Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Make It Stop

I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know - Amy Winehouse

News Flash: The Media Sucks

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.

There were no snippets of Clinton speaking to anyone except two seconds of her Monday night appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in which she was forced to respond to the GOP-initiated rumors of her ill health. (I believe she tried to use humor to brush ‘em off but I’m not sure because it went by so fast.) Of course and others subsequently posted stories online with titles like, “On Jimmy Kimmel, Hillary Clinton talks health rumors, email woes.”

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.”

The Clinton piece follows stories about “Rio Declared a Media Success,” “In Mariachi Music, A Distinctive Yell Speaks To The Soul,” “Transgender Teens Travel To N.C. Gender Clinic, The Only One In The South,” “Louisiana Flooding Puts A Lot Of Rep. Grave's District Under Water,” “Social Network Nextdoor Moves To Block Racial Profiling Online,” “Obama Transgender Bathroom Directive Blocked Temporarily By Judge,” “Artist Peter Doig Says He Didn't Paint This, And A Judge Agrees,” and “Minor League Baseball Player Hits Grand Slam; Shatters His Windshield.”

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.

It’s no surprise that running for the highest office in the land requires raising lots of cash – it costs between $50 and $100 million right out of the box and another $75 million after the primaries, according to one estimate – and at least Clinton has released her tax returns, which Trump petulantly and evasively refuses to do.

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

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

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:,, National Public Radio,,

Friday, August 12, 2016

Moved By Music

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? - Chicago

More Time on My Side, Please

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.

My mom – the active, energetic single mom who brought me along to concerts and carnivals, decorated my bike for Fourth of July parades and played with me at 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


Celebrate Me Home - Kenny Loggins

Sacks, Not Spikes, for Those Without Homes

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
We also saw homeless people laying on the park’s benches and sleeping under trees. Amelia found it confusing and distressing that in this big city, this big country with all of these houses and buildings, people would have to live and sleep outside. Michigan winters are not the nicest – in fact, they get worse with each passing year, it seems – and Amelia was almost in tears when she asked me if people are homeless all the time or just in the summer. Her mother and I had embraced the “We Don’t Lie to Our Children” parenting philosophy so I sighed and responded that homelessness was a year-round thing.

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.

One day when Amelia was with me – I can’t remember if it was a Saturday or Sunday but I know it was in the fall because leaves were on the ground and it wasn’t warm – she happened to look out the window and noticed a bearded man in a trench coat sitting on the park bench closest to our building. “He looks hungry,” she said. Instead of asking what hungry looks like, which was my first thought, it occurred to me that we could take action, at least to help this one man. So I suggested we make the guy a sack lunch. (I had all the stuff – sandwich fixins,’ Snack Pack pudding, fruit, juice pouch – for Thursday mornings when I had to send Amelia off to school with a lunch.) Amelia liked the idea.

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.

Even worse, some municipalities have taken to employing “defensive architecture” to deter people from sitting or lying in certain places. “Defensive architecture” can be defined as “We’re Such Pricks That We’ve Installed Spikes to Prevent People from Crashing Here.”

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:, Michigan Campaign to End Homelessness,, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Blaze.