Is this America’s future?

A landscape of homeless sleeping on the streets beneath the ever-watchful eyes of their wealthy “benevolent” dictator. 

Photo from Mumbai, India – posted to Facebook by C. Meyer and M. Sabir.

It doesn’t have to be this way, folks, provided we stand up, speak out, and skillfully and peacefully combat the evil forces of intolerance, injustice, and inequity at each and every turn. Namaste!

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Shedding light on shameful Sundown Towns



I feel ashamed to admit having grown up in the United States, garnered high school, undergrad, and graduate degrees, including a minor in history, and still didn’t know about Sundown Towns. Let me correct that, I didn’t know how prevalent they were/are.  Born and raised in Central Indiana, I knew certain communities were adverse towards minorities,particularly black   Americans. But, I had no idea how many communities across the country were outright hateful towards them and did nearly anything they could, both legal and illegal, to prevent them from residing within their limits after dark.

Perhaps I should not be so hard on myself, though. As James. W. Loewen, the author of Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism so aptly stated in 2005;

“The absence of prior work on sundown towns is troubling. Omitted events usually signify hidden fault lines in our culture. If a given community has not admitted on its landscape to have been a sundown town in the past, that may be partly because it has not yet developed good race relations in the present. It follows that America may not have admitted to having sundown towns in its history books because it has not yet developed good race relations as a society.” (emphasis added)

These hidden fault lines have once again came to the forefront due to a rash of deadly police shootings of minorities and offensive rhetoric made during the 2016 election cycle.
Even as kids back in the 1970s, many of us knew that the exurb of Martinsville, located southwest of Indianapolis, was particularly hostile towards black Americans. But, it certainly was not alone. 
What I/we didn’t realize is how widespread the bigotry extended throughout Indiana, the Midwest, and Northern and Western states, generally. In fact, there were many more Sundown Towns north of the Mason-Dixon Line than south of it. This fact is especially saddening and shocking given how many northerners gave their lives during the Civil War in the fight against slavery and for freedom of our black brothers and sisters.
As the book Sundown Towns illustrates in vivid detail, the bigotry extended beyond color to religion, ethnicity, and national origin, as many communities also banned, overtly or covertly, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants from Mexico, China, and Southern/Eastern Europe.  While the “Nadir,” period between 1890 and 1940 is often cited as the low point in race, religious, and ethnic relations, many aspects of racism and bigotry continued well beyond those dates, often depicted today in the treatment and attitude towards Muslims and immigrants. 
With each page turn, I could only shake my head in disgust at the treatment of both our fellow citizens and of newcomers.


When many communities went as far as posting signs at their gateway that bluntly told certain people that they better not be found in town after dark; when a town goes to the extent of blowing a whistle every evening at 6:00 pm as a warning to get out like Villa Park, Illinois did; or when another town goes as far as having the local sheriff board arriving passenger trains to tell undesired persons to move along and not get off here as they did in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, then something is horribly wrong and deeply racist about our society and culture. It’s not like these events took place 150 years ago, these happened in the 20th Century and certain communities remain hostile, though perhaps in more subtle ways, even today.

Perhaps, that is the most troubling aspect of this powerful literary work by James W. Loewen. The fact that even though the author has pulled back the shades and exposed American racism in all its dank ugliness, racism remains a significant force to overcome well into the 21st Century. One only need read letters to the editor or social media threads on controversial and/or political topics to observe such attitudes being expressed. Simply put, racism and bigotry are strangling our society.
Am I saying all is lost? No, at least not yet. But, it is imperative for the United States to come to grips with its racist and bigoted past…and present. In the end, it may come down to us following in the footsteps of South Africa, by creating a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and offering formal apologies for the treatment of minorities starting with Native Americans and moving forward to all those groups subsequently treated in a biased and unfair manner.
I also think our educators, historians, scholars, and especially politicians need to take steps quickly and make such historical accounts more readily knowledgeable to the general public. For a person with a minor in history like myself not to have heard of the Nadir or of the term Sundown Towns prior to 2016 is simply ridiculous. Shame on me for not learning more, but also shame on our education system for not more clearly exposing these pungent aspects of American history. Not everyone in our society are heroes, so let’s start by acknowledging that fact.
Without such a formal, consistent, and official approach, I fear that our country will continue to sink further and further into the racism abyss, as zealots fuel their individual and collective agendas to stir the pot and create division. Left unaddressed, our union cannot possibly survive in the manner intended by its founders.  
The forces of misinformation, post-truths, conspiracy theories, half-truths, and plausible deniability will incessantly chip away at actual truth bit-by-bit, until it is hardly recognizable. Once honest-to-goodness truth is lost, or routinely called into question, society becomes much more susceptible to manipulation and coercion. 
That is also why it is so vitally important for each and every one of us to regularly and clearly point out these fallacies and delusions so we prevent them from being constantly repeated and potentially accepted as fact. This, my friends, must be our daily task from now until the the day when our society is better inoculated against the viral scurge of the racism and bigotry.  May it be so. Peace and namaste to all for the upcoming New Year!
Posted in Advocacy, art, book reviews, books, cities, civics, civility, Communications, culture, demographics, diversity, education, geography, government, history, Housing, human rights, humanity, racism, social equity, spatial design | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A movie for those who love movies


Six of us went to see La La Land Christmas night at the State Theatre in downtown Traverse City. Each and every one of us adored the movie and would recommend it in an instant. 

The music will have you swaying and toe-tapping while the story will hold you spellbound. It is so nice to enjoy a heartfelt and entertaining  musical. 

What was really cool was how the cinematographer focused on the musician or dancer amid scenes filled with other characters and then brought them back into the mix so effortlessly. The choreography was also amazing, but not over the top.

I fully expect La La Land to win many Oscars, hopefully including best picture. Of all the films we’ve seen in 2016, La La Land is easily head and shoulder above the rest. 

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TC takes charge of its energy future


I am so proud of my adopted hometown of Traverse City, Michigan. Monday night, the City Commission voted unanimously to have all city facilities and services powered 100% by renewables by the year 2020! That is a spectacular goal that as a resident I can totally support. Only two other communities in Michigan have formally taken such a decisive step – Grand Rapids has set the same renewable energy goal for all city facilities by the year 2025, while the Village of Northport (suburb of Traverse City) and surrounding areas in Leelanau County, have the ambitious goal of converting the entire community to renewable energy. 
In a time where some ill-informed and misled naysayers are questioning the existence of climate change, it is refreshing to know our community and others are taking bold steps to address the issue themselves. Each individual community who reduces its carbon footprint in such a manner has done our planet a great service through its foresight and leadership. Until larger governmental entities accept the scientific facts and actively follow these actions, local communities may be humankind’s best chance at turning the tide on climate change, at least from an American perspective. 

Please consider contacting your local government representatives, whether they be a city/village council, city/county commission, or board of trustees and ask them to take steps to insure a healthy future for our planet. Our children and grandchildren are depending on us to leave them a sustainable planet. Peace. 

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Urban atrocities – Aleppo is the latest sad example


All of us bear responsibility for the unfolding humanitarian disaster in the city of Aleppo, Syria. It doesn’t matter whether our nation is involved in the on-going conflict or not. As  human beings we should not let such a series of horrific events occur without raising our collective voices loudly and forcefully in opposition. 

We should be marching for peace throughout the world. We should be imploring our leaders to find peaceful solutions to the complex issues facing our planet. We should be pushing our leaders to call out aggressors and to impose harsh, but non-deadly, penalties on them.  And most of all, each and every one of us should be refusing to participate in the worldwide military-industrial complex through our investments, our purchases, our votes, and our beliefs.


Aleppo is just the latest example of those cities (often non-military targets) being obliterated in order to achieve political or military aims in the past century and a half. Sadly, the list of such cities provided below is only partial.

  • Atlanta, Georgia, USA (US Civil War)
  • Ypres, France (WW I)
  • Belchite, Spain (Spanish Civil War)
  • Shanghai, China (Sino-Japanese War)
  • Nanking (Nanjing), China (Sino-Japanese War)
  • Warsaw, Poland (WW II)
  • Oradour-sur-Glane, France (WW II)
  • Leningrad, USSR (WW II)
  • Stalingrad, USSR (WW II)
  • London, UK (WW II)
  • Coventry, UK ( WW II)
  • Hull, UK (WW II)
  • Julich, Germany (WW II)
  • Dresden, Germany (WW II)
  • Hamburg, Germany (WW II)
  • Hiroshima, Japan (WW II)
  • Nagasaki, Japan (WW II)
  • Seoul, South  Korea (Korean War)
  • Hue’, Vietnam (Vietnam War)
  • Kabul, Afghanistan (Soviet-Afghan War)
  • Beirut, Lebanon (Lebanese Civil War)
  • Sarajevo, Bosnia (Yugoslav Civil War)
  • Mogadishu, Somalia (Somali Civil War)
  • Grozny, Chechnya (Chechnyan War I and II)

Shame on us all…for Aleppo and for the other urban atrocities that we as human beings have inflicted upon one another. May each and every city facing such suffering, danger, heartache, and pain today see a peaceful breakthrough in the new year, particulaly those in Aleppo.

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Michigan’s absurd groundwater giveaway


While the good people of Flint still await safe drinking water following the horrible decision to change the city’s water source, our un-illustrious state leaders appear to be about to commit yet another environmental blunder that further tarnishes their role as stewards of Michigan’s sacred natural resources.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) is seriously considering approval of a request by NWNA (Nestle Water of North America) to withdraw more than 130,000,000 gallons of groundwater a year so it can be bottled and sold for profit. Yes folks, you read the number correctly, 130 million gallons per year – water that would have been destined for private wells in the vicinity of the Osceola Township site, the nearby Muskegon River, and eventually Lake Michigan. What’s worse is this is on top of the more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater withdrawn by Nestle since 2001 in the same watershed using three existing wells.

And exactly how much does our lovely state intend to charge Nestle for the benefit of using the public’s fresh groundwater? Exactly $200 per year per well.  In the case of this new well, that equates to 0.00000154 cents per gallon or in other words, Nestle is allowed to withdraw 650,000 gallons of water for each dollar in permit fee! That is a ridiculously low cost that is essentially a corporate welfare giveaway program.

Even more frustrating is the state seems to just accept the report that the applicant’s consultant prepared verbatim. It indicates that such a withdrawal would have no adverse impacts on neighboring wells or anything else. The problem is, nobody at the state seems to be verifying the accuracy of the findings. At one point, the state had even drawn up a permit for issuance…at least until news got out of the proposed project.

Other concerns with the submitted report, include, but not limited to:

  • There is not a single reference to the potential impacts climate change may have on the proposed groundwater withdrawal.
  • Neither the study, nor the proposal make any adjustments for future changes in weather, rainfall amounts, or groundwater movement. The report only states the following vague commitment: “NWNA commits through this application to undertake activities, if needed, to address unexpected hydrological impacts of this proposed withdrawal.” 
  • No contingency plans have been submitted.
  • No emergency fund has been proposed.
  • There’s no pro-rated fee for using the public’s groundwater as a for-profit commodity nor is there any attempt to require a portion of the benefits the applicant receives being directed towards helping the folks in Flint.
  • The report does not address the possibility of subleasing the well to other firms nor the possibility of a buy-out or merger.
  • The initial model projection showed this added withdrawal of groundwater failing (emphasis added). Why wasn’t that enough to deny the request outright?

To this point it appears the state is turning a blind eye to any potential pitfalls related to another huge withdrawal of groundwater in close proximity to three existing wells. For those of us residing in Michigan, such a cavalier approach is becoming far too familiar and reeks of the bad decisions made regarding Flint and the foot-dragging when it comes to shutting down the twin Line 5 pipeline submerged beneath the Straits of Mackinac. In the end these issues beg the all-important question:

At what point is the public trust of protecting our precious waters going to be fulfilled by our elected and appointed leaders?”

At the moment, fat corporate profits seem to be more important in Lansing.

If the immense size of this groundwater withdrawal request  troubles you or the complete lack of an verifiable, independent analysis of the project frustrates you, please consider submitting written comments to the MDEQ before March 3, 2017, at the following:

Additional details can also be found at

Thank you. Peace.

Posted in Advocacy, civics, consumerism, environment, geography, Geology, infrastructure, land use, nature, planning, rivers/watersheds, Science, Statistics, topography | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

One syllable capital cities


Below is a list of the eight world, state, and provincial capital cities whose name when pronounced in English is comprise of just one syllable. Any additions and/or cirrections are welcome. 

  • Bern(e), Switzerland
  • Minsk, Belarus
  • Nuuk, Greenland
  • Perth, Western Australia
  • Pierre (pronounced Peer), South Dakota
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • Rome, Italy
  • Seoul, South Korea
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