Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Which Team Orange Returns

Bring Your Own Big Wheel 2010 is just a few short days away and we came together for spring training last night. Here is a long video showing some of the fun that was had. It was also a celebration of the Inaugural Taco Tuesday of 2010. I have never seen so many crafts in one of my living rooms. It would have been hideous if it wasn't so fun.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rescue Me! How Mothers are being Saved From Their Dogs

by a leash.

Thanks to Dogster.com, I have learned about an innovative new development on the traditional shock-collar. The SimpleLeash is a torture device training tool that magically shocks your dog when he pulls on the leash. According to the piss poor excellent promotional material provided by Dogster, one or two sessions over one or two days is enough to "cure" a dog from bad leash manners. It's also enough to take all the fun out of walking, for the dog, at least, and doesn't provide an alternative. I can hear the arguments now: but we want to be able to walk our dog! If we can't exercise our dog, he'll end up in the shelter. My argument: find a better way. Here's a snippet from a review of current literature about e collars:
Electronic training devices result in aversive conditioning, once the link is made between the behavior and the aversive stimuli (electric shock). Aversive stimuli, by definition, cause discomfort, pain, or an otherwise negative experience. It has been shown that while aversive conditioning can take place rapidly and can influence the suppression of unwanted behavior, this suppression is restricted to the presence of the conditioned stimulus after full conditioning has taken place (Seligman and Johnston, 1968). As well, while aversive conditioning may eliminate an unwanted behavior, it does not serve to establish an acceptable alternative. This is most
likely due to response blocking—the dog learns that not responding leads to the absence of the aversive stimuli, and stops responding (Seligman and Johnston, 1968).
But really, we haven't gotten to my favorite part, the part that made me get out of bed to write this blog post. According to a customer service rep from SimpleLeash who commented on the Dogster blog, "For many mothers and elderly who have had continual pulling problems and safety issues, they are really thankful for the simpleLEASH. We believe the leash can bring back harmony back to families where dog pulling is a problem." Those damn dogs, causing strife by pulling on their walks. This leash is a tool designed to save mothers everywhere, to rescue a damsel in distress. Women need rescuing, you know, from all sorts of dangers, including from their pulling dogs. And men aren't the only ones who can rescue mothers any more, now a leash can do it, too!

I'm not making this shit up. Watch this video where the poor lady with the kid in arms (mother) uses the Savior SimpleLeash to take an easy walk.



I'm going to go have a kid now. Just so I can be saved. By a shock collar/leash.

Forget agency here: mothers can't train their dogs without this tool. Obviously.

This is How Sofa Frees Also Roll: Falling out of Windows

Almost a year ago, I wrote about children and dogs, and even me, falling out of windows. Those stupid and creepy ads went away for awhile and recently have begun reappearing all over Oakland, this time with newer, bigger, and more visible billboards. I cringe each time I see them. Again, I feel bad for children falling out of windows- recently I hear, a child even bounced off the bed and out of a window. However, the ads are creepy and disturbing and people are dying in war, crossing the border from Mexico, and of all sorts of other ways. Anyway.

Apparently, sofafrees are also falling out of windows. This is a travesty of serious proportions, and I may need to gather the troops to come up with our own ad campaign. THIS is serious business.

Main Office - El Rancho Motel - Sedalia, Mo.

(not my picture- photo credit to ricko.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Susan Faludi: The Terror Dream

I almost wish I hadn't read this book. I couldn't overcome my compulsion to not-finish books until the very end, where I got so frustrated that I started skimming. I remember loving Susan Faludi's Backlash when I was a budding feminist (maybe 12 or 13 years old)- I even remember taking it out of the Oakland public library! Backlash was a reminder that though feminism had come a long way, mainstream culture wasn't ready to accept it, and was in fact doing everything to co opt the concepts, to keep woman in their traditional roles as consumers and homemakers.

Terror Dream is convincing in its similar, but more recent premise: 9/11 was a chance for Americans to return to dominant tropes of women as victims, and a chance to erase women's voices completely. The first half of the book is dedicated to example after example of this, from all sorts of media and political sources- from ultra right to more mainstream and leftist- Time Magazine, the New York Times, even the New Yorker. This part of the book is credible and convincing, but tedious; essentially a string of quotes and media stories to support Faludi's argument. I believe her: the terror of an attack on American soil forced the return to the myth of the strong male rescuing the poor, poor women, which required turning women into poor, poor women. All of this was based on the aggressive, nasty woman who had emasculated men over the last 30+ years, and who had to be put back into her place. Conservatives cackled in glee: see what happens when women take over? Bush and Kerry competed for the most manly man in their Presidential race, Faludi argues, and women got thrown under the bus.

The second half of the book traces this pattern back to the 1600s and the frontier. Women as strong, effective pioneers were erased as men rewrote the narrative to demonstrate that rather than ineffective leaders and protectors, they were actually heroes. Central to this narrative were captivity stories and rape panics that were rewritten by men, in more useful ways. Even as women told their own stories of heroism and generous, chaste captors, men told stories of hapless, sexually traumatized victims.

I can't tell any more of Faludi's argument. I'm too frustrated. This is the story of WHITE feminism. I thought maybe we had moved past this. The first section, the synopsis of the media section, is all about "women," but it's unspoken that Faludi is talking about "white privileged" women. Faludi talks about feminists who attempt to bring challenges to the erasure of women's voices, she talks about the Bush Administration's attempt to co opt Afghani women's plight, and that's about her only analysis deeper than the "erasure" of women. What about the pre-existing erasure of women of color? Faludi goes on and on about the non-conversation about the women heroes of 9/11: the firefighters, the women who helped rescue within and without of the towers, and fails to mention once the people of color in the towers, whether American nationals or foreign-born. Faludi, and the media, were talking about white women. When "opting out" of work and rushing to have children became a national news topic, I'm pretty sure Diane Sawyer was talking about white women. Do you really think that Phyllis Schafley cared if women of color died in the military? According to Faludi's theme of poor, innocent, helpless women, I'm pretty sure she's talking about a fainting blonde.

And there's the second part of the book, which is all about the frontier, and creating this image of the white woman as frail, in need of protection from the marauding Indian. There is discussion of the white woman standing up for the Indian's reputation almost in a pedantic, patronizing way. According to Faludi, white men needed this image because they failed to protect their "borders" as such, so they needed to devalue women in order to have an image of them that they could protect. So captivity by the Indians (she always calls them Indians) and later, the big scary black man were good straw men. But not once does Faludi discuss the obvious racial warfare going on, the "othering" of the Native Americans, or the way positioning the Native Americans and later black men was also part of the white male myth. Not once. I kept waiting for mention of this, or at the very least, an afterword. Eventually, after 10 examples of captivity narratives rewritten to suit white men's purposes with not one mention of how the stories were also being rewritten to further demonize brown people, I gave up.

Really, Faludi? I expected better. This book was published in 2007. It's an embarrassment.

My New Toy: Diana Instant Back

I was feeling lame a couple weeks ago so I resorted to the traditional female pastime of gratuitous shopping. This is not my favorite pastime, gratuitious or not. I hate shopping. Unless it involves camera stuff. I wasn't in the market for anything, really, but I love bringing my dog to Looking Glass, and by all accounts they love having him there. There's about 10 pictures of him in the store, including



Mac demonstrating his bad manners and sharing secrets with the staff.

Anyway, I left with a gift to myself: a toy camera, with an attachment (back) that allowed me to take instant pictures. With the death of Polaroid film, I've been looking into the Fuji replacements, but they're all bulky and cumbersome and not nearly aesthetically pleasing enough for purchase. But the Diana is cute, little, and multi-purpose, as it also (without the instant back) shoots 120 film, and can be reconfigured to shoot 35mm film. But I put the instant back on during the car-ride home with the help of V, who knows all about my mechanical disinclinations and has been party to quite a few lengthy installations lately, and the instant back has not left the Diana lately. I will add that the Diana is very aesthetically pleasing, being glow-in-the-dark green and having tiny little glow-in-the-dark stars on it. I can't resist, on cuteness factor alone. So, here's some of the (many) pictures I've taken. Next up, working on the quality of the scans.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Few Words Wednesday

This dog was beaten with an axe. But that doesn't stop him from playing, and being altogether awesome. The first video is the first day he played. The second is the day I introduced him to a nice girl dog. Bully, thy name is resilience. Awkward but endearing. Don't cry, things work out.





thanks to V for editing.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

One Challenge to No Kill: Roosters

The other day I wrote about Nathan Winograd's "Redemption" and some of my evolving thoughts on "no kill." I mentioned one of my concerns with truly achieving a no kill community, which is placing unsafe animals (especially dogs). Another one of my concerns is roosters. I deal with a lot of roosters- it seems to come in waves, but sometimes I get multiple rooster calls a day, sometimes not for a month. I don't like rooster calls for many reasons, and one of them is that almost inevitably, the roosters are euthanized. Roosters are illegal in my jurisdiction, and like Winograd, I agree that this kind of legislation is detrimental to truly achieving progressive animal welfare. I wasn't involved in the legislation being written, but I'm guessing it was a combination of a noise/nuisance ordinance and a preventative for cock fighting, which we do have here. It's not working, either way. Some people have roosters for any reason you would have chickens, and they're just crowing, which annoys people who live in an urban environment, and some people have roosters because they're going to fight them. The ordinance isn't stopping anyone from having roosters. It's giving us easier access to seize the roosters and/or cite people for having the roosters, but it's not preventing ownership or euthanasia.

Roosters are not easy animals to place. They're not easy animals to live next door to, which is why we get call after call about them, and we get a lot of valid cock fighting calls. I broke up an active cock fight, and it was probably the most horrific thing I've ever seen. I've dealt with pre-cock fights and post-cock fights. Every time I walk into a yard and see coops with one rooster per box, and 5-20 roosters on a property with not one hen, I really only have one conclusion to draw. If someone says they like the sound of a gallo, which I believe some people truly do, they don't need multiple roosters. If they want chickens for food, they're going to have some hens and some roosters, and the birds are not going to be uniform looking with cut combs and sawed off spurs. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but really? So, what to do with these roosters, after I seize them? I don't want to give the owners time to move them, like I used to, because they're going to relocate them and fight them later. I think most people will agree that law or no law, it's not humane to leave the birds on scene to be fought. I'm not going to post the gory details of a cock fight here (I discussed it a little here), but it's atrocious, and I have a pretty tough stomach.

So, when I come back to the shelter with 5-20 roosters, where am I going to house them? I can't house them together, because they will fight. In the no kill philosophy, space and housing should not be an issue. I agree, in theory, but roosters are a tough one. If there was a livestock barn, they would still need separate cages, and they are really tough to clean. In a urban shelter, housing them in regular cages is even tougher, and even harder to clean. It's not ok to leave them sitting in their crap with spilled water and food around. And if the shelter creates space to house roosters, then where do we send them? Few people want to adopt roosters, and we can't adopt them in our jurisdiction. We've sent one or two at a time to ranches and farms and sanctuaries. But in mass quantities? According to this article, they can be rehabilitated, and I believe it. I'm no cock expert. But it's time and space consuming. And there are a lot of roosters to rehabilitate, especially with the rising popularity of backyard chickens. This article expresses some of my misgivings about euthanizing all fighting roosters "just because": it really does seem comparable to euthanizing all fighting pit bulls "just because" they're fighting pit bulls. So maybe we'll get to the point where we can evaluate each rooster as an individual. In the meantime, I see roosters as a major obstacle to getting to no kill, at least here. (For example, we took in 11 today.)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Nathan Winograd's Redemption: In Which I Agree With Some Things

and admit to it...

Mr Winograd is not a politic man. I get the distinct impression that he's not a big fan of animal control officers, or their mandate. This is not a great way to win me over, since I love my job and believe in it, and I'm already kind of wary of him and no-kill. I should rephrase: he doesn't like ACOs and shelter workers as they are now, as part of the status quo. I've written here before about my perception of Mr Winograd's finger pointing and fault finding with animal shelters, and "Redemption" is a long litany of the same. His final words, before the Afterword, are his thesis:
In the final analysis, animals in shelters are not being killed because there are too many of them, because there are too few homes, or because the public is irresponsible. Animals in shelters are dying for primarily one reason- because people in shelters are killing them.
People like me, Winograd believes, are the leading cause of death of domestic animals in this country. Reading this makes me defensive, and annoyed, and it's partially true. In the Afterword, Winograd lays out four kinds of people who will object to the book: people who think it's all about Winograd; people who will continue on continuing on blaming the public, arguing that their community is more irresponsible than the successful ones and fighting for more laws; shelter directors who see the book as a personal attack and argue for putting aside differences to fight the common enemy of the irresponsible public; and the "naysayers" who won't believe Winograd, no matter what he says. Experience has led me to believe in both the irresponsibility of the public and the importance of changing the status quo. It's a both/and.

I have posted about the frustration of hearing what a hard job I have, and the No Kill folks don't make this any easier. YesBiscuit! recently posted that shelter work involving killing pets is her idea of the worst job ever. Winograd says "euthanasia" is the most misleading word in the shelter vernacular: it's "shelter killing." I don't feel like a professional killer until I read this stuff, and then I feel like a professional killer. A hitman. I have started using "killing" in my daily language at work, rather than "put to sleep" or "euthanize," at least with my coworkers. Because, really, it's what we're doing. It doesn't make it that different on daily level, but I agree with Winograd: it's honest.

Winograd starts "Redemption" with a shocking anecdote from 1990 of a director of a South Bay animal shelter euthanizing (killing) cats, kittens and dogs on live national television and being hailed for it. Other shelters used the same tactic, hoping it would scare people away from surrendering their animals. I was shocked when I read this: how could they do something so publicly that I consider such a private part of sheltering? And then I had to rethink: I believe in transparency and accountability in sheltering (and pretty much everything else). I'm pretty sure this isn't what the people killing on TV were thinking, but if we shelter workers can't do what we do in public, on TV, even, then maybe we shouldn't be doing it. If I am in the euthanasia room for an hour or two every day, and feel ashamed about it being broadcast, then something is wrong. This was page 6 of "Redemption," and I had to pay more attention.

Winograd has lots of negative things to say about the HSUS, and basically, the public aren't the only people being hoodwinked: "For many agencies, the HSUS standard became the gold standard," on the one hand, on the other, "HSUS has not been alone in supporting or promoting practices that unnecessarily lead to higher death rates for animals." HSUS has advocated denying the release of animals to rescue groups, only recently got on board with TNR, only even more recently decided pit bulls from fight busts were worth evaluating, etc. Each of these policies, which were recommendations as "best practices" for animal shelters, led to deaths of millions of animals in the decades that they were endorsed.

In the 1970s, a group of animal welfare organizations, including HSUS and the American Humane Association got together and decided they would adopt a strategy to increase responsible pet ownership: "Legislation, Education, and Sterilization (LES)." This involved confinement and licensing laws, humane education programs, and spay and neuter measures that were punitive rather than based on incentives and accessibility. Winograd has a lot of beef with the legislation part: it targets the animal's behavior as "bad," and many of the laws also involve people feeding free-roaming cats, which in turn leads to capturing them and killing them. I am with him here: laws that punish the animals and/or require cats to be licensed or be seen as "owned" are troublesome to me. On the other hand, Winograd seems to suggest that he is against leash laws or fees to reclaim their animals from the shelter. He states that "responsible people acted responsibly whether there was a law or not, while truly irresponsible people would merely ignore it." I'm just not sure I buy this logic, in the animal world or elsewhere. Since Winograd makes all kinds of (fairly specious) animal/human comparisons, I'm going to make one here: do only irresponsible people not wear their seat belts or speed when they drive? Should the laws not exist because of the people who may or may not follow the laws?

Winograd also shakes his head at humane education, arguing that money is thrown at it with no proof of success. Every dollar should be spent towards saving lives, he argues. I really have no way to know if what he says is true here, and can't find fault with humane education: I've seen it really affect children. Big picture-wise, I am not in a position to say. Finally, Winograd is all about spay/neuter (sterilization is the "s" in LES). He agrees that sterilization is a huge factor in moving towards No Kill/away from shelter killing, but objects with the LES method of legislating it. I am also in agreement here: low cost clinics and education are far more effective than laws mandating s/n. In my first year of shelter work alone, in the East Bay, I could see a decrease in shelter populations as the Maddie's Fund Clinics were at work, and education about the benefits of s/n were being advertised. In my two years in Santa Cruz, I rarely saw an altered dog, though there was a mandatory s/n ordinance in effect. There was literally not one low-cost spay/neuter option available. I sometimes suggested leaving owned animals at the shelter as we would offer free neuters when the owners redeemed their pets. Pathetic.

Winograd spends a whole chapter on feral cats, and the importance of TNR in a successful No Kill community. Ferals are so controversial in animal welfare, and such a hot topic, that I understand the reticence of entrenched animal control facilities to even get involved in the debate, let alone start a TNR program. On the other hand, letting logic get in the way of tradition isn't an answer, especially when it means cats die: under this regime, every feral cat that walks in will be rolled out in a barrel. Really? This is OK? Winograd convincingly argues that a life outside is way better than certain death in a cage, and if that's not convincing to you, I'm not sure quite what would be. For years groups like the Audobon Society have been arguing that ferals kill birds and other wild animals and Winograd debunks the science behind this. He also uses a strange argument linking xenophobia and questioning "what is a native species," which is not nearly as convincing. But he discusses a very successful and civilized TNR program at Stanford University, and I'll tell you, I would not complain if I didn't have to kill feral cats daily. I could be a professional cat-releaser instead of a professional cat killer.

Winograd thinks that No Kill can be acheived anywhere: rich/poor, urban/rural, etc, with the right leadership and attitudes. He believes shelters need to get past the numbers that are acceptable now and start looking at a whole new paradigm. The Hayden Bill was a good place to start: increasing minimum holding periods, requiring the release of animals to rescue groups, etc. And he thinks that we need to get rid of temperament testing as we know it, because Sue Sternberg is almost always wrong, and because the TTest is a way to fail animals, not to pass them. The tests he used in Tompkins County (a No Kill community in upstate New York) passed something like 90% of dogs, and only .03% ever showed aggression in their homes. That's 3 dogs in 4 years, I believe. He writes that we're failing pit bulls (kind of like feral cats) by killing them without giving them a chance, in many cases, and listening to Sue Sternberg in others. (I agree- Sternberg seems to have a screw loose about pit bulls. Their tails are too strong for her. Maybe if we docked them, like boxers, it would be better.)

And Winograd is pissed about the Asilomar Accords, which were created in 2004 in part by his old boss at the SFSPCA, Richard Avanzino. The Asilomar Accords tried to create some language that participating shelters could agree on in terms of adoptability. Winograd thinks that's bunk: either a shelter is trying to go all the way and eliminate killing as a way of getting animals out of the building, or they're still doing things the old way, and calling it something different. I recently read this fascinating interview with Avanzino on Pet Connection about SFSPCA, Winograd, and the Asilomar Accords from a very different angle, that's worth a read in this context. Where Winograd thinks the Accords are being used to spin the numbers, Avanzino thinks this is a starting place for accountability and transparency.

Most importantly, Winograd thinks pet overpopulation is a myth. If we stop killing almost all animals, there will still be enough homes for them. We'll have to find fosters for them, the shelters will be more crowded, but people will adopt them. The number going around is 2%: if we could increase adoptions 2% nationwide, we could be No Kill. And we, the shelter people, are the ones holding us back.

So, I agree with lots of this, when I get past my resentment. I agree that part of my livelihood is killing. Some of it is euthanasia: mercifully ending suffering that has no other option. And some of it is avoidable. And No Kill would be great, if utopian. And I have a lot of qualms, doubts, and worries. I am one of those "it can't happen here" doubters. Maybe it's that the economy has changed since the successful communities made their changes? Maybe it's the education level in some communities as opposed to others?

My primary question is how Winograd got around the public safety aspect of "adoptable" animals, no matter how you define it. How did 90% of dogs pass his temperament evaluations? He tells the story of a dog being put on a control pole to be taken to be put down, and he tells this as a horror story of terrible evil practices of a shelter in need of reform, and as a dog that would have been adoptable if he was in charge. The dogs that I put down that have to be on a control pole are not adoptable in my opinion because they are public safety risks. I am pretty good with dogs: if I'm unwilling to leash them, I'm not going to adopt them out. The Winograd in my head is saying "they need more time" or "they could go to a foster home" or "a sanctuary or rescue group could take them" but to me, this sounds like putting numbers above safety. I got a take home message of assessing animals as individuals: if I can't touch a dog, I am not going to take that lightly. This is at least 10% of our intake population. Another 10% is unsafe in the shelter, but we put up for adoption or send to rescue anyway. I feel uncomfortable about this, but for the sake of argument, will go along with Winograd here and hope that their behavior at home is totally different and that we are not putting safety risks back into the community. Winograd also gives all kinds of examples of health problems that are adoptable, especially focusing on blind animals and tripods. These are adoptable, but shattered pelvises? We get two or three a month. We have taken out eyes, even removed an ear canal. But to ask the average shelter to do this seems above and beyond. We euthanize for parvo: is this wrong? Putting the whole shelter population at risk is not tenable, at this point.

And I do resent the notion that the shelters hold all the blame and the public none. Shelters need to be held responsible for THEIR PART in this, just as individuals need to be held responsible for theirs. Shelters need to be part of the solution, partnering in low cost spay/neuter clinics, working to get TNR accepted, and yes, educating the public in responsible ownership. We can spay/neuter every animal that people will let us, but I will not take ownership for the people who want their animals to breed. That is not on me. I will take ownership for killing animals, but I will not take ownership for the man who beat his dog with an axe, or the man who failed to comply with my anti-chaining compliance notice, was given a day, and moved his dog to another location on a chain so short that she could not move. He was irresponsible, and neglectful. How many days should I let him continue to treat his animal like this? If the alternative to seizing her is to let him continue to move the dog around to different chains, what would Winograd have me do? If seizing her means she may be euthanized/killed? Where am I left? If he does not pay the fees, even if we agree to work with him, and she is not adoptable- if she is truly a safety risk- should I have left her on the chain? Winograd, in his dislike/distrust of animal control, doesn't leave room for these complexities. These are not licensing citations that I'm discussing, or dealing with. They can result in killing, yes. That is not my goal.

Though Winograd dismisses collaboration multiple times, I think we DO need to work together. We need to be able to protect the animals without impounding them. We need to educate even more people about spay/neuter to prevent the bajillion animals from being born. We need to do something to deter surrenders- not killing animals on TV- but to help keep animals in homes, like free or cheap dog training, or basic stuff like potty training, and more dog parks for exercising. Adoption is great, but I don't agree that adopters grow on trees, especially for the harder to place animals that Winograd brags about placing through fancy marketing. Foster homes are great, but they're also not that common, and prevention might be better than putting our fingers in the dyke by sticking neonatals into homes. I like working together- I think it's a good thing. We can move forward by working together, it doesn't have to be working together to stick with the status quo.

If I can admit to changing, to saying No Kill isn't all bad, that I'm part of the problem, maybe Winograd can come over and help us nasty killer animal control officers some time.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Tom Hayden: Street Wars

When I picked out this book at the store, as usual, I had no idea what I was getting. I seem to specialize in picking books by their covers, or at least, by their general topic. I didn't realize that Tom Hayden wasn't just the author of this book, he's also a really well known activist, former California state Senator, ex-wife of Jane Fonda, and familiar to me as the sponsor of the Hayden Bill which has affected my work daily for about 8 years. (I've written about it most recently in relation to Oreo's Law.) Tom Hayden could be classified as a radical, I gather from this book- and I like it. His book challenged even me, and I think I'm pretty progressive. Hayden takes readers through "inner city" gang life through the perspective of peace makers: ex-gang members that are still "homies" or "homeboys" (his words) that want to move forward, through truces between gangs, or community projects that help people with few prospects to have more prospects. Hayden has spent lots of time with these men (mostly men, some women), and as the reader gets to know them, he humanizes them, and their realities.

Hayden traces the rise of gangs as we "know" them, and the history of social, governmental, and political responses to gangs. In the 1920s, sociologist Jacob Riis studied the "distemper of the slums" and defined the problem NOT with the individuals who made up a violent element, but with the problems that "fostered slums." This is Hayden's go-to point: there are many things wrong with society that cause ghettos, poor economic opportunities, shitty schools, etc that lead to reliance on gangs. Blaming the "gangbanger" (again, his word), and targeting policies and punishments at the individual is missing the point entirely. In the late 1800s through the 1920s, white ethnic gangs were the model for what came later. The difference is that these gangs are now romanticized (think The Sopranos or The Godfather) and that the members of the crime syndicates were often the same people who became powerful members of society- Richard Daley "began his career as an Irish Gangster" and became a longstanding member of the Democratic Machine in Chicago. These "gangs" are now seen as "criminal organizations" and are not nearly as feared by the general public as gangs. They're "racketeering enterprises," not thugs, and we don't spend nearly as much money doing extraconstitutional searches and seizures, and blatantly racist targeting of them: the comparison is amazing, and the ratio of the severity of the crime is amazing. The vast majority of gang members are involved in minor misdemeanors such as vandalism and truancy, while the criminal organizations are large-scale stealing, racketeering, etc.

Hayden argues that black gang life can be traced to slavery, and the runaway tradition: "a Virginia study revealed the lethal effects of self-hatred and intratribal bloodletting: among those convicted of murder, one third of the killings between 1785 and 1864 were black-on-black." Hayden argues that post Civil war and lack of dignity and self-worth along with police and prison codes made many blacks realize that the "northward migration" was a "dead end:" "Conditions in Watts and the South Central ghetto reproduced the culture of "bad" black men" in the 1960s. The Slausons, a black gang at the time, were not necessarily formed for criminal or political reasons, but as a "'cultural' response to exclusion and deprivation." As more kids were sent to the Youth Authority (YA), the prison culture started to be raise them politically, intellectually, and culturally. The Crips came out of this era as the civil rights and black power movements declined and "the failure of radicalism bred nihilism." The cycle of imprisoning black youth for supposed crimes, the rise of the three strikes movement, the crushing of internally led peace movements, and the movement of funds from the Vietnam War to the "War on Drugs" and the war against the gangs kept the gangs ever at the forefront of domestic policy, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Just as Hayden believes black gangs can be traced to Africa and white intervention and crushing international destruction, he follows the Puerto Rican, Mexican, Salvadoran and Vietnamese gangs to US policies and colonialism in their respective countries. Worse, deportation policies carry the gangs back and forth to Mexico and Central America where they are strengthened and cause destabilization in other countries who lack resources to combat these exported problems. For example, members of the MS gang, formed mainly by Salvadorans in Los Angeles who fled the US backed violence in the 1970s found themselves in urban areas, haunted by wars that many of them had been forced to participate in and had lost family to. MS was a gang, a subculture that "mimics in an extreme form the sexual abuse and violence that is frequently exposed in our military and entertainment cultures despite all efforts to civilize and regulate them." The gang was a street clique, and a way to survive: many of the kids lived on the street and ate from shopping carts, which of course led them to end up in trouble with the law. There was some violence, too, which caused police over-reaction which caused more violence.

Hayden also posits that gangs are actually "disorganizations." Although politicians (and TV shows) tell us that gangs are hierarchies like the mob depicted in The Sopranos, Hayden, who has actually spent time with gang members, stresses the that the advanced hierarchical, serious drug cartel reputation of gangs is overrated. This means that the extreme policing of gangs is misguided. He gives lots of ideas and many examples of individuals who have more right-minded proposals. Many of these ideas are based in real community action (as opposed to community based policing) and liberation theology. "Street Wars" ends with a touching interpretation of Jesus as a leader of a loose-knit gang: Judas the snitch and Peter the power-tripper and other very real people. Hayden asks "Was the historical Jesus himself a homeboy?" forsaken by his dad, surrounded by "maladjusted souls," and demonized, criminalized, and crucified.

I have not written about the individuals in the book for a reason. They are individuals, and Hayden gives them the honor of making the reader understand them. No short blog review could do that, and to try to summarize them would be to relegate them to caricatures or tokens. "Street Wars" is a little hard to swallow. I agree with his main thesis: we are going about this all wrong, and we need to stop throwing all kinds of resources at a war that will never end, since it's fought at home, against a fake enemy. On the other hand, how long have I lived in Oakland and been taught that gang members are sociopaths with guns? Hayden acknowledges the oft present misogyny, and the sometimes-present violence, which is often black on black or Mexican on Mexican, etc. But his perspective is new to me. I like it, I just have to realign my thinking. Which is a good thing: stretching entrenched view points if important. Unfortunately, I feel like Hayden's proposals are quixotic, and not soon to be realized. He got buses of homeboys to Sacramento to propose modest changes, including some educational reforms and job programs, and was met with some success, only to have the projects vetoed twice by Governor Wilson (of course) and Governor Davis. Even the strong peaceful leaders in the gangs are stymied by the more powerful police in places like LA, Oakland, and, well, just about everywhere. More people need to read Hayden, and think it through. The Hayden Bill passed, right? Although animals are a little more warm and fuzzy than gangbangers.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I'll Kick Your Ass

T and I had a conversation the other day sparked by 3 Woofs & A Woo's awesome post about threats and other unkind things we say to our dogs. 3 Woofs really has an awesome list, and she's also got 89 comments with other good threats, like "I'm gonna throw you out the window (of our 1 story ranch house)." Many people confess to a very real sense of relief that they are not alone in their nasty threats to their dogs. Please, read that blog and at least some of the comments first, before you read my threats to Mac because... I'm not alone, dammit. (And I don't mean them.)

Like T, I often tell Mac I'm going to kick his ass. I think we started saying that one together. Just this morning I found myself telling him that I would kick his ass to Montana if he didn't come in the house, and then following that with "Montana is a long way away."

I frequently threaten to return Mac to the shelter where I adopted him, after either removing his microchip or somehow unregistering it. This definitely entails night drop. I've brought Mac to every shelter I've worked at, to visit, but I've pretended that I was bringing him in. Someone always believe me. I guess I'm convincing...

T and I used to tell shelter dogs we'd take them behind the woodshed if they didn't behave, which sounds particularly barbaric, and I believe that we meant it to sound that way.

I frequently tell him he's dumb as a post, or "big head, small brain." I think, actually, i kind of mean this one...

You? Whaddya tell your dog?


two of my favorite subjects