Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Save Me From The Savior Wannabes

My original idea for this column was to report to you from the 93rd Annual Convention of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions in the manner of Hunter S Thompson.

Since we are not, in fact, the Duke, it would never occur to me or to Anitra “Mistress Gonzo” Freeman (I’m not prejudiced against Christians, I live with one!) to wade into Grand Ballroom 2 at the SeaTac Doubletree Inn among up to 1000 missionaries without prior consent. Our Editorial Manager Adam Hyla called ahead. He got a nice PR woman, who said something like, oh yes, we know about Real Change, and I read that column by Wes Browning on us a few weeks back, and ha, ha, he sure doesn’t like Christians does he? And then we got permission anyway; so I thought, time to pack our drugs.

But then I thought, Good God, is even their press agent 90% satire-impaired? The column mentioned was NOT anti-Christian. All I did was satirize the AGRM’s website. I wanted to show how their own talk about homeless people might feel to the homeless people themselves by turning it around and applying the same language to missions. If the missionaries were offended by it, they were supposed to understand that they themselves had provided the template.

Clearly, these people need training wheels on their satire. Setting an impression of Hunter S Thompson before them without any exegesis would be like renting your 12 year-old nephew an expensive hooker and not telling him which end is up. It just results in waste. I was going to have to explain in excruciating detail that I don’t actually pop pills or do hookers or drink until noon-o-clock in the morning.

Then the day came, and we were in the ballroom. The head honcho at the dais was saying how great it was that George Bush had appeared on closed circuit TV earler to say a few words to the gathering . Ah heck, we thought, we missed it because we were too busy scoring acid. NO WE WEREN’T, we were across the street downing Sourdough Jacks and jalapeño poppers, because we couldn’t afford $32 for the conference meal.

The best part of the evening was the Total Experience Gospel Choir. Too bad there were too many missionaries in the way, or we could have danced until we ripped a hole in the floor.

Speaking of ripping holes, it was time then for Dr. Kenneth “Hutch” Hutcherson to talk. This was what we really came for. What would the famous Hutch want to say to the AGRM, besides that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, etc? Surely he would have a special message. We were right! He came to talk about ripping holes!

Specifically, he discussed Mark Chapter 2, wherein Jesus heals a paralytic that had been lowered through a hole in the ceiling. From this he arrived at the idea that when people come to missions for shelter and food (which he calls “coming for the wrong reasons” as if the missions don’t deliberately set that bait!) it is up to the missions to “rip parts of their lives out of them” (like the hole in the roof, get it?) to reach hollows in their hearts to shove Jesus into! You couldn’t ask for a less disingenuous description of what I referred to previously as the spiritual violence of proselytism. Hutch is for it! Treat the existing spirituality of the homeless people who come to you like so much roofing! And the audience cheered!

Here’s the satire part, for the missionaries reading this: My final recommendation to the rest of the world is we all do to you what Hutch says do to homeless people. We lure you into coming to us for the wrong reasons, by letting you believe we care what you think about gay marriage. Then without your permission we rip your bad-ass violent hearts a new one, and shove tolerance into the hole.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

We Followed Our Bliss

Why do we need myths at all?

My first position on the creation of life, the universe, and everything, is that demanding that God tell you the answer is sheer blasphemy. You don’t ask your parents to tell you how your conception went. “Was there a condom and did it break?” “Was a threesome involved?” “Was it good for everyone?” “Was it videotaped?” “Can I watch it?” These are questions you do NOT ask.

My second position on creation, etc., is that, if any crimes were actually committed by any of the principals involved, surely the statutes of limitations have all expired by now. So there can hardly be grounds for prosecution. Although, look up the “Problem of Evil” for a view that indicates civil action, perhaps including class reparations, might still be appropriate.

So why are so many making so much noise about all these ideas, when they have nothing to do with things that matter in our everyday lives, like the price of gasoline, the rising costs of housing, government invasions of privacy, racism, the dismantling of the biosphere, or will Katie Couric dominate prime time broadcast news?

I think the answer to the question I just asked is that I was full of it when I asked it. I think that creation myths have everything to do with homelessness, invasions by Alberto Gonzalez, Katie Couric, etc.

For example:

Scientists studying mass quantities of human and chimp cheek swabs, have set forth a rich new theory, namely that ages ago common ancestors of chimps and humans (I’ll call them chumpans) split into isolated populations which evolved separately into distinct varieties, I’ll call them chimpans and chumans. BUT, these then came back together and got the hots for each other, and they went for it, and lo, verily they did have offspring such as chimans, chullimpas, chichichumans, and chuchums.

And then, THOSE did also come to know one another, and bunches of offsprings maybe beat each other, and other bunches wasted their lives getting high on fermented berries, and others simply sucked at termite hunting and starved to death, and finally, only “chimps” and “humans” were left, and those no longer had sex together, right? Because it had no procreative purpose now, wink, wink, as they were by then different species. Praise Darwin.

This is a fine subcreation theory every bit as fun as that Garden, Serpent and “Apple” business is when you figure out what the snake is really doing there. You can tell your kids, “Yes, children, scientists have determined that the entire species of Homo Sapiens has original sin. In fact we once were ALL trailer trash. Our ancestors didn’t just mess around one Sunday afternoon in a public park. They were messing around for millions of years with ALL the apes in the neighborhood of a continent, in every park, street, and alley, whether the apes bathed, or not, or shaved their foreheads.”

In fact you could say this theory suggests that we humans owe our evolution of big brains and our domination of the planet to our long prehistory of sleeping with relatives. We evolved BECAUSE we were all Jerry Springer fodder, for eons.

But I digress. I was going to say that these ideas are NOT irrelevant to important questions of public policy, like starvation, Darfur, immigration, the exploration of space, Key Arena, what part of the horse Tim Eyman is, gay marriage, homelessness, WASL, Putin’s opinion of Cheney, or Katie Couric.

It’s true. When we all can agree on where we all came from it will be like the good old days when everyone always watched the Ed Sullivan Show and could answer questions about it the next day. Or like that time a couple years ago when we all saw the Paris Hilton clip.

When that day comes we will cease to be homeless people and non-homeless people. We will all be hairless apes whose ancestors once had sex with hairy apes, and the world will be as one.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Get Ready For Camp!

Why does the government really want our phone records? Let’s get conspiracy-theoretic all over this!

Here’s a clue. All the fury surrounding NSA’s data mining last week pushed another important story off the front pages. Kellogg Brown and Root, notorious subsidiary of Halliburton, was awarded a $385 million no-bid contingency contract to build a “network” of detention centers, here at home, in the future, for “some kind of mass migrations” or “the rapid development of new programs.” Each center would house up to 5000 detainees.

Allow me to restate that. KBR got handed $385 million in advance, without public debate, for the creation of a lots of new prison camps for people within the US, to all be built in a hurry, and we aren’t being told clearly why, or why KBR has to do it instead of the lowest bidder.

My main question, though, is how do you quickly create a “network” of prisons, each holding up to 5000, for a measly $385 million, assuming “network” means more than, like, 3 or 4?

Answer: You don’t create the prisons from scratch; you establish them where there are already sufficient facilities.

Wait, there’s a shortage of housing, right? Yes, in the civilian sector, but there is and long has been a glut of unused military housing in this country. What with the switch to an all-volunteer army and two overseas wars, there’s no shortage of barracks in the US. In fact the DoD has more bases than it needs.

OK, don’t believe that. Believe this: a big long unclassified document on the US Army’s official website that has been around for over a year, gathering almost no attention, details plans for something entitled the Civilian Inmate Labor Program. This CILP calls for the creation, FROM EXISTING UNUSED FACILITIES ON MILITARY BASES, of prison camps to exploit the labor of certain classes of federal prisoners. The plan specifically rules out paying the prisoners for the labor, so in human language, we’re talking SLAVE LABOR CAMPS. As they put it at Auschwitz, Arbeit macht frei – nicht!

How much do you think it might cost to set those camps up? I’d guess around $385 million or so.

According to the web document, some classes of federal prisoners would be “ineligible” for slavery within the Civilian Labor Program. For instance, sex offenders and drug dealers will not be so fortunate. Who remaining would be eligible?

How about people who wind up in federal custody because of disturbances arising from some kinds of mass migrations or the occasional rapidly developing program?

Gee, what with most of the National Guard off making Iraq free for oil exploitation, if we had even a risk of mass disturbances inside the US, we might have to declare martial law and round up and arrest all the potential troublemakers before the disturbances happen. What if there were a bird flu epidemic, making mass ineffectual quarantines look desirable? What if we tried to send the Mexicans home, and they wouldn’t go? What if a Democrat had a clear shot at the White House, for a change?

But how can we round up potential troublemakers if we don’t know who they are?

Well, thanks to the NSA, now we can know. We can start with our previously obtained list of known troublemakers, like the Raging Grannies, members of the ACLU, Real Change staff, non-Saudi-royal Muslims, Democratic Party precinct leaders, Simon Cowell, and such. Combine that with the NSA’s call data. Do a little easy network computation, and we can rate every resident of the country on a scale of zero to 10. Zero would mean you’re Bush, Cheney, or Rove or close family. Anything over 7.5, say, could mean the Bush administration wouldn’t miss you.

If you’re the average Real Change reader, you’ll probably be assigned an 8 or higher. Since you all won’t be able to vote from your slave labor camps you might as well hale Jeb as your next Überbush right now and get it over with.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dr. Wes’ Missionary Position

Over a year ago I was goosed about a huge discovery. I’d learned most homeless missions everywhere are linked. They’re members of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, or the AGRM.

Founded in 1913 as the "International Union of Gospel Missions,” the AGRM provides missions with program resources and guides for helping the homeless. It provides courses in starting up missions, and ongoing organizational advice. Members are certified by the AGRM. Never sleep at an uncertified mission! Always look for the AGRM Seal of Approval!

None of us at Real Change had known about this. Our Editorial Manager, Adam Hyla, had never heard of AGRM. So I was thrilled! For once I, Dr. Wes Browning, had an idea at an Editorial Committee meeting, and I was awake! “Hey everybody! Let’s write about this! It will constitute news to our readers!”

As I remember, Adam’s first reaction was on the order of, “It might have been news in 1913.” His second reaction, on hearing that AGRM is based in Missouri, was “What’s the local angle?”

I said something like “Geeze Louise, Adam, there’s not one but THREE member missions right here in Jet City, USA. Plus another 10 of them across the rest of the state. How more local do you need?” “A lot,” he said, scoffing at my genius, as so many always do.

Well, scoffers scoff no more! I’ve got your local angle right here, Adam! They’re bringing their show to town!

Yes! Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission will host the 93rd Annual Convention of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. From May 27 to May 31, a swarm of homeless-mission folk will fan out to hit all our best tourist traps, then reassemble to compare mission shop notes, like how Jesus would create a non-profit governing board, how to use the Bible to get homeless people to behave, or how to stop homeless gays from marrying (Dr. Kenneth Hutcherson will be one of the featured speakers.)

AGRM’s website,, is a window into the ideals and philosophies of Christian homeless missions, which have a huge impact on the lives of thousands of homeless people.

Inspired by a similar item on the website, and in the spirit of sharing, here’s my EIGHT WAYS TO TRULY HELP THE MISSIONS:

1. Never give cash to a mission. Too often well-intended gifts meant for homeless services are used to support the missions’ pernicious proselytizing habits. Volunteer your time, or give them food or beds instead.

2. Talk to the ministers with respect. Talking to a poverty pimp respectfully can give him a weapon to fight the social isolation that induces him to treat his clients as moral and spiritual inferiors.

3. Recognize that missions and their ministers are not all the same. Some of them make you go to the service before you can eat, while others let you buy your way out of the chapel, for instance.

4. Share God's love. If Jesus were walking the earth today, He would certainly spend time with the homeless. But, maybe He’d talk to a mission’s minister too, on a slow day. So can you.

5. Pray for the missions. THEY like that sort of thing, and actually believe it does them good. Humor them.

6. Take precautions for your own safety. Some workers at missions on the streets are criminals and fugitives running from the law. Watch your wallet at all times, and avoid bending over in front of them.

7. Encourage your local mission to help their homeless clients both physically and spiritually but always within their clients’ own spiritual understanding. Too often missions will work to undermine and degrade that existing spirituality, so as to try to supplant it. Proselytizing does spiritual violence.

8. Demand transparency. Do the “converts” really get the best beds? No one knows, because no one talks, including the clients, who fear the consequences of speaking out.

A “convention” is a “coming together.” Let’s all share our ideas and try to come together!

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

The New White

Occasionally people say to me, “Dr. Wes, how do you feel about all these illegal immigrants coming to America, taking American jobs away, and making so many of us real American citizens unemployed and causing us to be homeless?”

At times like that I like to always begin with a DISCLAIMER: None of the opinions expressed by me, Dr. Wes Browning, ever reflect the views of Real Change, the views of homeless people in general, or those of any other actual person, living or dead. In fact the views expressed by Dr. Wes Browning may not even be his own, owing to the fact that this is Adventures in Irony (look it up), not Adventures in Wes’ Final Answers Dished Out Clear and Easy for the Sake of the Irony-Impaired.

That said, the premise of the question is a crock. Illegal immigration can’t be blamed for the current high rate of homelessness. In fact illegal immigration is not a problem at all. Ask me how I know that! Go ahead; ask me!

I’ll pretend you just did ask me. The ultimate consideration is what’s the effect of all immigration, illegal or otherwise. And what matters there is the total percentage of foreign-born residents in the US resident population as a whole. That measures the potential social impact of immigration.

“So what’s the per capita of foreigners among us, and what are we going to do about it, because it’s getting to be way too much, isn’t it, Wes?”

No it’s not! The Census Bureau works out the per capita foreign-born rate, and it’s NOT too much! The current rate is near 10%, which is high compared to its all-time low of 5% in 1970, but less than what it has been almost every year this country was in existence prior to WWII.

In fact, from 1860 to 1930, the foreign-born rate was generally in the vicinity of 13%. And those were the Good Old Days, when we had family values and no hippies!

The only time in history when the American rate of foreign-borns was high enough to have a serious impact was before we became a country. True, around about 1607 and continuing for some years after, a huge surge in illegal immigration resulted in our languages being replaced by a foreign language (English), but nothing that serious is happening now.

I think it helps to understand the problem of illegal immigration and its impact on homelessness to compare it to the problem of illegal drinking in Saudi Arabia and the impact that has on the price of gasoline in Omaha, Nebraska: zip.

Or compare it to the Drug War.

In 1873 there was no heroin addiction in this country, even though heroin was completely legal. That’s because it didn’t exist yet. In 1874, it was made in a lab and called diacetylmorphine, but it still wasn’t a big problem. Heroin addiction started to be a social problem after the Bayer Company came out with what they called Bayer Heroin Cough Syrup in 1898, giving us the name. Twenty-five years later it was estimated that 0.2% of all Americans were heroin addicts, and heroin use became illegal. So today your heroin addiction isn’t just a health problem, it’s illegal, just like a lot of immigration. It became illegal because legislators made it illegal.

So you could ask, what role do today’s illegal heroin addictions play in creating our country’s increasing homeless problem? And the answer would be, FORGET ILLEGALITY, look at the overall rate of heroin addiction. After 8 decades of laws against it, it’s still only around .2 or .3 percent. So that can’t explain the homelessness, can it?

Consider those opinions as fodder for further discussions.

One last note, for you history buffs out there: George Bush has decreed that the Star Spangled Banner should be in English. He obviously didn’t know that in 1919 our very own US government issued its own Spanish translation, for educational purposes. Isn’t history fun?