Thursday, October 30, 2008

Alexie on Colbert

Sherman Alexie will keynote the Real Change Annual Breakfast this November 12th, and there's still time for you to come. RSVP to

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Listening Campaign

It’s November. The wet, rainy season is here, and the business of survival for Seattle’s homeless has become that much more grim. November also marks the beginning of the Real Change winter fund drive. We’ve set an ambitious goal of raising $180,000 by the end of December. It’s a lot of money, but we have a lot of friends.

This has been a year of intense activism at Real Change. We’ve seen the level of desperation on the streets rise dramatically. We’ve taken risks and pushed ourselves to nearly the breaking point. We’ve fought hard to defend those who survive outside of Seattle’s over-capacity emergency shelter system against the Mayor’s brutal policy of homeless sweeps. We’ve built alliances across issues, linking Seattle’s new jail to homelessness, growing inequality, poverty, and race.

We’ve taken strong stands, and we’ve made a few enemies, but we’ve made a lot more friends. This month, for example, we were honored by Jobs with Justice for our work in "leading the movement for social justice." The winter fund drive is an opportunity to learn from you. How can we deepen our grassroots support and be even more effective? How can we broaden our allies?

Is our organizing, our newspaper, and the caring community that we help create worth your support? What would make it better?

A Brief Parable

Last week, a number of us here at Real Change went to court to deal with last June’s Civil Disobedience demonstration at City Hall. There was an overnight encampment to protest the Mayor’s homeless sweeps policy — our third in nine months — followed by fifteen homeless people and advocates going into the street.

The event was a media grand slam, and marked a decided turning point in press coverage of the issue. Three months later, we received our sentences of 24-hours community service.

When Rev. Liljenstolpe, one of the fifteen arrested, spoke to the city employee who handles such things, he explained how we’d been allowed to choose any non-profit we wanted, except for Real Change.

“Oh, Real Change,” she said without irony. “They’re bad.” How so, he asked?

“They do a lot more than they say they do.”

Building for Power

Real Change has always been an activist organization. Our mission is to provide opportunity and a voice to low-income people while taking action to end poverty and homelessness. Over the past year, however, the stakes have been higher, and the organizing has been different.

The Real Change Organizing Project, launched in November of last year, leverages our strongest assets — our vendors and readers and our institutional capacity to engage and mobilize — into a valuable resource for economic justice organizing.

We agree with the Mayor on one thing: no one should have to live in a tent. Yet, the shelters are full, and everyone knows it. Affordable housing has grown increasingly scarce, the economy is tanking, and those at the bottom — those who will seldom find work and even then only at a poverty wage — have been relegated to a distant, invisible netherworld of misery and pain.

We have organized relentlessly. While Seattle has hurtled down the path of growing inequality, we have defended those who have nothing. We understand that the growing economic vulnerability of the middle class and the abandonment of the poor are, at bottom, the same issue.

Making the Connections

In a time of declining economic opportunity, our newly launched No New Jail campaign makes the links between the disproportionality of people of color in our homeless shelters and prisons and the growing trend toward the criminalization of the poor.

The $220 million the city plans to spend on the construction of a new jail, and the $19 million or more that will be spent to operate this facility, is better spent upstream on programs that rebuild lives. According to the Department of Justice’s own statistics, one in ninety-nine Americans is already behind bars.

We don’t see these people. They are the wreckage of a system that abandons and punishes its most vulnerable and least privileged, and relegates them to lives of reduced economic opportunity.

The No New Jail campaign builds an economic justice movement across race and class. We recognize that homelessness, incarceration, reduced economic opportunity, declining social services, and the growing racialization of poverty are all linked. When the Mayor criminalizes outdoor survival, cuts programs that offer support to those most at risk, and says a new jail for misdemeanor criminals is inevitable, we clearly see the connections.

We envision a movement for economic justice that places the needs of the most vulnerable at the center and builds for power based on mutual self-interest. None of Seattle’s neighborhoods wants a new jail. We understand that increased incarceration is and expensive and ineffective solution to the problems in our streets. There is a better way forward.

We’re Listening

We believe that those of us who work for economic and racial justice can unite with the Seattle neighborhoods to elevate this issue and force the city to consider more enlightened alternatives.

Over the next year, here’s what you can expect from Real Change:
  • We will continue to aggressively fight the Mayor’s cruel policy of homeless sweeps, and demand that the city provide real alternatives to outdoor survival.
  • We will build and support a movement for economic justice by engaging new activists, cultivating allies, and building relationships based upon our mutual self-interest.
  • We will make the links between declining economic opportunity, the racialization of poverty, reduced social services, and increased incarceration.
  • We will help meet the survival needs of Seattle’s most vulnerable by providing opportunity to more than 350 Real Change vendors each month.
  • We will engage those vendors and their customers in the important work of building a united movement for economic and racial justice.
The work is happening. We need your support, and we want to know how we can be more effective. Over the two months of our winter fund drive, my first priority as Real Change Executive Director is to hear from you. Our grassroots base of readers, vendors, and other allies is our life’s blood. We need to know what you think.

Call me at 441-3247 x202. We can talk on the phone, or if you’d rather, meet in person. Email me at with your ideas and feedback. Go to to find out when our next meeting is and come see our work for yourself.

Real Change needs three things to be at our most effective over 2009: an effective strategy, the resources to organize, and a whole lot of friends. All of this depends on you. Real Change is an enormous asset in the fight for economic justice. Help us make the most of what we have.

It’s not to late to join Real Change and Sherman Alexie for breakfast this November 12th at the UW Husky Ballroom. Tickets are $50. Help us make this event the show of grassroots support that we need. Email for details.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My First "Gig."

Hey! Someone actually invited me to play music, like, in front of people. I'm expected to play the anthemic "I Like Pink," and maybe a couple of other songs, which means I'll have to actually learn them. I record songs and usually forget them immediately. Play some chords, ad lib a vocal track once or twice, maybe throw on a lead, and it's done. Usually by the time I want to play the thing again, if I ever want to play the thing again, I've forgotten the chords. Maybe I should practice? You should come. It'll be fun. And it's $10 for Nickelsville. God knows they need your ten dollars worse that you do. Nov. 15, 7 pm, Q Cafe, 3233 15th Ave., W. Seattle.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nickelsville Talks Back To Mayor Greg Nickels

Astonishingly, Mayor Greg Nickels went to the Seattle Channel's Ask The Mayor to say that the people staying at Nickelsville aren't even homeless. They're mostly "advocates," he said, who have homes of their own. The incredulous expression on C.R. Douglas' face is worth the price of admission alone. Revel and I went to Nickelsville the next day in search of the fake homeless.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's Getting Near Halloween

The early-30's cartoons of the Van Beuren Studios continue to tickle that dark place deep down that I'd rather not talk about. While my five-year-olds are used to much more sophisticated fare, such as the irredeemably insipid Wonder Pets, this one, from the 1930-1933 Tom and Jerry series, gets a lot of repeat play. There's shades of 30's racism, but hey, they've got nothing over Jar Jar Binks and the assorted creepy psuedo-Asians of Star Wars. I guess every era has its blind spots.

This thing's so trippy I had to watch it six times before the plot line gelled for me.

It was a dark and stormy night. Tom and Jerry await their next fare at the train station in their taxi, which appears to have a bad cold. A locomotive with oval wheels does some weird shit before discharging freakishly tall Orthodox Jew twins at the station, who get a ride to their haunted castle and, of course, stiff Tom and Jerry the fare. They get trapped in the castle, and a moronic overweight cloud plays the turrets and towers like a pipe organ while trees with limbs like squid tentacles play accompaniment. Tom and Jerry encounter a freaky bat, a bathing skeleton, and a hallway full of goblins before falling through the floor to see a tango playing skeleton and his dancing friends and a negro skeleton barbershop quartet. Then Tom and Jerry encounter the Jews again, and are themselves turned into skeletons that run in the strangest manner imaginable. The girls love that part, but are equally blown away by the organ playing cloud and the bathing skeleton.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Family Campground

Moises Mendoza at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer posted a video of the Nickelsville tour he recently received from Nickelodeon Robert Brenot. "This is something that homeless people did, by ourselves. Yeah, we're homeless, but this turned into a big family."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Eviction

Last week, my Hungarian immigrant neighbor who I'll call G told me he would be evicted today. He's a strong man who knows well how to weather crisis, but his worry was palpable. G has a lovely, bright, well mannered 8-year-old daughter named S who has become my girls' best friend and has begun to feel like my third child. He also lives with his elderly Hungarian, non-english speaking parents, who I mostly know from smiles and nods as I pass the stoop where they smoke outside the apartment, or when they show up humbly at the door to retrieve S.

Today, as I left for work, I found the note above clipped to my door along with G's keys. As I pulled onto the metered ramp for I-5, I called our apartment manager, who I'll call The Good Witch of the North (GWotN). I explained the note, and asked how long I had to rescue some of their things. Her response was legalistic. She wanted the note and keys and could give me no information. I said I'd do what I needed to do and pulled off at 85th to head back north.

When I let myself in, all the furniture was there, along with their large but basic television. A few sitting chairs and cheap bookshelves. An inexpensive folding table and chairs in the dining area. The cable box flashed its green and yellow lights at me. The toothbrushes were still in their cup in the bathroom. Food was in the kitchen. S's oversized teddy bear sat against the wall, looking forlorn.

I went to work, rescuing various small kitchen appliances and things that had been left behind in the rush. S's skateboard, halloween witches hat, chair, bear, and bicycle. The set of child's furniture. The new bed. The TV. The food was what you find in a poverty house. A frozen "gourmet" mac & cheese dinner. A few cans of vegetables, Milk. Eggs. A handfull of spices, including two cans of Hungarian paprika.

I turned in the keys, and spent an hour talking with the GWotN, whose daughter goes to third grade with S. "She's special, destined for something," she said. I agreed. She felt horrible, and called later to ask If I'd heard anything. I hadn't. G isn't returning her calls.

He told me he'd be in touch to bring S by for playdates. Apparently S wasn't in school yesterday. "I'm worried for her," said GWotN. She sounded like she was about to cry. This happens to me too. I don't know what to tell the girls. The truth is too harsh for five-year-olds.

Yesterday, as I sat on another neighbor's porch sharing a smoke, we talked about how horrible and sad this is. A homeless family. A dad who can't make ends meet. A beautiful child. Two elderly grandparents who can't afford to fly back to Hungary.

"What happened," she asked. "Doesn't he work."

Yeah, I said. He works. He's got a crap working class job that he does while trying to ignore the pain from a bad back. He has a kid to support and two parents, and was over his head in a 2 BR apartment he couldn't afford.

Now I walk by their apartment door and it has, for me, the aspect of a corpse. A dead marker for something that is no longer alive. I made fried potatoes for dinner and poured on the Hungarian paprika in their memory.

USA Today reports that family homelesness is climbing dramatically, which should surprise nobody. It's only starting. The GWotN says she knows a place with 2000 sq ft she could get G into for $750 a month. I wish he'd call. I've got their stuff.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Gallows Humor

My friend Rosette helpfully pointed out the Bunny Suicide page today. Here's a few of my favorite methods.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Have Mercy

Have mercy.
I'm down on the ground I hear you coming around.
Have mercy.

I'm down. I'm underground.
I'm like a bug on a plate. Fat cat's dinner date.
I'm goin' down.

Oh babe it's cold. We're bought and sold.
It's either money you got or somebody I'm not.
Yeah babe that's cold.

I'm in the fire. I'm on the pyre.
We do what we do after all we been though.
I'm on the wire. Goin' higher.

You bleed on me. I'll bleed on you.
I'll see you in awhile and then we'll all smile. That's what we'll do.
That's what we'll do. I'll get through. That's what I'll do.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tom, Jerry, Dick, and Larry

In case anyone wonders whether the cultural workers of the twenties and thirties were loaded on opiates, this should help them decide. Tom and Jerry was an early sound animation created over 1931-1933 that never quite made it to the big time. It's a little on the edgy side. The characters were renamed Dick and Larry in the forties to avoid confusion with the cat and mouse. Frozen Frolics (1930) is another, earlier, offering from the stoners at Van Beuren Studios

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bad To The Bone

Around half of the Camp4Unity 15 went to court today to receive justice for blocking Cherry Street by City Hall last summer in protest of the homeless sweeps. We'd refused to accept the city's plea offer unless the homeless person of our number was exempted from threat of parole violation for the "crime" of sleeping in public space. The City Attorney, surprisingly, agreed to the condition, and crafted some narrow language that we found acceptable.

One person pled last June because she had a trip scheduled during the later court date. She got a soft-hearted DA who is now in trouble for agreeing to 90-days suspended and 8 hours community service. The rest of us, except for two who have priors, face stiffer penalties, and have elected to go to trial, took 24 hours of community service and a year suspended. Our attorney from TDA was told that Scott Morrow, as a habitual lawbreaker, should have been given stiffer penalties as well, but the city was willing to overlook their oversight and stick with their original offer. Guess they don't like Scott much.

The failure to obey charge was dropped entirely, and if I can manage to not get arrested and convicted for a year and complete the community service, the pedestrial interference charge will be dismissed as well. I think I can manage. Up until now I've had a pretty good run. My last CD was in the early 90's.

We also got them to agree to allow community service at any non-profit, except for the one at which several of us work or volunteer. The city felt that would be a conflict of interest.

When Rev. Liljenstolpe went to Window 17 to register for community service, he explained that we were given special terms, and could go anywhere except Real Change.

"Real Change. They're really bad," the woman at Window 17 said. She wasn't being ironic. "They do a lot more than they say they do."

Our organizing work is hardly a secret, but I'll still choose to take this as a compliment. As for my own community service, I'm planning on editing a video for the Western Regonal Advocacy Project that shows the oppression against homeless people and the courageous organizing to fight back that's happening up and down the west coast. I'm thinking it'll probably take more than 24 hours, but I don't mind going above and beyond for the city.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Oilmen Are Giving Back.

This morning I paid $3.599 for Super Premium Unleaded and found myself momentarily grateful that the oilmen were in charge. It's remarkable how every time there are elections, particularly when there is bad economic news, this seems to happen. The oilmen are also responsible for this incredibly fucking bloody and horrific war, the increasingly radical growth in extreme inequality, a lifetime of debt for my children, and the probable death of the planet. I could go on. So a little cheap gas once in awhile is really the least they can do.

The conversation that for me seems to happen three or four times a day in different ways is, "Is he going to win?" Which comes with a horrible and brief nod to the possibility of a McCain Presidency.

This election should be a landslide for Obama. The polls say it. The electoral map says it. But there have been two close ones lost under suspicious circumstances, and most people I know don't want to set themselves up for that again. It's like every thinking person on the planet is, in some way, holding their breath.

Today I talked to a political geek friend who said Obama's got the stolen election thing covered. The Candidate is a constitutional scholar, he said, and the ground is already littered with lawyers who have anticipated everything. His people are smart and have resources. Obama's going to win. Things are very, very bad, he said, and no one wants daddy to be in charge. Daddy's a freak. I'm thinking, maybe I can breathe, but I hardly dare.

Shrewd, Desperate, or Stupid?

Just a friendly Apesma's Lament reminder. You have until about 10 pm this evening to add your few cents to the weighty subject of Mayor Nickels and his policy on Nickelsville. Steve Scher cornered him on KUOW Monday. Maybe I'm biased, but I think Nickels came off as the meanspirited, vindictive, pool of snake-oil that he is. Not that I'm trying to skew the poll, or even that the poll matters. It doesn't. This is just how I keep laughing, as opposed to dissolving into a smoldering pit of frustration and rage.

By the way, the shrewd option has strangely come from behind over the past day. At least someone gives a crap. Vote at top right.

The Poll Is Closed: The Mayor's tack on Nickelsville is mostly stupid, somewhat desperate, and yet, a bit shrewd. 37 people voted.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nurture The Grassroots

As the stakes get higher, Real Change is more and more about taking risks and speaking truth to power. It doesn’t really matter if the thin-skinned Nickels administration hates us. Our funding comes from people like you. We are uncompromised. We have the freedom and the capacity to mobilize, and we’re getting better at it all the time.

Back last November, we “went activist” with the launch of the Real Change Organizing Project (RCOP). Since then, we’ve led the grassroots response to the Mayor’s homeless sweeps policy and, more recently, taken on the related issue of incarceration and poverty in Seattle. This week, Real Change was honored by Washington State Jobs with Justice for “leading the movement for social change.” Not bad for RCOP’s first year.

When you’re out front, it’s wise to look back over your shoulder every once in a while to see who‘s with you. My experience is that for every supporter who says you’ve gone too far, there are two more who say you got it just right, and someone else who thinks you haven’t gone far enough.

Soon, we’ll get to see how we’re doing. Real Change's Annual Breakfast (click image above to enlarge) is a time to gather, celebrate, and support our critical work. This November 12th at 7:30 a.m., noted Seattle poet, author, filmmaker, and 2008 Stranger Genius Award recipient Sherman Alexie will join us at the University of Washington for an inspirational wake-up call to the grassroots.

Last year, we had close to 500 people. This year, we want to double that. This is about more than just raising money. This is a grassroots show of power and support. Are you with us? Tickets are $50. A table of ten is $500. Help us be strong. Call (206) 441-3247, x201, or email

Monday, October 13, 2008

Flogging the "Dissent Decree."

The Mayor got flushed out on Nickelsville today on Steve Scher's Weekday. Phone calls from reporters have been unreturned, but Steve gets him for a standing monthly gig and was happy to press hard. The thing was so fucking entertaining I transcribed it, with commentary. The flattering photo is from today. I recognize KUOW's wall. They put him up against the wall and shot him. This is long, so I'll tell you now: the point is somewhere in the last three paragraphs.

Part The First: Only One Allowed!

OK. Some more questions. I'm going to let Shirley ask this question, to get me started. Shirley's in Everett. Hi Shirley?

Hi, I was going to ask they Mayor when he's planning to meet the people at Nickelsville. They're not on city property any longer, and in light of all the economic situations, we only know that the plight of the homeless is going to increase, and we also know that these people are anxious to help themselves. Their tents are easy to maintain, and they'd really like to talk to the Mayor about a permanent site that they can use to help people be safe and off the streets. Thank you.

Well, I have offered to meet with the Church Council, and also the funders of the shelter services that are available in Seattle and King County, and I think it's good that we're going to have a broader conversation about shelter. 94% of all the shelter beds that are in King County are in Seattle. And we think that it is long past time that this is shared more equally throughout our county and throughout our region because homelessness is not something that starts or ends in the City of Seattle. (What? Is this a slam on Everett? No. This is the standard city transferal of responsibility talking point, but if he does meet with the Church Council, it will be the first time the Nickels administration has ever met with advocates to dialogue on the issue of homeless encampments and the city sweeps. This makes it a bit of an occasion, and kind of a big deal, if it's true.)

We currently have an, um, ahh, agreement, a court approved agreement with the folks who have organized this encampment that says that there will be one tent city in the City of Seattle. And when they have lived up to their, uh, part of the agreement, then we will be happy to sit down with the advocates who are behind this protest (pronounces word advocates as though it tastes sour). But while they are still illegally encamping, whether it's on public or private property, we're not gonna engage directly with 'em. (What? He doesn't negotiate with terrorists? He doesn't negotiate. Period.)

Why not?

Because, aghhh, you know, I think, we all respect the (pause) political process, the ability of people to commit civil disobedience. I don't think that that's the time you talk about these issues. You talk about these issues in a respectful manner while everyone is observing the rules that are in place. (There are points at which the interview veers into the surreal.)

I notice you don't want to call it Nickelsville. (Gets anguished chuckle from Mayor). Um, they're in our neighborhood. They're just down the street. Is there a place, in this modern time, for semi-permanent shantytowns?

Well, you know, the protests here are about what we have done in terms of the illegal encampments in greenbelts and in parks that we have been cleaning up. And it started almost a year ago when we took a look at the city's practices. The city's been cleaning up those encampments for years, and what we discovered was that there weren't any rules, there weren't any guidelines for how you do it. Each department kind of went out and cleaned up their own property and it was kind of hit or miss, whether everyone got noticed, or whether anyones belongings were kept, so I thought it was important that everyone understand what the rules are. We'll give 72 hours notice, we'll offer everyone shelter and services so that they can reconnect to the community, and we'll collect personal valuables and keep them in a central location for a period of time so that people can come and collect them. We thought that was much more humane than what had been going on prior to that. (Unreal. The city policy was about belated legal diligence and ass covering when they were called on systematically targeting camps for removal without notice, assistance, or accountability.)

So now, the argument is that we should allow encampments as a permanent part of our community. And , and, and I just don't think that it is humane to allow people camping out, ah, in that fashion. I think that we have a responsibility, certainly, for immediate shelter for human beings. And I am adding a million dollars to this budget on top of the fo-o-orty million that we put into homeless services.

We are building housing through the third Seattle Housing levy, and I will be leading the effort next year. We are particularly concerned about housing the people who have been on the streets for a long time. People who are chronic alcoholics, people who are mentally ill or addicted to other substances. And I think that permanent housing is the humane approach, and Seattle has been incredibly compassionate in that regard. (Grows agitated). I don't think that it is a good idea to have semi-permanent camps! In our parks or our other public places. (To the Mayor's credit, he actually answers the question in the last sentence.)

When we come back, I want to come back to the question of whether there is room for a controlled camp along the lines of tent city.

And there is one. One! One! And that's the agreement, and we're not going to negotiate beyond that, until people are following the agreements they made previously. (Yeah. You already said that.)

Okay, you and I will negotiate. We'll negotiate here.

(Break. Steve pitches the fund drive, and the Mayor gets all loose and cracks a joke about not wanting to encourage civil disobedience).

Part the Second: Would You Just Die Already?

Let me read you this email. "The homeless encampment Nickelsville is now located on a church lot in the University District. What's the city's stance on this? This affects me personally because my daughter's pre-school uses the parking lot they are in. We will be driving literally into their encampment twice a day." But I just want to get the philosophy here. What's the philosophy about what you're saying about not wanting people living in parks or public spaces? I go to a public space every morning to walk my dog, and every morning on the weekends, there's a guy sleeping in this one place, and he's got his little encampment and he's got his plastic bottles, and everything he wants to make himself a little home. Well, it's a public space, so I understand the reason why that's not really appropriate. But, if folks are saying, "we want to set up a self-governing institution within the city." Five of them. I'm just throwing out a number. Is there something philosophical to that, where, in troubled times, the federal government has abandoned much of its efforts, all of it's falling upon the cities, counties, state to some extent, is there something that says, "We need to work with these homeless to regulate themselves and also give them a safe, non-park, place to be?"

Well, I agree with at least part of that. I think we do have an obligation as a society to give people shelter. I think that is absolutely true. Self-governing communities of shantytowns or tent cities or what have you, I don't think that is the right direction. I think we have an obligation as a community to welcome people back into the community and open the door back into the community, as opposed to having separate and unequal communities. They don't have power, they don't have water. We have standards set for our buildings for a reason, and that is health and safety. (Did he just pull opposing the discredited concept of separate but equal out of his ass as the philosophical underpinning of his policy? How noble. Oh, and it's the building codes. Tent cities don't meet building codes, and therefore must be illegal.)

But you know that that they say I don't want to go into a shelter because it's crowded, it's dirty, I get harassed, I get attacked ...

Well, there are people who don't want to live in homes, in structures. Those folks I don't think are particularly the challenge we face. They can make their own choices and their own decisions, and I don't think that we need to give them license to do that anyplace they care to in our city. I do think we need to keep the door open to anyone who wants shelter. And that's why when we go out and enforce on these encampments, we offer everyone shelter. We guarantee them shelter. And particularly, we need to be moving people from shelter to permanent housing. (I think he just said, the choices here are to either go into one of our filled past capacity shelters, or die.)

Are beds left empty at the end of the night?

(audible squirm) Ahhh-um, sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. And that's why on really cold nights we open up additional shelters. We have more beds that are available, and we go out and we seek people, so that they're not outside in dangerous weather conditions. uhhh-ahhh, there are some, there are some, some, places we have holes in the system, and that's why one of the things I have in this budget which believe the council will approve is a voucher system, so that if a police officer runs into a family with children, there is a voucher for a motel room so that no child s sleeping on the streets of our city, ever! (Ok. So, how about if you don't have a kid on hand? If the Mayor is unclear on the shelter availability situation, maybe he could start reading Rick Renolds' blog. There's bigger "holes in the system" than this.)

You said that you support the renewal of the housing levy, but you're never going to be able to build enough shelters for all the people who are homeless, are you? I know there's a goal: 2016.

There is a goal, and I think there is the political will to achieve that goal. It can't just be on the City of Seattle though. (I'm beginning to see signs of pathology in Nickels' adherence to the 10YP Belief System.)

Does it feel like it is?

It does feel like it is! (I believe!)

If I call Nickelsville, will I find that those people are from all around Puget Sound?

Well certainly! In the news articles you'll see that people have moved here to get a job, maybe getting a job but not having shelter. So, yeah. You have people from all over, not just the county and the state, but all over the United States who you will see in these circumstances. That doesn't mean we can't reach out our hand and help them to find appropriate shelter, but I think this country, as wealthy as it is, even though it doesn't seem that way in the last two or three weeks perhaps, has an obligation to have a roof over every body's head. (The dodge, again, and the unbearable emptiness of words.)

Lynn in Northgate wanted to know about the toilet facilities in the outdoor camps. Like who cleans them and looks out for them?

Well, again, they're not authorized, there are no regulations that guide that, when we sent City crews into what's called the Jungle, the greenbelt along I-5 in Beacon Hill, we ended up taking out tons of garbage, um, syringes, human waste, gallon jugs of human urine, and, in addition, in the Jungle, when they were cleaning up in mid-September. they found a human body. A fellah that had been murdered. That's the third homicide we have had in those encampments in that area. And we had a very serious rape in June as well, so these are not safe, regulated places. These are not appropriate places ... (The correct answer to the question would have been, "The Honeybucket people." But instead he delivers the standard dehumanizing hypodermic/feces/urine trinity city talking point.)

But you're not equating that with the tent cities, or even the Nickelsvilles, are you?

(Nickels makes a sound here like he's trying to dislodge a piece of pork fat from his trachea). The protest is against what we have done with encampments, which is to set up criteria, and standards, and rules, and then go about enforcing those. So that's the genesis of it. Now, the activists involved in this want to take that a step further and have the city agree that we're going to have these self-governed camps in public properties around the city. (The city line on Nickelsville from day one has been this is a "protest" by "activists," and to dismiss the notion that some people might actually need shelter.)

What's your plan for this one that's now settled at the University District church?

Mmmmm! They moved there, I believe it was Friday afternoon. We'll be having conversations with the church and well be having conversations internally as to that status. I don't have a ...

But you don't want it to stay there? You said there's one legal one?

We have an agreement, and we want to see the proponents of this, the advocates for this, live up to the agreement that they entered into.

So, so, do they have a time frame?

Ahhh, we have not yet set a time frame. We will. We need to go over our, um, what the status of this is on church property. We, I, we don't have an answer for that. (This really is the beauty part. Will the city cross that line? They're still deciding.)

I can't imagine you want to be going in there with police and arresting people again.

We don't want to be doing that at all. We don't want to be doing that at all. We would like this group to, ahhh, live up to the agreement that they entered into, the uhh, dissent, uh, decree.

(He actually said this. I listened twice to be sure I heard right. The dissent decree. I believe he meant to say, "consent decree," which was the agreement the City made with SHARE/WHEEL in 2001 to allow a tent city so long as there would not be another. It seems to me like seven years later might be a good time to revisit this decree to see if it still makes sense. But maybe decrees are for life? I don't know. My decree experience is rather limited.)

At which point, Steve changed the subject and tossed a few softballs about dodge ball leagues using city parks and Seattle's vanishing crosswalks, which a palpably relieved Mayor fielded with aplomb. Steve gave him a big plus for his crosswalk work near Green Lake and ended on an up note heading back to the KUOW fund drive. "we'll let the Mayor escape. ... Some people are saying I'm getting punchy ..."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Kicking the Mayor's Ass, and Marimbas

Last night was the 15th Annual Washington State Jobs with Justice Honoree Dinner, and I enjoyed the extreme pleasure of standing in front of 300 some labor activists and allies to say "We're going to kick the Mayor's ass ... and you're going to help us."

The girls came along with Revel and I. The chocolate chip cookies went over big. They also enjoyed the chicken, although Twin B found it too spicy. She has a strangely low threshold for that sort of thing. Dr. Wes, on the other hand. sat to my left at the Real Change table adding his own habaneros. Twin A was pretty much surgically glued to my lap for the duration. She gets a little clingy under stress. She spent much of the evening placing her eyeballs to my eyeballs to get that cyclops daddy effect she finds so amusing and whispering "I love you daddy" in my ear.

She covered her ears and closed her eyes while I hugged her for most of the performance of the Shumba Youth Marimba Ensemble, which was magnificent. Twin B had the opposite reaction. As she sat in Revel's lap, her eyes never left the stage. I marveled at a few of the players in particular as they hammered out complex musical rhythms with arms swings that came from the shoulder, their eyes lost in trancelike concentration. A mallet broke as one kid who looked about thirteen slammed out the lead melody. He kept it going with one stick while the equally intense girl on second marimba slipped him hers. This is the sort of drama you get to be in on when you're three feet from the stage.

Nick Licata
and Real Change received JwJ's "leading the Movement for Social Justice award "for mobilizing the community to stop sweeps of homeless encampments in Seattle and promoting negotiations between the city and community members." The somewhat tense stagemanager told me I had two minutes, which I ignored.

The speech was all about how homeless people can't win unless everyone else does, and how badly we need a broad economic justice movement that lifts up the very poor along with the broad middle class. I said that these were dangerous times, and that we are in the final days of a dying empire, and that the rats are raiding the larders of a sinking ship.

I'm told I dropped an F-bomb. I thought my filter was on. This is always a danger when I don't have a written speech. I'm also told that this is the sort of thing people expect from me, and that it just enhances my cred, so I guess that isn't really a problem. I'll still try not to do this in front of the Metropolitan Democrats.

Then I said something about how the economic meltdown highlights the economic vulnerability that we all face, and that this helped explain the public sympathy for Nickelsville that we've seen, and that for the first time in twenty years of homeless organizing, I had the sense of there being a broad movement behind us. I made a joke about how if SHARE/WHEEL and Real Change could work together, anything is possible. I said that organizing on the sweeps issue was just going to broaden and grow, and that homeless advocates understand that our issues don't exist apart. Rising inequality, I said, is the core problem, and that we can't win without allying with others to win on issues like incarceration and tax fairness. And then I said we were all going to kick the Mayor's ass.

All the while, Twin B, stood at the foot of the stage and beamed up at me like she was in on the enormous cosmic joke. This morning she asked why I was looking at her most of the time while I spoke. The answer is obvious. She and her sister were the most beautiful women in the room. Then the Labor Chorus sang and it was time to clear out. We left as the room was on its feet, fists in the air, for the Internationale. Twin B said she wanted, someday, to sing like these people do. "You will, baby," I said. "You will."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Creep, With Feeling.

OK. Gratuitous backpost here in honor of the OCD gods. It's the Radiohead outsider anthem. I looked at about six versions of this song and thought this one won for best slamming guitar noise and most emotive vocals. Thom York is a degenerate Roy Orbison here, and I love him for it. Revel, however, took up the challenge of finding a kick-ass explicit version, and was able to trump this. The Live at The Astoria video below, with its clear sound and "you're so fuckin' special" live energy and crowd partcipation is even better.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dino Rossi Loves Children And Small Furry Animals

Thanks to my old friend and new Facebook acquaintance Gretchen Donart for turning me on to this great piece by Goldie over at, hitting on the numerous lies in a powerful but largely baseless ad from the Rossi campaign. After the Court Appointed Special Advocate program called out Republican Party activist Mary Radcliffe for using her position for political advantage — an action that is clearly prohibited by the volunteer agreement to maintain the program's integrity — the ad was pulled from radio, only to resurface months later repackaged for TV. The ad makes Gregoire look like she's against needy kids for vetoing a $3 million foster care bill without mentioning that support for foster care has risen by $120 million since 2006.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't Think Twice

Most people get a cold, they think they can't sing. Me, I think, "Hell, I got codeine and a Tom Waits voice. Let's make a song!" I picked the broken-hearted Dylan classic to learn tonight. Came out kind of cool.

Transportation Required

I got the call, and Nickelsville is moving Friday morning to a spot where organizers think the cops can't stop them. Although, in this town, at this moment, anything is possible.

They needs cars. And garbage bags. Bring garbage bags. The community needs to turn out for this one, so tell your friends. Discovery Park, right behind Daybreak Star, beginning at 7:30.

My Black Skin Does Not Make Me Inferior ...

Donna Brazile on race politics and the Obama campaign, at a recent panel sponsored by the New Yorker. She is magnificent.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Poll! Rate the Mayor's Nickelsville Strategy

This weeks news that Mayor Nickels is going after "organizers, volunteers, and residents" of Nickelsville with big fines should the camp continue makes me wonder if he's on acid. KOMO's coverage of this last night was less than sympathetic of his plight. So what do you think of the Mayor's hardball tactics? Is he being shrewd, desperate, or stupid? The poll is at top right. More than one answer is allowed.

Study In Pink

Here's the Nickelsville slide show, with photos by Revel. She's the hottie in the black leather jacket about halfway through. These were taken the morning Nickelsville set up and last Sunday in Discovery Park. I like Pink, the original song behind the photos, can be downloaded from the music menu at right

You Can't Say That!

This person amazes me in her ability to go over the top but somehow not over the line to being truly offensive. PC warnings apply. Sarah Silverman is a comic genius who skewers racism by zeroing in on its ridiculousness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

City Agrees to New Deadline

Northwest Justice Project and the City of Seattle have reached an agreement to extend the Nickelsville campsite clearance deadline to Friday to align with United Indians of All Tribe's request that the encampment move on by Friday noon. Nickelsville organizers have agreed to vacate the site on Friday to meet the new deadline.

“My clients are very grateful to United Indians of All Tribes for their support of the encampment,” said Eric Dunn, an Attorney for Northwest Justice Project. “Their commitment to let them stay gave us the opportunity to bargain with the city for this extended deadline.”

Tomorrow or Friday for Nickelsville?

The short answer is, "it depends." Counsel for Nickelsville at Northwest Justice Project has asked that the city extend it's campsite clearance deadline to Friday to align with United Indian of All Tribe's request that the encampment move on by Friday noon. Should they refuse or delay, an injunction for a restraining order will be filed today.

The City's initial response was yes, on four conditions: everybody leaves, they encourage everyone else to leave, the encampment will not set up again elsewhere, and residents will meet with City social workers. Odds of Nickelodeons accepting all of these conditions seems remote at best, so either the City drops the conditions, or attorney's seek an injunction.

Meanwhile, the word is going out that Nickelsville needs people Friday morning, beginning at 7:30, to assist with the move.

Welcome To Brazil

The great thing about being the City of Seattle is that, apparently, you get to make up the rules as you go. Summer before last, for example, the city began destroying homeless people's campsites and throwing away their stuff without notification. When their secret policy eventually came to light, they commenced a closed process to build a legal framework to justify what they were doing anyway. This came to be called the city protocols for illegal campsite removal.

Now, when confronted with Nickelsville, a homeless encampment that doesn't just conveniently disappear on command, they've made up a new set of rules. This time, they've treated the entire encampment as an enormous building code violation for which everyone and their uncle bears responsibility. Even stranger, this notice of violations (download PDF here) — and subsequent penalities — stretches endlessly into the future to cover any possible future encampments anywhere within the city. And anyone at anytime, apparently upon the city's whim, may be held responsible for these present and future violations.

The bizzarro-world legal framework, designed on the fly for the sole purpose of crushing Nickelsville through a strategy of intimidation, explains why Karen Zaugg Black, the latest in a series of Mayoral henchmen, darkly threatened a visitation of building inspectors when Nickelsville moved last week to a state-owned parking lot adjacent to their original site.

The "building inspectors" have arrived. Treating Nickelsville as a homeless enampment, subject to city protocols, doesn't offer the penalties or latitude the city needs to properly bully the campers. For that, they need the Department of Planning and Development Code Compliance Division. So, the document posted at Nickelsville is both a "notice of exclusion" (nice turn of phrase, that), and a notice of violation of city land use codes, which is something we haven't seen Since the city attacked El Centro de la Raza and Trinity United Methodist in 2001.

There is much about this document that would be laughable if it weren't so serious. First there's the shotgun approach to identifying any and everyone who could be nailed for this, either now or at any time in the future. There's a SHARE/WHEEL identified in Vancouver, WA that organizers have never heard of. Veteran's for Peace, the U-District youth shelter ROOTS, the Interfaith Taskforce on Homelessness, all "encampment occupants," and, incredibly, "all John Doe(s) and Jane Doe(s) who are otherwise responsible for the violation." I guess that should about cover it.

These people are threatened, each and everyone of them, with fines of $150 daily that escalate to $500 daily after 10 days. To stop the clock from ticking, the site must come into compliance, which apparently involves one of the persons loosely identified here contacting DPD, in writing, for a reinspection.

Some choice lines from the document.

You may be subject to arrest for trespass and subject to fines and imprisonment.

If this encampment relocates or regroups at another site within the City of Seattle, that encampment will also violate City land use codes.

This ... is official notification of possible legal consequences for organizers, volunteers, or residents continuing to use any property within the City of Seattle for an illegal encampment or any similar use.

This notice of violation also notifies all parties ... that in the future the city will not issue additional notice of code violation, but will immediately initiate legal action.

And finally, my personal favorite:

This serves as the only and final notice to you for any future encampments under city's encampment protocol. You will be required to to remove any future encampments and all property immediately.

The notice served to Nickelsville appears to completely override the city's encampment protocols by executive fiat, and to make anyone they deem responsible for Nickelsville responsible for any other encampment that appears anywhere in the city at anytime in the future.

This, no doubt, is nine-tenths intimidation to scare off potential allies and site hosts, and will hold legal water about as well as a wet Handi-wipe. Still, notice has been served. The gloves are officially off.

Mountains of Things

I've played this song for eight years, but tonight, I nailed it. Tracy Chapman's Mountains of Things. It's a soulful six minute rocker of longing, greed, and emptiness. I posted the lyrics last time I did this. If you want, the Tracy Chapman label will take you there. But this version is much, much better. If you want the mp3. I've made all my music downloadable in the right-hand menu.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The PI Weighs In

This morning's Nickelsville PI Editorial, Ending Homelessness, A Broader Effort, gets a lot right, and the haters have already lined up to comment. Homelessness is a far larger problem than Seattle, based in three decades of rising inequality, bad federal housing policy, and growing economic insecurity for the majority of Americans. And, much could be gained if the Mayor and his people actually talked in good faith with Seattle's homeless advocates. Over the past year, their "dialogue" has brought a steady stream of victim-blaming rhetoric, political stonewalling of advocates, and systematic attacks upon those engaged in outdoor survival activity in the face of an inadequate emergency shelter system.

The Mayor's latest response to Nickelsville, which threatens all real and perceived allies of the encampment with fines, will only worsen an already poisonous situation, where unaccountable power does it's damnedest to crush a growing grassroots response to an unacceptable situation that is both dire and deteriorating.

Where they get it wrong is in dismissing Nickelsville as "posturing" by protesters toward the end of scoring "publicity points." This misunderstands the real need for a safe haven for the outdoor campers upon whom the city has declared war, and the equally real need, in the absence of any real possibility for productive dialogue, for poor people to fight back by any means necessary. Nickelsville is about survival, and for those of us who have been dehumanized and swept from visibility, the stakes could not be higher.

The federal and regional solutions that the PI editorial board calls for are essential to any real effort at solving homelessness, and the macro-economic causes of growing poverty must become a far higher priority for policymakers and advocates. No authentic progress on ending homelessness can occur without broad economic reform. The lip service these complex issues routinely receive must be replaced with strategic alliances that target root issues of racism, poverty, and an growing trend toward state-sponsored repression of the poor through increasingly brutal anti-homeless policies and mass incarceration.

In a declining economy, things are likely to become much worse for poor and homeless people. When concerns with Seattle's policy on homeless sweeps is routinely met by the city with hardball tactics and dismissive gestures, advocates are left with little alternative than to fight back with whatever pressure politics we can muster. We'd all be a lot better off if some middle ground might be found, in which the larger issues could be jointly addressed from a place of unified political power. This, however, isn't where we find ourselves. Anyone who's ever been in a schoolyard fight knows this much to be true. When a bully is on your back and your nose has been shoved into the dirt, your first priority is to turn the tables and get back on top.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

White Trash For Obama

Nothing spruces up a reliable shitbox car quite like a White Trash for Obama bumper sticker side by side with the classic automotive statement of support for Real Change. I voted for Kerry and Gore, but didn't have the requisite emotional investment those times around to crap up my bumper with their names. This time, it's different.

The question of why poor people often vote Republican, against their economic interest, has perhaps been best addressed by Thomas Frank's What's The Matter with Kansas? Frank argues that the Democrats have abandoned the field on economic justice, leaving the path wide open to a redefinition of class politics by the right in demagogic cultural terms.

Think the 2004 RNC attack ad. "Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs." Pure class resentment, reframed to hit the left.

While the electoral re-alignment of 2004 was fueled by Democratic candidates who embraced economic populism, the party as a whole remains largely in the back pocket of big money

At this point, however, people still have more reason to trust Democrats with the economy than Republicans, who seem entirely preoccupied with raiding the larders of a sinking ship. Today's New York Times' Economic Unrest Shifts Electoral Battleground brings welcome news of how the economic meltdown has blown open an Obama lead. While anything can happen between now and November, including a stolen election, martial law and the suspension of the election entirely, or a terrorist attack that returns America to full-on politics of fear, qualified hope springs eternal. In this car, anyway.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Indians Have Decided.

Just this morning, United Indians of All Tribes was feeling between a rock and hard place over Nickelsville. While Nickelsville organizers have consistently described this organization as "very gracious," public statements of support from UIAT have been as qualified as possible without actually asking them to leave.
"I think there was a misunderstanding," said Marty Bluewater, the foundation's executive director. "The [homeless] group thought the land we occupied for our center might be federal land or land we actually own. When there had been talk in the wind about moving out there, we weren't able to give any permission, as much as we'd like to help."

"Our response at this point is to see how much we can support them and their needs," Bluewater said. "We let them know that we aren't in the position to give that permission. ... We're obviously kind of caught in the middle here. We want to help where we can, but we have partnerships with the city on a number of things."

All the while, Nickelsville leadership has said, "If they ask us to leave, we will."

Now, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Late this afternoon, UIAT delivered an unqualified statement of support for Nickelsville. One in three Native Americans is homeless, they said. "We intend to intervene," they said. There will be tipis at Nickelsville, for real. It was signed, "in peace and solidarity."

This makes me so happy I can barely stand it.

Anyone who has been on the wrong side of the Nickels administration knows how unpleasant that can be, and how easily and completely access is denied to perceived enemies. I'm sure the past few days haven't been pleasant. But they weighed it out, made their decision, and are standing with the homeless.

Much still rests upon Monday morning's exparte hearing in King County Superior Court, where competing notions of who has a right to do what where will begin to get sorted out.

Meanwhile, a large show of support at Nickelsville on Monday before noon is critical.

I've only heard the document United Indians of All Tribes presented to Nickelsville described third-hand. Someone read it to Revel and Revel told me what she heard. So I'm being a bit vague here. But it sounded to me like the Indians are maybe a little pissed at how the city's been dealing with things.

There was something in there about the city stomping around on their notions of what is sacred. I'm paraphrasing here.

If that's the case, I'm remembering a church in Ballard that, in around 2001, pushed back hard. When threatened with fines and harassment for hosting Tent City, Trinity United Methodist's Reverend Rich Lang went all church and state on their asses, and the city couldn't backpedal fast enough. This marked the beginning of the city's acceptance of a permanent Tent City in Seattle.

Mark Sidran and Mayor Schell tryed to bully the wrong organization. It's not hard to imagine Tom Carr and Mayor Nickels making the same mistake.

—Photo by Revel

Friday, October 3, 2008

City Slightly Delays Move On Nickelsville

The latest breaking news is that the City Attorney's office has agreed to repost the site with a new deadline of noon Monday for residents to leave or risk arrest. Moments ago, someone from Land Use showed up at the camp with the new notices. The Northwest Justice Project is seeking a restraining order to prevent the clearance, and expects a hearing to be scheduled for Monday morning. It's another Nickelsville down-to-the-wire Hail Mary, but one thing I've learned is that these folks are not to be under-estimated.

This morning Revel and I drove out there to see the encampment, nestled into an out of the way scenic glen behind the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center in Discovery Park. A more invisible and out of the way location is hard to imagine. One camper became misty eyed as he showed us his campsite, near a bucolic mossy pool situated next to a small creek. Despite this mornings' rain and the palpable anxiety of the campers, one could sense a great peace emanating from the ground itself.

United Indians of All Tribes, whose land is on a 99-year lease from the City of Seattle, is between a rock and a hard place. They have, say Nickelsville organizers, been "extremely gracious," although they are unable to give permission to the campers to remain. The city is reserving this right to themselves. United Indians of All Tribes is out on a limb here, and I imagine that Nickels and crew are leaning as hard as they can to break it off beneath them.

That Nickelsville has arrived at this place is fitting. Like homeless people, American Indians have been screwed a hundred ways from Sunday, and their own rights to this land were established through a takeover during the heyday of Red Power by the legendary Seattle activist Bernie Whitebear.
On the morning of March 8, 1970, two half-mile long columns of vehicles began forming in a south Seattle neighborhood. The vehicles moved north towards Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood and the recently decommissioned Fort Lawton Army installation. As the convoys headed north onlookers could see the red cloth banners streaming from the antennas of the automobiles. When the caravans reached their destinations, both the north and south sides of Fort Lawton, the occupants of the cars launched a coordinated effort to occupy the fort and establish it as a cultural and social services center for Seattle’s growing Native American population. In the midst of the ensuing struggle, the occupation’s principal organizer Bernie Whitebear stated, “We, the Native Americans, reclaim the land known as Fort Lawton in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.”
Whitebear's history of the founding of UIAT can be read here, and the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project account of the takeover is here. Like that of Nickelsville, this is the story of people who have been pushed too far fighting back.

Nickelsville supporters are asked to be on hand at the site noon Monday for a show of solidarity, and to come by when possible to say hello and take away some trash. They're poor, but they're clean.

The Shell Game

The city line on homeless shelter for displaced campers is becoming slightly more clear under pressure. The interactive video above, however, still adequately demonstrates the basic theory, especially at the more advanced level. Those who are displaced by encampment clearances will be privileged to a bed for so long as they need it, say city spokespeople. Should the numbers of those seeking these beds expand beyond the number of beds set aside, then more shall be provided.

What's wrong with this picture? For starters, Operation Nightwatch is regularly turning people away at the end of the night with a blanket and a bus ticket, and the bad weather hasn't hit yet. The theory is that shelter for sweeps victims will not displace other beds, but the reality has been less clear. A recent story by Linda Brill on King5 flatly contradicts that claim.

Even if it were true, why shouldn't NightWatch be able to refer their turn-aways to this newly expandable to order shelter system? Should emergency shelter be a contest, where the prize of a mat on a floor goes to the swift, compliant, and officially messed with?

Are the mats on the floor til 5 am that these people are being offered a golden ticket to the gilded promise of Housing First? Doubt it.

A look at the 2007 Safe Harbors Report, which summarizes information from Homeless Management Information System data for the first six months of that year, tells us a lot about what we already know. The numbers are mostly a testimony to how deeply fucked it is that we're micro-obsessing over obvious data, and that the homeless biz is mostly about fixing broken people, with little more than empty words being done about the broken system.

37% of single homeless people and 48% of homeless family members are African American, compared with 6% of the overall population. The 2008 one night count shows an even more dismal picture in that regard, with the percentage of African American homeless going up, and the overall representation of Blacks in King County going down. Dying canaries in a decaying empire, where inequality just keeps rising faster.

Representation of homeless women is rising as well, but that hasn't been news for awhile either.. Vets are represented by roughly double their numbers in the overall population at 19%. They get screwed. Etcetera.

Those homeless who came from outside of King County are counted at 25% for single adults and at 20% for families. The city, under fire for the inadequacy of emergency shelter in Seattle, is making much of this right now. A recent press release from the Mayor plays to Seattle's put-upon taxpayers by inflating that number to 46%. It's a lie. Tax payers should be a lot more worried about Paul Allen, or the downtown luxury condo developers who are about to bilk the public out of subsidizing a world-class amenity, so their air-people future tenants will have a properly spruced up Market to buy their fresh fish, bread, and flowers.

Oddly, the city claims to be pulling their numbers from the same set of data. They limit the the universe to shelter in Seattle, so 9% is added by the non-Seattle King County homeless flocking to our fair city, but that still leaves a big gap that I don't understand.

I'm always impressed by how these people — who claim to live and die by the neutral arbiter of scientific data — consistently manipulate the numbers to suit their political ends. As the saying goes, there's lies, damn lies, and statistics.

So here's a good question. Safe Harbors asks questions about age, race, gender, vet status, where people came from, and more. All very useful. The not inconsiderable cost might be better spent for services, but, hey, it's nice to know. But here's what they don't document. How many people are the shelters turning away?

One would think this would be a useful bit of information to have.

I've always been a little amazed at how blithely the question of why this information isn't collected is dismissed. Common responses are that shelters lack resources to do this sort of documentation, and that there are insurmountable methodology issues.

Well crap, at least we could try. Even Safe Harbors has big gaps in the methodology. Approximate would be better than nothing.

One can't assume that the folks showing up at Nightwatch are anywhere near the whole story. Nor are the handful of people who stick around the encampments to get in line for services. Funding of survival services in Seattle is pathetically inadequate. Campsite clearances in the face of this forces the issue, and all they're offering is sleight of hand, misdirects, and pie in the sky while homeless people die.

I Think I Like Pink (Remix)

I listened to this again on Friday and decided it was just too lazy to leave the vocals track from the first time I ever sang it, like while I was making it up. I kept some of them, but replaced the weaker deliveries. This is inspired by Nickelsville, a homeless people's survival and protest encampment in Seattle that launched with 150 pink tents donated by the Girl Scouts. It looked like a fucking Christo installation, and it's been beautiful ever since. Maybe it'll become their theme song. It's called ... I Like Pink. You can also download the free MP3.

I ... I like pink.
I don't care
what some people think.
cuz I ayiyiyi I like pink.
That's what I think.
I I like pink.
I don't think, that poor people stink
Cuz I, ayiyiyi, like pink.
It's what I think.

Some people, like colors like oh orange and red and green and blue and black and peach and verdigo and I don't know and I
I I don't care what they think,
cuz I like pink.
Pinks what I think.
I I like pink. I
Don't think poor people stink.
I ayiyiyi, I like pink.
That's what I think.

Some people they like indigo and they like chartreuse and fuschia and oh I don't know and I,
ayiyiyi, like pink, it's what I think.
I, oooh, I like pink.
I dont care what some people think.
Cuz I ayiyiyiyi I like pink.
That's what I think.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Now That's Entertainment!

Tonight I asked the girls whether they preferred McDonalds or pizza for dinner. Pizza won, hands down. I phoned the order into Venice Pizza, one of Edmonds' better kept secrets. They're tucked away in this weird little shopping center a block from where I live that has dog groomers with hand lettered signs, a cool little game store with thinly stocked shelves, and numerous other instantly forgettable small businesses. But the pizza rocks, and their staff is nearly ecstatically grateful when you buy it. If you live north, screw Dominos. Support scrappy immigrants who often seem perplexed by their own cash register and are pursuing the dream.

Anyway, they were cutting the thing and boxing it up when we arrived. For a few minutes the girls were able to play with Pizza Elmo, who lives on the counter. Squeeze his hand and he sings. First Elmo, and then the pizza, who is an Italian contralto. His lips move as Elmo waves him around. "Yummy, yummy, yummy pizza pie!" sings Elmo.

As the girls went to bed, Twin B asked why the pizza sings, "Yummie, yummie, toss me in the air!" "Toss me in the sky," corrected her sister! "Why does he say 'toss me in the sky,'" pusued Twin B? "Um," I said, "It's because you toss pizza in the sky when you make it."

Always the guy with the answers.

"Wow!" said Twin B.

Below is Duckie. He is ready for bed, wearing pajamas, seated on a pillow and sporting a bracelet on his head for a crown. He measures nine inches tall and nearly ten long. Twin B nearly exploded with joy when she found him discarded on a sidewalk in front of one of the odd little stores next to the pizza joint. During bath time tonight, Ducky was the star. I was asked to not disturb him tonight as he slept.

Just before bed, the girls opted for Youtube over stories. After watching Chilly Willie in Hot and Cold Penguin for the twentieth time (the appeal fades), I said daddy got to pick the last one. I went for Tex Avery's Magical Maestro. Any serious fan has seen it. This wikipedia entry has a detailed exegesis, which includes an explanation of "the hair gag" and tells you which sections Cartoon Network edited out in the late nineties to avoid offense. The version below is original and uncut.

I suppose I shouldn't be exposing them to racist stereotypes at such a young age, but I'm pretty much already over it. There's plenty of equal opportunity ridicule here. Even the stuffy opera audience is parodied. The girls were less than impressed, and only found a few parts funny (the Polynesian segment was a big hit).

I guess there is a lot of set-up involved for a few thin jokes. But it's still brilliant, even if it couldn't, and shouldn't, happen now.