The incredible shrinking Maynard

Every few years, the company I work for encourages all of us employees to get health screenings. And, on occasion, I comply, even though I know it’s motivated more by a desire to reign in health care costs than it is by any real concern about my personal well-being. Well, this year, after going through the process of being weighed, measured, and poked at with needles, I was given a report that showed, among other things, that I was dramatically shrinking.

And that brings us to the point in the post where I’d like to ask a favor. I know some of you are mathematicians and scientists, right? Well, if one of you could take a moment, I’d appreciate it if you could look at the following data and tell me when, if I keep shrinking at this rate, I’ll completely disappear.

OK, here’s the raw data.

On 4/25/2010 I was 6’00”.
On 2/9/2011 I was 5’11”.
On 1/3/2019 I was 5’10”.

So, if I continue shrinking at this rate, when will I just cease to exist with a tiny, little “pop”?

Speaking of health stuff, I also have some good news to report today. According to my doctor, the hearing issues I’ve been experiencing lately are not being caused by a tumor. No, according to the MRI results I just received, there’s nothing in my brain that shouldn’t be there. My tinnitus is pretty bad, and I’ve experienced a somewhat significant loss of hearing in my left ear, but it’s apparently not being caused by any kind of malignant growth, so I’m happy about that. And, what’s more, I got official confirmation that I have the “appropriate brain volume” for a patient of my age. So I’ve got that going for me, even if I’m shrinking elsewhere.

In all seriousness, I was fearing the worst when I had this MRI done last night. My tinnitus has been getting progressively worse over the past two moths, and, while most of my hearing loss is bilateral, meaning that it’s happening equally in both ears, my most recent hearing test showed that my left ear was functioning significantly worse than my right ear when it came to picking up words spoken at a volume of 50 decibels. And this, apparently, raised a red flag. But, like I said, the good news is, there doesn’t seem to be anything growing in there that shouldn’t be. So, as I close out this, my 50th year on earth, I am happy to report that not only did I ace my first colonoscopy, but my brain is just as it should be.

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“We’ve got some difficult days ahead.” -MLK

As of yesterday, the White House was saying that, President Trump and Vice President Pence had “no scheduled plans” for Martin Luther King Day. Today, however, they visited the MLK memorial in DC, where they stood for approximately one minute before leaving. Donald Trump, as he left, made the a brief, yet inspirational, speech.

“Good morning, everybody. Great day. Beautiful day,” he said. “Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.”

Nothing about the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was said. Nothing about civil rights was said. Nothing about public service was said.

While they were out of the limo for less than two minutes total, the Trump team got what they wanted… enough footage to piece together a social media post intended to demonstrate that, regardless of his vile rhetoric about immigrants and the fact that he lobbied for the execution of five innocent young black men in New York, Donald Trump really does care about civil rights and respect the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr… They got their split second of him touching a wreath. A passing glimpse of what might be seen by some as quiet introspection. And that’s it. Job done. Then it was right back into the limo… It was just enough to get the footage they needed, while not enough to upset Trump’s racist base. It was, in other words, pure perfection.

The news reported that Trump had ‘paid his respects,’ but I didn’t see anything even resembling respect. I saw a man who clearly didn’t want to be there, and was only doing it because he was told by someone — likely his daughter — that he had to. I certainly didn’t see someone who, as Mike Pence said yesterday, was like Martin Luther King.

For what it’s worth, Trump wasn’t the only one playing around today, pretending to be a supporter of Dr. King’s. The NRA put out the following despicable social media post.

A concealed weapon, of course, wouldn’t have done much good against a sniper hiding hundreds of feet away with a rifle and a scope that he’d bought a few days before, using a false name, at a sporting goods store. If the NRA really wanted to help ensure that nothing like this happens again, they wouldn’t be talking about concealed carry on the anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination. They’ve be talking about common sense gun reforms that should have been passed into law decades ago. But, instead, they thought they’d get some cheap mileage out of the fact that a man whose life was repeatedly repeatedly threatened during the civil rights era had applied for a gun permit… It’s also worth noting, I think, that despite what they may imply here, the NRA has a history of having fought in favor of gun control when it comes to African American ownership. Just look at the 1967 “open carry” ban in California, which was designed to keep guns out of the hands of the Black Panthers.

What do you say we end on a happy note, with something from our nation’s last legitimate president? Here’s hoping we get another one soon.

And here’s the rest of that quote from MLK that I teased up front. It’s from his last speech — “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” — given on April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated. Hopefully you, like me, will take some comfort in it.

…Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man…

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Omaha tribe elder Nathan Phillips of Ypsilanti is mocked by young Trump supporters in Washington, DC

Nathan Phillips

If you’ve been on social media today, you’ve likely seen footage of a smirking, young Trump supporter appearing to mock a Native American drummer in Washington, DC during yesterday’s Indigenous Peoples March. If the Native American man in the video looks familiar to those of you who, like me, live in Ypsilanti, Michigan, it’s because he’s our neighbor, Nathan Phillips. That’s him at the top of this post, in happier times, in a photo taken by local photographer Chris Stranad, just after I’d interviewed him on my old radio program, The Saturday Six Pack. [Damn, I miss that show.] Here, for those of you who might not have seen it yet, is footage of what transpired yesterday in DC.

And here’s a wider view of the same scene, in which you can see just how many young men were surrounding and mocking Nathan, who somehow managed to disregard their taunts… Afterward, in tears, Nathan, a veteran of the Vietnam era, said the young men had first approached him, chanting, “Build That Wall!

So, yeah, a bunch of privileged white kids apparently taunted a Native American veteran, chanting about how we need to build a wall, ostensibly to keep people like him out… Just think about that for a minute.

I don’t have a lot of time, as I need to get back to my kids, but here are my initial thoughts about this.

First, of course, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see anyone, let alone someone you know, being surrounded and mocked like this. I’d like to say that we, as a nation, are better than this. And I’d like to take some solace in the fact that tens of thousands of people are sharing videos today, like the ones above, and expressing outrage. But it’s difficult to ignore the fact that it’s not just one young man confronting Nathan in these videos, but nearly 100. Clearly we’re dealing with something here that’s both systematic and structural… a real world manifestation of the cruel and xenophobic vision of America that Donald Trump has been so eloquently articulating for his white American supporters these past several years. [The good news is, in some videos, you can hear people calling out these young, referring to them as a racist mob.]

Second, I can’t imagine, if I were in a situation like this, that I would have anywhere near the grace, dignity, and self-control displayed by Nathan. It really is truly inspiring. [When I watch these videos, I get the same kind of feeling as I get when watching documentary footage of The Little Rock Nine making their way into Central High School on September 23, 1957.]

Third, and this is really strange… Not only do I know Nathan, but it’s conceivable that I may have actually come into contact with some of the kids in the crowd harassing him, as they’re from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky, where my parents live, and where we just spent Christmas a few weeks ago. For what it’s worth, I don’t think these could possibly be the children and grandchildren of my parents’ friends, but the fact that they could be is just really depressing.

Fourth, this reminds me of something I witnessed not too long ago in DC, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, just after attending the March for Our Lives demonstration with my daughter.

I didn’t get into it at the time, but these students, who, if memory serves, were from a midwestern state like Indiana, were incredibly disrespectful, running through the museum, making inappropriate comments, etc… I think, sadly, this is just something that happens when young conservatives come to DC without their parents. They get off their busses, they buy MAGA merchandise from street vendors, and they make it their mission to “own” as many liberals as they can by ironically flashing their “white power” hand signs, yelling things in public about how they support the wall, etc. I’m tempted to blame the chaperones, but these “kids” are old enough to know better. And, in my opinion, they’re old enough to face the consequences for their actions. And hopefully that’s exactly what happens once these kids who mocked Nathan are identified.

Fifth, according to the Detroit News, the kids from Covington were bussed to DC not to attend museums and the like, but to attend the March for Life anti-abortion rally. Make of that what you will.

Sixth, according to an interview with Nathan just posted by the Washington Post, the young man standing in front of him in the video had stepped in his way, blocking him from moving forward. “It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’” Phillips recalled. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

Seventh, I’m reminded of the fact that, the last time I had a real discussion with Nathan it was a few years ago, when, according to Nathan, he’d been taunted by drunken Eastern Michigan University students in “redface,” who, calling themselves “Hurons,” had told him to “go back to the fucking reservation.” So, sadly, this isn’t exactly something new for Nathan. [If you follow that last link, you’ll find my notes and photos from the episode of the Saturday Six Pack that Nathan joined me on, which was all about Eastern Michigan University’s insistence on bringing back their racist Native American mascot.]

OK, I’m going to show my kids these videos now, and ask them what they’d do if they ever found themselves in a situation like this. Here’s hoping they respond like the decent human beings I know them to be.

UPDATE: Since first posting this, additional facts about this incident have come to light. Most notably, before Nathan arrived, there was a somewhat heated exchange between the young white men shown in these video and a small group of about four or five black men identifying themselves as Black Hebrew Israelites. According to Nathan, he’d sought to defuse the situation by placing himself between these two groups. The following is from today’s Detroit Free Press.

UPDATE: Great Detroit music photographer Doug Coombe just reminded me that he was on that episode of The Saturday Six Pack as well… and he took photos. Here are Nathan and I talking.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Photographs, The Saturday Six Pack, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 232 Comments

If we “defeated ISIS in Syria,” how is it that they killed four American citizens today?

Remember how, just before Christmas, Donald Trump announced that he’d decided to pull our troops out of Syria without having run it by either our allies or our own military leaders? And remember how, at the time, he said that, thanks to his tremendous leadership, ISIS had been defeated in Syria, and how Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, having heard all of this bullshit, handed in his resignation? Well, at least four Americans were killed on the outskirts of Manbij, Syria today, in an attack that ISIS has claimed credit for. [A total of 19 people, including several members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, are thought to have perished in the bombing.]

Clearly Trump was wrong about ISIS having been defeated. One just wonders to what extent his decision to pull out of Syria, which, by the way, was applauded in Moscow, may have contributed to today’s attack. It was, after all, reported last week that we had already “begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria.” You can be sure, had this happened under a Democratic President, we would have multiple, Benghazi-like investigations. Will the same thing happen now? Will we ever know if Trump’s mismanagement of the Syria situation helped make today’s attack possible?

Adding insult to injury, hours after the bombing was made public, Vice President Mike Pence, for some unknown reason, decided to echo Donald Trump’s claims that we have defeated ISIS in Syria, saying “The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated.” I’m sure that must be a comfort to the families of these four dead Americans.

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Not wanting the American people to make the connection between the border wall and white nationalism, the Republicans attempt to force racist Congressman Steve King, the wall’s biggest proponent, from the House

I guess we should just be happy that the Republicans have finally decided to turn on Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa. While we’re congratulating Republicans for doing the right thing, though, and joining Democrats to formally condemn King on the floor of the House for questioning whether the term “white nationalist” should be considered offensive, I think it’s probably worth noting that these same Republicans who joined Democrats in voting 424 to 1 to condemn white nationalism today, and praised House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy when he announced that King had been stripped of his committee assignments, the truth is that they should have done this several years ago.

It’s not exactly been a secret that King is a white nationalist. We knew it back in 2017, when he said that, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” much to the delight of white supremacists like David Duke. And we knew it this past summer when King was caught re-tweeting Nazi sympathizers. We knew it every time he talked about the need for a wall along the southern border, and the need for “an America that’s just so homogeneous that we look a lot the same.” But the Republicans always found it within themselves to look the other way, in large part, I suppose, because they knew, if they ever wanted to run for President, they’d need to do well in the Iowa primary, and they’d need King’s support. So, in spite of his well-documented history of racist statements, which date back to his time in the Iowa State Senate in 2002, they decided as a group to bot protect and enable him.

We knew King was a white nationalist prior to the 2016 election, when Republican Senator Ted Cruz named him the national co-chairman of his ill-fated presidential campaign. And we knew King was a white nationalist after the election, when Donald Trump invited him to the White House and bragged about how much money he’d helped him raise. [King responded to Donald Trump with a smile, saying, “I market-tested your immigration policy for 14 years.”]

But, yeah, it’s good to see that the Republicans actually have a limit, and that they won’t actually continue to defend one of their own when he says to a reporter, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” Of course, it doesn’t really take all that much courage to stand up to King now, seeing as how no Republicans in Congress will likely be challenging Trump during the Iowa primary, and the Republican Party doesn’t really need him, as they’re pretty much guaranteed that another Republican will take his place if he’s forced out. No, at this point, King’s more of a liability than an asset… a constant reminder that this wall they’re all fighting for was the idea of an anti-immigrant white supremacist.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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