aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Wal-Mart and WarThis morning, in the parking lot of our town's Super Wal-Mart, the "War is Not the Answer" bumper sticker on my car was vastly outnumbered by "Support Our Troops" and "God Bless America" (even combinations of the two)magnetic "ribbons".
GUEST: JEN email: jen AT atypicaljoe DOT com
They are the largest employer in 21 states. This morning, in the parking lot of our town’s Super Wal-Mart, the “War is Not the AnswerÃ¢â‚¬Â� bumper sticker on my car was vastly outnumbered by “Support Our Troops” and “God Bless America” (even combinations of the two) magnetic “ribbons”. I wondered if the magnets’ owners heard yesterday’s news about the store they patronized. According to the Washington Post,
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, agreed to pay $11 million to settle a federal investigation that found it used hundreds of illegal immigrants to clean its stores, government and company officials said today. U.S. officials described the settlement’s dollar figure as the largest of its kind.
Today, two years after the Coalition of the Willing began its democracy-building mission in Iraq, I hope all yellow ribboners take time to reflect on the conflict between their economic habits (shopping at Super Wal-Mart) and their self-proclaimed support for troops (which NPR’s Bob Sommers says signals implicit support for the Iraq war). Perhaps pro-troops Wal-Mart shoppers heard about the settlement but were reassured by Wal-Mart’s soothing press release:
“The government can now use the funds for training and other initiatives that lead to better detection and prosecution of individuals and companies that prey on undocumented individuals,” said Tom Mars, Wal-Mart’s general counsel. He went on to emphasize that all businesses have a responsibility to remain vigilant.
“This is a milestone for corporate responsibility,” said Michael J. Garcia, assistant secretary for immigration and customs enforcement at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
PPP Bill II
Up until this point, the speculative intent of the legislation has been to impede participation in Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs). During a hearing on the Bill by the Senate Education and Youth Committee, no mention was made of the Bill’s impact on LGBT youth.
But in yesterday’s email, [Georgia Christian Coalition’s Sadie] Fields finally made their intent clear. NOTE. THE ORIGINAL EMAIL FROM SADIE FIELDS HAS NOT BEEN EDITED AND CONTAINS A TYPO. “These bills have been heavily lobbied against by the homosexual community as they continue to form “Gay-Straight Alliance” clubs in pubic (sic) schools around the state without any notification being sent to parents about these clubs. In 2001 there were two such clubs in schools in Georgia—today there are 33 such clubs in schools in Georgia.”
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
The Parent’s Permission to Participate Bill
When I was a kid you had to get a permission slip to play sports. Here in Georgia the “Parent’s Permission to Participate Bill” specifically promises to exempt sports. So what kind of activity will you need your parent’s permission for? Participation in extracurricular activities and clubs in schools.
“This would be devastating to the kids that want to participate in gay-straight alliances at their schools, especially the kids who aren’t out yet and would have to come out to their parents in order to get permission to join,” said Chuck Bowen, executive director of the statewide gay rights group Georgia Equality.
Tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. the Georgia State Senate Education and Youth Committee will hold a hearing on the Bill. Georgia Equality is urging action.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Friday, February 25, 2005
Tonight I’m off to the last in the Georgia Film Series at the college. A screening of Paris Trout, adapted from the novel by Pete Dexter and based on events in this town. Here local children tell the local story.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The senate has a great deal for which to apologize. Between 1890 and 1952, seven U.S. Presidents petitioned Congress to put an end to lynching. Nearly 200 Anti-lynching Bills were introduced in Congress during the first half of the 20th Century. Three strongly-worded measures even made it through the house. None reached a vote in the senate. Southern filibusters killed them all....Records can be found for about 5,000 lynchings between 1882 and 1968. The actual number is almost certainly much greater. And the dragging death of a black man, James Byrd jr., by a southern white man in 1998 should serve at least to keep an awareness of lynching alive into the lifetime of every American Adult alive today. For whatever reasons, racial sensitivity, National shame, lack of curiosity, lynching has never received the historical attention it deserves.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Nathan Newman points hopefully to the Montana State Senate, where the new Democratic majority is debating a bill to fight Wal-Mart’s low wages.
Here, low prices trump low wages. Our Super Wal-Mart opened nearly a year ago. There are those who hate it and stay away, but for the vast majority, blissfully unaware or dismissive of the store’s critics, it’s the shopping venue of choice.
If you doubt the evils of Wal-Mart, a must-read is the comprehensive December New York Review of Books, “Inside the Leviathan;” a must-view is the excellent Frontline documentary, “Is Wal-Mart Good for America?” You can view it in its entirety online.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Hating the cable company. A rant.
Colloquially, there is Cox cable in Macon, and “sucks cox” cable here.
Everyone here hates the cable company, with good reason. High prices. Poor quality. Arrogant service. That’s Charter Cable, situated in a tiny little building off the Gray Highway with one puny satellite dish and an antenna to pull in the Macon broadcast stations. Reception is truly awful.
So I’m home at lunch today and the cable company calls.
“I’m calling to find out how your cable reception is and to...”
At that I interrupted.
“It’s the worst reception of any cable company I’ve ever seen.”
“Well, then, can you go to your TV and tune in channel 30.”
This, I do, thinking that maybe they are checking the signal through my $6.95 + tax monthly digital box. Turns out, “I don’t get channel 30.”
“Okay. I captured that. Now I’d like to extend an offer...”
“Wait, wait, wait. I don’t get channel 30. You ‘captured’ that? What does that mean?”
“Well, some people who are on Analog Basic are actually receiving Extended Basic. You are on Analog Basic and I can offer you a special price on extended basic...”
I wanted to !@#$%&*; instead I got off the line. Don’t call me telling me you want to “find out how the quality of my signal is” when what you’re really trying to do is find out if I’m stealing cable service and when you find out I’m not, try to sell me more service!
I recently downgraded from my $50 monthly extended service when I realized that I had 30 South Parks and a dozen Daily Shows stacked up on my TiVo. Give me a la carte pricing please. Oh, of course not, thank you very much gutless FCC for ignoring what the public wants and granting the cable co’s their every wish. Grrr.
I should point out that I worked with the cable industry for 12 years and was part of the team that negotiated the public access requirements of the New York City Time Warner Cable Franchise. Now that’s a cable system!
One last point. Charter High-Speed Internet is notoriously awful. I get DSL through Altell. The DSL is great. But Alltel? That’s a rant I’ll save for another day.
Ahhh. Now I feel better.
Monday, February 07, 2005
Wonkette, Wolfe & Bush
Wonkette takes a break from writing her book to doubt that President Bush is really reading Tom Wolfe’s novel, “I Am Charlotte Simmons.” I’ll pass on that and note instead that Mr. Wolfe, who voted for Mr. Bush, was invited to speak at the White House last year in a salute to, among others, our own Flannery O’Connor.
A bumper sticker on a local pickup truck reads, “At least it’s still legal to smoke in my car.” This in a town that defeated a No Smoking ordinance a few years back. Here we have No Smoking sections but, with no meaningful space dividers in the small local restaurants, smoke wafts freely through the entire space, including the No Smoking sections.
One man is credited with defeating the ordinance, a local restaurant and bar owner who has recently been buying up all of downtown. A nice enough fellow, he argues that the ordinance would have covered only the downtown restaurants and not his prime competition, the popular chain venues outside of downtown. But maybe the ordinance would have helped his business.
In the same year the smoking ordinance was defeated here, New York passed the toughest smoking ban in the country. No smoking in any indoor public spaces. Period. James McBratney, president of a local restaurant and tavern association there considered the (moderate) Republican mayor who championed the ban a billionaire dictator with a prohibitionist streak that would hurt small businesses like his.
Asked last week what he thought of the now two-year-old ban, Mr. McBratney sounded changed. “I have to admit,” he said sheepishly, “I’ve seen no falloff in business in either establishment.” He went on to describe what he once considered unimaginable: Customers actually seem to like it, and so does he.
But not just he and his customers; even smokers like the ban:
...a vast majority of bar and restaurant patrons interviewed last week, including self-described hard-core smokers, said they were surprised to find themselves pleased with cleaner air, cheaper dry-cleaning bills and a new social order created by the ban.
The smokers I know here, and there are many, might find themselves agreeing. None I know wants to keep on smoking. Friends in Macon won’t smoke in their own home, choosing instead to sit on a cold screen porch in winter under an electric blanket to watch TV. Just the same, I don’t expect a no smoking ordinance will pass here any time soon.