Chicago's Violence, One Friend to Another (Video)

(If the embedded video fails you can view the video of rival gang-members playing basketball at St. Sabina here)

Happy President's Day everyone!

How am I putting together a sheet right now?  I'm not even supposed to be here today!  At least I don't have it as rough as Dante & the other boys of the View Askew universe (R-rated clip).  37?  Man, that's harsh.

There aren't many traditions associated with the celebration of President's Day.  It's not such a great day for picnics and barbecues.  The hardest of the hardcore grill-masters are doubtlessly taking advantage of the balmy 50 degrees in Chicago today to get a few slabs in.  But most people just sleep.  And you know what?  I think that's entirely appropriate.  So, to give the practice of chain-napping on this noblest of days off the respect it deserves, henceforth I shall refer to this President's Day tradition euphemistically as "Lying in State".   How does that sound?  A bit grim, huh?  Okay, you're right.  Let's move on then.

In all seriousness, I'm doing this because my city seems to have a lot on its mind today.  Both my Facebook feed and my email are overflowing with people sharing with me their strong opinions on justice, society, and the seeming absence of both.  I heard someone define a 'friend' once,

A friend is someone who knows the tune in your heart - and reminds you when you forget the words.

The violence is taking a major toll not just on the kids, but on the people who are working the hardest to protect them.  It's a major day-in, day-out undertaking and some days even those who give the most just don't feel like giving a damn.  But they do.   Nobody can do enough, and at the same time there are those who are doing far more than their share of the work.  I strive to be a friend to the peacemakers, a friend to the mourners and a friend to those who fight back fear everyday to make a difference.  And for days when it's hardest, I post videos like the St. Sabina clip.

News & Notes

Despair's not the only thing flooding my inbox though.  It looks as if the message that's got the most legs is the "28th Amendment".  If you haven't seen the email or the Facebook post it goes about like this:

It only takes 38 (of the 50) States to convene a Constitutional Convention.  If each person that receives this will forward it on to 20 people, in three days most people in The United States of America will have the message. Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution: "Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States”.

Inspiring stuff, right? And then it wants you to pass it on to 20 people lest democracy fade from existence, or your cat catch fire, or something.  As to the question of this particular proposed amendment, I find it pretty redundant when we're actually living through a time when Congress has decided that, "Congress shall make no laws" end-of-sentence, full-stop.  I'm not sure that another tool for obstruction is really what's needed at the moment.  However, there are more proposed amendments working their way through the country's consciousness right now than you might think.  And if any one of them gets popular enough to actually initiate a Constitutional convention then all of them benefit.  That includes MoveToAmend.org 's push to get rid of the Citizen's United ruling and, God willing, remove the influence of money in our elections.  I've also seen some that would enshrine the Voting Rights Act and remove it's renewal requirement.  And of course, there are too many to count on gun reform.  The nation's got a lot to talk about.  So, go ahead and forward that email to 20 of your friends, family members, and co-workers upon whom you wish to inflict your political sensibilities.  Keep the chain going, and pretty soon, I'll see you in Philadelphia.

In Case you haven't heard...

Rev. Jesse Jackson is speaking out about Jesse Jr.'s condition after we learned that he will be prosecuted for that $750 million of misused campaign money after-all.

And the prospects for Illinois marriage-equality have been resurrected in the current term

Thanks to Cilina Nasser, a Syria researcher with Amnesty International for putting together this moving narrative of love and war(s).  I cannot adequately express how difficult it is to get a handle on how the situation has degenerated in Syria.  From the political factionalization, to the rumors and fog of war, to the hardships everyday people face just meeting life's necessities.  Every once in awhile a "human interest" story for us to gag on will pop up in Newsweek or some such.  I don't have much respect for most of those stories because they are so carefully crafted to tug at readers' emotions while not offending any possible sources on either side.  So, they're heavy on sop and short on detail.

Note the details in Ms. Nasser's account.  The dialogue with the guards about the sniper, the push & pull of getting bread across the border.  She's done a wonderful job re-telling this single incident in a way that more than anything I've read or heard recently portrays the war with accuracy and attention to detail.  Still, it's a hell of a way to observe Valentine's Day.

Favorite writers section:

This weekend we got a double header from freelance Los Angeles political writer, David Dayen.  He's as much teacher as writer though.  Class is in session.

How to Screw the Poor 101:

First, there's this detailed expose on the intricacies of mortgage fraud in America.  The instruments are complicated but the motivations are fairly blunt.  I guess the petite-bourgeoisie ain't so petite anymore.

How to Un-Screw the Poor 101:

And he also gives us this proposal to revive basic banking services in the U.S. Postal System.  Yeoman's work for a single writer over a single weekend, and holiday weekend at that.  But, he's probably barbecuing in LA right now so that's enough empathy for one President's Day.

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