Sexual Harassment is Not Politics

November 27, 2017

Roy Moore may be the drop that burst the dam, but the long sad history of men using power to sexualize and objectify women reaches back millennia. Recently the news about Al Franken broke, signaled by the same man (Roger Stone) using the same language (“time in the barrel”) used to announce the Wikileaks release of hacked e-mails from the Clinton Campaign. There is a political side to this issue, but this is a far more import issue than the election of a Senator (or President for that matter). The fact is that women have been abused subtly and not so subtly in our society and it’s long past the time to end it. The boy’s club should be closed.  It is not enough to reject physical sexual assault of women and tolerate verbal assault, or economic and social assault. But how to change?

Men are getting pretty nervous about now. Welcome to the experience of women. What is harassment and what is not? Is inviting a women coworker out for drinks after work harassment or a good will gesture? When is a joke a joke and when is it an assault? What is OK or not OK? Here are some suggestions guys…

If you want to share a joke, an invitation, or conversation with a woman in the workplace (or anywhere else), how about asking yourself if you would be good with someone doing that to your own daughter? How about treating women respectfully with clear boundaries until the woman knows you well enough to understand your motive? How about questioning your own motives first? How about asking women for permission and respecting their answer?

Of course, it will be hard on men for a while, and why not? It wasn’t men who precipitated this social change – it took the courage of women speaking out. Even now, victims of abuse from men are attacked and risk attempts to smear, shame and bully them into silence. Guess what? It doesn’t work anymore. We men have to change, and if we don’t know how to change then let the women around you define what that change looks like. Wow! You mean let women have some control? Yes, that’s right.

Even now, we can only begin to see the outlines of the path to change. Liberal men do it. Conservative men do it. It is a problem that transcends politics, but political ideology seems to be a defining aspect of responses. Al Franken immediately admitted the truth and apologized for behavior over a decade earlier and before he became a Senator. Trump and Moore attack their victims. Kind of ironic, if not sad, that the Party of Family Values is now becoming the Party of pedophiles. Whether it’s fair or not to be paying the price for behavior done decades ago, there is a moral difference between admitting your behavior was wrong and denying it and attacking the woman involved.

Some well-intentioned men, confused and fearful of their own past behavior being exposed, resent being put in the position where they may be “inconvenienced” by having to question their behavior toward women. Change is never easy, and for men in this society change is long overdue. We can start by rejecting the attempts to victimize women who speak out.



September 1, 2017

There are so many instances of hypocrisy from politicians of every persuasion it almost goes without notice most of the time. However, the current level of hutzpah from Texas Republicans is worthy of notice for its sheer audacity. Virtually all the Texas Republicans voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy and insisted on budget reductions to offset the costs. While some of the Texans, such as Cruz, now insist they voted against the bill because it contained pork barrel spending not related to hurricane relief, they all insisted at the time that ANY relief bill would be blocked unless the money was found by reducing funding from social safety net programs. They wanted to homeless to suffer so that the other homeless could go back home. This is what conservatives do: complain about the evil of “big government” until they need the help.

Of course, I wouldn’t want the badly needed relief not to get to Texas, but it would be nice to rub their noses in their own stuff. Maybe they should call the bill the “Hurricane Sandy Payback Bill” or something similar. As much as conservatives complain about the self-righteous hypocrisy of liberals, there is more than enough among conservatives to match up, especially among evangelicals. Remember, evangelicals wondered if Sandy was a judgment from God against New York. Maybe God is punishing states that voted for Trump, or for denying climate change … it’s a slippery slope, my conservative friends.

Enough political fun. I do hope that people in Texas, especially the poor and homeless, will get the help they need and stay safe.

The Orange Barrel Summertime Blues

August 29, 2016

For many of you who follow the blog and live outside of Southeast Michigan, around here warm weather is known more popularly as the “Orange Barrel Season.” It seems like as soon as the temperature has three continuous days above freezing, work begins on repairing the roads and highways of Michigan. These roads (and bridges) rival those of a Third World country in terms of disrepair. Actually, our roads may be worse. One important reason why Michigan’s roads and infrastructure are so bad is the Michigan government.

Unlike other states that have insisted on enforcing minimum materials and construction standards, along with a guarantee of viability, Michigan governments since the Engler Administration have allowed contractors to use inferior materials and construction methods to create a virtual perpetual employment machine, moving constantly from one short-term, emergency fix to another. It has also been a government that has resisted any effective public transportation system, or enforced regulation of heavy traffic vehicles.

Since all of the highway work had been unguaranteed, it guaranteed huge tax expenditures to create emergency, and short-term fixes. It’s quite remarkable to see if you are not from Michigan. Slow-moving trucks roll along at 5 mph on a 70 mph highway for miles, causing huge traffic jams while men shovel out a gravel and tar mixture to fill in monster pot holes. Then they rely on subsequent traffic to roll over the mound to compact it down, while the rest of the tar and gravel are sent bouncing off of cars in other lanes.

Well, there’s good news and bad news in this regard with the announcement of a major road reconstruction project at one of the busiest conduits in SE Michigan, at I-75 in Oakland County. The good news is that the huge congestion of traffic creating a 10-mile-long, bumper-to-bumper commute into Wayne County and the City of Detroit will be somewhat relieved. The bad news is that the project will take 12-14 years to complete! For Oakland County residents working in Detroit, it means more than a decade of finding alternate routes or commutes extended hours longer. Imagine spending 2-3 hours or longer to drive 10 miles to work.

I’m guessing that the good conservative types in one of America’s riches counties will be wishing they had approved extending the Woodward light rail pretty soon. For the thousands of people who use I-75 as their route to Northern Michigan … just think of it as an opportunity to tour the back roads instead of a costly extension of hours in travel time. There even might be some economic benefit from the fact that hotels and restaurants will have increased business once driving to Mackinac will take an over-night trip rather than the usual 5 hours.

Or maybe we can contemplate how much of a difference government can make with regard to infra-structure – for good or bad.


Something About Me

April 14, 2016

Bernie Sanders took time out from his campaign to walk the picket line and encourage striking workers in New York City today (The Communication Workers of America). It was exactly the right thing to do. Workers need to know that someone in Government is willing to walk the hard walk with them. I know from experience. It made me smile with a memory.
I was running to be the Democratic Party candidate for Governor of Michigan. I got into the race a month late and more than a dollar short on campaign funds and political support. It would be a guerilla campaign.
The UAW had a designated candidate, Larry Owens. I should say the UAW leadership had a candidate. Most of them had never heard of Mr. Owens. Many rank and file felt a need to get militant and respond. The Democratic Establishment wanted to play nice… appeal to the “middle ground” and make a pitch to the people of Michigan that was intended to look like a palatable alternative to the personality of John Engler, rather than a challenge to very first stages of an attack on labor. Mr. Owens was a nice man who had earned his political shot. He had raised a lot of money for the Party. He knew all the players, all the rules, and had made all the deals. He was known by everyone in the Party and very few else. I couldn’t stand it. In a moment of inspiration, or sheer madness (I still don’t know which), I decided to announce and run.
The Establishment did not like the idea of someone like me jumping in. I was not one of them. I was outspoken – meaning I said what I thought and didn’t mince words. I was not controllable. I sued Insurance Companies, Corporations on behalf of victims… in other words, I sued their contributors. I was initially dismissed, but when I produced a series of commercials that were very successful, it got their attention. The attacks from Republicans started, but so did the attacks from Democrats. Nothing new for me after representing Dr. Jack Kevorkian. I started driving around in a minivan and learning how to organize events, just walking neighborhoods… it was a guerilla campaign. I was on my own.
I remember the morning distinctly. We were walking out of the door to my Law Firm, about to get into a Pontiac minivan, and going over the schedule of stops when I noticed a headline in the Detroit Free Press – a plant was closing in Flint because GM decided to move the business to Mexico. The UAW was picketing even as they were pulling the machines out of the plant to ship to Mexico. “Those sons of bitches, this is what it is all about. We are cancelling the schedule and we are going to walk the picket line with them”. I had a friend, a driver and a “political advisor” with me at the time (someone who had run a few campaigns before and charged more than I did by the hour). The advisor and driver told me to keep the schedule. My friend told me “let’s go get a picket sign”. We went to Flint.
When we got there, I talked with a few workers on the line. I asked if I could pick up a sign and walk the line with them. After an hour or so, some UAW leader types arrived and said I couldn’t walk the line. Owens was their candidate. The workers on the line got in their faces and asked where Owens was and told them to pick up a sign. End of discussion, and the moment (I believe) I won the nomination.


March 28, 2016

Where is Aretha when we need her? People are so angry and polarized it seems just about impossible to have an intelligent conversation about a disagreement. The problems we are facing now in the world and in our society in particular are not unique but what we are going through may be. I mean that our ability to problem solve seems to have dissipated in a white noise of media encouragement to feel the anger or feel the fear. I honestly think that the lack of personal contact and relationship, along with a political-media complex, has so polarized our society that we are risking a breakdown of civility. Turn on one cable station and all Moslems are violent, evil people. Turn on another station and all people who criticize Moslem extremists are violent, evil people. How many people watching these shows actually know a person who is Moslem, let alone have a personal relationship with one?

It’s not just about religion either. Trump is a Nazi, Bernie is a Communist and people who support either one want to destroy the country! All Michigan fans are arrogant and all Ohio State fans are thugs. It’s pervasive in our society and if there is one thing that could destroy it, it is the extremism of the media. Try turning off cable news and meeting people you may disagree with and just hang out for a bit. Don’t talk politics, religion or anything other than things and experiences you share in common. Show some respect and get to know the person. If isolating in your house in front of a television is the petri dish for fear and misunderstanding, then personal contact and familiarity is the salve for fear and misunderstanding.


Brussels Attack

March 26, 2016

Let’s start out by declaring that what happened in Brussels with the ISIL attack is tragic. It is horrible, but not terrible if we don’t allow our fear to terrorize. Already the voices of outrage and hatred are rising, especially among GOP candidates for president. How does it help defeat Moslem extremism when they hear someone who may be the next president advocating banning Moslems from the U.S., issuing identity cards to Moslem Americans, closing Mosques, using torture, and the wholesale slaughter of Moslems in Syria and Iraq (aka “carpet-bombing”)? This reflexive, violent response is exactly what the terrorists wanted to accomplish: terror and irrational responses.

Hatred is a symptom of fear. If we allow ourselves to become fearful and act out of fear then they have won. When we act like them, we become them – and they have won. Our response should be guided by determination and, above all else, a rational response. Sure, we should use common sense to respond. For example, we should thoroughly vet every immigrant and if they are not cleared, then we should not allow them to immigrate. Sure we should hold the governments of the Saudi Kingdom and Iran politically and economically accountable for funding and encouraging these extremists. There are many ways to maximize our safety without compromising our freedom or principles.

Personally, I refuse to be afraid, and I refuse to allow fear to dictate my actions. I am more likely to be killed by a white man with a gun than a suicide bomber. Should we ban white males? I may not be able to physically strike back at terrorists, but the very act of defying their “terror” by refusing to comply with their desired response from me is one way to defeat them. After the Paris attack, Parisians responded by making it a point to go out to public places – restaurants and clubs – in an act of defiance. This is not a naïve position or one rooted in denial. I use common sense and stay alert, and I am not unafraid. I just refuse to give into it.

What $50 Million Will Buy You (and Not)

October 13, 2015

With the admission from the Pentagon that the program to train Syrian fighters has failed, I have to question our priorities as a nation (again). Politicians will go back and forth about policy in the Moslem world in an endless loop of rhetorical nonsense intended to accomplish nothing more than political points.

It’s clear that all the money in our Treasury, all the weapons in our arsenal, and all the talk about the wonders of democracy will have no effect there. We spent $50 million to train five fighters, four of whom are already dead, one of whom defected to ISIL! The training program had a budget of $500 million, and who knows what will happen with that money now.

It appears that President Obama has decided on a nihilistic strategy in Syria. In the past days we have dropped dozens of pallets of weapons and ammunition in rebel held areas, like some demonic Santa Claus. It seems like the only “Christian” thing to do – mortars for Muslims … I guess he decided that if we can’t create democracy in Syria we will arm them to the teeth and let them kill each other (and a few Russians too).

Since the unnecessary war in Iraq, we have spent over $3 trillion and thousands of American lives to accomplish only chaos – and that’s only the money we have been told about! That does not include the hundreds of billions in arms turned over to ISIL, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups by the troops we have spent over a decade training. That money could have created a far better economy and society on Main Street America.

It’s clear that trillions of dollars will have no net positive effect in the Middle East, but I wondered what we could have done with the $50 million (chump change, really) in Michigan. Here’s a few ideas:

• Provide housing for every homeless veteran in Michigan.
• Provide 4 year college scholarships for 1000 of the poorest students in Michigan.
• Restore drinkable water to Flint.
• Provide free dental care for 50,000 children for a year.
• Hire 800 more police officers.

Even for government bureaucrats $50 million can do some damage:
• Buy 250,000 toilet seats for the Pentagon.
• Repair ½ mile of the Lodge Freeway.
• Hire 1,562 new Legislative Aids to assist Michigan Legislators to cover up extra-marital affairs and block all legislation.