take priority over homeless people, but it certainly sounds good.
And homelessness is on the rise. Ever since Ronald Reagan came into office in 1981 the number of homeless have increased. By the late 80s the number had swollen to 600,000 on any given night. Many were Vietnam veterans, children and laid-off workers.
With the Republican recession of 2007, the current home foreclosure crisis very much still in existence, and high levels of long term unemployment, more and more people and families are having to make drastic changes in their living conditions. Either they become actual homeless people living on the streets, or in cars and shelters, or having to make other arrangements like moving in with friends and relatives.
Nationally, homelessness has increased by 3 percent over the past six months, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless.
And still all I see on TV are commercials that want to sell us all kinds of stuff. According to the national corporate media, homelessness and economic disparity do not exist in this country.
Anyway, my friend, the lovely case manager Rachel M (see: Carver/SRHT Celebration 1
And Carver/SRHT Celebration 2 )
wrote a very good article in the Skid Row Housing Trust Community Connection magazine I'd never heard of, or seen before. We used to have a magazine called The Trust News, but I guess they don't publish that anymore. Anyway, Rachel wrote this article on the upcoming homeless count, and in it she asked for volunteers to participate in the count from anyone who happened to read her article.
Well, I read the article and I decided to volunteer. I sent an Email to Rachel telling her what a great article she had written (it's always good to compliment women on their academic skills as they're so insecure), and that because of it I would be volunteering.
She replied to my Email, and said this, and I quote: "Thanks Rick!"
Her article instructed me to get in touch with my case manager to let him know I wanted to volunteer. I did this. My new case manager is a very nice young man by the name of Robert. He dutifully registered me for the count on his computer machine.
Robert would be counting homeless people too, but in a different part of the city.
Last Thursday night came soon enough, and I left my box at around 7:00PM, caught a bus downtown, then took the Red Line to Beverly and Vermont.
Initially, I walked in the wrong direction, going west instead of east on Beverly as I was supposed to do. When I realized my mistake I got very mad at the people who designed this crazy city, then discovered I still had time to get to the Path Center before 8:00, which I did.
The PATH Regional Homeless Center Los Angeles is a 40,000 square foot facility that features 98 beds of transitional housing for men, women, and families, and is also home to the PATH Mall, a collaborative of nearly two dozen social service providers who provide a complete network of services all located under one roof. I didn't see any of that though. The building is nice and new, with security guards at each entrance, but looked empty to me when I first got there.
I was let in and told to go down a certain hallway, where I found the rest of the counters either seated in a large room with many chairs, or signing in. I signed a waver which I didn't read. I assume it absolved the Homeless Services Authority of any liability if I were attacked by crazed homeless people during the count. I also signed in, and was given a nice T-shirt and ball cap. The T-shirt had this to say: "Homeless Count Volunteer," on the front, and "2011 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count 'They Count, Will You?' January 25-27, 2011,," on the back. The ball cap said something similar.
After signing in I took a seat in the large room. It was determined that a little more than 60 of us showed up, to cover a little more than 30 areas, so we would be asked to team up in twos, to be able to cover them all.
We were trained for about half an hour, and instructed that we were not to approach actual or suspected homeless people and ask them if they were homeless. Oh no. We were just supposed to walk and observe, and if we saw what we thought were homeless people we were to mark it down on a tally sheet that was provided to us. We would be looking for homeless people above 18 years of age, and homeless people below 18. We would designate which gender the homeless people were if that could be determined. We would look at parked cars and vans to see if there were homeless people in there trying to sleep. If we saw some we would mark it down, if we didn't we wouldn't. We would look for encampments of homeless people living in boxes, or some such. And if we didn't find any at all, well that was alright to. Zero was a valid number, we were told. That information would be useful as well.
Where we were sitting in the room decided pretty much who our partners would be. I was sitting next to a very presentable young man by the name of Tucker (no relation to Carlson... I think) He worked as a supervisor for an online retail company. I told him I was a disabled veteran. We were given an area to canvas over by Koreatown, Area 14 to be exact, and then were on our way.
I also told Tucker I didn't have a car, which was true, I didn't have one. Haven't had one for 10 years as a a matter of fact. Our area was quite aways from the PATH building so we took Tucker's car, a Saab. Apparently Tucker makes some good money in the online retail industry.
It took us about ten minutes to get to our area, reaching it at about 9:30. It's boundaries were Crenshaw Bl. on the west, Arlington Ave. on the east, Country Club Dr. on the north, and Pico Bl. to the south. We were to count each and every homeless person we found within those boundaries.
So we parked on Arlington, got out and entered Area 14, and began counting. It wasn't too cold, but crisp. Tucker wasn't even wearing a jacket.
"I think this is the only part of the country that is having nice weather," I told him, as the east is experiencing heavy snow storms still, as well as other parts of the country, due to Global Warming.
"I think you're right," Tucker replied.
"I didn't think it would be like this," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"I thought they might want us to go up to cars and people and ask them if they were homeless, which might have been awkward," he said.
"Yes," I replied, "that would have been very awkward indeed... possibly even dangerous."
He laughed. "Yes, probably dangerous."
Tucker and I would split up taking one side of a street each, looking into parked cars, and watching out for clusters of boxes set up as temporary homes, in the mostly residential area. We found our first guy sleeping in a car, and Tucker marked him on the tally sheet.
"At least we found one," I told him. He laughed again.
We would find five others, either in cars, or out collecting plastic bottles and cans from trash cans on the street. Tucker would come across a box that looked like someone was living in it, so he marked it down as an encampment, making our total for the night 7. We completed our walk through the area by 10:50, and headed back toward Tucker's car.
Of course before we left for the night we called the cops on Tucker's cell phone and had all of our homeless people we had just counted arrested for vagrancy and taken to county jail where they would be safe and warm. It was the least we could do.
We returned to PATH, and turned our tally sheet in, and were rewarded with a nice "Certificate of Appreciation," for participating in the count. I'm looking at it right now. It's very nice.
Tucker and I parted and went our separate ways.
The results of the count will be released later this year.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


2006 - 2011
Look at that gray hair. What a difference 5
years make.
"...over the next 10 years, with so many baby boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science and technology and engineering and math," the President continued. "And this year, I ask Congress to go further, and make permanent our tuition tax credit -- worth $10,000 for four years of college. It's the right thing to do." (Applause.)
Again, college education, both under graduate and grad school, should be part of the commons, meaning being treated as part of the nation's infrastructure, like the highway system and bridges. Like the work done by the police and fire department (unless they already been privatized by the Republicans). Educated students who continue to live and work in the United States invariably enrich the nation as a whole, and everyone in it. A $10,000 tax credit for four years of college is nice, but when the average cost of a four-year college is a little less than $9,000 per year for tuition and fees, and private four-year colleges cost $35,000 or more yearly in tuition and fees (even with financial aid for a full-time undergraduate student being approximately $11,500, including more than $6,000 in grants that don't have to be repaid), plus the costs for food, books, booze, and housing, $10,000 is minor percentage of the total cost, and nowhere near being free.
Obama made a pitch for the Dream Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) that the Senate shot down last December. The Act would allow the children of illegal aliens who have lived in the US for five years or more, and who have attended college, or served in the armed forces at least two years, a permanent resident status. Implementation of the Act would of course help to keep those college educated students who are not citizens yet, in the United States where that education and talent could be utilized for the good of the whole country, rather than deporting these individuals back to their country of origen to use that education and talent there. Makes sense to me, and already should be law.
"The third step in winning the future [the first two being innovation and education] is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information -- from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet. (Applause.)
Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail... Within the next five years, we'll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans."
Again, sounds good to me. Continued spending by the federal government to refurbish our highways and bridges would be great as well. It would certainly help the economy by putting people to work immediately, and kind of insure that our bridges don't fall down as we're driving over them, as has happened recently in the past (as one who walks over the 6th St. Bridge here in L.A. quite frequently this subject is of particular interest to me).
But how does one reconcile these ambitious goals while at the same time, in the same speech, call for a five year spending freeze on domestic spending? Obama wants it both ways, or at least he trying to sound like he's like he's able to appease everyone, the Republicans who want to control spending (they really couldn't care less about controlling spending, as their history demonstrates, but they have to campaign on something, and spending happens to be it this year, spending to curb the national debt, which of course was created by George W. Bush. Please take note, even though the Republicans, and their Tea Bagger contingent won the House with promises to stop spending by the federal government, since they've been in office they haven't broached the subject even once, preferring to work on the fantasy tasks of repealing the health care laws, or restricting abortion even further than it already is, or redefining rape to suit their own political purposes, rather than doing the work of the people. Despite constant claims to be "doing the will of the American people," they have no idea what that means, as they never have the well being of the majority of Americans included in their agenda), and the progressives who want to curb big business, improve education and the country's infrastructure, among many other things. You can't. At least I can't. President Obama is talking out of both sides of his mouth, and this is turning into another "switch grass" address full of empty promises.
Wow, he wants to lower corporate tax rates without increasing the deficit by simplifying the tax system and getting rid of loopholes. Sounds good to me as well. I'm not anti-business, just anti-corporatocracy. But I don't know how you decrease revenue without increasing debt, which is what Obama is suggesting. Magic maybe.
He has already weakened Social Security by lowering the Social Security payroll tax by 2% this year, which allows suspect media sources like the Associated Press to erroneously report that the SS (Social Security, not the Schutzstaffel) trust fund will be drained by 2037, which helps to increase fears for the nation's young people that they are paying for something they will never get a chance to use themselves, and adding fuel to the fire for Republicans who would like to pillage the over two trillion dollars currently in the fund by privatizing it. This is just wrong. The 2037 estimate has been around for years, but is only true if the economy remains at its current sluggish levels, which over the long run is highly unlikely. Still, if nothing is done and the economy stays exactly like it is, Social Security will still be able to pay 78% of projected benefits, which are higher than today's. So in that poor-case scenario, if nothing is done, recipients will face a cut of 22%. AP, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
"To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 -- because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home."
Okay, but how does setting a goal help sell our goods? Maybe magic.
Obama announced in the SOTU and previously that he has ordered a review of federal regulations "To reduce barriers to growth and investment," in regards to business interests. In the same paragraph he also says, "But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people." Again, both sides of his mouth. Dear President Obama, the American people have not forgotten that it was deregulation that got us into a recession (almost a depression) to begin with. You really want to cut regulations further? No, you don't. We know you want to get reelected, but the people put you into office, not Goldman Sachs and Citibank.
And please, please, get the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection up and running, and help it combat inevitable attacks from Republicans in Congress, and make Elizabeth Warren it's head. Immediately, if not sooner. In other words, quit dicking around.
We'll continue with what President Obama said about health care, the "wars," in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Republican response to what he said when we conclude this piece.

To be continued:

Friday, January 28, 2011


With VP Joe Biden & the new Speaker of the
House, the Tan Man, Rep. John Boehner

State of the Union Messages to the Congress are mandated by Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution which states, "He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;"
So it's got to be done, and since 1790 the State of the Union has transpired approximately once a year.
To be quite honest with you I could do without them. They may have been effective in the past at defining the problems facing the nation and the executive branches intended response to those problems, but now... not so much. Now, with Congress polarized as it is, with one party's goal simply being to make sure the other party's man doesn't return for a second term in the Oval Office, no matter what damage is done to the country and the middle class in the process, there are no viable solutions to the many, many problems this nation is faced with.
And anybody with cable television, or satellite, who has access to the major news channels already knows what problems the country faces. They talk about it all of the time. That's what they do.
It seems to me that the State of the Union address is just an opportunity for the sitting President to attempt to put a favorable light on their actions, and spew propaganda to their advantage. Rarely do any of the programs, policy changes, or major shifts in focus ever pan out. Grandiose promises are made but never kept. They sound good to potential voters for the next election, and they can always look back and recount what they had intended to do, then hope the public's memory, or attention span was not large enough to remember if those promises were ever actually carried out.
And I hate to disagree with my lovely friend Rachel Maddow who thinks the STOU is a big deal, the second biggest political event in the country except for elections. I say falderal. Falderal I say! The State of the Union is nothing more than a chance for the President to tell the nation what a great job he's doing, but they need to do better, then set a vague, hope filled agenda for the future that never seems to get done (remember George W. Bush and switch grass? We were going to wean ourselves off off ethanol (remember the country is addicted to oil) by turning corn, wood chips, stalks, and switch grass into bio fuel... as of today, hasn't happened. One problem when planning long range goals, or programs that last longer than the administrations that formulated them, the following administration tends to do away with said programs or goals, whether they were beneficial to the country or not (an example: Ronald Reagan dismantling the solar panels on the roof of the White House installed by Jimmy Carter. If we had continued Carter's vision for an energy independent country where do you think we'd be now?).
Well, since we're here anyway we might as well take a look at last Tuesday night's address to the nation, from the floor of The House of Representatives, in the nation's Capital Building.
This was his second full SOTU address to Congress and the nation. The 2009 meeting of a joint session of Congress did not count as a State of the Union address because he had taken office only 35 days earlier and didn't know what the freak was going on yet. Hopefully he does now.
After congratulating the members of the 112nd Congress for either surviving last November's election, or winning office, after mentioning the empty chair in the chamber, that of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who of course is recuperating from the gunshot wound to her head suffered in Arizona on the 8th, and the dreams of a little girl in Tuscan (Christine Taylor Green), he got down to business by calling for a bipartisan effort to get the economy going again.
I'm all for that, but embracing austerity measures like spending cuts across the board is no way to do it, as the President will admit to presently. And calls for bipartisan action to move the economy forward when it is clearly against the political interests of the Republicans to do so, well, it's kind of like asking the opposing team at the Super bowl to help you get a touchdown. Ain't gonna happen.
Around this time Barack first mentioned the evening's catch phrase, "Winning the future." He repeated that phrase, or some variation of it 10 times throughout the evening. Nothing wrong with that of course. It's a good phrase, and Obama is a good orator, and it sounds good when he says it. Doesn't mean anything though.
Next he discussed America's position in the world, especially on an economic basis in relationship to other competing countries, like China and India.
"We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world," he said.
"Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -- (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people."
He goes on about improving the nation's educational system, after reminding the country that America is where everyone around the world comes to be educated... before they take that education back to their own countries. He touted "The Reach for the Top" program: "For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. And these standards were developed, by the way, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that's more flexible and focused on what's best for our kids."
He calls for raising the standards of teachers and learning. Parents must participate in their own children's education. That we must respect our good teachers, reward these good teachers, and stop making excuses for bad ones. Oh yes, and that higher education must be available to everyone.
Who can argue with that. I certainly can't. I want our children (the nation's children) to be well educated. The fate of a nation depends on an informed populace. Hopefully if our kids know a thing or two they won't spend every waking hour watching Fox News.
And I want good teachers. I've had a few, and they helped change my life for the better, and have been a constant inspiration for me. Being a teacher today is one of the most difficult, thankless jobs in the workforce. Quite frankly I don't see how they do it, and we pay movie stars and baseball players millions, when the real heros of our country, teachers, are being laid off by the thousands due to the shenanigans Wall St. perpetrated over the last couple of decades, with Washington's tacit approval. We've let our real heros, our teachers down (as well as police and firefighters, and everyone else in a public sector job).
And everybody should be able to go to college... for free. College tuitions have sky rocketed, growing four times faster than the overall rate of inflation, faster than gasoline and health care. Our children should not be saddled with this debt, most of them owing tens of thousands of dollars after graduating. They are our greatest resource, and they need to be encouraged to go to college, not discouraged due to the high costs. College education, all education should be a part of the commons, as a better educated populace makes us more competitive and secure in the world marketplace, and the nation as a whole. Right now we're losing that battle.
Free education for all? How socialist of me.
But I digress. Let's get back to President Obama's address to the nation... in a little while...

To be continued.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Mimi (Rogers)!

Ms. Mimi

With Husband Tom

Glamour Shot

With David

The X Files

Pretty Lady

This morning it's my pleasure to give a very happy birthday shout out to one of my very favorite actresses, Ms. Mimi Rogers!
Miriam Spickler was a mere infant when she was born in Coral Gables, Florida, which is famous for its strict zoning regulations. Her father was a civil engineer, and her mom is described as being Episcopalian (I wonder what kind of medical you get with that). Apparently the family traveled around quite a bit, moving from state to state (perhaps her parents were really bank robbers), and England before settling down in Southern California, where I was living at the time.
Miriam, soon to become Mimi, is an exceptionally beautiful woman (for a girl), and she is also very bright. She's a member of Mensa, the international organization that is famous for discriminating against stupid people. Accordingly she graduated from high school when she was only 14 years old (show off).
I on the other hand, took my own sweet time about it, and didn't graduate until I took a make up exam when I joined the navy when I was 22. That's almost exactly an 8 year difference... and makes me feel very sad and inadequate.
Anyway, Mimi was involved with the Church of Scientology since she was a little kid, and married a church counselor, Jim Rogers, in 1976, when she was 20. They divorced four years later, after Mimi had began looking into a career in acting.
Her very first acting credit came in 1979 in an episode of the television series "Hart to Hart," starring our friends Stephanie Powers and Robert Wagner. She got a recurring role on the police drama "Hill Street Blues," after which she secured more work on the current TV shows like "Quincy" (the forerunner to all of these current CSI programs), and "Magnum P.I." (a show I actually enjoy quite a bit).
Her big break though came when "Alien," and "Blade Runner," director Ridley Scott cast her as the female lead in the 1987 crime drama, "Someone to Watch Over Me, with Tom Berenger. Now she was in the movies.
That same year she married again to the budding star of "Top Gun," and "The Color of Money," Tom Cruise. You may of heard of him.
They remained married for a little less than three years, during which time Mimi got him interested in Scientology, and which he is still involved today. A lot of people make fun of some of the tenets of the Church of Scientology, it being founded by a science fiction writer and all. I say what the hell, it isn't any crazier than any other religion (except Unitarianism, and Buddhism of course).
Tom's celebrity overshadowed that of his wife hugely, and for quite a while she was simply known as the ex-wife of the star. But her career continued with somewhat faltering successes in films like "The Mighty Quinn," "Hider in the House," and "Desperate Hours." She played a small but interesting part in Oliver Stone's "The Door's," and then in 1991 she starred in the Michael Tolkin independent film, "The Rapture," a film concerning religion in America... sort of. Here's the trailer:
I actually saw this movie when it first appeared in 1991 at the Laemmle theater in Pasadena. I don't really remember why I went in to see it other than the poster for it looked interesting. And the film turned out to be interesting indeed. A somewhat frightening tale of flight into obsession and fanaticism, this was the first time I became aware of Mimi, and I was impressed. David Duchovny appeared in it as well. They would become friends, and Mimi would later play the part of the scheming FBI agent Diana Fowley on the "X Files."
In 1993 Mimi posed for Playboy magazine, getting her picture on the cover. That particular issue had a fascinating article on expitaxial graphene that I was interested in so I've seen the layout. It was actually pretty tame. She's displayed much more of... how should I put this, her ample charms (38D-26-36, Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine, a magazine that Duchovny's Fox Mulder subscribed to) in Nicolas Roeg's made for cable movie, "Full Body Massage," and "The Door in the Floor," with Jeff Bridges. I don't know why I felt this information was important other to demonstrate the incredible courage this remarkable actress has displayed throughout her amazing career.
Mimi had continued switching from television to film roles, some of my favorites being, the first Austin Powers movie, a remake of "Lost in Space," the "X Files," of course. Like our friend Katey Sagal, Mimi guest starred in a 1992 episode of "Tales from the Crypt."
She appeared on the TV series "Dawson's Creek," as the mother of Michelle Williams character. That show also featured a young actress by the name of Katie Holmes, who would later marry her ex husband, Tom Cruise.
In 1997 she and her producer companion and future husband, Chris Ciaffa, began making films of their own, one of them being an excellent television movie, "The Devil's Arithmetic," based on the historical novel by Jane Yolen, and starring a young Kristen Dunst, and our late friend Brittany Murphy. A re-telling of the holocaust seen through the eyes of a contemporary Jewish girl. I recommend it.
Apparently Mimi is another of these poker players who have to go on TV and bore us to death. Oh well, we wish her good luck in everything she continues to do, good health and fortune, and all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Mimi!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Christine & Brisenia

Christine Taylor Green

With Mom

Ballet Dancer

John & Roxanna Green

Brisenia Flores

With dad, Raul... both Murdered

This is the type of story that is difficult for me to write because it angers me, and saddens me profoundly.
The nine years that she was with us were book-ended by two national tragedies. The day she was born the country was attacked by foreign interests flying two hijacked commercial airliners into the World Trade Center, and one into the Pentagon. The day she died was marked by the senseless slaughter of six people in Tucson, Arizona, with thirteen others injured by the fire of a lone gunman armed with a 9mm Glock semi automatic pistol fitted with a high capacity magazine of 33 rounds, one of those killed the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for Arizona. One of those critically injured, after being shot point blank in the head, a United States Congressperson, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). Another of those killed, the little 9 year old girl herself, budding politician, Christine Taylor Green.
An A student, she had just been elected to the student council at her school.
"She was a good speaker. I could have easily seen her as a politician," her father said.
She loved baseball, indeed she came from a family of baseball players, her grandfather former Major League pitcher Dallas Green, was the team manager for the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the World Series in 1980. Accordingly she was the only girl on her Little League baseball team, "The Pirates." She played second base, as did I.
She was filled with life and curiosity. She loved animals, danced ballet, Hip Hop, and Jazz. She was a gymnast. She liked to ride on horses, and swimming with her 11 year old brother, Dallas.
"She kept up with everyone, she was a strong girl, a very good athlete and a strong swimmer," said her mother, Roxanna Green. "She was interested in everything. She got a guitar for Christmas so her next thing was learning to play guitar."
She sang in her church's choir, and had recently received her first Holy Communion.
"She was born back east and Sept. 11 affected everyone there, and Christina Taylor was always very aware of it. She was very patriotic and wearing red, white and blue was really special to her," her mother said.
She'd already let her parents know where she planned to go to college, Penn State, and have a career that involved helping those less fortunate than her.
Christina often repeated the same phrase to her mother: "We are so blessed. We have the best life."
"She was all about helping people, and being involved. It's so tragic. She went to learn today and then someone with so much hatred in their heart took the lives of innocent people."
What Roxanna is talking about was the "Congress on Your Corner" meeting with constituents being held Saturday morning on January 8th, by Rep. Giffords in the parking lot of a local Safeway supermarket. A neighbor of Christine, Susan Hileman, was going to the event and she invited the 9 year old. Christine being Christine naturally jumped at the opportunity to learn more about politics and went along.
Giffords had set up a table outside the store and about 20 to 30 people were gathered around her when a gunman, 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner, a high school drop out and armed services reject with strange political views and apparent psychological problems, drew a pistol and shot Giffords in the head.
He subsequently began to shoot randomly into the crowd, hitting young Christine in the chest one time. Loughner was able to empty the large magazine attached to his pistol. When attempting to reload, he dropped the new magazine and a bystander grabbed it. Another bystander hit him over the head with a folding chair, then he was tackled to the ground by a 74 year old man, a retired colonel who had been shot himself. The police arrived within 5 minutes and took charge of the gunman.
A married doctor and nurse, who had been shopping in the store attended to Christine until the paramedics arrived to take her to the University Medical Center in Tucson. One of Giffords's interns, Daniel Hernandez Jr. applied pressure to the gunshot wound on the Representative's forehead and made sure she did not choke on her own blood. He has been credited with saving Giffords' life.
Christine was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Five people died at the scene, including Chief Judge John Roll.
Susan Hileman, who had brought Christine, had been shot four times and is recovering after surgery.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, after undergoing extensive neurosurgery, is making remarkable progress, and has since been moved to a rehabilitation center in Houston.
Five days later Christine was buried after a funeral Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, near the strip mall where the she lost her life.
Organs donated from Christine's body have saved the life of another little girl in Boston according to her father, John.
The Green family, and Daniel Hernandez attended the State of the Union address last night at the invitation of President Obama and his wife Michelle.
This is what the President said about Christine at a eulogy for the victims of the shootings while in Arizona:
Jared Loughner has since pled "not guilty," on charges of attempting to assassinate a member of Congress, and the murder of two of her aids. He will face further state charges. He has been uncooperative with authorities and has refused to speak to them, so the motive for the shootings remain unknown. In any case he is a sociopathic monster that deserves nothing from the humanity that he abandoned.
Former Governor Sarah Palin's political aspirations may have been permanently thwarted because of the shootings, due to a map she had posted to her Facebook account which depicted the cross-hairs of a rifle or gun sight used on a map to designate the offices of politicians who have voted in Congress on issues she does not agree with, one of those offices being that of Rep. Giffords.
The January 8th shootings in Tucson have of course gained national attention and mourning in a large part due to the injuries sustained by Rep. Giffords, and the murder of Judge Roll and Christine. Currently there is another murder trial that will begin this week in that same city which is not getting the attention it deserves. A murder involving another little girl, and her father.
Brisenia Flores, all of nine years old, a girl with an artistic bent with long, curly brown hair, who had made her mother several pairs of earrings, strung on a stand made of glue and popsicle sticks, only days before she was killed.
On the early morning of May 30th, 2009, Brisenia's father, Raul answered a knock at his front door to find a man and woman there who claimed to be law enforcement in search of fugitives. Minutes later the man had shot Raul in the head, killing him. He then shot Brisenia's mother, Gina Gonzalez, three times, who fell to the floor and pretended to be dead.
Brisenia looked to the gunman and asked, "Why did you shoot my mom?" Her last words.
The man put a gun to her head, fired two rounds, and killed her.
Shawna Forde, a strident nativist and ex-Minuteman militia member who had been asked to leave that movement due to her extreme behavior, and Jason Eugene "Gunny" Bush, a suspected serial killer, and another man are facing trial for the murder of Raul and Brisenia. Shawna'a trial begins this Friday. It has been surmised that the three had come to the Flores-Gonzalez home in order to rob them of money and drugs in order to continue to finance their Minuteman splinter group. There were no drugs or money for them to take though. It is said that Jason was acting under the orders of Shawna. They are both inhuman monsters.
Many people are blaming the current anti-immigration rhetoric in the halls of Congress and the media, especially in Arizona where the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act had been signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer the previous month, for creating an atmosphere ripe for violent actions against Hispanics, causing racist extremists to believe they were somehow justified to act as law enforcement, and to act out their anti-immigrant fantasies.
But many are concerned that the murders and upcoming trial has not garnered enough national attention, especially within the right-wing media which is responsible for most of the rhetoric to begin with. Placing the spotlight on these murders and the trial after all might preclude this kind of thing from happening again.
But who knows? All I know is that I sincerely mourn and cry for the lost lives of these two precious little girls who were so filled with life, and had so much to live for and look forward to. They were taken from us, due to unimaginably horrendous, stupid acts of senseless violence, much, much too early. May they both rest in peace.
Gina Gonzalez, Brisenia's mother, survived the attack of May 30th. She has one thing left to be thankful for. Her other daughter, Dursema, was visiting her grandmother at the time of the shootings, and was spared.
Yet Gonzalez says Dursema, “never smiles anymore.”

Update for this post dated 2-15-11: Shawnda Forde was found guilty of shooting nine year old Brisenia Flores twice in the head at close range, murdering her and her father in a 2009 attempted robbery. Today, a Tucson jury will decide Forde's punishment, which could range from life in prison to the death penalty, reports the Arizona Star.
Further update 2-22-11. Shawnda Forde was sentenced to death today in a unanimous jury decision, for the murders of Raul and Brisenia Flores.
There is some justice in this world.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Biggest Problem

As I write this I'm watching House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) squirming on "Meet The Press," while attempting to tell David Gregory what exactly the Republicans will target for spending cuts in order to reach their goal of reducing federal spending by 100 billion dollars. He couldn't name anything specifically right now of course. His new found Tea Bagging peers, and the controlling factions behind them want to go way beyond that figure, wishing to trim the budget by two and a half trillion.
I say fine. Let's stop the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, bring our soldiers home, reduce defense spending, cut tax loop holes for large corporations and the ultra rich, end the freaking tax cuts for those same ultra rich, and we'll probably be saving more than even the Tea Baggers want.
But that's not likely to happen. What will happen is what Congress always does when it needs money, siphon it from the backs of the middle class in the form of cuts for social programs.
An example of what I'm talking about, this from Les Leopold's (author of "The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It") "Wall Street's 10 Biggest Lies of 2010":

4. "The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by employees of the federal government."
But not by Wall Street. President Obama's words of November 29th came only days before he "compromised" with the Republicans to continue the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich and to bestow an enormous estate tax gift to the 6,600 richest families in America. Mr. President, the "hard truth" is that you're slapping around public sector workers because you don't have the nerve to take on Wall Street. If you had the guts, you could raise real money by going to war with Steven Schwartzman [complaining hedge fund manager] and eliminating the hedge fund tax loophole. By the way, closing that loophole for just the top 25 hedge fund managers would raise twice the revenue than you'll get by freezing the wages of all two million federal workers!

The funny thing is, and the thing that no one talks about, or if they do they are summarily ignored, just like those who predicted the financial collapse before it happened, is that the embrace of austerity measures, which is what Obama and the Republicans are talking about when they say the only way out of our current predicament is to cut spending, is just wrong. What needs to be done, but what is currently politically inexpedient, is to increase federal spending, increase stimulus spending on projects like the country's infrastructure. Austerity measures will only draw out these economic doldrums we find ourselves in for the foreseeable future. So Obama is dooming the country into a long, needlessly painful recovery entirely due to political considerations. Freaking great!
This is what Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said about this very issue Sunday on Fox "News."
The president's bipartisan deficit commission: "They said be careful,” Mr. Durbin, a member of the commission, said. “Don’t start the serious spending cuts until we’re clearly out of the recession in 2013. Maybe it will be sooner. But that warning is something we shouldn’t forget. We learned in history with President Franklin Roosevelt that after the Great Depression when they started to hit the deficit brakes too soon, they went into a double dip recession and higher unemployment.”
Anyway, since this is the way were headed let's examine these spending measures.
We all know that taxing the rich and large corporations is completely off the table. Why? Because the system is geared that way. As it stands the political system is completely focused on increasing the profits of corporations and super rich people at the expense of everyone who is not a large corporation or super rich, by any means. Like the example above, programs for working families, the middle class as a whole, and institutions that our country has relied on to maintain a leadership role throughout the world, like NASA, and the FBI, will be drastically cut to maintain the myth that this country needs to reduce it's federal deficit, or else (as well as the myth that we're doing something worthwhile in Afghanistan). Well, I do know what would happen if we don't reduce our federal deficit immediately, in actuality nothing would happen. The need to reduce the size of government, and the deficit is a myth. That is not the largest problem facing this country. Politicians do not want to face the largest problem facing this country, they don't even want to talk about it. They don't want you talking about it either. So they pretend it doesn't exist, just like Global Warming, just like the oil that is still in the Gulf of Mexico that just can't be seen because it's underwater. Close your eyes and the problem simply isn't there. If the problem isn't there there certainly there is no reason to deal with it, certainly there is no political pressure to deal with it, and if there is no political reason to do something, nothing is exactly what will get done.
What's the largest, the greatest problem this country faces? I'm not going to tease you dear readers, the largest problem facing this country, as I've said on numerous occasions in the past, is the money that surges through the political system by outside interests, and the inevitable corruption that ensues.
Yes, our federal government is corrupt. No doubt about it. Of course it is. When a senator's first thought upon waking each and every day is how he has to raise at least $20,000 or else he won't get reelected, how could it not be corrupt. Lobbying is a legal form of bribery. Promising members of Congress lucrative jobs after they leave "public office" is a legal form of bribery. How could making large contributions to a senator's or congressperson's campaign fund not influence said senator or congressperson?
So the answer to America's biggest political problem is to get the money out of politics for good. So guess what? The Supreme Court goes way beyond it's traditional boundaries, and beyond precedent and decides to set law rather than interpret it as being Constitutional or not, via Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which opens the floodgates allowing unprecedented amounts of corporate money into the election process. The exact opposite of what the country needs for a functioning legislative branch. Because of this ruling it is now estimated that Barack Obama will need to raise at least one billion dollars to get reelected. One billion.
Ladies and gentlemen... we're screwed.
The only way I can see to get us out of this mess has always been the answer. Election Reform, or Campaign Finance Reform.
Have you heard anybody in Congress talk about election reform, or campaign finance reform? I haven't. Maybe Bernie Sanders and Thom Hartmann, the independent senator from Vermont, and the progressive talk show host. Hartmann talks about it all of the time, and he's right to do so. Nothing meaningful can get done in Congress until Congress is fixed. It's like an alcoholic trying to perform brain surgery but can't stop drinking. He can try, but he'll probably not get it right. He has to stop drinking first.
But a lot of Congress people don't want Congress fixed. They like it just the way it is, especially those in the Republican Party. Why? They traditionally have the backing of monied interests. They are the servants of those interests. They get elected because of the money they get from those interests. If that were to end due to campaign finance reform they would no longer have an advantage. Democrats aren't any better because they receive money from these interests too. Everybody freaking addicted to the relatively easy money that flows into their campaign coffers due to no rules against it.
But still the subject of campaign finance reform comes up every now and then. The last attempt was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, but many of it's provisions for corporations and unions were struck down due to the Citizens United case. Public matching funds in primary elections and general are a good idea, and available to those viable candidates who qualify for them. The problem is that these candidates tend to opt out of these plans in order not to place limits on their spending.
In order to get corporate money, or money from wealthy individuals or organizations out of our elections, said candidates must be forced to follow the same rules during the election process with public financing, and that raises First Amendment problems with the freedom of those who wish to make contributions to the candidates of their choice.
It's a thorny problem, one not easily addressed, but one that needs to be for our government to function properly, for the people rather then the corporations.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Ernest (Borgnine)!

An Academy Award

"The Wild Bunch" with Bill Holden

"Emperor of the North" with Lee Marvin

McHale's Navy

This morning it is my great pleasure, and honer, to wish one of the nicest men I've ever met happy birthday, veteran actor and Academy Award winner, Ernest Borgnine.
He was born a long time ago, and would be about three years older than my own father if he had lived past 47. His name when he was born was Ermes Effron Borgnino, and he was Italian. That's not so hard to figure out. His dad, Camillo, emigrated to the United States from Ottiglio, Italy, and his mom, Anna, came here from Carpi, which is also in Italy making them both Italian, so naturally young Ermes was of Italian ancestry, but he was born here in Hamden, Connecticut, making him American.
His parents separated when he was 2 and Anna took him back to Italy for a while, but 3 years later they got back together, and the family name was changed from Borgnino to Borgnine. I don't know why.
Ernie (he likes to be called Ernie) would later famously play a Lieutenant Commander in the navy on television, but when he was 18 years old he joined the real navy. That was 1935. I joined the navy in 1978. I was 22. See how much we have in common!
He wasn't an officer though, and neither was I. No we worked for a living. Ernest was a Gunner's Mate, which means he took care of the ship's weapons, especially guns. I was a Boatswain's Mate, whose job it was to steer the ship. Hey, someone's got to do it.
Ernie stayed in the navy until 1941, but reenlisted after Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. He served on the USS Lamberton (which happened to be just as old as Ernie was), a destroyer, whose job it was to go around and destroy things.
Not really. It's job was to escort larger, less maneuverable ships, so they wouldn't get destroyed. So it really should have been called a nondestroyer. He served for a total of ten years, until the war ended in 1945, and left the service with the rank of Petty Officer 1st Class (In 2004 the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy bestowed an honorary rank of Chief Petty Officer on Ernest, which was one step up from a 1st Class).
Ernie went home after the war and worked in factory jobs. I worked in factory jobs as well, but before I went into the navy. In fact I can tell you almost everything there is to know about making a freaking transformer. However that story is for another time.
But those jobs were a dead end, and Ernie wanted more for himself. His mother had always been very supportive of her son, and suggested that his strong personality lent itself toward a possible career in acting. He surprised her by taking her suggestion seriously and auditioned and was accepted at The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia (which used to accept produce as payment for admission during the Great Depression, hence the name). In 1947, he landed his first stage role in "State of the Union," in small part, but the audience loved him. In 1949 he began on Broadway in one of my very favorite plays, Mary Chase's "Harvey," playing the male nurse, the part Jesse White played in the film with James Stewart.
In 1951 he moved out here to Los Angeles, and by golly he's still here! He got the part of Hu Chang in that year's "China Corsair," an adventure film starring Jon Hall. He got his big break two years later though in 1953, in "From Here to Eternity," the spirited story of the hijinks of soldiers stationed in Hawaii just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, starring Burt Lancaster, Debra Kerr, Montgomery Clift, and Frank Sinatra (who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor).
Ernest played a very bad guy, James R. "Fatso" Judson. This would earn him a reputation as a dependable "character actor," and he would play a lot of villains, which was totally against his real personality. Remember I said he was one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and he's proved that throughout the years in personal appearances and interviews. But Ernie is a great actor, a remarkable actor, and is able to play very bad people, psychotic, cruel people, so well that he scares me.
But in 1955 he was cast as a lonely, warm hearted, love starved butcher in the film adaptation of the television play written by Paddy Chayefsky, "Marty."
He got nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance. He was up against Frank Sinatra, Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, and James Dean.
Ernest won.
He would continue a successful career in films, some of my favorites being, as Ragnar in "The Vikings," a simple minded oil rig worker in "The Flight of the Phoenix," a general in "The Dirty Dozen," a soviet spy in "Ice Station Zebra" (a favorite of Howard Hughes), a western outlaw in "The Wild Bunch," a police detective on a capsized cruise ship in "The Poseidon Adventure," a crazed train conductor in "Emperor of the North," a cab driver in "Escape from New York," a janitor in "Gattaca," a team owner in "BASEketball," and most recently a CIA archivist in last year's "Red."
Ernie's been on a heck of a lot of television shows as well, starting back in 1951 in an appearance on "Captain Video and His Video Rangers." Eleven years later he would be given a part that he may be best known for, although I personally don't agree with that. The part was that of Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale in "McHale's Navy," alongside Joe Flynn, and lifetime friend Tim Conway. The show depicted a cunning PT Boat Commander and his at times morally challenged crew, stationed in the Pacific during World War II. They would spend their time running scams behind the back of the Commanding Officer played by Flynn.
The show ran for 137 half hour episodes between 1962 and 1966. Here's a sample:
And it was during this time that a young boy in North Hollywood met Mr. Borgnine as he came out from promoting the opening of the Universal City branch of Bank of America, and who was dressed in his McHale's Navy uniform. The young boy asked him for his autograph, and offered his brand new bank book for the actor to write it in. "Sure," Mr. Borgnine said. And he did.
That boy was me.
That was the first autograph I'd ever gotten from anybody and it took a tremendous amount of courage on my part to ask for it. As a matter of fact I don't think I ever asked anybody else for an autograph ever.
Ernie is 94 today and still going strong. This Sunday he will be presented with the Screen Actor's Guild Life Achievement Award, at their annual awards show. Below is a link to a five part interview with Ernie conducted by Ken Howard, the current president of the Guild. In it they discuss the award, and pretty much everything I've written about above:
Congratulations Ernie! And all of us here at Joyce's Take wish you continued good health (Ernie's secret to long life and vitality... vigorous and frequent self manipulation) and fortune, and a very happy birthday.
Happy Birthday Ernie!

Addendum:  Ernest died of natural causes on July 8, 2012, at Ceders-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. His wife and children were at his side. He was 95 years old. Attenders at his funeral included several members of the United States Navy Seals, as well as Tim Conway, Scott Eastwood, Leonard Nimoy, Dylan McDermott, Gary Sinise, Joan Rivers, Joe Mantegna, Marlee Matlin, LeVar Burton, Rob Lowe,James Corden, Jenny McCarthy, Bruce Campbell, and Roger Ebert.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Goodbye Keith, For Now

With Dan Patrick on ESPN's "Sportscenter"

With Rachel. Both hers, and Lawrence O'Donnell's
Show began on "Countdown"

I watch the MSNBC flagship show "Countdown," with Keith Olbermann on a regular basis. It comes on at 5:00PM my time and I look forward to it everyday. Keith points out the major stories of interest that interest the progressive movement, reports them, then ridicules the Republican maniacs responsible for whatever nonsense they happen to be spewing or perpetrating that day. He does it brilliantly, and with a certain amount of humor and vehemence that reminds me of myself. And he's not afraid to tell it like it is.
So he's kind of a hero of mine. Certainly a better writer. I am not jealous however. We need his eloquence and wit.
He will be celebrating his 52nd birthday next Thursday on the 27th, along with one of my very favorite actresses, Ms. Mimi Rogers. I had planned to do a double up birthday tribute for both Mimi and Keith on that morning. I have already written Mimi's and was actually researching Keith's bio while watching last Friday evening's edition of "Countdown." So it came as quite a surprise as Keith closed for a commercial break with this matter of fact statement:
"This will be the last edition of Countdown. I'll explain in a minute."
Well I was shocked for a moment, my heart beat a little faster. He had been smiling when he said it so I thought this must be some kind of joke, or "Countdown," was going to go through a structural change, like a chair being reupholstered. Unfortunately I would be wrong. When the show resumed, well, this is what Keith said:
I sat dazed. I couldn't think for awhile, and then began realizing what the consequences of this meant, not only to me and my daily routine and viewing habits, but for the progressive cause, and the country as a whole. I looked on line for some kind of explanation, but it was still too early, the only info I could find being "Immediate Results" on my Google page who were people tweeting about how shocked they were, just like me. A lot of people were shocked.
Some people were happy. Conservative Fox watchers. They gloated. They are major assholes.
I was prompted to take an action I rarely take, to write to an organization directly. So I deposited this message to the MSNBC website "Contact Us," section, regarding "Countdown," with Keith Olbermann:
"I am shocked to discover that MSNBC has not renewed it's contract with Keith Olbermann, and that the last edition of Countdown aired this evening.
Keith was one of the only voices on the air which directly rebutted the constant lies told on Fox, and was a leading voice for the progressive movement in this country. MSNBC has given a victory to the Republican Noise Machine, has lessened our ability to broadcast the truth, and not only done it's viewers a grave disservice, but the entire country. I for one will be switching to CNN and PBS for news sources. I was once proud to say I watched MSNBC religiously. Now I am ashamed of it's management and don't wish to have anything to do with the channel. Richard Joyce."
My threats of abandoning the network are empty. I will still watch Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, and Lawrence O'Donnell (who will be taking over Keith's spot), but they won't know that.
Pretty soon I found this in the "News" from the Los Angeles Times:
"MSNBC announced Friday night that its marquee "Countdown" anchor and talk show host Keith Olbermann was out. The network did not provide a reason for his abrupt departure.
'MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors,' NBC Universal said in a statement.
Olbermann and his bosses have clashed in recent months. He was suspended in November for two days after revelations that he gave donations to a Democratic political candidate, which was a violation of the company's ethics policies for news employees. LA Times"
So he got fired. Well it wouldn't be the first time.
Keith Theodore Olbermann began his career in the broadcast industry as a small infant being born in New York City in 1959. That would make him a few years younger than myself, just a kid really. His dad, Theodore, was a successful architect, and his mom, Marie Katherine, a preschool teacher. Unfortunately Keith lost both of them very recently, Theodore, died on March 13, 2010 of complications from colon surgery. Keith took substantial time off from "Countdown," to be with his father during his last days, reading to him from James Thurber (which would become a weekly feature on the show as evidenced above), and reporting occasionally on his condition and the state of medical health care in the country in general. At one point his father's pain was so great he asked his son to help him end it all. What would you do, dear readers?
Keith had already lost his mom. Marie Katherine passed away on April 4th, 2009 from terminal cancer, a disease she was asymptomatic of until two weeks before she died. Below is Keith's on air memorial to this remarkable woman:
As was related Keith became a huge baseball fan, and began collecting baseball cards as soon as he started earning an allowance. And he was a good, avid collector, becoming a nationally recognized expert on collecting and trading the cards while still in his teens, and publishing articles in several major publications about the subject (today his collection numbers at least 35,000)
Keith is one of these smart bastards, who like his birthday mate, Mimi Rogers, began college at an ungodly early age, 16, for him, 14 for her. He attended Cornell, where a lot of smart bastards go. While there he served as the sports director of the college radio station. He graduated in 1979 with a degree communications.
Keith worked in radio at first, for the RKO Network and United Press International, then joined CNN 1981, just one year after the first 24/7 television news channel was founded. I'm told he covered the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, although I'm not sure how that happened since the games were in February of 1980, and he didn't join the network until 1981. So ladies and gentlemen, Keith Olbermann and CNN discovered time travel as well.
Quite an accomplishment for a 22 year old. He left CNN and worked in New York and Boston before moving out here to Los Angeles, where I remember seeing him on CBS as a sports anchor. I remember him because I was impressed with his style, his manner, his knowledge, but especially his humor. I'm not exactly sure what year this was, and Keith's bio doesn't help me out, but it must have been the mid 80's, and I would have been living with the love of my life then, Jan. Anyway, while working in L.A. Keith won won 11 Golden Mike Awards (for outstanding broadcast work in Southern California), and named best sportscaster by the California Associated Press three times.
In 1992 Keith joined the sports network ESPN, until 1997, when he was suspended for two weeks for making an unauthorized appearance on The Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. Later that year he departed the network after a dustup with management, a portent of things to come. Thus began a long, drawn out feud between Keith and the network.
Keith began reporting straight news at MSNBC in 1997, on the primetime "Big Show with Keith Olbermann," which dealt with three or four topics during the hour long broadcast, a forerunner to the "Countdown," format. But he got tired of being forced to report on the Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998, and soon left.
There is a certain amount of irony involved with Keith coming to work for Fox in 1998, as this network would soon become one of his favorite targets for derision.
Another claim to fame... in July of 1999 he was a guest star on "The Hollywood Squares," ten times!
Fox fired him in 2001, after he reported that Rupert Murdoch was going to sell the L.A. Dodgers (he did sell the Dodgers in 2004).
After Fox Keith returned to news journalism after being deeply affected by the events of 9/11. He returned to MSNBC in 2003 as a substitute anchor. "Countdown," Keith's own show premiered on March 31 of that year.
The show typically ran five news stories each segment, the most "serious," being the first aired, but numbered 5th on the countdown, the 1st story usually being of a lighter nature.
It is more than interesting that Keith has often been compared to Paddy Chayefsky's creation, the news anchor Howard Beale, who urges his audience to proclaim, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore," as Keith referenced that character himself in the above sign off. Well Keith was our "Mad Prophet," not that he was insane as Beale was, but angry, and quite aften mad as hell.
I lived in the Las Americas for at least five years without cable television. Rather than watch crappy broadcast TV I would listen to the radio most of the time. When Stephanie Miller came on the air in 2004, she and her cohorts would often play clips from "Countdown," and I would be intrigued. Indeed, one of the main reasons I wanted cable was just to be able to watch Keith's show, hence I was the first in the building to sign up with Time/Warner after the building was finally wired. I was not disappointed.
Currently, there are fewer than 100 U.S. commercial radio stations carrying liberal talk programs, compared to around 600 stations for Rush Limbaugh, 500 for Sean Hannity etcetera. Fox News consistently trounces all other cable news channels thoroughly in ratings (I have a theory regarding why that is. Fox viewers have a need to be lead, or rather told what their world view is on a daily basis so they can survive. Liberal viewers on the other hand, are much more independent and smarter, with opinions of their own). The claims of the right of a liberal leaning media are like everything else they talk about... lies. The media is much more slanted toward the right. That is why losing "Countdown," is a huge setback for the progressive cause, and the progressive cause is reality based, fighting for the lives and livlihood of mainstream middle class Americans, for the country as a whole. The right represents corporations, the left people, working people, middle class people, people who are currently being raped by the masters of the right. That is why the loss of any progressive voice is a big deal, and Keith was the best. The only winners after the loss of "Countdown," are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and the corporations that control them. Thank God we still have Ed, Lawrence, and Rachel to call them out.
In my humble opinion MSNBC president Phil Griffin should offer his resignation immediately, if not sooner. Anyone who would let their leading show fail in this way is clearly not qualified to run the network. Perhaps the new management with Comcast will feel the same way.
Anyway, as I've said, Keith has been fired before many times. It's the nature of the industry he works in. He will apparently be barred from working at another television or cable network for a specified amount of time, similar to what Conan O'Brian endured upon his departure from NBC (one has to wonder why it is NBC, and its affiliates that consistently go through this type of drama). But he will resurface, and I'm sure be stronger for having gone through this.
Here's one more example of why we needed Keith, why we appreciated him, and why we will miss him:
Soon after "Countdown," ended last Friday evening, not more than ten minutes after, I heard Keith's voice again coming from a network promo.
You're going to have to change that Mr. Griffen. You don't have Keith Olbermann to kick around anymore.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Salvation Diary 46

"Salvation" artist Amanda Milke

August 7 Wednesday Day 330

Overall, I believe today was rather sad.
A couple of very nice things did happen though. First let me point these out.
My counselor, Richard Purdy, dropped in this morning. He has shaved his beard. He is now beardless. He also can't seem to find a job. "Resumes are everywhere," he tells me. He did have one offer, to counsel adolescents, but refused the position on the grounds that he'd "wind up killing most of them within the first half hour."
So he asked Ed Reitz if he could come back here and counsel once a week, and Ed, being the lazy scum that he is, said sure.
Ed even had the nerve to state that he needed more counselors to help take the load off of him. My God! The man can never be found when you need him, he constantly combines his Monday's and Wednesday's 6:30 and 7:30 group counseling sessions into one so he can take off early, or lets Barbara take them so he can split altogether, or just out and out cancels them! Lately he's been showing AIDs videos in his groups. We've had about three combined AIDs videos within the last month. Learning about AIDs is fine, of course, except that learning about AIDs is not the reason why we came here.
Ever since his sister-in-law came to this country from the Philippines, Ed's been acting like a madman.
The second good thing that happened today was that lovely lady Jeanette came by and dropped the printer off that she and my mom got into their lovely heads that I needed.
Oh boy!
She also brought with her about 2,500 sheets of special computer paper. Now I am forced to learn how to use all of this stuff.
On to the sad part of this day.
My good friend Tom Rotsch, one of those genuinely nice men, took about all he could from his supervisor, Frank Corona, and walked off the job, going over to the park to cool off. In the forty or so minutes that he was gone, Ernie Sens called and told me, "As of twelve noon, Tom Rotsch has been terminated. His behavior is intolerable." Tom came back to my office and I had to tell him that he'd been fired. He appeared to take it well. He certainly was not mad at me. I let him know I would look after the beautiful doll house he had been working on for months, which was intended for his little girl. A 3 foot by 2 foot handmade structure, that stood a good 2 feet high. He had almost finished putting the shingles of the redwood roof on. I would make sure nothing happened to it, or his other possessions.
The third to last thing he said to me was, "I really feel like punching that Mexican drunk out," and the second to last thing he said was, "But I will not drink or use over it."
The last thing he said to me was, "Rick, hold my guitar and books for me. I just punched Frank out." He had to repeat that statement because after he said it the first time, I said, "Whaaaatt?!"
He then took off as fast as he could, before the police got here.
See what I mean about clients becoming drivers. Tom, like Dennis before him, didn't even want to be a driver in the first place. He was perfectly content to keep working in the Carpenter's Shop. But Frank and Ernie wooed him away with a lot of "we really need yous," and "please help us outs." A bunch of crap! They needed him so much they gave him the boot the first time he told them what he thought of their feverish slave tactics.
Tom had been planning to begin Trade School next month, and be our night relief man on Thursdays and Fridays, then work nightcrawler on the weekends. . Now that's all shot to hell.
And the second sad thing that happened today... maybe not sad, but very frustrating. Or maybe it is very sad.
Cathy. I didn't get a chance to talk to her hardly at all. She took forever with her clients, counseling them I suppose, and didn't finish until 10:30, and then I only had the chance to return her two books and thank her for their use. She had brought some John Bradshaw video tapes she lent to me. We discussed the books a little bit, and then she was off. She seemed to be in a hurry, not like someone who was interested in talking or getting to know someone else. More like I was one of her clients.
I guess she did have to go to work in the morning, and it was late.
As I said, she terminated the conversation and drove off, waving as she left.
I don't know, I just don't know. Maybe she's not the one.
She's awfully cute though.
I'll tell you two things; I'm not going to spend another week mooning over this little girl, and I'm not going to spend another week worrying about it.
Life goes on.
And one day, maybe, if it is my fate, I will find the one for me.
If I stay sober.
After Cathy left, one of the guys came up and told me that he had seen my friend Tom Rotsch standing on a street corner nearby, looking very dazed, and quite confused.
I wish him well.

August 8 Thursday Day 331

This morning I felt really good, better than I had in weeks. Liberated from the nagging feeling of enslavement by my emotional involvement with Cathy. I still adore her, but now realize that my desire to get next to her was changing me into something I'm not. I was becoming subtly manipulating (with no results!), and I'd really rather not be that way (especially with no results). If Cathy has a part in my life, well that would be fantastic (she's so cute!). But if she doesn't, she won't. I'm not going to kill myself worrying about it anymore.
I wish her well.
I wish myself well too.
Kevin Rockoff told me that as he was asking Michael Vallee and Charles Parsons for a clothes washer replacement for the residence, he smelled alcohol on Parson's breath. I passed this information on to Clarence Orion, but nothing will come of it.
Harold Eversley moved out of the residence today. He moved into a one bedroom apartment with his beautiful Ellie. He will still be working here as the head cook.
As he begins his perilous journey known as domestication, I wish him well.
Something seems to be wrong with good old Don Erwin. A paramedic unit needed to pick him up from the Transition House to an emergency room. No one knows why, or what happened. Clarence Bliss said, "If you ask me it's alcohol poisoning!"
I took two hours in the afternoon to watch a couple of John Bradshaw PBS sessions of "The Family," which were companion pieces to one of the books I had just finished reading. Cathy had lent these to me.
A curious idea came to me while I watched these videos. What if I had drank and used drugs not to anesthetize myself, but to actually expel the feelings I could not express while sober? A frantic attempt at release.
Probably a little of both. No answer is simple in this world.
Marvin Gardenhire, my friend and canteen relief person, managed to get something in his eye, so I drove him to the USC Medical Center. While he was there I analyzed a sample of his urine, along with four others, and found his to be laced with high levels of cocaine metabolites. So were some of the others, but they were brand new members of the program and were rather expected to be dirty, not like an old program graduate like Marvin. His last test before this one, done on July 4th, indicated a level of 0.01, barely there. Today's sample was that of a man doing a back flip into a swimming pool filled with the white powder.
Poor Marvin. I shall miss him.
Do I sound callus?
Maybe I'm getting to sound that way... to be that way a little.
But I definitely feel that the sooner Marvin faces up to the fact that he has relapsed the better it will be for him. The faster it will be that he can stop lying to himself and begin to deal with his addiction again.
Denial is a killer.

August 9 Friday Day 332

I slept in until about nine, then went downstairs to the lobby to write.
After getting dressed of course.
After lunch (cheeseburgers) I quarantined the small T.V. room and watched the last half of "The Family" tape Cathy had lent to me. Very interesting stuff. I have seen the process Bradshaw describes in which alcoholics and drug addicts jump straight from using those substances into a rigid religious or spiritual structure or program, giving up all responsibility for their own recovery, letting "God" fix them, thusly substituting one addiction for another. These desperate folks tend to ignore any aspect of the A.A. 12 Step program (despite the fact that A.A. has a huge spiritual component installed within it), cutting off a valuable source of help and placing limits on one's own chances of successfully recovering from their primary addiction.
After two hours of watching the tape my lunch had finished digesting so I went down to the weight room and worked out vigorously. Then I showered, read some from the "Book of Proverbs," and went to work.
The usual Friday afternoon madness ensued, and when it was over, at six o'clock I presented new client orientation to four men. Three of them had recently been here before. I dismissed them. Tracy Alexander was one of them, which means he was back for those of you readers who may have been worried about him.
Now I had just one person to explain the house rules to. His name was Ted. Robert Vasquez came in during the middle of my speech, so poor Ted got the rules from both of us.
About thirty minutes later the police came and took Ted away for child support violations.
Such is life.
I spent much of the evening reading a novel that Charity had lent to me. "The Present Darkness," by Frank E. Peretti. Adequately written, a very Christian oriented work, depicting lots of foul demons battling beautiful angels. Based on a true story she told me.
I will finish reading it since Charity lent it to me and thought I might like it.
Charity is such a nice person. I like her a lot.
After work I watched two more hours of Bradshaw. This time from the "Homecoming" series, in which he demonstrates some of his techniques to bring out hidden and repressed feelings caused by abuse within family systems.
One thing bothers me while I watch these tapes. One item that doesn't seem to be addressed, something of particular interest to me... what happens when a person begins to get better, begins to heal and gets in touch with all of the aspects of their past hurt, shame, and pain? After they are on the road to recovery, their addictions arrested, how do they come to terms with, how does anyone learn to live in and be accepted by a still very sick, very dysfunctional and greatly disturbed world?

August 10 Saturday Day 333

The first thing I did today was breathe. The second was to wake up. Then I got dressed. After that I walked around the block to the thrift store a bought a nightstand with three drawers for my new printer to sit on, considering the laws of gravity and all. With my cool employee discount it came to only $6.75. Very nice.
I carried it back to the residence and settled it where I wanted it, right at the foot of my bed on the west wall. I placed the printer on top of it and plugged it in. Several little lights began to shine from the control panel, a good sign. I patched the parallel feed line from the printer to the word processor (computer). It continued to sit there quietly.
Now all I have to do is read the instruction booklet and find out how all of this stuff works.
But that can wait until tomorrow.
I went to the lobby to write until lunchtime. Then I grabbed my blanket, radio, sunglasses, and the book Charity had lent to me and went to the park.
I felt very good today. Ever since last Thursday when I made up my mind to stop pursuing Cathy, stop demanding that she perform to some desperate fantasy of mine, I have felt... released.
And that felt rather good. I liked everything today!
Except for the things I didn't like.
It was nice in the park. Hot and sunny. Reuben Smith came out and sat down next to me after I had been there 37 minutes. I knew that it had been 37 minutes because Reuben asked me how long I had been there.
"Thirty seven minutes," I told Reuben.
He rolled out his little orange blanket and laid down and we talked for a while. Abruptly he said, "I'm going to tune you out now, Richard," and put on his Walkman radio headphones. I followed suit, and tuned him out as well.
I discovered that Reuben does not turn over when he lies out in the sun. He allows his chest (if you can call it that, it sort of looks like a shallow depression in a road) to tan deeply while his back remains completely white. This, coupled with the fact that he still wears his sunglasses while sun bathing has the overall effect of making him look decidedly odd.
At work, I read during most of my shift. I did sneak into the small TV room a couple of times to see parts of the Saturday night V.C.R. movie, "The Punisher," with Dolf (Dolf) Lundgren. One of Robert's picks. Stupid movie , but with lots of gratuitous violence.
One of Cathy's clients, Ray Trujillo, came back close to midnight and blew a .03. I wish him well.
After midnight when my shift was over, I retired to the small T.V. room and tried to watch two more hours of the Bradshaw tapes. They're very good really, and I recommend them to anybody who's ever been in a family. Maybe the reason I've felt so good for the last couple of days is because I've been finding out so much about families, my own included, and about myself as well.
I fell asleep a little more than three quarters through the first tape. When the static noise from the T.V. woke me I went to my room and to bed.
I had weird sex dreams.

August 11 Sunday Day 334

The days are getting hot, like they were in the Park a year ago. I was there this time last year. The nights were warm and it will be chilly, if not down right cold by the time morning comes.
All I had to look forward to a year ago was a lot of loneliness and uncertainty. The lot of the homeless. Today I have all sorts of good and interesting things to do.
But before I could get to those things there was chapel to contend with. I had no responsive reading to worry about this week at least. Just passing around the collection plate at the appropriate time.
It went smoothly.
Lots of pretty girls at the Sunday morning A.A. meeting at the American Legion building in South Pasadena, which always makes this gathering very... intriguing. Devon, the Newport Beach suffer girl, and Angie, the quiet brunette who starts us off on the "Happy Birthday" song each week (Birthday Songleading Chairperson), are Ron's and my favorites. Especially Angie.
The girls from Casa de los Amigos did not show up though, which was just as well since about half of our folding chairs seemed to be missing.
Are these two events connected somehow? Who knows for sure? One can only speculate.
Skip was kind of glad the Casa girls were not around. "Those Casa girls sure absorb a lot of sound," he said. He could hear better when they weren't there, he said.
Ron and I had an enjoyable walk back, telling each other stories about how stupid and fucked up we were when we used to drink alcohol. We laughed about it. Most people overhearing us, I believe, would think us sick, or at least very sad.
I went to the park for an hour. Reuben Smith came by after a while. He did not sit next to me today because the grass was too hard where I was, he said. We left together though, deciding it was getting too cloudy.
Damn water vapor.
I took a shower, then watched a great episode of "Star Trek, the Next Generation."
I think this show should be mandatory for all recovering people.
I wrote in the lobby afterwards. Since Robert had picked the week's V.C.R. movie I felt no pressure to save myself a seat, or even attend.
I played with my new printer for much of the rest of the evening. I had gone to Vons earlier and bought some shoe polish, so I polished my shoes as well.
I haven't the faintest idea of how my new printer is supposed to work. I did discover the self test mode, after which being engaged the printer head went crazy and gave me a full page of every character the printer prints, in four different styles.
Very exciting.
About the dumbest Arnold Schartzennagger movie yet to be made was on T.V. I watched part of it of course. "Commando." 80 million guys shooting straight at Arnie and he never got even a nick.
Movie magic.
I read after the movie ended, until I felt tired. When I began to feel tired I turned out the lights and rolled over on my stomach.
I wondered what Cathy was doing at that moment, and I wanted her next to me.