30 April 2013

Today’s ChooseDay Tuesday. I picked Will Swim For Food, which my friend Carolina told me about. 

Will Swim For Food is proof that any activity can be used to raise money for a good cause. Once a year, usually in early winter, the organization does a Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for various food charities. Actually, it’s far more than a “plunge”; participants swim one mile around the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf in water temperatures that usually hover around the 50-degree mark. 

Started as a fundraised for Second Harvest Food Bank, Will Swim For Food has expanded to other cities besides Santa Cruz and to other charities. For the most recent swim, participants could raise funds for a number of hunger organizations, including the New Jersey Food Bank and Masbia Food Kitchen, both of which are providing meals for Hurricane Sandy victims. 

Even though the swim has passed, a number of the participants had not yet hit their goal yet, so I picked one who was donating to the New Jersey Food Bank and donated $10 in Carolina’s name. I imagine this woman is going to wonder who the heck we both are! 

Will Swim for Food launched in 2010 when a Plantronics employee, Nick Alaga, didn’t have enough funds to help with the company’s effort to donate a ton of food to Second Harvest’s Holiday Food Drive, so he decided to hold a little fundraiser and decided to ask friends to sponsor him on his swim. Not only did some of them sponsor him, they joined him in his swim. In three short years, the event has grown and raised more each year. It’s reminder that every person can make a difference and that there’s no telling where one act of generosity  can lead the ripple effect it will have.  

April 30: Will Swim For Food

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29 April 2013

I flew back to LA today after spending a wonderful few days in Washington, D.C.  They were filled with great times with loving friends and those kinds of moments that don’t sound extraordinary, but are, like seven of you clustered around a laptop at midnight so you can watch Rod Stewart’s video for “Infatuation” (I can’t even remember how we got started with that one, other than liquor was involved) and sing along. Then that somehow segues into calling up videos of Barry Manilow and Heart on “The Midnight Special” on YouTube, and before you know it, an hour has passed.

So after little sleep and lots of laughs, I returned home. I was too tired to go to the grocery store, but not too tired to stop at the 7-11 near LAX for some chips and a Slim Jim: dinner of champions, my friends, dinner of champions. 

When I entered the 7-11, a homeless man very politely greeted me and asked me if he might have any spare change on my way out. When I left the store, I gave him today’s $10 and asked him his name. He said it was Calvin. I asked him what his story was. He told me he was homeless. I asked him what happened. He said he got divorced. I said, “So your ex got it all, huh?” I was about to say “So, she got the goldmine, you got the shaft,” to paraphrase the great old Jerry Reed song, but I figured that might fall flat as Calvin didn’t look like a country fan and it seemed a little inappropriate. Plus, if he’s now homeless, I’m doubting there was much of a goldmine.

Calvin nodded and then added the kicker: “AND she got remarried.” 

Man, love stinks sometimes.Tonight, I’m wishing Calvin a safe, warm place to sleep and help for his broken heart. 

April 29: Calvin

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28 April 2013

George Jones was too towering a figure to only get one tribute... On Friday, following his passing, I donated to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, which will help keep his memory and his music alive for generations to come. 

Today comes word of the official charity that his family would like for friends and fans to donate to, so I’m donating again in honor of George Jones to the Opry Trust Fund. The Opry Trust Fund, an off shoot of the Grand Ole Opry, offers financial assistance to those in the country music industry in need. 

If you’re not that familiar with Jones, here are 10 hits you should immediately acquaint yourself with. These are in no particular order, other than “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which should be at the top of any George Jones playlist.

“He Stopped Loving Her Today”
“A Good Year for The Roses” 
“The Race Is On” 
“The Grand Tour” 
“Golden Ring” (with Tammy Wynette)
“Why, Baby Why” 
“She Thinks I Still Care”
“White Lightning”
“A Picture of Me (Without You)”
“If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)”

April 28: Opry Trust Fund

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27 April 2013

I’m in D.C. today attending the Bat Mitzvah of one of my closest friend’s daughters. It’s my second Bat Mitzvah (her other daughter’s was my first). It was a beautiful ceremony and I’ve felt very touched and honored to attend such a significant rite of passage.

As my friend said at the service, her daughter may be the youngest in the family, but she’s the family’s oldest soul, and it feels that way. J totally acts her age, but she has a depth and an empathy that is rare for someone of any age, not just a budding teenager.

I couldn’t understand most of today’s service, but I loved letting the Hebrew wash over me and so admire how much's study and discipline it took for J to be able to read her Torah portion in Hebrew with no Romanization.

Luckily for most of us, many of the prayers in the service had been translated into English in the prayer book. While we didn’t read this one today, it stuck out to me as I flipped through the pages:  

“God disturbs us toward our destiny by hard events and by freedom’s now urgent voice, which explode and confirm who we are. We don’t like leaving, but God loves becoming.”

I think about how hard I fight against change that often seems foist upon me and totally out of my control—because it is—but if I think of it as part of becoming who I’m supposed to be, maybe it won’t be easier, but I can accept it with graciousness.  I grew up as a Presbyterian and I don’t remember using words like “disturb” and “urgent” and “explode” in our prayers, but I love the descriptiveness and forcefulness of this prayer. 

As part of her Bat Mitzvah, J does a service project. Hers is working with Together We Bake an Alexandria-Va.-based organization that offers workforce training and personal development to women in transition, many of whom have been in prison, through a micro-baking business. 

Run in conjunction with Friends of Guest House, TWB teaches women in need of a second chance about food production, baking instruction, food safety, packaging and delivery, and customer service, according to TWB’s website. The idea is to not only give them the skills to find employment in the food-service area, but the self-esteem to go with it that can translate into any industry they choose. I tested some of their chocolate-chip cookies and granola while I’ve been here and they were both delicious, especially the cookies.

I’m breaking my own rule to not give to any organization more than once this year; I already give to Together We Bake on my first Chooseday Tuesday in January However, it’s J’s chosen charity and it doesn’t make sense to try to find something different to adhere to an arbitrary rule that I enforced.

April 27: Together We Bake

Why I started this blog

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26 April 2013

George Jones died today. His was the voice of heartbreak. Most critics put his voice up there with Frank Sinatra as the greatest singer ever. I know I do.  Even when he was singing songs far below his talent —and there were plenty of those—it was a pleasure to listen to him caress the notes.

But oh, when he sang a song whose quality matched the level of his voice, it was exquisite. Whether it was on perhaps the saddest song ever written — “He Stopped Loving Her Today”—or “The Grand Tour”  or “A Good Year For The Roses,” there’s a reason people referred to Jones as “The King of Broken Hearts.” You believed every word he ever sang as if he had lived it, probably because the hard-drinking, hard-living Jones had. The pleasure barely outweighed the pain.

There was no song that Jones didn’t make better. He shaped modern country music the most of any artist since Hank Williams Jr. Country singers all wanted to sound like him, and non-country singers wanted to sell a song the way he could. He was one of the most admired singers in history by other singers. 

Today, the home page on Jones' website simply has a stunning photo of Jones resting his hands on his guitar. His lined face shows every trial and tribulation that he ever experienced, but it’s also the face of someone who has come to terms with his own past

Until he was recently hospitalized, Jones was on his farewell tour.  The Possum may be gone, but his music will still be played 100 years from now. 

Tonight’s $10 goes to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, where people will be able to go for decades to come to learn about Jones.

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25 April 2013

Yesterday, I posted about the David Henneberry Crowdtilt Fund. Henneberry is the Watertown, Mass., boat owner who found the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect injured and bleeding in the bottom of his boat last Friday. 

After the police riddled his boat with bullets, a fund was started to raise money to fix or buy Henneberry a new boat and I contributed $10 to it yesterday. 

However, Henneberry told CNN affiliate WCVB  that he doesn’t want the money spent on him.  If you didn’t already love him already for his role in helping police find Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his graciousness in the comment below will tip you over the edge: "It makes me feel wonderful that people that are thinking like that, but it is my boat. People lost lives and lost limbs. I'd rather that (the money) go to the One Fund Boston. To buy me a new boat is a wonderful thing, I don't want that, really. I would wish that they donate it to the One Fund Boston. They lost limbs. I lost a boat.”

So we’ll do what Henneberry says. We already donated the money to his Crowdtilt Fund, but that may never be deducted from my account if the fund doesn’t reach a certain amount. Today we’re donating $10 to One Fund Boston and if we end up getting the $10 back from Henneberry’s boat fund, we’ll throw that in the One Fund Boston pot as well. 

And someone else is donating way more than $10 to the One Fund: as you may have heard, Neil Diamond sung "Sweet Caroline" at a Boston Red Sox game over the weekend since the team had long made his classic part of their game ritual. Digital download sales of "Sweet Caroline" soared afterward and Diamond, instead of keeping a dime, is donating all of his royalties to One Fund Boston. Now I'm feeling lots of love for both Henneberry and Diamond!

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24 April 2013

On April 19, I wrote that if people were raising money to get David Henneberry a new boat, I was in. 

So today came word from BuzzFeed that a CrowdTilt campaign has launched to raise $50,000 for just such a purpose. As you know, Henneberry is the Watertown, Mass. boat owner who noticed something askew with his boat tarp during last week’s manhunt for the second Boston Marathon bombing suspect and it turns out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, injured, was hiding inside.  Henneberry called the police, leading to Tsarnaev’s capture, but not before police riddled the Slipaway II with bullets.

Of course, the unknown here is if Henneberry’s insurance on the boat will cover the damage. Not that it matters. I have no problem with giving this accidental hero $50,000 just for doing the right thing. 

By the way, if you go to the BuzzFeed page, the comments are fascinating, ranging from outrage that people would raise money for a boat instead of donating to someone hurt in the bombing (not sure why it should be either/or) to people suggesting that he sell the boat on eBay or turn it into some kind of memorial to the people hurt and killed in the bombing. My favorite is someone’s very smart suggestion that the boat manufacturer give him a new one and reap all the free publicity that would come with such an act. 

Regardless, I’m in for $10.

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23 April 2013

I’m hijacking today’s Chooseday Tuesday. Tonight is Liberty Hill Foundation’s Upton Sinclair Dinner. 

Liberty Hill Foundation is a Los Angeles-based non-profit that provides grant money and training to community organizers and their organizations fighting for social, environmental and LGBT justice in the City of Angels.

It’s fair to say that Liberty Hill has changed my life (and that I would not be writing this blog and giving money away in this fashion if not for Liberty Hill). My friend Gary brought me in by inviting me on a van tour seven years ago. The Liberty Hill board and donors and invited guests, like me, drove around in a van as we heard one of the community organizers that we fund talk about the incredible work they were doing in Venice and Mar Vista, including revamping the entire Los Angeles United School District’s menu because certain schools in low-income areas were serving children rotten meat and spoiled milk and refused to change until this group staged protests and changed the system. 

That organization, POWER, and the others Liberty Hill funds, provide voices for people that corporations and big businesses generally want to silence (I am in no way saying all businesses want to do this). Liberty Hill funds groups that challenge big corporations and tell them that they can’t put toxic dumps in their neighborhoods that cause cancer; that they can't ignore laws that insist they provide low-income housing.

 One of our current campaigns is working its way through the city’s legislative process that would ensure that local businesses receive financial and technical assistance to modernize and reduce toxic impacts in the communities where asthma, heart disease and respiratory distress are spiraling because of these business’s practices. Liberty Hill helped fight for California’s ban on BPA in babies’ bottles and sippy cups. We helped get $20 million in affordable housing from USC as part of the university’s expansion plans.

I’m now a very proud and humbled member of the board of directors for Liberty Hill. No work in my life has helped me see that we are all in this together more than my work with Liberty Hill. Los Angeles is such a segregated town, so much more than New York, you don't even have to try to turn a blind eye to others' suffering. It's much more of a benign neglect, but neglect just the same. It is very possible to spend your days never coming across someone who is disenfranchised and suffering horribly from laws that are not being enforced or policies that target the poor and those least able to defend themselves. 

Tonight at Liberty Hill we’re honoring Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon, the creators of “Homeland,” for their commitment to social justice; Charles F. Johnson, producer of “NCIS,” “Jag,” “Red Tails” and more, for his efforts to create equal opportunities for people of color in the entertainment business, and political strategists/fundraisers Alison Morgan and Parke Shelton.

But we’re really honoring the more than 40 Los Angeles organizations that we fund and the fearless leaders and community organizers from these organizations and countless others who are out there every day fighting David Vs. Goliath battles... and winning.

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22 April 2013

With so much focus, understandably, on Boston, the poor folks in West, Texas, who saw their town flattened by a fertilizer plant explosion have gotten lost in the news cycle.

And when I have seen news about it, it’s been the kind that is absolutely infuriating, like that the fertilizer plant stored 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate than it was allowed to without telling the Department of Homeland Security. Of course, why should the plant owner alert the DHS when the chances of a spot inspection that would discover the fineable oversight are negligible? We see this kind of corporate negligence over and over and nothing changes. 

Who knows if this could have been prevented, but there are 14 lives gone and hundreds others’ in pieces. 

Students returned to school today but it will be years before the town is restored. As one minister said in an AP story, it’s like they’re living in a “science fiction movie.”

United Way of Tarrant County is helping the victims of the West explosion in their recovery efforts. As unfortunately happens during disasters, a number of other organizations have cropped up to help, but some of them are scams. United Way of Tarrant County is the sure thing, with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.

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21 April 2013

I wasn’t one of the people glued to my TV last Monday when word of the Boston Marathon bombings hit or last Thursday/Friday as the shoot out in Watertown, Mass., started and eventually ended with the capture of the second suspect. I’m not good with the endless loop of repeated information that gets fed into the 24-hour news cycle, much of it wildly speculative, biased, and just plain wrong.  

When the news is still developing and the news networks have long run out of explaining “who, what, where and when” and there’s no answer yet for “why and how,” the void gets filled in ridiculous ways. Add in the frantic, irresponsible, almost pathological need to be the first to report something, even if it later turns out to be wrong, and all that does is ratchet up my anxiety.  

But since then, I’ve been reading almost everything I can get my hands on about the bombings. I’m grasping for something that will make sense of it all, even though I know that there are senseless, evil acts that can never be fully explained. It’s futile, but I can’t help myself. 

The Los Angeles Times had a story today about the tough recovery facing the amputees. We know there were at least 13, from various news reports. Among others, The Times talked with Tammy Duckworth, the Illinois Congresswoman, who lost both her legs while fighting in Iraq in 2004, about the journey ahead of the Boston victims. Since Duckworth lost her legs, in addition to being elected to public office, she’s run three marathons and earned a new pilot’s license. What an inspiration she is.

(A little side note: As a kid, losing a limb was the stuff of brutal nightmares for me and it’s still one of my biggest fears. Not to inject myself too much here, but it stemmed, in part, from my mom taking me to see “Gone With The Wind” when I was little...maybe 7 or 8. There’s a scene with the wounded Confederate soldiers lying on the ground in some sort of makeshift triage and one of them is about to get his leg amputated with a saw. He’s screaming at the doctor, “Don’t cut! Don’t cut!”  I may have this scene wildly wrong but that’s how I remember it all these decades later and it’s still too traumatizing for me to have ever seen “Gone With The Wind” again. I’m queasy even writing this paragraph.  Thanks, mom.)

The article also talked about the physical and emotional trauma the patients will face as they learn to adapt to their new normal. 

As if dealing with the trauma of losing a limb isn’t enough, the story also stressed, as with so many health issues, the struggle even those who are insured may face in getting the best possible care to ensure that they live as full a life as they can. Insurance companies often limit the number of rehab visits an amputee can have, as well as how much insurance will pay for a prosthetic. Just imagine that you have lost a limb and are dealing with that and your doctors are recommending a prosthetic that will give you the best possible chance at regaining as much function as you can and your insurance company says it will not pay for that, but you can have this other one that may not be best for you but falls within its budget. Then its CEO gets a seven-figure bonus for earning record profits. 

The Amputee Coalition, a national advocacy group for those who have lost limbs, says that 20 states bar dollar limits on prosthetics and it is fighting to make sure the other 30 get in line.  According to a map on its site, it looks like Massachusetts is one of the 20 that has passed the Fair Insurance for Amputee law. 

In addition to its legislative work, the Amputee Coalition also offers peer support and recovery resources for amputees and their families. Today’s $10 goes to the Amputee Coalition.

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20 April 2013

The most iconic image from the Boston Marathon bombings, or certainly the one that sticks in my mind, is of Jeffrey Bauman being rushed to an ambulance, his legs blown off, and his arteries pinch together by good Samaritan Carlos Arredondo.

It shows the absolute horror of the moment and the devastation caused by the bombings, but also the kindness of strangers. As you know, Arrendondo, whose own story is a movie waiting to happen, rushed in to help, assisting the medical team.

Bauman, who was cheering on his girlfriend from the sidelines,  played a huge role in helping the FBI identify the suspects from his hospital bed. He helped put together the puzzle that led to their capture.

Bauman’s family members have started a campaign to help cover his medical costs. In addition to being treated for the loss of both his legs, he is also being treated for severe burns from the bombs and damage to his vision. 

In addition to giving money, the family also provides an address to send letters and well wishes to Bauman.

Today’s $10 goes to Bauman’s YouCaring account. With YouCaring, 100% of the money goes to the recipient (administrative costs are covered by donors who give specifically for that purpose). Plus, the money is handed over as it is received, not in a lump sum after the desired total is reached. In Bauman’s case, his family is asking for $30,000. 

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19 April 2013

Like everyone, I’m still feeling a little shell shocked from this week’s events. It was a truly horrible week between the Boston Marathon bombing, the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion (which didn’t get enough attention, as  far as I’m concerned), the Senate’s devastating (for many of us) vote against gun control, the wacko in Mississippi who sent ricin to the President and a senator... it just didn’t seem to end. 

But end, hopefully, it has with one of the Boston bombers shot dead and the other discovered, injured but still alive, hiding in a boat in someone’s back yard Friday night. Hey, if I knew of a fund to buy citizen hero David Henneberry a new boat, I’d be donating to that.

But before the Boston horror spree concluded, it had another horrible chapter, this time on the campus of MIT.

The suspects, two brothers, shot policeman Sean Collier in his car. The 26-year old had only been on the force a little more than a year. 

Following his death, students set up a Sean Collier Memories Tumblr, which has some lovely stories about him, including how excited he was about his new pick-up truck, because it had room to take his friends on the outdoor adventures he loved. 

MIT set up a fund for Collier’s family, but they have asked that all funds raised in his memory go to The Jimmy Fund at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. 
The Jimmy Fund raises money for adult and pediatric cancer care. It is the official charity of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Assn., and has been around since 1948.

Even in death, Collier is trying to protect and serve others. 

April 19: The Jimmy Fund

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18 April 2013

Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America” had a profound effect on the way I look at class, welfare, and social equality when I read it a few years ago. 

The author goes undercover to work a variety of jobs that pay minimum wage. She must stay at the job for a month and she must live solely off the money she earns from that job. Just as she switched jobs every month, she also switched cities to give a portrait of working conditions across America. Among the jobs she holds are a waitress in a diner in Key West, a maid in Portland, Maine; and a sales clerk at a Wal-Mart in Minneapolis. 

She finds it is barely possible to eke out a living working 40 hours a week at minimum wage. She often has to stay in hotels that rent by the week because although finding a crummy apartment would be cheaper, that’s not an option since she can’t save any money for rent and a security deposit. 

In certain towns, she ends up living on fast food, which is more costly than groceries, because she doesn’t have any money to buy kitchen supplies. Forget about anything like medical care. 

It’s a vicious circle and the book shows how extremely hard-working people—people who are working two full-time jobs— get trapped in a cycle of poverty and homelessness. Minimum wage in most states in no way equals a sustainable living wage. 

The book changed the way I think and certainly how I tip everyone from waitstaff to the folks at the valet and what I pay an hourly-wage worker when I have the ability to set the price. While I’d never particularly had any issue with people who receive public assistance, such as food stamps, it also clarified my thinking on that issue.

I thought of the book today because while I was stopped at a light, a panhandler came up to me holding a sign that said she needed money for a motel room for the night. 

I gave her today’s $10 and asked her her name. She said it was Cheryl. And then she did something that no other homeless person I’ve ever given money to has done before: She asked me my name. I told her and we smiled at each other.  We didn’t have a lot of time before the light changed, but she then said, “A lot of people take the money for drugs and alcohol. I use it to get a hotel room. Seven nights a week.” 

It used to bother me that a homeless person I was giving money to may be using it to buy alcohol or drugs or may not even really be homeless at all, but somewhere along the line, I decided that once I gave them the money, it wasn’t any of my business how they spent it. And if they are faking being homeless (as I suspected was the case when a young couple with a baby came up to me one time in a parking lot and I felt like an idiot after I gave them $20), that’s also none of my concern. In any case, they clearly need it more than I.

Cheryl seemingly considers panhandling her job and if she’s able to afford a room every night, she’s doing a lot better than some of the folks we meet in “Nickel and Dimed.” I wish we’d had more time to talk so I could have found out if she has a regular place she stays and how she gets to and from her panhandling spot and what circumstances had led her to this. Maybe this was just the first of many conversations we’ll have. 

April 18: Cheryl

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17 April 2013

The Senate’s stunning, although not altogether surprising, vote to reject expanded gun background checks showed that the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre runs this country, maybe even more than the Koch brothers, which I didn’t think was possible. 

When close to 90% of Americans are for the passage of tighter background checks, it seems logical to believe that those we elect to public office would hear the call and vote accordingly, but that’s only if you believe that Congress members —on both sides of the aisle—listen to their constituents and not the special interest groups that are now allowed to donate unchecked amounts of money to literally buy their votes. 

And that’s what we saw today. For those opposed to today’s events, we can be angry about it, but we can’t give up. We can post "Shame" posters on Facebook and links that explain how it happened, but that won't change a damn thing.  The stakes are simply too high to stop there. There’s only one thing that will change the odds and that’s to outsmart the NRA at its own game, which, when I feel the despair I feel today, seems nearly impossible. The NRA is absolutely ruthless in going after what it wants and it now wants so much and has so much momentum that it is not willing to cede anything —even background checks that it previously supported and that the majority of its current membership endorses—because  Wayne LaPierre knows he has virtually every Republican and some Blue Dog Democrats by the balls. Look at how today’s vote went —on a bill that was already extremely watered down —and tell me one good reason why the NRA should change its operating tactics to reflect the more mainstream beliefs of its members. The NRA is getting away with things it can’t even believe.

Passage of today’s bill would have meant that people buying guns at gun shows and online would go through the same background checks that someone who buys from an authorized dealer goes through.  A survey of inmates conducted by the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that 80% of them  had secured their guns through private sales because the loophole that would have been closed today meant no background checks or record keeping. 80%. That loophole is still wide open.

To keep it in gun parlance, I’ve always loved this quote from Sean Connery’s character, Jim Malone, in “The Untouchables.” As Kevin Costner’s Elliot Ness struggles with how to fight Al Capone and organized crime, Malone finally lays it down: “You wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! That’s the Chicago way.” 

I’m in no way, obviously, advocating any kind of violence. My point is that the NRA seems unbeatable, but it’s not. The public opinion numbers are on the side of those who want these background checks and other regulations to pass. But the money isn’t, and until it is, it doesn’t matter if 100% of people (minus Wayne LaPierre and Mitch McConnell, of course), are for background checks. It also doesn’t matter how many more people are killed by guns because the vast majority of us don’t need any more convincing. It is going to take one thing and one thing only: money.

So I’m breaking my own rules and, for the first time this year, giving more than $10 publicly to a cause I support. The Coalition to Stop  Gun Violence fights against gun violence through public advocacy and strategic engagement. It doesn’t always get it right, but it is willing to take on the NRA at its own game. 

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary deaths four months ago, 3,482 Americans have been killed by guns, according to CSGV.  In honor of them, I’m giving $350 to CSGV today. By giving to an organization that actively lobbies, I don't even get the benefit of a tax deduction on this one, but that seems a very minor price to pay. 

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16 April 2013

Before we get started on Chooseday Tuesday, the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort dogs are headed to Boston. I first wrote about these 4-legged angels on Jan. 3 when they greeted the returning students to Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. 

Five specially trained golden retrievers, including Ruthie and Luther, below, have packed their bags (and I hope loaded up their teddy bears) for the trip. Three are coming from the Addison, Ill.-homebase and two others from Newtown where they’ve been stationed since Jan. 3. They will be based in a Lutheran church very close to the Boston Marathon finish site and will visit the injured in the hospital.

Another marathon figures into today’s donation. I’d already planned to give today’s $10 in my friend Rosemary’s name. She’s running her first half marathon April 27 in Nashville in  the St. Jude Country Music Marathon.  

St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses. Since Danny Thomas started the hospital in 1962, it has helped around 7,800 patients a year, none of whom pay for treatment. Its research has led to tremendously increased survival rates: in 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common kind of childhood cancer, according to St. Jude’s website, was 4%. It is now 94%. 

All this doesn’t come cheap. The daily operating cost for St. Jude is $1.8 million. 

The country music community has adopted St. Jude as one of its prime charities and raises millions of dollars for it every year. 

I ran a half-marathon for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society in 2007 and it remains one of the highlights of my life. For someone who wasn’t athletic growing up, realizing that my body could run/walk 13.1 miles for a good cause was life changing. I hope Rosemary has a great experience, too.

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15 April 2013

Evil came to Boston today and wreaked havoc. Like everyone else, I feel numb, sad, scared and angry. I’ve tried to write something coherent for the last few hours and I have nothing. It’s too fresh and too horrible. 

Instead, I’m posting comments other have made in reference to today or, in the case of the late Leonard Bernstein, something he said that several people posted on Facebook today that seems very appropriate. I don’t know if he made the comment in reference to a specific atrocity, but it’s beautiful.

 While comedian/actor Patton Oswalt’s last paragraph is how I want to live my life,  Craig Ferguson’s opening comments to his show tonight, while certainly coming from a different circumstance than mine, most closely mirror the despair I feel right now. 

When I started this blog, one of my rules was to not give to a charity more than once this year. So while my first inclination was to give to the American Red Cross, I’ve already given to them and I knew they were not the only organization doing remarkable work in the face of the carnage (although I would certainly encourage anyone to continue to support them).  The Salvation Army is providing food, counseling and other aid to first responders. As we saw on the news, so many of the first responders were the medical personnel who were stationed near the finish line, as well as the police, but many of the first responders were runners and other spectators who rushed in to help those near them who were hurt. 

My hope is some of the comments below bring you a moment of solace in this tragedy. 
"First responders saved countless lives because they dared to run into danger. Boston residents are opening their homes to stranded marathoners. Facebook and Twitter are flooded with offers of help and solace. America, my faith in you is unshakeable."- Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Boston. Fucking horrible. 

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity." But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. 

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness. 

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago. 

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."—Comedian/actor Patton Oswalt

Hey everybody, good evening. Tonight’s show is a little bit different. Obviously the news of today is so horrendous that it would seem insensitive at best to say ‘It’s a great day for America,’ so I won’t be starting the show with that tonight. Is anyone else sick of this sh**? I seem to have to say that too often.
People say to me ‘Craig, your job is to make people laugh at the end of the day.’ And I think, yes, that’s true, but I’ve never professed to be any damn good at that. And, the thing is, people want their mind taken off it. And I think, well ok, if you want your mind taken off it, you know, watch a cartoon or a video or something. I understand it, it’s perfectly acceptable. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to not want to think about it, but I can’t not think about it.

Also, I have a personal connection with the city of Boston...When I became an American citizen in 2008, I spoke at Faneuil Hall on July 4, at the invitation of Tommy Menino who is the mayor of Boston….I’m appalled by this thing and when I watch it on these streets that I know, it’s horrifying.
If I have all this inside of me. If I have all this rage and anger and distress and upset inside of me, I’m not a good enough comedian to hide all that from you. — Craig Ferguson
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” —Leonard Bernstein.
To that end, I leave you tonight with this song from Brian Wilson. It’s one that has tremendous meaning to me and it’s one I often turn to when I’m looking for some comfort. It seems as if Brian could have written it for today’s events. It serves as wish, a meditation, a commentary and a benediction. It’s my simple prayer for anyone reading this: Love and Mercy to you and your friends tonight.