phoenix - Kagaya image (fire_rag)

Taking back the streets - and schools

By now you may have heard about the Chicago high school honor student who was beaten to death as he was walking home from school. He was on his way home when he happened upon two groups of men fighting. Some said he saw someone he knew and went to help him, only to have both groups jump on him and beat him with boards. A passerby, walking his sister home, caught the action with his cell phone and turned over the tape to a local news station, which then turned it over to Chicago police. Using the film, police have caught four men and charged them with murder. Three others were still being sought.

In Chicago, this is no new thing. Last year over thirty Chicago Public School students - all on the South Side - have lost their lives to violence. Each time a shooting, stabbing, beating or whatever happens, parents and community leaders will howl before the cameras, police will mop up the mess and try to find the person(s) responsible and once the heat is off, life will return to normal.

What's striking is that the violence doesn't happen in the schools, or the so-called "School Safety Zones" around the school, but usually a few blocks away. This incident happened outside a community center a few blocks away from the high school. Tensions will cook inside the school for hours or days. Then word gets around the grapevine that something will happen after school, and next thing you know we'll be watching the news about a kid getting shot as he's walking home, or to the bus stop.

All the victims were male, and black. Still, it scares kids of all ages, sexes and color in high schools around Chicago.

when I was a kid going to the CPS, I was bullied regularly. Kids would threaten to kick my ass after school. It won't happen in school, where there are authority figures and later, police and security guarding the hallways. It's always outside. I'd have to run home or walk with people I knew and trusted. Sometimes they would follow me and wait until I was alone. Once I was even kidnapped and walked several blocks away, being beaten, crying and screaming until an adult intervened and my attackers ran off. I walked home slowly, crying hysterically. The teachers wouldn't intervene, saying it wasn't in their job description. Today they would be fired if they said that and someone was killed.

It's not that different today, just more violent. If it happened on the North Side and in an affluent neighborhood to a white kid, the outcry would be huge. Police presence would triple. In fact, at Lake View High School near where I live, there is always a squad car parked outside during school hours. There would be a national outcry. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck would accuse president Obama of doing nothing when it was happening in his home town. But it's happening on the South Side, where it's routinely ignored by Mayor Daley and the police. After a kid gets shot, there would be attention until the heat is off and it's back to business as usual.

Parents and community leaders have to get involved. I was reading a biography on Michelle Obama and when she was growing up on the South Side, trailer classrooms were used in schools to ease overcrowding. There was no heat and students would have to wear their coats. Complaints went nowhere until a massive boycott of the schools forced the system to do something. And this is what parents could do to make the schools safer so that their kids wouldn't be afraid to go there and come home.

Boycotts work - just ask Jesse Jackson. He staged them to gain benefits for hos followers, as well as his sons.

It worked for a state senator last year. He bused several schoolkids to an affluent North Shore suburb so that they could register for school. They filled out the forms, but were rejected because they lived outside the district. The boycotts were organized to call attention to inequities in school funding, and the senator was thinking of challenging rod Blagojevich for the Democratic nomination. It worked - for a short time. Blagojevich talked the senator into calling off the boycott and he would take care of the funding issue. But either he forgot or it got tossed onto the back burner, and after Blagojevich's arrest, the state senator got his revenge - by voting him out.

It could work on the South Side, if parents and community leaders would do the job. And there's no better time than now. Boycott the public schools. Take your kids out and find a better school, or homeschool the kids. It would take time and money, but ask yourself this - would you rather pay attention to teh kids' needs, or would you rather pick out their coffin? Because that's what will happen if they let this latest violent deed go by the wayside.

It works because the schools lose money whenever there are no kids there. Daley would have to take notice and eventually arrange for more police presence in and around the schools and the neighborhoods. So what will it be - boycott now or a future without your kid?
sparkbearer (fire_rag/Stephanie Pui-Mon

Review: The Governor by Rod Blagojevich

The book was released on September 8. I had thought there would be an unofficial embargo on the book and that I might have to travel out of state or go through Amazon to get a copy. fortunately, though, the library had copies, and I was able to check one out less than two weeks after the release.

Prior to the release, the book had been described as not only a memoir to the former governor's days in office, but maybe as a future text for political courses. It is illuminating, and because the author has had experience with politics at the state and national levels, I'm going to accept much of what is said in the book as that - his experience.Collapse )
lighthouse (fire_rag)

Health care town hall events

This is an update to the post on Tuesday:

The FireDogLake blog has a list of events scheduled for this month and into September before Labor Day, after which Congress will return from recess. The calendar of events is at the link below:

In the Chicago area, there was a health care reform rally on Tuesday that was covered by the Chicago Tribune. It was attended largely by supporters of health care reform, with opponents in the minority. One of the opposers was interviewsd, and he was identified as Eric Odom, who was one of the organizers of the Tax Day Tea Party in Chicago. This rally, like the Tea Party, was at the Dirksen Federal Plaza. Danny Davis, one of the speakers at this rally, will hold two town hall events on August 15 in Chicago. More info can be found at

In Wisconsin, there was an event by the congressman representing the Green Bay area. Though some people tried to disrupt the event, it was peaceful and those who wanted to speak got to. This is the idea of democracy. Other events in the state include two by Sen. Russ Feingold, who is up for re-election next year. He will be in La Crosse and another town this Saturday. Ron Kind also has events planned. I didn't see Tammy Baldwin's name on the list.

Jan Schakowsky, my Congresswoman before I left Des Plaines, will hold an event August 28 in Niles. I plan to attend this one. Nothing from Mike Quigley or any other congressional rep besides Danny Davis.

Maybe the so-called "Astroturf movement" will lose steam as their ugly tactics continue to be examined by pundits like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Or maybe the media spotlight will further egg them on. But as reports of ugly confrontations, like the congressman from Virginia being assaulted and the congressman from Maryland being lynched in effigy, continue to grow, it will ultimately backfire. So we gotta keep the sunshine on them. Sunshine is a disinfectant after all.

So if you support health care reform, or if you have questions, by all means go to these events. And don't let the bullies harass you and make decisions for you. If we don't fight or speak up, then we end up with less than what we want. And when it comes to health care, anything less than meaningful reform including a public option will not be acceptable to me. If that's what you want, don't settle for less.
lighthouse (fire_rag)

Show yourselves, Congresspeople!

I signed up to be a citizen journalist for the Huffington Post. I covered the Tax Day Tea Party in Chicago and forwarded news articles on car dealerships closing in the wake of the government bailouts and subsequent bankruptcies. Now I'm looking forward to the next big thing - our congressional representatives facing us, the constituents.

The question is - when?

I can understand the reticence. Over the weekend some reps held town hall meetings that were not only well-attended, but also by some who wanted to stir up drama, notably about health care reform, specifically their opposition to it. Things got pretty ugly. At some meetings supporters of reform and the public option were shouted down. One congressman had to leave under police escort. Some filmed the confrontations and posted them on the internet.

The congresswoman in my district in Madison, Tammy Baldwin, is on the forefront of reform and a supporter of the public option. She had a town hall meeting on the subject in June, where people shared their health insurance horror stories. Yet she has no public appearances planned for August.

The congressman in the district in Chicago where my mother and brother are registered voters is Mike Quigley, who replaced Rahm Emanuel. But Quigley has not taken a position on health care reform or a public option. According to sources, Quigley is on a "fact-finding mission" and therefore not in his district. Like Baldwin, he too has nothing public scheduled this month.

Jan Schakowsky, my congresswoman before I moved to Madison, also had a town hall meeting on health care reform in June and also supports reform and the public option. She also has nothing on the public calendar this month.

The silence is telling - and deafening.

I know it's not easy being a member of Congress these days. It's not easy being anything these days. But I still have confidence that we are a nation that is not easily swayed by the opinions of a very small yet vocal minority that are puppets of private interests. If you guys come out and see us who hired you, we'll be too glad to show you. And we'll put those who try to stir up drama for drama's sake out the door. We did hire you to represent our best interests. And contrary to other opinions, we want - and need - health care reform. That's why many of us voted for you. If we were happy with the status quo, the other guys would be in your shoes right now - as well as Mr. Obama's.

So come out, come out wherever you are. You gotta face us sooner or later.
lighthouse (fire_rag)

I survived Chicago Pride 2009!

Marching in a parade, though fun, can be quite grueling - particularly if you factor in weather, parade route, people, etc.

I volunteered to march in the annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade with my organization, Tree House Animal Foundation. I marched in the parade before - when I was 15 - but it was on the last leg and I didn't walk far (well, I rode on a float). Though I was a bit scared, it was fun and treasured the experience as a once in a lifetime event. Well, I didn't know I'd be doing it again.

Chicago Pride is probably the largest event of its kind in the Midwest and probably the longest parade in Chicago. In popularity, it ranks second behind the St. Patrick's Parade (the difference between the two is fifty degrees hotter and more colorful). It begins at Halsted and Belmont, procedes north on Halsted through Boys Town to Broadway, then south on Broadway to Diversey and east on Diversey to Stockton where the parade ends. In earlier parades, the route wound south to Clark Street to Lincoln Park. I was relieved that it ended where it did - I was completely wiped out. The participants line up south on Halsted to Fullerton. I don't know many organizations participated, but it had to be over two hundred.

We were supposed to be at our spot no later than 12:30, though the march began at 12. I left at a quarter to 12, rode the Brown Line to Belmont, and already thousands of people were gathering. At Addison, where I live, people were already walking east as though it was a Cubs game day (the Cubs played the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side and lost 6-0). At Clark Street it was difficult walking through the crowd and by that time the parade was starting. I was forced to retreat to Clark and walked south to Halsted, where the floats were lining up. I asked a parade marshal where to find my group and she shrugged and pointed south. I walked south, taking in the show all around me.

There were politicians, businesses, radio stations, small groups. About every third float had dance music pounding from the loudspeakers. A gay rodeo group was square dancing and I almost got caught up in it. I had bought a small rainbow flag from a vendor for Madeleine, who opted to go swimming with Daniella, and now I was finding other trinkets - a rainbow wristband and beads. I found myself dancing as I walked, to cheers from the other participants amused by a fat lady dancing (I won't call myself old yet, though I turn 46 in a couple of weeks). I finally found Tree House by Wrightwood, almost missing their blue van parked on the side. Though we had to be there no later than 12:30, it would be an hour and fifteen minutes before we finally moved.

The van had words painted on there - "BREEDERS SUCK!" "ADOPT A PET, DON'T BUY" "WE LIKE PUSSY" "PET OUR PUSSIES". I totally got into it then. I made up my chant when we started walking - "COME PLAY WITH OUR PUSSIES!" I had brought an umbrella to shield myself from the sun when we started walking, but I traded it in for a sign - "ADOPT A PET DON'T BUY". By then I acquired four rainbow necklaces and with the flag and wristband I was sufficiently decked out. Some of my fellow participants went further - rainbow "Stray Pride" t-shirts, feather boas in pink and purple. A couple of people wore roller skates and darted in and out between us when we marched. Inside the van was candy to pass out to the crowds, bottled water for the marchers, a stryofoam cooler filled with ice, beer and Mike's Hard Lemonade (brought by one of the marchers, who was the only one drinking). I had an iced tea when I arrived but had finished it. There was a liquor store a few doors down and I dashed in to buy a large bottle of Diet Pepsi. I was already regretting not bringing a camera - definitely next year, and Madeleine said she wanted to go next time for sure. We passed the time waiting underneath store awnings for shade, sipping cold drinks and (myself) dancing to music by Michael Jackson. I realized that I had to pace myself or I'd be worn out come marching time.

Then at a quarter to two the floats in front of us started moving. It was time to line up and start marching. We got in front of the van (but quickly behind when one of the roller skaters told us to do so), and started walking. Then we had to keep up at a steady pace - no leisurely walking was allowed.

People were watching from balconies and rooftops while we were waiting to march. But people started lining up around Wellington and Halsted, and it was a steady crowd throughout the parade route. We cheered and screamed with the watchers. When we paused at Barry and Clark, we started shouting "WE HAVE THE BEST PUSSY!" to cheers from the watchers and police guarding the route. The cops, who had historically been hostile to the LGBT community, were friendly and supportive. Some were wearing necklaces and carried rainbow flags. One female officer led the cheers when we passed by.

The van was going too fast and we had to walk faster to keep up. By the time we were approaching Addison, the van was almost a block ahead and we had to run. I couldn't run fast and I worried that I would be left behind, but we caught up. I was able to get a water bottle then and started sipping. Then when we got to the northernmost point before we had to turn south on Broadway, we got ahead of the van and stayed that way the rest of the parade.

I was already tired but had to keep smiling, cheering, chanting for the crowds. It was a friendly crowd, with some chanting "Take off your top!" (I didn't, but some ladies watching were topless). We starting interacting with the crowds - going up to skake hands, hug, kiss (I kissed a couple of guys, including a friend of my mother's at Belmont and Broadway), pose for pictures. After a bottle or two of water and some more dance music I got my second wind and began interacting with the crowds. Often I found myself marching with the Office Max float in front of us before backtracking with my group.

Then we got to Diversey and headed east toward the lakefront. The crowds got thinner but still enthusiastic. A group of young women spanked us with paddles they got from the Pleasure Chest. I shook more hands with onlookers. Then at the end of the parade route the wingnuts were there, shouting "GOD HATES FAGS" and "GO HOME FAGGOTS". By then I was too tired to muster a "Fuck You" and merely flipped the bird at them. Fortunately that crowd was only a handful and insignificant to the marchers and onlookers alike. Earlier at another group talking about sin and sinners I had shouted "You can count Mark Sanford among them!" but this time I was too tired. But I survived.

Getting home was another adventure. I had to walk, limping, to Belmont and Sheridan before I could get a bus and ended up at the Berwyn Red Line stop. There had been a raucous crowd on that bus who was cheering at a couple of guys simil
myth (fire_rag/Stephanie Pui-Mon Law)

Welcome to TFS - The Freak Show!

This just in, media watchers and other friends of the Paganmaid_2 journal: The Learning Channel (TLC), which has been entertainment rather than education-based since practically its inception, has officially changed its name. As of now, TLC will be called The Freak Show, or TFS.

This is based on a review of its program lineup featuring people with, shall we say, unique challenges. People with massive body-size issues. People who have more than six children, with some of the children being part of multiple births. People who are missing body parts. People who live in haunted houses - oh, wait, "A Haunting" is still on the Discovery Channel (and sometimes Investigative Discovery). People who are born dwarves (or "little"). People who build motorcycles and pick fights with family members while doing so. And people who you don't want to invite to your backyard barbecue or your daughter's wedding. Yep, they all have a home on The Freak Show.

Yep, you can still watch their daily struggles. Jon and Kate Plus 8 - Yes those kids are darlings, but how else will Jon and Kate take care of them and their relationships? That's why they're on The Freak Show - can't raise eight kids on a nurse and IT professional's salaries alone, ya know.

And the Roloffs - managing a farm and a family large and small costs money, ya know. Put 'em on The Freak Show.

And don't forget the Teutels. They gotta support their chopper business, but how can they when they're fighting like cats and dogs most of the day and leaving little time and energy building bikes that no one's going to see outside The Freak Show? Yep, that's where they are.

Let's not forget the half-ton teenager and the full-ton mom. Oh wait - I think they're on Discovery Health Channel - make it Freak Show 2.

Interesting people. Unique challenges. Forget your own lives and watch The Freak Show!

Check local listings.

(NOTE: This is a satire. As of this writing, TLC is still TLC. But you never know...)
lighthouse (fire_rag)

Something's missing here...

I read the stories about Daniel Hauser, the 13-year-old Minnesota boy who is on the run with his mother after a judge ordered the boy to continue chemotherapy to treat his non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

His father pleaded with his wife and son to come home and "be a family again". What are the chances of that happening when the outcome awaiting them is jail for the mother, and a treatment regimen for the boy, as well as placement in a foster home away from his family?

I don't think I'd come home either if I knew that was waiting for me. I think I'd want to kill myself and my child first.

I know that's extreme. But when I'm being threatened with the possible loss of my child by forces out of my hands, it's hard to ignore the "fight-or-flight" reflex.

So I know what Daniel and his mother are going through right now.

I am certain that when Daniel got sick, his parents did what anyone else would - seek the best care for their son. But when the first round of chemo was too painful to bear, who could blame the parents and Daniel for seeking other options, other opinions?

Who could watch their child bear so much pain? I don't know if I could.

Was any support for Daniel and his family present while they sought conventional medical treatment? Were options discussed? Did somebody sit down with his parents and say "this is what's going to happen and what we could try? Did the medical profession seek to form an alliance with Daniel and his family in the first place?

Or was it "our way or the highway" - or in this case, a courtroom?

When my husband, from whom I've been separated now for over two years, had liver cancer, his doctors tried two rounds of chemo immolization, something similar to what was forst tried with Daniel. I was basically excluded from any discussions regarding his treatment. At the time, I was raising our daughter, who was a preschooler at the time. It pained us to see the suffering he was going through. I was intent on protecting our child from seeing what her father was going through, so I wasn't that involved with my husband's care. I don't think his family has completely forgiven me for that. But I had to be around to see his suffering, to clean up after he vomited, to make sure he got to his appointments. In short, I wasn't a wife but a caretaker. In the end, that was the beginning to the end of a marriage that was disastrous due to his alcohol abuse.

So it's easy for the medical profession to exclude family members from sharing treatment options and using intimidation to force them to go along with it.

In the case with my husband, the second round went very badly. The hospital released him even though he couldn't keep food down, and that's a big no-no. I had to take him to the ER three times after that in ten days because he was constantly vomiting. The third time they finally admitted him in critical condition, and the doctors were screaming at me because I didn't "bring him in sooner", and I screamed back that I did and it was their fuckup, not mine. As the story went, he stayed three months until he had a liver transplant and recovered from a subsequent stroke.

If the medical community did more to form a partnership with his family, this would not happen. If there was an advocate with Daniel and his family, if there was strong external support for the family, a judge would not have to step in. Daniel could have his alternative treatments along with the conventional treatment, and he might be on the road to recovery.

Instead, his family has been broken. Daniel faces a lonely road to an uncertain future without his family when he needs them the most. His mother would be jailed for a time, and his father would not have the family he pleaded for. If Daniel dies then, it would not be his parents' fault, for the state has taken their parental rights away. Sure, they might press manslaughter charges against the parents for withheld or delayed treatment, but wouldn't have a case.

So something is missing from the story, and I bet it's a case of misplaced communication that led to the clash of a family going through an incredibly rough time and a state imposing its will on them.

Of course I hope for nothing but the best for Daniel and his family. No one should have to go through what they're going through.

But to the state of Minnesota, I say damn you.
lighthouse (fire_rag)

A harvest of frozen dreams...

I read the book "Winter of Frozen Dreams", by Karl Harter. Published in 1991, the book details the story of Wisconsin's most publicized murder case to date - that of Barbara Hoffman, a former University of Wisconsin student accused of murdering two men in 1977 and 1978. Cool and beautiful, she captivated the attention of a state for two years while her case meandered its way through the legal system and culminated a two-week trial. She was acquitted of one murder and convicted of the other.

Today she sits at Taycheedah Institute of Corrrections for Women in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In the nearly 29 years she has served of her life sentence, she has not spoken publically of the case. She will not grant interviews or even seek parole, though she has been eligible since 1991. But although I can only speculate, I'll try to speak for her today, and for her two victims. How could three lives be intertwined as they were? Why did they choose the paths they followed?
Collapse )
lighthouse (fire_rag)

My take on yesterday...

What I posted yesterday was an account of the Tax Day Tea Party I wrote for the Huffington Post. Because I had to adhere to their standards of reporting I had to hold back on my opinions. But now that the post has been submitted, I can post on what I like about it.

It's not pretty either.Collapse )
lighthouse (fire_rag)

Tax Day Tea Party

I attended the Chicago Tax Day Tea Party at the Dirksen Federal Building downtown today. Weather conditions were mild - cloudy skies, temperature 49F, light winds off Lake Michigan.

At the Dirksen Plaza, about 5,000 were in attendance (this from organizer John O'Hara, who was on MSNBC after the rally). Crowd was mostly white (did not notice persons of color). Age range included preschool and school-age children to people in their 60s. Most were in their 30s and 40s, and equal number of men and women were present.

Signage was colorful and mostly homemade. Slogans included the following:

- Socialism Trickle-Up Poverty
- Wasteful Spenders Cut Them Off
- President Obama Are You Listening?
- Repeal Federal Reserve Act
- Take My Liberty Give Me Debt
- Taxed Enough Already
- Big Government Big Taxes Big Mistake
- Freedom Is Not A Privilege It's A Right
- I Am John Galt
- Stop Spending My Child's Future (
- Honk If I'm Paying Your Mortgage
- Leave Something For Our Troops to Come Home To
- Real Conservatives Don't Get Talking Points From Fox News (from group We Are Change Chicago)
- The Road To Hell Is Paved With Stimulus Packages
And two more signs with the Obama Campaign icon of a sunrise, but with dark clouds, lightning and rain falling on withered crops: Marxism Yes He Can, and Hope? Nope!
- Taxed America Is Really Pissed

Before the rally started music with tax and money themes played on loudspeakers: Beatles' "Taxman", Pink Floyd's "Money" and Steve Miller's "Take the Money and Run".

The program began around noon. The most prominent speakers included WLS-AM radio's Roe Conn and Mancow Muller, and they spoke first. Conn praised parents who pulled their kids from school to attend the event. Muller praised the "working people" attending the rally, while bashing President Obama and those supporting him.

In between speakers people chanted "USA! USA!", "No More Taxes!", "We Must Lead!"

Other speakers were Joe Calomino for the Illinois office of Americans for Prosperity (; Jonathan Koenig (The Capitalist Pig at Fox News); Lisa Rogan, freelance writer, self-described "classic liberal"; John Tillman (; Christina Rasmussen; Kevin Dijon, self-described "lifelong Democrat" from Cleveland; and rally organizer Eric Odom.

From the speakers: Criticism on Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's proposal to raise state income taxes 50%. Alarms that Congress is planning to spend a reported $12.6 trillion on bailouts. Concerns that personal liberty is threatened (a big issue based on the signs present). Only Koenig called attention to the fact that the spending started under the Bush Administration, and that was greeted by some boos. And calls that the grassroots action present in today's rally must be continued the next day, next week, next month, and into the future.

Most interesting speaker: Dijon, who cited "The Simpsons" Monorail episode as an example of massive project funding that doesn't work. He cited sports stadiums and convention centers built with taxpayer funds that don't attract the revenue promised.

Missing from the rally who started the whole thing: CNBC's Rick Santelli. Santelli was invoked only once by speaker John Tillman, calling him an example of one person who can make a difference.

The rally ended at about 1:15 p.m. Another rally was scheduled from 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. today at Navy Pier.