Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not While I'm Around - Barbra Streisand

A quick note to my children

My four youngest start spring break today, which means they’re going to want me to take them to the park, play four square with them in the driveway, shuttle them to and from play dates and provide other services as needed. I’ll feel stressed and squeezed because it’s a challenge to manage my crew all by myself – they bicker like normal siblings and pester like normal preteens and they don’t listen like normal youngsters – but I’ll remind myself how lucky I am and how much I’ll miss them when they’re gone.

We were going to drive to Washington D.C. over the break to show the kids all the monuments and must-sees in our nation’s capital but the White House denied our request for tour tickets (thanks, Obama) and Anita shouldn’t really take the time off work right now anyway.

Nikita, my amazing eleven-year-old, will probably have to be coaxed out of her room; she loves to read and write in her journal and mess with her laptop and do whatever else studious, smart, sensitive eleven-year-old girls do when isolating themselves from their raucous younger siblings.

My son Bryant will surely pester me to let him go play with his buddies down the street. He’ll make sure to return on time, if not early, like he always does, and if I need to get him I’ll know right where he is because he’s the most responsible, best-behaved, most lovable nine-year-old boy on the planet.

I’d bet money that eight-year-old Maya will tick me off somehow because these days she’s the most temperamental of my kids. She’ll also make me laugh and entertain me and render me speechless because she’s got a special spark, a charm and wit and precociousness that I’ve never seen in someone so young, and I’ll melt at her beautiful smile and let her have the last of the Pringles just because it’s Maya.

And Darling Devina, my six-year-old-going-on-twenty-two, will flash those deep dimples at me and I’ll acquiesce to her every demand. Yes, she can have a Popsicle for breakfast. Yes, she can eat it in the living room. Yes, she can watch that episode of iCarly for the 90th time because she wants to and it won’t hurt her, really. She’s such a good girl.

Before this break-for-them-but-not-for-me starts, I thought I’d write my children a note:

Dear Kids:

In my 49 years on Planet Earth, I’ve had time to encounter a lot of people and get to know a myriad of children. I can say without equivocation that the four of you are the coolest, most interesting, funniest, sweetest young people who ever walked among humankind. I’m sure the world would agree with me if it knew you like I do.

You are each remarkable and unique and advanced and wonderful and compelling and awesome in the true sense of the word. And you are so loved. Your mom worships the ground you walk on. She naturally, automatically factors you into every thought, every decision, every possibility and opportunity and development. (I’m sure this strong mother-child bond is not unique to this family but it’s still magical to watch.) And because I had a man in my life who loved me as if I were his biological son and showed me how a wise and caring and dedicated dad behaves, I know how to cherish you too. And I do.

I’m hard on you because I truly love you and I want you to be the best that you can be. I missed out on raising Amelia, my 20-year-old from my first marriage – who has nonetheless turned out to be pretty neat, as far as I can tell – so I feel a driving need to take maximum advantage of this second chance at being a dad. This includes correcting your bad habits, inserting myself into your fights, teaching you what I think is important and using my loud, firm voice to modify your behavior. I want to be able to say I had a hand in helping you to become who you will eventually become. I’ll take blame but I also want credit this time.

Hindsight might find that I came on too strong at times and chose to zig when I should have zagged, but my mistakes were made out of love. I try to be patient and tolerant. I really do. And I make sure to end each day with a hug and a kiss and a whispered nicety no matter what. I know how fortunate I am to have you in my life. No pro/con list necessary.

One admonishment: stop fighting with each other all the time. You’re a team, not four competitors trying to knock each other out of the contest. Team members help each other and work together. Your potential is so great. Each of you is so great.

I know I don’t have the right to feel so proud of you but I am.

Love, Fat Daddy Pat

P.S. I’ll help you enjoy your break, but try not to break anything, willya?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Special Note

I recently wrote about a friend, Charles McGlashan, who was my age, 49, when he suffered a heart attack and died last Sunday. If you’re inclined to commemorate this fine man financially, his family suggests donations to the following:

  • Wildcare, the Bay Area's most comprehensive wildlife aid and advocacy group
  • Green Sangha, which brings spiritual practice and environmental work together to heal our planet
or a charity of your choice in his honor.

Charles gave so much.

The Cardigans ft. Tom Jones - Burning Down The House (HD Official Video)

Rick Snyder's burning down the house

It’s like setting a bunch of different fires all over the place and then watching as people without fire extinguishers frantically run from spot to spot, trying to douse the flames quickly without getting burned.

This is Rick Snyder’s strategy, and it’s working.

Snyder and his ilk are setting fires on multiple fronts and moving on to their next target while affected constituencies, underfunded and ill-equipped, scramble to respond.

  • He’s signed a bill cutting six weeks of state-level unemployment benefits. The measure reduces state jobless benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks as of January.

  • He’s launched a major assault on representative democracy. On March 16, he gave broad new powers, including the ability to terminate union contracts, to emergency financial managers appointed by the state to run struggling cities and school districts. Opponents say it could set up virtual dictatorships and strip power from local elected officials.

  • His surrogates at the Koch-funded, Midland-based Mackinac Center have made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to three state universities with labor relations departments – Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan – seeking all e-mail messages regarding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R-Douche) and his attack on collective bargaining. A Mackinac Center employee told Talking Points Memo, a web-based political journalism organization, that the request is “part of an investigation into what labor studies professors at state schools in Michigan are saying about the situation in Madison.” One professor described it as anti-union advocates "going after folks they don't agree with."

  • He’s repealed Michigan’s item pricing law, a popular consumer protection measure long hated by business, and statutorily prohibited citizens from coming together to repeal his repeal via referendum. (Seems a tad unconstitutional but what do I know?)

  • His budget proposal gave a big, fat $1.8 billion tax cut to his business buddies while increasing taxes on seniors, the poor and others.

  • He’s reduced revenue sharing for local governments. Want your snow plowed and your fire department open? Tough.

  • He’s attacked teachers and students, offering schools less aid and suggesting they make up the loss by forcing teachers to pay more of their own health care and retirement costs.

The list goes on.

Snyder’s war, cloaked in “We must take drastic measures to reduce our deficit and balance our budget and live within our means” b*llsh*t, is wearing people down. Inundated with depressing news, people are turning off the radio and turning on Undercover Boss and Dancing with the Stars. How many protest rallies can a person watch? How many newspaper articles describing the harmful effects of Snyder policies can someone read? Add to the state-level shenanigans the fact that the same strategy is being employed in other states and nationally, and it’s a wonder anyone’s buying a newspaper these days.

It’s this fatigue and the resultant resignedness and passivity that are allowing Snyder et al to pursue and achieve their outlandish victories. If we’re preoccupied with the struggle to feed our children, keep our jobs and put gas in our cars, it’s not likely we’ll be knocking on doors and leading marches.

At first I thought what was happening was just conservatives exercising their muscle and going for whatever they could get while the gettin's good. But now I see genuine class warfare, a nefarious, brilliantly-orchestrated campaign on the part of the Haves to make sure those who Have Less become the Have Nots. They’re not just taking away perks; they’re stealing our voice and our power and our tools and our rights.

When someone with a few pebbles tries to fight the guy with the tanks, guess who wins?

Sources:, Talking Points Memo

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seal - Crazy [MTV Unplugged]

Barack bombs

When it was announced in October of 2009 that Barack Obama had been chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize just nine months into his presidency, I defended the choice.

Although Obama had announced a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan in March of 2009 – announcing he intended to send 4,000 more troops on top of the 17,000 additional troops he already deployed – I defended him.

Even though the detestable Maverick from Phoenix – the guy who thought it prudent to sing, “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” in public – praised this move, I defended him.

Although Obama had announced in February 2009 that our combat mission in Iraq wouldn’t end until August 31, 2010 – three months later than he promised during the campaign – and pointed out that a U.S. “force” numbering between 35,000 and 50,000 will stay behind in non-combat roles and final troops won’t leave until December 31, 2011, I defended him.

And when Obama ordered some 34,000 more U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan that November, I defended him.

Last night he addressed the nation about Libya and tried to justify his decision to authorize military action. I’m finished defending him.

In fact, I think he needs to return his peace prize to Oslo to salvage its credibility lest it become as political and meaningless as the Grammys or the Golden Globes.

I watched the speech – which ended with the obligatory, offensive “God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America” – and was struck by how Dubya-like the 44th president sounded. I’m not alone. One Facebook friend posted, “I cried a little when I realized his speech was as platitude-filled as any of GW Bush's.” Another Facebook friend really let the Candidate of Hope and Change have it:

“I don't agree with anything Obama said. Is this about anything other than protecting the Libyan oil fields? I personally don't think so. We watched civilians slaughtered in Rwanda, we watched civilians slaughtered in Darfur. If we spent all these resources creating an energy policy instead of dropping bombs, we wouldn't give a damn about what is happening in Libya or anywhere in the Middle East and Northern Africa. This is not leadership, this is doing the bidding for the rich and powerful who want the region destabilized to drive up the cost of oil.

“I voted for this President because I wanted change. After Bush I wanted our democracy back and I wanted some investment in our future. I am tired of wars for oil and wars ‘cause of terror. We will be protecting oil fields for the next 20 years or until we are so weakened and bankrupt by the greed of those in power. I hate that Obama has caved to the rich and powerful in this country. We have lost our government and it just sickens me. When we help the people in the Congo, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, and the Ivory Coast from being slaughtered, maybe then I will believe this is not about oil. Until then, spare me all this bullshit.”

At least 919,967 people – soldiers, civilians, contractors and journalists – have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since the U.S. and coalition attacks, based on lowest credible estimates. More than 300 times as many people have been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq than on September 11, 2001. The two wars combined have cost $1.1 trillion since 2001. That money could have funded a whole lot of road and bridge repairs, new schools and teacher salaries, life-saving health care, domestic violence and homeless shelters, libraries, college scholarships and other needs.

George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, describes a world of perpetual war and government surveillance where the individual is always subordinated to the state and the slogans “War is peace,” “Freedom is Slavery” and “Ignorance is Strength” are introduced. Has fiction become nonfiction?


Monday, March 28, 2011

Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings, op.11. Uncut

Death sucks no matter what

Charles F. McGlashan (1961-2011)

“Don't fear your mortality, because it is this very mortality that gives meaning and depth and poignancy to all the days that will be granted to you.”
~ Paul Tsongas (1941-1997)

Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was a beloved actress, philanthropist and businessperson known around the world as one of the most beautiful and talented women ever to grace the silver screen.  Millions mourned her death last Wednesday.

Charles McGlashan (1961-2011) was president of the Marin County Board of Supervisors who promoted sustainability, energy efficiency and renewable power.  He was just 49 when he died yesterday of a heart attack.

Elizabeth Taylor earned three Academy Awards.

Charles McGlashan won an Environmental Leadership Award from the Environmental Education Council of Marin, a Youth Activist Award from Next Generation, and a Bicycle Leadership Award from the Marin County Bicycle Coalition.

Elizabeth Taylor helped raise more than $100 million for AIDS charities.

Charles McGlashan worked on affordable housing, public housing, water conservation, local non-car transportation systems, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, smart community design, zero waste, green building, environmental justice, public health and habitat protection issues, among others.

Elizabeth Taylor was a fashion icon who had a passion for jewelry and owned the 33.19-carat Krupp Diamond and the 69.42-carat, pear-shaped Taylor-Burton Diamond.

Charles McGlashan had served on the Board of the Marin Municipal Water District and as an officer with the Marin Economic Commission, the Marin Conservation League and the Sierra Club Marin Group Executive Committee.  He was also associated with City CarShare, Sustainable Conservation, the North Bay Sustainability Center, the Peninsula Conservation Center Foundation, and the Environmental Education Council of Marin.

As Anita pointed out, some people have wide and splashy impacts on the world; others leave marks that are more contained but significant nonetheless.

Daulat Singh (1939-2007) was born in central India and came to the United States in the late 1960s to pursue a Ph.D. at Michigan State University.  A loving and devoted husband and father of three children, Singh worked as a senior chemist at the Michigan Department of Agriculture's Geagley Laboratory from 1970 until his death in 2007 from cancer of the bladder.

Brian Cavanaugh (1968-2011) graduated from Okemos High School with Anita back in 1986.  He went on to attend the University of Michigan and University of Denver College of Law and was a partner at the Butzel Long law firm.  He died of appendix cancer on March 24, leaving a wife and two young daughters.

These people were not world-famous but they mattered to those who loved them.  The end of their lives brought pain and sadness too.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth Taylor.  And rest in peace, Charles F. McGlashan and Daulat Singh and M. Brian Cavanaugh.  Thank you for the marks you left.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come

Can we stop slithering snakes like Snyder?

I remember taking my oldest daughter and two of her friends to the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing on a cold but sunny day in March of 2003. We joined thousands of others marching west on Michigan Avenue to the State Capitol Building in Lansing. What were we doing? Protesting the invasion of Iraq by our government the day before. Demonstrations and protests and rallies took place all over the world that day, with millions of people letting politicians know in no uncertain terms that we opposed this war.

It didn’t matter. The Worst President Ever who lied us into that war was re-elected the following year. (Some would prefer I use “elected,” since in 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court chose the president, not the voters.) Almost eight years later, the Iraq war is still killing innocent people and has cost $781 billion to date.

I blamed the lazy corporate media at the time. I blamed ignorant, self-centered voters who only cared about their singular issues. I blamed the lack of community. I blamed anyone I could think of for the disconnection between what the people want and what the politicians do. I couldn’t accept, at least consciously, that the government is going to do whatever it wants no matter what we, the people, think or say or do.

I’m hopeful that things are different today. The newspapers and television shows are telling us what’s happening. Facebook and Twitter and the Blogosphere are educating and organizing people. Michigan’s chief executive, Rick the Dick Snyder, has been forced to mount his evil, pro-rich, anti-everybody else campaign right out in the open. (I thought I would never dislike another state politician more than I despised former governor John Engler but I was wrong.) As recent headlines indicate, people are watching and opposing his diabolical schemes:

Looks like I can't blame a lazy media this time.

Here and in Wisconsin and Indiana and Ohio and Maine and across the globe, citizens are taking to the streets and capitals and demanding to be heard.  I've got to believe that this will all matter.  I don't want to be convinced once and for all that my high school civics class was b*llsh*t and we really don't have a voice unless we kick in the campaign cash.  I guess we'll see.

Sources:,, Lansing State Journal, Port Huron Times Herald, Detroit Free Press,,, Royal Oak Daily Tribune, Dome magazine,,, WKAR

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bartcop is the sh*t!

I'm posting special thanks to and a welcome to any readers who find their way here as a result of Bartcop's featuring a link to this blog on his site. Not a day goes by that I don't visit for his unique brand of witty political commentary, provocative links and photos, and informative content. Thanks, Bart!

10,000 Miles - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Grieving for a Little Girl I Never Knew

Can you imagine hearing your little girl get shot in the face, twice, at point blank range?

That's how ten-year-old Brisenia Flores of Arivaca, Arizona died.  In May of 2009, her home was invaded by 41-year-old vigilante Shawna Forde and two men - Jason "Gunny" Bush and Albert Gaxiola - who killed Brisenia's father, Raul, before murdering the innocent little girl as she begged for her life.  Brisenia's mother, Gina, survived, called 911 and even exhanged gunfire with the criminals.

Forde was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death weeks ago.  A jury is deliberating on Bush's fate as I type this, and Gaxiola will be tried in June. 

Forde is a trip.  I stumbled upon a "Justice for Shawna Forde" website where she trashes Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and blames him for the Giffords massacre in Tucson.  She praises Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for signing SB 1070, the infamous and controversial anti-illegal immigration measure ("If they's brown and don't have they papers, we gonna deport 'em"), in April of 2010.  She complains about jailers tampering with her mail and writing her up for "extremely petty incidents" like passing out candy, and even takes a swipe at the ACLU for opposing SB 1070 and deciding not to pursue a "white racial profiling" complaint against Sheriff Dupnik.  If she was as busy prior to her incarceration as her website is, it's surprising she even had time to mastermind the murder of a young girl.

Forde had ties to anti-immigration groups like the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) and the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).  (FAIR denies she was a member.)  She founded the Minutemen American Defense (MAD) organization after getting kicked out of MCDC for being "unstable."  Makes you wonder how many other unstable, racist misfits are walking around out there, taking the vile, irresponsible rantings of the Limbaughs, O'Reillys and Coulters to heart and deciding to cleanse society of "people who aren't like us" like Brisenia.

Better writers than I have criticized the media for not providing much coverage of the slaughter in Arivaca.  USA Today columnist Raul A. Reyes wrote, "Cable outlets did not give Brisenia the 24/7 coverage afforded household names like Chandra Levy, Lacey Peterson, JonBenet Ramsey, and Natalee Holloway.  Maybe Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post was correct when he opined that America requires its damsels in distress to be white...and preferably middle class.  Since Brisenia was neither, apparently her life mattered less to our society."

It looks like justice will be served in this case, albeit in relative silence.  I'm still sad, though.  Brisenia was the same age as my kids and had a shy smile similar to my son's.  Her demise should have been national news.  Hers should be a household name.  Her life should have mattered more.  If she had been white and with a Member of Congress... 

Sources: The Daily Beast, Huffington Post,, Arizona Daily Star, "Justice for Shawna Forde" website.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Annie Lennox- Why

Favorite Status Updates Part 2

Time for more of my favorite Facebook status updates, in no particular order:

  • Patrick Diehl is thinking of celebrating Columbus Day by walking into someone’s house with my friends and telling the homeowners that we live there now.

  • Patrick Diehl just listened to Rick Pluta interview Republican candidate for Michigan governor Rick Snyder. If this cliché-spewing boob becomes governor, I’ll shoot myself in the head. Twice.

  • Patrick Diehl is heading to Tequama…Takwamma…Tecquammen…to a waterfall in the Upper Peninsula.

  • Patrick Diehl was told by my five-year-old that she resented having to give money for popcorn at school and everything should be free. “How would people get money to pay bills?,” I asked. “They’d get jobs,” she answered. “What jobs could they get if everything was free and you couldn’t even sell popcorn?,” I asked. She paused and answered, “Well, it doesn’t make sense to you but it makes sense to me.”

  • “Time heals all wounds. Except decapitation. That’s pretty much a non-healing situation no matter how much clock you’re runnin’.” ~ Dane Cook

  • Patrick Diehl wonders why some people – bill collectors, political opponents, ex-wives – think if they talk at the same time as you are they’ll somehow emerge from the conversation the victor? It’s called l-i-s-t-e-n-i-n-g, people….

  • Patrick Diehl wonders why when there are so many choices on the restaurant menu, the kids still order macaroni & cheese and hot dogs?

  • Patrick Diehl is so disappointed. The nasty weather has put the kibosh on our work-out-at-the-gym plans for tonight. Now I’ve got nothing to do except sit on the couch and watch TV while snacking on munchies. I was so looking forward to perspiring and not being able to walk while my head pounded and I gasped for breath.

  • Patrick Diehl swore I would NEVER succumb to the consumption-oriented temptation of Black Friday. I vowed never to join the mindless cattle worshipping at the Altar of Commercialism. I’m writing this at Meridian Mall as I wait for Anita to emerge from Old Navy….

  • Patrick Diehl remembers when Saturday Night Live was funny.

  • Patrick Diehl thinks it’s cool that wherever you stand in Michigan, you’re within 85 miles of a Great Lake.

  • “Few is the number who think with their own minds and feel with their own hearts.” ~ Albert Einstein

  • Patrick Diehl looks forward to having a field day at my kids’ Field Day today.

  • Patrick Diehl wonders why there isn’t more noise in Facebook about the upcoming Comcast/NBC merger. Comcast has been a foe of net neutrality and the worst customer service provider in my memory. Doesn’t this have implications?

  • Patrick Diehl is glad I’m not Mel Gibson.

  • Patrick Diehl wants to walk up to each and every one of the 34,046 Facebook users who “like” BP America, grab them by their ears and scream into their faces, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!?”

  • “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” ~ Bertrand Russell

  • “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ~ Albert Einstein

  • Patrick Diehl wonders why Helen Thomas was vilified and lost her job for her comments about Israel while Patrick Buchanan can insult African-Americans, immigrants, Jews, gays, women and even democracy and still guffaw and chuckle on television ad nauseam.

  • “In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.” ~ H.L. Mencken

  • When asked what she should feed our new goldfish, our five-year-old replied matter-of-factly, “bacon.”

  • “When the last tree is felled, the last river poisoned and the last fish is caught, then you will see perhaps that you cannot eat money.” ~ Chief Seattle

  • “Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?” ~ Malia Obama, referring to the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico

  • “It’s much harder to be a liberal than a conservative. Why? Because it is easier to give someone the finger than a helping hand.” ~ Mike Royko

  • Patrick Diehl can’t stand how the media continue to bolster and spruce up the Tea Party. It is NOT a grassroots movement of populists concerned with fiscal restraint. It’s a bunch of racist, anti-immigrant, knuckle-dragging ignoramuses who think shrieking “Socialist!” at political opponents conveys intellect and worldliness.

  • Patrick Diehl just learned that the Yale School of Medicine is creating a fellowship in obesity studies, sponsored by PepsiCo. Fitting.

  • Patrick Diehl watched my son score a touchdown on the first play of his first flag football game, then pull some flags and make some interceptions on top of that. Visions of college scholarships are now dancing in my head.

  • Patrick Diehl wants to escape with my family to some sparsely-populated tropical island where there are no cars, politicians, scales or churches and neighbor helps neighbor, health care is a right, and ignorance and hatred are concepts from the past.

  • Patrick Diehl thinks maybe today would be a good day to figure out what the kids have done with all the umbrellas.

  • “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.” ~ Oscar Wilde

  • “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” ~ Japanese proverb

  • Patrick Diehl was just informed by my five-year-old that her favorite song is “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall.” Maybe this isn’t a good thing.

  • Patrick Diehl realizes it’s relatively trivial but if one more self-centered, snobbish witch with unruly spawn steals my deck chairs at the Michigan Athletic Club pool, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

  • Patrick Diehl was just asked by my nine-year-old son Bryant if I needed a sidekick when fighting the wasps in our garage. From now on we will be known as Patman and B-Boy.

  • Patrick Diehl watched ABC News’ coverage of the Shirley Sherrod scandal and George Snuffleupagus made it sound like the Left is as responsible for deliberate misrepresentation in politics as the Right. The story barely mentioned Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing blogger who caused the whole thing. ABC News: you suck!

  • Patrick Diehl just yelled at my ten-year-old to “Turn down that Bach!”

  • Patrick Diehl wonders exactly when racism, ignorance, intolerance and lies became embraceable. I’m sad that my kids are growing up in a world where war is good, mosques are bad, life is not precious unless it’s unborn and the loudest, not the sanest, wins. If God exists, surely She is weeping.

  • Patrick Diehl thinks maybe my nine-year-old is taking Mario Brothers on the Nintendo DS a little too seriously since after losing a life he muttered, “I really, really hate you people.”

  • Patrick Diehl just learned that according to the Death Clock, I’m going to die on Wednesday, January 26, 2033 – the 196th anniversary of Michigan’s admission into the union. For some reason I’m cool with that.

  • “God has no religion.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Maria Callas - O Mio Babbino Caro

As John Lennon said, violence begets violence.

I was on the way home after picking up my sick daughter from school this morning when I heard on the car radio that a bomb exploded near Jerusalem’s central bus station, injuring more than 20 people.

According to the Washington Post, “the bombing comes amid a sharp escalation in violence along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. On Tuesday, eight Palestinians – four civilians and four militants – were killed inside Gaza in two separate Israeli military strikes. Israel’s military said it was responding to increased rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.”

Frankly, I’m befuddled by the whole Israeli–Palestinian conflict. I think the Jewish people deserve a homeland and the Nazi genocide of six million Jews more than half a century ago was of course atrocious, despicable and almost unfathomable. But Israel is more than a little ham-handed in the way it treats the Arab people who used to rule the land it now calls its own.

I hope nothing bad happens to me for writing that last sentence.

It seems like 'free speech’ doesn’t apply when you’re speaking about Israel; if you say anything negative, you’re labeled anti-Semitic. (Reminds me of my experience with Friends of Bill, who labeled anyone questioning the effectiveness of Alcoholics Anonymous or objecting to its religiosity a dry drunk in denial.) The effectiveness of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – the powerful lobbying group that advocates for pro-Israel policies in Washington – aside, Israel’s actions and the billions of taxpayer dollars it receives from us each year shouldn’t be undiscussable. As of 2008, Israel was the top recipient of US foreign aid.

I’m still shaken by the death eight years ago last week of Rachel Corrie, a young American woman run over by an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) bulldozer made by Caterpillar while protesting the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza. The Israeli government promised a full and transparent investigation but that didn’t happen.

And I thought it was more than a little sad that veteran Washington reporter Helen Thomas was fired last year after publicly criticizing Israel. Just goes to show that you can cover every president from Eisenhower to Obama, write six books and be the first female officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents' Association and the first female member of the Gridiron Club but the minute your pro-Palestinian tendencies are revealed, you’re out of there.

I realize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is incredibly complex and intricate and difficult to understand, let alone address. But if we can’t even question any of Israel’s decisions or express sympathy for the suffering of Palestinians, I don’t see how the cycle of violence can end.

Sources: Washington Post,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Itzhak Perlman - Schindler's List

I’m sure the Japanese are sad about Cute Knut too

Cute Knut died.

The four-year-old money-making tourist attraction, er, I mean polar bear died last Saturday at the Berlin Zoo in front of visitors, twirling around several times and then taking a dive into water in his enclosure.

USA Today described the reaction to the animal’s sudden passing: “In the sort of gesture seen after the death of popular culture icons such as Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, fans of Knut the polar bear left flowers, candles, notes and stuffed bears at the gates of the Berlin zoo and outside the enclosure where Knut died Saturday.” The Associated Press reported that the bear had fan clubs around the world and zoo officials received condolences from all over, including Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, a woman in Berlin took offense at my ridiculing those who think the loss of a bear is as newsworthy as the loss of 20,000 human beings. When she asked me if I think of the Japanese “24/7,” I replied that yes, actually I can’t stop thinking about the suffering in Japan right now.

On March 11, the most powerful known earthquake ever to hit Japan shifted Earth on its axis by almost four inches. More than four million households in northeastern Japan were without electricity and 1.5 million without water. The earthquake and resulting tsunami severely damaged the country, taking out roads and railways, causing fires and collapsing dams. At least three nuclear reactors suffered explosions and residents within 12 miles of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant were evacuated. Early estimates placed insured losses from the earthquake alone at between $14 and $35 billion dollars. NASA said the earthquake caused the planet to spin faster.

I’m as pro-polar bear as the next guy. I’m not immune to cuteness and I feel sorry for anyone who’s born in captivity, rejected by his mother and raised by zookeepers. But come on, people. Perspective much? Which event was more earth-shaking, really, and worthy of ink and attention?

I wonder how many cards and flowers and balloons have been sent to Tokyo.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lyle Lovett - She's Already Made Up Her Mind

Government 1, Bradley Manning 0

Bradley Manning is a 23-year-old U.S. Army soldier from Oklahoma who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of passing classified information to WikiLeaks, the website that publishes documents politicians and government bureaucrats don't want us to see. He's cooling his jets in "maximum custody," whatever that means, at a Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Virginia.

According to the New York Times, "For an hour a day, he is allowed to walk around a room...He is forced to remove all his clothes every night. And every morning he is required to stand outside his cell, naked, until he passes inspection and is given his clothes back."

WikiLeaks is bad, the government says, because it exposes classified information, harms national security and compromises international diplomacy. Almost a year ago, WikiLeaks published footage showing a 2007 Apache helicopter air strike in Baghdad which killed Iraqi civilians and journalists. Julian Assange, the Australian Liam Neeson look-alike who serves as the face of WikiLeaks, has been under fire ever since. He's been forced to go on the run and defend himself against trumped-up sexual assault charges, among other attacks.

Some people believe government transparency and accountability are good things and support the idea of WikiLeaks keeping politicians honest. WikiLeaks has won awards from The Economist and Amnesty International and was hailed as first among websites "that could totally change the news," and Assange was named the Reader's Choice for TIME's "Person of the Year" in 2010. The government's "WikiLeaks is Satan" position is a classic example of trying to silence and discredit someone for revealing seamy secrets.

Apparently, President Obama condones Private Manning's treatment. He said at a recent news conference that the Pentagon assured him the terms of Manning's confinement "are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards." How many people wanna bet that the Pentagon's basic standards aren't the same as Private Manning's? (Kudos to Philip Crowley, by the way. He was a State Department spokesman who said Manning's treatment was "ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid." Then he resigned.) I really didn't need another reason to be disappointed in you, Mr. Obama, but thanks.

As long as Bradley Manning is locked up and abused while Rush Limbaugh is free to spew his bile and haul his corpulent derriere wherever he likes, I refuse to salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or remove my baseball cap at the sound of the national anthem. I have my basic standards too.

Sources: "The abuse of Private Manning," New York Times, March 14, 2011; New York City's Daily News

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Right Said Fred - I'm Too Sexy (2007 Mix)

Lucky I'm loved 'cause the looks are gone

I don't want no scrub.
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me.
Hanging out the passenger side
of his best friend's ride
trying to holler at me.

TLC, 1999

Last night Anita and I went to Bravo Cucina Italiana for dinner. We didn’t have a reservation so we were handed one of those little vibrating, blinking spaceship discs and directed to the bar to wait until a table became available. The hostess who handed me the mini-spaceship never made eye contact. I had a little bit of difficulty getting the bartender’s attention. Other patrons avoided eye contact as well; when a guy in his early 30s with perfectly-coiffed hair and an expensive leather jacket made his way around the bar, I stepped back to let him pass and he seemed to not see me, let alone acknowledge my courtesy. We ended up being seated at a dark, out-of-the-way table in the corner. The service was good and the food delicious but something was different. I felt unconnected to the other 250 people in the room and I wasn’t sure why. Then I realized the problem: this is how 49-year-old bald men with protruding bellies who wear jeans and hoodies to upscale Italian restaurants are treated by the younger, more beautiful people of the world. This is what happens when the looks fade.

  • Research shows attractive people have more occupational success and more dating experience than their unattractive counterparts.

  • A team of researchers from the University of Miami discovered that physical appearance and personality have a positive effect on earnings in the marketplace.

  • Researchers from the London School of Economics said that physically-attractive people have above-average IQs, with good-looking men around 13.6 points above the norm and attractive women 11.4 points above average.

This sure is good news for pretty people. (I’ve got to call b*llsh*t on that last one, though; I question whether Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears can even spell ‘London School of Economics.’) But what about the rest of us?

I guess I’m lucky that I work from home now and don't head to an office full of young, attractive, intelligent colleagues every day like I used to. I’m grateful that I don’t need to suck in my gut and scope out lonely women in the local watering hole every night in a desperate attempt to not sleep alone. I’m thankful that love is blind and beauty is in the eye of the beholder in my house. And I take comfort in knowing that beauty always succumbs to age eventually. Every time. No matter what.

I want my kids to grow up knowing it’s what’s inside that matters. I want them to agree that superficial’s not super at all. I don’t want them to end up sitting at a dark table in the corner unless they want to. Oh, and I want them to own the restaurant. So just stop it, society. Willya?

Sources: “Study shows attractive people earn more,” February 16, 2011, Alexandra Leon,; “Attractive people have higher IQs, UK scientists claim,” January 16, 2011,; “Looking Good: The Psychology and Biology of Beauty,” December 2002, Charles Feng, Human Biology, Stanford University.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

os tribalistas (ja sei namorar)

Bem feito, Presidente Obama!

So Barack Obama's in Brasil today, I'm told. This is a good time for me to talk a little you-know-what about him behind his back.

Mr. President, I don't know why you held a press conference the day after last November's elections to whine about the GOP "shellacking" and pledge to capitulate until the cows came home. You didn't come across as a dignified public servant willing to compromise to get things done for the American people; you telegraphed weakness and a willingness to betray many of those who put you behind that podium with the presidential seal in the first place. The GOP only took the lower chamber of Congress. Why did you react as if they'd won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, American Idol, the Indy 500 and the Triple Crown? I think you set the wrong tone.

Why did you appoint Timothy Geithner, a stooge from Wall Street, as your Treasury Secretary? Isn't he the biggest opponent of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor and bailout oversight expert who's been pushing for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

Why did you retain Dubya's Defense Secretary, Bob Gates? The Iraq and Afghanistan wars have cost over a trillion dollars and countless human lives thus far. Do you really want your defense policy to be consistent with that of the worst president in American history?

Why did you renege on your promises to close Guantanamo Bay and march with union members when their right to organize was threatened? And why did you tell congressional Democrats to leave Senator Whore Lieberman (I-CT) alone and not strip him of his committee chairmanship even though he actively campaigned for your opponent and throws stones at you at every opportunity?

Why did you keep Dubya's civil liberties-stripping Patriot Act in place? Why did you refuse to fight for the public option and allow a health care "reform" measure to pass that, while politically groundbreaking, is essentially a boon to the insurance industry? And why, oh why did you betray your vow to end Dubya's tax cuts for the wealthy by agreeing with greedy Republicans on a "temporary" two-year extension of all cuts in order to obtain a measly 13-month extension of unemployment benefits?

And again, why are we still in Iraq and Afghanistan?

I concede that you achieved some significant goals and I admit you're one of the most charming, intelligent and eloquent politicians I've ever seen. But you weren't elected to charm people (especially not conservatives). You were elected to change our course and do the right thing. The right thing is not turning back the clock to the Dubya Years and further exploding the deficit, which in essence robs my children of their future so selfish, short-sighted politicians can enjoy their present.

Boa viagem, Senhor Obama. Um abraço...


Friday, March 18, 2011

Dancing on rocks at Sturgeon Bay

K.D. Lang sings Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah

Favorite Status Updates Part 1

I’m taking it easy today because Devina’s still sick. I’ve compiled a list of favorite Facebook status updates, in no particular order:

  • “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity...and I’m not sure about the universe.” ~ Albert Einstein

    • 97 percent of teens would cry if they saw Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen from Twilight) standing on top of a skyscraper about to jump. If you’re one of the 3% who would sit there eating popcorn and screaming, “DO A FLIP, YOU SPARKLY BITCH!” then copy and paste this as your status.

      • “President Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free healthcare. You’re thinking of Jesus.” ~ John Fugelsang

        • Patrick Diehl thinks it’s cool how my five-year-old described a special needs kid in her class: “He’s got artism. He’s a little artistic.”

          • Patrick Diehl thinks it’s funny that being called a “socialist” is supposed to be an insult. Yeah, it’s just inexcusable to be opposed to unfairly concentrated power and wealth through exploitation, isn’t it?

            • “New love is the brightest, and long love is the greatest, but revived love is the tenderest thing known on earth.” ~ Thomas Hardy

              • How do you get a sweet little 80-year-old lady to say the F word? Get another sweet little 80-year-old lady to yell, “BINGO!”

                • Message I received from Mafia Wars: “Sorry, you can’t help yourself.”

                  • “The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.” ~ A.A. Milne

                    • “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” ~ Charles Bukowski

                      • “Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people, but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

                        • “Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps! End of list.” ~ Dennis Leary

                          • Patrick Diehl wants k.d. lang to sing “Hallelujah” at my funeral.

                            • Patrick Diehl asked my 11-year-old why she was trying to fit a head of lettuce into the freezer just now and she answered, “It’s iceberg lettuce. Duh.”

                              • Patrick Diehl was asked by my seven-year-old if I had ever heard “Give Peace a Chance” by some guy named John something.

                                • Patrick Diehl just saw the following slogan emblazoned across the side of a passing milk truck: “From the titties to the cities.” I wonder if the marketing executive who came up with that was male or female.

                                  • Patrick Diehl wonders exactly when Dennis Miller went from being a clever, intelligent, funny comedian to a vile, unfunny, far-right, contrived, desperate, Glenn Beck-loving douchebag.

                                    • Patrick Diehl just passed a church with a sign saying, “Jesus is hunting for you.” This is supposed to make me feel good?

                                      • Patrick Diehl was listening to my seven-year-old describe a movie and maintained my composure right up until she mentioned the mad scientist and his secret lavatory.

                                        • Patrick Diehl was asked by Anita to taste some cheesecake she found in the fridge to see if it had gone bad or not. I’ve added “family goat” to the list of roles I play around here.

                                          • “Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.” ~ Lucy Parsons

                                            • Patrick Diehl needed to tell my nine-year-old son that the color of the car next to us at the traffic light was not “alabastard.”

                                              • “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” ~ Albert Einstein

                                                • Patrick Diehl was just asked by my five-year-old, “Where’s the closest donut factory?” She always was my favorite.

                                                  • “Never underestimate the galvanizing power of fear and the pervasiveness of ignorance.” ~ Michelle Hurd Riddick

                                                    • Patrick Diehl is watching my kids play at the bus stop and remembering how cool it was when everything was new, anything was possible and just being alive was reason to giggle and celebrate and sing. Wonder if tomorrow they’ll let me wait for the bus with them.

                                                      • Patrick Diehl is amused. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just called his new unmanned bomber the “ambassador of death.” Back in 2002 Bush the Stupid referred to Iran, Iraq and North Korea as the “axis of evil.” Where do these guys get this stuff? Marvel Comics?

                                                        • “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

                                                          • “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~ Anne Frank

                                                            • Patrick Diehl is going to treat Facebook like my ex-wives this holiday weekend: I’m going to interact with it as little as possible.

                                                              • “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” ~ Adolph Hitler

                                                                • Patrick Diehl thinks Shaquille O’Neal is the sh*t. I can’t think of a more likable, charming, compelling 7-feet-1-inch, 325-pound man.

                                                                  • Patrick Diehl told my seven-year-old that she couldn’t take her Nintendo DSi with her to our appointment. Her response? “Geez, you are so hard to work with.”

                                                                    • Patrick Diehl asked my seven-year-old why she doesn’t want to finish the eggs I made for her. Her answer: “Because they just don’t mix with my tastebugs.”

                                                                      • Patrick Diehl had to write a check yesterday for $666. That can’t be good.

                                                                        • Patrick Diehl asked my five-year-old what she thought of her first root beer float at A & W. Her answer: “It changed my life.”

                                                                          • “If we go forward, we die; if we go backward, we die. So let’s go forward and die.” ~ African saying

                                                                            • Patrick Diehl thinks it’s fitting that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is headed by one Richie Farmer.

                                                                              • Patrick Diehl had to vent to Anita about something that was bothering me. After my little tirade, I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, now it’s your turn to vent. What’s bothering you?” She replied, “How you vent so much.”

                                                                              Thursday, March 17, 2011

                                                                              Boz Scaggs - Look What You've Done to Me

                                                                              A love letter to Anita

                                                                              When I first laid eyes on Anita, it was in October of 1995 at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) field office in Saginaw. I had been hired by the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) to work on the Great Printers Project, a collaborative pollution prevention initiative targeting the state's lithographic printing industry. This was my first project meeting, and Anita was representing the DNR.

                                                                              She was breathtaking. I tried to pay attention to the discussions but I couldn’t stop looking at her. Her long black hair, shiny white teeth, amazing eyes and beautiful smile really were captivating. We were both married to other people so I was content to just bask in the glorious fact that this striking young woman would be taking my phone calls and meeting with me regularly – about the project, of course.

                                                                              A friendship developed. She had such good energy. She was so positive and engaging and a little naïve. She saw the best in people and connected with anybody and everybody. She tended to ramble – her lengthy voicemail messages were legendary – and share much more tangential information about a subject than was required but it only added to her charm. I would have been smitten, had we each been available, but our friendship remained appropriate. MEC eventually backed out of the project to focus on other issues but Anita and I stayed in touch.

                                                                              Fast forward to 2007. My second marriage had just ended abruptly. Anita’s was fraying at a lightning pace – it turns out her off-putting husband, who I just thought was a self-absorbed jackass, was actually a psychopath. We decided to meet at a local pub for lunch one Saturday. That was the beginning of my new life with the woman of my dreams.

                                                                              People can make marriages work. They can ignore things that irritate them and settle for less than what they really want. But then there are those connections that Hollywood makes movies about: the “we-belong-together-and-we-can-get-through-anything-as-long-as-we-have-each-other-and-I’ll-die-if-you’re-not-in-my-life-and-I-need-you-like-air” relationships. They really do exist. I’m in one now.

                                                                              Anita’s so tolerant and patient and dedicated to doing whatever she can to make life better for her children, her mother and me. She’s such an amazing mom and friend and daughter and partner and colleague and teacher and sister and advisor. She’s so intelligent and strong and forgiving and understanding and witty and talented and sensitive and real. And she’s still breathtaking. I’m still mesmerized by her beauty, which I now know is so powerful because it comes from within her huge heart and radiates outward.

                                                                              I’m not afraid to admit that I have to struggle not to cry sometimes - the eyes start to water and the chin starts to quiver – when I look at her across the room or next to me in the van or in bed or in the grocery store and it hits me that I get to spend the rest of my life with this woman. Men dream of this. Men try to buy this. I just had to wait.

                                                                              And get this: she's hiked in the Himalayas and the Grand Canyon, she likes to shovel snow, and she can fix things around the house. Don’t ask me how I got so lucky because I have no idea.

                                                                              Wednesday, March 16, 2011

                                                                              Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy

                                                                              Wish I Had a Fever

                                                                              My little girl’s sick today but I’m the one who’s depressed.

                                                                              A cough and fever kept Devina, my six-year-old, from attending school today. Not only could I not provide the level of maternal nurturing that Anita can, but I wasn’t able to participate in the “Stand Up for Families” protest rally at the State Capitol.

                                                                              An estimated 8,000 people gathered in the sunshine to protest the Snyder Administration’s “Rob from the Poor and Give to the Rich” budget proposals and anti-union, anti-democracy initiatives. Yet Snyder apparently won’t be swayed; he told an audience at Jackson National Life Insurance this morning that taxing pensions is only fair and it’s important to create an attractive business atmosphere to keep young people interested in working and living in the state. Yeah, making poor people, seniors and students pay for $1.8 billion in tax cuts for businesses sure is going to make Michigan attractive to young people.

                                                                              Reminds me of February of 2003, I think it was, when millions took to the streets all over the world to protest Dubya's plan to invade Iraq and eliminate that country’s gargantuan stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (which didn’t exist). The immense protests achieved little in the way of influencing politicians; the following month the US bombed Baghdad. I fear that rallies and sleep-ins really aren’t as powerful as cold, hard campaign cash in persuading officials to choose one course over another, regardless of how well-attended or well-covered they are.

                                                                              On top of this, I can’t ignore the minute-by-minute reports of the suffering and latest developments in Japan. The devastating earthquake and massive tsunami could result in losses of up to $200 billion for the world’s third-largest economy. Upwards of 4,000 lives have already been claimed and an estimated 10,000 lives could be lost. And the country’s nuclear crisis is becoming scarier by the minute; although experts say it’s unlikely that dangerous radiation will reach the United States, the Chicken Littles are sounding their alarms. (I ran across this quote while net-surfing ‘How to Help Japan’ sites today: "Two hands do more than a thousand prayers." Take that, believers.)

                                                                              Other tidbits getting’ me down:

                                                                              • Across the country, conservatives are trying or planning to shift the burden of budget shortfalls onto middle-class Americans while simultaneously doling out tax cuts to corporations.

                                                                              • Congress is trying to divide the electorate and divert attention from its incredible ineffectiveness by advancing a resolution that promotes the display of “In God We Trust” in public schools and other public buildings.

                                                                              • The GOP’s presidential contenders are pandering to Big Oil and Coal and backtracking from previous statements expressing concern about climate change.

                                                                              • Taking their cues from their business masters, Republicans running the House Financial Services Committee want the soon-to-be-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) budget placed under Congress’ control so politicians can threaten its financing if the agency does anything they don’t like. (The plan was originally to fund the CFPB through the self-financing Federal Reserve.)

                                                                              • Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer (Is it just me or is that the silliest name in broadcasting?) that she won't serve in the second term of the Obama Administration if there is one. I’ve changed my mind about HRC. I think she’s done a good job as secretary of state, is a good role model for young girls after all, and has bigger cojones than the guy who appointed her. I view her as one of Obama’s best decisions so I consider her probable departure a bad thing.

                                                                              I can’t decide if I need to a) stop surfing the net, b) stop watching TV and listening to the radio, c) stop paying attention, d) stop caring, or e) all of the above. But something has to change because I found myself wishing I could just stay in bed all day and watch cartoons like Devina.

                                                                              Sources: Reuters, Sierra Club, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Daily Kos, Michigan Radio

                                                                              Tuesday, March 15, 2011

                                                                              Special Note: Lansing Protest on Wednesday, March 16

                                                                              Thousands are expected to gather at the State Capitol in Lansing at noon tomorrow to protest anti-union initiatives and the Snyder Administration's "Rob from the Poor and Give to the Rich" budget proposals. I'll be there to stand up for working families; I hope to see you. (I'll be the one in the blue jeans and white tennis shoes.)

                                                                              B. B. King - Happy Birthday Blues

                                                                              God Doesn't Hate Japan. God Hates Religion.

                                                                              A short video showing a creepy woman praising God for the tragedy in Japan recently circulated in Facebook. In the clip, the woman almost orgasmically praises God for "shaking" the atheists in Japan, and hopes he turns his attention to America sometime before Easter. "Oh my God, I can't even begin to think of how vengeful he's going to be on America, because we have a lot of Atheists here in America," she says. "I mean Japan is a fantastic place to start."

                                                                              I was among those who reposted the clip, calling the woman mindless and stating the clip reaffirmed my decision to “stray from the flock.” Turns out the video was a fake. The woman, Pamela Foreman, posted another video saying she was fessing up ‘cause she was tired of pizza. (I guess if you post controversial content on the Internet and you live in Tampa, your diet is restricted by local officials.)

                                                                              I don’t feel duped because I’ve met people like the woman Ms. Foreman so effectively parodies. I’ve crossed paths with zealots and fanatics who are downright scary and place what seems to me like an excessive amount of emphasis on their relationship with the Old Bearded Guy in the Sky. Terrible things have been done in the name of religion, as anyone who worked in the Twin Towers can tell you if they managed to survive a Boeing 747 flying into their offices. A provocative YouTube video seems like a relatively minor offense. Yet some Christians are responding with furious indignation at how they’ve been portrayed, as if this is the biggest issue facing religion.

                                                                              Pedophile priests sexually molesting little boys with the consent of their superiors, some wacko in Florida becoming an international celebrity by threatening to burn the Koran, Fred Phelps and his trailer trash disciples humiliating themselves at funerals by preventing families from saying their last goodbyes in peace and love, a United States congressman resurrecting McCarthy-like methods to persecute followers of Islam, women still struggling for the ability to control their own bodies 38 years after the Supreme Court granted them the right……this is what I think of when “religion” comes up. I can’t remember who said, “Religion was created by Satan to keep people from God.” (Some higher power must not want me to know because nothing comes up when I google the quote.) But this is how I feel.

                                                                              For the record, I know some incredible people of faith. My cynicism is weakened by the way one friend in particular lives her life: she seems to make the world a better place just by the force of her charming personality, good energy and quiet but firm commitment to her religious beliefs. Clearly, faith works for some people. In my life, however, they're few and far between.

                                                                              I do respect your right to believe in whatever makes you happy as long as it doesn’t infringe on my rights or anyone else’s. But as long as licensed medical doctors like Dr. George Tiller are gunned down in cold blood while serving as ushers during Sunday morning services at their churches for performing legal medical procedures after being harassed for years by anti-abortion activists, I’ve got to err on the side of rejecting organized religion.

                                                                              Christianity: the belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree... yeah, makes perfect sense.


                                                                              Monday, March 14, 2011

                                                                              King of the Washington Cesspool

                                                                              I didn’t realize what a perfect representative Peter King is of all that is ugly about right-wing politicians until I googled the dude. King, a Republican congressman from New York, is the racist twit holding congressional hearings on “the extent of the radicalization of American Muslims.” In fact, his record indicates a distrust and dislike of almost everybody, not just Muslims:

                                                                              • He opposed the 2009 stimulus package and the Lillie Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Obama in January of 2009.

                                                                              • He’s supported the Iraq war since 2002.

                                                                              • He supports earmarks – the special congressional provisions that provide monies for pet programs and projects.

                                                                              • He’s been called one of the Patriot Act’s biggest fans. The Patriot Act, signed into law by Dubya in October of 2001, authorizes government to monitor any religious and political institution it wants, jail suspects indefinitely without charges, deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes and search and seize Americans' papers and effects without probable cause, among other intrusive provisions.

                                                                              • He opposes closing the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

                                                                              • He voted for the Wall Street bailout, supported Dubya and the Maverick from Phoenix, and supports torturing suspects during interrogations.

                                                                              • He voted against repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ the policy barring openly gay, bisexual and lesbian people from serving in the American military.

                                                                              King sure does have the whole Republican hypocrisy thing down. Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart skewered him recently for investigating Muslim terrorists when he himself was a major advocate for the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the revolutionary military organization that waged a guerrilla campaign against British rule in Ireland.

                                                                              The guy’s on record stating that we have too many mosques in this country and we should find ways to infiltrate them. Now that he’s chair of the House Homeland Security Committee – thanks again, electorate – he can showcase his Joseph McCarthy impersonation for the national media, which loves this kind of acrimony and controversy. (My youngest reader, my 11-year-old daughter, might not know that Joe McCarthy was a US senator from Wisconsin who used a congressional gavel he wielded in the 1950s to go on a Communist witch hunt. During his hearings, he was famously asked by US Army lawyer Joseph Welch, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” Decency remains a foreign concept to a significant number of our nation’s elected officials.)

                                                                              One observer described King's hearings as “not designed to uncover facts and resolve conflicts, but to fuel fear, suspicion and hatred.” Although one of King’s contentions has been that Muslims aren’t doing enough to cooperate with law enforcement on rooting out Muslim radicals intent on destroying the good ol’ US of A, he’s chosen not to invite testimony from the law enforcement or intelligence communities. (The lone cop thus far, Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca, was invited by Democrats.) In fact, US Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough and National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter are all on record gratefully acknowledging the contributions of the Muslim community toward this very end.

                                                                              According to the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing, “Muslims…support sober and objective hearings on the subject of countering violent extremists because we know that a fair series of hearings would let our community shine. Given the facts, a reasonable person cannot be blamed for concluding that so far the [King] hearings have more of an air of angry villagers with torches and pitchforks than objectivity and sobriety.”

                                                                              If you had any decency, Mr. King, you would be ashamed of yourself.

                                                                              Sources: ABC News, Islamic Society of Greater Lansing, Washington Post, CNN, New York Times

                                                                              Sunday, March 13, 2011

                                                                              Corinne Bailey Rae (HQ) - Like A Star

                                                                              She Fought a Caterpillar and the Caterpillar Won

                                                                              I can’t imagine being run over by a 60-ton, armor-plated Caterpillar D9 bulldozer while trying to do what’s right.

                                                                              Olympia, Washington native Rachel Corrie was just 23 when she died this most gruesome death on March 16, 2003, in the Gaza Strip. A member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) – a controversial, pro-Palestinian group whose members protest nonviolently against the Israeli military – she was crushed while acting as a human shield to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian’s home by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

                                                                              Almost eight years later, the questions are still being asked: did the bulldozer operator intentionally kill Rachel? Did she deserve to die for being a radical, ill-informed liberal? Does the ISM knowingly put its activists at risk? Why did an American’s death garner so much international publicity when Palestinians die daily as a result of IDF actions? (On the night of Rachel’s death, nine Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, among them a four-year-old girl and a 90-year-old man.) Was the home she was protecting a guerilla hideout and entrance to a smuggling tunnel? Was US District Court Judge Franklin Burgess correct in throwing out a lawsuit filed against the IDF and Caterpillar by Rachel’s parents? Will definitively answering any of these questions bring Rachel Corrie back? I know the answer to that last one.

                                                                              Regardless of your views on the Israel-Palestine conflict or on young, idealistic Americans traveling to the Middle East to stand up for threatened, oppressed people, you’ve got to admit Rachel died a noble death. Many individuals and organizations, including the United Nations, deemed the IDF demolitions violations of international humanitarian law. (They were stopped in 2005.) In an interview two days before she died, Rachel explained, “I feel like I'm witnessing the systematic destruction of a people's ability to survive. Sometimes I sit down to dinner with people and I realize there is a massive military machine surrounding us, trying to kill the people I'm having dinner with."

                                                                              When my kids ask me who my heroes are, Rachel is always one of those I mention. Such a principled life she led. Such a needless death she suffered.

                                                                              Visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace & Justice.

                                                                              The Peace Education Center of Greater Lansing will present the Midwest premier of the documentary, “Rachel,” about the life and death of American activist Rachel Corrie, on Wednesday, March 16 at 7:00 pm. The documentary by award-winning French director Simone Bitton will be shown in Room 107 of South Kedzie Hall on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing. It’s free and open to the public. For more information, call (517) 515-5634.

                                                                              Saturday, March 12, 2011

                                                                              U2 - One

                                                                              Prayer Isn't Enough

                                                                              I kind of like Japan. I know they attacked Pearl Harbor back in December of ‘41, killing 2,400 Americans and bringing us into World War II. But we dropped “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – killing between 90,000 and 166,000 Japanese in Hiroshima and between 60,000 and 80,000 in Nagasaki – and they ended up surrendering.

                                                                              Let’s not forget the forced internment in 1942 of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans to “War Relocation Camps” right here in the USA, authorized by FDR himself. (In 1988, St. Ronnie of Reagan apologized for our "race prejudice, war hysteria, and failure of political leadership," and the feds eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations.) The war cost Japan millions of lives and left much of the nation's industry and infrastructure destroyed. If that’s not sleeping in the bed that you made, I don’t know what is.

                                                                              Fast forward to yesterday, when Japan was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes to hit the island nation in recorded history. More than 50 aftershocks and a second earthquake that measured 6.7 were reported. According to CNN, “the 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which was centered near the east coast of Japan, killed hundreds of people, caused the formation of 30-foot walls of water that swept across rice fields, engulfed entire towns, dragged houses onto highways, and tossed cars and boats like toys. Some waves reached six miles inland in Miyagi Prefecture on Japan's east coast.”

                                                                              Six million households, more than 10 percent of the total in Japan, are without electricity. And the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, located 160 miles north of Tokyo, is experiencing explosions and funny noises that are not normal. Tokyo, the capital city, is home to 36.5 million people.

                                                                              This is real suffering. Not Charlie Sheen suffering. Not “My-favorite-Starbucks-is-closing” suffering. Japan has made immense contributions to art, music, literature, cuisine and sports. But even if it hadn’t, these are human beings. And we’re all neighbors on Planet Earth. Here’s how you can help your neighbor:

                                                                              • The American Red Cross has sent help to the most heavily damaged areas of Japan. Cell phone users can donate $10 per message by texting REDCROSS to 90999.

                                                                              Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres, is sending trained medical personnel into the worst-hit areas. Online donations are encouraged.

                                                                              • The International Medical Corps offers health care and supplies for earthquake relief. Text MED to 80888.

                                                                              Sources: CIA World Factbook, CNN,

                                                                              Friday, March 11, 2011

                                                                              Peggy Lee -- Is That All There Is? 1969

                                                                              Time for a Pissy Essay on Life and Stuff

                                                                              A Facebook friend posed an interesting question yesterday. He asked, “Is there any compelling reason for going on with all this?”

                                                                              I’m not sure if he was referring to life, or social media, or some unknown personal challenge or work assignment that was proving draining. But he was met with a chorus of Up with People-type responses; everything from “Great things are in store” and “Don’t you want to see what happens next?” to “All you need is hope” and “Believe.”

                                                                              Believe in what? What is he supposed to hope for, specifically? That earthquakes and floods and climate change don’t happen anymore? That politicians will stop lying and being greedy and corrupt, and schools will start receiving all the money they need because there’s no more war? That people will stop caring only about themselves and their immediate families, an ignorant electorate will become a thing of the past, Palestine and Israel will find common ground and the Promised Land to which Dr. King referred will finally be discovered here in North America?

                                                                              Anita and I sometimes discuss the “Is the glass half full or half empty?” conundrum. Depending on our moods and what kind of day we’ve had, we’ll either emerge from these conversations feeling optimistic and thankful or distressed and depressed. It seems like lately I’ve been ending up more and more on the “Woe is Me” spot. Things just seem to be getting worse and worse. I’m becoming cranky and pissy just like my late, beloved grandmother, who insisted that all politicians were crooks and the world was going to hell in a handbasket and we might as well just turn the television on and watch Lawrence Welk because those people look happy.

                                                                              I used to argue with her. I’d point to flowers and laughing children and love and blue skies and sunshine and bubbling brooks and puppies and monarch butterflies and how humans help other humans, sometimes without even knowing their names, as proof that there’s beauty in life and sometimes it’s just harder to see. But now I find myself asking my grumpy, middle-aged, slightly overweight, gray-haired reflection in the mirror, “What’s the damn use?”

                                                                              I’ve considered the plight of the late Dr. Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. This famous book chronicles his experiences as a Holocaust survivor and presents his method of finding meaning in all forms of existence and therefore a reason to continue living. I try to tell myself that things may be tough but I’m not suffering in a concentration camp. I haven’t lost everything in a devastating tsunami or plane crash or the stock market. I don’t have cancer – knock on Formica – and I have clothes and books and music and food and shelter and beautiful children and a fantastic, compelling partner and I am loved. But what is the meaning of all of this, the good and the bad? Why do some people die, and others lie, and some people get obscene rewards that they don’t deserve while others struggle just to eat and breathe?

                                                                              We can read all the books we can find and listen to all the good, hopeful, upbeat songs we want to. We can compare our lots to those of others and come out ahead of those sleeping in boxes under bridges every time. We can do drugs, prescribed or not, until the cows come home. We can force ourselves to smile and look on the bright side and express gratitude for all our gifts every morning and every night. But does anything change, really?

                                                                              What are we supposed to hope for and believe? How do we make things better?

                                                                              Is that all there is, is that all there is?
                                                                              If that's all there is, my friends, then let's keep dancing.
                                                                              Let's break out the booze and have a ball
                                                                              If that's all there is.

                                                                              ~ Peggy Lee

                                                                              Thursday, March 10, 2011

                                                                              Blood, Sweat & Tears - You've Made Me So Very Happy

                                                                              Abolishing Representative Democracy in Michigan

                                                                              "Sadly, most Michigan residents don't even know what this could mean.  Wait until these communities see their locally elected officials replaced by someone who could care less about them or their local issues.  This is an assault on democracy."
                                                                              ~ Longtime Midland resident and award winning activist Diane Hebert
                                                                              Sometimes blog posts write themselves.

                                                                              I was going to write about underwater mortgages or Michigan's item pricing law or Congressman Peter King's (R-Jerk) anti-Muslim witch hunt but after finding out what's going on in Lansing right now with emergency financial managers (EFMs), I'd be remiss if I chose another topic.

                                                                              Politicians aren't just giving people the shaft in DC and Madison.  It's happening right here in our Great Lake State.  The culprits are a little more covert than that bumbling idiot governor of Wisconsin but the end result is the same.  A person's ability to join with others to fight for safe conditions, a fair wage and other basic workplace rights is being threatened.  Some say democracy itself is under siege.

                                                                              The Michigan State Senate yesterday approved legislation giving more power to EFMs.  The House of Representatives is expected to concur next week, and Rick Snyder has promised to sign the legislation into law.  (Both legislative chambers are controlled by the Republicans, as are the Governor's Office and the state Supreme Court.)

                                                                              The reason this is bad news is because the state could then install an EFM in a local community experiencing financial troubles who would have the authority to modify or cancel employee contracts, fire administrators or declare bankruptcy.  The gubernatorial appointee's decisions would trump those of any local elected officials, city councils or school boards.

                                                                              Why should you care?  Well, didn't a certain German chancellor with a funny moustache abolish all German labor unions back in 1933 in an effort to ban political opposition?  Think about it.

                                                                              First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
                                                                              Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
                                                                              Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
                                                                              Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
                                                                                                                       ~ Pastor Martin Niemoller (1892 - 1984)

                                                                              Sources: Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, The Michigan Citizen

                                                                              Wednesday, March 9, 2011

                                                                              P!nk - Glitter In The Air (GRAMMYs on CBS)

                                                                              More of a Turd than a Nerd, Really

                                                                              Look, I’m all for “reinventing Michigan” and getting back on track and adding fairness to our tax structure and increased efficiency to government.  If you ask who wants Michigan to be the best state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family, my hand shoots up.  But it’s not gonna happen under our new governor, Rick Snyder.  Turns out he’s just another Republican politician, robbin’ from the hood to give to those in gated communities.

                                                                              Michigan is facing a $1.58 billion budget deficit in 2011.  So what do we do?  Cut taxes on businesses to the tune of $1.8 billion and force state employees, seniors, schools and local governments to take a bigger hit.

                                                                              Snyder wants to scrap the Michigan Business Tax and replace it with a 6 percent corporate income tax that would only apply to corporations with shareholders.  He intends to make an estimated 95,000 businesses exempt from filing a state business tax return.

                                                                              But wait, there’s more.  Team Snyder wants to tax pensions, eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit (which helps working low-income people afford to stay in the workforce rather than seek public assistance), and cut tax credits for film production in Michigan.  (Opponents say the tax credit program, introduced in 2008, has created thousands of jobs and helped support businesses ranging from hotels and restaurants to carpenters and electricians.)  And the “Tough Nerd,” as he called himself during the campaign, plans to cut tax credits for expansion or relocation, research and development, advanced battery ventures, brownfield redevelopment and historic preservation.   Um, excuse me but making Michigan the worst state in the nation in which to live, work and raise a family isn’t exactly the reinvention I had in mind.

                                                                              “Shared sacrifice” is a term being used a lot by Snyder and his ilk these days.  But to me, it means everybody sacrifices – not state employees, seniors and retirees, low income folks, students and everyone except Snyder Administration officials and the business community.  (Sorry, Rick, but when you’re a multimillionaire venture capitalist and former head of Gateway computers, taking a one-dollar salary isn’t sacrificing anything.)  Does it send the right message when one of your first decisions is to pay your new state budget director – a guy named Nixon from Utah – a quarter of a million a year?

                                                                              I’m sorry, but I just don’t like the guy.  I don’t like his skewed sense of “fairness” and his seeming disdain for anyone who isn’t like him.  I don’t like listening to his high-pitched, nasally, dweeb-y voice.  He insulted my intelligence during the campaign by refusing to reveal his intentions or offer substantive plans or opinions on any issue.   I can’t remember the last time a political candidate spewed so many clichés and platitudes and said so little to get elected.  Now the “Tough Nerd” is making things tough indeed.   Way to go, electorate.   

                                                                              Sources:  Ann Arbor News, Detroit News, Detroit Free Press,,