Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Homelessness to End in 2024

I'm writing nine days before this will appear. I can't possibly know what's going on there in the time where you're at. The problem isn't that I can't predict the future. The problem is, like everyone else, I can't predict it correctly.

Therefore, when I get the urge to predict the future, I prefer to predict it far enough out that when it will have come about my actual predictions will have been forgotten, and I can say that what happened is what I said would. No one is going to go to the archives to check. That's one reason I will buck the trend and make predictions now for 2010 instead of 2009.

The other is, I have this theory about why 2001 was such a bad year: 2001 A Space Odyssey was too good. The movie jinxed the year. So, ipso reverso, 2010 should be a great year, because the movie 2010 The Year We Make Contact blew. Since I've never seen any of the movies set in 2009, I can't begin to guess what that year will be like.

So I will now predict the wonderful world of 2010.

I'll start with the easy stuff. There will be no aerial highways for flying cars, once again, in 2010. 2010 will be the first year in US history that no one wonders for even a minute what having a Black president in the White House would be like. Some very bad weather will happen somewhere. In spite of all efforts to prevent it, terrorists somewhere will blow something up, so it will take even longer to get a ride on a ferry.

During the latter half of February 2010, Canada will be in the news constantly, and then be forgotten again by the end of March. Around the same time, clipboard sales will increase, and complete strangers will visit millions of Americans asking too many prying questions. Lisa Simpson, a cartoon character, will be married. (These items are courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Every US business will have received at least one bailout by the end of 2010. Some of them will have been bailed out two or three times. All the world's trees will finally be cut down in order to print all the money for the bailouts. In the summer, your kid's lawn mowing service will get a federal bailout.

In predicting local news, I'm trying to see the 2010 Mayor of Seattle. I'm getting an image -- it's fading in and out -- it's someone I don't know yet. But I can definitely predict everyone I know hopes I'm right.

Due to the economic downturn, Real Change will have more vendors than ever. As the number of vendors approaches the number of customers, we will have to make up for it by going daily. There will be not one, but two crossword puzzles in every issue.

There will be so many homeless people that area shelters will adopt an alphabetical admissions system. Everyone will get two days of shelter each month. The days you get shelter will depend on the first letter of your last name. The city will point to this system as proof that everyone is getting the shelter they need, so no new shelters will be funded.

As King County's Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness enters its sixth year, its Governing Council finally says, "Whoa, we're not getting anywhere at this," so they cross out "Ten" on all their literature and write "Twenty" above it, and put out a press release announcing that they're way ahead of schedule. Critics suggest they set the end date of the Plan to End Homelessness in the past. The Committee to End Homelessness is as likely to invent a time machine to return us to 1964 as they are to actually end homelessness by continuing to sit on their hands and wait for the magic federal pixies to solve the problem with federal pixie gold dust, as they have been doing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Yearend Snarkoff

Why, Thank You, Brutus (Brutia?) "On Whose Kitchen Floor I Have Sometimes Slept" Freeman! I believe I DO look good in red!

Those were the sorts of snarky remarks I was issuing after Anitra Sweet Thing volunteered me, myself from head to toe, to be the new Real Change Board Secretary. "He takes good notes," she said. And I bleed quite well, also.

I'm actually beginning to enjoy the new role. It's easier on the rest of the board, what with me concentrating on writing and not able to inject witty Wesisms as often as before. I sense their relief, and their relief washes over me as a balm. Also, I am now motivated to increase my typing speed to 15 or 20 words per minute. In the past I could only bring myself up to 11 words per minute, which was my thinking speed. Now I have to match pace with my fellow board members' rattling-forth speed.

Plus, I am less dispensable, because I'm doing what nobody else wants to do. On the down side, it has been a fond dream of mine to be dispensed.

Speaking of what nobody wants, this column is being written four days earlier than usual, and the next one will have to be written a whole week earlier than usual, just because the Editor God Adam "Hyla" expects to take a holiday during the holidays. So everyone, Adam included, has to work twice as fast now, in order to not work at all later. So next week, because of this, Adam is really seriously going to need a vacation. This scenario makes sense to him.

Consequently there is no way either this column or the next can be topical. The next will be so not topical, it might as well consist of 666 words in the defense of solipsism. I've decided to spend my 666 words this time whining about random trivialities that spring to mind. You'll have noticed that I've already begun.

This past month I've whined about poverty, terrorism, genocide, and political corruption. It's high time I whined about things that don't matter.

Bed bugs, for instance. The general consensus in the medical profession seems to be that bed bugs don't spread disease. Not even HIV! So why does the management of my subsidized apartment building insist on examining my mattress every month, even though I haven't ever seen a bedbug in my bed, and have never complained about these nonexistent bugs in my bed? Because they have money to waste paying people to look at my mattress for the fun of it? The state ultimately pays for this, calling it a health issue, but I can't get dental coverage?

[Above: Ugly, but mostly harmless.]

I'm going to whine about the abuse of sirens. I've voiced complaints in the past about the escalation of siren noise levels in response to increased soundproofing of cars. I've tried to get people to understand how dangerous the increased noise is. It creates an atmosphere of emergency all the time that poisons us all emotionally, puts us all on artificial high alert, causes the so-inclined to go off the deep end and act out violently, which in turn creates an excuse for more sirens and convinces people they were right all along in being frightened.

But, really, the other day I witnessed an officer driving a police cruiser down 3rd Avenue at Columbia Street turning on the siren to shoo a pigeon out of the way. Then, later that week, I saw a Medic One vehicle approach Fire Station 10, pull past it, do a careful U-turn, and neatly parallel park next to the station, all with the siren on, so that the occupants could then saunter out laughing. It's bad enough that sirens have got too loud in general. Now we have to bear them being used to warn pigeons away and to lengthen coffee breaks.

Next week I'll continue by whining about things that haven't happened yet. Look out! Inflation! Higher taxes! Fewer services!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Rarity Of Blagojevich

In the past few days, as Rod Blagojevich has continued to scare Illinois and the rest of the country by not resigning as governor, there's been talk about the possibility that the prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, may coax Blagojevich into resignation with a plea agreement. I've wondered how that back room discussion would go.

Fitz, loud aside to aides: "I could put him away for 20 bleeping years! I'm sitting on something too bleeping valuable here for me to get nothing bleeping worth it!"

Random aide: "He should bleeping resign if he wants to get out in 10."

Blagojevich: "Wait a minute! Ten? Are you kidding me? My ability to appoint a senator of my choosing to Illinois is only worth a reduction to 10 bleeping years to you? You're bleeping crazy!"

Fitz: "What would you say to bleeping resigning, in return for 10 years with a chance of probation in 6?"

Blagojevich: "It's sounds to me like, I bleeping resign, and all I get is a bleeping thank you. Bleep off!"

[The bleeps would be redactions, of course.]

There are people out there who are shocked that Blagojevich could have thought of committing such a crime, and I'm with them. How could anyone get the idea that something as important as a Senate seat should be haggled over as if it were as trivial as charges brought against an accused felon? I mean, we don't live in that kind of society, where everything and anything is up for sale to the highest bidder. We only sell justice. So how did this sick, sick, man ever think to do such a thing?

Imagine what kind of world we'd be living in if everybody thought the way Blagojevich does. For one thing, we would have mass homelessness, as people who couldn't pay for housing at inflated prices would be told that's just bleeping tough. "We've got something valuable here, and we're not giving it away for bleeping nothing."

Fortunately, we don't live in a world where "you've got to pay to play" is the driving mentality.

Just last week I was strolling down Third Avenue when a nice man stepped out of a grocery store and stuffed ten freshly purchased lottery tickets into my coat pocket, saying, "You look like you haven't had much luck lately." I showed him my bleeping appreciation for the free gift. Of course, the tickets were all losers (I hadn't had much luck lately), but it was the thought that counted. If that good man had been like Blagojevich I wouldn't even had got the thought. I would have had to pay for those tickets!

I just made that story up merely to represent the many good selfless deeds that happen every day in our society that show how far out of step Blagojevich truly is. I'm sure I could make up many, many, more examples of that kind, which would all be equally as representative.

If everyone thought like Blagojevich, colleges would cut costs by hiring more and more part-time teachers so as to not have to pay them benefits, and then turn around and charge thousands of dollars more every year for tuition on the theory that education raises potential income, making the colleges want "a piece of the action." That would be wrong.

Maybe what he was thinking was that if there were going to be an election for the Senate seat in question, the candidates would each have to put up millions in campaign expenses, and the state would have to pay for the election itself. So by simply appointing one of them for a few hundred thou or a cushy appointment of his own, he'd be saving everyone a bundle. So he would have thought, maybe, "I'm just doing a valuable service, and charging a fair exchange rate."

It's a bleeping good thing that kind of thinking is rare, or thousands of us would be freezing our bleeping asses off living in the streets right now.

[Below: Typical American homeless people, enjoying American justice and opportunities, because they are never downtrodden.]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The 33% Genocide

How genocidal is the system that causes and perpetuates homelessness? Let's put a percentage on it!

I get told from time to time I shouldn't call the system genocidal because to do so dilutes the meaning of the word "genocide" and is thus an abuse of language. To the people who say that, I could say, stop abusing the word "abuse." But I won't. Instead, I plead guilty. Yeah, I abuse language. What are you gonna do about it?

That's the kind of guy I am. I don't kick the living. I kick the abstract, the inanimate, and the dead. And I'm proud of that choice. (Note, though: The alternative is thinkable. Whenever I beat a dead horse, the live horses should be grateful I spared them.)

But I understand how deeply bothered others are by all this. Therefore I will try to make amends. Rather than calling the system all-out genocidal, which is so very very harsh to the poor delicate innocent fluffy word, I will allow for the sake of the word's and the word's defenders' sensibilities that the system is only genocidal to a degree less than all-out, and, moreover, to be absolutely conscientious, I will compute that degree.

US life expectancy varies by date of birth but gathers around 75. So, now, suppose I kill a guy 74 years and 364 days old. How much have I killed him, really? He was probably going to die tomorrow anyway! It's hardly fair to say that I have "murdered" him. It's an abuse of the word! I haven't murdered ALL of him, only the last tiny little bit. You could say I have murdered one day of him, out of his 75 years worth of expected being. That's not even four tenths of one percent of one per cent.

You might then say, "Well, he might have lived to be a hundred if you hadn't killed him just now." Sure, but that extra quarter century would have been a bonus. We're talking about rights and expectations here. In fact, suppose I let him live now and he does lives to be a hundred. I should get CREDIT for helping him eke out that 33% bonus. I will have murdered him by a NEGATIVE amount, exactly minus one third.

Come to think of it, this reasoning explains why day-after abortion pills are so bad, but capital punishment is just dandy. If you do away with a day-old embryo, you cut his or her life expectancy by the 75 years plus an almost 9 months of pre-life. So you have not only murdered him or her entirely, you have murdered him or her by 75.75 divided by 75 = 101%. That extra one percent will get you to Hell one per cent faster. But say a 15 year-old commits a capital crime, gets tried as an adult, and after years on death row dies by lethal injection by our hands, by means of our instrument, the state, at age 25. That's only 66.66% murder, so it's 33.33% live-and-let-live, and St. Peter's going to smile on us all, some.

Anyway, let's get back to the partial genocide. Given that there are 2000 homeless people living on the streets of Seattle because the system can't be bothered to expand shelters. Given that the average street person dies before the age of 50. Assuming that average is exactly 50 for ease in estimation (one or two years won't matter much.) How much genocide is occurring?

The answer will be a pleasant surprise to those who want to say there is no genocide whatsoever. There is only 33% genocide! It isn't 0%, but it's in the right direction! This means that the system is NOT genocidal by a whole two-thirds!

Applying What We Have Learned

Our mayor has been conducting so-called "inhumane" sweeps of homeless encampments. Calculate how inhumane those sweeps are. Is the answer closer to A. 80%? B. 50%? Or C. 20%? Partial credit for showing partial work.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Choose Your Fruit

Recent events in India have me rethinking a lot of popular socio-political commentary.

I'm talking about the kind of commentary that goes, "Eat your broccoli, don't you know there are starving children in India (Zimbabwe, Uganda, whatever)?" and such things as "If they can put a man on the Moon, why can't they make a Big Mac with negative calories?"

It may sound like I'm poised to make light of the tragedy in Mumbai, but I'm not. I'm only going to scold the entire world, the terrorists included, for having once again proved to me that humans don't really deserve the planet they've got born to. It's not funny, but look at what I have to work with.

It's the "If they can put a man on the Moon" business that's really got me. It was only 3 weeks ago that India hit the Moon with a space probe of its own. So, Indians can now be asking, "If we can hit the Moon with our very own rockets from almost 400000 kilometers away on Great Nehru's Birthday, why aren't our cities safe from terrorists?"

[Right: Chandrayaan-1 (चंद्रयान-१) lifts off on the PSLV-C11.]

Well, part of the answer is fear. Let's say you are a nuclear military power. What could you do that could allay the fears of your neighbors on Earth concerning this fact? Could you allay such fears by building up your space program so you can do target practice at the Moon? Really?

Part of the answer is the Apples vs Oranges thing that I hate so much. "The Moon isn't a terrorist." Really. Which feeds back into the first point, because it underlines the fact that lobbing missiles at people where they live is physically a whole lot easier than fighting them close at hand in your 5 star hotels, it's apples to brass balls actually, and if you are doing target practice with Moon gophers, you've pretty much signaled that you've clued into that sort of reasoning, therefore increasing the aforementioned fear.

"There's a war going on." When the United States was in India's position vis a vis the Moon, it was the '60s. The US space program started gaining in prestige right about the same time the Vietnam Conflict started being called a war. This was not coincidence, and neither was the fact that the '60s were marred by all those assassinations and riots.

Which brings us to Priorities. The issue of Priorities is really that of Apples vs Oranges turned on its head, as in "Would you rather have apples, or would you rather have oranges? They're different, you know."

Would you rather have peace and prosperity, or would you prefer to put a handful of your citizens on the Moon?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not against going into space. I'm only a little annoyed that nobody's plans ever involve getting me to the Moon. It seems like even with the occasional incoming probe, the Moon is a whole lot safer than where I'm at.

Lessons Toward Better Living

1. If you had slaves to spare, would you let them go, or would you make them build a giant pyramid to be your mausoleum? If the latter, isn't it odd that you're always thinking in terms of your own mausoleum? You should think about what that says about you.

2. Suppose you understood that you could spend on the order of a hundred million dollars to reduce crime by putting criminals in a jail, or you could spend one-tenth that to reduce crime by an even greater amount by improving the conditions of the lives of people and funding programs that have been proven to work at turning youth away from crime. Knowing that, would you be wasting time arguing about where to put the jail?

3. Think of a way to end the sentence, "If they could put a man on the Moon, why can't they...?" that incorporates both apples and oranges. You may substitute brass balls for oranges, provided I don't catch you.