Power walking down the year

John Conyers Jr., that cranky old left-wing dude, introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Congress to impeach the president. I can just see you shaking your head.

There he goes again. Well, not so fast. I was actually referring to ancient history. Conyers introduced an impeachment resolution, all right — but in May 1972, one month before Watergate.

That was when Richard Nixon was running the empire.

Conyers, as is often the case, was way ahead of his time. Last week, he did something more clever and more subtle.

First, he introduced resolutions calling on Congress to censure both President George W. Bush and his puppet master, Vice President Dick Cheney, for misleading Congress over the decision to go to war in Iraq.

Republicans squawked that Conyers should be condemning terrorism instead, which, of course, is precisely what he’s doing by being brave enough to go after Bush. There’s no doubt that the White House gang misled Congress and the American people.

The only question is whether they did so deliberately. Incompetence or criminality, in other words. That, and the bigger question of whether the Republicans who control Congress will censure their chief.

Naturally, they won’t. Not yet, anyway, unless the coming collapse of the ship of fools threatens to take them all down with it. Want to understand a politician? Visit a high school biology class and put a flatworm in a petri dish. Put a hot wire near the flatworm. Watch it move away from the wire.

Now, over the next two years, watch the Republicans in Congress, and President Bush. What Gentleman John is doing is making a case and building a record. What he wants to happen is not an actual censure vote.

Not now, anyway. What he wants is for everyone to start talking about it. He introduced another, even more clever bill. He called on Congress to determine whether there are grounds to impeach the president.

That bill will never get off the table, but it should, especially with the recent revelations about the widespread, warrantless domestic surveillance.

Two weeks ago, it was learned that our Crawford Caesar couldn’t even be bothered to get approval from his own secret kangaroo court to bug the phone conversations of ordinary American citizens.

No, John Conyers, crazy like a fox, is making a record and trying to start a national debate. Thirteen months from now, Democrats could possibly be in control of the U.S. House of Representatives again, and if that happens, Conyers will be chair of the judiciary committee.

In that case, you can bet some pretty interesting hearings will be held. Stay tuned for Paying the Piper At Last, the maxiseries.

Homeless in Michigan: Sorry to spoil your leftover turkey and that marvelous session with the Xbox360, but how do you suppose the homeless are enjoying their holiday season in Michigan?

Recently, I did some looking into the homeless situation on my radio program. What I found was that most people don’t want to think about them very much, possibly because that would suggest there was something we could or should do about the problem.

Many, probably most people, view homelessness through heavy ideological blinders. Liberals or progressives or whatever we left-wingers call ourselves these days think it’s all the fault of former Gov. John Engler and the damn Republicans, who closed mental institutions and booted people off welfare.

Good salt-of-the-earth Americans, i.e., those who haven’t yet been laid off, think the homeless are by and large old winos and other people who don’t take responsibility for their lives, and like spending winter next to a Dumpster.

Both views are wrong. Yes, about 1 in 10 of the homeless does fit the alcoholic single man with mental problems stereotype. (Metro Times can’t hire everybody.) But the vast majority isn’t like that at all.

Slightly more than half of the homeless are families — whole families with no place to go. There are thousands of homeless children in Michigan — the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness estimates that nearly half the population of homeless shelters in this state are kids.

There are also many more homeless than you might expect. Goodwill Industries says that on any given night there are an average of 66,051 homeless people in the state. Far fewer than half of those are in shelters of any kind.

They’re in virtually every city, every part of the state, and something like 1 in 7 is in the countryside. Three thousand of them are children without families, if you can believe that. Didn’t know this was really Bangladesh?

Last week I talked to Nan Roman, head of the National Alliance to End Homelessness; Chuck Kieffer, who’s in charge of homeless policy for the Michigan State Housing Authority; and other experts.

All agreed on what causes homelessness. “The lack of affordable housing,” Roman said. “The homeless are just the poor. Thirty years ago, there were next to no homeless, because there was plenty of low-income housing.”

But now that has been torn down, or gentrified, or priced out of reach. So millions cannot afford a place to live — any place to live. To afford a modest two-bedroom apartment and have money left over for such frivolities as food now takes an income of about $13.85 an hour. Wal-Mart doesn’t pay that, dahlin’.

Five years ago, Roman’s group vowed to do everything it could to end homelessness in 10 years. That was before we knew our new national priority would be to squander our money to make hundreds of thousands of Iraqis homeless instead. She is struggling on, and has had some modest successes.

“The fact is, we could end homelessness almost completely in a relatively short time, if we had the political will and were willing to spend the money,” she says. “But we obviously don’t.”

No, but the homeless should take heart. What’s another winter on a steam grate, or a dive into the Dumpster back of Kroger, when you know that out there in TV-land, your president is telling you pleasant lies about winning the war?

Bizarre but true: Here’s a question for you. With millions of Americans suddenly getting tattooed, who regulates, licenses and inspects Michigan’s hundreds and hundreds of tattoo parlors?

You might guess the state health department. But you’d be dead wrong. Nobody does. Tattoo parlors in Michigan don’t need any state license at all, though, according to the state’s Web site, “some cities and countries do regulate this type of business.”

Whatever you think of tattooing, this is an art that involves sticking lots of needles into people’s flesh. How do you make sure the place you go is safe? Last week I talked to an expert, who helpfully suggested that you should look around to see if they have an autoclave to sterilize the needles.

Wish I’d thought of that before I had that relief map of the republics of the old Soviet Union etched into my backside.

Do you find it odd that your government claims it may be unsafe to buy cheaper prescription drugs from Canada, but can’t be bothered, in the age of AIDS, to regulate tattoo parlors? I thought so.

In any event — have a happy holiday. Or the terrorists win.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]. Hear him weekdays at 1 p.m. on WUOM (91.7 FM or
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