Wednesday, October 26, 2016
It makes me sad how sad I am.
This time it’s because one of my heroes, iconic social activist Tom Hayden, died a few days ago at the age of 76.
I can’t remember exactly when I heard a knock on my apartment door and opened it to see Hayden standing there looking glum and unhappy. At first I thought it was because he was dragged to my place by my then-boss, former State Senator Lana Pollack, who knew he was one of my heroes and also knew him and his ex-wife, actress and activist Jane Fonda. I soon realized his grim facial expression was in fact a result of carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, of being unable to leave his work at his office or ignore and compartmentalize injustice and corruption. He wasn’t disappointed in me. He was disappointed in everyone.
He and Lana were on their way to a function of some sort so he wasn’t able to sit down and share his opinion of the Iraq war, what it was like to author the Port Huron Papers political manifesto the year I was born, or how it felt to be charged by the feds with conspiracy to incite a riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago for protesting the Vietnam War. (This led to him being named one of the infamous “Chicago 7” along with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis and three others. The eighth person to be charged, Bobby Seale, was tried and convicted separately which is why the “Chicago 8” became the “Chicago 7.” Seale, who co-founded the Black Panther Party and was bound, gagged and chained to a chair during judicial proceeds, deserves his own HBO special.) But Hayden took the time to autograph my copy of his memoir, Reunion, and tolerated my starstruck stammering with grace and patience. (If I recall correctly, my contribution to our brief conversation consisted almost exclusively of “I can’t believe you’re standing in my living room.”)
I learned who Tom Hayden was by watching an HBO docudrama of “The Trail of the Chicago 7” back in the 1980s. I had tuned in initially to see Hoffman, who I regarded as a loud-mouthed, entertaining clown with a propensity for American flag shirts and a Welcome Back Cotter-style Afro. I had no idea that Hayden was the heart of the antiwar effort and a leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the influential leftist student activist group that conservatives insisted was comprised of dangerous radicals and orgy-loving hippies.
|Hayden in 1968 and more recently|
Hayden ran unsuccessfully for governor of California in 1994, mayor of Los Angeles in 1997 and member of the Los Angeles City Council in 2001. He was an animal rights advocate who taught at several colleges and was a big Obama supporter. And he wrote or edited a number of books and served on the editorial board of The Nation, a progressive weekly magazine. Some people think of him as just the ex-husband of Fonda, to whom he was married from 1973 to 1990, but as women who are discounted as merely spouses can relate, he was much, much more.
I sent Hayden an e-mail message years later, in 2012, in which I directed him to “What’s the Diehl?” and asked him something about war or the Bush tax cuts or gerrymandering or something more substantive than “What’s it like standing in the living rooms of fans?” Here’s his response:
Good stuff on your site, but your question is tooooo overwhelming for e-messages. The new generation gets underestimated in terms of its activism, e.g. Just look at the vaginas rally on your site! No doubt the counter-movement against Obama, the 60s, and the 30s, is becoming ever more desperate as the demographics threaten to overwhelm them. Citizens United is part of a republican/business counter-movement, and is quite devastating. We have to talk about campaign finance all the time while also raising the money and the votes it takes to beat these people in November. Then we’ll see where we are.
I don’t know if this was written by Hayden himself or an aide but I treasure it nonetheless.
I also visited TomHayden.com and added my name to his list of supporters. I received messages in which he shared his views on fracking and the environment, drones, Afghanistan and Syria, drugs, presidential debates, securing a progressive mandate, war and peace, free trade and the US–Cuba deal. He wrote about Wall Street, prisons, Trayvon Martin, Kent State, Guantanamo, Obama, Clinton and Sanders. Looking at these messages, all of which I saved to read or read again later, I realized that of all the famous people I’ve met – and I’ve met many – Tom Hayden was probably the most thoughtful, a prolific writer and essayist, an activist’s activist, an immensely knowledgeable information source who never stopped working to make things better for everyone.
He was also a graduate of the University of Michigan but nobody’s perfect.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The following brief essay by Todd Tennis is reprinted with permission:
So I'm driving home listening to Sirius/XM radio and they have an ad for the upcoming presidential debate. Then they go into a pitch that really made me think.
In essence, they said that if you're a conservative, you can listen to XM Patriot. If you're a liberal, you can hear it on XM Progress.
Think liberals are scum? We have a news source for you that reinforces that belief! Think conservatives are fascists? Listen to this station here and we will prove you right!
I've been wondering for a while how it is that so many reasonably intelligent people can believe things about the world and this nation that are so diametrically opposed. It's because information in our society has been separated into two or more very distinct patterns that serve not to illuminate, but to confirm. Not to educate, but to reinforce.
The world is gray, but we are being taught that it is black or white, and anyone who says otherwise is just a filthy rotten liar.
This is how civil wars get started.
Todd Tennis is a county commissioner and partner at Capitol Services, a prominent government relations firm, where he focuses on civil law, labor, public utilities, retirement, education, childcare, consumer protection, tax policy, public benefits and poverty law. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1993. A former aide to a state senator, Todd and his wife, Jacqueline, live in Greater Lansing with their son, Troy.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
|Courtesy Huffington Post|
I whine a lot. Sometimes I get so fractious and frustrated that my wife and kids want nothing to do with me – actually, my kids never want to do anything with me but sometimes Anita does – and I find myself watching television alone. It’s more difficult for them to put distance between us when I’m listening to the car radio but Anita’s equipped everyone with MP3s and ear buds so they’re not without recourse when something perturbs me in the van.
One of the things that really pushes my button is the false equivalence that the media advance during this presidential campaign to keep us watching, reading and thinking the way their corporate overloads want us to. The differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could not be starker: he lies more than a rug in a mosque while she’s a tad less than perfect. To hear the white-toothed, perfectly-coiffed teleprompter readers on TV, however, you’d think the candidates are practically indistinguishable except for hair color and genitalia.
This is why I found a recent episode of TBS’s “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” so refreshing. Not only did she skewer the overrated, underwhelming Matt Lauer for his dismal recent interviews with Trump and Clinton – and she’s not the only one; click here to read, “Matt Lauer Fields Storm of Criticism over Clinton-Trump Forum” – but she addressed the false equivalence to which I refer above and described The Orange One so brilliantly that I just have to share it:
“On the one hand, you have the most breathtakingly unqualified ignoramus to ever heave his spray-tanned bulk within striking distance of elected office, a race-baiting, bully who according to two meticulously-researched biographies is a tax-cheating, investor-swindling, worker-shafting, dictator-loving, pathologically-lying, attorneys general-bribing, philandering, mobbed up, narcissistic serial con artist who hasn’t got the attention span to read a fortune cookie much less a fucking intelligence briefing...
...while on the other hand Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail server.
See? Perfectly even.”
Click here and here to see the entire piece (warning: contains colorful language).
I’m not Ms. Bee’s Number One Fan, I don’t watch much TBS and the point that our satirists and comedians are more reliable news sources than the network teleprompter readers has been made. But every once in a while, someone nails it so well, lampoons someone or something so accurately and cleverly that it just has to be disseminated far and wide. This post is me doing my part.
Anita and the kids apparently have no problem with me laughing and cheering because they don’t run out of the room as if the tornado alarm has sounded. This time they have Samantha Bee to thank.
Catch “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on TBS.
Sources: Vox Media, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” Rawstory.com.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
There’s something I just don’t understand.
Well, there are many things I don’t understand but what I’m referring to now is the alternate reality in which so many of my fellow Americans live. It’s the pushback against “Black Lives Matter.” It’s the outrage over a football player not standing when the National Anthem is played even though the only time people DO stand is when they’re part of a crowd and are afraid of being singled out for staying seated. And it’s the perception that Barack Obama is less of a president than his predecessor.
Today is the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the related plane crash in a field in rural Pennsylvania. Facebook is of course chock full of posts, photos and links commemorating this sorrowful occasion. This isn’t as surprising to me as the introductions that some people included in their posts:
Whether you like him or not, he kept us free from anymore terrorism. History will remember him as a good President who had a lot to handle. He also lowered taxes, which kept the massive mistakes of the Obama administration from being even worse, if possible! To those who lost family and friends on 9/11, you will never be forgotten.
We need another President like this. Granted, Bush wasn't perfect but nobody is. He wasn't afraid to stand up for our nation and her people. When those towers came down fifteen years ago, he wasn't willing to step back and hide in the shadows. He wasn't willing to put our nation's well being on the line just to keep from "offending" others. He cared about America, and that's what we're missing today.
Worth a read....I don't want something like 9/11 to happen under Obama's or Hillary's watch.They wouldn't have been so committed...At least Bush genuinely cared about America when he was president.I really hope America doesn't have to suffer further with Hillary getting into power...we need a strong leader like Trump who will and does actually do something when bad things happen.....Also a reminder to pray for all the families who have lost so many loved ones to the events and after events of 9/11.Never forget.
Remember 9/11 all of you not on the side of sharia. Here's a choice that is simple - hag like this don't deserve even words. As with that fried like bacon looker Colon and his ilk and those by their silence..support the shredding of nation by being gutless, bottom of the barrel feeders. Here is the damage done by Obamar and his Hag as they divide and conquer those incapable of figuring things through. The recent remark of the hag's as like the clinging to their guns and prayer books painting by her black hero whom she patterns herself after - speaks volumes..The Mao Hag, dumb as a rock, must know that among those lost on 9/11 were those that she now would categorize as " basket of deplorables."
Thank you president George W. Bush glad you've been finally vindicated this and the 23 really 38 pages released no news can propagandize this.
This is why I liked Bush...obummer will never measure up to this...."We’re at war," Bush told Vice President Dick Cheney. Hanging up and turning to his aides, he added: "When we find out who did this, they're not going to like me as president. Somebody's going to pay." "I can't wait to find out who did it," Bush said. "It's going to take a while and we're not going to have a little slap on the wrist crap."
Hey Obummer 👇THIS is how a REAL President acts !!!!! "We're at war," Bush told Vice President Dick Cheney. Hanging up and turning to his aides, he added: "When we find out who did this, they're not going to like me as president. Somebody's going to pay."
It’s not the poor or nonexistent punctuation that rubs me the wrong way (although it does) or the fact that some people can’t express themselves better than a four-year-old (although they can’t). What gets me is the denial about what really happened that day and subsequently. Bush didn’t lay the groundwork for an improved economy; he destroyed it. He didn’t bring Osama bin Laden to justice; as he himself admitted, he stopped looking for or caring about 9/11’s mastermind. He doesn’t care more about the United States than Barack Obama and our current president measures up to Bush in every way. So how do people embrace this Alice in Wonderland version of reality? How do they convince themselves of their skewed reality or ignore that the exact opposite of what they describe is what really happened?
She prefers the speechless thing to the annoyed thing, she added.
One last thing about 9/11: I know that a significant number of innocent human beings lost their lives on that horrible day – over 3,000, the experts say, including more than 400 police officers, firefighters and paramedics – and countless friends, loved ones and families will never be the same. I know that 8,900 people were injured on September 11 and that it was the largest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. And I know that because I’m not personally acquainted with anyone who was touched by this catastrophe, my perspective is probably lacking. But I can’t stop thinking about one of the many handwritten signs photographed and published soon after the attacks. A group of young Palestinians held up a placard with the words, "Sorry, USA - We Know Because We Have Sept. 11 Every Day."
Click here to read, “9/11 Happens Every Day to Victims of U.S. Foreign Policy.”
I don’t think it’s a disservice to those who died and still suffer to reflect upon this. The disservice, in my opinion, is embracing beliefs that are devoid of facts about what really happened that day and in the decade and a half that’s followed. It’s in beating our chests and waving striped cloth when people continue to die all around the world partly because of us. And it’s in blaming the wrong people for what happened while letting the real criminals – those who took advantage of the goodwill of the American people, advanced their personal and political agendas at our expense and helped to create a climate in which ignorance flourishes – get off scot-free.
I won’t be solemn and morose today. I won’t join those who believe that 9/11 matters more than anything that’s taken place and continues to take place elsewhere. I won’t be gleeful, disrespectful or ungrateful to be born in the USA but I won’t be glum and gloomy. And I won’t read any more Facebook posts; if I feel like reading fiction, I’ll pick up the new J.K. Rowling release.
Sources: New York Daily News, Facebook, History.com, TomMullen.net.
Friday, September 2, 2016
I know Americans are currently in a tizzy about some athlete’s refusal to adhere to the wishes of a loud but vocal minority who care more about music than freedom and justice. I feel obligated, however, to do what I can to highlight something that actually matters, something that impacts lives but isn’t spurring the same level of outrage as a San Francisco quarterback’s commitment to his principles.
I’m talking about the blatant theft of millions of taxpayer dollars by the incompetent, unscrupulous, disingenuous politician who resides in my state’s governor’s mansion.
Click here to read, “Pure Michigan My Ass.” Click here to read, “Slimy Snyder and the Water Crisis, Part Two.” And click here to read, “F*ck You, Flint.”
Now it’s being reported that Michigan taxpayers are funding Snyder’s legal defense (as well as that of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality) to the tune of $7.9 million. The guy could actually face criminal charges so he’s lawyering up; instead of setting up a private fund and snagging donations from GOP fat cats, the Snyder cabal is hiding behind our State Administrative Board – the seven-member entity that ostensibly has control over the administrative activities of Michigan’s state departments and agencies – which announced its approval.
Surprise, surprise, surprise.
But wait. It gets better: the board isn’t really required to approve any contract that’s requested directly by the governor, regardless of the amount.
It’s all a ruse, y’all.
From an article at MLive.com:
In addition to the $7.9 million now approved for DEQ and Governor's Office attorney bills, there's more to the cost to state taxpayers for legal action related to Flint water.
The Department of Health and Human Services has told MLive that it has spent more than $246,000 in legal fees and $3.9 million has also been appropriated for Attorney General Bill Schuette's criminal investigation of the water crisis.
Click here to read, “$3.4 Million Snyder Tab Prompts Bill To Limit Private Counsel.” Click here to read, “Ten Things They Won’t Tell You About The Flint Water Crisis – But I Will.” And click here to read, “Why Snyder Didn’t Need Approval.”
In an era when a lying, offensive, bigoted, orange-skinned shyster with bad hair is seriously being considered for the presidency of the world’s only superpower, it shouldn’t be surprising that a state governor is allowed to poison an entire city without repercussions. Other governors – New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Paul LePage in Maine, Rick Scott in Florida, Nathan Deal in Georgia and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker come to mind – have made blunders and obnoxious statements, alienated significant numbers of constituents, engaged in questionable and in some cases corrupt behaviors and generally erased any semblance of nobility from public service. But this is just wrong.
It’s wrong to cut services to the poor and needy so that you can line the pockets of your lawyer pals. It’s wrong to force our state’s residents to prioritize your legal defense over their needs and wants. And it’s wrong to flip the proverbial bird at your constituents while thousands go without safe water to bathe in and drink.
It’s your job to serve the state, Rick Snyder – not the other way around.
P.S. Get a load of this probably-taxpayer-funded piece of propaganda that Snyder tweeted last March. See what I mean about blaming everybody under the frikkin’ sun?
Sources: Detroit News, MLive.com, FixtheMitten.com, TIME.com, AfricanAmerica.org.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Anita probably has mixed feelings about me driving her to work in the morning. This is because on one hand, she gets to prepare for the day either by telling me what my tasks are or by reviewing work material that I couldn’t understand if my life depended on it; on the other hand, I’m not at all peaceful or quiet when we listen to the radio these days. Take yesterday morning, for example.
NPR was on the radio and like every other day, Donald “The Real Crook” Trump was the topic of conversation. (If aliens from another solar system were to land here and tune into one of our television or radio stations, they would think Trump is the most newsworthy individual ever to grace the public stage, one whose every utterance is internationally significant and whose every belch and burp must be recorded for posterity.)
I heard “Morning Edition” host David Greene grilling a Hillary Clinton representative about her supposed preference for fundraising over mingling with ordinary voters. (At one point Greene insisted he and his colleagues were just neutral observers who had no vested interest in the outcome. Judging by the look that Anita shot at me, my “Yeah, right!” response was a bit too loud.)
Then NPR aired not one but two snippets of Trump’s actual voice. In one, he said there are many, many places that have not been safe in a very, very long time and he’s going to change that. How? Who the hell knows? Trump never offers specifics; unlike other candidates, he doesn’t have to.
In the other one, he blasted Clinton for attending fundraisers. Then we heard the narrative of a GOP commercial that ridiculed her for her trips to Hollywood and Cape Cod to raise money.
I didn’t hear any dialogue from commercials attacking Trump for anything Tuesday morning.
I didn’t hear any reference to Trump’s popularity plummeting. He’s dropping in the polls faster than I dropped classes in college. A recent NBC News/WSJ poll found that Clinton is ahead by 14 points in the Northeast; 15 points here in the Midwest; three points in the South; and 12 points in the West.
I didn’t hear any reference to the fact that Trump’s making money from this campaign, paying his own company rent for his campaign headquarters in a Trump building.
I didn’t hear anything about the child rape lawsuit that Trump’s currently facing. (See below.)
I didn’t hear anything about Trump refusing to release his tax returns.
If you visit the “Morning Edition” website, the seventh story listed for the August 23 show is “Political Strategists Weigh In on Whether Trump Can Turn His Campaign Around.” You know when a story about Clinton appears on the page? Story Number 16 is entitled, “Some Clinton Supporters Complain Only Wealthy Backers Have Candidate's Ear.”
I realize these probably aren’t listed in order of importance but the fact remains that Trump appears well above Clinton. And his story discusses if and how he can turn his campaign around while hers revolves around her kowtowing to big donors at the expense of the little people.
Perhaps the best example of the pot calling the kettle black in this campaign relates to Trump’s sandbox-level slur-slinging. He’s taken to referring to Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” at every opportunity because of her sloppy but not illegal handling of e-mails while Secretary of State. He must be the King of Compartmentalization because she’s not being sued for raping a little girl in a Manhattan apartment in 1994; he is.
See “Lawsuit Charges Donald Trump with Raping a 13-Year-Old” at Snopes.com.
And about this “very, very unsafe” crap: in fact, homicides and violent crime have decreased in the last decade or two. A story in The Atlantic magazine from just a few months ago asked, “What Caused the Great Crime Decline in the U.S.?” And this is from Factcheck.org:
President Barack Obama said there have been “huge drops in the murder rates” in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Dallas. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said “violent crime has increased in cities across America.” Which is it? We’ll score this one for Obama.
The long-term trend is a decline, not only in the murder rates per population, but the total number of murders in the cities Obama mentioned, and nationwide. The same goes for violent crime.
More than a few outlets seem to have agendas that include characterizing Clinton as a flawed, non-viable candidate while Trump is a maverick who “tells it like it is.” (By the way, NPR is not the only guilty party. CNN has become Fox News Two and other networks and newspapers are culpable too.) Trump is referred to as “Donald Trump” or “Trump” while she’s disrespectfully referred to as “Hillary.” And the race is widely portrayed as closer than the numbers suggest.
Look at this image that came up on Google: it features none of the results finding that Clinton’s way ahead; instead they use the one poll, the one done in the South that showed Trump closer than in the others. So the viewer is left with the impression that the race is neck-and-neck when it isn’t.
I’m not sure why so many outlets feel obligated to elevate the guy. Perhaps it’s because the corporate media thinks it would do better under a President Trump. Perhaps it’s because he’s like a Lincoln Continental with a bad muffler that’s collided with a semi on the highway: although it’s yucky and disturbing and causes massive congestion, we nonetheless slow our cars and sneak a glance – and in this context, that sells newspapers and commercials.
I know a few reporters and broadcasters and they’re talented, dedicated, unbiased professionals. Sadly, it’s easy to assume they’re the exception, not the norm, these days.
We can’t hold the traditional media completely responsible for Trump’s ascension to the status of genuine presidential candidate – and I doubt there’s a formal, orchestrated nationwide conspiracy to sway the electorate – but if “Morning Edition” or the online stories are any indication, they sure deserve a lot of the blame.
Sources: Politicususa.com, Newsweek.com, National Public Radio, FactCheck.org, Wisegeek.org. Snopes.com.
Friday, August 12, 2016
|The Persistence of Memory, Salvadore Dali, 1931|
“You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”
~ Ben Franklin
There really is no time.
One of my favorite Facebook friends drove 674 miles and parked his recreational vehicle at a campground a mere stone’s throw from my front door last week and it was a gargantuan challenge to peel off time to visit the guy.
I chatted weeks ago with another Facebook pal who lived near where I grew up, 90 minutes away from where I am now, and I promised to let him know the next time I was in his neck of the woods so we could shake hands in real life. This morning his daughter posted that he died.
My firstborn, Amelia, is a quarter of a century old and three of my other four are teenagers already. One has her driver’s license and gets mail from colleges trying to lure her away. The other two – who argued just yesterday about which cartoon to watch – now argue about which one gets to move the van out of the driveway so they can shoot hoops.
My 11-year-old hauls a suitcase full of makeup to every sleepover and demonstrates mad cosmetology skills that were inherited, I assume, from her mother. Just yesterday she was waddling around in a diaper, flashing her Mariana Trench-deep dimples and demanding mommy’s breast.
Camp Dearborn and Cedar Point – turned 76 a few weeks ago. My dad, who plays pickleball several times a week and can still probably kick my ass, is closing in on eight decades of life on Earth.
I know this isn’t news to anybody that the clock keeps ticking and picks up speed as the years accumulate. There are songs, books and bumper stickers galore pointing out that time waits for no one; everyone from Norman Vincent Peale, Abraham Lincoln and Leonardo da Vinci to Dickens, Jefferson, Twain and Shakespeare at one time or another uttered some nugget of wisdom about its passage.
The thing is: there’s knowing something, and then there’s feeling it. You know the burner on the stove gets hot but feeling it is something else entirely. I feel time slipping away now. I feel the seasons changing and the sun setting and the holidays speeding by. I feel like I have less energy and a need for naps. Daily naps that last longer than a sit-com.
I stopped glancing at the obituaries because I spot my age next to the names of the dearly departed too frequently these days.
I stopped spending so much time in Facebook and so little time with my kids. (They don’t really want to be with me but sometimes they forget.)
I stopped avoiding the gym.
I stopped sleeping until 11:00 and staying up until 2:00.
I stopped sneaking Pop-Tarts, Oreos and Pringles from the pantry.
And I stopped refusing to set long-term goals. I figure more structure and purpose could lead to better management of the time I do have and more years among the living.
Sadly, none of this guarantees that my life will be longer or I’ll have more time. I expected things to be different when I became this age. I expected more achievements, more successes, more laurels on which to rest. I haven’t yet become what I thought I would be. I don’t want to die before I grow old.
I need more time.
Friday, August 5, 2016
When my firstborn was five or six, she’d be with me on Wednesday nights and every other weekend. I had a small but cool one-bedroom apartment in an old building across from a park right downtown. (I sometimes rode my bike to work.) We used to enjoy kneeling on the couch in front of the window at night and watching the fountain in the middle of the park change colors. The water shooting up from the middle of the fountain would be red for 30 seconds, then blue, then green, then yellow, then white, and then back to red.
|Amelia and me in front of her home|
When she asked what the President was doing about this, I said I wasn’t sure but it’s been a problem for a long time and will probably take a long time to fix too. I started to explain that homelessness was one of many problems that we needed to fix and some people thought other problems should be fixed first and she interrupted me, saying, “That’s not the right thing! Everybody should do something and maybe let these people come into their houses right now.”
I made a mental note to vote for Amelia Diehl if she ever ran for President.
Ten minutes later we were crossing the street and heading toward the man on the bench. I made Amelia stop and wait a few yards before we reached him (just in case he had mental health issues and/or a gun) and she watched as I held the bag out to him and mumbled, “We made you lunch.” He snatched – yes, snatched – the bag out of my hand wordlessly; I waited a few seconds, then turned around and headed back out of the park with my daughter. As we were crossing the street, she asked, “What did he say, Daddy?” “He thanked us,” I lied.
I thought about that day so many years ago – Amelia’s 25 now – when I stumbled across a story a few days ago announcing that 33 cities in the U.S. have already implemented “Do Not Feed the Homeless” policies, with more expected. At least four municipalities – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Daytona Beach, Florida; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Birmingham, Alabama – have actually fined, removed, or threatened prison time to individuals and organizations that have fed the homeless.
I’m not surprised that Birmingham, which is not exactly a harbinger of human rights or an oasis of wisdom and enlightenment, is on the list; I didn’t expect the others to respond to the crisis with intolerance policies.
I don’t know how these city planners can sleep at night.
For those who like numbers and studies, there are plenty of them about homelessness:
Research found that homeless kids are more likely to struggle in school, drop out of high school and suffer from mental illness. The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a 2011 report stating that homelessness may impair brain development in very young children, interfering with learning and cognitive skills. Runaway teens are more likely to be incarcerated, be trapped into sex trafficking and commit suicide.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Michigan ranks 29th in affordable housing in 2014 among U.S. states, with 50th being the least expensive state.
Another study found that there were nearly 80,000 homeless children in Michigan in 2013 and an estimated 2.5 million nationwide.
In 2014, 97,642 homeless individuals were counted in Michigan. There were 15,861 families with children. The average age of “unaccompanied youth,” a category used by the experts, was 16; 58 percent were female and 76 percent had “primary mental health disabilities.”
In that same year, over 60 percent of Michigan’s homeless single adults were male and 68 percent were mentally ill. Of the 5,627 veterans who were counted, 86 percent were male. And 8,881 seniors (people 55 or older) were counted in 2014; 53 percent had mental health disorders and 56 percent were African-American.
The final statistic I’ll share here: 128 of those experiencing homelessness in 2014 died on the streets, in shelters or in specialized housing programs.
People are dying in our streets and we’re talking about the size of Donald Trump's....hands.
When folks talk about homelessness, you hear a lot of numbers and statistics (see above). You hear a lot about interagency cooperation and finite resources and affordable housing and early intervention and state and local government partnerships but less about cold, bearded men on park benches hastily snatching food or suicidal teenagers crying in doorways or exhausted, dispirited mothers crouching protectively over their sleeping children or whole families sleeping in rusty Buicks and tiny Hondas. Until the conversation becomes less academic – less about “resolving the issue through sound public policy” – and more about the human beings who are suffering, the men and women and kids who are belittled, ignored or forgotten, those who feel hopeless and desperate and resentful and ashamed and puzzled by the fact that they’re always looked at but never seen, the problem will continue to grow and be mismanaged by callous bureaucrats and short-sighted politicians.
I'm even going to stop referring to people who don't have homes as "the homeless" since that monochrome term has little to do with character, values, opinions, skills or achievements.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small girl approaching. As the girl walked, she paused every so often and as she grew closer, the man could see that she was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The girl came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young girl paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they'll die unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The child bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
~ Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)
Click here to read the “2014 State of Homelessness in Michigan” report produced by the Campaign to End Homelessness.
Click here for a directory of homeless shelters in Michigan.
Click here to read, “Top 10 Anti-Homeless Measures Used in the United States.”
Click here to read, “How Michigan Can Improve the Lives of 80,000 Homeless Children.”
Click here to read, “These anti-homeless spikes are brutal; we need to get rid of them.”
Click here to read, “How Cities Use Design to Drive Homeless People Away.”
Sources: AATTP.org, Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness, MLive.com, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Blaze.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
|Then-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R)|
Giving POTUS Some Love
Did you hear that Patrick Rushing, the Mayor of Airway Heights, Washington, reportedly called President Obama “Monkey Man” and First Lady Michelle Obama “Gorilla Face” the other day? The city council is appalled. The police chief is appalled. Many of his constituents are appalled. He refuses to step down, though, in spite of threatened sanctions from fellow city officials.
I don’t get it.
I’m not the most evolved or enlightened man on the planet. I’ve made mistakes, some little and some not-so-little, and I haven’t always kept my mouth shut when I should have. I've been known to slip and spread more hate than love. Sometimes we all say and do things that we later regret. (Just ask my two ex-wives.) But many – though not all – of my transgressions can be attributed in part to alcohol consumption. I doubt Mayor Rushing was drunk when he typed over 70 racist and derogatory posts on his Facebook page. And the men and women who leave hateful, caustic, ignorant, offensive comments online under YouTube videos and newspaper articles can’t all be drunk. Some of the opinions they express must really be what they believe. And that’s as depressing as finding out that your wife is leaving you or your winning lottery ticket is a practical joke.
I watched the Democratic National Convention on television last week. (I also watched portions of the Republican National Convention but I’ve successfully repressed the hatred, ugliness and vitriol that sullied Cleveland.) There were two moments in particular that I thought were nothing short of fantastic. One was when the Reverend William Barber II of North Carolina brought the delegates to their feet with a fiery, rousing speech that will hopefully be long remembered. Reverend Barber is my kind of Christian.
|Captain Humayun Khan|
The members of the Kahn family are Muslims. Patriotic, America-loving Muslims. Mr. Kahn carries a copy of the United States Constitution in his left breast pocket (and kindly offered to loan it to Donald Trump, who clearly hasn’t read it and probably doesn’t carry a copy around in his Made-in-China suit.) The Kahns are the kind of people the GOP wants to block or deport – yet they’re perfectly fine with Ted Nugent, David Duke, Ann Coulter, Wayne LaPierre and Martin Shkreli staying where they are.
I really don’t understand that at all.
I share this clip because Hillary Clinton’s right about the Kahns. They do represent the best of this country. Not only should we not ban or expel people like this; we should recruit them to settle within our borders.
Yes, there is beauty and kindness in the world, as the Kahns prove. Yes, hundreds of people, young and old, black and white and red and yellow, have been known to line up outside of collection centers to donate blood for victims of accidents and tragedy. Yes, celebrities visit sick kids in the hospital without cameras in tow and teenagers still help old ladies across the street. But sadly, these efforts and events can leave less of an impression on us than the incidents of nastiness and evil, the moments of despair and tragedy, the times of loss and sorrow, wars and shootings and crassness and intolerance and the poor treatment of people based on how much melanin is in their skin.
But Washington D.C. became an even larger, deeper cesspool, a place of pessimism and negativity even before the inaugural flags and banners were returned to their storage cages in the White House basement. Cordiality and compromise were replaced by distrust and animosity; coarseness and invective soon became the norm. (To add insult to injury to many progressives, this President did at times seem spineless and wishy-washy, too eager to take the high road and give concessions to the enemy even before they were demanded – but that’s for another post.) Many of us wondered why things had changed so drastically and rapidly. We were afraid to conclude that it was related at all to the new president’s skin color. Hadn’t we gotten past blatant racism in the last few decades? Hadn’t ignorance been replaced, at last, with tolerance and understanding?
Here we had a man who was intelligent and eloquent, even-tempered and ambitious, someone to whom we could point with pride, someone who could string sentences together and wasn’t beset with scandal and corruption. Here was a guy whose privileged offspring didn’t stick their tongues out at the press once they were safely ensconced in the presidential limousine. President Obama didn’t make horrendously bad decisions or display embarrassing behavior. Why was he jeered by editorial writers and radio personalities and insulted by so many Americans? Why did he become Public Enemy #1 at Fox “News” when he was making things better, trying to bring us together? Why was he derided and mischaracterized for trying to do the right thing as opposed to taking orders from Cheney and Rove? Why did politics become so distasteful and unfair?
I don’t know why.
I don’t know why people despise one of the most amiable and unassuming families ever to occupy the White House. I don’t know why the President’s many achievements are downplayed and his few failures amplified. I don’t know why Michelle – who I love and want to dine with before I die – and Sasha and Malia aren’t praised now and forever for meeting the challenges of their lifestyle with class and grace. I don’t know why a man who tears up when talking about the almost inconceivable slaughter of 20 little kids in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012 is mocked and ridiculed. And I don't know why people write and say angry, hostile, nasty, ugly, groundless things in public forums.
Many historians expect the guy to go down in history as one of the most successful presidents ever. Why? Maybe because during his presidency, homicides have dropped 13 percent. Fifteen million fewer people lack health insurance. The number of long-term unemployed Americans has dropped by 614,000; the economy has added more than nine million jobs and the jobless rate has dropped to below the historical median. Corporate profits are up 166 percent; real weekly wages are up 3.4 percent. Wind and solar power now account for more than five percent of U.S. electricity.
There were 229,078 fewer violent crimes in the U.S. in 2014 than in 2008, a drop of 16 percent, according to the FBI. The Dow Jones, GDP and Consumer Confidence are up. Gas prices, the number of oil barrels imported, the teen pregnancy rate and the number of prisoners at Guantanamo are down. Marriage equality is the law of the land and this administration convinced Iran to give up 22,000 pounds of uranium without firing a single shot. The Obamas are even great with kids.
What the f*ck is Trump talking about when he says, “Make America Great Again” anyway?
The many photos that accompany this post notwithstanding, it’s not a fawning fan letter to POTUS. I’m not pleased with his use of drones, his reaction to the crisis in Syria and his refusal or inability to reduce the obscene amount of funding that gets swallowed up by the military-industrial complex each year. I’m disgusted that he’s chosen to continue our long tradition of kissing Israel’s ass and decided to remain silent when that nation unjustifiably went to war with Palestine in 2014. (More than 2,250 Palestinians were killed, including 551 children, and 11,000 were injured; 18,000 homes were destroyed.) I think it was wrong of the Nobel Committee to honor him in 2009 when he hadn’t earned it – and in fact failed to end the Iraq War for years in direct violation of a campaign promise. And I didn’t like the timing of his endorsement of Hillary Clinton as his successor; Bernie Sanders was still in the thick of things and I thought the President’s announcement was premature.
But I don’t think he’s earned a quarter of the resentment and loathing that he’s engendered. (Republicans were probably tickled pink that he was re-elected in 2012 so they would have four more years in which to do nothing and then blame it on him.) I sure hope the awful online detritus I stumble upon regularly is the desperate ranting and raving of a dying minority, the exorcising of demons, the tough talk of keyboard warriors who live in their parents’ basements and have nothing better to do than rail at those who they’ll never meet, know or be. Because if a significant number of Americans actually believe even a little of what I’ve read and heard, then the world we leave our children will be more deeply flawed and dysfunctional than Sarah Palin’s family or Jim Jones’ church camp. (Not hatred, y’all. Just a joke.)
We’re all neighbors on this Blue Marble. All of us bleed red blood and cry when we’re sad. Together, as they repeated again and again at the Democratic convention, we’re stronger, happier and better than when we’re alone. Why don’t we all send the kind of good energy into the universe that Khizr and Ghazala Khan sent out last Thursday night?
Rest in peace, Captain Khan. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.
P.S. As my Facebook pals know, I’ve unfriended and been unfriended a lot during this campaign season. This includes people I know in real life, people with whom I’ve worked, played and communicated for years. I’m counting on the hatred and ugliness that have taken over the Land of Lord Zuckerberg to subside and our friends lists to stabilize once voters have banished Donald Trump to his Manhattan penthouse.
P.P.S. Right after I finished writing this and signed into Facebook, I ran across this clip of a choir singing Bruno Mars' “Just the Way You Are” to a woman with MS whose husband organized it as an anniversary gift. Thanks, Deb. I needed this.
Note: I was just informed that Mayor Rushing resigned a year ago after a vote of no confidence by the city council. Apparently, the story has been resurrected. The hateful online comments and Donald Trump's arrogant cluelessness are current.
Sources: Politico.com, ThinkProgress.org, Occupy Democrats, Huffington Post, Heavy.com, UNOCHA, FactCheck.org, Buzzfeed.com, Seeking Alpha, DemocraticUnderground.com, Centre for Research on Globalization.