Friday, September 30, 2011
Photo courtesy AP
It’s officially over. Somewhat. The Committee to Recall Rick Snyder has acknowledged defeat. Kind of.
The following was posted at firericksnyder.org:
It is with a measure of sadness that we announce that the bid to recall Gov. Rick Snyder will come up short in the number of signatures required to file. We do not have a final count yet, but will have one soon and will send out another update when that time comes.
We would first like to take this opportunity to thank all of the over 5000 active volunteers and their families who participated, sacrificed their time and put blood, sweat and tears into this campaign. Without you, we would have never made it as far as we did. There never was, nor will there ever be any doubt that you are the heart and soul of this organization and we cannot possibly begin to pay you the homage that you so rightly deserve. We've said it before; appreciation is an enigmatic concept and virtually impossible to quantify. Whatever that word means to you in its purest and most encapsulating form, know that you and you families have all of ours.
Yet, our bid to remove Snyder from office does not end here. We and our county coordinators agree that the only way we will assuredly lose is if we stop fighting. So this week, amid much and sometimes heated debate we have come to the mutual conclusion that this fight must continue. We will not surrender, we will not give up. As long as there is a breath left in our collective body, this fight will move forward.
During the next couple of weeks, please look out for some updates on our plans for restructuring and steps we will take into the future.
The committee also thanked other bloggers and organizations for supporting the effort, including Daily Kos and Democracy for America. Not surprisingly, “What’s the Diehl?” was not among the blogs mentioned. This is because I thought it was a misguided effort almost from the start, as I wrote here before, and a waste of time, energy and money that would be better spent changing the composition of the state legislature.
I thought it made more sense to turn the legislative rubber stamp into a brake, especially given the insurmountable challenge of collecting a million signatures from a passive, ignorant electorate that doesn’t know or care what kind of crap Snyder and his ilk are pulling in spite of good reporting from a number of outlets.
I signed up to work on the recall effort – I hesitate to use the term “campaign” because to me it implies organization – back in May and promptly heard nothing from anyone officially associated with the endeavor. After debating a few recall proponents in Facebook, I realized they were well-meaning and motivated but naïve, defensive and unwilling or unable to answer questions about what happens if by some miracle enough valid signatures are collected and the recall is successful. Does Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who’s on record as being more to the right than his boss, take over? Do lawmakers suddenly come to Jesus and realize that robbing from the poor to give to the rich is bad public policy no matter who the governor is and it’s time to change course? And will cash-strapped municipalities have to shoulder the costs of a special recall election? My questions were met with condescension and rudeness. “Snyder is bad and needs to be recalled,” was the reply I was given.
In spite of my less-than-positive experience in Facebook, I take no comfort in the demise of the effort (although, curiously, the committee’s concession announcement is written in such a way as to leave the door open for a revival at a later date). I agree that Rick Snyder is bad and should be removed from office sooner rather than later. (It’s disappointing to hear friends and former colleagues saying nice things about the guy and even accepting gubernatorial appointments to blue ribbon panels. I wouldn’t cross the street to help him if I saw him stumble on the sidewalk.) But it isn’t going to happen. He’s going to continue to advance his short-sighted pro-business policies at the expense of everybody else unless his minions and cronies in the GOP-dominated legislature hear from their dissatisfied constituents.
If they can be pulled away from The X Factor and Dancing with the Stars, that is.
Photo courtesy Around the Keg
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Some young people are so cocky.
You know who I’m talking about. They act as if they’re always right, better than you, smarter or more perceptive or intuitive or fair and balanced or something. Even though they were in diapers when you left college and never knew life before computers, video games, microwaves or remote controls, they posture as if they’re wise beyond their years and deserve to be treated as if they’ve paid their dues when they haven’t.
|See? I was young once.|
It’s been almost 20 years since I became someone who Timothy Leary wouldn’t have trusted. The first presidential vote I cast was for Ed Clark, the Libertarian candidate who ran against Carter, Reagan and Anderson in 1980. I remember when Big Macs were served in Styrofoam, you could smoke at your desk, and IBM Selectric typewriters were used by secretaries to produce the perfect letter for the boss. I remember when you had to get up off the couch, walk over to the television and turn a dial or push a button to change the channel – of which there were only three or four, depending on the strength of your rabbit ears.
I remember going to drive-ins in my pajamas, Apollo 11 landing on the moon, and some guy named Wallace getting shot on TV. “The Brady Bunch,” “Green Acres,” “Mannix” and “Laugh In” weren’t classic television shows when I was a kid; they were the current fare.
I know there are people out there who turned 30 before I did, and who remember World War II and Korea and Truman and Eisenhower and American Graffiti and JFK getting shot in Dallas. I know there are people who voted for Hubert Humphrey and Gerald Ford and who remember life before television and the Beatles and catalytic converters. I know my elders are wiser than I am – not smarter, maybe, but wiser and more experienced.
I respect my elders. I don’t like ‘em all or kiss their *ss or agree with them all the time but I acknowledge that they have things to offer, wisdom to share. We can be confident about what we can do without dissing those who’ve already done it.
I was probably just as offputtingly arrogant when I had only three decades under my belt. I just don’t remember.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
My parents left yesterday. They arrived last Friday for a quick visit on their way to my nephew’s bar mitzvah in New Jersey. (I didn’t even know he was Jewish; I’m not close to my siblings.) Years usually pass before we see each other - they live in Georgia - so now I’m sad.
My 74-year-old dad, who’s more of a man than I’ll ever be, installed a new stainless steel kitchen sink for us – which turned out to be a big job – and repaired broken light switches and replaced molding and fixed our doorbell and even installed ceiling fans in two of the kids’ rooms. (If anyone deserves a reserved parking spot next to the front door of the local home improvement store, it’s us.)
My 71-year-old mom laughed at the kids and taught me how to play Spider Solitaire on my laptop and went shoe shopping with Anita and told me I’m too irritable. We all went to Bryant’s football game on Sunday – the Holt Rams beat the Grand Ledge Bobcats 38 to 24 – and my parents’ two huge golden retrievers refrained from eating our two Maltese puppies in spite of their constant barking, which was a good thing for all concerned.
We grilled salmon and asparagus and ate cheesecake and Chinese food and shrimp and ate out two nights in a row and drank beer and wine and probably all gained weight. We watched TV and checked out an art fair and stopped by Old Town and managed to bite our tongues and avoid the tensions and arguments that bubble to the surface when family members come together amidst general chaos after extended periods apart.
Mom and Jack, I’m sorry I’m overweight and I yell at my kids and my puppies stressed your dogs out and I didn’t feed you sausage and eggs before your long drive. I’m sorry I spent so much time in front of my computer and so little time joking and laughing like I did when I was young. I’m sorry your visit was so short and we didn’t play any games and I forgot to take pictures and so much time always passes before we see each other. I’m sorry I didn’t turn out to be a better man. I’m sorry you seldom read my blog and probably won’t see this anytime soon.
Thanks for stopping by. I love you.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I used to respect Ralph Nader.
I knew one of “Nader’s Raiders” – as the activists who came to Washington in the late 1960s to help Nader investigate government corruption and pursue his agenda were called – and worked for or with Clean Water Action, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Public Citizen, and other Nader-inspired organizations.
Nader’s warnings about the growing "imperialism" of multinational corporations and the dangerous convergence of corporate and government power have proven prescient. He spoke out against the Iraq war when doing so was still “unMerkan.” Although the guy’s amassed millions in stocks and mutual funds, he reportedly lives on $25,000/year and donates most of his earnings to the many nonprofits he helped create. His commitment to making the world a better place always seemed genuine to me.
But the Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate has become somewhat of a caricature of himself, an object of ridicule, in recent years and that’s too bad. How can we take someone seriously who runs for president more than my kids fight over who gets the last piece of cheesecake? (Nader ran in 1972, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008; he’s widely thought to have stolen enough votes from Al Gore in 2000 to help the Supremes send Dubya to the Oval Office.) You know you’ve jumped the shark when Jay Leno, the unfunniest man on television, can joke about you and get a laugh.
If you want to tarnish what’s left of your legacy, Mr. Nader, that’s fine – but not at the expense of those who’ll surely suffer more under GOP rule, okay? With due respect to you, I still believe there’s a difference between (D) and (R).
Monday, September 26, 2011
(Tina Fineberg/AP Photo)
I have a lot of respect for people who take to the streets for their beliefs.
HBO later showed an interesting program on the “Chicago Eight” – Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, John Froines, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale – who were arrested and brought before Judge Julius Hoffman on “conspiracy” and” inciting a riot” charges. Hoffman sentenced the protesters to unbelievable prison terms but the excessive punishments were reversed on appeal.
I also remember watching The Battle in Seattle, a film based on the anti-globalization riots that took place in that city in late November of 1999 during a World Trade Organization conference when at least 40,000 activists took to the streets to protest nonviolently. The New York Times originally reported that protesters threw Molotov cocktails at the police. The Gray Lady corrected itself two days later, stating that protests were in fact peaceful and nonviolent, but the perception of damn, dirty hippies throwing trash cans through plate glass windows and overturning cars remained in many people’s minds.
It’s happening again. Something’s going down in the Big Apple as I write this but you wouldn’t know it unless you were looking real hard for media coverage. Hundreds began gathering in New York’s Financial District on September 17 to “take the bull by the horns” and “restore democracy in America.” According to the “Occupy Wall Street” website, what’s happening is a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99 percent that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the one percent.”
Posts on the website compare the group’s efforts to those used in pro-democracy movements across the Middle East, dubbed the “Arab Spring.” This being the age of cell phone video cameras, one can also view clips of police being overly aggressive with protesters, including one where peaceful female protesters are rounded up in an orange-colored mesh pen by police and sprayed with mace without provocation.
Police are also arresting activists without cause – on silly charges such as “blocking vehicular or pedestrian traffic” – and using tear gas and orange netting as if their lives depend on it. (They clearly don’t.) Activists insist the excessive force has only strengthened the resolve of the protesters and helped to increase their numbers.
My friend and fellow writer Patrick M. Arthur, whose blog is here, is there now. He just wrote a piece entitled, “Occupation We Can Believe In” that explains what’s happening in the Financial District as follows:
What the Occupy movement is actually working to achieve is a principled state of human solidarity, an evolved Democracy for a new millennium of enlightened thought, an alternative social haven where no one must live in fear of the imminent corporate black hole suddenly consuming everything they have left.
I can dig that.
Apparently the corporate media’s modus operandi is to discredit, mischaracterize or squelch coverage of legitimate, nonviolent protests. Apparently Chaz Bono's dancing skills and Ben & Jerry’s latest ice cream flavor are more newsworthy than people literally fighting injustice in the streets of America.
And apparently, and fortunately, the oppressed always rise up against the oppressors anyway.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
|Troy Davis at his graduation|
So we murdered a guy for possibly murdering a guy.
The ghouls running Georgia’s justice system executed Troy Davis at 11:08 p.m. last night, and ex-presidents and prison wardens and people all over the world who just wanted everybody to slow the f*ck down and take a breath be damned. Reasonable doubt still existed? So what? And? What’s your point?
Of all the Davis-related Facebook and Twitter messages, I liked the following two quotes the best:
“To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice.” ~ Desmond Tutu
"You can say they deserve to die, but the key moral question is 'Do we deserve to kill?'" ~ Helen Prejean
And I liked how Melissa Harris-Perry, the Tulane University professor and frequent talking head on MSNBC, tweeted, “Do you need something to do with the pain? They killed Troy Davis at 11:08. Donate $11.08 to the Innocence Project.”
Innocence Project, it claims there have been 273 post-conviction DNA exonerations in US history, 432 of which have been in Texas and eight in Georgia. Interestingly, 70 percent of those exonerated have been people of color. (Someone alluded to the racial element of the Davis case last night in a particularly pointed tweet: “They don't have to get us by wearing white sheets; they get us by becoming officers, judges and lawyers.”)
Think about that. Makes you sad, huh?
I’m not just sad. I’m thoroughly disgusted. I’m morose. I’m queasy and fearful and irritable and depressed – not only because it’s possible that an innocent man was executed last night, but because I live in a world where capital punishment is cheered and politicians pander to the lowest common denominator and Ayn Rand disciples in Facebook dismiss the significance of Mr. Davis’ plight and fate because no one can really know the truth anyway so let’s just move on and not become emotional about it. I still can’t understand why unborn babies are sacrosanct in this country but once you exit the womb, you’re on your own.
The Associated Press reports Mr. Davis’ final words as the lethal injection was administered as follows:
"I'd like to address the MacPhail family. Let you know, despite the situation you are in, I'm not the one who personally killed your son, your father, your brother. I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun. All I can ask…is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls."
Interesting that he still believed in God, isn’t it?
|Howard University students protesting the Davis sentence at the White House|
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Troy Davis is going to die at 7:00 p.m. tonight.
By now people around the world have heard about Mr. Davis, 42, who’s served two decades on Georgia’s death row for the murder of an off-duty Savannah police officer in 1989. He was convicted almost exclusively on the basis of unreliable eyewitness testimony. Seven of the nine eyewitnesses who testified at his trial have since recanted, and new evidence points to somebody else as the real killer.
Nonetheless, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, in its infinite wisdom, denied Mr. Davis' petition for clemency yesterday. A number of celebrities, bloggers and groups – including Amnesty International, the NAACP, and the Innocence Project – are now trying to get people to petition Chatham County District Attorney Larry Chisolm to withdraw the death warrant, but it looks like Mr. Davis might be executed just as the Tampa Bay/Yankees baseball game comes on ESPN tonight.
Our system is seriously flawed if a single politician from Chatham County – in this case a man who’s been accused of sexual harassment and racial and gender discrimination by several of his employees – has the power to determine whether or not another man will live to see another day. Mr. Davis has been erroneously locked up for 20 years for allegedly doing just that.
My country is not the one that cheered on September 7 when the Governor of Texas boasted about executing 234 human beings during his tenure.
My country isn’t the one that cheered again on September 12 when a presidential candidate was asked if we should let a sick, uninsured man die rather than picking up the tab for his medical care.
My country isn’t the one that executed Cameron Todd Willingham, 36, in Texas on February 17, 2004, for a crime he didn’t commit.
In my country, in 2011, we halt executions when there’s reasonable doubt. We’re not rabid, drooling animals yearning for red meat anymore. In my country, we don’t cheer death – we cheer life and accomplishment and compassion and community. In my country, we respect the sanctity of human life after it’s emerged from the womb as well as before. In my country, we don’t kill black men for being in the wrong place at the wrong time while letting white women who are suspected of murdering their two-year-olds walk. In my country, we admit when we’re wrong, when we need more time, when something deserves a second and even a third look.
We’re human beings. We make mistakes. Let’s not make another one in the Peach State at 7:00 p.m. tonight.
Chatham County District Attorney
133 Montgomery Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401
“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who served as Michigan’s top dog from 2003 to 2010, is selling her new book, A Governor’s Story: The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future. It seems there was a shortage of lengthy books authored by state politicians so Granholm and her hubby, former First Gentleman Dan Mulhern, stepped in to fill the void.
The Canadian-born Democrat and one-time actress wannabe with the distracting mole on her right cheek served as Michigan’s attorney general under Republican Governor John Engler – which couldn’t have been fun – for four years before being promoted by voters in November of 2002. (My former boss, Jim Blanchard, decided to try to snag the governor’s seat again but Granholm clobbered him and former Congressman Dave Bonior, a real nice guy, in the Democratic primary.) She went on to achieve...
I don’t really know.
She promised in an early State of the State speech that we were going to be “blown away” by her administration and in eight years in office, she...
I’m not really sure.
In a September 17 New York Times article entitled "Cautionary Lessons from Michigan," it’s pointed out that Granholm led the state during a rocky economic crisis which overshadowed all else and she was forced to cut taxes, jobs and spending. She laments that she “didn’t have the tools to be able to wave a magic wand and fix the loss of manufacturing jobs and the loss of market share of the auto industry and the bankruptcies,” and praises the federal government for bailing out the auto industry and providing all the stimulus money that kept this state afloat.
|Mulhern and Granholm|
Mostly I remember that Michigan reached its highest unemployment rate ever, the highest in the nation, while she was in charge.
Granholm, who now teaches at UC Berkeley, refused to comment on her successor, Rick Snyder, in the New York Times article. This is the same Rick Snyder who eliminated the Michigan Business Tax – handing his business buddies $1.8 billion in tax savings – and is now trying to recapture revenue by reducing public assistance, eliminating tax credits for the film industry and brownfield redevelopment, and slashing education spending, among other short-sighted moves. I admire Granholm’s sense of decorum; if they had asked me to comment, I wouldn’t have shown such restraint.
Too bad she couldn’t have just titled her memoir, I Did the Best I Could with the Hand I Was Dealt. Now that’s a book I’d actually read.
Read Chris Savage’s review of A Governor’s Story, published today at A2Politico.com.
Monday, September 19, 2011
So I received a gift this morning.
When I signed in to Facebook, I came across a post entitled, “Study: Abstaining from Alcohol Significantly Shortens Life.”
That’s right. We’re supposed to drink alcohol. We need to drink alcohol in order to live long and prosper. A new study by the University of Texas at Austin – which is accredited, people – found that regular drinkers are less likely to die prematurely than people who have never indulged in alcohol.
Finally! A reason not to hate Texas so much!
The study, which evaluated 1,824 drinkers, also found that abstaining from alcohol completely can lead to a shorter life than consistent, moderate drinking, and that heavy drinkers fared better than those who abstained, with a 60 percent mortality rate.
Cirrhosis and cancer be damned. Accidents and poor judgment notwithstanding, Jack Daniels and Samuel Adams are now our friends. No more tasteless water for me. I’ve got a permission slip from Teacher to substitute Port wine for orange juice, to guzzle Labatt’s Blue instead of Gatorade.
On second thought, I guess I should just ignore these findings like a GOP voter ignores fact. I should probably keep reaching for the hot and spicy V8 and leave the vodka for someone else. But for a minute there I sure felt like celebrating...and what a party that would have been.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" -
Merely this, and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more."
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning- little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."
But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered- not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never - nevermore'."
But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore:
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted- tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting -
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!- quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
~ Edgar Allan Poe
Friday, September 16, 2011
State legislators are assholes.
Not all of them, of course. Just all of them on the Republican side of the Michigan House of Representatives.
The House voted yesterday to prohibit government entities from providing health care benefits to unmarried partners of their employees and to prohibit unions from including them in collective bargaining agreements.
The same creepy jackass who wanted to prevent foster kids from having new clothes is behind this effort. Dave Agema (R-Grandville) – who boasts on a website that he’s an NRA member and CCW permit holder who believes family is the most important unit of American society – sponsored House Bills 4770 and 4771 which were approved by a vote of 64-44.
I listened to Rick Pluta’s call-in interview show this morning on public radio with State House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) and House Minority Leader Rick Hammel (D), hoping the issue would be discussed and explained by these two august legislative leaders. Pluta did his usual fine job but I had to listen to 45 minutes of talking points on other issues before a caller from Ann Arbor asked if the lawmakers supported gay marriage, which provided Pluta with his opening.
He referenced yesterday’s vote and Bolger jumped in to assert that it was to bring universities and governments in compliance with the Constitution (which voters amended in 2004 to codify marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution). They were trying to stop an “end run” around the Constitution, he explained, and then he said something about “unaffectioned roommates” that I didn’t understand, and that was it. Under two minutes. No challenge. No rebuttal. No follow up. Time to move on to a question about affirmative action.
|Dave and Barb Agema|
If this were strictly a cost issue, then we should ask how much it costs to provide full benefits for life beginning at age 55 to each and every person who serves just six years in the state legislature. Now that’s a sweet deal if you ask me.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
It’s hard for me to understand why someone would bitch and moan about giving poor people fish.
One of my Facebook friends posted about how poverty in Michigan has increased 50 percent in the last decade. Discussion ensued about whether politicians are to blame – my belief – or whether more systemic issues are at play.
Then some angry little twit wrote, “OK, now that we know that poverty is due to ‘systematic issues’ and politicians, never poor individual choices or lack or work ethic, let's just continue to expand the Free Money Store, because giving people fish is always better than teaching them to do it. The dole, the dole, the dole - the only way out.”
I can’t believe there are ignorant, divisive, myopic human beings like this walking around out there.
According to the New York Times, “another 2.6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46.2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it.”
Median household incomes fell last year to levels last seen in 1997, and state and local governments have made deep cuts to staff and to budgets for social programs, both likely to move economically fragile families closer to poverty.
Harvard economics professor Lawrence Katz points out, “We think of America as a place where every generation is doing better, but we're looking at a period when the median family is in worse shape than it was in the late 1990s."
"We're risking a new underclass," added Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research and Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The Global Action and Information Network points out that while “social welfare is concerned with the needs of children, the elderly, and those in society who cannot fully care for themselves, corporate welfare cares for businesses and industries that are often not only developed, but actually stable and quite self-sufficient.”
Corporate welfare in the form of subsidies cost taxpayers billions of dollars. And tax breaks to corporations, including those that are foreign-owned, decrease government revenues so there’s less available for the rest of us.
We can debate the extent to which poverty is caused by politicians or “systemic issues,” whatever that means, until the cows come home. That won’t change the fact that poverty is not a lifestyle choice and it’s getting worse.
And teaching poor people to fish doesn’t help when the lakes have all been emptied or polluted by the Fat Cats.
Sources: New York Times, Global Action and Information Network.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Unemployment in the United States exceeded nine percent as of last month.
Michigan’s unemployment rate stands at 10.9 percent, with 60,000 more unemployed than this time last year.
Sadly, we can’t count on any help from Washington, D.C.
But it’s not clear his proposal, with its $447 million price tag, will even clear the Democratic-controlled Senate; according to the New York Times, “Republicans will almost certainly not bring the White House bill to the floor of the House, where its chances for approval are even more remote.”
The American Jobs Act:
- cuts the payroll tax in half for 98 percent of businesses
- provides a tax credit for those who hire veterans
- prevents teacher layoffs
- makes infrastructure investments and modernizes 35,000 public schools
- puts people to work rehabilitating homes, businesses and communities
- reforms the unemployment insurance program
- prohibits discrimination against the unemployed, and
- expands opportunities for low-income Americans.
Here’s the scary part, taken directly from a White House fact sheet:
To ensure that the American Jobs Act is fully paid for, the President will call on the Joint Committee to come up with additional deficit reduction necessary to pay for the Act and still meet its deficit target. The President will, in the coming days, release a detailed plan that will show how we can do that while achieving the additional deficit reduction necessary to meet the President’s broader goal of stabilizing our debt as a share of the economy.
So either they haven’t figured out how to pay for all this or they’re not ready to tell us yet.
“The American people are fed up with finger-pointing, blame games and infighting by all of us in Washington — the president, Congress and the media.
In our debates over the fiscal 2011 spending bill and the debt limit, Congress put off its duties until the eleventh hour in favor of partisan squabbling and stubborn political games. I am ashamed of our performance — of us all, on both sides of the aisle. As a member of Congress who takes pride in this institution and holds its history and procedures in high regard, I am deeply disappointed by the unwillingness of members of all parties to come together for the common good.
We in Congress are tearing our country apart and weakening the foundation established by great leaders before us.
This partisan viciousness needs to stop.”
Too bad the GOP isn’t listening. Eric Cantor (R-Dickhead) has already promised that Republicans will oppose any stimulus spending, and a senior House Republican aide is quoted as saying, “Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?”
I’m sure the 14 million unemployed people in this country are marveling at the Republicans’ political skills.
Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Monday, September 12, 2011
It’s interesting how someone who gets a rush from meeting famous people can pair up with someone who couldn’t care less about ‘em.
I admit I still get excited about rubbing elbows with celebrities. I don’t read PEOPLE magazine like I used to and stars who attract and excite me are different than those who used to, but for some reason I can still see myself whipping out my Android and snapping photos if I find myself suddenly breathing the same air as a Sitcom Star or Famous Author or Someone Who’s Been Interviewed by Larry King. (My phone would stay in my pocket if King himself were to appear, however. That dude has always given me the creeps.)
Anita and I were sitting on the couch one time, watching one of those shows on Bravo or TLC or MTV where a normal, real person is replaced by a Famous, Richer, More Attractive Person to surprise someone who’s known to have a major crush on said celebrity. We were shaking our heads at how some people go to great pains in their idolatry, erecting alters and plastering their bedroom walls with photos, dressing and wearing their hair like the celebrity, even getting tattoos of the star’s name or image permanently affixed to their behinds. I asked Anita whose name, besides mine, she’d want to display on her derriere and she replied, “Nobody’s. Not even yours. What if I were in a car accident and they had to remove my clothes?”
It occurred to me that if one is in a car accident where his or her clothes must be removed, the Pierce Brosnan or Donna Summers tattoo on their ass ought to be the least of their concerns. But I kept my mouth shut.
Anita added, “Maybe meeting Albert Einstein would be cool, but I don’t know why people stutter and stammer and burst into tears meeting singers or actors or dancers. It’s great that they have talent. I’ll pay money to see their movie or watch them dance. But give them space in my brain to worship their persona? That won’t happen.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she wouldn’t be meeting Einstein anytime soon, God willing.
I met Bill Clinton more than once and Mike Dukakis and Lee Iacocca and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland, whose name escapes me at the moment but who was a real friendly fellow. I met Martha Reeves and Junior Walker and all four of the original Four Tops and I shook hands with the Queen of Soul. (She looked at me like she smelled something bad but maybe it was me.) I’ve met a slew of lesser celebrities, like governors and senators and local news anchors and the guy who runs the cheesy TV commercials for his car dealership, whose name escapes me but who was kind of an ass. I’ve yet to meet anyone who impressed my unbelievably discerning wife, however.
I don’t know why some of us worship celebrities. I’m sure studies have been done and scholarly papers have been written and important conclusions have been reached. I imagine it’s just another form of escapism. How can you feel depressed or regretful about your life if Someone Who’s Been on Television More Than Once is in your vicinity, your circle, your bubble, albeit briefly? Things can’t be that bad. It’s not like everybody can experience what you just did...
My 11-year-old and I were sitting in the bleachers at Chuck Byam Field in Grand Ledge, Michigan, yesterday, complaining about the warmth of the sun while we waited for her brother’s first football game of the season to start. I spotted a young boy with a feminine hairstyle and whispered to Nikita, “Don’t look now but Justin Bieber’s here.” I expected her eyes to get big and her heart to beat faster as she grabbed my lapels and breathlessly begged me to tell her where, exactly, the God of The Tweens could be found. Instead, she whispered back, “I couldn’t care less.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree all right.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Attitude toward Death
Live your life that the fear of death
can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views
and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life,
beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long
and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day
when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting
or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
the fault lies in yourself.
Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die, be not like those
whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray
for a little more time to live their lives over again
in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.
~ The Teaching of Tecumseh
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Everybody’s gearing up for the big commemoration. It’s coming up on ten years since two planes crashed intentionally into New York’s Twin Towers, a third tore into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 Americans died.
I remember reading the New York Times obituaries in the days and weeks after the attacks and being touched by the glimpses they gave into the lives of those who were murdered by 19 Islamist terrorists. I was moved by the photos of the jumpers – those who had no choice but to leap from the burning, smoking towers to their horrible deaths – and the multitude of “Missing Person” fliers tacked to walls and poles and fences bearing smiling photos and brief, loving descriptions of loved ones who worked in the towers and never came home.
I remember how united I felt to my fellow Americans in the weeks after the attacks, and how nice it was to receive support and condolences from other countries around the world. I was among those who stuck American flag decals on the back of our cars and even found myself wanting to be led and represented by the Cowboy from Crawford for a bit.
Then something changed. What was comforting and beautiful became disturbing and unsettling. People started closing ranks and pointing fingers and placing blame and we found out Dubya had been warned in advance of the likelihood of just such an attack and did nothing. (On August 6, 2001, more than a month before the September 11 attacks, the Central Intelligence Agency gave him a daily briefing entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.”)
Dubya took advantage of our fear and vulnerability – exploited them, in fact, and used them to bolster his presidency and justify military action against Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks. He used the calamity to strip civil liberties, snatch executive power and marginalize and slander anyone who opposed or questioned him.
Now my six-year-old has to remove her footwear when we fly and be touched by a stranger in a TSA uniform. Now “mosque” and “Muslim” are dirty words and political discourse has become coarser and the changed atmosphere has given rise to Tea Party ignoramuses demanding that government be downsized, the social safety net eliminated and Barack Obama be ridden out of Washington on a rail.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of that dark, sickening day, I have no choice but to be bombarded by images I’ve tried to repress, by retrospectives put together by a lazy media devoid of creativity and new ideas. I have to gird myself for the onslaught of cloying, maudlin, self-absorbed stories featuring teary-eyed, chest-beating Americans waving flags and vowing never to forget.
Forget what? That others despise us because of our foreign policy, wealth, greed and myopia? That our country has spent $1,247,564,448,690 to date on the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we’re not done yet? That politicians are crass opportunists who will exploit any tragedy to win elections and advance agendas? That human nature can be as ugly as it is beautiful? That we expect our first responders to rescue us but we won’t fund their health care costs when they become sick or injured in the process? That George W. Bush is the Worst President Ever?
Should we also commemorate the 2010 Haiti earthquake every January 12, the one that killed 100,000 people?
Should we also commemorate the East Japan earthquake and tsunami every March 11, the one that killed 15,780, injured 5,929 and left 4,122 missing?
Should we also commemorate the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami every December 26, the one that killed over 230,000 human beings in 14 countries?
Should we take a day to observe how an estimated 864,531 Iraqi civilians have died in Iraq and another 1.5 million have been seriously injured because of us?
Should we take a day to observe how an estimated 8,813 Afghan civilians have died in Afghanistan and another 15,863 have been seriously injured because of us?
I’m truly sorry that people died in New York and Arlington and Shanksville and Manhattan’s stunning skyline changed. There was a lot of heroism on display that day and in the weeks and months that followed. But there was a lot of evil, too – on that day and since – so I want to move on.
And that’s why I’m not wearing black and gluing myself to a television tomorrow.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Why isn’t anyone else seeing Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s latest move – limiting the amount of cash poor people can receive from the state to four years – for what it is: an attempt to recapture revenue lost when he cut taxes for his business buddies earlier this year?
The same politician who exempted around 100,000 businesses from paying any corporate income tax at all has decided to add to the burden shouldered by low-income families.
The Michigan League for Human Services estimates that 41,000 people will lose their cash assistance payments on October 1 when the state's new budget year begins. This includes 29,700 children, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services.
Almost 30,000 poor kids will have less so that Rick Snyder’s pals can have more.
- Snyder’s plan represents about $30 in corporate tax cuts for every dollar saved in welfare benefit cuts.
- Michigan's July unemployment rate was 10.9 percent, tied with South Carolina for third-highest in the nation.
- About 23 percent of Michigan's children lived in poverty in 2009, compared with 20 percent nationally.
- Things have gotten worse. In 2000, only 14 percent of Michigan children lived in poverty.
- The average age of a child in a family receiving cash assistance is around seven years old.
- The Michigan Catholic Conference is among those objecting to the four-year limit. The conference said the effect will be felt for years by society and by children who lose services.
One of the few substantive utterances Snyder made on the campaign trail last year was that he intended to make reducing the number of children living in poverty a priority of his administration.
Finally! A politician making good on a campaign promise!
I’m so tired of this.
Sources: Associated Press, Think Progress.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
|The POTUS golfing with mortal enemy John Boehner|
It’s hard for me to keep biting my tongue about Barack Obama’s disappointing decisions and disturbing alliances. I don’t want to aid his enemies on the right but I don’t want to appear complicit in his betrayals.
I’ve blogged before about the many ways in which the president has surprised and saddened me – chief among them being his extension of Dubya’s tax cuts for the rich and his willingness to piss on his Nobel Peace Prize and continue or begin aggressive military action around the world.
I’ve acknowledged that he’s a lot smarter than I am and has the toughest job ever and the most evil, unscrupulous
I’ve agreed, albeit begrudgingly, with the Obamazombies who’ve told me, “He didn’t have the votes” and “He’s doing the best he can” and “You’re not giving him credit for the things he has accomplished” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Yeah, well, Rome took around 500 years to become Rome. I can’t wait that long.
He reneged on another pledge a few days ago, this time relating to tightening ozone standards. Although proposed new standards would have saved up to 12,000 American lives, 58,000 asthma attacks and 2.5 million missed days of school or work each year, Obama sided with the American Petroleum Institute, the National Association of Manufacturers and others and ordered the U.S. EPA to withdraw them.
|Mobile, Alabama skyline|
The president explained, "I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover."
I don’t know what recovery he’s talking about. My understanding is that no new jobs were added last month. Zero. Maybe the rich are throwing more parties and my invitations keep getting lost in the mail.
Obama doesn’t sound like a Democrat to me. He doesn’t even sound like a centrist. He sounds like John Boehner or Mitch McConnell or Eric Cantor. He repeats false rhetoric and makes it his own. He compromises without fighting or negotiating. He makes hollow promises and surrounds himself with stooges from Wall Street. It’s becoming impossible for me to see the difference between this president and someone from the right.
He’s obviously no Michele Bachmann or Rick Perry. The man has a brain and can diagram a sentence. But Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney or even Ron Paul? Each of these guys has uttered things that I found myself agreeing with. I still consider myself a progressive and I’m not going to vote for them. But I’m not going to wear my Obama t-shirt anymore either – at least not until he abandons the Republican agenda.
Journalist, author, filmmaker and former Obama supporter Danny Schechter wrote, “I am not surprised that knowledgeable critics of his economic policies not only consider him bull-headed and wrong, but actually corrupt, aligned and complicit with the banksters who are still ripping us off. No wonder he's ‘bundled’ more donations from the greedsters and financiers this year than in 2008! No wonder he turned his back on Elizabeth Warren and is trying to stop prosecutions of fraud in high places.”
And one of my favorite writers, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, said, “I just don't believe this guy anymore, and it's become almost painful to listen to him.”
I agree with them and I’m glad they’re not shutting up either.
In one of my favorite quotes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., warned that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Sources: Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, Rolling Stone.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
My 11-year-old, the smart one, announced a few weeks ago that she’s officially a vegetarian. I thought it would prove to be a phase, a passing fad like it was with me – my commitment to a meatless lifestyle lasted 75 minutes – but she’s serious. So we’ve had to adjust, to think about ordering battered cod in addition to burgers from our favorite local pub, to refrain from offering Nikita breakfast sausages and ham and cheese sandwiches, and to pick up more lettuce and tofu and less beef and bologna at the grocery store.
I found the following food for thought in one of these new Facebook groups:
How To Win An Argument With A Meat-Eater
The Hunger Argument
Number of people worldwide who will die as a result of malnutrition this year: 20 million
Number of people who could be adequately fed using land freed if Americans reduced their intake of meat by 10%: 100 million
Percentage of corn grown in the U.S. eaten by people: 20
Percentage of corn grown in the U.S. eaten by livestock: 80
Percentage of oats grown in the U.S. eaten by livestock: 95
Percentage of protein wasted by cycling grain through livestock: 90
How frequently a child dies as a result of malnutrition: every 2.3 seconds
Pounds of potatoes that can be grown on an acre: 40,000
Pounds of beef produced on an acre: 250
Percentage of U.S. farmland devoted to beef production: 56
Pounds of grain and soybeans needed to produce a pound of edible flesh from feedlot beef: 16
The Environmental Argument
Cause of global warming: greenhouse effect
Primary cause of greenhouse effect: carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels
Fossil fuels needed to produce meat-centered diet vs. a meat-free diet: 3 times more
Percentage of U.S. topsoil lost to date: 75
Percentage of U.S. topsoil loss directly related to livestock raising: 85
Number of acres of U.S. forest cleared for cropland to produce meat-centered diet: 260 million
Amount of meat imported to U.S. annually from Central and South America: 300,000,000 pounds
Percentage of Central American children under the age of five who are undernourished: 75
Area of tropical rainforest consumed in every quarter-pound of rainforest beef: 55 square feet
Current rate of species extinction due to destruction of tropical rainforests for meat grazing and other uses: 1,000 per year
The Cancer Argument
Increased risk of breast cancer for women who eat meat daily compared to less than once a week: 3.8 times
For women who eat eggs daily compared to once a week: 2.8 times
For women who eat butter and cheese 2-4 times a week: 3.25 times
Increased risk of fatal ovarian cancer for women who eat eggs 3 or more times a week vs. less than once a week: 3 times
Increased risk of fatal prostate cancer for men who consume meat, cheese, eggs and milk daily vs. sparingly or not at all: 3.6 times.
The Cholesterol Argument
Number of U.S. medical schools: 125
Number requiring a course in nutrition: 30
Nutrition training received by average U.S. physician during four years in medical school: 2.5 hours
Most common cause of death in the U.S.: heart attack
How frequently a heart attack kills in the U.S.: every 45 seconds
Average U.S. man's risk of death from heart attack: 50 percent
Risk of average U.S. man who eats no meat: 15 percent
Risk of average U.S. man who eats no meat, dairy or eggs: 4 percent
Amount you reduce risk of heart attack if you reduce consumption of meat, dairy and eggs by 10 percent: 9 percent
Amount you reduce risk of heart attack if you reduce consumption by 50 percent: 45 percent
Amount you reduce risk if you eliminate meat, dairy and eggs from your diet: 90 percent
Average cholesterol level of people eating meat-centered-diet: 210 mg/dl
Chance of dying from heart disease if you’re male and your blood cholesterol level is 210 mg/dl: greater than 50 percent
The Natural Resources Argument
User of more than half of all water used for all purposes in the U.S.: livestock production
Amount of water used in production of the average cow: sufficient to float a destroyer
Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of wheat: 25
Gallons of water needed to produce a pound of California beef: 5,000
Years the world's known oil reserves would last if every human ate a meat-centered diet: 13
Years they would last if human beings no longer ate meat: 260
Calories of fossil fuel expended to get 1 calorie of protein from beef: 78
To get 1 calorie of protein from soybeans: 2
Percentage of all raw materials (base products of farming, forestry and mining, including fossil fuels) consumed by U.S. that is devoted to the production of livestock: 33
Percentage of all raw materials consumed by the U.S. needed to produce a complete vegetarian diet: 2
The Antibiotic Argument
Percentage of U.S. antibiotics fed to livestock: 55
Percentage of staphylococci infections resistant to penicillin in 1960: 13
Percentage resistant in 1988: 91
Response of European Economic Community to routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock: ban
Response of U.S. meat and pharmaceutical industries to routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock: full and complete support
The Pesticide Argument
Common belief: U.S. Department of Agriculture protects our health through meat inspection
Reality: fewer than 1 out of every 250,000 slaughtered animals is tested for toxic chemical residues
Percentage of U.S. mother's milk containing significant levels of DDT: 99
Percentage of U.S. vegetarian mother's milk containing significant levels of DDT: 8
Contamination of breast milk, due to chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides in animal products, found in meat-eating mothers vs. non-meat eating mothers: 35 times higher
Amount of Dieldrin ingested by the average breast-fed American infant: 9 times the permissible level
The Ethical Argument
Number of animals killed for meat per hour in the U.S.: 660,000
Occupation with highest turnover rate in U.S.: slaughterhouse worker
Occupation with highest rate of on-the-job-injury in U.S.: slaughterhouse worker
This is pretty persuasive. I’ve read that certain animals are surprisingly intelligent and can feel pain and anxiety and attachment to family and friends, too, which is another compelling reason to refrain from eating them.
I’m not there yet but I sure am proud that Nikita apparently is.