Saturday, July 20, 2013

From 2/21/13 a Night at the Irish Consulate

Last night was one to remember! I attended a reception at the home of the Irish Consul general, Noel Kilkenny and his wife, Honora. The occasion was the naming of this year's Grand Marshals for the St. Pat's For All Parade. For me, the night was one filled with symbolism. A little over a hundred years ago my mother's family emigrated from Ireland to America, my father's family came a generation before. Like the millions that followed them, they came seeking a better way of life for themselves and their families. Like today's immigrants they received a none too warm welcome. And like today's immigrants there was no immediate better way of life. Their immediate lot was menial, low paying and dangerous jobs. Housing was crowded and inadequate. Respect would have to be earned. For all appearances their arrival offered little hope of a better life, and probably to less stronger folk they had made a mistake in coming. But that was not the case. Slowly and surely they worked at improving their lot in life and at the same time they saw that their children took advantage of the City's educational opportunities. Slowly and surely the dream became a reality not because of a miracle but because of determination and hard work; because, at no time, did they lose sight of their dream or their determination to seize it for themselves and their families. My great aunt, Mary Henry, a single lady, knew well the great houses of the City. She was employed as a maid and a cook. She left the comfort provided by her employment to raise my Mom and her four brothers and two sisters who has been orphaned. She never complained about leaving Fifth Avenue for Brownsville. She and all in that generation and the one that followed never let the bumps in the road keep them from turning the dream into reality. I am in this great house tonight night nit as an employee but as a guest. A guest and a grandson fully aware that I am the recipient of that better life, once dreamed and now realized, because of their sacrifices and determination. May the grandchildren of today's immigrants be as lucky as me!

First man on the moon and other journeys.

44 years ago today on a muggy Sunday evening I joined the rest of the world in a mesmerizing moment as we watched Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The next morning, our usual quiet commute was anything but---the train was abuzz about our common witnessing of history. Well, almost the entire train. Oneman near me raised his head above his folded newspaper and told us it was all a hoax, it wasn't the moon-- it was a back lot in Hollywood, it was a stunt to get increased funding for the space program . We listened for a few seconds, quickly dismissed him and his analysis and excitedly returned to our conversation. There will always be naysayers, haters, deniers of what is so obvious to all but themselves. They will huff and puff and try to blow the house down but they will fail, if not immediately then in a matter of time. Last month the US Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. A majority of Americans cheered, a daily growing majority. There were others who loathed the moment, who threatened lawsuits, who claimed that God would punish. Indiana---not the entire State, a vocal few-- threatened to make it a felony for a gay couple to even try to apply for a marriage license. At the same time the Attorney General of Pennsylvania announced that she will not defend the State's ban on same sex marriage and the House Republicans said they would abandon their defense of DOMA in existing cases because of the Court's decision in Windsor. The DOMA decision was a game changer and even the majority of the opposition saw that. Voices like those raised in Indiana and other parts have less influence today than they had before DOMA. There is still a long way to go before we reach full equality but hope rather than fear should guide us on the journey ahead. I'll keep an eye on Indiana but I will continue to applaud New York's investment policy and hope that other jurisdictions will replicate it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Testimony delivered 1/14/13 at LaGuardia Community College on the drawing of new Council lines. CITIZENS UNION OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK Testimony to the City Districting Commission, Queens Public Hearing January 14, 2012 Good evening, Chair Romano and other members of the City Districting Commission. My name is Bill Meehan, and I am a volunteer member of Citizens Union, a nonpartisan good government group dedicated to making democracy work for all New Yorkers. I am focusing my remarks on Queens, as other representatives of Citizens Union have previously testified at the Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn hearings. I am a resident of Queens and deeply involved in its civic life: I serve as a member of Queens Community Board 3; I am on the board of the New Visions Democratic Club and a member of the Queens County Democratic Committee; I am a Board Member and Treasurer of the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst Kehillah; President of Chapter 991 of AARP based in Jackson Heights; Business Director of Queens Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee and a founding member of the Jackson Heights Dog Run. I cherish and respect the diversity that makes Queens a unique and wonderful place to live. While Citizens Union recognizes that improvements were made in Queens to keep some neighborhoods together, including Elmhurst, Cambria Heights and Maspeth, there are additional neighborhoods that the Commission should again try to keep whole. District 19 does not include all of Bayside or Oakland Gardens, as was requested by the majority of community members in public testimony, which would unite the Asian American community. There has been a 50 percent growth of Asian American Communities in both of these districts, and we recommend that the Commission fully include Bayside and Oakland Gardens in District 19. We recognize that community members have also noted that the residential neighborhood of Broadway-Flushing is now divided, which used to be wholly within District 19. We urge the Commission to seek to address both of these concerns and to publicly document its decision before it votes on final maps. The South Asian community in Ozone Park and Cypress Hill is divided between Districts 37 and 32. While the Commission stated that it could not create another cross-over district between Queens and Brooklyn, as District 34 already does so, it may be possible to shift this crossover to another area. Testimony at several hearings indicated that the South Asian community has requested this change. We urge the Commission to examine whether shifting the crossover district to these districts is a feasible alternative. For all of proposed council districts, Citizens Union recommends that the Commission provide to the public in advance of any vote on final maps a written rationale detailing its decision-making for each district. For example, the rationale should include how the Commission addressed requirements in the City Charter and specifically address how it handled public requests regarding their own districts. This information is essential to ensure that the public has more information about the choices that were made and potentially more confidence in the end result. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Silent Night 2012

It was almost the night before Christmas and too many creatures were stirring and pulling in different directions so that peace on earth and good will to all mankind really didn't have a chance. It was almost the night before Christmas and despite all,the efforts of Hallmark and the Charlie Browns amongst us the emphasis was on gift buying rather than gift giving. It was almost the night before Christmas and there was more concern on the number of hours left to shop than on remembering a Baby born long ago. I'm finding it hard to get into the Spirit of Christmas because there are so many distractions that make it difficult to believe in the wonder of a silent night long ago that heralded the goodness of both man and God. Anne Frank wrote "Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy". I am trying but it's difficult. Angels we have heard on high.....A group of youngsters from PS 69 sang at an AARP meeting I lead, young, strong, hopeful voices filled the room with holiday cheer. Looking at them it was hard not recall that a group just like them in Sandy Hook was slaughtered just a few days before. There was no room for him in the inn.....the Nor'easter Sandy wreaked havoc on our area and added many to our homeless population. Efforts to provide shelter always fall short and meaningful efforts to prevent homelessness sit low on our list of priorities. We find the resources to build prisons but cannot find the funds for affordable housing. A star in the east will lead you......we look to all sorts of distractions to keep from looking within; we heed voices that are devoid of meaning and offer only false promises. We too readily give into our penchant to be led rather that take on the burden of leading. For unto you a Son is given.....too many who should know better, who are called to proclaim the joy of incarnation try to limit God's acceptance and love only to those like themselves, as if God can not handle diversity when it is only their inability and selfishness that is the basis for their excluding others. "Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy" You my friends and loved ones make a difficult time and a troublesome world less fearful and give me hope. Thank you for your friendship. Enjoy the holidays and celebrate your goodness.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Chance, the best dog I ever had 2001-2012

It sounded like someone dropped a heavy book on the floor. SPLAT. But there was no one in the house but the dog and me. When I looked it was the dog. Chance, my dog of 11 years, was on the floor. This happened last Wednesday and he got up and after a few minutes he did that intense shake all dogs do and wandered over to the door to let me know he wanted to go for a walk. And he walked, not as fast as usual but he walked. He was getting old—I know the feeling only too well—and he could no longer jump as high as before. He couldn’t jump up on the bed and was annoyed to have to be lifted but would have been more annoyed if he couldn’t sleep in the bed next to me. He could still jump up on the couch and was spending more and more time there under a pillow or whatever with his paws or tail sticking out. All of this raced through my head and gave me comfort as I rushed from the computer to where Chance lay. He wasn’t whimpering, there were no tears in his eyes, and when I rubbed the top of his head—something he loved almost as much as a belly rub—he gave me that look that in the absence of words indicated that he was ok, not to worry. We had developed a high degree of non verbal communication even though I fully believed that he could speak but wouldn’t because of some stupid pact dogs had that forbade them not to do it in front of the two legged ilk. He stayed on the floor longer than he had last week, but the gaze was intense and it still indicated not to worry. When he was ready he slowly raised himself up and looked around, did the mandatory shake but this time it lacked its usual intensity and made no move for the door. Slowly he made his way to the side of the couch. He stayed there for a while and probably would have stayed in place all night if I hadn’t shook his leash and told him it was time for a walk. He got up slowly and omitted his head bobbing ritual whenever I tried to put his collar on. We went out but he had little energy. We walked a short distance and this dog who hated to see a walk end unless it was a cold rain, this dog, my Chance turned around and wanted back inside. We sat on the couch, and I rubbed his head and eleven years of memories went through my head and greedily I didn’t want this to end. I wanted more of the same. He got up and went to the end of the couch and deftly inserted himself between two pillows and quickly fell asleep. An hour or so later I got ready for bed and called him but he did not respond. I went over and spoke to him and rubbed his head---it’s a wonder that after eleven years of head rubbing he hadn’t developed a bald spot! Gently I picked him up and brought him to bed. I always wished him a good night and would tell him I loved him and that of all the dogs I ever had he was the best—this wasn’t exactly true as Chance was the only dog I ever had, but I can’t imagine loving any other dog more than I loved him, so it wasn’t really a lie, like so much of life it was one of those things neither this nor that. This morning I woke to a call from my grandson, Boonie who wanted to come over and go for breakfast. As I finished my call Chance looked up from the foot of the bed and if it wasn’t for that stupid universal dog pact he would have said --Morning, I love you and that of all the people I ever lived with you’re the best. Of course, this wouldn’t be exactly true and my son, David would be the first to say it was an outright lie, but it was our ritual even though it was neither this nor that. It worked for us. As I dressed he vomited several times. I cleaned it and him up and we started for a walk. He had little energy and could hardly navigate the three steps to the lobby. When we got to the street my grandson had just pulled up and Chance was barely able to stand. Breakfast would have to wait. We started out to our Vet, I called ahead and informed them as to what was happening but was told my Doctor was on vacation and that there would be no o ne there until 2:30 and that it would be wise not to wait and I should find and another doctor to try and stabilize him. Obviously, she didn’t understand what I said because all Chance was going to need was shot and a hug and all would be well. Stabilize? We found a local vet. He examined Chance. In the past Chance would need to be muzzled as he was probed, but he made no protest as he was probed here and there. Several years ago a doctor said to me—so when did you first notice the lump? What lump? Come on you had to notice the lump when you shaved in the morning. No, never. Sometimes the eye sees what it wants and the hand feels what it wants. This is not good. He has a large tumor on his liver and spleen. We need a sonogram and we can’t do that here. You need to take him to the Humane Society. We wind our way through traffic and finally make our way to the Humane Society where we are quickly told that they have no sonogram equipment and send us on to the ASPCA. The ASPCA checks my credit and my dog in that order. He has a very large tumor which may or may not be malignant. If it is he will need transfusions and chemotherapy and there is no guarantee that he will be better. If you want we can put him to sleep here. All these words I understood but I didn’t know why she was speaking them to me. After all, Chance needed a shot and a hug and all would be well. SPLAT! It was that noise again, only this time it wasn’t Chance falling on the floor it was reality slapping me in the face. Chance was dying, the only question was when. Now--before he experienced pain, or after a while--after a series of operations that carried no guarantees of renewed health. I chose—now. For him-- certainly not for me. You can stay with him or you can say goodbye and leave him. I’ll stay. Most people like to take care of the financials before so they won’t have to bother afterwards. Sure. We will give him a sedative so he will be completely calm and so he will feel no discomfort. The second injection is an overdose of an anesthesia and his heart will most likely stop before the syringe is fully emptied. Are you ready? NO. How can you be ready? How can you say goodbye when you don’t want him to leave. Chance, I love you. My grandson and his friend Mark are rubbing my back, Boonie and I are weeping. Chance I am sorry. Of all the dogs I ever had…..His heart has stopped, he’s gone…of all the dogs I ever had you were the best. If his heart hadn’t stopped I really believe he would have broken that silly pact and spoken. I really believe this. It was our ritual in life. It was our ritual in death. Chance a proud MinPin. Born on an unknown day in July 2001, died on the 5th of July, a day we will never forget. For 11 wonderful years he loved us and was loved by us. He will live forever in our hearts.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Don't Slap Bill

Let me begin by stating that one of my best friends drives a bus. In fact, over the years many friends have been bus drivers. And of course Jackie Gleason was a bus driver and who doesn't like him?

Having proffered the required disclaimers so no one will think me to be anti bus driver or some one who cares little about his fellow man let me state that I am completely opposed to Senator Eric Adams proposal that NYC bus drivers be allowed to carry Tasers, and of course the arguments natural extension that they be allowed to use them.

I have been on enough buses to state that there are a variety of different drivers-- some kind and courteous, others coolly efficient, still others not too happy campers who are short tempered and bully-like. Some might handle Taser possession intelligently, tend to use it rarely if at all, and others who might make it a common retort to perceived threats or apparent lack of courtesy.

Be that as it may, I would really prefer that none of them be armed. In fact, I am against designating various people with special status as I feel it imperils the rest of us who have not been designated as worthy of extra protection.

It is now a felony to assault a cop, a mail man, a fireman, a transit worker, a teacher, a candle stick maker--well not really, but you get the point.

Again let me make it perfectly clear that I have both friends and family who are or who have been or want to be cops, firemen, transit workers, teachers, and even one who was a candle maker! And please believe me that I would hope and pray that no harm comes their way.

I would love to see a world where the word violence was seldom used because it hardly ever happened. I think Tasers, firearms, fisticuffs, sling shots, and assorted other weaponry do little to prevent violence and much to allow it.

Now to the nitty gritty. I am afraid that Senator Adams proposal, like all the other legislation before it that designated certain professions as "extra protected" will in fact endanger me! There, I said it , it's all about me.

You see I don't think violence will ever go away. People will get pissed off at a bus driver or a cop or whoever else is protected and will want to slap them up on the back of their head and then realize that they are armed with a gun or a Taser or that such a slap would result in felony prosecution and so they will look for someone they can hit without all these consequences. Someone like me. Soon there will be an app to identify where I am, or if not me, someone like me who is nearby and then boom, we will be the butt of their anger.

So Senator Adams, why do you want to hurt me? We have never even met. I' m a good guy, well most people think so. Don't believe me? Ask your fellow Senator Jose Peralta. He will tell you: Don't slap Bill.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

NO TEARS TO SHED

Diogenes admonishes “De mortuis nihil nisi bonum", loosely translated as “Speak no ill of the dead”. Judith Butler, an American post-structuralist philosopher, states: “some lives are grievable and some are not.”

Two “important” people died this past week, Christopher Hitchens and Cardinal John Foley. The obituaries, for the most part, adhered to Diogenes’ advice; I would follow Butler and state that neither death was grievable.

Publicly mourning someone like Hitchens in the way we are supposed to do — holding him up as someone who was “one of us,” even if we disagree with him — is also a way of quietly reinforcing the “we” that never seems to extend to the un-grievable Arab casualties of Hitch’s favorite wars. It’s also a “we” that has everything to do with being clever and literate and British (and nothing to do with a human universalism that stretches across the usual “us” and “them” categories). And when it is impolitic to mention that he was politically atrocious (in exactly the way of Kissinger, if not to the extent), we enshrine the same standard of human value as when the deaths of Iraqi children from cluster bombs are rendered politically meaningless by our lack of attention.

Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings.

In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket  (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”

Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it.

The above, with the exception of an editorial comment or two is from :
Christopher Hitchens and the protocol for public figure deaths
www.salon.com

The other deceased was Cardinal Foley, the retired Vatican spokesman who once referred to AIDS as God’s sanction against homosexual activities. Nothing in the Times obit suggested that as he grew in “wisdom and age” he disavowed this hateful comment which portrays God as some sadistic monster.

In most institutions a comment of this nature would be publicly disavowed and be an automatic career killer. Not so in this instance. It was Archbishop Foley who made the remark and who was later elevated to the rank of Cardinal. I would have definitely remembered if his superior or his mitered brethren distanced themselves from his remark.

So much of the violence and death inflicted on the LGBT community is done in God’s name, done by crazed people who believe they act in the name of God and as his/her emissary. Too often, organized religion remains silent and thus complicit.

Two “important” men died this week. I shed no tears

Monday, November 07, 2011

No room in the inn, updated!

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/nyregion/sylvias-place-faces-licensing-problems.html
many years and many hats ago i worked in childrens village in dobbs ferry, ny. too many of the kids that came through had been subjected to physical, emotional and social abuse. when they were ready for discharge home visits were made to where they would return. . often it wasn't to the home from whence they came, but to a relative--often a warm, caring grandmother who would envelope them with the love previously denied them.
all too often, these same warm caring relatives were deemed unfit to care for their grandchild, nephew or brother simple because they were unable to provide a private room! it was insane! these kids who suffered far too much were denied the opportunity to live with sane, warm and loving family because of a private room! It was ludicrous, then, and would be now if it was still a discharge criteria.
The state which had been too absent when the abuse was going on, was now too vigilant and picayune in its discharge planning. Maybe a home with a pool, a swing in the back yard or a private room might be a great setting for a child who had suffered so much. But a loving home beat it out any day of the week.
The New York Times description of Sylvia's Place wasn't a pretty one. I've known Rev. Pat Baumgartner for many years and she is a warm, caring, loving and sane person. I am sure she would like everyone who came to Sylvia's Place to find a private room, bright and cheery, hugs and a sense of safety. But what happens when you love children, especially children in danger. and don't have a private cheery room to offer? Close the door? Make believe that they will find some safe shelter elsewhere? Thank God Rev Pat and her staff have the courage to "make do", knowing that it should be better, but it’s the best we can do right now.
Let's not be all that critical of the folks at Sylvia's. Let’s be critical, very critical over the fact that on any given night over 3500 children are on the streets in this the richest city in the world. Let’s be very critical that this city can spend millions on a parade to celebrate a sporting win but is unable to find the money to solve homelessness in this land of plenty. Let's be very critical over the fact that for the 3500 young, endangered young folks in the streets tonight, this city which has so much, can only offer 250 beds to house them. It's time to move beyond being critical let's be really angry and demand that something be done to address a problem that endangers our young and embarrasses a civil society.