Thursday Reads

Dream Series 5 The Library by Jacob Lawrence 1967

Good Afternoon!!

Before I get to today’s news, I want to call attention to this investigative article in The New Yorker on legal elderly abuse. The author, Rachel Aviv, deeply researched the guardianship system in Nevada, but this apparently happens in other states as well. It’s a long read, but well worth it, especially for those of us who have elderly parents–and who are getting older ourselves.

How the Elderly Lose Their Rights

For years, Rudy North woke up at 9 a.m. and read the Las Vegas Review-Journal while eating a piece of toast. Then he read a novel—he liked James Patterson and Clive Cussler—or, if he was feeling more ambitious, Freud. On scraps of paper and legal notepads, he jotted down thoughts sparked by his reading. “Deep below the rational part of our brain is an underground ocean where strange things swim,” he wrote on one notepad. On another, “Life: the longer it cooks, the better it tastes.”

Rennie, his wife of fifty-seven years, was slower to rise. She was recovering from lymphoma and suffered from neuropathy so severe that her legs felt like sausages. Each morning, she spent nearly an hour in the bathroom applying makeup and lotions, the same brands she’d used for forty years. She always emerged wearing pale-pink lipstick. Rudy, who was prone to grandiosity, liked to refer to her as “my amour.”

In the Library, John Watkins Chapman

On the Friday before Labor Day, 2013, the Norths had just finished their toast when a nurse, who visited five times a week to help Rennie bathe and dress, came to their house, in Sun City Aliante, an “active adult” community in Las Vegas. They had moved there in 2005, when Rudy, a retired consultant for broadcasters, was sixty-eight and Rennie was sixty-six. They took pride in their view of the golf course, though neither of them played golf.

Rudy chatted with the nurse in the kitchen for twenty minutes, joking about marriage and laundry, until there was a knock at the door. A stocky woman with shiny black hair introduced herself as April Parks, the owner of the company A Private Professional Guardian. She was accompanied by three colleagues, who didn’t give their names. Parks told the Norths that she had an order from the Clark County Family Court to “remove” them from their home. She would be taking them to an assisted-living facility. “Go and gather your things,” she said.

Rennie began crying. “This is my home,” she said.

One of Parks’s colleagues said that if the Norths didn’t comply he would call the police. Rudy remembers thinking, You’re going to put my wife and me in jail for this? But he felt too confused to argue.

Parks drove a Pontiac G-6 convertible with a license plate that read “crtgrdn,” for “court guardian.” In the past twelve years, she had been a guardian for some four hundred wards of the court. Owing to age or disability, they had been deemed incompetent, a legal term that describes those who are unable to make reasoned choices about their lives or their property. As their guardian, Parks had the authority to manage their assets, and to choose where they lived, whom they associated with, and what medical treatment they received. They lost nearly all their civil rights.

That’s just the introduction. I hope you’ll go read the rest.

The Library, Elizabeth Shippen Green, 1905

The Las Vegas gun massacre continues to dominate the news. I’d like to recommend a couple of positive articles coming out of the horror. You may have read this one by Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post already, but just in case: Two strangers bond over country music and beer. Then the gunshots started.

Up-and-coming country star Luke Combs had just started his set on the smaller of the two festival stages when Kody Robertson, an auto parts salesman from Columbus, Ohio, squeezed in at the end of the bar next to Michelle Vo, an insurance agent from Los Angeles.

The 32-year-olds connected immediately. They joked about their mutual love of golf. He recommended new beers for her to try as she showed him the large floral tattoo covering much of her back. They realized that they were both staying at the Luxor.

A longtime country music fan, Robertson was in Vegas with a group of friends and told Vo about the fun they’d had at last year’s Route 91 Harvest festival. Vo replied that she’d only recently fallen for the genre; this was her first festival. She was here alone. By the time the night’s final act took the main stage, the fast friends had settled into a spot about 20 yards from the right side of the stage, nestled between a few cuddly married couples and a rambunctious bachelorette party.

It was 10:08 p.m. Robertson and Vo searched the air for the fireworks they assumed they were hearing. Then came a second burst: indiscriminate gunfire hailing from a 32nd-floor window at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Screams punctuated the pop-pop-pop. Jason Aldean, the headline act, ran from the stage. A bullet pierced the left side of Vo’s chest.

“She got hit and I turned and saw her immediately fall to the ground,” Robertson recalls. “She was literally right beside me, maybe two feet away.”

Robertson threw his body on top of hers as a shield from the bullets and, when the firing finally seemed to stop, worked with another man to carry Vo out of the venue — pausing for cover each time the gunfire resumed.

Robertson could have just left it there, but instead he recovered Vo’s purse and cell phone and embarked on a long search to find Michelle as well as communicating with her family. If you haven’t read it already, please do. Lowery’s writing is just brilliant.

The Daily Beast: Unarmed Security Guard Took On Las Vegas Killer Stephen Paddock.

LAS VEGAS—Jesus Campos had no firearm when he found Stephen Paddockand approached his room on the 32rd floor of Mandalay Bay on Sunday night.

Paddock, who had rigged cameras in the hallway and on the peephole of the door, saw Campos coming and fired through the door, hitting him in the leg, said Dave Hickey, president of the International Union, Security, Police and Fire Professionals of America. The union represents Campos and hundreds of security guards at Mandalay Bay.

The Library, Hotel Lambert, Alexandre Serebriakoff

When Campos was hit, he radioed casino dispatch and told them his location—and Paddock’s.

“We received information via their dispatch center…that helped us locate where this individual was sequestered,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters Tuesday.

When Campos first arrived on the 32nd floor, he did so by elevator because Paddock had somehow blocked stairwell doors leading to the hallway outside of his room, Hickey said. The door to the room itself was also barricaded, Campos found when he tried to open it, just before the bullets came through the door.

Police officers subsequently approached the room and were met with 200 rounds from Paddock, Lombardo said on Wednesday night. Police fell back until SWAT arrived.

Campos, wounded, stayed on the floor and even went door-to-door, clearing rooms with police, Lombardo said, until he was ordered to leave because he was wounded.

Click on the link to read the rest. Here are a few more stories you might want to check out.

The New York Times: Las Vegas Shooting: Investigators Grapple With Gunman’s ‘Secret Life’

Las Vegas Journal-Review: Las Vegas Strip shooter targeted aviation fuel tanks, source says.

BBC News: Las Vegas shooting: Paddock may have planned to escape.

NBC Boston: Sources: Las Vegas Shooter TheResearched Possible Boston Locations.

Chicago Tribune: Chicago police investigating reports that Las Vegas gunman booked hotel rooms overlooking Lollapalooza.

The Library, WindsorCastle, 1838 James Baker Pyne

The massacre in Las Vegas has completely overshadowed the Puerto Rico crisis in the headlines, but the situation there is still dire. NPR reports: 112 Degrees With No Water: Puerto Rican Hospitals Battle Life And Death Daily.

Every day across Puerto Rico, with its shattered power grid, hospitals are waging a life-and-death battle to keep their patients from getting sicker in the tropical heat. Now two weeks after the storm, about three-quarters of Puerto Rico’s hospitals remain on emergency power. This creates dangerous conditions for critically ill patients.

At the Pavia Arecibo Hospital, about an hour west of San Juan, administrator Jose Luis Rodriguez wipes sweat from his worried brow. “We don’t have any air conditioning,” he says. “We can handle maybe a week, but it’s already been two weeks almost.”

The government calls them “indirect deaths” – those who died after the violent storm: heart attack victims, people on kidney dialysis machines that failed, people who fell off roofs inspecting storm damage, and people killed in auto accidents on highways made more treacherous from Maria’s destruction.

“So far after the storm we have had 49 dead bodies,” says Rodriguez. Earlier this week, the governor of Puerto Rico raised the official fatality figure for Hurricane Maria from 16 people to 34. But with unofficial reports like the one from Arecibo, that number is expected to rise.

More at the link.

USA Today: Puerto Rico health system on life support two weeks after Hurricane Maria.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Two weeks after Hurricane Maria toppled Puerto Rico’s communications towers, wrecked its electrical grid and knocked out power to water systems, medical officials said the island’s health system is “on life support.”

Among the multiple impacts that have left the island’s medical system deeply damaged:

-Patients are dying because of complications related to the primitive conditions and difficult transportation issues so many island residents now endure.

-A lack of transportation in small towns makes it difficult to transfer patients to larger hospitals.

-An administrator in a small-town hospital has to drive her car to an ambulance company a mile away to ask for a patient to be transferred to a larger hospital.

– Severe lack of communications on the island has resulted in less triage and coordination between hospitals, and more patients arriving at large medical centers than usual, which has stretched capacity.

-Doctors are afraid to discharge patients after surgery to places with unsanitary conditions and where care and transportation may not exist, adding strain to an already strained system.

Other stories of possible interest:

The Guardian: Trump came to Puerto Rico like an emperor: with pomp and little sympathy.

GQ: Turns Out Trump Spent His Puerto Rico Trip “Helping” in the Wealthy Suburbs.

Chicago Tribune: Trump said he wants to bail out Puerto Rico. His budget head says he didn’t mean it.

This is turning out to be a link dump, because there is so much news. I haven’t even gotten to the latest stories on the Russia investigation, and I’m running out of space. Some links to explore:

Business Insider: ‘The issue of collusion is still open’: Top senators hint the Russia probe is heating up.

Newsweek: Russia Investigation: Tell-Tale Signs Trump is Expecting the Worst.

Bloomberg: Russia Needed Help Targeting U.S. Voters, Two Former CIA Leaders Say.

Talking Points Memo: Russia Appeared To Target Wisconsin’s Elections Body Via A Banner Or Popup Ad.

Politico: Trump pushes for Senate intel panel probe of ‘Fake News Networks’ in U.S. (What a moron!)

CNN: FBI chief on Russian hacking: We ‘should have seen this coming.’

What else is happening? What stories are you following?


Nostalgic for Nixon?

I thought we’d made some progress since J Edgar Hoover headed the FBI, but maybe not.  This is a really disturbing story I heard as I listened to today’s show  from Democracy Now.  You may recall that the FBI raided homes of peace activists in Minnesota and Chicago back in September.  Here’s one of those villainous peace activists from back then.

Most of these folks are aligned with Palestinian solidarity groups.  In the fall, subpoenas to appear before a grand jury were served on 13 of the activists.  The subpoenas were later withdrawn when the activists asserted their fifth amendment rights.  Many of us thought the situation had ended there.  We were wrong.  Three of those people who were the subject of raids were reissued subpoenas earlier this month.  (Happy Holidays!!  Peace On Earth!!!)  Democracy Now picks up the story with an additional subpoena that was issued to a “Chicago-based activist and journalist involved in Palestinian solidarity work—at least the 23rd person subpoenaed since September”.

I found some information on a peace rally in front of the Dirksen Federal Building this month in Chicago from the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. (Yeah, that HAS to be a terrorist group!)  It’s dated December 9, 2010. This piece not only mentions the Palestinian solidarity connections but also Colombian connections.

A  group of about 100 activists braved frigid temperatures to protest the latest round of FBI subpoenas in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago Monday night.

The FBI issues summons to appear before a federal grand jury to three college students Friday. They are scheduled to appear on Jan. 25, said their attorney Jim Fennerty of the National Lawyers Guild. The women are being targeted because they traveled to the Palestinian occupied territory of the West Bank, he added.

The new subpoenas bring to 17 the number of activists throughout the Midwest that have been targeted by the FBI for their Palestinian and Colombian solidarity work.

Amy Goodman’s piece at Democracy Now has more details. (Shameless Plug:  Please PLEASE keep Democracy Now on your charitable giving list). Notice there’s also a recent Supreme Court decision that has put peace activities in the FBI’s cross hairs.

All those subpoenaed have been involved with antiwar activism that’s critical of U.S. foreign policy. Details on the grand jury case remain scarce, but the subpoenas cited federal law prohibiting, quote, “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected a free speech challenge to the material support law from humanitarian aid groups that said some of its provisions put them at risk of being prosecuted for talking to terrorist groups about nonviolent activities.

I have to admit that I have a particular interest in this because I have an FBI file from the 1970s.  They actually read my mail coming to my dorm room.  It was because I was a member of the University of Nebraska’s University Women’s Action Group and was actively working to change the state’s “rape” law at the time and to get sexual assault and battery  crimes moved out of property crimes divisions in police departments and into major crime units.  Some one broke into the car of the NOW State Coordinator, took her mailing list, and suddenly, all of us noticed that our mail never made it to us without ever having a broken envelope seal.  It was bizarre.  It didn’t last long because I think at some point either Ford or Carter must’ve put an end to it.  Nixon was even out of office by that time.  Believe me, I was hardly a radical or a threat at the time.  I thought the ‘thought police’ thing had kind’ve gone by the wayside after the Nixon/Ford years but, boy does that seem to be a wrong assessment.

So, Amy Goodman interviewed several of the people involved in the recent FBI and grand jury activity.  Here’s an account of the recent ordeal by Peace Activist Tracy Holm.

Right now, our individual lawyers are being called into meetings with the District Attorney, Fox, in Chicago. They’re essentially trying to scare us into talking, to naming names and giving them a case against the movement and against the people that we have worked with historically to fight for justice for the people of Palestine and the people of Colombia.

I’m really curious about the Colombia thing.  Do you know of any suicide bombers, etc. from Colombia?  So, the interview continues by bringing in  “Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent who was named by Time Magazine Woman of the Year for her exposure of the problems in intelligence by the FBI pre-9/11″.  She is interviewed by Juan Gonzalez.

Well, you know, after 9/11, we almost—there was a green light put on, and there was a very big blurring between protest, civil disobedience and terrorism. And you saw this in many ways. The door was open to basically targeting, without any level of factual justification, advocacy groups. And again, this began pretty quickly after 9/11.

It’s gotten to the point now, nine years later—and I wanted to mention the Washington Post is doing a pretty good job of exposing this, this top-secret America, this monitoring. Their most recent article in the Washington Post says there’s a hundred—the FBI has 164,000 suspicious activity reports. Again, these are things that just have no level of factual justification, that people call in, and the FBI is now keeping records on people. So, I think that, you know, this case will just be the start of targeting various groups like this.

Are we now back in the place that we were in the 1970s where just being an activist for Social Justice gets you onto some one’s radar?  Because, if we are, I’m thinking my email and mail are going to be read again.  Does this trouble you the way it troubles me?


Barack Obama, Community Organizer

Several commenters have been discussing Obama’s role as a community organizer. Some have already put up links in the comments. I’ll add all links to this post so we have a collection of information on this topic.

According to this article in The Nation, Obama moved to Chicago in 1985, a little more than a year after he graduated from Columbia University in NYC. He was 24 years old. He was hired by Jerry Kellman, a Chicago organizer, to lead the Developing Communities Project (DCP), which would target African American neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side by working with African American churches in the area. During Obama’s time as a community organizer, Harold Washington was serving as Chicago’s first black mayor. This was a source of hope and inspiration for Obama and other blacks and progressives in the city. Read the rest of this entry »