Saturday, January 14, 2006

1 stolen wallet, $412,000 in hole

The Trib ran this story last week (subscription needed maybe).

Basically, this performer at Second City Chicago had her wallet stolen and quickly called to cancel all of her cards and shit. Here's where it gets a little off-the-wall. The thieves used her belongings to pose as her to open a series of morgages on Chicago buildings. Then the loan companies came after her and ruined her credit, trying also to get her to pay the $412,000 tab they had been stuck with. In addition to having no credit, she had to pay about $10,000 in legal bills.

I'm not a big fan of a lot of the horror stories in the newspaper because there's not really much to be learned from them. However, I hope we do learn a bunch from this one.

So what went wrong?
1. The CPD did nothing. When she told the police what was going on, not only did they fail to track those using her identity, but one of them told her to dye her hair move out of town.

2. Those OKing the sales were complete morons. The person posing as Ross in the deals used a driver's license with no state ID# on it. The contact addresses on the contract were empty lots. The lawyer presiding is facing charges for losing another family their home. The actual owners of the properties were not involved at all, and also listed with fake addresses.

3. The courts provided no protection, but instead were used as a means for the loan companies who held the fradulent morgages to harass Ross and the actual owners.

In the end, in addition to Ross' losses, two of the home owners were forced to pay a large sum to settle their fake mortgages and the third lost the property entirely.

If anything, the banks should just foot the bill. After all, they were involved and stood to make a lot of money on the loans. The people left dealing with the costs are people who had nothing to do with the incident--there was nothing they could do to prevent the fraud.

Friday, January 13, 2006

"Cape of Good Hope" and other Facets stuff

Liz and I caught the film "Cape of Good Hope" at Facets last week. We're still riding on the family plan that lets us see unlimited movies at the theatre plus rent three DVDs at a time for about $25/month.

The film was excellent and you can read Ebert's review here. I won't spoil the film as it's a true must see, so please catch it if it comes to your local art theatre or grab it on DVD when it comes out.

As one of the rare films that adequately balances race/class/gender issues with an uplifting story, there were a couple things I wanted to discuss:

1. From Ebert's review:
The movie was directed by Mark Bamford; his wife Suzanne Kay Bamford co-wrote and co-produced. At the Toronto festival, they told me they were Americans who were unable to interest Hollywood in the stories they wanted to tell. They moved to Cape Town "for one year," are still there after four. Ironically, their screenplay for "Cape of Good Hope" attracted the interest of Hollywood, but the studios wanted to use an American cast to play the South Africans. That would have lost the particular local flavor that is one of the film's assets.

Once again, racist, nativist, stupid Hollywood strikes again. You have a team of empathetic, immensely talented writers and they are driven away because Hollywood needs its latest Comic Book rewrite. Then once they write a beautiful work, the studios want to de-soul it and put some random American beautiful people in the roles. Maybe they could have gotten Chris Tucker to play the romantic, powerful black lead?

2. There was a brilliant moment where that lead (played by Eriq Ebouaney) is out on a first date of sorts with one of the main female characters and her son. They drive into town and watch a big movie-ish screen next to one of the city gas stations. At one point (and I'm not going to get the direct quote) he turns to her and says, "White people do the strangest things!" And I just busted out laughing. I looked around and realized that no one else was laughing, although as I laughed, an Asian American couple in the front of the theatre also started laughing. I felt truly empowered. Before someone jumps all over me with assessments of racism, let me explain.

The character in the film was not commenting on "the white race"; he was merely making the observation that many ethnic minority folks make when assessing the group in power. He was saying, "These white folks, who by default in our society are always right, really look pretty foolish at least as much of the time as everyone else." And he rolled that into a little 5-second comment.

That might seem like nothing, but it's actually a pretty courageous act. It's hard to be a dissenter--a minority voice--and it takes a type of heroic bravery to say, "The Emperors have no clothes" especially on a first date.

Do we have this courage? I don't know. I guess I did in that crowd of white folks at the Facets Cinemateque. And maybe, just maybe, that lent some to that couple in the front row. And hopefully it made a few people squirm.

We need to do this more. We need to stop self-censoring around ethnic majority folks and just say what we think and laugh when we want to. They are free to judge and disapprove, but maybe they will actually have to spend an ounce of empathetic energy to realize that their perspective is not the only one. Let's do this not in order to mock and feel superior, but in the hopes it can help us all meet somewhere and improve our society.

So that's my prescription: Laugh more at folks in the majority, question them, call them out when you think they are being condescending pricks. When they respond, assess their response empathetically and try to start a loving conversation.

A problem I'm having

There's this guy out there--I'm not really sure who he is--but he's threatened my life several times. If he gets the jump on me, I'm dead for sure. I haven't seen him, but I do know for sure that he is a conservative white guy.

So it's kind of hard to know what to do. I guess I'm just going to start punching all the conservative white guys I see in the face.

Some might say that I would be better off trying to figure out why someone would want to threaten me instead of hurting and maiming people indescriminately (or in this example and our country's case, "descriminately"). To them I say, "Why do you hate me? Do you want to embolden the terror--I mean the guy after me?"

(Inspired by Matt)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Quick Quiz:

What happens when people can no longer make evidence supported appraisals of "racism"?

There is no way to root out existing racism of any kind.

If you think the charges are wrong, awesome. If you attempt to shutdown any appraisal of "racism", then you are enabling all racism.

As an added bonus piece of advice: Racists aren't bad people! This is a rumor circulated by aversive racists. The next time you hear someone say, "He's a good man! There's a black guy I know who would say so!" call Bullshit.

Everyone is "a good guy" to a wide variety of people. The Nazis were "good people". Slaveholders were "good" enough guys to get their land back after they started a treasonous war against their own government.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Are you kidding me?

I just finished watching part of the Alito hearings and all I can say is "Are they really considering this guy?" Of course I hate his guys because his politics suck. That's fine. That's probably going to be that way regardless who the "W" nominates.

I guess I would just like to see them dig up someone who will actually take responsibility and say what they believe instead of dodging questions. Isn't it helpful to a judge on the highest court in the land to actually believe in his own appraisels of issues enough that he's secure enough to articulate them to Congress?

I don't care if he's the pale offspring ofThurgood Marshall, I'd like to be able to evaluate that instead of have to sort through "That's a complicated issue"-type responses. Can't we just be honest with our beliefs and stances, and then evaluate the qualifications of the candidate?

Plus, he hates black people and women. But that's another story ;)

Ain't this a bookstore?

Asimov writes about the decadent deterioration of a great civilization with the wisdom to realize that most of those in the middle of the decline don't know that anything has changed. They have no point of comparison, so they don't know that their society in the present is any different from its past versions.

As neighborhoods yield to suburban lockdowns and community gathering places become havens for individuals to isolate and consume (money, time, opiates, etc.), how many of us even know what we are missing?

The Women and Children First Bookstore on Clark in Chicago is a relic of sorts from a time when a trip to the bookstore was a place to nurture one's soul rather than one's insecurities and desires to consume. Rather than stocking materials that will sell, the store stocks a wide array of works by and for women, children's books of all kids and works of gay and lesbian fiction and non. Beyond that, they have various presentations by authors and others, which are far more "teach-in" than "book promotions".

Tonight, the store hosted a Power Point presentation on the struggle for women's access to health care. It was given by the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, an organization that did much to fight for gender equality in the Chicago area for a decade starting in the late 60's.

The impact of the presentation was amplified by the detail in their accounts of the time and the prescense of dozens of former members in the audience. In all, I would estimate between 100-200 people in audience for the event.

As Liz and I watched, it really made the current mainstream perceptions of feminism feel utterly absurd. It's only been several decades since physicians regularly sterilized women for being poor and colored. Only recently have many women had access to information about their own bodies and health.

And sorry, it wasn't these "reasonable" folks who mock feminism who made it happen. In most cases, it was radical, crazy, feminist women educating each other and performing procedures on each other that shook our society into positive change.

Nor is it a permanent shift. Even as we speak, more and more American women and children (and men) are losing access to adequate health care. The gain made in terms of health education have been eroded to the point that students can no longer get information about their own health or where to seek knowledge from their school environment.

Finally, there is the spectre of the abortion issue. However you feel about the morality of abortion, access should not be the issue. The reason why radical groups push for an increase in access to abortions is not because they take joy in the act. It is because a drop in access means that poor women will lose access to the same medical procedures that rich women have access to. So if you believe women should have to support the little parasites they (not alone mind you) conceived through delivery, that's a different battle. Greater access means equal opportunity. We're supposed to like that in this country, right?

Anyway, if you get a minute, check out the CWLU homepage. It documents an important part in the struggle for equality in our nation's history and present.
Listed on