Closing the Books on 2017

The low points on the last year are so thoroughly obvious, well documented and endlessly discussed, that there is no need to mention them here. An examination of the high points, though mostly personal, may illuminate the path ahead.

Where where you when?

On Saturday, January 21st, 2017 I was at the Cathedral Church of St Paul, watching as the Boston Common filled with people. 5 Million people, at demonstrations  all over the world, showed up for the Women’s March that day, supporting the equity, inclusion and dignity of all people.  The Cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts and house of prayer for all, is opposite – just down the Beacon Hill and across the Common from –  the State House. Church and State – one was a refuge while the other was in peril. There were three quarters of a million people on the Boston Common that day. At the Cathedral we poured coffee and served bagels. There was quiet space and clean restrooms. People met up on the front steps and eat brown bag lunches in the fellowship hall. Keeping the lights burning and the doors open – yes. This we can do.

All Politics are Local/So Get Involved in Local Politics!

The results of the November 2017 municipal election gave me back some of the hope that the national election in ’16 took away. The composition of the Board of Aldermen* shifted decisively to the left. In Ward 3, where I live,  Ben Ewen-Campen won over two-term incumbent Bob McWatters. In Ward 2, JT Scott defeated Maryann Houston; in Ward 4 Jessie Clingan, running against former City Hall staffer Omar Boukili, took that open seat, and newcomer Will Mbah won at-large. In addition running effective campaigns that identified and turned out new voters, each of these candidates was endorsed by Our Revolution Somerville. OR- Somerville also endorsed the sitting Ward 1 Alderman Matt McLaughlin and sitting Ward 2 School Committee Representative Dan Futrell.

The Mayor, though challenged, won another term, and, with our city’s stronger mayor form of governance, what he says pretty much goes. But Curtatone’s faux pas over affordable housing at Assembly Row has stirred the hornet’s nest. And while it is right and noble to speak out for El Salvadoran residents facing deportation, discerning observers point out that without more affordable housing it is increasing difficult for those who need refuge to actually live in our city.

It will be interesting to see how the sea change in the composition of of the Board of Aldermen plays out, especially as it’s tact to the left puts a spotlight on Curtatone’s reputation as a progressive. Instead of a working class hero, he might be seen as a limousine liberal. We shall see.

*Board of Aldermen = city council

When 20 Becomes 6 It’s Time to Drain the Swamp

Missing the Parade

Kate was visiting her folks for the weekend, so I offered to feed her cat. The weather Sunday afternoon was picture postcard perfect, so walking over to Highland Ave was a pleasure. The City’s Memorial Day parade had just left Central Hill for Davis Square. People, couples and families with small kids carrying little American flags were walking done Prospect Hill as I walked up. I spotted an old friend. She & I worshiped at the same church back in the day. She had a poster with a picture of her dad on it. Her dad had served in the Tenth Mountain Division during World War 2.

Remembering Jack…

After tending to Kate’s cat, I was walking home, with nothing on my mind, and I remembered Jack Hamilton. “Jack,” I thought, “must be spinning in his grave.”

I met Jack as he was nearing the end his 30-year tenure as the executive director of the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS). CAAS runs the Head Start program in Somerville and Cambridge and it helps people navigate the social safety net system – food stamps, fuel assistance, housing subsidies. Need to find a food pantry? CAAS has a list. Bedbugs? Someone at CAAS knows who to call. If Jack weren’t already dead, the recent decision by the Planning Board to cut Federal Reality’s affordability requirement by more than half would have killed him.

…And a lot of other folks

And then I thought of the other good people of CAAS, and Somerville Community Corporation, and the Somerville Homeless Coalition, and the Cambridge-Somerville Health Alliance, and Save Our Somerville, and all the other organizations and people who devoted years to pass legislation that requires a 20% set aside for affordable housing in our city. All the time and the meetings, the motions and the minutes and agendas, the conversations and arm twisting, the sweet talking and ego stroking – all the road races and walks to save our homes and gala benefits, silent auctions and 50/50 raffles – all that hard work, commitment to community and good will has been rendered meaningless. Wow. This gives a whole new meaning to “government waste.”

You Consider Us Simple, But We’re Not Stupid

Is it any wonder why we no longer trust our government? Do our elected officials not hear what we are saying? Do they think we get involved CAAS and SCC, and the Homeless Coalition because we’re bored, or hoping to build our resumes, or that we’re just fuzzy headed moon-bat liberals who don’t understand the reality of free market economics? Do they really expect us to believe that influence isn’t bought? All of City Hall’s happy talk about “diversity” and “community engagement” are empty words. By turning the 20% affordable housing requirement into 6%, all those star-spangled flags and banners – “One Somerville” says the one hanging on the high school-  become fig leaves, covering up the selling out of Somerville’s residents and the values that we share. Let’s vote these guys out of office.

 

One Month In – Are We Great Yet?

Bright Shiny Things

So many absurdities. White House officials making up massacres and hawking costume jewelry out of the West Wing. Picking fights with Australia, a department store and Sweden  – who picks a fight with Sweden? The gilded life style and the silly necktie. And then there are the really scary events.  A national security situation playing out at a dinner party. The director of the National Security Council lying about meeting with Russian officials to people inside the White House. The rescinding of an administrative order that protects very vulnerable young people – right? because transgender kids don’t have enough to deal with – let’s make going to the bathroom at school a hassle again. The report of the White House plan to mobilize the National Guard troops to deport the undocumented. Was that real news, or fake?

Be Real – Shatter the Spectacle

trump-watercolor

In a Spectacle Society, the Marxist theorist Guy Debord wrote in the 1960s, authentic social life is replaced it’s representation. So,

“Whether we love Trump or hate him, is it possible we are all equally addicted consumers of spectacular images he continues to generate? Have we been complicit in the rise of Trump, if only by consuming the images generated by his person and politics? Do the critical counter-images that protesters create constitute true resistance, or are they instead collaborating with our fascination with spectacle? We may insist that this consumption is the basic work of concerned citizenship and moral vigilance. But Debord would counter that such consumption reflects little more than a deepening addiction. We may follow the fact checkers and cite the critics to our hearts’ delight, but these activities, absorbed by the spectacle, have no impact on it.”
–Robert Zaretsky, New York Times, 2/20/17

So be real. Read real news. Learn real things. Work with real people to make real and lasting change. Turn away from the Spectacle, go local with politics and organizing. Because we are snowflakes and a lot of us moving in the same direction makes an avalanche.

Are We Great Yet?

Maybe Mr Peabody could brief the president? boris-and-natasha

My theory, DJT is in debt to members of the Russian plutocrats, BIG LEAGUE. Members of his campaign staff discussed sanctions with  Russian officials? Follow the money.

 

The Mar-A-Lago Situation Room…

…also happens to be a dining room. Maybe it’s me, but doesn’t its seem a bit odd to remain at dinner while dealing with a crisis? The phone call comes – Aunt Elizabeth has died; there’s been an accident; North Korea launches a missile…and the guy taking the call stays seated at the dinner table?  Who does that? Like, “Yeah, I’m listening, I just don’t want my soup to get cold…” #WhataShitStorm.

maralago_sit_room

Trump, Tape and Ties

How has this slipped under our radar? Yet an other piece of evidence that Donald J Trump is, well…different. Back in December, Esquire reported that the man who is our President holds his tie together with tape – like – Scotch tape!

Look! Right here –

gallery-1484941616-trump-tie-closer-1

A Closer Look…

1484941791-tie-2

 

His tie hangs like a big, red arrow, pointing at his little bits. He can’t even dress like the 99% of the nation’s grownups.

What is the value of a liberal arts education…

…when professional wrestling is so lucrative? Let us welcome the new head of the Small Business Administration.

5_lillie_hurt

Current Events

The sound of Trump Trump Trump

Reminds me of the tramp tramp tramp

Of their boots boots boots

Words Starting with “P”

They –
Pejoratives
Plagiarism
Putin
Pence

Us –
Policies
Polls
Pundits

For Us to Progress?
Persistence
Perseverance
Poetry

Trump: The Businessman

Think about this…Donald Trump bankrupted his casinos four times. How is it possible to lose money when you own a casino? People literally leave money on your tables to be raked in. Successful businessman?  Well, he played one on TV…