Friday, May 27, 2011

Dinner with Joe Biden

So I got this lovely invitation, ok, auto sent email, asking if I'd like to go to the Ohio Democratic Party State Dinner, where Joe Biden is going to be the speaker. And I thought, hey, why not? Maybe I should go. After all I am an Ohio Blogger. And what girl doesn't like to glam it up now and then. I can dig up a dress, get my hair done, spend a nice day at the spa, toss in a mani-pedi and I'm off to formal dinnersville.

But who would I go with? Alas, ye Olde Matey has to work (Congragutlations to Ye Olde Matey on his new job!) and Mum and College Arabella are going on a trip together that weekend.

So...I've got until May 31 at 12midnight (sounds so Cinderella-ish) to get two tickets for the low, low price of 199.99.

Anyone wanna come with?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

I'm home today because I feel like hell and I have a mountain of laundry to do and my daughter has a dentist appointment (she's home from college for the summer) which I was going to take her to, but I will probably ask my mom to take her. Did I mention I feel awful, cuz I do, which means I'll more than likely be washing just enough clothes to get me through the rest of this week and the devil take hindmost.

So that's why I was home and flipping past the local FOX News Channel and stopped long enough to hear about Laure Quinlivan's efforts to improve Cincinnati's Brand Image.

And all I could think was: are you fucking serious?

Because I've been looking for an apartment in Cincinnati and I've come to the conclusion that the entire city is a ghetto. There are places that are livable but affordable housing is a laugh and the people of Cincinnati deserve better than an another lipstick on a pig project that improves the very heart of the downtown corridor but doesn't do shit to help any of the neighborhoods.

Everywhere I go that looks plausible, the rent is just a little out of reach of my 12 bucks an hour with no benefits, especially with gas at well over $3.50 a gallon. I know it's a cardinal sin to tell how much you make but it is what it is. I'm not rich and never have been. Truth to tell, I'm fairly poor, live with my mom and neither me or my daughter would be in school without student loans. So now you know.

And, like many people, I'm trying to move closer into the city, but finding a place is...difficult.

So I'm working at this wonderful internship and compared to work study slave-a-wage at 8.00 bucks an hour, maximum 20 hours a week unless you're one of the favored few who luck up on an "exception" position, 12 bucks an hour was hell yea, please sir, I want some more wages.

And what's even better, I absolutely love where I work, which honestly, makes almost any amount of money cool. But...

...I've been trying to find a place to live and every financial advice website I've read recommends that your rent should NEVER be more than 1/3 of what you make. Mind you while most apartments, when reviewing your income to see if you "qualify" to live there, will take your gross salary to do that, which is the only way they could possibly have tenants.

At any rate, if I follow the advice of the financial gurus, I can afford rent of up to a maximum of $466 a month.

I actually found a place on Main, which was really the low end of McMicken, for $400 bucks a month. It was an enormous two-bedroom townhouse, with a large living room, dining area and kitchen. Hell, that's a place to live that will fit all my stuff with $66 left over.

But I have a dog and they don't accept pets. And I'm scared to live as a single woman without a dog in a part of town where, when I went to talk to one of the neighbors, he said things are not so bad now that "Task Force" patrols regularly.

Hurray for Cincinnati Law Enforcement but damn. You are actually making your citizens feel safer. But damn. Just damn. I just don't know if I can do it.

So even with Task Force protecting my potential castle, that still doesn't solve the problem of my dog. Now why do I have a dog if I can barely afford to take care of myself? Well the dog is a remnant from my old life where my salary was well more than $12 bucks and hour and included health insurance. From the days where I never envisioned walking up to my office and the doors being locked and never hearing from my bosses again.

So I have a dog. And I either have to find her another home, which would break her heart and mine, so I can have an affordable place to live on my own, in a neighborhood I'm not so sure of, or maybe dig into my budget a little deeper.

Which brings me to the two-bedroom place I found in Elmwood for $580 a month. It's actually a nice place, painted in a dusky lavender with crisp white trim; carpeted downstairs and hardwood floors upstairs that were varnished and polished to a mirror shine. The outside dumpster was fairly contained except for two mattresses haphazardly tossed against it. The neighbors I spoke to were politely curious as to whether I was really moving in. The neighborhood was pretty much the same I've seen everywhere, struggling to fill the business district and a little worse for the wear. The street, a side street bordered by railroad tracks, was fairly quiet but the apartment was not.

I visited the place 3 times, and each of the three times, the neighbors next door were blaring music loud enough that the lyrics were clear through the walls and the bass vibrated under my feet. The best I can say is that they share my taste in music - if I were 20 years younger - and if I listened to music at top volume all day long.

I talked to the landlord about it but he said they were "good tenants" who paid their rent on time which quite literally meant: They can play music at any volume they want as long as they pay their rent and he couldn't care less.

So the affordable place won't take my dog (and I'm kinda scared to live there, sorry but it's true), the barely affordable place will take my dog but has neighbors that seemed nice enough but are either deaf or just loud because they can be, and every place in between was decidedly undesirable.

However, I spent some time wishing on a star and looking at places that were decidedly out of my league just to see how the other half lived. Places that were as much as 650 or even 700 dollars. Woah.

And even there, it wasn't all that hot, just slightly better kept than the affordable and barely affordable places. Sidewalk cracks are choked with weeds and potholes abound on the roads. Several streets have street repair going on, but it's all very haphazard, as if someone just pointed at a map and said let's fix this street this month.

And even where I work, which is for a global company with over 100 offices in over 40 countries, the surroundings immediately outside the building are best described as crappy. And they have a fairly posh address for Downtown Cincinnati. Yet and still, the nearby parking garage is scary, leaky and a co-worker recently found that lime is eating the painting off her car. The elevator is best avoided and frequently smells of urine despite the fact that I've seen the people who work there mop it several times a day.

The walk to work or even to grab a quick bite for lunch is over chipped, cracked pavements and views of rust streaked walls. Looking up at the buildings shows ravaged skywalks to nowhere and lots of abandoned store fronts, many of which have the look of a business that tried to make it there and failed or, hopefully, moved on.

Just thinking about my recent apartment search and my daily treks to work, I can't help but wonder why we neglect the true core of our city- the neighborhoods- and how anyone can think it's ok to spend all our time (and money) trying to improve the image of Cincinnati without doing the work of actually improving Cincinnati.

Yes, the City of Cincinnati has a lot going for it, but it could have a lot more if people didn't have to live in barely habitable conditions rather than neighborhoods that are not only safe from crime, but don't attract it in the first place by looking like the perfect set for an episode of Law and Order SVU.

Until we put more effort into actually improving Cincinnati instead of merely improving the "image" of Cincinnati, we're only putting lipstick on a pig.

Could someone go to Laure Quinlivan's forum today at 12Noon and tell her that? Because honestly, I feel too lousy to go.

Updated: I really felt awful earlier and there were more typos in this than I've ever been known to produce so I've updated it a bit for clarity and to correct earlier spelling which was, frankly, atrocious.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Justifying the Bush Years

So Obama is the man right now. 2012 is in the bag and the GOP can cancel Christmas. The mainstream media is going absolutely batshit over the death of Osama bin Laden. They're dong what they do and for the first time in so long it seems right. It's like all the time they spent on the minutiae of Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen and the Royal Wedding of Kate and William was merely practice for something this huge and it's paid off.

The re-enactments. Who said what to who and when. The burial at sea. Who gets the 25 million dollar bounty? What kind of helicopters were used. Was bin Laden's wife there and did she really get shot as well? Questions that we shrug off and mock when it comes to the usual celebrity nonsense are of interest to any and everyone and even I find myself getting drawn in to the extensively detailed coverage.

And of course every blog, every news site and web magazine is chiming in. Earlier today I was reading an Associated Press article on Yahoo today on the final lead and chance phone call that led to finding out where bin Laden was living. And because the press is so prone to getting every single detail and quote they can, they unearthed this little gem:

Phone call by Kuwaiti courier led to bin Laden
Associated Press Adam Goldman And Matt Apuzzo
Associated Press – Tue May 3, 7:57 am ET 2004, top al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Ghul told the CIA that al-Kuwaiti was a courier, someone crucial to the terrorist organization. In particular, Ghul said, the courier was close to Faraj al-Libi, who replaced Mohammed as al-Qaida's operational commander. It was a key break in the hunt for in bin Laden's personal courier.

"Hassan Ghul was the linchpin," a U.S. official said.

Finally, in May 2005, al-Libi was captured. Under CIA interrogation, al-Libi admitted that when he was promoted to succeed Mohammed, he received the word through a courier. But he made up a name for the courier and denied knowing al-Kuwaiti, a denial that was so adamant and unbelievable that the CIA took it as confirmation that he and Mohammed were protecting the courier. It only reinforced the idea that al-Kuwaiti was very important to al-Qaida.

If they could find the man known as al-Kuwaiti, they'd find bin Laden.

The revelation that intelligence gleaned from the CIA's so-called black sites helped kill bin Laden was seen as vindication for many intelligence officials who have been repeatedly investigated and criticized for their involvement in a program that involved the harshest interrogation methods in U.S. history.

"We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day," said Marty Martin, a retired CIA officer who for years led the hunt for bin Laden.

So they found Osama bin Laden by listening in on communications and torture. Things Americans worry about as we see our country slowly detaching ourselves from the principles of innocent until proven guilty to guilty until the government clears you and maybe not even then.

Conservatives who support FOX Network have been quick to attribute the death of Osama bin Laden to the man who started it all. And while I want the cheers that followed bin Laden's death to continue- not in some erie celebration of yet more killing- but cheers of celebration that the dark days are over and that maybe what George Bush put us through was justified and we can move on from bombing anyone who may have been harboring bin Laden.

So now, the question is: When will it end?

I want to know if we'll ever be free of the Patriot Act. I want to know if gas prices will go down or if wages will go up. I want to know that the loss of life on 9/11 and the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan were worth the deprivation that we've suffered in our economy and that we did not sacrifice in vain.

I want to know what happens now that the man we've been looking for, for over 10 years is dead? If we continue on the same path of war and destruction then we know that the overall goal was not to defeat terrorism but to defeat the American spirit of liberty.

Will sanctioned torture and the complete elimination of communications privacy in America be the result of all this?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

2 Down, 1 To Go

Well I'll be damned. I went to visit my daughter at college this weekend and she called me tonight informing that one of her aunt's on her father's side of the family passed away. Unfortunately she can't go to the funeral because she is in the middle of a hectic finals week but she asked me to go and I will.

Her phone call woke me from a sound sleep and as I hung up, the light was glowing a bit red from the tv and the banner at the bottom announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

My sleepy eyes widened. I did a double take. I told CollegeArabella. She said, I know. I heard. Crazy right?

And so like the Challenger Explosion and the tragedy of 9/11 that precipitated a decade of war that changed America forever....I will always remember where I was when I heard that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

Oh hell, the President's on....brb.


Wow. The President said a lot of shizz but the main thing I remember is that "This speaks to the determination of the American people."

Which means: hide your kids, hide your wife. We gone find you. We gone find you. So run tell that, homeboy. If America says they gone kill you, they gone kill you.


Mission Accomplished. For real this time.


"So what do you think about My President now?" my mother asked. Admittedly gloating, because we've had some battle royales over the job President Obama has been doing. She feels he can do no wrong and that everything he does and every concession he has made is justified in lieu of unreasonable GOP obstruction. I have had my doubts about how far Obama really fought for a lot of his ideals; but I watched President Obama at the correspondents dinner last night humbly admit that his idealism just didn't match up with the reality of the job. That somber nod gave me pause and will probably temper my judgements of him from now on. Maybe.

I'll tell you what I told her. Honestly, I still have my issues with the man but right now, my issues with him don't matter. It's like if your kid annoys you off but then brings home all A's on their report card. You get over it and give your kid a big hug, maybe even some ice cream.

Eventually though, you're going to get back around to addressing those things that made you mad: warantless wiretapping, Patriot Act, closing Gitmo and the other secret prisons. But for right now, it's enough that Donald Trump thank God, will truly never be president and Osama Bin Laden, mass murderer the world over, is dead, soon to be picked to pieces and buried.

Obama put Trump, the GOP and the TeaBaggers in their place at the 2011 White House Correspondence dinner (is it just me or did Obama's blistering schtick have the stamp of Stephen Colbert's writers all over it?) and now Osama Bin Laden is dead.

All that's left is 2012 and I'll be damned if, the way Obama's luck is going right now, that won't be much of a problem at all.

2 Down, 1 to Go.