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The Furlough


Sunday, 29 Sept.

Funny how the brain works through a problem independent of conscious processes and deliberation. Don't much talk about it but I'll be personally affected by the govt. shutdown. I ain't no fat bureaucat. A GS 6 with a substantial cancer debt to pay down on going from paycheck to paycheck. It came to me an hour ago in route to my Sunday afternoon date with all my sweety pie grocery store mamas. It came clear. Since '05 I've been through Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustave, Isaac. Feel I'm missing one here. The drill is always the same when it comes to storm preparedness. Gas up, stock up, fill the tub with water, check your battery supply, plan your evacuation route. Somehow I feel better prepared. Two problems with my brain's working. Shutdown a man-made, not a natural disaster brought about by ideologues. And there ain't no evacuation route. That said I'm hoping like hell the Prez and Democrats do not back down. AHCA is the law and right. Bring the storm on. "We'll lick em in the morning", Grant said at Shiloh.

Tere
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Re: The Furlough


Monday, 30 Sept.

Got a call from Big Dawg this afternoon. I was sitting in a truck in a bee yard waiting out a squall. Good timing all around. When he calls his address is always the same: Victor, my man. So he had a story to tell, something that had tickled him. Up in Missippi he has a neighbor. A black single mother. Seems she's pretty strict on her children, keeps them in line and insists on chores getting seen to. She also likes her yard to appear in order to the neighbors all the time. Yesterday morning, a Sunday morning, Big Dawg steps out with his dogs to give them their first morning walk. Neighbor out too in her yard with a child taking out the garbage. Big Dawg hears neighbor woman say to her son: "What the !@#$ are you doing? Now pick up that !@#$, God damn it, get it to the can, then get back inside and get ready for Sunday school." I asked Big Dawg how well he managed to swallow his laugh. He said he managed to turn away and act like he was coughing.
Oct/5/2013, 1:17 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: The Furlough



Tuesday, 1 Oct.

(sent from my IPhone while at work)

Govt shut down day. Furloughed but at work in closing operations mode. Co-workers kind of stunned. Early morning agency-wide email with a dozen attachments on procedures to follow. Need my PC to file for unemployment. But it is only one of few able to access time and attendance web site. So others are using it. Interesting to observe various coping mechanisms on display. Thank you Congress for the opportunity to watch people in mild shock.

Tere
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Wednesday, 2 Oct.

Day 2 of the furlough and an American story to tell. I met Fini July of '07. He owns a convenience store near to where I work. I buy my cigarettes from him, sometimes a drink or a candy bar. For him the store is his retirement occupation. It's what he does to keep from getting bored. He's a property owner, sometime developer, a landlord, and he buys cars at auctions, fixes them up, sells them. Fini is Iranian American, came to the U.S. soon after the student revolution of the late 70s. His is a large family of brothers and sisters. His mother is still alive, I think, his father, whom he once beat badly for abusing a sibling, is dead. Two brothers and one sister also live in the States. By a Mexican American woman he has two now grown children. His son I see regularly, since, he helps out with the store. His son is an LSU student majoring in poli sci. Smart and serious minded young man who writes a political column for the college newspaper. A good writer. His daughter I rarely see. She is a young professional, a para-legal getting groomed to one day practice law. Both children quite handsome and self-possessed. Fini's younger brother here is schizophrenic. He's in a home. But I see him sometimes at the store. It's a private home Fini pays for. He told me his brother once was brilliant, that he was beaten, tortured during the revolution, left mentally damaged. Fini's sister who lives here is a beautiful, in the Persian way beautiful woman. Her name should be Roxanne and I should be Alexander the Great. But she's married to a no good man up in Nashville. Certifiably no good. Divorced her, lied to the judge, took everything they owned together, a few months later asked her to come back to him. Sadly she did. Fini himself is disabled. About my age, I'm guessing his mother was prescribed thalidomide. Left arm stops at the elbow with vestigial fingers. But it doesn't keep him from doing anything. He fixes cars, does everything around the store himself. Fini has one adddiction. Pretty young women. One gal stole from him badly to feed her own addiction to drugs. I told him then he should do what I've done and retire from the field forever. He smiled sheepishly, said, "I can't Mr. Victor." Like I said. He's addicted. I know I met Fini in July of '07 because of the Vitter sex scandal. First time I visited his store he was following the story on the television. Some conservative pundit was justifying how Vitter could still be a good Christian conservative politically without hypocrisy. Fini shot up out of his chair, screamed at the TV, "You think I'm !@#$ stupid?" Right then I decided to give him my business regularly. Twice now he has opened his store when most others were closed following a hurricane. Once he cashed a check for $100 so I could have cash. He said I didn't have to give him the check, that he would give me the money, but I insisted. Some months ago I mentioned to him my cancer debt, that but for it I was in good shape. He admonished me for putting the debt on a credit card, because of the interest involved, then told me he would give me the money to pay it off and I could pay him back sans the interest. Naturally, I thanked him but refused the offer. For maybe 2 years Fini lost his liquor license. He could have gotten it back sooner but he refused to sign a paper saying he wouldn't take the local liquor board to court for what he maintained was a wrongful suspension. He finally gave in. He explained to me, with some shame, he had his family to see to. My guess is that the suspension was indeed wrongful, that he was the victim of prejudice. I do know the local board is rife with corruption. I stopped by on Monday, last day of September, told him I might not see him for awhile due to the govt shutdown. He didn't think it would happen. I knew it would, offered to bet him on it. Yesterday morning leaving work I stopped in again. We talked. He had uncomplimentary things to say about Congress. As I was leaving he called me back. He made me wait for another customer to leave. He said, Mr. Victor, you're more than a customer. You need anything you come see me. Fini doesn't believe in ideology and he doesn't believe in God. He thinks it's all stupid.

Tere
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Thursday, 3 Oct

Day 3 of the furlough. Walked away from 2 talibaning Republicans. When the blood is up sometimes best to do so. Smoked too many cigarettes. Gassed up the Mini just in case the new "K" hurricane makes it wise to get out. Thinking about my honey bee colonies. Normally I could strap them down before a big storm comes to town. Karen supposed to pass by on Saturday. Worrying a little. Usually I can get to my colonies within a matter of hours after the hurricane comes through. Got a poem down I think worth getting down incited by the photo of a young woman sitting on the side of her bed, facing off to a blank wall. Deliberately showed kindnesses to everyone I met with today. Watched a pretty good movie about Freud and Jung called, "A Dangerous Method." It is indeed dangerous, their method. But I'll be shutting down tonight wondering about somewhere in the neighborhood of 799,999 other furloughed employees, many of whom live from paycheck to paycheck and worry about their charges, professional and personal.

A chuckle moment in the supermarket. On the omniscient loud speaker: Deli line 1 Deli line 1. Behind me I hear a faux falsetto voice: Deli line 1 Deli line 1. Turn around and see a young black dude, an employee. I laugh, say: good one. He laughs. How many times in a shift you figure the poor bastard has to hear the overhead voice of a female God? Deli line 1 Deli line 1. Or maybe: Meat dept cut a new 1 Meat Dept cut a new 1. Or what about: Bakery check your buns Bakery check your buns.

Tere

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Friday, 4 Oct.

I've talked about Eddie before. He's the janitor where I work. He works 3 days a week, 6 hours a day. He's also able to find work elsewhere, mostly, doing odd jobs for different people. He stays with his sister, her Cuban American husband, and their 5 or 6 children. He rents storage space at the Salvation Army. On Sundays he visits the local St Vincent de Paul center where, for the price of sitting through a sermon, he gets a good lunch and a chance at charity-driven clothing and such. He's an alcoholic but he's able to maintain, keep it under control. When he's not working he likes to buy an all day pass, ride the local busses while reading books on psychology. It started out with him wanting to figure himself out. But then he got curious about human behavior in general. He's one of those natural born intellectuals, the mark of which I figure is just that, curiousity. There are 2 of us at work that particularly look after Eddie. The details of how we do it not all that interesting. Brother Dave calls himself Eddie's handler, calls me his advocate, and that's enough said. What is maybe interesting is that we have both been on the streets, lived in missions, parked our asses in what used to be called the hobo jungles down by the tracks or under bridges. Everyone else at work, middle-class, upper middle-class, and beneficiaries of entitlement. Yes. That's a fair and accurate sketch. I just called Eddie. I should have called him before now, but stupidly preocccupied. He's been able to find work this week. 5 hours here, 4 hours there. He seemed glad I checked in, made a point of saying he would call tomorrow evening, a Saturday. When I got off the phone, took my head out of my preoccupied metaphorical ass, it came to me. This number of 800,000 federal employees furloughed, without pay, is bullshit. There are the tens of thousands of contract workers, private sector folk normally put to work by the federal govt not collecting a paycheck. I'm not talking about, say, Defense contract workers, engineers, IT specialists, consultants who, I don't know, make 70 to 100 thousand a year. I'm talking about the Eddies. Who's thinking about them? It took me 2 f***ing years of pestering my uppers before Eddie was contracted, paid for the number of hours it needed to do his job and given a raise. They're always the ones lost in the battles, negotiations, and prick-in-hand, tits-in-hand posturings. I know of federal facilities almost entirely worked by private contractors, not on the govt payroll. Janitors, mechanics, grounds keepers. Nobody seems to see them. Not Republican extremists, not the Limbaughs, not the artists, the middle-class, not the liberals. I sometimes think especially not the liberals. The Eddies don't live paycheck to paycheck. They live day to day. Shelter to shelter. And they are so bloody invisible. Just like Ellison said. Black like Eddie, or yellow, brown, or white. Still invisible. I almost went expat as a young man. I decided not to out of carnal love for this parcel of earth, air, and water. As an old man I'm seriously reconsidering. American values all across the political, socio-economic spectrum are just wrong.

Tere
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Tere,

I've been following this shut-down, furlough fiasco with a very queasy feeling. I've been thinking about you and these field notes confirm what I was afraid of; you've been furloughed. I think and I hope this farce will be ended. It's becoming politically untenable for the fools who started it. May they be politically undone.

Fingers crossed and best to you, Tere.

Chris
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Tere,

I've been thinking about you all week and wondering how you and your bees are faring. Been thinking about the hundreds of thousands of other government workers who have been furlough as well the ripple effect in their communities. I read a few of these posts on fb and was hoping you would bring them here as field notes, which is what they really are. I'm happy to be wrong, but I don't think this is going to end well for anyone. Already damage in being done to so many, and for what?
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Thanks, Chris and Kat, for registering your responses. No. It's not going to pan out well. Not for anybody. Not for anything. They say, at least originally, 800,000 civil servants were furloughed. But it is a fluid number. I heard today the DOD is poised to bring back to work maybe 400,000 civilian workers. Something like that. Then there are, as I hope my immediately upthread post indicates adequately, a countless number of contract workers, not on the govt payroll, directly impacted. Then there are the functions of govt effected. Food inspectors furloughed. National Guardsmen furloughed. Agencies such as the EPA unable to inspect sites possibly contravening EPA rules and laws. The ripple effect almost extending beyond the horizon.

Here is a not so small example of the larger impact:

[sign in to see URL]

I try not to dwell on how the situation affects me personally, choosing instead to observe and comprehend. I will say it is numbing. I have a new post from a few hours ago.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Oct/5/2013, 8:30 pm
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Saturday, 5 Oct.





Day 5 of the furlough. I don't have any tea party friends. I have a number of socially, politically, religiously conservative friends, people I can love and respect without stop. Good people all. But no tea party friends. The reason is simple. Theirs is the politics of revenge and, ultimately, of self-hatred. Ideology, in its first instance, is never rational but irrational and what it speaks to is motive. In the tea party I observe 2 motives. For the few, the politicians mostly, it amounts to a Machievellian, purely cynical bid for personal power through whatever means. For the many, mostly the rank and file, motive involves revenge on life itself for having become a failure psychologically. This is why I say that, ultimately, their motive speaks to self-hatred. I can feel sorry for these people. But in their ideology they lose their humanity, a self-evident truth. Ideology always strips a person of her humanity. System doesn't matter. On the right, on the left. On Wall St, and capitalism is an ideology, a belief system, and among feminists. Environmentalists too, which is the demon I persoanally have to fight against. But the loss of humanity is a killer. That loss, to me, amounts to this: you lose the ability to put yourself in somebody else's shoes. I know a man. He's a GS 8. Mid 50s. 30 plus years in the system and he makes 55K annually. Married late, with 3 children, 2 of whom have special (expensive) needs, wife limited in her earning power due to a physical disability. A woman I know with as many years in civil service. A GS 6. Income less than 50K a year. With charges, children and grandchildren. The GS system a peculiar system to anyone in the private sector. Unless you have an Upper who favors you, service, expertise, experience, length of service does not guarantee preferment or reward, since, that is what is expected of you. Those are the parameters of your job. My point is this. The tea party looks at the federal government in the abstract: it is a concept, a problem, an abstract evil to some. But it is none of that. It is people in public service. Some selfishly, some selflessly, some passionately, some lifers looking to retirement only. But all people working as public servants. And it isn't just the tea partiers. It's most Americans who see an abstract problem, an equation, a concept; who do not see people. I wonder what that says about all of us. I wonder if we actually see each other or just an abstraction. Friends, family, lovers, spouses, children, neighbors. That's the existential thing I'm coming to and with time on my hands I'd rather not have.


Tere
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Right. Day 5's immediately preceding post. This is what I'm about today. Politically, I'm left of left. With respect to the Republican right there are many sides and faces. Corporate interests, conservatives who have never accepted New Deal legislation, still wanting an America in place on or around, say, 1928: no unions, no worker rights, no social safety net, no racial, certainly no gender equality; and, of course, tea party extremists who have no agenda other than anger and self-hatred. Almost forgot the religious conservatives who will allign themselves with any party if it means they can put forward their agenda, in my view, their backward agenda of intolerance and white supremecy.

But none of that is what I'm thinking on today. I'm thinking on a fundamental failure, a reduction, a digitalization of what it means to be human. To me what the furlough and shutdown of govt have brought to the fore is an existential crisis. Post-modernism has come home to roost. It isn't exactly a new situation, to a capitalist, say, a worker has always been a function viewed in the abstract, not a human being. But this abstractioning of indivuals has reached to a new level, even beyond that attenuating on the conditions of mass-society. How to say it? Defined by what I do I am many things. I am a poet, a lover of women, a bee keeper, a thinker, a consumer, a voter, a car driver. These are a few activities that define me according to one function or another, which is delimiting enough. But if I come to a public place, a town hall meeting say, and I speak and a man or woman who is against govt finds what I say objectionable, against their views, for them I am metamorphosized into govt itself. Not just that but I am their idea of govt, an abstraction.

I think I've made it clear how I feel about the extreme right in politics. The tea partiers' politics is the politics of revenge and self-hatred. The psychology involved here is axiomatic and demonstrated. But, at least on this one point, what is true on the right can be assayed, tested on the left. To a feminist I can be an idea of a dominating patriarchy. Not because of who I am, what I've demonstrated or done, but because I am a projected idea of a man. The same logic holds true among environmentalists who might find in me the idea of environmental degradation. Same is true among African-Americans. More than once I've been mistaken as an idea of whiteness because of the color of my skin.

Does any of this make sense? The tragedy here goes far deeper than a conflict between ideolgies. Goes deeper than the conflict between self-interests. It goes to what happens when a human being, in your eyes or in mine, is no longer a human being but an idea and, mayhaps, an idea you or I hate. Oh, it's an existential crisis all right. It may be a spiritual crisis, at least if you are one who believes in the Enlightment's humanistic ideals. I hold out no hope. Just a thunder storm signing a cold front coming in.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Oct/6/2013, 8:22 pm
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It does make sense, Tere. What we can end up with is two people (or groups of people) doing this to each other: I see my idea of you and not you, while you see your idea of me, not me. IOW, I don't see the human being in you, and you don't see the human being in me. Not only that, but in the process, we also lose the human being in ourselves; we lose our humanity and our empathy. That's when we see in each other an idea we hate. But I also think it happens when we mistake each other for ideas we love. Or it can happen if we carry our idea love to an extreme. Then we fail to see the projected idea we love as a human being who has flaws and frailities. This is bad news, too, if we then start to compare ourselves to that idea[l person] we love.

Thanks for shifting focus and zooming out to give us a glimpse of the bigger picture dynamics. I am reminded of the story he told about one of his mentors in your Big Dawg thread.

Last edited by Katlin, Oct/9/2013, 10:56 am
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Posting a day late:

Day 9. The furlough. Damn good thing my habit is to pay bills ahead of schedule. Can still breathe a little. Monday is payday. Fortunately the shutdown started half-way through a pay period. Federal employees, at least in my agency, will get half a paycheck. Or so I'm told. Been thinking a lot on all the times I've been down and out. On the road with thumb out, panhandling in Manhatten. Working and living with migrant farm workers in OR. Driving to LA for yet another crazy woman sans a job prospect. Other places. But it was all elective back then. I was looking for adventure. Ain't looking for adventure now. Looking to get by and do a job, see to science. Keeping in touch with co-workers. Stress starting to show. People preoccupied, stressed, bad dreaming, looking to hold it all in. One friend had a bad dream last night, which speaks to the situation. He's driving through a post- Armegaddon like scene. Urban scene I think, maybe like Detroit today. Sees me in battle fatigues and wearing a bandana. Thinks to stop but decides against it being in "the hood." I call that stress induced nightmaring. Riding a nightmare.

Tere
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Thanks for your response, Kat, and for the ackowledgement. Find myself preoccupied, unable to concentrate.

Tere
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Saturday. On Thursday, 17 Oct., I was told to report to work, which I did. And happy to be able to. First thing I did was to visit all my bee yards. Found one D.O. (dead out). That hurt a little but when I rechecked my records I remembered having noted the colony as weak in Sept. So the loss was expected, not so bad. By 2:30 in the afternoon I felt so tired I asked my scientist if I could go home. This I did. I slept for 13 hours that night, getting up maybe 3 times. I figured the stress of the 16 day govt furlough, and what kept me from sleeping more than 5 hours a night for that long, was personal, financial. It's true I was down to my last $. Had enough money to meet a bill due by midnight on the 15th. After that I was screwed. Fortunately, my oldest brother, an old warrior in the struggle against the fascistic right, sent me enough money to get through a few more days. Today, Saturday, I realize something. I was personally stressed, of course. But there was something more. I kept a vigil, probably followed the events of the govt shutdown too closely, more closely than most. Now I understand why. My FB friends you just lived through an attempted coup d'etat. A take over of the State by a fanatical group of right wing extremists. That's what kept me awake and watchful. And I figure it was a dress rehearsal. Next time there will not be bufoons like Palin and Cruz front and center. They are gradually learning tactics by their mistakes. That's all.

Tere
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Sunday. I don't know how it is for other people but, when working or living under stress, my trick is to put my head down and go forward. It is a good trick. It has gotten me through many a crisis. The problem comes after the fact, when I can relax. The somatic, post-trauma reaction is extreme. I'm starting to feel normal again, especially with 3 good nights of sleep, and for the first time since the last day of September.

Immediately preceding post may seem fantastical to some. Even paranoid. But, as I said, I followed the events of the govt. shutdown closely. Clear to me the shutdown was both intended and planned in advance. The House even, secretely, changed a procedural rule on September 30, HR368, to ensure that only one congressperson could bring a bill to the floor that could reopen govt, the majority leader. Normally any member can propose legislation. Clear to me these right wing extremists are capable of destroying government, and therefore democracy, in the name of their ideology. They will not stop. They have not been defeated, only paused. I've said it over and over again. Ideology is a killer of what it means to be a full human being. Any lover of democracy, to the right or to the left, had best heed the danger these extremists pose.

It is also clear to me this country cannot function, economically and socially, without government.

Tere

Tere
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Can't say I disagree with anything you've written, Tere. I'm very glad to know you're back to work.

Chris
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I'm very glad you are back to work too, Tere.

24 billion dollars wasted, money that could have been used to cut costs in the Affordable Care Act and to set up a state-of-the-art website for the insurance exchanges, among other things.
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