Total Pageviews

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

***

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

***

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

***


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

***

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Cowards of the County

The past few presidential elections in the United States have shown us one thing. County governments have too much power - too much importance commensurate with the functions they actually have to perform. The will of half of the nation's people should never be placed in the hands of a few counties, but that is indeed the case, every four years.

And what do these peculiar creatures do with this power? Sometimes they get busy feathering their own nests. Or doling out favors to those who are owed them. And sometimes they take that opportunity to reach into the Payback Bag.

My county, in particular, seems a little bit more concerned with personal matters than it does with carrying out whatever the hell its functions really are. This becomes tiresome even to the people who work there. The turnover rate is alarmingly high, so high in fact that the office of Corporations Counsel now sits vacant. They've been farming that stuff out for a long time now - at no small expense to the taxpayers.

Other things cost the taxpayers a pretty penny now and then. The most recent example is the settlement that had to be reached with former Corporations Counsel Beth White. White was fired, thank God, a while back and so filed a federal lawsuit against Kalamazoo County for wrongful termination and such.

Part of her lawsuit demanded she be reinstated to her job, with full pay and benefits of course. Perhaps she felt she had some unfinished business here in our polluted little river valley... With me.

After all, Beth did try to turn me in to the Undersheriff, ostensibly for threatening our wrong-doing M.E., Joyce deJong, which was patently ridiculous. I'd guess that it made her look stupid. And it may have played a part in her firing. (I would hope so.)

Anyway, after getting canned, Beth rolled back up to Kent County, where she went on to lose an election in November... Like the Quakers say, tough oats.

Her pricklily-worded lawsuit specifically mentioned County Commissioner Julie Rogers. Ms. Rogers is now my House Rep in the Michigan state legislature, having won her election in November, unlike Beth.

Like Beth, Ms. Rogers knows damn near every detail about our case(s) having to do with my nephew Charlie's erroneous Death Certificate. So does my state senator, Sean McCann. So do most of the County Commissioners. So do all of Beth White's predecessors going back to Thom Canny. So does Kalamazoo County's 9th Circuit Court. So does the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court. So does the Attorney General. So does the Southwest Michigan chapter of the ACLU. So do half the attorneys in this town. So do half the reporters who cover it.

So do you.

Some might ask: Why. Why would anyone go out of their way to compound the grief of a mother who lost her child? Why completely ignore the wishes of some of the citizens who sign your paychecks? Why risk your political futures (read: Your careers) by irritating a high-volume blogger?

It doesn't make any sense.

If you never want to find out, all you have to do is never come to Kalamazoo County, and that's my recommendation anyway. If only Beth White had known.

pH 12.o5.2o

***


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Seasoning

It's hunting season. I don't do that anymore, because I enjoy access to food, and I don't find it sporting to destroy nature on a full stomach. Even so, every morning well before light, my eyes snap open and my brain is activated. This time of year, I still feel like I belong in the woods.

I have a small game license if I need it. I stay up on the regulations so I can freely exercise that privilege. And one has to pay careful attention because they change quite frequently. For instance, you can hunt deer over a limited quantity of certain types of bait in the Upper Peninsula this year, but not in the Lower Peninsula.

If you get confused about that, you might well run afoul of Michigan's Department of Natural Resources, as represented on the ground by their Conservation Officers. These men and women are the most highly trained law enforcement agents in the state of Michigan. They have nearly unlimited power to arrest people or to confiscate their property.

You can bet that if a DNR officer submits a complaint to your County prosecutor against you that the case will be taken up, and that you will shell out thousands of dollars if you've done something wrong, like killing a deer without a license. In short, they can mess your life up.

They can save your life, too. Whenever a motorboat dies out on the water, or whenever an ATV rider hits a tree, or whenever an unlucky angler falls through the ice, or whenever a little kid gets lost in the woods, there is almost always a CO involved in rescuing that person.

When the state of Michigan decided it could not trust Enbridge Energy to tell the truth about the condition of an antique oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes, they sent their own dive team, consisting of DNR officers, to the bottom of the lake to get footage. Once they saw it, they ordered the pipeline shut down. Not many other states have the ability to do that.

However...

Law enforcement should also exist to protect people in the same way that they protect fish and ducks around here. And in the tragic case of my sister's son, that has not been our experience. She has been damaged by this. Literally.

I have made no secret of the fact that the two plaintiffs who are suing her both committed perjury during deposition testimony. Nobody cares. But they care about this:

(Courtesy of Michigan Outdoor News.)

In other words Kalamazoo County will be prosecuting the Infamous 2020 Daddy-Daughter Spring Turkey Conspiracy, wholeheartedly, just in time for Thanksgiving. But if you are a certain funeral home owner and her certain ex-con employee, you can push a court case against my sister for FOUR YEARS before even getting a trial date from a Circuit Court judge who has powdered the plaintiff's backside through the whole sickening ordeal.

That happens to be same judge who dismissed my sister's timely Appeal to have her son's Death Certificate corrected to reflect what the mendacious Medical Examiner admits to be factual... And that happens to be the same mendacious Medical Examiner whose department faxed a rather key document to Martha Redmond, who later lied under oath about having received it.

It's enough to drive a person to shoot Wild Turkey.

pH 11.21.2o

***

Sunday, October 25, 2020

American Armpit

 The boy shouted, in half-play exasperation, "I hate Michigan! I hate it!"

No, this isn't about football.

My nephew Charlie had just returned from his first trip to Florida, and his home state had given him the kind of cold, wet welcome for which it is known worldwide.

Why does the wind in Wisconsin always blow to the East? 

Because Michigan sucks!

Charlie loved Florida. (Millions of people do.) Visiting with family down in the better paeninsula offered him sunshine, the ocean, good food, warm breezes, interesting people, exotic flora and fauna, sunshine.

Upon his return, Michigan offered him... Snow pants.

How long does winter last in Michigan?

I don't know, I've only been here for 10 months.

Perhaps you have heard of the plot that the FBI foiled, wherein a bunch of militia types conspired to kidnap and possibly kill our governor. It made the news here, too, but it landed with all the impact of a shrug. Stuff like that falls into a crevasse that exists in between that which is accepted and that which is expected.

Any of those alleged maniacs could have been the guy next door.

The State Bird of Michigan is the Mosquito.

Our land and water amounts to a steeping toxic brine, with citizens being routinely exposed to lead, PFAS, chromium chloride, and so much more. What has ever been done about it? From oil in the Kalamazoo River to uranium in the Detroit, even nuclear waste leaking into Lake Michigan, the entire Mitten might as well be a Superfund site.

During the season, and with a license, you can catch and keep six legal-size walleye a day (the fish, I'm saying) per the rules set forth by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. But they only recommend that you eat a dozen of them per year due to mercury, shit like that.

What do they call accomplished, beautiful people in Michigan? 

Visitors.

But, wait, that's not all. As you are driving to your chemotherapy appointment, you are very likely to have the wheel knocked clean off your car by one of our famous reservoir-like potholes. Actually, that's one of winter's only advantages; the pack ice tends to fill them in.

Our governor ran on the slogan, "Fix The Damn Roads." Of course, between dealing with the pandemic and dodging the camouflaged kidnappers, she hasn't gotten around to doing that yet... Maybe in her second term?

When bad people die in Hell, they go to Michigan.

Here are the facts: If your house is burning, there is no guarantee that the fire hydrant nearby is going to work. If you are drowning in the surf of our Great Lakes, there is almost no chance of you being saved by a lifeguard, because there aren't any at the vast majority of beaches. 

And if your child - who has the good sense to prefer someplace else - dies in an accident, well, there is a very good possibility that the local hack coroner will monarchically declare your tragedy to be a suicide... Or a homicide.

Whether you like it or not.

No joke.

pH 1o.25.2o

***



Thursday, October 1, 2020

Charity Work

 The charity dropped off over a dozen planters (aloe vera spikes) at the local VFW yesterday. There were only a couple of people at the bar there. Place still smells like cigarettes... But those folks fought for our country. Let 'em smoke.

The planters are never very extravagant, and I suppose the veterans of foreign wars would not want them to be. They are made out of plain old love. And given away for free.

This is the monster, my sister, who poses such a huge threat to our county government here in Kalama-who? Why, she's practically Grendel's Dam, only with Grendel having died of an accidental hanging while playing in his front yard, and Medical Examiner Joyce deJong then wrongly determining Grendel's tragic and untimely death to be a suicide.

Let me tell you what it's like to be around Charlie's Mom anymore:

She'll be having a great day. Painting her rocks, tending her gardens, fussing about the house as time slogs past. In the middle of her new normalcy, suddenly, the corners of her mouth will turn down, showing the creases in her skin that will be permanent. Both her face and her eyes will point beseechingly at the ceiling or sky, like there's something there. Then she'll start to cry.

Not just over Charlie, but also other friends and family members and pets who have gone down in a cascade of grief over the last five years. We have both lost so many loved ones that it's hard to remember them all in one setting. And it all started with her boy, the one she loved the most, out of all the people in the world.

That's plenty bad, yet unlike other places, bad isn't bad enough around here. The way she has been treated by her own public servants is nothing short of sickening. And if they get away with doing it to her, they'll get away with doing it to you, if you're foolish enough to live here with anything to lose.

This could have all been taken care of, the right way, a long time ago. But we don't have the sort of fortitude in government that other places have. We have grubby little rung-grabbers who do not give a shit about my sister, or your sister, or you, or me.

I would rattle off the list of names again, but by this time, it is clear that they do not care. You cannot shame those who will not feel it.

But I can act as a beacon. Or, rather, an anti-beacon. A warning. I can raise an orange flag with a black spot. 

For you.

pH 1o.o1.2o

***