Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill

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Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond  by Marc Lamont Hill, is a phenomenal work that concisely discusses the way all of us – liberal and conservative, racist and humanist – have created the social conditions and political state that deem the poor and the black as Nobody’s.  From the state violence by individual police officers and departments; to the court system inadequately funding criminal defense for the poor who are accused of crime in comparison to city and county funding of prosecution; to the prison industrial complex which relies on full occupancy to maximize profits and insure a community with jobs; to the broad attack on a community of poor and Black by poisoning their water system by a state’s decision to run a local government with business principles.  Hill has achieved a deep and concise examination of current events and history that makes this 184-page book enlightening and thought-provoking.

I have included below some quotes from the book and videos tied to the topics within each chapter, to enhance your experience.  I found that after reading about Michael Brown and Eric Garner, seeing the videos again hammered home Hill’s points.  Other videos enhance the discussion, such as the video featuring the theory of how Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, and Democracy Now!’s interview of Heather Ann Thompson on the Attica uprising.

Chapter One:  Nobody

The Ferguson Police Department released this video at the same time as the officer’s name.  It was an attempt to paint Michael Brown as someone who was less than innocent.  However, theft is not a capital offense in the United States, and police officers have no right to become executioners above and beyond the judicial system.

 

Chapter Two:  Broken

Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo walked out of a grand jury that failed to indict him on a homicide charge.  Ramsey Orta, the man filming the incident, was sentenced to four years in prison for unrelated charges on October 3, 2016 – over two years since the video.  In this interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, Orta states that he has been video recording NYPD officers “abusing their power,” and believes he became a target of NYPD.

Chapter Three:  Bargained

In 2014, a Baltimore Sun report found that in the preceding four years, more than one hundred people had won judgments or earned settlements for police brutality…As recently as October 2015, the city paid $95,000 to a woman who claimed that she, like Freddie Gray, was subjected to a ‘rough ride’ by police.  All of these claims likely represent only a small percentage of the people who were actually assaulted.  Imagine how many others never reported such crimes or had their reports discarded or ignored. – Pg. 83

Chapter Four:  Armed

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  Dunn is supposed to be a good guy with a gun?

To have to endure the insults being flung his way, move his car to another parking space, or drive off to another convenience store, all to avoid confrontation with one who was “wrong” – well, that, according to the logic of “Stand Your Ground” would not only be unfair but unmanly.  The prosecutor highlighted this theme when he offered that Dunn’s rage at Davis emerged not because he feared that Davis had a weapon but because he knew that Davis had a “big mouth” and that he felt disrespected by it.  “That defendant didn’t shoot into a carful of kids to save his life,” he told the jury.  “He shot into it to save his pride.”  Page 105.

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Chapter Five: Caged

Black Codes of the post-Civil War era…combined with the loopholes of the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime, conspired to create easy end runs around the Emancipation Proclamation.  Simply put, slavery was allowed if Blacks committed crimes, so nearly everything they did was criminalized.  Page 128.

Using the language of war (War on Drugs) to attack a social problem worked to distort the image of those who suffered, just as propaganda in real wartime serves to distort the image of the enemy into a subhuman monstrosity.  In both instances, there is the need to transform the object of our rage into something hateful, deserving not of our mercy but of our brutal assault.  Page 141.

 

In the fight over whether the criminal was “one of us” gone bad and in need of help, or “one of them” who was fundamentally flawed and disposable from the body politic, the “one of them” theory had won.  Page 143.

Chapter Six:  Emergency

(B)y definition, the emergency manager works for the State, not the public; her priority is not the people’s safety and welfare but fiscal discipline.  Page 161.

“The general evolution is clear,” writes (Thomas) Piketty.  “Bubbles aside, what we are witnessing is…the emergence of a new patrimonial capitalism.”  Page 169.

Chapter Seven:  Somebody

All around the country, people are engaging in profound acts of civil disobedience.  Page 181.

The People have asserted that they are, in fact, Somebody.  Page 184.

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Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa (Literati Cultura)

Once upon a time, I had a favorite book store.  It was Borders.  From its Novi store opening in the mid-1980’s to its closing in 2011, I spent a lot of time (and money) in that second home.

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Since its departure, I’ve explored the indies, and discovered many excellent book stores, each with their unique character.  Literati Bookstore is one such treasure.

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Located in downtown Ann Arbor, Literati opened in 2013.  Fiction on the main floor, nonfiction on lower, the books are displayed on shelves from the old Borders stores.  Typewriters shine in the front counter display case, with a manual Olympia on the lower level for patrons to type their thoughts.  On the upper floor is a cafe, which was opened recently, where U of M students sit with their laptops and lattes, and author talks and book signings take place.

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Samples of typed comments adorn the side of Literati Bookstore.

In September, 2015, the bookstore started a on-going, signed, first edition, subscription book club called Literati Cultura.   Through this, readers enhance their own reading and exploration of new writing.  It also allows bibliophiles to grow their libraries with signed first editions, creating a potential collectability element.

Each month, a Literati Cultura subscriber receives a hard cover, first edition book, signed by the author, as selected by owner Hilary Gustafson.  Included is a typewritten letter from Ms. Gustafson, detailing why the book was selected, and a limited edition print by Wolverine Press.  All this for cost of the hardcover book.  If you live a distance from the store – like I do – they will ship it to you for the additional shipping cost.  The selections thus far have been:

  • The Fates and The Furies by Lauren Groff. (Sept. 2015)
  • Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell (Oct. 2015)
  • Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy (Nov. 2015)
  • Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman (Dec. 2015)
  • My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (Jan. 2016)
  • Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa (Feb. 2016)
  • The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan (Mar. 2016)
  • Desert Boys by Chris McCormick (Apr. 2016)
  • Heat & Light by Jennifer Haigh (May, 2016)
  • The Girls by Emma Cline (June, 2016)
  • Miss Jane by Brad Watson (July, 2016)

This month, I’ll be receiving the twelfth book of the subscription – Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, completing the first year of the club. I figured it was about time I start getting into these books, as they always seemed to arrive beneath the higher priority books I was reading.  Of the eleven titles received thus far, I have only read one.  After last night, I can now say I’ve read two.

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Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman (Dec. 2012 selection) was an easy first book to read.  Illustrator, author, and designer, Kalman tells the story of the her life with her husband and the sadness of losing him, and the how the love of a dog – an animal she feared throughout her life – opened her to a new joy for living.  It was a quick read as the story is told with words and illustrations, and was approved by my beloved dog, Zen.  I gave it the Goodreads rating of a 3 – I liked it.

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Of the ten remaining books, the one that jumped out at me first was the February, 2016 selection, Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. 

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It’s November 30, 1999, as nineteen-year-old Victor emerges from under the bridge of the Seattle freeway he slept beneath, into the organized chaos of ‘N30′ – the first day of the protests against the WTO Ministerial Conference.  His step-father, Bishop, is the Chief of Police, and has not seen Victor since the boy left three years earlier to bare witness to the world.  The story is told through these two characters, as well as King, a young woman activist with a not-so nonviolent past; King’s lover, John Henry, an older activist from the Vietnam-era; police officers Park and Julia who become engaged with the protestors; and Dr. Charles Wickramsinghe, the diplomat from Sri Lanka seeking to have his country become a member of the WTO.

The novel puts these characters not only into conflict with each other, but within themselves as they confront nonviolent protest, police brutality, and globalization.  Yapa does this skillfully, not in a sententious way.  The only feeling of stepping out of the novel and into the political came in the way the final chapters were written – from Chapter 40 on.   It didn’t bother me as a reader, as it takes its shot at the media and the way such events are covered, but others may have a different opinion of whether it pulled too much away from the characters’ stories.

On the Goodreads scale, I give this book five stars – it was awesome.  Some people like to read novels set during periods of war.  I enjoy those that are set during occasions of protest.

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Dilly-ding, dilly-dong: The books about Leicester City, professional sports greatest miracle

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It’s football season.  Actually, when is it not football season?

More accurately, it’s almost time for the English Premiere League (EPL) to begin its 2016-17 season.  It was the previous year that made sports history, and created a team of immortals.

Prior to the opening of the 2015-16 season, the bookmakers had Leicester (pronounced, ‘Lester’) City Football Club at 5000-1 odds of winning the English Premiere League.  To put this in perspective, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team had 1000-1 odds of winning the gold medal in what has been called “The Miracle on Ice.”  5000-1 odds are given to events like finding Elvis Presley alive, capturing Bigfoot, and to see the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns meet in the 2017 Super Bowl.

The Foxes, as they are known, battled at the end of the previous season to avoid relegation, and fired their manager Nigel Pearson, replacing him with Italian Claudio Ranieri.  Ranieri had managed a number of significant European clubs, such as Florentina, Valencia, Chelsea, Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan, and Monaco.  In 2014, he was appointed the manager of the Greece National Team, but was discharged after four losing matches, including an embarrassing defeat to the Faroe Islands.  Many pundits thought he would be the first manager to be sacked during the season.

The starting players were a band of misfits and castoffs, including:

  • A keeper, the son of a legendary Manchester United goalkeeper, who was allowed to leave his previous team in a lower league where the coach claimed that he wasn’t good enough,
  • A player who was surprised when he was sold to Leicester City by his previous team after helping them gain promotion to the Premiere League,
  • A defender sold by Chelsea, then cast aside by Stoke City.
  • A player released by the team he had been with since he was eight-years-old,
  • A player raised by Manchester United, but was loaned out to many clubs until finally sold to Leicester City,
  • A player who didn’t sign a professional contract until he was 19, having learned his soccer in the streets of Paris, not through an academy,
  • A player who was told he was too small and not good enough during his developmental years,
  • And a striker who was released by a club, almost quit soccer completely, and had to fight his way through the non-league ranks, including a spell where he was sentenced to a curfew and wore a tether on his leg.  Yet, he would go on to lead the team in goal scoring, and set a league record by scoring a goal in eleven consecutive games.

Leicester City’s entire team payroll would equal the salaries of a handful of players on the elite teams in the league.

Two books have been released in time for the opening kick of the 2016-17 because this team defied the odds, the naysayers, and the world, to become the English Premiere League champions.

5000-1: The Leicester City Story is written by Rob Tanner, the Chief Football Writer of the Leicester Mercury.  Tanner has covered the team since 2009, when the Foxes were in League One, the third tier of the English football league system.  His proximity makes this a good account of the season, drawing on the events as they happened, with background details about the players and manager.  Even though I am an Arsenal fan, I enjoyed reading this.  Like so many football fans, Leicester City became my second favorite EPL team.  It was hard rooting for them, especially since Arsenal was in the hunt for the championship.  But Leicester City lost only three games during the season, and two of them were against the Gunners.

I have not yet read Leicester City The Immortals: The Inside Story of England’s Most Unlikely Champions by Harry Harris.  Harris is a British sports journalist and prolific writer of football books, who has culled together a day-by-day diary of the season, combining history, news stories, and tweets of Leicester City’s season.  I look forward to reading this book as well.

Leicester City’s miracle provides the cliche’ fictional rags-to-riches sports story, but packs more power, especially if you watched it as it happened.  It demonstrated that you don’t have to have the brightest stars or the biggest stadiums to achieve great things. Claudio Ranieri woke up football’s elite with his surprising team and invisible bell.

And Claudio Ranieri is a living example that nice guys do finish first.  Tanner quotes Ranieri on the eve of becoming England’s champion,

Once in the life this could happen…that is football…once every 50 years a little team with less money can beat the biggest. Once. Everyone is behind us.  There is a good feeling about this story.  It is a good story but it is important to finish the story like an American movie, with a happy ending.

On May 1, 2016, Leicester City had the chance to claim the championship at Manchester United with a victory.  The Foxes earned a point with a 1-1 draw, forcing Tottenham to win against their London rival, Chelsea, the next night.  Tottenham had not won at Stamford Bridge in 26 years, but when Spurs went into the dressing room at halftime with a 2-0 lead, the focus in Leicester City started to sway toward their next home game against Everton.

Then, this happened….

The game progressed, then this happened…

The final minutes couldn’t tick by fast enough for Leicester City fans.  When the final whistle blew, the pubs in Leicester City looked liked this…

And the players?  The scene at Jamie Vardy’s house…

Just like an American movie, it had a happy ending.

I would definitely recommend Tanner’s book because his perspective is from the inside as the local journalist who has covered the team.  Harris’ account looks to be more observational from the outsiders view, thick with detail, including a summary for all 38 games, and team statistics, which appeals to me as well.

Depending on the bookmaker, the odds of Leicester City winning the 2016-17 English Premiere League championship range from 28-1 to 33-1, and anywhere from 66-1 to 100-1 to win the UEFA Champions League.

 

 

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Michigan Street Newspapers.

Homelessness is a massive issue in America.  The National Alliance to End Homelessness provides the following snapshot:

  • In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States.
  • Of that number, 206,286 were people in families, and
  • 358,422 were individuals.
  • About 15 percent of the homeless population – 83,170 – are considered “chronically homeless” individuals.
  • About 2 percent – 13,105 – are considered “chronically homeless” people in families.
  • About 8 percent of homeless people- 47,725 – are veterans.

There is no single silver bullet to put an end to this problem. But twelve years ago I discovered a resource, for people who enjoy reading, that assists people living without homes.

In 2004, while in the nation’s capital, one of the many homeless people I saw sold me a newspaper.  It was called Street Sense, a street newspaper that brings awareness to the community about poverty and homelessness.  Seventy-cents of the dollar I paid the vendor went to him.  It is one of 112 street newspapers in 35 countries.

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Here in Michigan, there are three such street newspapers.

Groundcover: News and Solutions from the Ground Up is Ann Arbor’s voice for low-income and homeless people.  Established in 2010, my introduction to Groundcover came at the 2012 Ann Arbor Art Fair where the organization has a booth in the nonprofits section on Liberty Street.  The twelve-page monthly provides a variety of features including topical articles on poverty and homelessness, informational pieces on agencies, health features, book reviews, vendor interviews, and first-person pieces and poetry written by vendors.  And, as with the typical daily newspapers, there are coupons, recipes, a comic strip, a crossword puzzle and Sudoku.

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In February, I attended a symposium hosted by the Michigan Journal of Race and Law and the University of Michigan Law School titled Innocent until Proven Poor: Fighting the Criminalization of Poverty.  The two-day symposium included Vanita Gupta*, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division as keynote speaker, panel discussions, and workshops covering topics such as Ferguson, MO, policing and regulating the poor, jailing the poor, and others.  Susan Beckett, publisher of Groundcover, wrote insightful opinion pieces on the topics of “pay or stay” sentencing (a judge’s order at sentencing for the defendant to pay fines & costs or go to jail), money bail, and indigent defense in the April, May, and June 2016 editions, respectively, based on information presented at the conference.

Usually, you can find vendors selling Groundcover on the streets of downtown Ann Arbor.  Except during the Art Fair.  During that time, the City of Ann Arbor invalidates their solicitor permits, except for at the Groundcover booth.

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Groundcover vendor Felicia selling July, 2015 issues, which included an interview of her, at the Groundcover booth at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, 2015.

In Detroit, Thrive Detroit Street Newspaper: Driving Sufficiency Through Micro-Enterprise is the street paper assisting the city’s low-income and homeless.  Founded in 2011, the dollar you pay the vendor puts seventy-five cents into his or her pocket.  I spend time downtown at events and such, but I have not yet been approached by a vendor.  The only copy I have I found was purchased at Source Booksellers on Cass.  But I’ll keep looking for them.

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In November, while up in Traverse City for the annual Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference, I met Steve across the street from one of my favorite hangouts, Horizon Books.  He sold me  Speak Up Zine: Traverse City’s Voice of People in TransitionLaunched in 2014, the 24-page zine is worth the two-dollar donation, with a $1.60 going into Steve’s (or other TC vendors’) pocket.  The format is different, and has a more personal approach to it with vendors contributing a lot of the content.  Steve was quite proud to show that he was front and center on the cover of this issue.

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The skeptics will ask, “How do I know the person is selling me an actual street paper and not something phony just to make a buck?”  The street papers enforce a vendor code of conduct which includes such ground rules as not asking for more than the cover price, selling only current issues, and by wearing and displaying a badge while selling the papers.  The badge or some form of outward identification is the key.  Furthermore, the vendors are not to hard-sell the public, and are not to sell additional products or panhandle while selling the paper.

Poverty and homelessness is a huge issue in this country.  The Guilty Until Proven Poor symposium offered a vast amount of information on how our society uses laws and the judicial system to penalize a person for being poor, and a recent panel discussion at Pages Bookshop with contributors to the newly released book, Ending Homelessness: Why We Haven’t, How We Can (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2016), broadened the discussion.  There is not enough space here to tackle the issue, nor is that the purpose of this article.  It can be overwhelming in considering which actions we, as individuals, can take.  We can volunteer our time and bring community together, like what is done at Cass Park on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month.  And we can choose not to turn away from a street paper vendor.  Approach him or her and buy a paper from them.  Not only will you be helping someone, but you’ll also have some thoughtful reading material to enjoy.


*Ms. Gupta’s keynote remarks and other articles based on the symposium can be found in Volume 21, Issue 2, the Spring 2016 issue of Michigan Journal of Race & Law.

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Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing

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On April 4, 2011, I attended the reading and celebration for the book, I’ve Somehow Swallowed the Night: An Anthology of Creative Writing by Michigan Prisoners (2011).  It was the third annual volume of creative writing published by the Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) who “make possible the spaces in which the voices and visions of the incarcerated can be expressed.”  Though the readings consisted of poetry, the anthology included short prose as well.  I purchased it and the previous two volumes:  On Words: Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing (2009) and The Bridges from Which I have Jumped: The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing (2010).

Flashing forward to March of this year, I attended the Voices of the Middle West festival.  The one-day event was created by Midwestern Gothic literary magazine and partnered with the University of Michigan’s Residential College, to celebrate writers, professors, university and independent presses of the midwest.  At the first festival, in 2014, PCAP had a table, and I was almost able to catch up on the collection, picking up And Still You Expect Greatness: The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing Volume 5 (2013) and The Sky is On Fire, After All: The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing Volume 6 (2014).  (It is my understanding there was an issue with the fourth volume, On the Corner of Nihilism and Hope (2012), making it no longer available.  If you come across a copy somewhere, please let me know).  Last year, PCAP attended the festival again, adding Build Your Catacomb Anywhere But Here: The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing Volume 7 (2015).

Adding the most recent volume to the collection from this year’s festival – Origami Handcuff Keys: The Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing, Volume 8 (2016) – I finally worked the first volume to the top of my reading list.

Wow.  The prose in On Words was breathtaking.

  • “A Wake and a Reckoning” by Jason Lee Metras is a tale of street revenge.
  • “The Muddy Uniform” by Marc Janness is a metaphor for how incarceration makes it difficult to assimilate back into society.
  • “His Trip to the City” by Joseph C. Yoder is about a recently released convict adjusting to relating with women (this is a very sweet story).
  • “Letters” by Shaka is about an inmate convicted of murder and the letters he exchanged with his son.
  • “Slow Walk Home” by Daniel Meyers is about the author’s three-mile walk home from picking cotton with his family when he was six-years-old, and applying it to his much older self.
  • “Zooey Deschanel” by Seven Scott is about the dumb things we fight about.
  • “Royalty Deferred” by Antoniese Gant Bey reveals a gripping view of an abused woman who shows her love by calling the police.
  • “Autumn Rain” by Chris Sarr is a family Thanksgiving story.
  • “Crowded Isolation” by T. X. Rasoul is about healing from the life of incarceration by riding public transportation.
  • “Tell Me Something I Can Believe” by Eve Poole is about a fourteen-year-old girl thrown out of her house and subsequently meeting with her mother as to the reason why.

These short pieces were deep, revealing works of fiction and memoir that pulled back another layer of understanding on some of the clients I represent as a criminal defense lawyer.  And the writing itself was better than some of the things I’ve seen published in other anthologies.

Yes, I am not one for poetry (though the discovery of Frogpond, the literary journal of the Haiku Society of America at the festival has tickled my interest), so I confess to skipping over what might be some very good poems.

In September, 2015, while on the Wayne State University Literary Walk, I heard Jim Reese read from his poetry collection; Really Happy (NYQ Books, 2014).  Reese, an Associate Professor at Mount Marty College in Yankton, South Dakota,  also spoke about a project he worked on as the Writer-in-Residence at the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota.  Afterwards, I spoke with him about it, about my day-job, and he gave me a copy of their recent anthology – 4 P.M Count: A Journal From Federal Prison Camp Yankton (2014).

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Through art, we explore our shared humanity.  The power of these works do not come from the stereotypical images we have of prisoners and prisons, but rather, humanize the experience of the writers and people behind bars.  Through their writing a human soul is revealed.  Such a publication is subversive to a society hell-bent on considering and treating incarcerated people as “caged animals.”

As I work the rest of these anthologies into my reading list, I’ll share my thoughts on them here.  But by all means, jump ahead of me.  The Voices of the Middle West festival may be over, but you can order copies from PCAP.

The Bernie Sanders Reader

The Bernie Sanders Reader

-Outsider in the House
-The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class
-Bernie
-Bernie Sanders In His Own Words
-The Essential Bernie Sanders and his Vision for America
-Outsider in the White House

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They say that one should not discuss sex, politics, and religion in polite company.  Well, I already broke the rule by reviewing Buddhist books and books by Buddhist writers earlier.  So, yes, I’m going to occasionally review books of a political nature, starting with this Bernie Sanders collection.

The videos and photos were taken at a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign rally at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, MI on February 15, 2016, and at the Macomb County Community College in Warren, MI on March 5, 2016.   The EMU Convocation Center seats 9,000, and Bernie spoke to a capacity 9,394 crowd on this Monday afternoon, and between 3,000-4,000 (by my estimates) in Warren.

And, in full disclosure, I am supporting Bernie Sanders’ campaign for United States President.  All that said, on to the books.

Starting with Ted Rall’s book, Bernie (Seven Stories Press, 2016) because it is the most recent book I’ve read.  Rall not only reveals Bernie’s personal story, but how the Democratic Party moved to the right since the 1972 landslide victory of Richard Nixon over George McGovern.  This move away from the progressives, coupled with Reagan’s trickle-down economics, resulted in policies which grew the military industrial complex, shipped manufacturing jobs overseas, depressed middle class wages, increased incarceration and prison-building, and removed restrictions on Wall Street and banks.  The Democrats kept progressives at bay, providing a lesser-of-two-evils choice for their vote.  Then Rall gets into Sanders’ personal history, wrapping up with how Sanders offers the progressive wing of the party a legitimate voice during this year’s campaign.  This well-researched and reasoned book comes in a condensed form at a time when many who may not know about Bernie Sanders can quickly understand his origins and how so many, like myself, have come to rally for the Independent Senator from Vermont to create a country for We, the People, instead of for the corporations and wealthy.

The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class (Nation Books, 2011) is the verbatim, eight-and-a-half hour, 255-page speech Senator Bernie Sanders delivered on the floor of the US Senate on December 10, 2010, to filibuster a tax bill that President Obama and Republicans agreed to which would cut taxes for the rich, once more.  It was an epic moment, with President Obama calling a press conference to draw attention away from the marathon recitation by Senator Sanders.  This is not a filibuster in which the Senator read the phone book or other time-killing trivial matters, but a full-on rant on how these tax breaks would widen the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us, on corporate greed, and money in politics, and how it all has had a negative impact on the citizens of this country.

Bernie Sanders : In His Own Words (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015) is a collection of Bernie Sanders quotes on a variety of topics such as the Economy, Jobs and Wealth Distribution, the Environment, Equality, Health Care, Criminal Justice, and more, compiled by Chamois Holschuh, with illustrations by Walker Bragman.

For something a little deeper into the political platform and philosophy of governance, then The Essential Bernie Sanders and his Vision for America (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2015) by Jonathan Tasini is what you’re looking for.  Again, each chapter is broken down topically based on the issues.  Tasini explains, in the Preface that…

(t)he goal of this book is to present to the country, in a succinct way, Bernie’s authenticity and his accomplishments, a vision that he believes is a winning agenda because it exactly reflects, whatever labels one sticks on the messenger, the desires and beliefs of a majority of people.

On the shelves of your local bookstore you should be able to find Outsider in the White House (Verso, 2015) by Bernie Sanders with Huck Gutman.  It is an updated edition of the 1997 Verso autobiography of Sanders, Outsider in the House.   Here, the Independent Senator from Vermont tells his life story.  The new material is an afterword written by John Nichols, Outsider in the Presidential Race.

Avoiding books on religion, politics, and sex is shunning a multitude of thoughts and ideas that inspire and guide us in the practice of life.  Choosing to ignore the discussion of them does a disservice to the exchange of ideas.  I’m sure there will be more future books on religion and politics on this site.  And maybe some sex, too.  Why not hit the trifecta, eh?

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More book reviews

Rock ‘n’ Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League by Ian Plenderleith

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Rock n Roll Soccer:
The Short Life and Fast Times of the
North American Soccer League
by
Ian Plenderleith

It was April, 1978, when the Detroit Free Press introduced me to Detroit’s new pro team, the Detroit Express of the North American Soccer League (NASL).

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I was a hockey fan growing up.  But hockey ran from October to May, which then left the summer sport-less.  I never got into baseball; the only cool thing about baseball was baseball cards.  So, I was intrigued.

WJR-AM covered eighteen of the Express’ games, while WXON-TV 20 broadcast six road games, including the team’s first two matches in Tulsa (2-1 win) and Fort Lauderdale (2-1 OT win).  I followed the team via radio, and caught some of the league’s games on ABC.  Then, this guy named Trevor Francis came over from the English National Team and the English League’s Birmingham City, and raised the level of excitement.  So much so, I finally talked my parents into taking me to the final home game of the season; a 4-2 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, with Francis scoring two and assisting on another.

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It was such a good time we went back nine days later when the Express eliminated the Philadelphia Fury 1-0 in the first round of the playoffs, on a goal by Trevor Francis (who else?)

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Ian Plenderleith’s book is not a detailed history of the league, but rather an analysis of its rise and fall, its innovations and dumb ideas, its players and management, and its effect on the game.  In today’s game, there are elements that were first introduced in the NASL.

For example, in order to encourage higher scoring, the league awarded the winning team six points, the losing team zero points, but both teams would receive a point for each goal they scored up to three.  A winning team could walk away, at most, with nine points, and the losing team could earn up to three.  If the match ended in a tie, a fifteen-minute sudden death overtime would be played.  If still tied, then a shoot-out would resolve the match.  Like the use of penalty kicks today in playoffs or tournaments to resolve a tie, five players on each side would face-off against the keeper in a shoot out.  The ball would be placed on the thirty-five yard line.  The keeper had no movement restrictions and the shooter had five seconds to move in and shoot on the net.  FIFA was using a two-point system for a win, one-point for a draw, with no bonuses for goals scored.  Eventually, FIFA moved to a system that awarded three-points for a win, with goal differential deciding ties in the standings.

Other innovations included the thirty-five yard line (then maligned by FIFA who eventually forced NASL to abolish it) to combat the offside rule; three substitutes were allowed in the NASL when the norm was two, which FIFA later adopted; names and numbers on jerseys was only found in the NASL, but is now universal; and targeting women as potential fans was a NASL innovation.  The NASL talked about eliminating the time-wasting tactic of the back pass to the goalkeeper, but FIFA wouldn’t consider it until the 1990’s, long after the league’s demise.

Of course, it was the people  – players and executives – that made the league memorable.  I found the section on Jimmy Hill, a general partner of the Express who was responsible for the arrival of Trevor Francis to Detroit, especially interesting.  Stories about Rodney Marsh and George Best, two players who knew how to entertain as well as play the beautiful game; about franchises in Hawaii and Las Vegas which brought interesting challenges; and about the league’s origin being a controversy between two rival leagues in 1967, demonstrated how the NASL planted professional soccer into the American landscape.

An analysis of the NASL would be incomplete without a comparison with America’s current professional league – Major League Soccer (MLS).  Even from its outset in 1996 when MLS proclaimed its adamant distinction from the NASL, Plenderlieth draws the similarities and distinction between the two North American leagues.

I found this an enjoyable read broadening what little I had known about the league while following the Detroit Express from 1978 to 1980.

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