78,840,000 Minutes-How Do You Measure 150 Years?

Graduates of Wayne State University aren’t usually the rah-rah type of alumni.  I’ve never seen a Wayne State flag flying from anyone’s porch.  And it’s not that we haven’t had any NCAA Division I Champions.  It’s just that Fencing doesn’t generate the same passions as that of Football and Basketball.

Wayne has traditionally been a commuter school.  Most of the students pay their own way which means they are working while earning degrees.  That was my experience.  At commencement the temptation is to think – I got this degree in spite of you, Wayne State – not because of you.

That’s changing.

Last Friday I was invited to participate in a gala ceremony in which Wayne State closed out it’s observance of it’s sesquicentennial.  That’s 150 years.  While it’s true that the Detroit Medical College was established in 1868 some purists believe the University didn’t really begin until 1917 when Detroit School Superintendent David Mackenzie founded the Detroit Junior College in the former Central High School Building now know as Old Main.  The Detroit Medical College became part of the university later.  The argument goes; “Imagine that your grandparents came to this country from Italy in 1920.  But then your brother married someone who’s ancestors came on the Mayflower.  Would you start saying your family came over on the Mayflower?”  Older is better, I guess.

I’m certainly not saying I don’t have fond memories of Wayne State.  I attended Monteith College which was a much smaller College within the University much like James Madison on the Michigan State University Campus.  Monteith’s theory was that there is a body of knowledge that every educated person should possess regardless of your major or specialization.  Our first two years consisted of many required courses in social science, natural science and humanities.   They were taught in college wide lectures followed up with small discussion sections.  We had the best of both worlds.  A small college community on a large University campus.

I was also able to extend my formal affiliation with Wayne from four years to twenty.  After graduation I was elected to the University’s Board of Governors and served two eight year terms.

Which is why I was invited to the gala on Wayne’s Campus last Friday.  From time to time the Governors Emeriti  are invited to sit on the stage for events and serve the same decorative purpose as the potted plants.  But I usually accept these invitations.  It’s nice to stay in touch.

I was moved by the photos and personal histories of students and facility.  I was the first in my family to go to college – and higher education would not have been accessible if not for Wayne State University.  That’s the case with hundreds of thousands of others over the past 150 years.

I also discovered Wayne State now has it’s own hand signal.

Go Wayne State Warriors!

The Passion of Dana Nessel

We Will Make History if We Keep Our Eyes on the Prize.

Dana Nessel is running for Attorney General and not for CEO of some corporation.  The stories that float up in the media and that are hyped by her opponents and organizations opposing her about staff turnover in her campaign are nothing more than a distraction.  And it’s a distraction we should ignore between now and the election

Dana is a very passionate trial lawyer. If it was your rights, property or maybe your freedom at risk in a courtroom isn’t that exactly what you’d want, even expect from your lawyer.  We call them “Advocates” after all. It’s no wonder that her Republican opponent is refusing to debate her.  Hell, I’d refuse to debate her.  She’d have him for lunch.  And he’d have to defend some indefensible things like taking contributions from hate groups.

Aren’t those the very qualities we want in the People’s Attorney?

In an attack ad Michigan Republicans attempted to smear Dana because the law firm she was associated with provided legal representation to unpopular and controversial clients.  The “Truth Squad” at Bridge Magazine had this to say about the ad

Misleading images and a blatant disregard for the role of defense attorneys earn the ad a rating of foul

When it comes to standing up for civil rights, protecting the environment, safeguarding senior citizens, or protecting consumer rights Dana is the clear and obvious choice.

The candidates will soon be making their “closing arguments”.  Dana’s will be clear, forceful and, yes, passionate.  Let’s listen and ignore the distractions.

Here’s a new ad.  If you’d like to see on the airways consider making a contribution.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I bet you thought this is going to be about a movie.  It’s not.

My dear friend Amir Brown recently posted this to Facebook.

Was driving down seven Mile and saw a guy passed out in a flower bed. Looked like someone was talking to him but then they walked away and he was still laying there so I turned around.
Pulled up and the guy roused himself enough to give me his name (Alex) and his father’s phone number. Called the dad to tell him where his son was and then called an ambulance.
While waiting l, Alex made his way over and passed out by my car.
Fire and EMS arrive and we all try to figure out where the wasted white guy in flip flops came from.
Turns out there is a rehab facility down the street.
I called his dad back to tell him they were taking his son to Detroit Receiving Hospital. We had a brief conversation about Alex being in his tenth year of severe alcoholism and how he had just bolted from the rehab center after his dad brought him some cigarettes and money for essentials.
I told him that my family had been through this too and that all we can do is hope that Alex pulls it together before he faces more severe consequences. My uncle lost both his legs and eventually his life because of alcoholism.
I was struck by how sad and resigned his father sounded. How bereft.
Addiction is a hell of a thing.
I hope Alex gets the care he needs.

Coincidentally, a few weeks ago in a some moments of self-reflection I was revisiting the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I realized that at times I’ve been all of the characters from that story except the robbers.

I’ve certainly been the smart-ass lawyer who tries to trick Jesus with the question; “Who is my Neighbor?” I’ve also been the two guys too busy with their own concerns to stop and help.  I’ve experienced being the guy in need.  Last summer during recovery from shoulder surgery I was dependent on the kindness of friends and family because I could not drive for eight weeks.  I learned gratitude and humility.  Gratitude I’m pretty good at.  Humility, not so much.

Not often, but from time to time I’ve been able to be the Samaritan.

Hey Amir, thanks for reminding us who are our neighbors and our duty to be the Samaritans.

 

Tipping Point?

As the week of the semi-treasonous news conference comes to an end many wonder “is this the tipping point?”  I afraid that’s wishful thinking.  But there has been some hopeful reporting, from of all places – Wired Magazine.

I read Wired from time to time but never for its political content.  That’s changed.  In the article “What Robert Mueller Knows and Nine Areas He’ll Pursue Next” Garrett M. Graff takes a very deep dive exploring the likely sources of trouble for Trump.  He begins with a shout out to Deputy Attorney General Rob Rothstein.

Why would anyone put up with the abuse, vitriol, and daily haranguing from the president’s Twitter account that Rosenstein has endured? Why would Rosenstein seemingly set precedents that undermine the core principles of the Justice Department, an institution that he’s devoted nearly his entire career to serving?

I have a simple theory: In a world of hedgehogs and foxes, Rosenstein today is the ultimate hedgehog.

Rosenstein knows one very big, monumental, history-shaping thing—how Trump’s presidency will end—and he’s wagered that if he can hang on long enough, justice will be done and the good guys, in his eyes, will win. His early actions, around Comey’s firing, will be vindicated by history when seen by the light of his bravery and personal sacrifice and refusal to be bullied into quitting, a move that would almost surely lead to Mueller’s investigation being shut down or circumscribed by whichever Trump appointee takes over supervising it next.

If you play inside political baseball give this article the time it requires.

The Obama Bros of Pod Save America help keep me sane in these times.  Dan Pfeffer observes that though some Republican Senators are finding their voices talk is cheap.  With John McCain on the sidelines the the split is 50-49.  It would only take one Republican to do some serious shit

Subpoena the interpreter in the room?  Now that would be something.

Any of it likely to happen? Naw!

Pfeiffer’s book “Yes we (Still) Can” is on it’s way from Amazon.  I got the hard cover.

Bring on the weekend and savor summer while it’s here.

 

Stay Off Of My Lawn

I’m a little sad that summer is half over.  I’ve not really done any summer things.  I’m not very good with outdoor chores.  My front lawn shows it as it begins to turn an unpleasant shade of brown.  But I’m smart and I know how to use the internet so I’m on a mission to save it.

The obvious first thing is more water.  There is no in ground sprinkler system so I’ve begun to use an ancient back and forth sprinkler that came with this house.  It squirts but not well.  Looking for something new and first item on a “Ten Best” site for lawn sprinklers is this baby.

It’s the Orbit 6210 Yard Enforcer with day and night motion detection.  Motion detection?   “It sprays and deters unwanted animals without wasting water or energy.”  Yes but it will also spray and deter the neighborhood kids who play ball in the street in front of my house.  I remember “that guy” in the neighborhood I grew up in.  Actually it was an older woman, Mrs. Kramer.  She sat on her porch all day.  God forbid your bike should vere toward the edge of her grass.  Once I actually fell off of my bike onto her grass.  She didn’t say “Are you okay?” It was “Hey you, get off of my grass”.  I’ll give the Orbit 6210 a pass.

Do you listen to the Will Shorts puzzles on NPR’s weekend edition Sunday?  When they are word puzzles that are solved knowing the meaning of words I’m pretty good.  But it it’s an anagrams or crossword I suck.  I’ve never learned to spell.  This week’s challenge is something like this; think of a famous resident of Chicago with the first name of Al.  Substitute the “e” in the last name with an “i” and you get a famous actor also named Al.

For the first time in my life I solved it immediately.  It must be too easy.  How long did it take you?

The world is trying to make sense of the Helski press conference in which Trump sided with the President of Russia instead of our Intelligence community.  People seem much more comfortable with the words “traitor” and “treason”.  Is this a Tipping Point?  I doubt it.

Enjoy hump day.  I’m going to do something summery. 

What Planet Are We On?

Because I can buy and sell stocks and bonds for my clients on my desktop computer I’m required to have a very strong password and I’m required to change it every ninety days.  My memory being what it is requires a mnemonic system for choosing passwords.  So three different characters in the beginning,  four different numbers at the end and a variable word in the middle.  For the first 21 months I used the seven dwarfs.  !@#Dopey1234 is considered a very strong  password and one that I can remember.  When I ran out of the Dwarfs I switched to planets starting with Mercury and moving outward.

The other day I sat down and stared at my computer. I had to ask myself the somewhat cosmic question; What planet am I on?

The past 16 days have been surreal.  My Mother uncharacteristically called my sister complaining of the worst headache ever.  At 87 she was living independently, driving and involved in social activities in the neighborhood.  Her usual response to hardship of any kind is stubborn stoicism.  The CAT scan revealed three brain aneurysms.

She was moved to the larger hospital in Flint.  We were informed that she was a candidate for the non-invasive surgery known as  Neurointerventionalist/neurosurgery.

Depending on the aneurysm’s size, location and shape, it may be treatable from inside the blood vessel. This minimally invasive procedure is similar to the cerebral angiogram. However, in addition to taking pictures, a catheter is directed through the blood vessels into the aneurysm itself. Then, using X-ray guidance, the endovascular surgeon carefully places soft platinum micro-coils into the aneurysm and detaches them. The coils stay within the aneurysm and act as a mechanical barrier to blood flow, thus sealing it off.

The surgeon was able to treat two of the three aneurysms.  The untreated one had not ruptured.

We never were able to have a complete or coherent conversation with Mom thereafter.  She breathed with assistance from a respirator through a tube in her throat.  She answered yes and no questions with nods.  She specifically asked for my Sister in law, Peggy who is a nurse anesthetist.  Peggy leaned in and explained in detail where she was, what had happened and how she was being treated.

Consultations with the doctors over the next few days were wildly inconsistent.  She would make a complete recovery, she wasn’t “out of the woods” yet, we have to wait and see.  We watched her condition deteriorate over the next nine days and knew that the third untreated aneurysm was likely a ticking time bomb.

We came to a unanimous conclusion; time to stop all active treatment.

On June 29 the respirator was removed.  When we came into the room Peggy went to the ICU monitor and started pressing buttons.  “Are you allow to touch that?” I asked.  “I’m turning off the alarms.  We don’t need to hear this thing beeping when any of her vitals go above or below normal.”  We held Mom’s hand, we stroked her forehead and said encouraging, grateful and loving words.  After about ninety minutes she took her last breath.

My take-aways

  • Pick the right Siblings and In-laws.  Mom had six children. We stayed in constant touch with each other and never disagreed.  I know many stories where this was not the case.  This experience has brought us much closer.
  • Have an advance directive in which you designate a Patient Advocate.  You’ve heard me say this before.
  • Talk to your loved ones about your end of life preferences.  When I gave the news to my son I was able to say, “This is exactly what Grandma wanted and, listen closely, this is exactly what I want when the time comes”.
  • Consult with the Doctors but really listen to the Nurses.  The Doctors see their patients for 10 minutes.  The Nurses are with them day and night.

We respected Mom’s instructions not to plan a funeral or memorial service.  On Monday I went back to work.  I shared the news on Social Media from which there came an out- pouring of consolation, support and love.  Five days later I celebrated a birthday and my Facebook page blew up with thoughtful expressions of kindness.

My mother’s legacy includes 10 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren.  She loved large and was loved in return.

 

 

How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck…

Last Friday I participated in a Frolic.   I’ve thought of frolicking as playful behavior or some kind of fun activity.  But our friends in the Amish community are much more purposeful in their frolicking.

‘Frolic’ describes a social/work event that takes place from time to time in Amish communities.  Neighbor men and boys get together to pitch in for a few hours on a work project.

Think of the barn raising scene in the movie “Witness” with Harrison Ford.

Our frolic took place at Gesu Community Green – a children’s playground that members of my church built a number of years ago on vacant property across the street from our parish school.  Winter takes a toll on the wood chips that soften the ground around the swings, slide and other things that kids climb on and inevitably fall from.  We arrived at the park at about 5:00 p.m. where a mountain of 100 cubic yards of wood chips had been delivered.  Our job – instillation.

At it’s peak I’d estimate we had 50 volunteers of all variety of men women and children.

A convoy of wheel barrows were assembled, filled with wood chips, dispatched around the park, dumped and raked.  My job was simple – dig.  I worked next to a couple of guys from the school’s Dad’s Club filling the wheel barrows and, of course, was determined to keep pace with them shovel for shovel.  But after about two hours my back said to me “you know those Dad’s Club guys are thirty years younger than you”.  I wandered over to the water station and had a leisurely chat with our Pastor Fr. Peter Etzel, S.J. who was happy to give me dispensation.

None of this would have happened without the determined (some say stubborn) leadership of Anita Sevier.

Trained in Urban Planning at Columbia University she was the catalyst in the effort to rescue the vacant property and turn it into a family friendly community space.  She was the field marshal directing everyone to make sure the park was ready for summer.

I like the Amish idea of a frolic.  A purposeful social activity that brings people together with a tangible result.  We are often admonished to leave the planet in better shape than we found it.  Anita has shown us that this is literally possible.  It was nice to be a small part of this effort.

…and I was reminded of the Mother Goose poem

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
As much wood as a woodchuck could chuck,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.
Believe it or not, one scientist has actually answered this question.

Pig’s Head Meets the Head Pigs

I’ve been paying more than a little attention to the debate about just what to do with the Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees. There’s a strong chorus demanding that the whole lot of them be broomed for being asleep while the malevolent Larry Nassar molested hundreds of young women Spartans.  Only those with a lump of coal for a soul are not repulsed. The natural reaction is a demand that Nassar rot in the deepest hottest region of hell and that the heads of all those in charge should roll.

But I also can’t ignore a feeling that there but for the grace of God go I.

Michigan has fifteen state universities. The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University are considered “flagship” universities because of their much larger campuses and student bodies. The very prestigious and fiercely non partisan Citizen’s Research Council of Michigan observes;

Michigan’s 15 universities are independent schools.  Each university board, irrespective of elections or appointment, is given general supervision of the institution and the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution’s funds.  Each board elects a president of the university as often as is necessary under its supervision.  The three flagship schools are given autonomy in their governance and operations.

Each Michigan university is governed by an independent board, but the means by which members come to serve on the boards of the flagship schools is different from how members come to serve on the boards of the other 12 universities.  The Michigan Constitution provides that UM, MSU, and WSU are to be governed by independently elected, eight member boards.  The Constitution later provides that the 12 other state universities are governed by their own eight-member boards that are appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Michigan senate.  This makes the UM, MSU, and WSU boards accountable to the voters.  The boards of the other state universities are accountable to the governor.

The political bug bit me hard in the Detroit elections of 1969. I got involved in the political campaigns of Richard Austin for Mayor and Carl Levin for City Council. Austin lost and then went on to become the longest serving Secretary of State in Michigan and the first African American elected to state wide office. Levin won and went on to become s Michigan’s longest serving member of the U. S. Senate).

In 1972 I was a sophomore at Wayne State University’s Montieth College; a 70’s hippie who owned one suit.   I came up with the audacious idea of running to be a member of its Board of Governors. My high school classmate and political fellow traveler, Ed Bruley encouraged me. Ed has come to be a campaign impresario in Macomb County electing a very liberal David Bonior to Congress in a very conservative district eight times. The story of this campaign will be told at some future time. We were frighteningly unsophisticated as this brochure shows. But with perseverance I became one of the eight members of Wayne State’s governing board.

Michigan’s Constitution charges university governing boards with the general supervision of their institutions and the responsibility of appointing the President. Some believe that trustees should appoint someone they trust and believe in to be President and then let them run the university and stay out of his or her way. There is a very strong tradition in the academy of academic freedom. While the Board of Governors officially grants tenure and promotion to university faculty that is a mere formality. The tradition requires deference be given to the peer review protocols of any academic evaluation. If the board ever rejected a recommendation from the President and Provost for tenure or promotion or if they ever granted tenure or promotion to someone who didn’t have the appropriate recommendation there would be a riot.

Board members are volunteers. They serve without pay. They do not have their own staff. They are completely dependent on the President and his/her administration in providing the information that is the basis for decision making. The MSU Trustees likely only knew what President Lou Anna Simon and members of her administration chose to tell them. The operative question is that of Senator Russell Baker during the Watergate hearings. “What did the President know and when did (s)he know it”. I would add. When should she have know it.

Members of the “flagship” universities are only accountable to the voters. That’s a good thing. Imagine a time in which political forces begin to impose outside influences to academic judgments. Oh, how about a mandate that every political science major be required to read Ayn Rand.  Preposterous? Not in this political environment.

About the pig.

Early in my tenure as a Wayne State Governor I faced a proposal to abolish my own beloved Alma Mater, Montieth College. It received a temporary reprieve. But clever students engaged in some (with hindsight) fun political theater. When a vote was taken raising tuition a protester came forward and placed a pig’s head on our table. “Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon” they chanted. The photograph taken by Milard Berry captured the moment and appeared on the front page of the Detroit Free Press the next day.

Detroit’s alternative weekly The Fifth Estate also ran a similar picture. I was referred to as Swineheuser. I was not happy at the time. But it brings a smile today.  To my right is Max Pincus. He was a colleague but he was also a mentor. From time to time people would say unkind things about me because of my youth or inexperience. Max always had my back.

Millard Berry took this picture and holds its Copy Right. He has graciously given me permission to post it. Please check out his work here. He is both a photo journalist as well as an artistic photographer. We have been musing about the fact that we are not as young as we once were. Dear millennial friends, don’t take yourselves or others sooooo seriously. Things will look differently. You have my promise.

Resolute

My friend Nancy Nall Derringer’s blog is annoying because it usually sends me down some internet rabbit hole or another chasing her insightful observations. This time it had to do with one word resolutions.

A few years ago, novelist and NN.C internet-friend Laura Lippman started a New Year’s tradition: The one-word resolution. No long lists of overly optimistic goals, sure to be abandoned by January 23, but just one word. A verb, obviously, since a resolution implies change, and you can’t change without taking action.

I can’t remember what all of hers were; one-word resolutions are personal enough that if they aren’t yours, they’re not exactly memorable. I took her up on it, and remember a few of mine. Focus, for one. Finish, for another. Breathe was the year I got more serious about my fitness regimen; most of the breathing was deep or fast and accompanied by a quicker heartbeat. Last year’s – Twerk – was a total failure; I just don’t have the lumbar suppleness anymore. But if you take it metaphorically, I guess I did some twerking. Kinda.

What single verb would you choose to guide positive changes in the New Year? I’ve got two. I’m borrowing one of Nancy’s. “Finish” And I’ve got one of my own. “Connect”.

It was many years ago when talking about my son’s struggles with a school counselor I first heard the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  These were pre-internet days but I was practicing personal injury law at the the time and I knew my way around the library at Wayne State’s Medical School. After about an hour of reviewing the literature I was dumb struck. These researchers weren’t just talking about my son – they are also talking about me. ADD folks can be impulsive, be poor in time management, have difficulties staying on task, have trouble multi-tasking and be poor in meeting deadlines. We are also capable of hyper-focus. We can be keen analysts because we can see several sides or outcomes to a given situation. And that “impulsiveness” can also be the ability to take risks where others would hesitate. I believe my brain chemistry has actually assisted me in whatever success I’ve had. We need to get rid of the word “disorder” and call it something else.

All that said “Finish” is an appropriate one word resolution of 2018. I’m going to pick two or three projects I’ve started and abandoned and attempt to Finish them.

I’d also like 2018 to be a time to “Connect” with friends, acquaintances and family members with whom I’ve had little contact lately. If you are one of these I would welcome your reaching out to me. I’d love to get coffee or a drink this year.

What’s your one word resolution?

Please share in the comment section.

Saw the film “Darkest Hour” this week end. It’s memorable quote “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” Words can be powerful.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year.

 

 

Sixties Sh-t

The Beach Boys came up on somebody’s play list this week end and an early 30 something friend lamented; “Not that Sixties Shit!”

Now I’m a child of the Sixties and Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are musical geniuses. But it got me thinking. Yes, there is some stuff from the Sixties that is truly shity and I remembered this.

It’s dated 1971 but as Hunter S. Thompson observed the 60’s didn’t really end until Nixon beat McGovern in 1972.

The voters in Alabama go to the polls today to decided between someone who prosecuted the murders of four young Black girls and a serial child molester. I’ve learned not to make predictions these days.  But Alabama senior Senator Richard Shelby gave bedrock Republicans permission to not vote for Moore.

“(W)e call it a tipping point,” Shelby said. “I think, so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip — when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”
Shelby said on “State of the Union” that he’s not sure who will win the close election race in Alabama, but he added that “the state of Alabama deserves better” than Moore.
Taking this seat from the Republicans makes a true Senate majority so much more likely in 2018.
There have been a lot of bitcoin in the past week.  It’s price – of just under $17,000 is leading to speculation about whether there is a bubble. That’s up from a price of $4,000 in October. I had an conversation with a friend who has five bitcoins wroth about $85,000. Professionally, I give investment advice to people. How would you answer his question; “What do you think I should do?. At one time I had 15 bitcoins but gradually cashed them in”. Didn’t I a say a few paragraphs ago I don’t make predictions. You can bet the moment he acts on any advice from me to cash them in for more conventional investment they would double again.
 Got to get up early and see how the new “used” Snow Blower works.