We are the people

We are the people. One small step for typographers, one giant step for interpreters, notes the bespectled, ’fro-sporting campaign flack in Taxi Driver. (We are selling mouthwash, says the lovely Betsy some moments later, but we’ll leave that parable for later in the 2008 presidential season).

Some nights Queque lies awake in the wee hours wondering if our government agencies appreciate the difference.

The Texas Department of State Health Services finally got back to the Current about last week’s
Big Tex Update” `October 31`, in which we reported that the EPA is now firmly in charge of evaluating and cleaning up the asbestos-contaminated former vermiculite-processing plant on the banks of the San Antonio River. Good news after lo, those long months of hot-potato-tossing twixt public-health-related acronyms.

Not so fast with the champagne and sparkly candles, replied the Government Accountability Office: The EPA needs new toxicity measurements to properly evaluate the asbestos that contaminates Big Tex and some 270 other sites nationwide, because it’s significantly different and potentially more dangerous than that plain-old asbestos the EPA’s public-safety standards are based on. The GAO can’t even locate a good explanation for the EPA’s now-obsolete >1% standard; confected out of thin air, it seems. So, square one, in certain key respects, is where we now find ourselves.

This spring the TDSHS provided an updated “fact sheet” about the Big Tex site to “individual tenants” based on the request of another tenant. It was filled with the usual no-shit recommendations such as “Refrain from digging and stirring up dirt on the property ... ” (Which causes Queque to lie awake at night wondering if the City can read plain English.) The nice PIO at TDSHS told the Queque that generally speaking, humans (i.e. artists who rent studios-cum-crash-pads on asbestos-contaminated property) only develop health-related problems (i.e. breath-impairing scar tissue and lung cancer) after chronic exposure, defined by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as contact with the substance for more than a year.

While they wait for the EPA to figure out how dangerous that Libby asbestos is, and how much of it is in the Big Tex dirt, artists who spent a “chronic” amount of time at the site can go to the clinic or doctor on their ownsome, says TDSHS, and pay out of pocket for a chest X-ray and pulmonary function test — which may do no more than create a baseline to measure any future problems, which can take decades to fully manifest.

“Being exposed to asbestos does not mean people will develop problems,” TDSHS offered by way of comfort.

Why can’t the Queque just let sleeping asbestos lie? Just plow ahead like those optimists at the City who didn’t let scientific uncertainty get in the way of their (that is your) hike and bike trail? What crawled up the Queque’s ass?

You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?

Hands up

I’ll tell you where that Travis Bickle attitude’ll get you with the SAPD, hombre: Handcuffed and eating masonry along the banks of that very same river, upstream apiece at the Blue Star Arts Complex. Just ask the Ron Paul supporters who’ve spent every First Friday for four months passing out literature to the crowds streaming into Southtown. They like his “consistency,” his “constitutionalism.” Maybe not so much his pro-life, pro-gun stance, but “honesty” counts for something in these days of bureaucratic Orwellianese. And, they said, they were getting some positive response, lots of questions, lots of literature palmed by open hands.

Never a problem; never an issue, till the bike patrol made it one, giving the pamphleteers the boot for blocking sidewalk traffic along the bridge, and escalating the “move-along” to a “we’re detaining you for your own safety” as soon as someone asked for a badge number.

The score at the end of the fracas?

• Ten to 15 cops on scene according to observers.

• One Ron Paul supporter handcuffed.

• One Ron Paul supporter arrested on an outstanding, non-violent-offense warrant.

• One Ron Paul supporter verbally harangued by the police for inquiring what in hell happened while she stepped away for a bite to eat.

But an officer did oblige Courtney Lazar with an answer: One of the Paulites “started to get smart.”

Note: You have the right to remain effin’ silent. Period.

Oh, and add to the score: surely several bystanders deeply moved by the spectacle of campaigners for a proto-Libertarian presidential candidate being shut down by the po-po.

Takin’ it to the streets

Alternately burned and neglected by big government, harassed by its street-level minions, where is the Queque to turn? To violence? No (Queque’s a known pacifist). To drink? (Can’t hold it, we’re sorry to admit.)

Well, how about an old-fashioned political protest, perked up with a little hip-hop and artful overdub? The organizers of Spam the Senate will help you mainline your anti-war and pro-environment protest howls to Washington D.C. via the internet while you enjoy the politically charged environs of Ruta Maya Riverwalk and the musical stylings of the city’s finest DJs, including JJ Lopez, Scuba Steve, Donnie Dee, Tech-neek, and 180 Grams’ Jesse. 7pm-2am this Saturday; for more info.

Yeah, we’re talkin’ to you.

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