Tag Archives: homeless

Mic Check

Occupy Atlanta at the State CapitalSaturday was a day of occupation and solidarity in cites around the world. In Atlanta, there was a march from “Troy Davis Park,” the name used by the occupying residents of Woodruff Park, to the state capital.

Economic Refugee Camps
Occupy Atlanta is a populist movement. It is not affiliated with any political party and vows not to be hijacked either. It is, at least by intent, neither liberal or conservative. Those in the camps are, generally, young or homeless. They are symbolic refugees in the richest country in the world. They are our surrogates.

Occupy Atlanta at Troy Davis/Woodruff ParkThey represent the tens of millions of Americans who are unemployed or underemployed and cannot find work to sustain their lives. They represent the millions of homeless men and women who have lost everything in their path to the American dream. They represent all of those whose lives have been upended by the richest one percent among us who have gamed the system. They represent those who fought for our nation and returned to find there were no opportunities in the land of opportunity. They are standing in for those of us who live off peanut butter and oatmeal. Those of us who live day to to day and are just one missing paycheck from being homeless. Those of us whose homes have been repossessed or sold by bankers with fake documents. Those of us who borrowed tens of thousands or more for college tuition, only to find no work. Those of us whose homes are worth less than we paid. Those of us who put their faith in the system and were betrayed by their leaders who have been bribed by lobbyist shills of the one-percenters. Those of us who had the audacity of hope and had it crushed by compromise and a just-say-no Congress. Those of us who believed in the Republicans or the Democrats to do the right thing and were lied to. They may not look like us, but they are us. They are “we the people.” They are the 99%.

Violinist at Occupy Atlanta at Troy Davis/Woodruff ParkThe urban campers seem to be motivated by the deep sense that something is fundamentally wrong in our nation and the world. That something must to be changed. They are earnest and brave. They have given up their lives to stand in and stand up for us.

The rally to the capital was “organized” by MoveOn.org, and not without some discontent from the folks at Occupy Atlanta who expressed concern that MoveOn was attempting to subvert the Occupy movement to support President Obama.

The march and rally was a diverse crowd. Aging activists. Middleclass believers. People of all walks, skin color, origin, hair length, wardrobe choice and life experience.

Occupy Atlanta is not the sixties antiwar movement. The sixties may have been easy in comparison – one real issue, one solution. This time, the issues are complicated.

Signs at Occupy Atlanta rally at the Capital StepsI had a deep feeling that something was different while listening to those on the capital steps who walked up to the microphone or took the people’s mic, and said, “mic check.” This was the real deal. The speakers were not polished. The talking points were largely unrehearsed. Anyone could take the mic. It was messy. There was chaos – confusion, sure, but more in the definition of “the infinity of space or formless matter supposed to have preceded the existence of the ordered universe.”

The goal of the rally was not to convince, but to be heard. Some at the mic sounded eerily like the tea partiers. Some seemed awkward Obama apologists. Some had watched too many television pundits or listened to too much talk radio.

All, however, were seeking change. All were challenging each other to find solutions. Some argued that we the people can make the jobs and change America and the world. Others just told stories of hardship and overcoming since the economic collapse. The banksters and multi-national corporations were a consistent target of the anger. The bailout money was blamed as a missed opportunity. The war a terrible waste of our people and our treasure. That the wealth disparity was terribly wrong and had to be fixed. They spoke of the need for justice – social, and for those on Wall Street. But each came back to the need for jobs.

Occupy Wall Street’s goal is not to overthrow the government, but a revolution to overthrow the status quo. The movement is seeking the people’s solution from the people’s voice.

I don’t pretend to know what it takes to motivate one person to get off their couch and into the street. Perhaps, it will take a second wave of bank failures and layoffs. Or another Selma moment. Or a leader who could emerge inspired by yesterday’s dedication of the MLK memorial, realizing the civil rights movement is part of the human rights movement and so much work is left to be done. But as Chris Hedges wrote today in Truth-Out.org, it is “A Movement Too Big to Fail.”

One month old today:
Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. #OWS is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to expose how the richest 1% of people are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. – OccupyWallSt.org

 

 

 

________________
Post updated 10.18.11 9:53 am. Author’s note: It has come to my attention that I, nor my editors, could save me from my embarrassing blunder that my “playfully anthropomorphizing” [NYT] of microphone, should not be “Mike,” it should be “Mic.” The post has been updated to make sure every reader knows the potential that I have for stupid.

Lessons from the Street

When the guy approached in the strip center parking lot early one Saturday morning and told me his story, I fell for it. He said he had driven all night from Ohio with his family, had no money and ran out of gas. We walked to his car, saw his family and the cynic in me, checked his license tag. He just needed $20 and he’d be able to buy gas and get home. I gave it to him. So did my wife later that day when she came to return what I’d bought. When we shared the stories, we felt like chumps.

Then there was that day when the visibly upset women approached my wife in another strip center early one evening. The woman told the story of leaving her husband who beat her. My wife walked with her to the old car and was introduced to the precious, poorly dressed children. She fell for it and gave her money. When she saw the same woman the next day and was approached again, she felt deeply betrayed.

Then there was that time when a homeless man came to our door and asked for help. We gave him money and food under the condition he never come to our house again. He returned the next day. And the next. He said he wanted to work for the money and food and offered to wash our car. My wife, in a moment of tough love and generosity, told him she’d give him $10 to wash our daughter’s car that had been parked for months and desperately needed it. He, of course, washed our car – the clean car. When he came back the next day, he said he was cold and I gave him one of my coats. The next morning he was at our doorstep again. This time, he said, “I really don’t like this coat. Do you have anything else?” He went on to say that he was ready to go to the shelter we had suggested and if we’d give him a ride to where the bus would take him, he’d go. Half way there, he said, “Damn. I left my cigarettes in your coat.” So, of course, we drove back to our home, retrieved the smokes that he could afford even though he couldn’t afford food and took him to the bus stop. As he was getting out, the man, well, passed gas. I said to my wife, “at least he left us a little something to remember him by.”

We all have stories. When someone needs help, and we can, most of us do. But are we really helping?

A few years ago, a friend had cards printed with addresses and phone numbers of shelters and organizations who help the homeless. He’d tape a MARTA token on it (MARTA no longer uses tokens and MARTA cards are expensive).

Another friend, Clay, kept a box of energy bars in his trunk to give to people who were hungry. He explained to me that helping the homeless should be left to professionals. That it was way too complicated, and potentially dangerous, for individuals to get involved.

When I first moved near Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, being the liberal do-gooder that I am, or pretend to be, I’d stop and engage each person that I thought was homeless. I got to know dozens of men (women don’t do well living in Piedmont Park). I began as a naïve missionary. Each day I’d go for my walks with a budgeted amount of money to hand out if asked and cards or literature on shelters and programs that teach men how to get off the street. One by one, I saw that these men who had asked for my money for transportation shelter or food, instead, spent it on beer. Each would eventually get arrested for public drinking or drunkenness. I don’t give money anymore.

For a while, I’d tell homeless men, if they were hungry, I’d feed them. My wife and I quickly turned into a short order cooks. I also stopped that idea – it was impossible to sustain. Though, and as result of the leftovers from LikeTheDew.com’s Deviled Egg Recipe Contest judging, they did ask me, “why did all those deviled eggs taste so different?” They also offered their votes, which were not included in the contest judging.

Over the years, some of the homeless men would come and never be seen again, but others seem to live in the park permanently. I gave them clothes when they needed them, until they started asking too often and I had to stop. Ditto on razors, soap, and dental supplies. Ditto sleeping bags, tarps, blankets, phone cards, MARTA cards and the like. And then, I met Donnie.

Donnie painting Tee ShirtsDonnie was special. He didn’t belong in the park. He was in his late twenties. He had worked as an artist and animator and lost his job. Got depressed and started drinking or doing drugs and lost his family. He was clean now and you could see it in his face. The guy had more charisma and charm than almost anyone I’d ever met. He didn’t ask for it, but one day I bought him a business: paints, brushes, a portable easel, a few dozen blank tee-shirts and a backpack to carry them. Donnie was like a kid at Christmas. He went to work painting the most incredible original art on shirts. He sold them in the park. I told him that when he ran out of shirts, I’d re-stock him and I did. Donnie sustained his life and saved some of the money he made to start over. Then one night, the inevitable happened. He was robbed. When I next saw Donnie, he didn’t ask me to buy him another art kit. He told me, instead that he had called his mother in Alabama and asked if he could come home. She wired him the money for bus fare. He just wanted to say thank you and good-bye. I still hear from him from time to time through his cousin. He now has a job, a place of his own and is still close to his mom and family.

Then there was Terrell. Terrell was also special. When I met him, he was living with a girlfriend and was working in the kitchen of a nearby restaurant. Every few days, he’d prepare a meal, with ingredients donated by his restaurant, and serve it picnic style in the park to some of those, less fortunate. We admired his sharing nature and also contributed. I don’t know if was drugs or booze, but Terrell had a dramatic falling out with the restaurant. He also had one with his girlfriend and started calling the park his home.

Terrell was in his early thirties. Healthy. Smart. And motivated. The park was just temporary. He approached people who lived in the neighborhoods around the park and asked to do odd-jobs – yard work and the like. It worked for a while, but wasn’t enough to get him on his own. My wife and I befriended Terrell. We even broke the cardinal rule and invited him and his new girlfriend into our home. We got him a cell phone from the federal program. We helped him get an apartment with an organization that helped couples get off the street. The apartment deal was pretty straightforward: he was expected to work and pay $100 a month. He also was required to have regular drug testing. He made it on his own the first month. His girlfriend left him the second month and we helped out with the money he needed for rent. The third month he was back in the park. Terrell, we learned, couldn’t – and didn’t want to – pass the drug test. That was almost two years ago. Terrell has been arrested five or six times since then – three times in one month alone – stupid stuff – drinking on the bench near 10th Street and jaywalking. He’s lost about 50 pounds and his eyes are always glazed over.

We don’t have much to do with Terrell, but some months back, he approached me and told me a story. He said that he’d heard about a doctor who would diagnose him as bipolar and about a lawyer who could then get him disability. Disability, plus food stamps were his plan to get his life together. In exchange for a couple of hundred dollars a month, he would never be able to get a real job again – the price of disability. I begged him to reconsider and get help. I saw Terrell last week. He has been approved for disability.

Then there was last week. I met this kid standing near our little midtown grocery store. He was hungry and I walked him inside and bought him a sandwich. I’m sure you have seen him, too. Early twenties. Hair long and unkept. Sad and lonely expression on his face. Layers of dirty clothes with his shirts out. His pants were so low that at least six inches of his underwear was showing. I’m no snob. I’m all for individual expression – in fact, I am sure that many would suggest I have my own unique “style.” But I couldn’t help thinking while I was talking to this young man, “no one will ever get a good job with underwear showing.” (Note: I know that for some of you, this is straight line and there’s some joke that might suggest that is not true for the opposite gender – not PC.)

As strange as it sounds, I sometime fantasize about how to solve the homeless problem. I daydream of getting donated land and building a new form of inexpensive and efficient housing. I consider little things, like lockers to protect what they have. More public bathrooms. Utilizing some of the empty and bankrupt condo buildings. But each time my daydream comes around to one problem that I cannot figure out how to overcome: drugs and booze, which is connected to crime, which is connected to violence. How can it be solved?

Leave it to the professionals. Leave it and support those organizations that help large numbers of people survive, while each night having a zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol. Leave it and support those organizations that help one person at a time learn how to believe in themselves and society again. Google or Bing it, search terms: (your city) and homeless shelters. If you are in the Atlanta area, contact the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. They also have a 24-hour help line. Or the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency.

Or, at the very minimum, follow our friend Clay’s example and give them an energy bar.

Park stories

“There’s something about white people,” Bull said as he sat down beside me on the stone wall overlooking the shopping gauntlet of the Saturday Green Market in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, “they want everything.”

Bull’s given name is Tony and I’ve know him for three years. As one might suspect, Bull didn’t get his nickname for awkward moments in a china shop. In his mid-fifties, he’s affable, homeless and pretty much knows how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police*. Bull went on to tell me, while punctuating each phrase with a pause and a laugh, “You know, money’s no good for holding on to. It’s got to keep moving. That’s why they do it – always buying stuff.”

I had a decision to make. Do I patronize him by agreeing and just letting the conversation go silent, or do I give him the respect to answer him thoughtfully? I chose the latter and tried to tell him how some people had unimaginable amounts of money and how those people just wanted more and more of it.

Bull looked down, shook his head side to side and began speaking louder, as Bull does, when he seems to feel confused, “I don’t know about that…” Reaching down to pet my geriatric, hair-factory of a beagle, Bull rubbed too hard and the dog gave out a loud whelp as hounds do to embarrass their owners. “Your dog’s blind, right? No? Can’t hear? I know something’s wrong with her. Anyway, how’s your wife doing? I haven’t seen her in a while. You doing OK?”

While reassuring him that we were fine, Bull and I became sandwiched by other spouse watchers and waiters on the bench-hieght wall. The recent interlopers were sitting close enough to hear, but far enough away to observe. I wondered to myself if these newly arrived “social peers” were there for the shade, to judge Bull, or to judge us both. I often get feelings like this and know it comes from my mom’s lifelong and often conflicting curse of inferiority and her strong, but simple sense of right and wrong. As I’ve aged, my rational side knows well their decision to sit down had nothing to do with either of us. Most people, especially young people, are oblivious to the homeless.

Feeling the new eyes upon him, Bull then turned his questions to a safer subject, “Lee, tell me this, do you believe in Jesus and God?”

My turn to laugh awkwardly, “That’s two different questions, Bull.” If you are asking me if I believe in the historical figure of Jesus, whose followers, hundreds of years later, recounted wonderful and life-giving sermons and tales of what we are asked to believe of his life, sure. And if by God, you are asking if I believe that there is some powerful force in life greater and outside our lives that connects us all, I do.“

Hearing my ”I do“ and not processing the parsed phrases, Bull seemed reassured and said, while patting me on the shoulder, ”Good. Good. I don’t know why I thought you weren’t a believer. That’s good. God bless you.“

In the middle of it, my wife walked up with her market bag filled with gourds of every color and shape, ”Hello, Red,“ she said as she faced that moment every immune-surpressed Southerner fears – the requisitely polite handshake or hug from someone who lived on the street. Fortunately her bags prevented either.

”This is Bull,“ I said to her. ”Red is someone else entirely, though Red Bull is a very funny guess.“ Then sensing her dilemma, I offered, ”A fist bump is always appropriate.“ Watching a middle-aged white woman, never known for coordination, attempt to fist bump with arms filled with gourds, is great sport and a true test of my ability not to laugh at someone, but Terri’s always a good sport.

Able to easily multi-task while fist-bumping, Bull offered with a genuine smile, ”Hello, Miss Terri. Looks like you’re going to be doin’ some fine cooking. You going to cook any of that for me?“

”Maybe so, I’ve cooked for you before.“

”I remember,“ Bull said, ”you made me a birthday cake last year.“

I glanced at one the interlopers within earshot expecting an acknowledgement of her kindness – oblivious.

###

*A note on how to stay out of trouble with the homeless police: Keep moving. Don’t hang out in a group for long. Keep up with grooming and wear clean clothes. Stash your possessions during the day and don’t been seen carrying bags. Stay away from the types of people who might feel threatened (those alone or with children). Smile and mention God in your short conversations with strangers. Be polite. Never resist a police officer. And keep moving.

City police have an almost impossible job and I have nothing but respect for their efforts. Sworn to uphold the law, part of a team, at the whim of politics and every “taxpayer” they meet, they also owe it their own families to survive each day. I often hear complaints from homeless men of profiling and excess force – while it might seem true, most of what seems “profiling” are reaction to citizen complaints or inappropriate public behavior. Charges of excessive force are most often a situational reaction of drunkenness or rage. There are exceptions and there shouldn’t be.

Homelessness is terrible problem. I sincerely wish that giving money to someone panhandling was an answer. It isn’t. Often if makes things worse. If someone is hungry, give them food or directions to a shelter. Homelessness is a societal problem, an economic problem and a political problem. If you want to help the homeless, I encourage you to contact an organization in your community and help them.

Camping Out

Homelessness AtlantaThe Monday after New Year’s, a new urban camper arrived in Piedmont Park. At least, I think he was. He had all the telltale signs:

  • More stuff than he could easily carry. To survive in the urban wilderness, you have to have your hands free. Be able to eat, zip your zipper or defend yourself without putting your stuff down. He’d have to lighten his load and stash it somewhere or he’d lose it. Likely he had already made some choices on what was truly valuable and necessary in his life. He’ll need to make more.
  • Some of his stuff was in paper bags and overflowing. Paper bags don’t wear well in the weather. Once they start to tear, all in the bag will be lost. Paper bags also don’t provide much security. The extra coat he had was clearly visible. Somebody would want that. Garbage bags are the preferred choice.
  • He was carrying a heavy blanket. Logical for his 7AM and 18 degree arrival, but unworkable for long. Marked him too clearly. If you’re going to sit in a public place, you have to look like you don’t live there. Plus, once it gets wet, he’ll tire of carrying it and it will be of little use.
  • He was alone and seemed nervous about his stuff. He’ll make friends soon enough. Learn the ropes. Find out you have to have the discipline of the wild and be able to stare straight ahead for hours as if you want to be there. He had carefully set all his stuff down when he arrived and left room for others on the bench. Only a few minutes later, he’d pick it all up and walk to the street. Look back and forth and return to the bench. This repeated for hours. During the time, the blanket found a permanent home in a tree branch. One of his paper bags had been emptied by more experienced campers who apparently appealed to his generosity.

From my desk, I have seen quite a few people join the ranks of the homeless and displaced. Mostly men. Disproportionately black. Those who I have met and spoken with shared pretty similar stories of how they arrived there. Oddly, most don’t blame their fate on others. “I was just drunk and shouldn’t have swung at him.” “My wife got tired of me hanging out and threw me out.” “I did something really stupid and (fill in the blank) someone.”

In just a moment, their lives were changed. When they made a bad decision they couldn’t or wouldn’t undo. Moments we all face, and had they turned out differently, we could easily be among them. Too much to drink. Loud talk. An argument. A desperate act. A decision to break the law. Drugs. Hanging out with the wrong crowd. Wrong place at the wrong time. Booze, an argument, a fight or all three and they were separated from their families and their jobs. Once they get arrested, and most eventually will be (public drinking, urination, panhandling, loud talk, a fight, etc. get them in the system), their job opportunities are narrowed.

Others shared stories even sadder – “My little girl died and my wife and I just couldn’t handle it.”

Sure, there’s a significant percentage where mental illness is involved – bipolar and PTSD (yes, way too many of our homeless are vets) are mentioned often. Those fortunate (if that is the right word) enough to be on disability, will get a monthly chance to get off the street. But the crazy check isn’t much. Often they will share it or it will be stolen. And I dare you to try and get approved to rent a place after living on the street.

There is also way too high a percentage of our homeless who are teenagers and young adults. Beautiful young people who have their health, energy, a quick smile and all the potential America offers in front of them, but they have run away and dropped out. Frequently they’ll sell a little weed or themselves for sex to get by. The youngest among them seem to want to hang out, hear and share the stories, but more likely they are just trying to be safe from those who prey on them. Weed turns to crack or crank or heroin. And all leads to jail and narrowed chances for release.

Most are just people who did something stupid and got caught that led them to the bench outside my window. Most are good people, at least when they are sober. Most want to work, but few employers hire those with a record. Many could find help, but most of those who help the most also require drug testing and have lots of rules. Except for food stamps, most homeless people can’t get on the dole. Welfare as we knew it doesn’t exist anymore. So they just hustle and sit. Some will get to go to shelters during bad weather. During better weather, everyone has their secret place behind a house or office building.

Then there are those who just hit bad times. Couldn’t pay their house payment or rent and didn’t have any place to go. Most of those are just passing through. They’ll seek assistance. Many will get on their feet again or, at least, stay out of the system.

That same day as the new camper arrived, someone was evicted from Post Apartments on Piedmont and 10th. A Marshall supervised the dismantling of someone’s life. All of their stuff – furniture, clothing, books, family photos – everything was tossed in a pile in the parking lot. A crowd gathered to look through the new curb picks. It seemed sacred to me. I couldn’t watch for fear of getting sick and even the memory of it brings on nausea.

Post’s policy is to evict if rent for the current month is not paid by the first. I heard said of those evicted, that they had not paid December rent or responded to the letters demanding payment with the threat of eviction. I heard it said, that Post had no choice. Surely, they did. What could possibly have happened to those people that they couldn’t pay? Illness? Laid off or lost their job? Someone not pay them? A divorce? Family emergency? A death? Something seems terribly wrong.

And then, there’s the new guy in the park. I don’t know his story  yet. Hope I don’t learn it. Maybe after thinking about it, he’ll go home and say he’s sorry. Or find his mom or a sib and beg them for another chance. Get sober. Or seek out someone at a shelter to point him in a better direction.

Resources (mostly Atlanta, links – please comment and add more):

Park Rules

City of Atlanta Park RulesThere are official rules for most public parks. And then there are rules you learn by being there. For instance, in my park (Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta), officially, you aren’t allowed to drink alcoholic beverages except during a festival. Unofficially, it’s okay if you are having a picnic, put your drink in an alternative container and don’t act drunk, or if you are homeless and no one has complained in the last few hours.

Most of the unofficial rules seem to be about how you interact with others. Here’s some that I have observed:

1.    Dog owners who don’t observe the leash law only talk to other dog owners who don’t observe the leash law unless they are retrieving their misbehaving dog at which time they say something unintelligible that doesn’t sound like an apology.

2.    Women pushing a baby carriage who seem likely to be a non-English-speaking babysitter, will always smile as they pass.

3.    Tall, thin, well dressed, blonde-haired women will never speak or make eye contact with short, over-weight, middle-age men walking alone.

4.    When a man and woman are walking with small children, they will talk to anyone.

5.    When a woman is walking alone with a child, they will speak to your dog, ask for the dog’s name, age and demeanor, but will never speak to a male on the other end of the dog’s leash.

Protect the Lawn Rules6.    When a man is walking alone with a child, the child will likely run up and play with your dog and the man will smile while continuing to talk on his cell phone.

7.    When a man is walking more than one dog, he always takes the right of way.

8.    Older couples will often smile at you in a manner that seems to imply that you aren’t dressed well enough or that they suspect you recently littered.

9.    When walking the dog with your wife, she will make many new friends with people who you see every day, but have never met.

10.    The currently preferred method to take a relationship to the next level is by taking photos of them in the park with a thousand dollar camera.

11.    Homeless people are more likely to ask you to buy them a beer than food.

12.    The larger the dog, the less likely their owner will scoop the poop.

13.    Every third frisbee toss by a woman will purposely go far past the man who they are with.

14.    Male joggers will only give way if you make eye contact so they can scowl at you.

15.    The most profitable place to panhandle in Piedmont Park is the entrance from Piedmont near 10th.

img_051716.    There is a direct relationship between testosterone levels, foul balls and strikeouts.

17.    There is an inverse relationship between sweat and sociability.

18.    Use extreme caution when approaching if a dog is a similar size and/or weight to their owners – this is especially important if the “responsible” party is talking on their cell phone or otherwise occupied.

19.    If you don’t earn the money to buy the beverage you drink, you are less likely to put the container in the recycling or trash container.

20.    The best time to be in the park is just after the time it looks like it is going to rain, but doesn’t.

Please comment and share more park rules.

The Audacity of Nope

America with shack face

It’s going to be hard to give up my idealism. Oh, pragmatism, neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mind (apologies to John and Revelation 3:16).

It has been so long. Was it JFK? LBJ? Or RMN who was the last Dem to hold the office? Matters little. They have taught us for so long to compromise that I might as well accept my fate. After all, the difficulty of reaching out across the aisle is dependent upon on how far you are away. I must find solace in the lyrics of the Stones that “if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”

Short of the moments with my family, the election of Barack Obama is the greatest moment I’ve heretofore lived. I mean it with all my heart. I love to hear this brilliant man speak and to believe this his glowing face will be the symbol of American for the world. But we don’t want for tributes of this moment, my heart is elsewhere.

At this historic moment when all the planets are aligning (Obama, Democrat majority, the economic crisis, etc.) when it seems that all we need to do is reach out and we could touch the stars, the only reaching we are doing is across the aisle and to pick the pocket of our children to reward the hard work of thousands of lobbyists. At perhaps the only moment in our lifetimes when a blank check could be written and honored, we are choosing to use it to buy more roads, bailout banks, while only throwing a few coins in the can of the unemployed, the underemployed, the frightened, the homeless and the soon to be desperate. At a time when we could paint a new brilliant new landscape of dawn in America, we are choosing instead to touch up the shack face our hungover society is waking with after sleeping with Bush. Please don’t look in the mirror.

Holiday Wrap Up

Pardon the pun, but I’ve worked with way too many clever people and there is a long term effect. Anyway, I have this list of things I planned to write about this month and am fast approaching the time where it just isn’t going to happen. Here’s my attempt to plant or at least provoke some metaphorical seeds…

Social Networks Caused Economy Crisis

Or maybe it’s the other way around. Probably too early to tell if this part of the Chicken/Egg Conundrum, but visits to LinkedIn and Facebook are up 20% and 18% respectively. My explanation (using the Colbert approach) is that as people have less and less to do at work, they are spending more and more time looking for someone who will discover them and give them money.Social Networking vs Economy Graph

Here are some links:

CSI North Pole

We moved last year and are using basic cable. My justification was based on cost and the hope that if I didn’t watch HBO for a couple of years maybe they would add some movies we hadn’t seen. Admittedly, using the remote control so much has made the Carpal Tunnel caused by a billion mouse clicks much worse. Not only am I clicking to miss the commercials (they still have commercials on basic cable – 5 minutes worth every 10 minutes – mostly prescription drugs with hilarious side effects for diseases I haven’t yet asked my doctors about), to find something we can watch. We have these rules for program selection: no autopsy shows; no shows with violence against women or children; no shows with laugh tracks; no shows with automatic weapons; no fascist news shows (Lou Dobbs and everything on Fox News); no personal tragedy tonight shows; no shows with snakes; no game shows (that includes all of the survivor genre); and no movie that we have seen more than twice in the last week. That doesn’t leave much.

It Could Be a Wonderful Life.

A rewrite of the original substituting poor old George Bush for George Bailey. George is having a really bad day. This time, all of the Building and Loans had come up short – hundreds of billions short. In today’s version, millions of people who have lost their jobs, their houses and their life savings are on the bridge feeling suicidal. When they hear the splash interrupting their jump and rescue Clarence the angel, in unison they wish that George had never been born. Granting the wish, we walk with the angel through a very different place than we have been used to for the last eight years. A world where Al Gore did become president. The surplus wasn’t squandered with tax breaks for the wealthy, but President Gore worked with the Republican Congress to pay off our national debt and found the accumulating trillions could easily afford to invest in securing Social Security and Medicare. Investments in clean, renewable energy ended our dependence on foreign oil, resulted in a vibrant stock market, millions of new jobs, raised the standard of living for us all and exportable technology securing a positive trade balance. The surplus allowed us to rebuild on infrastructure with thousand of new schools, safe bridges and mass transportation. Trains, clean and cheap, became commonplace, saving the lives of thousands from traffic accidents. Universal healthcare removed the burden from industry and increased our worldwide competitiveness, lengthened lives and made us more healthy, and dramatically reduced bankruptcy which strengthened our financial system. College tuition became free in exchange for community service, resulting in a motivated and smart new generation of productive taxpayers. Teacher salaries were increased and no child was left behind. Lobbyist are banned for Washington and self interest is replaced with common good. With the budget surplus secure, we were able to turn a generous eye to the rest of the world – providing clean water, access to power and sustainable agriculture to the third world; investing in our hemisphere with positive trade practices, the immigration issue was solved; and working with the UN as a partner in the world, peace and democracy spread like wildfire. Oil prices never spiked so the oil dictators lost power. We had a competent government that paid attention to warnings and September 11th never happened, no innocent women and children were bombed, no suspects tortured, religion never became a profile, thousand of our best lived long and wonderful lives with their families. Enron never bubbled or collapsed. Dick Cheney was still serving time for bribery and illegal trading with Iraq. Joe Lieberman was replaced in Gore’s second term with the then new senator from Illinois who is now president elect. Finally, the millions of people who walked with Clarence and viewing this world where W never lived, realized that we could have had “A Wonderful Life” and never chose to go back.

A Free Idea for the Car Companies

Instead of offering me a rebate to buy a new car, offer shares of automotive stock. Admittedly, 5,000 shares of General Motors stock may not be worth very much, but it sounds like more than that $5,000 rebate and I’d have an incentive to make sure they were successful – that includes supporting their quarterly bailouts. Relationship marketing can work for them. Think about it.

A Free Idea for 39 States Who Are Looking for Some Millions

Container deposits. It will immediately raise millions that can help reduce your deficit and more each year thereafter; will encourage recycling; reduce litter; and provide a significant source of income to the homeless, non-profits and enterprising young people. Think about it.