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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Class of Twenty-One

I'd rather not try to impress you with my linguistic skills this time, if that's cool. I'd rather not worry about Oxford commas or dangling participles just now. It's best if I just deliver the information without the butter, the syrup... Mostly syrup.

This is the year that my nephew Charlie would have graduated from high school. He would have attended the same fine learning institution that all of us Heller kids attended: Kalamazoo's Loy Norrix High School.

Even though Charlie did not get to experience Norrix in the academic sense, he was familiar enough with the place. We took him to a basketball game or two there, where I fulfilled any Uncle's solemn duty where his school-age nephew is concerned. I taught him how to properly heckle.

The kid missed out on so much. That happens around here. You can take my word for it as a Loy Norrix Knight.

But before I was a Knight, I was a Lancer, at Milwood Junior High. A boy we all knew back then, Billy Fleming, drowned in his own swimming pool in the summer between 7th and 8th grades (we heard). He was a mischievous kid, bright and funny, blonde hair, very much like Charlie was.

It's quite a shock, having mortality thrown in your face at such a young age. 8th grade is kind of weird, anyway, and when you're that age, you don't yet know how to process things or even how the hell they get processed. And it seems like we kind of collectively forgot about Billy after moving on to high school... Big changes, you know?

But on the day of Loy Norrix High School's Graduating Class of 1986, we all got a colorful and jolting reminder. There was a huge balloon bouquet in one of the front row seats at the ceremony. For William Fleming.

Class of Eighty-Six.

I told my sister about this a while ago - she remembers; she was friends with Billy's older sister - and she arranged for Loy Norrix High School to have a seat available for Charlie, with a similar gesture, when his class takes that sweet stroll across the stage.

Congratulations, kids...

Go KNIGHTS.

pH 6.o9.21

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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Behind the Mask

The CDC has issued its decree that America can finally take off its collective mask. So we can all see each other's faces. Notice we are not smiling.

What is there to be happy about? We are all standing at the bottom of a hole looking up. The future holds for us not some utopian better thing, but rather, the same thing we had before.

Not good enough.

They want us to return to work, but at the same wages. They want us to go back to the stores, but with higher prices. They want us to all get along, but they won't end the constant gridlock.

Who are "They"? The government, of course, and its obligatory corporate paymasters. This is not a rant about Big Government, however; at least Big Government thought to throw some money at us. No, upon further review, the problem is (and always has been) small government.

Unless you really stick your head out and bother them, the federal government doesn't have time to take stuff personally. Large cities excluded, your local government likely doesn't have anything else to do, and that can be detrimental to every citizen.

Sometimes the results can be as devastating as the horrific fate that befell George Floyd and others. That's classic small government abuse (or, y'know, murder). Yet the use of soft power against the people can be almost as harmful.

That's the deal here in Kalamazoo. We've got an uppity Medical Examiner (Joyce deJong) who made a sickening mistake in classifying my nephew Charlie's death as a suicide. This was devastating to my sister, and to my whole family, and it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask for that official public record to be changed.

But change it they won't. They defended their decision - which they admit was erroneous - all the way to the State Supreme Court. And as residential taxpayers in this County, we even provided the funding for them to do it.

That's unacceptable. What is also unacceptable is the fact that the same Medical Examiner surreptitiously shared information with the wannabe-plaintiffs who sued me, attempting to take this blog down, because she didn't like it. That idiotic endeavor failed, and amidst that failure, mistakes were made. Perjury was committed.

Then they did what? What? They took out their big brooms, and swept it all under the rug. No dirt here in Kalamazoo! See? Nothing that's bad for you. No reason to wear a mask.

Since the people who run my County are so fond of those brooms, I have a suggestion, another way they might consider using them:

Climb on. And fly away.

pH 5.15.21

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Odds and Ends (Justify the Means)

As life goes on without my nephew Charlie, I often find myself at some juncture or other thinking, "The kid would have loved this." Other times, obviously, I find myself taking the opposite point of view.

The coronavirus pandemic has staying power here in Michigan, even if the governor does not. She has been reduced (by our legi$lature and our ©ourts) to public pleading: Stay at home, wear your masks, wash your hands.

I don't know how many of us are buying in anymore in certain parts of the state. Our urban centers are hit the hardest. I would not call Kalamazoo a real city - no chance of that ever happening - but it could provide a haven for those who want to get away from the spread.

Nationally, 10 percent of the population has tested positive for Covid-19. While Grand Rapids is in the Top Ten cities where cases are concerned, our polluted little river valley is not. Here, only 1 in 16 County residents have experienced the virus.

Why, you're just as likely to be the victim of a crime in our city limits, no greater statistical likelihood than that. And most of those are just property crimes.

The violent crime rate here is about three times higher than the state average, sure, but it's still lower than it is in, like, Detroit. (Assaults, mostly; barely over a hundred rapes each year and only a double-handful of murders.) And, least heralded of all, we've made a lot of progress on our feral cat problem.

Only 580 residents in Kalamazoo County have been hospitalized by the virus, about 1 in 500... 287 deaths, which is less than 1 in 1,000. That's the same fatality rate associated with motorbike racing, and who does that? Maybe that's why fewer than 1 in 4 of us have been vaccinated here...

Anyway, even though Charlie can't be here to see all of this, you can be! Save yourself from the pandemic. Leave your disease-stricken metropolises and come to Kalamazoo.

Just don't look at the Townies the wrong way.

pH 4.11.21

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Friday, March 26, 2021

Timber

"Consumers signing any contract with a business do so with the expectation that they will be treated fairly." - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

***

As a consumer, and as a citizen, I have two reactions to the Attorney General's broad statement, which is in reference to a logging company lying to its customers about how much and what kind of timber it had removed from their properties.

First reaction: Uh, no.

Second one: Thanks for nothing, Dana.

As a citizen of Kalamazoo County, I am also bound as a consumer to the contract the County has signed with Homer Stryker School of Medicine (alias: WMed) to conduct forensic pathology work. Y'know... Coroner services.

When the lying skank Medical Examiner, "Doctor" Joyce deJong, bungled my nephew Charlie's death certificate in 2015, and even admitted that she made up the official circumstances she used in erroneously determining Suicide, she was not made to treat us fairly. Anything but.

Of course, the Attorney General and everybody else knows about the whole thing already. If she doesn't know - and it is possible; Michigan's adult literacy rate isn't what it used to be - then I have two more reactions, as a citizen and as a consumer:

First reaction: Shame on you, Dana.

Second one: Start at Chapter One.

I know, it's easier to take a stand when there's nothing but lumber at stake. You don't have to go out on a limb for anybody. No one sees that your bark is worse than your bite. You're not a wooden politician, no. You're the Lorax. You speak for the trees.

But not for the people who elected you.

The facts: If one dies here, the coroner can capriciously make up anything she wants and put it on one's death certificate. No Commissioner, no Representative, no Senator will help you. No judge will step out of the County line to relieve your family of their anguish, from lowly Circuit Judge Lipsey to the Michigan State Supremacy Court.

At the very most, all these selfish ham-and-eggers will do is listen politely, smile and nod and check their manicures, and then when you leave, they'll go right back to doing what they were doing, which is nothing. They do nothing, they care nothing.

That's why nothing ever changes here in Little Shitsville. Not since I was a kid. Unless it was to change for the worse.

And really, this is all that awaits any weary traveler that jumps off I-94 on any of our, what, four freeway exits. Take it from one who knows:

Don't come here. Don't spend your money here. Don't look for an education or a job or a home here. Don't raise your kids here. Unless you want to be drowned in your own tears. Because that's all what ever happens in Kalamazoo.

pH 3.26.21

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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Miracle Miles

Boys love cars. Or, at least, all the boys I knew growing up did. Charlie carried that auto-adoration in his heart, too. He would often use them as a play space in the driveway. He made forts in the backs of the SUVs. He even stowed away in the back seat of my sister's car when she went to work on one fine, eventful day - but that's another story.

All the cars that Charlie knew are long gone from the world now, just as he is, having succumbed to catastrophic failures or fatal accidents. As a matter of fact, even the cars that replaced those ones are on their way out. The years and the miles, the tears and the smiles, those things take their toll.

When I came home from Phoenix in 2011, I was driving a Hyundai which I called Little Grizzly (or The Gray Ghost, depending on whether it was running or not at the time). It had a 16-valve engine and a stick-shift, and the first time I took my nephew for a ride in it, I warned him:

"Buckle up, kid. Uncle Paul drives crazy sometimes." 

Which he loved with gleaming eyes. 

My Uncle-ish pleasure was doubled when I later heard him say to one of his friends, upon climbing into the back of the Little Grizzly to be taken someplace, "Buckle up, man. Uncle Paul drives crazy."

The Gray Ghost outlived Charlie. But not by much. Its replacement, a black Neon that he would be driving to school and back by now, is limping to its own finish line. Between Michigan roads and Michigan weather, the car has about had it.

Yesterday, my sister and I drove out close to Lansing (an hour away) to look at a used car, a Buick. The car was immaculate, clearly having been babied and garaged its whole life. I stuck my head underneath it to look at the frame, and was amazed. Solid steel coated in factory paint. Not a speck of rust.

You see, it's not just the water that gets them, even though Michigan has rainfall on par with Seattle or any other rainforest. It's the tons of rock salt they put on the roads in winter, you know, to save lives. The salt-slush freezes on to the undercarriage of the cars and trucks here, for weeks or even months, and eats them until there's nothing left. Corrosion is more than a metaphor here.

The other thing I noticed about buying a car out of town: Normal people. You do not run into that when searching for a used car here. Basically, Kalamazoo can be boiled down into four subgroups: Bums, thieves, tweekers and crazies. The nice couple with the Buick did not meet any of those criteria, which is why they don't live in Kalamazoo.

My sister bought the Buick. She deserves a nice vehicle after all that has been done to her here.

And so before us all lies the open road. Like the instructions say... Tear along the dotted line.

pH 3.o4.21

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Friday, February 19, 2021

This One's For You, Erik

There is an occasionally-expressed sentiment that we run across in our Sisyphean struggle, a variant of, "Why can't you just let it go?" It's tempting to take offense to that, even if the utterer is unaware of his or her idiocy in the moment.

My answer is always short and simple: Kalamazoo County is not telling the truth in the case of Dennis Charles Wolf. Nobody here wants anything more than honesty (yet). Public officials are employees. Who among us would tolerate our workers lying to our faces?

Secondarily, of course, is the noble notion of not wanting to see this happen to anybody else. But it's hard to fly that flag in this place, where fresh winds seldom fill our sails. Such things become harder to justify when you know it's been done before.

Ask Erik's Army.

Erik Cross was a kid about the same age as I was when he was killed in 1983, run over by a car as he walked home from a party on an otherwise-normal summer night in Southwest Michigan. His family believes it was a case of horrifying murder. They seek justice to this very day.

Seems they can't let it go.

And I don't blame 'em.

What they are up against is more monstrous than what we've experienced. Imagine living with the knowledge that your loved one's vicious killer still roams free (for the most part). 

They're not shy about exposing the details, either. My sister and I got sued for exposing someone's disturbing criminal history - in Michigan they call that defamation - but Erik's Army is a bit more strident, a bit more explicit than that.

I completely understand their reasons for being this way. They've run into the same roadblocks that we run into, year after year. It basically amounts to a cowardly County prosecutor who isn't about to take on any case that he doesn't know for sure he can win. (In other words, one against White people.)

For their part, Michigan's Attorney General's office did no more for the Cross family than  they did for my family (less, actually). They, too, may not want to actually work. The cream of the Slacker Generation crop, they prefer to cash their checks, gobble down their meals and look good in the papers... All for rather handsome pay.

Erik Cross deserves justice. So does my nephew. But Jeff Getting doesn't have to do his job. He ran unopposed. Nobody else wants to be him, or anything like him.

It should all make you wonder: Why would anybody want to live here? Absent justice for those who deserve it, there is no answer to that question, and none of us can afford to feel safe. Or whole.

pH 2.19.21

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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Whether Report

Since not much is happening around here this time of year, I guess I can fall back on the weather. Global warming has not affected Michigan as much as it has other places. It's actually a little milder in the summer these years, and the winters don't bring as much snow.

We can blame the annual polar vortex for that. Instead of getting wet weather from the Southwest pushed in our direction, turning rain into snow, we get cold, intrusive air from a thousand miles north of us, nesting over the Great Lakes. It makes Siberia seem like summer in Siam.

It snows once in awhile. And because it's so cold, day and night, that snow sits around for months, getting dirtier all the time. It's as bleak as a moonscape here. The only warmth comes from the prevailing Westerly winds bringing Chicago's emissions right into the funnel of the Kalamazoo River Valley.

The pandemic took a bad situation and made it worse. Even the animals have moved out of the woods and into town. It's not uncommon to hit deer on roadways where they were never seen before. Illicit urban hunting has become a thing, the most brazen form of poaching... So, yes, the economy in Michigan is so bad now that people are killing and eating the animals.

Naturally, property crime has increased. Someone just cut the catalytic converter out from under my Ford a couple of weeks ago. Muggings are sure to rise, purse snatchings, break-ins, stuff like that.

Most people don't even bother to call the police, because they're pretty sure the same thing will happen as did the time before: Nothing. What can the police do? Even if they were to prosecute every crime that happens around here, the courts don't seem to be able to make sense of much of anything.

So if you're Walter White, you're doing great; otherwise, you're just another victim of our woeful economy, a collateral casualty resulting from the dull, vapid mediocrity of our hapless local officials.

We have a governor who would love to do all sorts of nice things for the people, as any good Governor would want to do, but an opposition party in the legislature that would just as soon tie her hands behind her back, some more literally than figuratively.

It's hopeless.

Wayfarers be warned: For the vast majority of the United States, Michigan is North of you. Let that be your compass - just don't go North -  because once you get up here, the sun disappears and the needle just spins around and around and around...

pH 1.3o.21

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Monday, January 25, 2021

Quacks Like a Duck

I just sent the following to one of the local reporters who is looking into the unfortunate case against my sister, Charlie's Mom. And it's not the only thing I've sent.

***

Hello. Please see attached, a long-ago-sent email from then-Corporations Counsel Thom Canny (I think he works in Probate now) having to do with my sister's case. In his letter to my sister's lawyer, at the end, you can see that Kalamazoo County tried to violate my free speech rights. They sought to make the changing of Charlie's Cause of Death contingent upon my legal silence.

After we rejected that offer (or attempted extortion, whatever you want to call it), Redmond sued me, with the plaintiff receiving a fax from the Medical Examiner [Redmond lied about having received it under oath - pH]. This resulted in one blog post being removed by Judge Lipsey's ex parte Order, several others modified out of fear of further claims, and a chilling effect - exactly the County's intent.

It was in that endeavor that Martha Redmond committed perjury. So I am not stretching it by saying that the Medical Examiner is directly involved in this horrible lawsuit against my family, which would prefer to grieve in peace.

I hope this makes sense, although I doubt it. It doesn't make sense to me sometimes. But it's a big part of the story. Why did Joyce deJong send that fax to Martha Redmond? And what other communications did they have? Unanswered questions.

When I filed a FOIA request with Kalamazoo County for all communications between Joyce and Redmond Funeral Homes, the reply I got was that no such communications existed. But obviously one did, with both sender's and receiver's information stamped on the document! So, Joyce, too, lied in this case, about the same thing.

Combined with the Canny letter, it's pretty clear that my civil rights were violated by the County where the First Amendment is concerned, and Judge Lipsey (who oversaw both my sister's cases somehow) was going to sweep it all under the rug.

Have a good day. Sorry to take up so much of your time with this.

***

pH 1.25.21

Disrespect for the Dead

 Just in case you're behind on your annual quota of nightmares, here is a supplemental one fresh from America's Nightmare Garden, Kalamazoo County.

Check that... It's Defendant Kalamazoo County this time. The crowd with the pitchforks and torches is heading for the Admin building again, over basic larceny by conversion, looks like.

The outgoing County Treasurer, Mary Balkema, could probably care less. She got thumped like a tub in last month's historic election, and will soon be filling out job applications, one might suppose. But it's her shop that made headlines this week, sort of.

I'll link you to the article, which tells the horror story better than I'll be able to, but the gist of the grist is simply this: If you die here, and owed delinquent taxes on your property, we'll seize that property and sell it.

Yeah. Now imagine your foreclosed home sells at auction for, say, $79,500... But the outstanding tax debt was only $14,500. That means the deceased citizen's heirs would have $65,000 coming their way, seem right? Yep, seems right.

And that is right as of only very recently. Kalamazoo County used to simply keep the funds. Screw the people. But we didn't change our stripes; the Michigan Supreme Court had to change our stripes for us last July after a lawsuit was filed. Which is usually how things have to be done here.

However, the state Supreme Court didn't tell counties WHEN they had to pay back the money, and so Kalamazoo doesn't do it at all, which is how we got sued. From the horse's front end:

"They're kind of punting it to the Legislature for them to make a legislative fix," says Balkema, who knows a thing or two about the subjecthaving been kicked out of public office by the voters just weeks ago.

Balkema has also mercilessly foreclosed on people's homes, for as little as $2,000 in tax delinquency. Much of that money was funneled to her favorite contractor, or given to the charity run by the mother of County Commissioner Stephanie Moore. This culminated in an investigation by the Michigan State Police, at the behest of former Corporations Counsel Beth White, who was summarily fired.

(White turned around and filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, and the county reached a settlement with her, shelling out $300,000. This is all old news here, okay? Old news. Like so many other cases in Kalamazoo that will turn your stomach.)

So I am glad to see Visser Law suing our County. I hope we lose big and are forced to pay. In fact, I may even start a petition drive to raise our taxes in Kalamazoo County across the board, in order to make whole those victims of the cruel, sausage-fingered idiots who run this asylum.

Now, what was the other item I was looking - oh, yeah... That's right.

When considering the goings-on in a dirty little shire like ours, it should come as no surprise that Michigan schools have fallen quite short on the number of pupils they expected to have, by about 53,000 kids.

Local media estimates our share to be a 5% decrease in the student body, with 690 "lost" learners. This, despite The Kalamazoo Promise, a program that provides college tuition for those who can survive the Kalamazoo Public School system. (Having run that gauntlet myself, I can tell you, there are easier ways to pay for college.)

A five-point drop, though, that's pretty startling. Imagine if this was way back when Titus Bronson was in charge. Imagine the little one-room schoolhouse with 20 children in it... And then imagine, one day, one of them just doesn't show up anymore.

Call him Charlie. And don't expect this place to care.

pH 12.18.2o

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