Day in the park

Dregs on display: There they were, out in Cesar Chavez Park, in the heart of Downtown Sacramento, in all their grubby glory, demanding to be seen, and heeded, and housed.

Sacramento’s homeless population keeps out of sight as much as possible, in accordance with popular and political will. They congregate in the environs around Friendship Park on the seedier fringe of Sacramento, or in hideaway camps along the American River.

Those who venture into more proper and upscale parts of town are subject to arrest or harassment for no better reason than the populace doesn’t want to look upon their dirty faces and be reminded that there are still desperately poor people living in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.

But with the support of their benefactors at Loaves & Fishes, the homeless occupied the central plaza last Thursday, defiantly demanding to be recognized as citizens with rights and needs.

Speeches and chants claiming the ranks of the homeless have been growing every year while the number of places for the very poor to lie their heads has been shrinking. Hundreds of homeless people ate their free lunches in the park, then banged on the doors of power, demanding help.

“We shouldn’t have to beg. We shouldn’t have to ask,” declared Chris Delany, a founder of Loaves & Fishes, in a fiery oratory that could have been spoken by Eugene Debs or Mother Jones. “It should be the basic right that everyone has shelter.”

Such a sentiment seems quaintly and naively compassionate in these days of cutthroat capitalism, an antiquated notion that members of a society have an obligation to one another, and particularly to the weakest and least capable citizens.

But who knows, 100 years from now, maybe the idea of letting profiteering corporations and individuals exploit the masses will seem like a strange old concept to which few can relate. We can only hope, and work to make it so.

Porno for pirates: Speaking of profiteering organizations running amok, the California Legislature is just one special session away from getting truly pornographic.

Special sessions are called by the governor to deal with specific issues or problems, such as the state’s power crisis, for which Governor Gray Davis called a special session on January 3.

Earlier this month, Davis adjourned that session and immediately called another one of the same subject, a tactic intended to facilitate his plan to sell $13 billion worth of bonds to help pay extortion money to the gouging electricity generators. Without Republican support for the sale it couldn’t be an urgency measure, and so the sale couldn’t take place until 90 days after the session ended, hence the session-hopping.

Anyway, bills in special sessions are noted with an “X.” For example, the windfall profits tax bill is Senate Bill 1X. Bills from the second special session now bear two Xs (i.e. SB 1XX). So that makes us just one step away from entering the realm of triple-X, a rating that would seem appropriate to the obscene way this crisis has been handled in the halls of power.

Step aside Ron Jeremy, there’s about to be a new XXX star: Gray “Daddy Big Bucks” Davis.

Betting on black(outs): You’ve heard the bleak predictions from experts and politicos about how we’re likely to have a few weeks’ worth of blackouts this summer. Now comes the assessment of the predictors that really matter: the Las Vegas oddsmakers.

News reports say notable Nevada oddsmaker Michael “Roxy” Roxborough has placed the odds of rolling blackouts running past September 1 at 1-2 (a $5 profit on a $10 bet); even money that we’ll still be having blackouts at year’s end; and 2-1 that the lights will still be going out next April.

No word yet on the odds whether California will actually start seizing power plants, but with our boldness-averse governor, it’s definitely a long shot.