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Apr 01 2009

That’s some catch, that Catch 22

You think “enemy combatants” are the only people who can be denied access to an attorney and thrown in prison without having been convicted of any crime? Wrong-o. In Delta County, Michigan, USA, they’re doing it to homeless single mothers.

I allude to the egregious tale of Edwina Nowlin, who earlier this month was jailed for being poor. Behold a summary of the case, which I filched from the ACLU’s press release and legal brief. Recall that I am a spinster aunt, not a lawyer, so if my taking poetic license with some of the finer legal points chaps your hide, kindly kiss my entire monkey butt.

It’s like this. Nowlin’s teenage son is in juvenile detention. The court, skipping the nuisance of assessing Nowlin’s financial situation beforehand, has ordered her to cough up $104 per month to reimburse the state for imprisoning her kid. But Nowlin hasn’t got a pot to piss in. She lost her house after being laid off. She’s scrapping by on occasional part-time gigs and crashing on friends’ couches. Like all Americans, she’s already $17,000 in debt, and whatever wages she earns are being garnished. All this, while trying to support another teenage son.

When she can’t produce the dough, the judge holds Nowlin in contempt. Sentence: 30 days.

The 30-day sentence is fixed, by the way. Even if she had paid the $104 on Day 1, the judgment would have kept Nowlin imprisoned for the full month. Thus does Nowlin’s civil contempt sentence morph seamlessly and unconstitutionally into a criminal one. At which juncture Nowlin requests the court-appointed lawyer to which all persons accused of crimes are entitled. But apparently the judge has never heard of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Nowlin is dee-nied.

A few days later, they let her out of jail long enough to pick up a paycheck from one of her odd jobs. The check is for $178.53, more than enough to cover her son’s bill at juvy. Things are looking up. But wait! The Delta County Sheriff makes Nowlin sign the check over to the jail to cover her own “room and board”! Plus 22 bucks for a drug test and booking fee!

To recap: Nowlin’s got to pay $104 a month for her son’s imprisonment, but since she’s in jail for being poor she couldn’t earn the money even if she had a job, which she doesn’t, so next month she’ll be in contempt again, beginning the cycle anew. The situation is ludicrous. It’s as though a civil rights-era black-and-white courtroom drama crash-landed into a Dickens novel.* A white-haired, pink-faced judge in a pale linen suit, a sheriff in Ray-Bans and beer-gut, one child jailed, a second left motherless, a beleaguered pauper doomed to languish in debtor’s prison with no hope of release, the untenable and insane condition that a destitute person must finance her own incarceration.

I’m a spinster aunt, not a mentalist, so I will never know precisely what caused this judge’s justice lobes to malfunction to such an astonishing degree, but it would not be pushing the limits of reason too far to speculate that a lifelong immersion in unexamined patriarchal privilege has caused a toxic buildup of the chemical compound assholamine. Studies conducted at the Twisty Institute for the Study of Lobal Instability have shown that this compound is found exclusively in the lobes of people who have power over other people. Assholamine produces quite the buzz.

In any event, there can be little doubt that this Voice of Authority, drawing on his** professional familiarity with the Global Accords Governing the Fair Use of Women, seeks, with his ruling, to appease the gods/ restore the natural order/ satisfy public demand for the state control of the sex class. He punishes Nowlin for daring to exist in a condition of poverty while demonstrating, through the son in juvy, an unconscionable inadequacy as a mother.

It blows all available lobes in rapid succession to contemplate that people in positions of power are capable of justifying this kind of bogus shit, but you see it over and over again: Americans hate poor people, especially if those poor people are single women with kids. Impoverished single women with kids in juvy are a special kind of abomination. That’s your patriarchy at work.

UPDATE: Happily I am informed that the ACLU got Nowlin sprung yesterday. But damn, somebody needs to get that judge off the bench and into some sort of grim state institution for the incarceration of persons too mean to roam free.

_____________________
* This post at 2 Political Junkies also makes the observation that Nowlin’s situation is Dickensian. I read that post before I wrote mine, so it is possible that I cribbed the allusion, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Which I reveal now in the interest of transparency in the blogular process, attribution, and good manners.

** Yes, I am perfectly aware that patriarchy can similarly infect women judges, but we’ll just assume that this one’s a dude so I don’t have to keep typing “he/she.”

64 comments

3 pings

  1. MissPrism

    Assholamine. Of course. It’s what you get when the enzyme malevolase works on privilegic acid.

  2. not a dudetiful wife

    For shame…

    And yet…if she had a lobbyist in Washington…they’d give her money. As it is, we’re wringing our hands over whether Madoff’s family gets to keep real estate. Some of these things are mechanisms and faceless, but it seems like real people in the mechanism could speak up. If you are a regular workers in the justice system, not a judge or management, or social work, sometimes you don’t have the power to do anything, to waive anything. Wouldn’t it be great if they sorta unionized and shaped the things they worked on everyday with some power, after all they SEE the people?

    But for the “good hair” people on top, it is in their power to reach in and do something.

  3. Orange

    And that judge needs to be billed for his confinement, too.

    Assholamine! I knew there had to be a scientific explanation.

  4. Kathleen

    Twisty & Miss Prism, I am quoting you both whenever I can. :)

    Debtor’s prison. Lovely. What do you bet she is black? Patriarchy plus racism is a powerful force for evil.

  5. Twisty

    Nowlin’s race was not mentioned by the ACLU. It’s a bit on the racial profiley side, don’t you think, to add up what little we do know about her and surmise that she’s African-American?

  6. MLH

    Twisty, this is not an all-American phenomenon, unfortunately. You are a woman, and you are poor, and you have kids, that means you are worth nothing. Except, of course, if you are a woman, and poor, and you have kids and you are young. Then, there is a chance that some guy may think you are fuckable, in that case, you may get someone to lend you a hand. So, I am venturing here to say that, considering this lady has two kids who are teenagers, perhaps she is not young anymore, she no longer is to be considered fuckable by the powers-that-be (the patriarchy), which is what she was thrown in jail.

  7. Kathleen

    Twisty — I wasn’t adding up what we know about *her*, but what we know about her brutal, mean-spirited treatment. As all over the world, those penalties do get thrown at women, but specifically in the U.S., at black people too, and black women fall under both “insane castigation” categories in the U.S.

    Not to get into it, but the comment does smack a little of “being a real feminist means throwing everything you know about race out the window” which has, as you know, a pretty problematic history in American feminism.

  8. Catherine Martell

    To judge from this photo, Nowlin is white.
    http://www.dailypress.net/page/content.detail/id/511316.html

  9. hero

    Avoiding using the word “I” at the beginning of a comment, she added a dependent clause and only then got to the point: I love Twisty with a devotion bordering on cyber-stalking creepy. And MissP., you’re next.

  10. hero

    GOEBEL!!!!! THE JUDGE’S NAME IS GOEBEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. belenen

    just… horrifying.

    “it would not be pushing the limits of reason too far to speculate that a lifelong immersion in unexamined patriarchal privilege has caused a toxic buildup of the chemical compound assholamine. Studies conducted at the Twisty Institute for the Study of Lobal Instability have shown that this compound is found exclusively in the lobes of people who have power over other people. Assholamine produces quite the buzz.”

    HAHA! I LOVE IT. I’m soooo adding this new word to my vocabulary.

  12. PhysioProf

    And there is no doubt that the sick-fuck asshole judge absofuckinglutely enjoyed putting this poor woman in her place.

  13. yttik

    “Assholamine”, fabulous. And “malevolase” and “privilegic acid”, too. I’m enjoying the chemistry lesson.

  14. Courtney

    If you are a regular workers in the justice system, not a judge or management, or social work, sometimes you don’t have the power to do anything, to waive anything. Wouldn’t it be great if they sorta unionized and shaped the things they worked on everyday with some power

    You can’t. It’s illegal for public employees to unionize.

    And that story is freakin’ crazy. Ever hear of a collections agency?!

  15. VibratingLiz

    Dickens? My first thought was Kafka.

  16. Ayla

    PhysioProf: “And there is no doubt that the sick-fuck asshole judge absofuckinglutely enjoyed putting this poor woman in her place.”

    Not only that, but he went home at night and bloviated (love that word) to his wife, neighbors and anyone else who would listen about how he was actually doing her a “favor” and teaching her a lesson about “responsibility.” Why, she had choices like everyone else in life and it’s on her if she’s in debtor’s prison now!

  17. Ousighian_Zodahs

    The judge is the Right Honorable (*snort*) Robert E. Goebels, of the Delta County Probate Court. I’m still looking for the fucker’s e-mail.

  18. Anna Belle

    Dickens? Kafka? I was thinking Dostoevsky. But anyway.

    Fuck that judge. Fuck him or her into the grave, but fuck the whole system too. This shit drives me bonkers.

  19. sezhoo

    Yes, this is all sorts of wrong and the judge needs to be removed. But America does not hate poor, single minority mothers. I own apartment buildings and can tell you first hand that the highest rents are paid by Section 8. Landlords don’t get much say in what they’re paid either; there’s an inspection with everything entered into a computer program that spits out the rent. These women can be perfectly healthy and capable of working but if they do, they lose their welfare so they don’t.

    The day they move in, a truck from a rental company shows up with brand spanking new furniture (the “old” stuff is left at the last apartment for the landlord to deal with). They routinely have huge flat screen tvs and nice cars, they all have cell phones, new and different spectacular hair weaves every few weeks, their nails are perfectly polished and their kids wear baby gap. It’s crazy. Contrast that with the 2 white sisters living in one of my 2 bedroom places. One has hep C and spends $160 per month on meds, the other just lost her job as a cashier at a grocery store. Neither of them qualifies for Sec 8 (no kids) and neither gets medical help. They’re on their own in the good ole (boy) U S of A.

  20. tinfoil hattie

    Americans hate poor people, especially if those poor people are single women with kids.

    And poor single women with kids who ask for welfare somehow do NOT count as “stay-at-home Moms.”

    The state also needs to reimburse this woman and double the amount she spent, just for good measure.

  21. Agasaya

    Sezhoo:

    If you are taking money from section 8 for people who don’t qualify for it on the basis of their assets, just report them to HUD. You have no idea how many women, with and without kids are living in shelters, church steps, cars and basements around the country. In some cities you can’t even get on a 7 year waiting list for vouchers because of the overwhelming need for housing assistance.

    Report them. You can provide quality housing for many who are desperate for it by preventing fraud. By representing your particular tenants as typical, it affirms public prejudice against offering such vouchers to the poor. It rewards the patriarchy which provides such vouchers with the greatest reluctance and with the greatest assurance to a cynical public that women don’t need this kind of help.

  22. AntiLoquax

    This situation is just a more obvious case of what all people at the bottom of hierarchies live with: the fact that the more you need a certain source of power, the harder it is to get. It’s the basis of all of them, and the reason for their perniciousness.

    Sezhoo, you milk non-labor income from some of the most vulnerable in society. The least you can do is stop being a racist ass on top of it. Your tenants’ weaves are not the problem.

  23. Veronica

    sezhoo:

    Yes, our welfare system is bollocks. The only problem is, it needs to be reformed to be more inclusive, not less so.

    new and different spectacular hair weaves every few weeks

    Also, if we could have a conversation about welfare without the racist tropes, that would be swell.

  24. VibratingLiz

    Excuse me, the racism in sexhoo’s post just set my hair on fire. I had to read it twice to make sure it actually said what I thought it said. That’s pretty horrifying and offensive.

  25. Twisty

    Kathleen said: “I wasn’t adding up what we know about *her*, but what we know about her brutal, mean-spirited treatment.

    [...]

    [T]he comment does smack a little of “being a real feminist means throwing everything you know about race out the window” which has, as you know, a pretty problematic history in American feminism.”

    Had you omitted the speculation concerning Nowlin personally, and merely stated that women of color are often singled out for mistreatment by racist courts, you’d have gotten no argument from me.

    The problem with “what do you bet Nowlin is black” is that it’s speculation derived from an assumption proceeding from a generalization. In other words, it doesn’t reflect what you know about race. It reflects what you don’t know about an individual.

    If that makes any sense.

  26. Deanna

    I’m not in a mood to be polite to sezhoo. Maybe after I reclaim my obstreporal lobe. I wish I could say the following with the vicious-but-well-written edge used by Twisty in her posts, but I just can’t”

    sezhoo: Shut the fuck up you racist douchebag. Not only do I need to recollect the exploded portions of my obstreporal lobe, but now I have to shower to get the ick off.

  27. Twisty

    I know what you mean, Liz, I had to read it twice, too. Jesus Christ, did the Bigotry Bus break down outside my blog today on its way to “Stormfront”?

  28. Betsy

    “They routinely have huge flat screen tvs and nice cars, they all have cell phones, new and different spectacular hair weaves every few weeks, their nails are perfectly polished and their kids wear baby gap. It’s crazy.”

    I don’t think it’s crazy. If it’s true, I’m glad these mothers and their children have nice things and have what they need and even have enough to clothe and groom themselves beyond what is absolutely necessary. Sezhoo makes that sound like a bad thing.

    But I doubt that this example is entirely true and I am certain that it’s nt representative.

  29. Betsy

    RRRR! Coda! The more I think about sezhoo’s comment, the angrier I get.

    God forbid a woman and her children should have nice clothes or ornament themselves, as if they thought they were worthy of respect and dignity. These aren’t human beings, they’re DEPENDENT PARASITES, and they should be going around in rags, living under bridges and in doorways, and they should act and look shamefaced about it, too. The god-damned parasites.

    The committing of DEPENDENCY is an act that deserves brutal, brutal treatment. Anyone with the gall not to be utterly self-sufficient deserves to be ill-housed, ostracized and scorned.

    In contrast, of course, to those of us who are free of ties and independent, and do not need other human beings, and have never needed to be taken care of; those of us who have always been entirely responsible for ourselves from Day One, and never received a subsidy or a helping hand from anyone — those of us who have never had our bottoms wiped, and never will need to have them wiped again.

  30. rootlesscosmo

    @Courtney:

    You can’t. It’s illegal for public employees to unionize.

    Thank the lard, this isn’t the case; in fact, the fastest-growing unions in the US are SEIU and AFSCME, which represent public employees. Likewise teachers have the AFT. There’s plenty of room to criticize any or all of these, but they’re legal, and they do give public employees representation and protection.

  31. Orange

    As rootlesscosmo says, yes, public employees can unionize. The cops? The firefighters? Workers at public hospitals too? Yep. The unionization is what helps keep these jobs a fair deal for the workers. Public school teachers don’t get paid a ton, but they often have great benefits that make them loath to move to the private sector–and as someone with a kid in public school, I’m glad.

    Sezhoo is ready for banning, no?

  32. Courtney

    Yes and no.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_labor_law#Regulation_of_wages.2C_benefits_and_working_conditions

    “The NLRA does not, on the other hand, cover governmental employees, with the exception of employees of the United States Postal Service, a quasi-public entity. The Federal Labor Relations Act provides for much more limited rights for employees of the federal government; Congress has, moreover, excluded a number of these workers in the United States Department of Homeland Security and elsewhere from even these limited protections.

    Federal law does not provide employees of state and local governments with the right to organize or engage in union activities, except to the extent that the United States Constitution protects their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. The Constitution provides even less protection for governmental employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining: while it bars public employers from retaliating against employees for forming a union, it does not require those employers to recognize that union, much less bargain with it.

    Most states provide public employees with limited statutory protections; a few permit public employees to strike in support of their demands in some circumstances. Some states, however, particularly in the South, make it illegal for a governmental entity to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union.”

    In my state, public employees can belong to a union but it doesn’t do them any good. There is a state-run grievance board, etc.

  33. yttik

    Sigh. Jumping into the fray here and blaming the patriarchy.

    One reason you will often see poor women dressing their kids and themselves nicely is because they are also in a catch 22. If you don’t at least appear middle class you risk loosing your children to CPS, DCFS, or whatever do gooder comes along to enjoy power tripping you. You are also combating society’s perceptions that say poor equals dirty, ragged, and irresponsible. In the US it seldom does, not because poor people have secret stores of cash, but because wealthy people throw so much crap away. You can buy designer clothes, fancy furniture and big screen TV’s, for a few dollars in this country if you shop second hand. People also receive hand me downs from their relatives, hairweaves from their friends, and baby gap gifts.

    What’s appalling is that we are ignoring 44,000 rugs and office redecorations, 93,000 dollar petty cash increases for congress, and instead directing our envy towards some mother’s low income housing subsidy. It’s like a bunch of bottom feeders fighting over a picked carcass. Meanwhile the real wealth is being siphoned off right under our noses.

  34. Tigs

    I have had two different public employee unionized jobs— and I’ve got the dental work to prove it! Governmental unionized jobs are the only kind of unionized jobs that aren’t disappearing.
    I believe what many governmental workers (unionized or no) can’t do is strike! As an employee of the judiciary, we were prohibited from striking. As an employee of a state university, I’m pretty sure we can walk out whenever we want.

    Now if only solidarity striking were protected!

  35. No Longer Quivering

    I’ve been searching for an email address for Twisty because I’d love to introduce her to our “No Longer Quivering” blog ~ my friend and I were pretty thoroughly steeped in the “Quiverfull”/patriarchy movement promoted by Vision Forum and others ~ I even promoted these ideas through my articles in my own “pro-life, pro-family” newspaper as well as in several popular home school books and magazines.

    It made our lives unbearable! We’ve left it now ~ we’re “No Longer Quivering”: http://2spb.blogspot.com/

    Vyckie

  36. Twisty

    “Sezhoo is ready for banning, no?”

    Yes. Done and done.

    Tangent: ever wonder where this “done and done” thing came from? Apparently I’ve been ( and continue to be) sort of using it wrong all this time.

  37. Squiggy

    On one hand I REALLY want sezhoo banned. On the other, it’s interesting to hear from people who think they are not racist and misogynist, fucking hang themselves in the town square.

  38. rootlesscosmo

    @Tigs:

    Now if only solidarity striking were protected!

    Amen. It was legal until the Taft-Hartley act of 1948. Unionists from other countries have a hard time getting their minds around the concept that it’s illegal here. They also tend to be perplexed by “authorized bargaining agent”–which smells to them like the state-run “unions” under fascism– and “employer paid health insurance,” because they take it for granted that everybody’s got health insurance.

    /Other tangent.

  39. Twisty

    “Dickens? Kafka? I was thinking Dostoevsky.”

    The 19th century. So rife with dudely authors harshing on the dominant culture’s beef with the lower classes.

  40. keshmeshi

    Nice racket they’ve got going there. They receive taxes to pay for jails/prisons, many of which are likely run by private contractors, AND they filch individual convicts or their families for the cost of incarceration.

  41. martine

    Where’s the delinquent’s father?! No mention of him, just blame the mother – typical. IBTP!!!!

  42. FatWhiteMaleEngineerHumanist

    The local newspaper wrote an article with some more information:
    http://www.dailypress.net/page/content.detail/id/511335.html?nav=5003

    Included in the article are two photographs of Ms. Nowlin. She’s being persecuted for being poor, overweight, female, and failing to resemble Paris Hilton. I’m liking her more and more.

    The probate court judge is Hon. Robert Goebel: office 906-789-5112. No fair noticing the similarity between his surname and that of another famous political figure from 65 years ago.

    The local paper is the “Daily Press”, at:
    600 Ludington St., Escanaba, MI 49829
    FAX: (906) 786-3752
    Toll Free: 1-800-743-0609

    Online submissions of Letters to the Editor of the Daily Press can be entered here:
    http://24.213.59.98/vnr/add_submission.asp?categoryID=718&publicationID=77

    Want to send Ms Nowlin some money; support a sister in need? It won’t solve her problems with the P, but it will solve some of her immediate personal problems. Seems like she could use some love. Send a check to Edwina Jean Nowlin in care of her local attorney:
    Karl Numinen
    102 W Washington St., Suite 106
    Marquette, MI 49855
    (906) 226-2580
    Email Mr. Numinen: http://pencenuminen.com/contact

    If you’d like to write a letter to the newspaper or go up Goebel’s chain of command, and you don’t happen to be experienced at doing that sort of thing, I’d like to give you some advice. I know that sucks, and I really am sorry, but if you’re new to this I’m sure you don’t want to be ineffective and I don’t want your efforts to go to waste. So, as quickly as I can here are some thoughts:
    1) Don’t just call them assholes; have an objective. Like aligning the citizenry of rural Delta County MI against this abuse, and against the court.
    2) Ms. Nowlin is a woman, most of you are women, and half of Delta County is women. It is much easier to radicalize someone who is already somewhat inclined to empathize with your topic. Write towards the women; the men mostly won’t care anyway.
    3) Humiliation is your friend. Assess the local fears and use them by pointing out how the behaviour you want stopped is exacerbating the fear object. Example: people from rural areas generally don’t like being thought of as out of touch, or “hayseeds”. A judge that is making them look a century out of date won’t be popular. This tactic has been used successfully against the Klan: bad for business, bad for tourism, and bad for the local image.
    4) Be brief, and make your case easy to understand. Most people are nowhere near as literate or educated as the average poster on this blog seems to be. That is not an elitist slur, it is simply a practical matter. You don’t want to lose your audience, you want to convert them to your viewpoint.

    OK, my unasked for advice is over. Please don’t kill me, I mean well.

    David

  43. Lindsey

    You have to pay to be in prison?! Does that mean if you legally declare bancrupcy and pursue a life as a homeless wanderer you are immune from being put in jail because it isn’t profitable? Makes becoming a freegan a lot more appealing. Or a hobo assassin.

  44. Radfeminising

    Whilst all of you amazing women are busy blaming the patriarchy, and rightly so, the rest of the world seems to be obsessed with blaming the mother.It seems to be some kind of trend…der…

    The Australian court system just took these two kids off their mother because she did not facilitate the worshipping of their father. Aparently he moved interstate and because the mother allowed her kids to have an opinion about the man that was not phallic-worship material, they were – poof – just taken!

    Another case involves the blaming of a woman who happened to make a career out of politics and because she was a politician – not the god-given gift of housewifery – her son turned into a drug dealer & is now in jail. He would be just another law-abiding, brain-dead citizen if she just stayed the fuck at home!!!

    Shame on these women. Prison seems the only reasonable reponse…

    Assholes!
    I definiately blame the patriarchy!!!!

  45. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    And yet, Douchenozzle Extraordinaire Ted Stevens is deemed worthy of a Get Out of Jail Free pass.

  46. Helen Huntingdon

    Oh for heaven’s sake. The idiot who doesn’t like poor people having nice clothes evidently never heard of secondhand stores. I’m a financially struggling grad student, yet I wear Ann Taylor most days; it’s all other people’s discards and cheaper than buying new clothes at Kmart. And Baby Gap clothes and the like last a lot longer than one kid will fit them, so every family I’ve ever met has an extended clothing swap going on of hand-me-downs among children.

  47. Kelsey

    It baffles me how some middle-class people will practically tear out their hair and scream blue murder at the thought of people on welfare (especially if they are racial minorities) taking tax dollars, but won’t utter a peep about the corporate giants or the military industrial complex, which takes far, far more money to keep afloat. Utterly confusing. Not that I’m trying to let a classist, ignorant person pull a threadjack, but it’s a phenomenon I’ve been witnessing more and more frequently, and also didn’t expect to see here.

  48. Jodie

    Helen, I have to second that — thrift stores and garage sales can make dollars stretch a long way. Must poor people dress in rags and give up all dignity in order for some people to deem them worthy of assistance? Yikes.

  49. LCforevah

    Oh, sweet, pogo-jumping Jeebus!

    I’m in the middle of reading “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew:From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life
    in Nineteenth-Century England” by Daniel Pool.

    It turns out that the workhouse, where the poorest of the poor were sent for the smallest of infractions, was made DELIBERATELY GRIM, so that the poor couldn’t get comfortable. The authorities of the time were afraid that the poor would take advantage of the situation if the workhouse was too accommodating. Much of what Dickens injected into his novels was mere reportage, he did not exaggerate the brutalities of his era–so I’m finding out!

    Why oh why does American society always seems to foster a group of would-be authorities who want to take us all back to Dickensian standards? And it’s so Christian–as in–I am my brother’s keeper.
    /snark.

  50. Ugly In Pink

    OK, my unasked for advice is over. Please don’t kill me, I mean well.

    David

    David. The advice is helpful, but the mock fear of the mean feminists is not. It’s obnoxious, and stinks of making fun of the very real fear women generally have of men, for good reason. Don’t do it again.

  51. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Sezhoo, besides being a racist in need of banning (thank you) lives under a rock. For what it’s worth:

    A few years ago when I was into this sort of thing I found a Chanel suit, a Dior dress, and perhaps seven high-end designer blazers at my local Goodwill, in my size, within a six month period, ranging from $7-$25 apiece.

    Much of the Target gear still had the store tags on it. GAP shirt? A dollar.

    I stocked my bar with real lead crystal, obtained at the Goodwill for 99 cents apiece. Now when someone breaks a wine glass I say HAH!

    I’ve found silverplated serving sets. Whole china collections. Brand new golf shoes. Large oil paintings. An oriental rug. Appliances. The place is a freaking GOLD MINE.

    Bottom line: You bet your bippy that people on public assistance shop at second hand stores and end up looking better than the average American schlub, and for much much less dough. We’re all insane if the Goodwill or Salvation Army isn’t the first thing we check before going to the stores, even if we’ve got boatloads of money. It’s recycling. It’s good for the community. What is not to like!

    Jeezus.

    But, this story. It so boggles. “A civil rights-era black-and-white courtroom drama crash-landed into a Dickens novel.” Indeed.

  52. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    http://georgianaduchessofdevonshire.blogspot.com/2008/12/debtors-prison.html

    (very short) History of debtors prisons, via the Gossip Guide to the 18th Century

  53. Agasaya

    Twisty,

    Thank you for banning sezhoo. The strain of trying to be polite nearly killed me – not aware of the rules which allowed me to actually tell her that SHE was the source of section 8 fraud.

    You can bet she wasn’t going to take in tenants who were poorly dressed or not fresh out of the salon, for fear of someone un-decoratively impoverished occupying her overpriced housing units and scaring the neighbors. The major ‘fraud’ usually comes in where roommates pool funds (not allowed) permitting an adequate standard of living including the acquisition of such frivolous items as food and clothing. Having an additional party who can provide child care for room/board so a parent can work, is another important aid which is not usually allowed. Since some of these women work multiple jobs, isn’t it best to have someone care for their kids in the home and also obtain a residence, all for the price of a single voucher?

    I’ve worked in every slum in NYC and those women didn’t choose a life of poverty nor were they afraid of hard work. A life of poverty is harder work than sezhoo ever dreamed about.

  54. veganrampage

    Sezhoo, you despicable moronic racist gimboid you-
    You don’t need children to qualify for Section 8. I am a Section 8 tenant and childfree, so I know this as fact. Section 8 is a federal program, so you can’t use the different states/different rules argument which I assume you would if you were not banned.
    Then again, if you are a Section 8 landlord who thinks that program offers the highest possible rents and that one needs children to qualify, your purposeful stupidity is beyond the reach of mere mortals.
    I condemn you to live the rest of your life as yourself.
    SHE hath spaketh.

  55. PhysioProf

    If you’d like to write a letter to the newspaper or go up Goebel’s chain of command, and you don’t happen to be experienced at doing that sort of thing, I’d like to give you some advice. I know that sucks, and I really am sorry, but if you’re new to this I’m sure you don’t want to be ineffective and I don’t want your efforts to go to waste.

    This comment is really fucking annoying me. And every time I read it, it annoys me even more.

  56. Agasaya

    Risking the wrath due me for over-posting on this thread, it is important to address Lindsay’s question, tho it t’were made tongue-in-cheek:

    “Does that mean if you legally declare bancrupcy and pursue a life as a homeless wanderer you are immune from being put in jail because it isn’t profitable?”

    It happens to be against the law to be homeless. Well, you are allowed not to have a home as long as you don’t try to ‘be’ someplace else. You can be arrested under any number of statutes such as

    -vagrancy (You’d better have a couple hundred on you and hope you don’t get mugged.)

    -loitering (You have to keep moving and not stand in place no matter how tired you may be.)

    -trespass (What do you mean, you’re going to sleep there!)

    -use of car as residence (It is illegal to sleep in your car, even on your own property or with permission of a property owner in most states.)

    Then there’s my favorite statute from which the others were born – “I don’t want to have to look out of my window and see you there or pass you on the street. It is just SO upsetting.”

    Yep, against the law to be homeless. And they can cart you off to jail for it.

  57. Twisty

    Gaw! I have just read the gasbag dudely advice to the scary yet naive yet hysterical yet irate yet inarticulate little feminists on how to write a letter to the editor, and I’m crackin the fuck UP! Fuckin A, I ain’t seen a howler like this since the Mandos era. It’s fuckin textbook! Long and insulting! Awesome!

    Hah! He’s sorry, and it sucks, but dang it, he just has to help us! He cares too much to let us go off half-cocked into the big, bad, confusing world of writing to newspapers without understanding what we’re up against!

    His concern! So touching. Touching MY ENTIRE MONKEY BUTT! Gaw haw!

    But he MEANS WELL!

    Gawhawhah!

    Remember, ladies, “don’t just call them assholes”! Gaw! “Have an objective”! Gaw haw!

    Anyway, sayonara, astonishingly patronizing concern-dude. You’re an asshole!

    Guess what my objective is!

    Gawhohohohaw! Gawhawhawhooooo!

  58. Azundris

    At the risk of explaining hero’s mirth …
    “Goebel” is German for puke.
    http://www.dict.cc/englisch-deutsch/puke.html

    (When needing to write umlauts on computers or typewriters that don’t have them, the diacritic may be substituted with an e, so ö becomes oe. “Goebeln” is the verb, to puke, and “Goebel” — or more commonly, “Kotze” —, the result.)

  59. Comrade PhysioProf

    His concern! So touching. Touching MY ENTIRE MONKEY BUTT! Gaw haw!

    MONKEY BUTT!!!!111!!11!ELEVENTY!11!!

  60. ivyleaves

    Jack London’s non-fiction account of his “undercover” time as a street person in London at the turn-of-the-century is an eye-opener on the crime of being poor. Free text with tiny photos The People of the Abyss

  61. LCforevah

    You know, Twisty, the dude is an engineer. It could just be Asperger’s Syndrome.

  62. veganrampage

    From the dewdly advice-

    “Write towards the women; the men mostly won’t care anyway.”

    The men don’t care? Who woulda thunk it? I learn so much on this site. Thanks for that incisive insight. After 50 years living in a patriarchy I was just beginning to sense that.

  63. Twisty

    ivyleaves, I’ve been transfixed with this Jack London dealio. It reminds me a little of Orwell’s down’n'out in Paris memoir. Thanks.

  64. Agasaya

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/06/opinion/06mon4.html?th&emc=th

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