Rahm Emanuel apologizes to Chicago . . . for something really pathetic

September 26, 2014 at 2:50 pm (WTF) (, , , , , , , )

Of all the things that Rahm Emanuel could apologize for, apologizing for wanting to name a high school after President Obama is by far the most ridiculous choice. In fact, it’s not even close to making a list of items he should apologize to CPS about. Why apologize for that, even if the high school in question IS on the north side? Yes, I realize that the Obama’s house is on the south side, but it’s not like only the south side of Chicago is located within the United States of America, and it’s not like there can only be one Barack Obama High School; I’m sure every major city has at least one Washington Elementary. And many of those states didn’t even exist when Washington was alive!

Where does it end? Does that mean only schools in Hyde Park can be named after the president? Should all cities be banned from naming all north-side schools after President Obama? How absurd. High schools in Hawaii, North Dakota, and Timbuktu can be named after President Obama, for chrissakes. Emanuel shouldn’t have whimped out; he should have owned his decision and named the blasted high school after the president. Geesh.

…Okay, rant over.

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Unemployment insurance in Illinois: More crooked than all past Illinois governors

July 7, 2014 at 11:40 am (Working Life) (, , , , , )

A couple summers ago, I was laid off. In order to pay my bills while I looked for work, I applied for unemployment in Illinois (Illinois Department of Employment Security, or IDES), like a person does. I never got the insurance payouts that I was due, and even after two years, the situation still burns. I try to shake it off but I just can’t. But now I think I know why: Because during that time, I put a lot of crap on credit cards (and some non-crap, like my poor sweet kitty’s hospitalizations with lymphoma), and I’ve still not paid them off. For a couple of months in 2012, I had very little (if any) income and it still hurts me financially today, even though I’ve been working more or less full time for the past year.

I have a master’s degree. I’m a relatively bright person. I’ve dealt with red tape in many different contexts, but frankly, IDES got the better of me. The system is designed to deny. Even after my case was accepted, IDES managed to find ways not to pay my unemployment insurance benefits. This is the story of how IDES dicked me over.


When I was laid off, I filed for benefits but was denied. When at first my claim was rejected, I made several phone calls and numerous visits to IDES to find out why. An IDES representative at the desk gave me a form to fill out and told me that a new questionnaire would be sent to my home that I would then return by mail. I asked if I should certify for benefits during the time being, and I was told to hold off because I wouldn’t be able to receive any benefits until the situation was resolved anyway. [This was lie #1]. After several weeks, the questionnaire still had not arrived. After being unable to reach a representative at the local office to inquire about it, I phoned the call center. The man I spoke with told me that it appeared someone at the Joliet office was looking into my case because some documentation was marked “pending.” Shortly thereafter, a debit card arrived, which I mistook as an indication that I was eligible for benefits, so I attempted to certify for benefits online. (I learned later that the cards are mailed independently of the IDES office and had nothing to do with my claim).

When I received a letter denying my benefits for that week (of July 1), I tried to reach the Joliet office by phone, and since I was again unable, I phoned the call center. The representative I spoke with told me to return to the Joliet office to request the Joliet office to have the July 1 certification deleted so that my claims could revert back to May 20, the date of my layoff, which would then enable me to receive benefits for those missing weeks. When I went back to the IDES office, the desk representative told me that there was no such thing as deleting a certification.  [There’s another lie in here somewhere]. This was when I finally had a breakdown in the office. This tantrum was required, it seemed, to see a supervisor. Interestingly, the supervisor reversed the decision, determining that I did qualify. Success! In fact, she was angry that my previous employer had lied to IDES–the HR office had contested my benefits, indicating that there was an oral contract for me to return several months later, which was untrue. The supervisor even read to me the letter submitted by my former employer contesting my rights to benefits in which they lied about my employment status.

The supervisor instructed me to begin certifying for benefits starting that Wednesday, July 18. She also indicated that her decision was retroactive so I should expect to receive payment for benefits for all the weeks between May 20 and the present (a total of eight weeks at $117/week). Another employee brought late certification forms to her office for me to fill out for the weeks of May 20 through July 8. I filled out the forms before I left, but, based on what the supervisor said, I believed them to be a formality. I left the office that day relieved that she had solved the problem.

Several days later, I received a phone call from the Joliet office to inquire about my late certifications, without explaining what was going on or that I was in danger of not receiving benefits. I was confused why I was receiving a phone call, and thought it was just another example of disorganization at the Joliet office. Still, I answered the questions, but explained that the supervisor had already handled the matter, giving her name, so if they needed clarifications, she would be best to explain what had happened in my complicated situation. She said “fine” and hung up. I did not know until several days later (when I received a letter that informed me of possible ineligibility) that this phone call was the appropriate time to make a case for why I filed certifications late. Why would I have, when the supervisor had told me I would receive benefits for those weeks? I then emailed her for help, who emailed back with a message that she was unable to help me over email. (At this point, I decided to use the website and not try to talk to any more IDES representatives, either via phone or in person, so I filed an appeal).

From the time I first visited the IDES Joliet office in early June through the time I received a notice of possible ineligibility on July 20, I believed that because my case was being examined by IDES personnel, and that I was receiving and following advice given by IDES employees, I was following proper channels. I believed that the information I was given in person at the Joliet office was legitimate, including the advice to “hold off on certifying for benefits until the situation was resolved.” I also believed that because a supervisor reviewed my case on July 16 and determined that I had become eligible to receive benefits as of May 20, I should never have had had my late certifications denied, let alone been forced to appeal the denial, or later be put in the position of appealing the decision of the appeal.

What’s so messed up about all this was that I was denied these benefits because I didn’t certify for benefits online each week. The appeal of the denials was denied because I was supposed to keep going online to ask for the money each week. The problem is that I was told specifically NOT to do it.

I was denied benefits based on a paperwork technicality caused by misinformation, which frankly would all be moot had my previous employer not broken the law by lying to IDES.

I tried and tried to have my case reconsidered so I could receive the benefits for the weeks between May 20 and July 8, a measly $117 per week. That’s all I wanted. But appeal after appeal was rejected. After several letters, I was advised to get a lawyer if I wanted to pursue the matter further. I wrote to my Representative and the IDES director, Jay Rowell. Eventually, though, I gave up. No one was reading, really reading, my letters. But I haven’t let it go, which is why I’ve put this together. It’s still stuck in my craw. I have debt because of this, including gasoline I purchased to get me to the IDES office so many times.

I pay what I can on my credit cards, wishing I could do my part to help the economy by buying new stuff instead of using my income to pay off debts from years ago.

You have been found ineligible for benefits.  Refer to your adjudicator’s determination for the issue and section of the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act applicable to your case.  If you wish to appeal this decision and have not already done so, contact your local office.

I am convinced that it’s not a case of disorganization or mismanagement behind the problems at IDES, as it seems on the surface. It’s a purposeful obfuscation. Everything is designed to create loopholes for IDES to deny benefits, from the barrage of letters in the mail with conflicting information and strange wording, to representatives at a phone center who offer completely different advice than the in-person representatives at IDES offices, to specific deadlines and certification days, appeals and phone hearings instead of personnel able to manage a worker’s case . . . I dealt with unemployment insurance in Wisconsin and it was much simpler. But in Illinois, the system is designed to deny. I have an education and English as my first language, so if IDES was able to screw me over, they’re certainly able to screw people who aren’t as privileged as I.

What would be awesome would be a check for those payments they screwed me out of, but what would be even better would be an overhaul of IDES so that other workers don’t have to navigate a quagmire like the one I dealt with.

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IUD 101

July 1, 2014 at 3:44 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

My BFF Karma said yesterday, “Of all the things that piss me off about the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, I think the worst is that Roberts wrote that the company could not pay for things they ‘believe’ cause such and such. So an ignorant boss could ‘believe’ that an IUD caused abortion (even if it doesn’t) and that employee has to suffer from his/her ignorance.”

Hobby Lobby has a problem with four types of contraception, the UID being one of them, and one that is terribly misunderstood. Actually, the concept of pregnancy itself is misunderstood (at least, by Christian business owners and male Supreme Court Justices). 

The IUD does not cause abortion, as some might believe. It works by killing sperm. In the unlikely event a fertilization does occur, the egg is prevented from implanting. Eggs fail to implant  without contraceptive interference somewhere around 60-70% of the time. Said slightly differently, only 30-40% of fertilized eggs are able to implant under optimal, baby-making circumstances. Pregnancy begins after successful implantation. Thus, the majority of the time, fertilization does not result in pregnancy. [Life does not begin at conception. A week of swimming around aimlessly begins at conception.] It is ridiculous to claim a moral objection against something that naturally occurs the majority of the time, not to mention that it displays some terrible ignorance about basic reproductive science.

Let’s say a fertilized egg does manage to implant itself in the uterus. A woman is then pregnant. About 50% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, says the March of Dimes. Eighty percent of miscarriages occur in the first trimester. Frankly, it’s crazy that any of us made it out of there to get a birthday at all. Yay us!

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I hate these “mini Abe” commercials

June 6, 2014 at 3:03 pm (Pop Blitz) (, , )

There is a series of these commercials for  the Illinois office of Tourism and they just plain suck. It’s like the guys (yes, guys) at the ad agency smoked a bunch of weed while watching Robot Chicken and they got confused. Work and weekend shenanigans do not mix, fellas! President Lincoln is not a cartoon character and should not be treated like a Ken doll or G.I. Joe. I’m not sure any U.S. president deserves such treatment, even the ones who weren’t great. It makes me want to boycott Illinois . . . except that’s where I happen to live.  Illinois Office of Tourism and Gov. Quinn, what have YOU been smoking?




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I love opening Twitter and learning good stuff…

May 20, 2014 at 1:04 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

and today it comes out of Pennsylvania:

‘In future generations, the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage,’ Judge John Jones concluded. ‘We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.’

Congrats, Pennsylvania!

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I’m going on spring break–but on a service trip!

January 29, 2014 at 10:00 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

That’s right–no fun in the sun or boozin’ it up for me this spring break. Instead, I’m stoked to be going to New Mexico with Saint Xavier University’s campus ministry. Find out more here!

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Lay off Apu . . . and Hank!

September 20, 2013 at 3:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

HuffPost TV asks a question: “Is it time to retire Apu?” and in doing so, they bring attention and, dare I suggest, attempt to validate a frustrated rant given by Hari Kondabolu over a year ago on the FX(X) show, Totally Biased in which he riled the crowd with his desire to “kick the shit” out of Hank Azaria (at 1 minute 30 seconds) for doing the voice of Apu. 

At a time when there were no Indians on American television–no Kelly Kapoor, Mindy Lahiri, or Raj Koothrappali–The Simpsons presented Apu, a PhD working at a convenience store. Darn that Fox (the network that, when it wasn’t showing Cops marathons, was presenting the antics of the lovable, delightful Bundy family) for not having its cartoon show of yellow people who don’t age or change their clothing be more socially responsible* in its depiction of its sole Indian character.


Hari Kondabolu’s problem with Apu/Hank shows a complete and utter lack of understanding of the humor of The Simpsons (rather ironic for a comedian). The Simpsons is a satire. Thus, when the show depicts a stereotype, simplification, or mischaracterization, it is calling on the viewer to question the stereotype or whathaveyou and to analyze the overarching culture and systems that allow such ideas to exist. The show isn’t perpetuating an Indian stereotype through Apu any more than they are perpetuating the attention-starved middle child stereotype through Lisa or the disaffected, alcoholic elementary teacher through Mrs. K. and Miss Hoover.  

*As far as socially responsible goes, is the depiction of Apu actually so bad? He’s educated, hardworking, kind, ethical, religious, and respectful. And to prevent him from being two one-dimensional, the writers even made him more complicated: human, flawed, and weak.

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When I want to pretend I’m in England

July 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm (Uncategorized)

When I want to pretend I'm in England

. . . I can schedule a visit my doctor’s office (and take the stairs).

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Don’t Call Me “Politically Correct”

April 19, 2013 at 10:09 am (Relationships, Writing/Language) (, , , , )

Political correctness is supposed to help us avoid offending people. I don’t generally give a flying fart if I’m offensive. I am not politically correct. I’m sometimes loud. I talk about sex, politics, and religion–often at the dinner table and sometimes when I’m a guest in someone’s home. I swear. I’ve been accused of mocking religion and I laugh at things Bill Mahar says. So when I call out certain talk or behavior, it’s probably not because I’m offended; it’s because I’m genuinely concerned about dangers related to said behavior. I think some of it is downright reckless.

RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #1 — Using sexist language & using “girl” as an insult
When a father tells his son to man up or stop acting like a girl, the trouble is not just the message it sends to his son (being a girl = bad, so don’t be girly), but also what it says to his daughter:  that being a girl is simply not as good as being a boy.  No matter what she does, she will always have a strike against her through no choice or fault of her own. And she (and her brother) also pick up on the fact that their mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother are inferior to their father and other men. Therefore, it’s not important to listen to their mother or respect her. And they certainly don’t have to respect female teachers, police officers, bosses, or strangers on the street.

I never want to be called the funniest Indian female comedian that exists. I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there. Why would I want to self-categorize myself into a smaller group than I’m able to compete in? –Mindy Kaling

RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #2 — Using racial slurs &  making racist jokes
There are rules in comedy about which groups can be picked on. It’s bad form for groups in power to pick on those with less power (but the reverse can be acceptable, often because first group has already created a divide.). Also, only members of certain racial or ethnic groups can say certain terms. (Whether or not anyone should say such things is a different issue altogether). Remember how Michael Scott didn’t get why it’s not okay for him to recite a Chris Rock bit? Luckily, many people do understand the limits even if they’re not sure why they’re in place.

Most of the time, when majority or powerful groups disrespect people outside their group, it mainly serves to demonstrate insecurity and the desire to maintain the upper hand. [Like this example of how white students mocked nonwhites at a 70% white high school.] Even playful uses of terms and jokes are often used to create or maintain someone’s status as The Other. Those People. Us and Them.

Think of times when you’ve heard variations on these ideas:

  • They are not like us.
  • They only got this far because of affirmative action.
  • They aren’t moral.
  • They eat weird foods.
  • They have weird traditions.
  • They don’t share our values.
  • They are sluts.
  • They are taking our jobs.
  • They don’t pay taxes/ They are looking for handouts/ They hate the rich/They blame us for our success.
  • They drink too much.
  • They are all involved in organized crime.
  • They’re lazy/ smelly/ stupid/ oversexed/ dangerous.

Each one of these ideas translates to “I wish to maintain the status quo. If other people are treated better, there might not be as much good stuff for me. I enjoy coasting. I don’t want more competition for the stuff I like and I certainly don’t want to have to work harder.”

RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #3– Using “Muslim” & “terrorist” interchangeably 
Radicals in all arenas are just that: radical. They wreck stuff for everyone because of stereotypes, which are seldom born through quiet, mellow people (see below). When Islamophobia is spread, people are unfairly targeted, especially women. Muslim women who cover their hair stand out, sometimes harassed and/or beaten. Shortly after the Boston Marathon, a man repeatedly punched a woman in the back who was walking on a sidewalk in Boston. College students in Texas were beaten while being called “terrorists” and “evil.” A man was beaten in the Bronx on Monday night in front of an Applebee’s. An Applebee’s! What a terrible place to be beaten, and just for having brown skin. (Of course, the fact that the bombers have since been described as “light skinned white men” is beside the point.)

RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #4 Perpetuating stereotypes
Stereotypes are bad for the stereotyped and the stereotyper.

It’s not fair to prejudge someone based on experience with (or hearsay of) someone else with a shared characteristic. Everyone deserves a chance to be treated and known as an individual.  This is also why the “One of my closest friends is __________” trope is so grating. People read that as, “I can excuse my own propensity for stereotyping because luckily, I found the one _______ who isn’t ________ that I can pull out as a token on occasions like this.”

Stereotyping is a shortcut, and like all shortcuts, stereotyping often ends up costing much more time than it would take to do something right in the first place. And you know what? Positive stereotypes are just as dangerous. It’s not fair to expect people to live up to imaginary standards.

Homer: Listen, do you want the job done right, or do you want it done fast?
Marge: Well, like all Americans, fast . . .

Imagine all the friends and experiences people miss out on because of assumptions! Conversely, imagine all the bad hiring decisions and dates that have taken place because of assumptions.

I’m just as guilty as the next human. Did I ever tell you about the time I agreed to hang out with a guy who I thought was gay? He was a regular at the place I worked. One cold Minneapolis evening, I was on a date and didn’t know it. So when he invited me up to his apartment to look at his plants, I said yes because I genuinely wanted to see them. This was apparently code: glaringly obvious code. So while I was admiring his orchids and he tried to kiss me, I laughed–mostly at myself because I was surprised by my appallingly inaccurate gaydar. I had plenty of time to think about what I’d done on the long walk back to my car.


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Term “Illegal Immigrant” is Removed From AP Lexicon, Grammarians & Humanitarians Rejoice

April 8, 2013 at 1:27 pm (Writing/Language) (, , , , , , )

The term “illegal immigrant” is offensive to many people, and for good reason: it dehumanizes human beings and justifies their shoddy treatment. Therefore, here is positive news for anyone who likes other human beings: the Associated Press (AP) has changed their stylebook entry for the word “illegal” as part of a larger effort to eliminate labels.

Last month, the AP added a mental health entry that “argues for using credibly sourced diagnoses instead of labels” and not to even mention mental illness unless it’s necessary for a story. If it is, AP users are instructed to avoid using labels, so instead of describing someone as “anorexic” or “an anorectic,” for example, use instead the phrase a “woman diagnosed with anorexia.”

This recent discussion brought the conversation back to “illegal immigrant.” “We concluded,” the AP blog states, “that to be consistent, we needed to change our guidance” because “while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate.”
From the AP stylebook:

illegal immigration Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.

Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alienan illegalillegalsor undocumented.

Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.

Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?

People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.

What to say to people who scoff, calling this just another annoying P.C. effort?

It’s the grammar, stupid!

Apart from being offensive, the use of “illegal immigrant” is simply grammatically incorrect. The word “illegal” is an adjective meaning “forbidden,” so since a person cannot be forbidden (only objects or behaviors), grammar dictates that the terms “illegal alien” and “illegal immigrant” make no sense. Cheers to the AP for finally figuring that out! Let all grammarians rejoice! (The dictionary does list “illegal” as a noun, but informally only. Since the AP doesn’t let me use the informal spelling of “all right” [the preferable and attractive “alright”], I am happy that the AP is striving to be more consistent.)

Of course, actions that a person does (like immigrating, carrying a gun, or roughing the passer) can be illegal.  A football player who performs an “illegal hit” is not an “illegal player,” a person who carries a stolen firearm without a license is carrying an “illegal weapon,” but is not an “illegal gunowner.”

I still disagree with the AP’s wrong, wrong, wrong stance on the Oxford comma, and I wish the interrobang (‽) would be considered a standard punctuation mark, but I commend this change.

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