Monthly Archives: January, 2010

A Survivor

While the New York Times online is still free, see Leah Carroll’s poignant account in ‘Modern Love’ of a child left behind. This story is local, the Providence Journal is part of it.

I felt a nervous flutter at finally seeing him, but my tension was not romantic. He wasn’t a love interest but rather a journalist who had written years ago about my mother’s murder, and about the men who murdered her. And about the economic decline and culture of despair in early-’80s Rhode Island that contributed to her dying as she did, at the hands of crazed drug dealers who suspected her of being a police informant instead of the mere addict she was.

A crime like murder kills more than an individual. It kills relationships and leaves a hole in a family. Leah Carroll makes it real.

Paul Harvey and J.Edgar Hoover

Before Rush, even before Morton Downey Jr., there was Paul Harvey.

In the 1980′s I was working in a factory pasting up business cards. Every day I had to listen to Paul Harvey’s unctuous voice on the radio. The room was small and I was newly hired, so I had to put up with it. I have to admire Harvey’s talent for insinuation, his use of inflection and tone to convey so much more than you would read in a transcript. He could be fatherly and reassuring, or contemptuous and sneering. He slid the commercials so smoothly into the stories that you would find yourself believing that he bought each and every one of the products he shilled.

My BS detector went off regularly, also my racism detector. He was unmistakeably a right wing tool.

Now the Freedom of Information Act opens the books on Paul Harvey and J.Edgar Hoover. Harvey wasn’t much of a journalist, mixing entertainment with news and not trying too hard to be factual. But he had a persona of a regular guy. No one knew he was taking his scripts from the F.B.I.

Why should we care about a deceased radio flack? Because Paul Harvey was a pioneer in faux news.

Today you can channel surf and land on what looks like news, only to find it’s Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. Fox Network covers extreme right to center right. Hate radio is a tried and successful formula. Now corporations will be able to produce infotainment that endorses a political agenda and broadcast it prior to elections. They are persons, according to the Supreme Court, and mere mortals just better move over.

This court ruling is just another gift that keeps on giving from the Bush administration. To see how far they went in compromising the free press, see my prior post, ‘Ministry of Truth’.

If it sounds too nice and neat to be real, you are probably right to doubt. I feel a little vindicated that my BS meter was well-tuned thirty years ago, when I suffered tedious hours at a boring job, forced to listen to Paul Harvey lying through his teeth.

Also, thanks to FAIR for their continued exposure of faux news of all kinds.

Taking their Money and Voting Against Them

The New York Times has an article discussing the new Supreme court decision which takes restrictions off corporations giving money to politicians. The article includes quotes from social scientists saying there is little evidence that all our attempts to restrict corporate giving to politicians come to any good.

I have another idea. How about if politicians were required to wear their corporate giving on their sleeve? What if, like race car drivers, their corporate sponsors were emblazoned on their clothes and cars? What if, when going to Jack Reed’s office, you had to pass through a hall of corporate sponsors before meeting the honorable Senator? Perhaps, at least then, we would know what was what. The United States Government, brought to you by Bank of America.

Maybe we can make this work for us, in our ailing state as a nation. Maybe we could have daily corporate sponsors — for each day of the year, one corporation would fund all the costs of government. That’s what I would call being a good corporate citizen! If only there was a way to ensure that corporations would give as much as they receive when buying politicians. Then this new “free speech” might make more sense.

Playing With Fire

Cable Car Cinema is showing the documentary, ‘Waiting for Armageddon’. Check their website for showtimes.

If you didn’t have enough to be anxious about, for years American evangelicals have been touring the Holy Land, visiting the Muslim holy site, the Dome of the Rock, and making provocative statements about leveling the Dome in order to clear the site for a new Temple. The people in the film weren’t likely to act out– just likely to nudge someone more violent to start something.

It’s one of history’s tragedies that a place sacred to three religions has so seldom seen peace.

The film gives a window into the world of American churchgoers whose best hope is the end of the world. A strange way to live, and I speak from experience as an ex-fundamentalist.

Featured is an interview with Gershom Gorenberg, whose book, ‘The End of Days’ is a basic resource for anyone who wants to know about the intersection of religion and politics in the careers of men like Pat Robertson and James Hagee.

It’s scary stuff, all those nice people who long for the agonizing deaths of millions. It’s scary to see so many politicians ask for their blessings. ‘Waiting for Armageddon’ runs through Thursday.

Me Vida Local

Okay, terrible name for a column, but it’s been a tough week and my brain is fried.

I’m thinking of how the radical wing of the Republican party wanted to ‘starve the beast’ so that the government wouldn’t get in the way of corporations and organized religious groups. Pretty good job they’ve done of it. Disparaged the process and undermined participation so that most of us don’t bother to vote. Not that the Democrats are blameless. ‘Lesser of two evils’ is getting pretty old. And now the Supremes have declared that corporations are people just like us, with first amendment rights. They already decided that money is a form of speech. Kind of reminds me of the New Age saying, ‘money is just a form of energy’.

We corporeal beings who have limited energy after spending all our money on bills don’t have much of a voice v.s. the landslide of free speaking dollars about to pour into the electoral process. And we can’t stop giving money to big corporations, they are too diverse and ubiquitous. We can’t give them much more than a flea bite.

But I’m not giving up. Fleas can be a real nuisance when there are enough of them.

Me Vida Local will be an occasional post about local alternatives to big business.

Today I’m featuring Stamp Farms in Johnston because I drove by it while visiting a patient and it was open and I needed eggs. Yep. They have eggs.

You can go to the supermarket and pay big bucks for organic, free-range eggs laid by hens that do yoga and get group therapy, that range for miles every day before returning in flocks on their powerful wings to their climate-controlled coop. But you don’t have to.

Stamp Farms eggs are laid by Rhode Island hens on an actual farm and they’re cheap and just as good. I went in and guys were rinsing eggs on a conveyor belt and sorting them into wire baskets. I passed a couple of other farms on Greenville Ave., they probably have pretty good eggs too.

But, no offense, no one goes to Johnston. It’s remote. You can buy Stamp Farm eggs at the East Side Prescription Center on Hope St. in Providence. Natural, organic, local and cheap.

And in anti-corporate mode, East Side Prescription is one of Rhode Island’s last remaining independent pharmacies. Most of the rest were bought up by the chains.

Some blog accused a prominent national pizza chain of selling tomato stained manila envelopes. I don’t know about that. Manila envelopes have fiber, and the glue has a taste you could get used to. Anyway, Rhode Island has so many great pizza places competing for our pizza dollar it’s amazing that anyone would need to resort to foamy white bread with red paste on it.

Me Vida Local List–
Stamp Egg Farms
East Side Prescription Center
Yacht Club Soda

The Morning After

I’m not going to snark at two nineteen-year-old unmarried parents. The teenagers should be in college or finding their way in life in work or adventure. The baby is real, and deserves parents who are able to care for him.

But these particular teenage parents are supposed to be a national model for whatever spin Sarah Palin’s fans put on the whole situation. Honestly, I get so confused between their abstinence message and the glory of teenage parenthood that I just have to tune it out.

Last time I went to buy groceries, Sarah and Bristol were on the cover of some mag with a headline about how they ‘chose life’. They represent the best possible conditions for being able to support children– rich, large family, huge fan club. In spite of that, money is short, and Bristol is suing for child support.

Paging Social Work Consult! Get someone with sense to mediate this situation. Both Bristol and Levi have had more cash thrown at them in a year than most people see in twenty.

‘Choose life’ is a great slogan. Parenthood is not so uplifting. It’s a commitment that is lived every day, always. Fights about money when the child is small are nothing compared to the challenges ahead. If the Palin family is able to set an example, let them work this one out with some dignity.

Other American families are facing the same challenges, without wealth or fame.

Not Kitty Genovese

A sad and sordid story out of Ohio. A woman was raped on a busy street in daylight. But this is not Kitty Genovese. Several people driving by called 911 from their cell phones.

I would have wished that one person had been quick enough to pull over and intervene, but that’s asking a lot. Imagine the drivers, mind elsewhere, seeing something wrong from their car window. They are hundreds of yards away by the time it registers. At least several of them had the decency to call the police.

I once stopped my car and intervened when I saw a woman being beaten on a city street. I’m glad that the neighborhood children who were watching saw me do that. But I might have been ignorant of the risk. Years later in home care I had a patient who had defended someone and whose life was ruined by a bullet that cut his spine.

So I’m very sorry that this crime happened, but glad that we have cell phones, we have an emergency response system, and we have an awareness of violent crime. It’s too late for Kitty Genovese. May her memory not rest peacefully in our minds until we have made things better.

Bad Mommy Vindicated

For the bad mommy who waited until she could have a somewhat rational discussion with her offspring about the thrilling adult experience of wearing regular underwear– here’s scientific validation.

Now they say toilet training between ages two and three is just fine. This seems reasonable. They told me in nursing school that after two years old is about the time the little guys are physically able to go potty without accidents.

All of you who grew up in earlier years, don’t despair. You can be authors. Write memoirs. Exaggerate. Get rich. And if you are parents don’t worry too much. Your kids will be fine.

Vampires Must be Invited

They say that vampires can’t enter your house unless they’re invited. In fact, from Dracula on, the creepy thrill of vampires is their seduction.

I’m stealing a few minutes before a heavy work day, so this will be a little fragmented. The TV is off, the warm insinuating voices of the commercials, which now comprise most of what comes over on the cable service I pay for, are blocked until my husband wakes up and invites them in.

The Supreme Court has decided that corporations are persons with a right to free speech. You, citizen, can stand on a soapbox and shout. The corporation, like a vampire, is kind of a person but different. Like a vampire, it’s got superpowers. In the realm of free speech, the Supremes have decided that you on your soapbox and the corporation with its wealth and network of brand names are equal. So go ahead and do your door to door canvassing. It’s all good.

There’s no way not to invite them in. Every big name owns hundreds of smaller names and you need a detective to find out who really owns who. It’s no secret they own our politicians. Now they have an invitation to own the debate.

A while ago I stopped shopping at Whole Foods. I wasn’t going to freeze my garbanzos holding a sign at the State House for health care reform and then give money to a corporation whose CEO opposed it. Although they’ve removed him from that prominent post, I doubt anything’s changed.

Anyway, I accepted a little inconvenience and started shopping more locally. That has worked out so well I won’t go back. Today, starts the first in a series highlighting small and local businesses as alternatives to the corporations that will now be able to stamp their logos on our candidates openly. Resist inviting the vampires in as an exercise to your skepticism and democratic spirit, because they’ll be out in force by Halloween.

Today’s local business is Yacht Club Soda. Located in North Providence, founded in 1915 and still going strong, Yacht Club uses Rhode Island natural spring water and glass bottles which they sterilize and re-use. This was industry-wide practice before cheap plastic as old-timers might recall. Back when the product had more value than the package. I expect to see a number of candidates brought to us by Coca-Cola. Since the corporations have solidified the right to act as persons ( incredibly powerful and rich aggregate persons with superpowers), I’ll treat them as persons who get on my nerves.
Since they’ve got the Supremes to buy into the philosophy that money is a form of speech, I’ll be mindful of who I give my dollar to.

What Happened?

This week I did some phone banking for Martha Coakley and ran into some Unitarian and progressive friends at the union hall. I didn’t expect such a high level of motivation and spirit, and I thought maybe the results of the election would belie the polls, but the voters have spoken and Massachusetts will have Senator Brown.

Washington Monthly has some analysis of the campaign strategy that worked against Coakley’s run.


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