Sunday, June 24, 2012

Debby spawns Katrina flashbacks: "Hurricanes of humanity"

Tropical storm Debby meanders, daily paper's death slams recovery in New Orleans 
by Mike Marcellino

As Tropical Storm Debby slashes the Florida Gulf Coast, unsure of just which direction to go, east or west back toward New Orleans, it brings back memories of Hurricane Katrina.

The latest forecast, as of 5:21 pm, EDT, Sunday, has Debby "meandering" in the northeast Gulf of Mexico for the next 3-4 days.  

But hold on as the forecast keeps changing.  Two hours earlier the National Hurricane center had the tropical storm with winds up to 60 knots headed for the coast of Louisiana.  

Hurricane Katrina was the most destructive natural disaster in United States history.  From conception over the Bahamas on August 23 to August, 29 2005, the killer storm caused $96 billion in damage, wrecked 300,000 homes and took the lives of 1,883 people, including 1,464 in Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina Damage Facts from Fox News

Tropical storm Debby Threatens Louisiana coast
Sun Jun 24, 2012 2:25pm EDT

The low pressure area System 96L is pictured in the Gulf of Mexico in this June 22, 2012 handout satellite image. REUTERS/NASA/Handout
1 of 1Full Size

By Chris Baltimore

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Strong winds and heavy rain from Tropical Storm Debby reached the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday as the storm meandered on an uncertain track toward the Louisiana coast with 60 mph winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Service said.

Debby, the first named storm of 2012 to enter the Gulf of Mexico, was centered about 200 miles east-southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and was moving slowly northeast at around 5 mph at 1 p.m. CDT (1800 GMT). The storm was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by Tuesday night, the Miami-based center said.

The NHC predicted that Debby will turn west and come ashore on the eastern Louisiana coast early Thursday as a weak Category 1 hurricane. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, citing possible inland flooding in some coastal parishes.

By Mike Marcellino

Hurricanes of humanity.
Weathermen called the wind Katrina.
Her blow, overwhelming waves covered New Orleans,
leaving in her wake a city never the same.
She left them Cajuns reeling -
mumbling 'bout their old homes,
dying for MEMA cottages
out of reach, south of highway 90.
“Sold ‘em to contractors.  We’re
building casinos for the poor
working families without homes.”

Hurricanes of humanity.
Brass of Army sergeants homeless in uniform
swept from the streets, no need for assessment.
Giv’em an offer they can’t afford -
habitat for five hundred dollars a month
plus flood insurance.
Churches turned some gold to straw,
parish people say.
Wonderin ‘bout their government
before, during an after the nation’s greatest disaster
when a category 5 hit the Gulf Coast
on that August day 2005.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Homes not jails, food not bombs.
Five hundred city kitchens cross country,
twenty two to thirty two percent
of our kids going to school homeless,
Arizona to Detroit.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Subjects of FEMA, New Orleans to Brooklyn.
Armies on the street to college.
What went wrong? they ask.
Not the people? they say.
Must of been the leaders, some say.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Bayou grits, southern accents let’s see
before, during and after Katrina.
Try disability.
Hope a leg’s missing, never mind.
Speakers in the woods -
tents of seven hundred survivors
of the bitter winter 2009.

Hurricanes of humanity.
Like Dorothy upside down -
Hope for a soft landing on a bed of change.
Deportees from a 20 megaton daydream.
Two gallons left.
Lost out on fifty fifty -
miles, dollars away
from New Orleans and Black Bay.

Copyright Hurricanes of humanity by Mike Marcellino 2009. 

Death of daily paper rips New Orleans recovery

And, New Orleans is still reeling, as folks await the death of their daily newspaper, The Times-Picayune.  New Orleans will become the largest city in America without a daily newspaper when it begins publishing only three days a week this fall. 

Advance Publications, owned by the wealthy Newhouse family, strategy is for readers to get their news from the paper's Internet version.  Trouble is 39% of New Orleans residents don't have access to the Internet. Founded in 1837, The Times-Picayune was named after a Spanish coin worth, at the time, 6 cents.  There's a certain irony in the name "Advance Publications."  In other words, advance and make more money no matter the cost to humanity, in this case the people of New Orleans and the newspaper's employees.

Writers William Faulkner and O'Henry worked at The Times-Picayune, a paper that's won three Pulitzer Prizes, two for coverage of Hurricane Katrina.  

How well the three-day a week Times-Picayune serves New Orleans remains to be seen, but one thing for sure is the Newhouse family will continue to pile up the dough.  The Newhouse family's wealth hasn't suffered along with the fall of Times-Picayune and newspapers across the country. The family fortune has climbed from a whopping $8 billion in 1988 (Fortune magazine) to $12.5  billion in 2011 (Forbes magazine). 

Look out Cleveland!

The family, through Advanced Publicans, also owns The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Sun Newspapers, once the largest paid weekly newspaper chain the the country.  The Newhouse family is well known for its anti-union and union-busting tactics, at least in Cleveland where I worked for a decade as a two-time national award winning reporter with Sun Newspapers.  
Here's an excerpt from the McClatchy News Service story on the death of the daily paper in New Orleans.  It captures the impact on the recovery of New Orleans and the health and well being of the city and its citizens:

Martha Kegel, who leads a consortium of nonprofit agencies that fight homelessness in New Orleans, said it was “infuriating” to watch what was happening.

“The paper has its faults, but has been absolutely essential to the city’s recovery,” she said. “If ever a city needed a daily newspaper it is New Orleans.”Clearly, the Newhouses could care less what happens to New Orleans."

The rest of the McClatchy News Service story on the death of the daily Times-Picayune -

Death of the Times-Picayune daily

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The White Bird, a poem by Mike Marcellino

St. Augustine Beach, Florida 

The White Bird
By Mike Marcellino

Take time with the natural. 
Slow down. 
Don’t miss the beauty,
the small wonders.

Watch and
follow the white bird
on the shore
standing on spindle legs,
like crooked tar twigs.
She paces the wet sand
in a state of consecrated grace,
too lightweight
to leave prints.
Fearless, she hops tiny waves,
fluttering her wings,
in no particular hurry.
On occasion 
peck, peck, peck
into sand and shallow surf,
spearing what she captures
inside her
razor black beak.
Something unseen–
gulp, gulp, gulp,
digesting sea creatures,
sometimes hidden
in clumps of seaweed.

Recall.  Civilizations,
dribble castles: 
Here now,
back in the sea,

The white bird
knows not to fall
for what man made.
Not tripping,
she takes notes,
in passing:
an upside down
flip flop;
plastic of every detail
imagined -
caps, toys and containers;
a single leather soul;
thrown up paper -
a manufactured jelly fish,
of the faintest blue
performing a tide pool ballet
on the beach. 

“Pray you,” chirps the white bird silently.
“Don’t mix the gods up with your very nature.” 

In her tracks she left behind two shells
worn ocean smooth,
one white, the other black.

The White Bird by Mike Marcellino, copyright 2012

On the beach.  

Photos by Mike Marcellino Copyright 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Split Pea/ce: rare video of Cleveland's lyrical poetry revolution

Mike Marcellino and Abe Alvido as Split Pea/ce
(Video by John Burroughs)

Split Pea/ce rips poetry, electric guitar 
at  legendary Mac's Backs on Coventry

This is a rare, maybe the only known video recording of poet Mike Marcellino and guitarist Abe Olvido performing their lyrical poetry music.  Thanks to fellow poet and friend John Burroughs for being at the show and recording this video.

This show with Marcellino and multi-media artist Olvido as the band, Split Pea/ce, was recorded at the legendary Mac's Backs Bookstore on Coventry in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on October 8, 2008.  That was the year Mike started his musical poetry adventures after showing Abe one of his poems earlier that year.  He's not sure which one started it all.

In this video Split Pea/ce performs several of Mike's early songs: been down ta Las Cruces, Asterisks after innocence, Full moon Baltimore and West of the Pecos. 

In case you're not familiar, Coventry Village in Cleveland is a miniature Midwest version of Greenwich Village in New York City or Haight Ashbury in San Francisco - places where the Sixties still survives in spots.  Also, in case you wonder, looking at this rare video, Abe rarely faced the audience while creating his music.  

Mike now knows why he left the snows of Cleveland for the surf of St. Augustine as he looks rather peaked at the Mac's Backs show. His hair and beard are mostly blond now bleached by the tropical sun, salt spray and lemon juice.

Split Pea/ce performed many times in Cleveland in 2008 and 2009 from the East Side to the West Side and South.

The band's home base was the legendary Barking Spider Tavern on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, just down the road from Algebra Tea House on the old red brick Murray Hill Road in Little Italy where Mike and Abe met. 

Mike reads his poetry songs at International Human Rights Day in Cleveland as renowned reggae musician Carlos Jones jumps off stage.  (Photo by The Plain Dealer)

Some of the classic performances of Split Pea/ce included The Battle of the Bands at Peabody's where the crowds of teens and twenty somethings went wild, jumping up on stage and asking Mike to sign copies of his rip and read lyrics on perforated rolls of computer printing paper.

Split Pea/ce performs at Visible Voice Books in Cleveland

Mike Marcellino with noted poet and musician Ray McNiece at the Barking Spider Tavern

While Mike did talk with record company scouts, Split Pea/ce wasn't signed to a label. Another of the band's memorable shows was at Visible Voice Books in the Tremont neighborhood, just across the Cuyahoga River from downtown.

In September of 2009 Mike left Cleveland to bring his lyrical poetry to the cafes, art galleries and festivals of New York City from the Lower East Side to Greenwich Village and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Now he surfs the beaches of St. Augustine, America's oldest city.  Mike performs and records with musicians Tomas Texino in St. Augustine, Florida and Randall Leddy in New York City.  

In the fall of 2010 to help promote his New York City shows, Mike and Texino produced a 6-song CD "Notebook Writer."  A few copies remain and can be had for a price.  Just comment on this bog if you're interested in this classic album. 

Mike Marcellino as Split Pea/ce on MySpace

Check back as Mike's out looking for the lyrics to these four songs to post up. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy unBirthday, Mike*

The Top 10 Reasons Mike Doesn't Celebrate His Birthday

10.  He can't remember having a birthday party.

9.  He doesn't like the song, "Happy Birthday."

8.  He doesn't ever act his age.

7.  He doesn't look 39.  Hey, it worked for Jack Benny.  (Jack who?)

6.  If he had a lot of money everyone would be celebrating his birthday.

5.  It's two days after the birthday of the United States Army.  Hooah! Enough said.  (The Army, which Mike proudly served in was born in 1775, even before the Declaration of Independence.)

4.  He tried at least four times today, his birthday, to defy rip currents and gale force winds (47 knots) and get out to the set waves on his Custom X LTD Six bodyboard, but at least he didn't get knocked into the pier.

This is video of surfing two days before Mike's birthday at the The Dredge, St. Augustine Beach, Florida by Surf Station.  "The Dredge" name is a take-off of "The Wedge," south of the pier at Newport Beach, California, one of the best know surf spots in the world and where Mike got his feet wet bodyboarding (aka boogie boarding) in another age and timezone.

The name "The Dredge" refers to the dredging of sand from the inlet into the ocean by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (actually a contractor as I haven't seen any Army fatigues yet) to help restore the sand beach wiped away by hurricanes, tropical storms and northeasters.  You can even buy a cool T-shirt with a photo of The Dredge at Surf Station.

3.  Mike's an official Hindu convert (among other things). And, Hinduism is just a way of life, not a religion about a person but “karma” or cause and effect (and boy there's sure is a lot of that lately in the world lately, and not for the good).  And besides, he doubts the really cool religious guys like Muhammad, Buddha and Jesus had birthday parties.  So now billions of people celebrate their birthdays.

2.  He's not sure his birth certificate is for real.  Kind of like the "birthers" thing.

The Number 1 Reason Why Mike Doesn't Celebrate His Birthday:

1.  He's lost in the rain in Juarez having a shot of tequila with Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata.  

(Tequila:  n. an alcoholic liquor distilled from the fermented juice of the Central American century plant Agave tequilana.)

Emiliano Zapata Salazar (August 8, 1879 – April 10, 1919) was a leading figure in the Mexican Revolution, which broke out in 1910, and which was initially directed against the president Porfirio Díaz. He formed and commanded an important revolutionary force, the Liberation Army of the South, during the Mexican Revolution. Followers of Zapata were known as Zapatistas. He is a figure from the Mexican Revolution era who is still revered today. - adapted from Wikipedia

 A peasant since childhood, he gained insight into the severe difficulties of the countryside. -Wikipedia

Viva Zapata! is a 1952 fictional-biographical film directed by Elia Kazan. The screenplay was written by John Steinbeck.  Anthony Quinn won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and nominations included Best Actor for Marlon Brando and Best Screenplay for Steinbeck.  

Viva Zapata! may be my favorite film.

*Thanks to my very smart friend, Paula Osborn of California, for coming up with the snappy "unBirthday" description.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Death of the American Dream

The inequality crisis
by Mike Marcellino

I knew something was wrong after the 1960s and 1970s when many Americans were living the dream and taking action to bring on civil rights and stopping America's longest war the Vietnam War people were living.

What happened?  How did the American dream die in three decades?  Well, now you and I can find out in the new book The Price of Inequality by Nobel prize sinning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz.  Here's an article from Vanity Fair magazine to give you a test of Stiglitz' findings.  This should help us figure out how to clear the decks, change direction and bring back The American Dream."

Well, at least this growing inequality in American may put the lid on the desire of people to immigrate to the United States.  We are no longer the land of opportunity for the poor, working and middle classes.  While many conservatives in American may not know the dream is dead, or care, as long as they get richer the rest of the world surely knows of our downfall.

Consider the Walton family: the six heirs to the Walmart empire possess a combined wealth of some $90 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of U.S. society.
- Stiglitz in Vanity Fair.

The 1 Percent’s Problem

Why won’t America’s 1 percent—such as the six Walmart heirs, whose wealth equals that of the entire bottom 30 percent—be a bit more . . . selfish? As the widening financial divide cripples the U.S. economy, even those at the top will pay a steep price.

Let’s start by laying down the baseline premise: inequality in America has been widening for dec­ades. We’re all aware of the fact. Yes, there are some on the right who deny this reality, but serious analysts across the political spectrum take it for granted. I won’t run through all the evidence here, except to say that the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent is vast when looked at in terms of annual income, and even vaster when looked at in terms of wealth—that is, in terms of accumulated capital and other assets. Consider the Walton family: the six heirs to the Walmart empire possess a combined wealth of some $90 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of U.S. society. (Many at the bottom have zero or negative net worth, especially after the housing debacle.) Warren Buffett put the matter correctly when he said, “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.”

So, no: there’s little debate over the basic fact of widening inequality. The debate is over its meaning. From the right, you sometimes hear the argument made that inequality is basically a good thing: as the rich increasingly benefit, so does everyone else. This argument is false: while the rich have been growing richer, most Americans (and not just those at the bottom) have been unable to maintain their standard of living, let alone to keep pace. A typical full-time male worker receives the same income today he did a third of a century ago.

From the left, meanwhile, the widening inequality often elicits an appeal for simple justice: why should so few have so much when so many have so little? It’s not hard to see why, in a market-driven age where justice itself is a commodity to be bought and sold, some would dismiss that argument as the stuff of pious sentiment.
Put sentiment aside. There are good reasons why plutocrats should care about inequality anyway—even if they’re thinking only about themselves. The rich do not exist in a vacuum. They need a functioning society around them to sustain their position. Widely unequal societies do not function efficiently and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable. The evidence from history and from around the modern world is unequivocal: there comes a point when inequality spirals into economic dysfunction for the whole society, and when it does, even the rich pay a steep price.

Let me run through a few reasons why.

Click this link for the full story by Stiglitz in Vanity Fair:

Stiglitz on the death of the American Dream in Vanity Fair magazine

I find this part rather startling.  It captures just how upside down America is today:

Consider the Walton family: the six heirs to the Walmart empire possess a combined wealth of some $90 billion, which is equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 30 percent of U.S. society. 

(Many at the bottom have zero or negative net worth, especially after the housing debacle.) Warren Buffett put the matter correctly when he said, “There’s been class warfare going on for the last 20 years and my class has won.”

We are now at a turning pout in the matter of the growing inequality in America, the death of the American Dream and the stagnant economy with millions jobless with the presidential election only 16 weeks away.

So, how many people are unemployed now?  The Labor Department report for May shows unemployment is tuck at 8.2% with 12.7 million Americans unemployed.  But that figure is grossly misleading.  

And amazingly, I found the real, man on the street data in the most unlikely place:  The Website of the Republican Majority in Congress. Funny, the very people who have supported policies favoring the 1%, the rich, show that the true number of American jobless or underemployed (part timers who can't find full time jobs and people who gave up looking) is 23,533,000!  The Republicans of course are promoting the terrible state of the economy and unemployment in order blame it all on President Obama.  Just image if Mitt Romney wins and the Republican Party now controlled with reactionary conservatives retain control of the House and capture the White House along with the Senate.  

The Republicans also note that 46.2 million Americans live in poetry, the highest poverty rate in 52 years.  It's mind blowing that they have the nerve to use the data showing the death of the American Dream that they, for the most part, caused.

Here's an excerpt from the Website of the Republican Majority in Congress:

  • 15.2%: The rate of “underemployment” or “real unemployment,” including the unemployed, those who want work but have stopped searching in this economy, and those who are forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment is 15.2 percent.
  • 12,806,000: There were 12.8 million unemployed Americans looking for work in the month of February, up by 48,000 from January.
  • 8,119,000: The number of Americans who worked only part-time in February because they could not find full-time employment was 8.1 million. The number of people working part-time for economic reasons reached 8 million for the first time in history in January 2009 and has remained above 8 million for 37 consecutive months.
  • 2,608,000: The number of people who are available to work and have looked for a job at some point in the last year but are not counted as unemployed because they gave up their search is now 2.6 million.  
  • 1,006,000: The number of discouraged people who stopped looking for work because they believed there were no jobs available is now 1 million.
  • 23,533,000: The total number of “underemployed” Americans is 23.5 million, including those unemployed (12.7 million), those who are no longer looking for work (2.8 million), and those who are working part-time because no other work is available (8.2 million).
What I find rather frustrating is that President Obama has not and does not seem to be inclined to confront the causes of the growing inequality in America and death of the American Dream.  He's made some off handed comments that Occupy Wall Street has a point, but he isn't making this a campaign issue, at least not yet.

I believe if President Obama does not confront the decline of America forcefully with a concrete plan of action to do something to reverse course and bring the dream alive, he will lose the election.  And, if that happens, the great majority of Americans will suffer for it and American will become a second rate nation.

The time is now.  The situation is critical.  It's a turning point.  You might say the choice is:  a nation of opportunity versus a nation of Walmarts.  It's just about that simple.  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Syrian massacres: Who decides?

UNSMIS staff in the Syrian village of Mazraat al-Qubeir conduct a fact-finding mission. Photo: UNSMIS/David Manyua (from United Nation's website)

From the United Nation's website:

After earlier obstructions, UN observers reach reported site of massacre in Syria

8 June 2012 – After earlier obstructions, UN observers today reached the Syrian village of Mazraat al-Qubeir, where a massacre of civilians reportedly took place on Wednesday.
“We found the village empty of its local inhabitants, bmp [tank] tracks on the road, a house damaged from shelling, with a wide range of calibre types and grenades,” said the spokesperson for the UN Supervision in Syria (UNSMIS), Sausan Ghosheh. We found burned homes, and at least one burnt with bodies inside – there was a heavy stench of burned flesh.”
According to media reports, Syrian activists claim that Government troops and militiamen massacred at least 78 villagers in Mazraat al-Qubeir, located near the city of Hama, on Wednesday. The Syrian Government has said the accusations are false.
A group of 25 UNSMIS observers reached the village mid-afternoon on Friday, after having been obstructed in earlier attempts.

Syrian Massacre:  Will the killing be stopped?

The United Nations is a Wimp! 

Tens of thousands of people killed in Syria and it seems no one can figure out what's going on, or do anything about it.  

Who is responsible for killing thousands of civilians? 

Secretary of State Clinton keeps wailing at the situation, but the United States, President Obama at the helm, does nothing. 

Of course, this is nothing new, or specific to Obama. 

The United States picks and chooses when to press the metal. And, yes, the president is commander in chief and he or she is responsible. 

Meanwhile President Obama (and Bush before him) picks and chooses drone attacks killing terrorists or everyday people in various places around the world. 

Who decides whether to stop the slaughter of innocents by the scores, hundreds, thousands or millions at any point in time and any spot on the earth?

Who decides that?

Major-General Robert, Chief Military Observer and Head of Mission of UNSMIS. Photo: UMSMIS/H. Siklawi