Translators working overtime


This picture shows the stress that my translators are under. They struggle to keep up with the demand created by my expanded readership. Today’s readers come from Cambodia, Argentina, Lebanon and the United Kingdom which speaks an entirely different of English than we do. United Kingdom  had to create a type of English that could be understand all over the world: in Nigeria, Canada, India and, Pakistan. And that wasn’t enough. England had to invent games that were boring enough ie, soccer and cricket, so that nobody would notice that they were being invaded. I mean here this tiny county is that had stuck itself into every corner of the globe. But of course, after England got its paws bloodied by all those colonists telling them to bugger off, we decided to put our greedy little paws in. So I wonder if my readers in Argentina and Lebanon are thinking, here is one of those imperialist yanks taking over what should be blogging space for our writers or are they thinking, probably another CIA agent, best avoid him. One can never be too cautious.

Meanwhile the afternoon shift translators have arrived.


2017-06-23 12.28.08



oung black woman and flowers

I started reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond, about the devastating impact of evictions on poor people in Milwaukee. He has been all over public media being interviewed. The happy face of the young black woman is not the sort that is portrayed in this book. She looks like a woman from the middle class, maybe a social work student .She might have benefits and security from the kind of poverty that is ravaging people in the inner city

I liked her picture so I chose it instead of a depressing picture along the lines of what you will find in eviction court in Milwaukee. There you will find angry people of many different colors with one common thread. Not enough income. They may be people living along Wisconsin Avenue where a former girl friend lived. We were both being evicted from our respective houses. She was a CNA who over worked double shifts and I was a peer specialist.

What we had in common was the horror of no having benefits. Although some white people may also be getting evicted next week, I would bet that 75% of the evictees will be poor and black and many of them are mothers on SSI or CNAs or other low wage workers.

Over the past 9 months, I have been fortunate that only two consumers I was working with have been evicted.  Poor women on SSI. Supplemental security income, SSI, is inadequate. A few of the people we assist have vouchers from programs like My Home, live in supported housing that offers peer support and case management or qualify for senior housing. I am proud that I helped a few people get into those programs. More commonly, our consumers are living in a room and board or a large group home shared with several roommates.

The case managers try to monitor the housing, which helps take up a lot of their work. It can be exhausting to help someone maintain an apartment. There is a person who has a cleaner help take care of the apartment. And I help with grocery shopping. I sometimes have people who are so internally pre-occupied they are barely aware of my presence even when we are out in public. But with some public benefits such as energy assistance and food share, they get by with a little help from their friends.

There was a sad story in Evicted about a consumer being moved out of a building due to poor conditions and then the landlord got a call from a Wraparound case manager about moving a consumer into the same rat trap.  And this landlord was featured in a sickening story about going to a landlord seminar and telling white landlords how she could help them make money in the inner city using her as an intermediary.

I believe that this is far better than my early years as a peer specialist, living with roaches and incredibly underpaid. Far better than feeling angry and wanting to choke consumers who were living in far better surroundings than me. If you have a chance, you should read Evicted  and reflect on the impact of poverty on your life. What is your role in the life of poor people? Are you living in a house with dangerous conditions, without a smoke detector  and with a door that an angry person could kick down on the way to killing you?Do you fear that one of your 6 roommates will harm you? Are you struggling to survive on meager benefits while listening to politicians claiming you are cheating the system?



Is terror a bigger horror than imperialism?

I have been consumed with the horror of the destruction in Paris on Friday. And yet many of my progressive friends and various Africa news sites remind us of the ongoing relationship between France and its former African colonies.

Burkina Faso
Ivory Coast
Central African Republic
Equatorial Guinea

Due to a series of unequal relationships these countries are independent in name only. When we ask ourselves, why are African countries experiencing poverty and instability, we must look at the roots stemming back to the horrendous scramble for Africa in the late 1800s.

There was a book written called Not Yet Uhuru about the struggle for freedom in Kenya after independent from England. The title applies to most of these countries. And if the horrors of colonialism weren’t enough, radical Islamic groups are carrying out bombings. Africa must be free from imperialism and religious fanaticism. As we help the people of France to heal, they must recognize their duty to remove the yoke of neo-colonialism I am hopeful that a new generation of African leaders will emerge to help make independence a reality.

Making it to the median

The median is the halfway point statistically in a measurement where 50% are above and 50% are below.  For example, there is the median income for African-American men in a given area.  The median household income in Milwaukee County was just above $43,000 according to the most recent US Census. That means I would have needed a working wife to reach that threshold. Raising children can easily put one into poverty so if we had been raising 2 or more children we would have been struggling to put food on the table. If you dig deeper into the  statistics and look at the median income of Milwaukee, it was only $35,851 during that same time period. People in suburbs, like Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and Greenfield tend to earn more money than those of us who are in Milwaukee. As a result it would have been easier to reach the median.  But what about the issue of a racial divide?

A document from the Social Development Commission, an anti-poverty agency stemming from the 1960s, showed the economic divide in Milwaukee. Black incomes in Milwaukee County are only 61% of the median household income.  That is $27,468, far below $36,032 for Hispanics and barely half of that for whites at $52,950. How does this apply to me? In my second year as a certified peer specialist I am barely under the median income for Milwaukee residents and nowhere near the income level for whites.

If I had been able to remain a librarian, I would have been above the median income and perhaps closer to the income level for whites. Poverty is taking huge bites out of our community. I live in an apartment building where I am one of the few employed males. In fact I have been continuously employed for many years despite experiencing under-employment. I think about what it will take to break the yoke of poverty, imprisonment and mental illness that is strangling us.

For me, it took education, being willing to enter a completely new field, many years of hard work and being recognized by other African-Americans. I think that the same will hold true for many of us. As it happens, I am keeping pace economically with a lot of African-Americans in Milwaukee. However, unless I earn income from outside of wages, or change professions once more, it is unlikely that I will be able to make up for that nearly $20,000 income gap.

Why is this important? For a lot of reasons that weren’t important to me when I was younger. My mother is living off retirement income from a few different sources. That is what I need when I decide I have worked for long enough. The commercials about the increasing lifespans of Americans make me understand I could be one of those who needs to be salting away more money. Losing the library job cost me thousands in wages and potential retirement benefits, so I need to play catch up by using the resources I have available. At a time when African-American males are disappearing from the workforce, those of us who are still employed face an entirely different set of worries.  That is the story of making it to the middle.


Where am I in or Portland or some other cold, wet city?

This must be some kind of cosmic joke. We have 1 or two days of actual spring, almost summer weather and then the temp drops like 70 degrees and you feel like you’re in a refrigerator. So you wonder about the signs all around you. And you ask did you move somewhere in the middle of the night. Have you suddenly been transported somewhere you don’t belong. You ask your friends if they have seen anything funny lately? Are the numbers 503, 541, 971, and 458 going through your head? Because those are the area codes for Portland, Oregon.

Are you feeling cold and wet for no good reason at all? When the sun shines, do you find yourself thinking, there’s something wrong here. It’s because you moved to Portland. There is some kind of Portland Oregon disease sweeping America where we are all becoming cold and wet. Save yourselves, those of you who can. This may be one of the last blog entries you receive from me as all the Portlandness overwhelms me. Farewell, Milwaukee.


One of the 44%

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has published a front page story about the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Center for Development about the disappearance from the job market of African American men. Over the past 40 years employment levels for men 16 to 64, a group which includes me, have fallen from 73% to just barely 44%.  At the same time, incarceration rates have risen dramatically. Even for men not incarcerated, it’s not uncommon to find they are paying off tickets for disorderly conduct or other offenses.  At the same time, they we are leaving the job scene, we are actually becoming less employable.

According to the UWM study, the bottom 5 cities for black male employment were

  1. Chicago 48.3%
  2. Cleveland 47.7%
  3. Milwaukee44.7%
  4. Buffalo 43.9%
  5. Detroit43.0%

The top 5 were

  1. Washington 66.6%
  2. Dallas 61.%
  3. Boston 59.7%
  4. Minneapolis 59.3%
  5. Atlanta 59.0%

You will notice that those top levels of employment are nowhere near the peak level from 40 years ago.  Further, the declines in employment levels covered white, Hispanic and black men. It is a trend that mirrored the de-industrialization of northern cities.  As our jobs fled south and later to China (that giant sucking sound Ross Perot  warned  us about) we have been left with lower paid positions in the service industry.

The factory jobs that remain are largely performed by robots that do all the manual labor that our parents used to do. It’s called getting more out of workers or some fancy term like “productivity.”

As an African-American male I find this situation troubling. When I left Buffalo in 1980 it was already in decline. Although things looked better in my new home of Milwaukee, it, too was on the way down. Despite two college degrees I found it difficult to develop and sustain a satisfactory career.  In recent years I have created a new career, as a peer specialist and for the first time my income and hours worked began to rise. I guess I should feel grateful but I worry about the long term implications of the UWM study.

My nephew John has started a family in Buffalo. Will he fall victim, too? Is America prepared to ignore the skills of millions men who play by the rules and strive for a piece of the dream? Are we going to recapture those jobs that fled our shores? Can a man who creates jobs in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland understand the plight of American workers? I don’t think so, Mitt! Can a man who labelled Barack Obama “the food stamp president” identify with the issues facing low income workers? No way, Newt. Will the former publisher of racist newsletters give a damn whether black men and women drown in this economy?

Barack Obama’s future is tied to our success. We may not return to the employment levels of the 1970s overnight but that’s the only way we can create an America that is born to succeed.

Seriously, You’re the CEO and You Don’t Know Where That Billion Dollars Went?

Results of the 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial e...
Image via Wikipedia
English: Bernard Madoff's mugshot
Image via Wikipedia
English: SenatorJonCorzine.jpg cropped as squa...
Image via Wikipedia

Standup comic Jon S. Corzine, former CEO of MF Global testified yesterday before a House Committee investigating the scandal surrounding the collapse of the company which declared bankruptcy and announced that over $1 billion in customer accounts was missing. Corzine’s testimony wold have you believe that he had no idea where any  of that money went and had no access to documents that could tell him where to find it. and

Corzine apologized but tiptoed and did the lowest limbo in American history to evade taking responsibility along with his millionaire friends for replacing the stolen loot. I believe that the former offices of MF Global (What a perfect name) should be cordoned off and investigated as a crime scene. Prosecutors should be empowered to investigate  any and all leads to uncover the nature of this fraud. They should have the subpena power and other means available to freeze assets, obtain documents and seek indictments.

The criminals behind this billion dollar fraud need to be serving prison time alongside Bernie Madoff while teaching literacy classes to uneducated criminals. There needs to be a new beginning to demonstrate that being soft on crime means ignoring the multimillionaire criminals and that era has passed. Otherwise, the next Corzine will tell us about tens of billions being lost without anyone being held responsible. As Vice President Biden would say, “this is a big fucking deal.”