Sunday, July 31, 2011

Corinne Bailey Rae - I'd Like To

Sunday poetry

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

~ Pablo Neruda

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sweet siblings

Eva Cassidy - God Bless The Child

A politician who makes sense

Guess who said this on the floor of the United States House of Representatives last Thursday:

Here’s what we should do to avoid default.

Increase the debt ceiling with no strings attached.

Here’s how to get out of debt.

End the wars. Save a trillion in ten years.

Repeal tax cuts to the wealthy. Save another trillion.

Medicare for all. End the $400 billion in yearly subsidies for the health insurance industry.

Renegotiate trade agreements with workers’ rights, human rights and environmental quality principles.

Save millions of jobs and billions of dollars.

The Fed creates money out of nothing and gives it to banks.

Why should our country go into debt borrowing money from banks when we have the constitutional power to create money and invest in jobs?

We could have another New Deal, putting millions to work rebuilding America’s roads and transportation system.

We could have a “Works Green” administration where NASA’s the incubator of jobs designing and engineering wind and solar micro technologies for private sector manufacturing, distribution, installation and maintenance in millions of homes, saving money and energy and protecting the environment.

We are the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth.

We envision wealth. We don’t default.

We create wealth. We don’t default.

We build wealth. We don’t default.

Need some hints?

He was the 53rd mayor of Cleveland in the late 1970s.

He ran for president in 2004 and 2008.

He was the only Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 who voted against invading Iraq.

He’s pro-choice and anti-North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He opposes offshore drilling, privatizing social security and the death penalty and supports ending the War on Drugs.

He brought articles of impeachment against Dubya and Cheney.

The media poked fun at him for being a little guy (he’s 5’7”) and having a tall, hot, young wife and being a vegan and hanging out with Shirley MacLaine and admitting that he saw a flying object that he couldn’t identify one time.

Give up?

It’s Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

I don’t know why people don’t take him seriously. I’m not sure why he invites ridicule. Perhaps it’s because he’s threatening to those who like the status quo just the way it is. He speaks of real change, not Obama-change but true reform and realignment and improvement. The things he says appeal to me. He makes sense. I’m embarrassed that I, too, wrote the guy off and I’m saddened that voices like his are so easily marginalized in this flawed system we call American politics.

I hope his colleagues in the House were listening last Thursday.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Radiohead - Thinking About You

Is critical thinking shrinking?

“Critical thinking: the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” ~

I posted a status update in Facebook last night about critical thinking but it became a thread about bigotry and Christianity and Europe.

All I wrote was: “Critical Thinking: the other national deficit.”

Fifteen of my Facebook friends “liked” it, and it apparently warranted 57 comments. My friend Christina from Germany mentioned something about coming to Virginia as a 17-year-old exchange student and settling in a conservative Christian community where critical thinking was frowned upon. This spurred defensive posts from a religious friend; others chimed in to object to generalizations, clarify my intent in posting the update, bash Catholicism and Nazi Germany, put in a plug for positive thinking, take a swipe at politicians and the U.S. debt crisis and define ‘critical thinking.’

I can’t remember the last time anything I typed generated more than 50 responses.

I googled “critical thinking in the U.S." and found a reference to a study that followed thousands of undergrads through four years of college and determined that a significant percentage of them didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills supposedly at the core of a college education. The study found that students graduated “without knowing how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument or objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event.”

This is what I meant when I posted my status update. I just had a hunch that if more people were able to think critically, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and the many others who benefit from the ignorance of the masses and try to maintain the status quo and continue the dumbing down of America wouldn’t thrive and succeed at shaping public perception and public policy to such an extent. If more people questioned authority and took a second look at what they heard on television and the radio instead of assuming wild claims and self-serving opinions must be fact, our country would be better off. If more people didn’t just acquiesce and lay down and roll over whenever someone tried to intimidate and silence them, things would be different.

I didn’t intend for my post to spur an anti-Christianity rant. (I’m sure that wasn’t Christina’s intention either; some Christians are sooooo sensitive.) I didn’t expect European history and agnosticism to be brought up or for people to become so agitated. It bodes well, though, that people are talking, online and hopefully in real life as well, and asserting themselves and challenging each other.

As my Facebook friend Cassandra posted, “Too many eat just what is fed to them. We need to shop for our news and information just like we do our produce.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joan Osborne - One Of Us

God's overall performance approved by most voters

I saw a survey last night on CNN about the Bearded Ol' Guy Who Floats on Clouds.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed a few weeks ago approve of God’s performance overall; just nine percent disapprove.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm based in North Carolina, used automated telephone interviews to question just over 900 American voters – liberal, moderate and conservative – in mid-July.

Respondents gave the Big Guy his best rating on creating the universe (71 percent approved). His handling of the animal kingdom was approved by 56 percent. What was most surprising to me is that fully 50 percent approve of the way he handles natural disasters, with just 13 percent disapproving.

I wonder how God would have fared in this poll if any Japanese were included. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan last March killed 15,641 people, injured 5,699 and left 5,007 people missing across 18 prefectures. Around four million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water. Nuclear reactors exploded, roads and railways were washed away and more than 125,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Speaking of earthquakes, it may have disappeared from CNN’s coverage but the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince, Haiti in January of 2010 killed an estimated 316,000 people. Another 300,000 were injured and one million human beings lost their homes. It would be interesting to hear these folks evaluate God’s performance.

The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that occurred on the day after Christmas – when Christians celebrate the birth of the Son of God – in 2004 killed over 230,000 people in 14 countries. (Thanks to the magic of the internet, I saw photos of the bloated, decomposing bodies of victims, young and old, waiting to be identified and claimed by loved ones. I can’t forget these images.) I’m curious about how anyone associated with this devastating catastrophe in Sri Lanka and India and Thailand would respond to the automated phone calls from the North Carolina polling firm.

Perhaps the 900 people contacted were provincial and didn’t consider natural disasters in other countries to be within their purview. There’s plenty of suffering right here at home that the Omnipotent Number One Superhero could stop or lesson.

Too bad no one asked Carl and Terry Probyn, Jaycee Dugard’s parents, what they thought about God. On the one hand, their prayers that Jaycee – who was kidnapped from her bus stop in South Lake Tahoe, California, on June 10, 1991, when she was just 11 – would come back to them were answered. On the other hand, it took 18 years and she gave birth to two daughters fathered by her kidnapper/rapist before she was reunited with her family.

It would be good to know if there were any questions about the West Nickel Mines School, a one-room schoolhouse in an Amish community in Pennsylvania where on October 2, 2006, a deranged gunman took hostages and shot ten little girls between the ages of six and 13, killing five.

I’m interested in knowing if there were any questions about all the people stolen from their loved ones by cancer and car crashes and heart attacks.

I know, I know: God gave us all free will and what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and sometimes he just needs more angels for heaven.

Too bad the pollsters didn’t call me. I’d have given their automated interviewer an earful.

Sources: The Guardian, CNN.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jadon at the farm

Photo by Lee Tobar

No One Said It Would Be Easy - Sheryl Crow

I don't need this. I have ex-wives.

I’d like to blame it on Mafia Wars but I can’t.

Back when I played that stupid Facebook game (along with 1.7 million others from around the globe), I sought out online friendships with anyone and everyone so that my Mafia would be stronger and I’d win more fights. Why I thought any of that mattered is beyond me. I guess I forgot that I’m a middle-aged man and not an eight-year-old. Actually I ended up winning less.

A lot of mindless Dubya supporters played Mafia Wars. A lot of racist, pro-war bigots played Mafia Wars. A lot of ignorant, sexist Bible-thumpers played Mafia Wars. So any time I posted a status update expressing an actual opinion about something instead of just announcing that I'd leveled up or declared war on some faceless enemy from someone else’s Mafia, I’d receive responses from all over telling me to keep my politics to myself or suggesting I move to Saudi Arabia or advising me to accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior before it was too late.

I would then make the mistake of trying to engage with these people as debate opponents. I would try to use experience and logic and reason. And I would get my clock cleaned. I would be treated to vicious insults and name-calling and people would spew right-wing talking points as if repeated usage secured access to some secret club where naked waiters and waitresses passed out Coney dogs and cans of Budweiser all day and everything was free. When I expressed my opposition to the Iraq war, I would be asked why I didn’t appreciate my freedom. When I disclosed that I questioned the existence of god, I would be told to prepare for an eternity serving as Satan’s sex slave. When I dared to post something negative about George W. Bush, I’d be labeled an enemy of America who wouldn’t know a true hero if he kicked Chuck Norris’ ass right in front of me.

When I came to my senses and abandoned my Mafia – in part due to Anita’s gentle encouragement, since she preferred that I spend my time on income-producing endeavors rather than insipid Zynga games – I unfriended thousands of people. It took days going through the list – I tried to keep those who used their brains as well as their computer mouse – but it felt cleansing and positive. I assumed my days of using my keyboard to argue were over.

They’re not.

Because my friends have friends, I’m still running across people who want to deport all of the illegals and require drug testing for all the baby-making welfare queens. I’m still trying to communicate with losers like Leo, who told me “the illegals have been sucking off the tit of hardworking Americans for years” and accused me of being a Teabagger (which I still don’t understand). I’m still dealing with slugs like Sheila who, in response to my assertion that we're all neighbors on Planet Earth and what helps some of us helps all of us, offered this sound, well-reasoned response: “Interesting....I need help painting my house. What time can I expect you here?” I’m still encountering vacuous vegetables like Vickey, who thinks every person who receives government assistance should be visited at home, tested for drugs, and questioned at length about “anything that needs to be asked.” (She’s of course silent on the whole corporate welfare issue.)

Few things are as irritating as trying to debate someone who clearly doesn’t know what he or she is talking about and being attacked and insulted and misrepresented in the process. And the gang mentality is alive and well in cyberspace, which makes things worse.

The irritating arguments aren’t just coming from the right. Whenever I criticize the Savior in Chief, I can expect my progressive credentials and support of the POTUS to be dismissed by those who see any question or objection to an Obama Administration policy as proof that I’m in collusion with the Dark Side. I’ve been admonished for helping the Republicans and accused of getting talking points from Fox News and told I might as well be pals with Sean Hannity. (I’d rather drink Drano.) An anti-Obama status update I posted on Monday has generated 74 responses and counting, not all of them nice.

I want to interact positively with people. I know I’m not always right. I want to respect different opinions and embrace diversity of thought and approach all my online encounters with patience and compassion. Nothing’s worse than a self-righteous know-it-all with a goatee and a beer belly. But some things are right and some things are wrong. I can’t excuse prejudice and ignorance and narrow-mindedness in order to be able to sit at the computer with a smile on my face. My cross to bear is that I can’t always go along to get along.

I’m still learning how to pick my battles. It sure isn’t easy. Maybe by the time I’m 50...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Will.I.Am - It's A New Day

He knows how to give a speech all right

If all Barack Obama had to do was give speeches, he’d surely go down as the best president in the history of the republic.

His address last night on debt reduction negotiations was classic Obama: clear, concise, compelling and courageous. It’s speeches like last night’s that made me fall in love with the guy and shed tears of joy on the night of Tuesday, November 4, 2008, when he became the Top Dog.

He talked of cutting defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars.

He talked of asking the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions.

He talked of reducing the deficit by around $4 trillion and putting us on a path to pay down our debt.

He pointed out that raising the debt ceiling was routine until he took office. “Since the 1950s, Congress has always passed it, and every president has signed it,” he said. “President Reagan did it 18 times. George W. Bush did it seven times.”

Why this fact alone doesn’t enrage the Jessie Jacksons and Al Sharptons of America is beyond me. How’s that racism workin’ for ya, conservatives?

He even used a quote by St. Ronnie of Reagan to imply that House Republicans are hapless clowns who are playing games more worthy of a sandbox than the Lower Chamber of the Congress of the United States of America:

"Would you rather reduce deficits and interest rates by raising revenue from those who are not now paying their fair share, or would you rather accept larger budget deficits, higher interest rates, and higher unemployment? And I think I know your answer."

My favorite part of the speech was when he said this:

“Most Americans, regardless of political party, don't understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don't get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries? How can we slash funding for education and clean energy before we ask people like me to give up tax breaks we don't need and didn't ask for?”

I stood up and shouted, “Yes! That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Mr. President! Get ‘em!”

Then I remembered it’s Barack Obama we’re talking about and I sat back down. The guy gives great speeches. Then he goes back to his every day capitulating and equivocating and justifying and abandoning the concepts and principles on which he campaigned and for which I thought he stood.

I receive a fair amount of crap from Obama supporters whenever I post anything critical of the POTUS in Facebook. One guy in particular is so over-the-top that I think there’s probably an Alter to Obama in his basement somewhere where he burns incense, lights candles, kneels and chants, “Hope! Change! Yes, we can!” while gazing lovingly at enlarged photos of the 44th president. It’s sad that some on the left are as irresponsible and narrow-minded as conservatives when they come across someone who strays from the talking points. Unfortunately, Republicans aren’t the only ones who try to marginalize the messenger and insult and silence anyone with whom they disagree.

Thinking for yourself apparently scares those who can’t or won’t.

I watched the speech with my 11-year-old, Nikita, who does think for herself and in fact has a brain much larger than mine was at her age. After John Boehner’s sad excuse for a Republican response was finished, I asked her what she thought. She said she thought Boehner was wrong about a “spending binge,” Obama’s a better speaker and politician, and she’s glad that John McCain isn’t the president.

There is that, I guess.

Source: CNN

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Mona Lisa

Amy Winehouse - Valerie

Sometimes Saturdays suck

Kip Photographie

Last Saturday was a bitch.

It started out with disturbing news that a frikkin’ nutcase had killed 100 people in Norway, including children at a youth camp.

There were a few posts on my Facebook news feed about the Norway carnage - just a few, mixed in with posts about Boehner the *ssh*l* walking away from debt ceiling negotiations and a computer virus lurking in a video of a woman with a spider under her skin and what a lying, crazy, no-good politician Michelle Bachmann is and how Texas governor Rick Perry, who executes innocent people and is probably going after the GOP presidential nomination, secretly likes boys.

Then Anita left for class – she’s pursuing her master’s degree in an accelerated program at Michigan State University and would be gone all day – which meant I’d be alone for several hours with just my lack of self-discipline and propensity for procrastination.

Then at about 1:00 the news broke that troubled singer Amy Winehouse had fulfilled nearly everyone’s expectations and drank herself to death. My wall exploded with references to Amy Winehouse and links to news stories about Amy Winehouse and YouTube videos of Amy Winehouse. Every second post was about Amy Winehouse.

At first I was perturbed. I even posted as my Facebook status update that I was saddened by her passing but sadder about the 90+ innocent victims of a madman in Norway, many of whom were innocent children.

A friend in Germany who’s an Amy Winehouse fan responded with, “Oh, there’s a ranking? I didn’t know.”

This made me think, which I hate, and I started listening to Amy Winehouse videos on YouTube, lots of ‘em, from “Will you still love me tomorrow?” to “Back to Black” to “Do me good” to “Love is a losing game” and of course “Rehab,” her biggest hit.

I thought her voice was haunting and other-worldly and amazing. Emotion dripped off of every note, every syllable – I could feel it – and her impressive, raw talent hit me in the head like a 20-pound cinder block. She smiled as the audience applauded after one live performance and I saw vulnerability and appreciation and fear and comfort. I found her to be enchanting and compelling and supremely talented, and I thought, “Dammit! What a loss!”

So I posted some Amy Winehouse videos to Facebook and then sent a message to my German friend – who, as it turns out, lost her musician father to addiction and told me that sometimes you can’t help someone, no matter how much you try or want to, if they’re on a certain path – and admitted that I was wrong. Loss is loss and life is life and death is death.

I think it’s sad that such an obviously-troubled young woman with such an awesome gift couldn’t get the help she needed to stay with us longer. She had fame and fortune and the ability to go anywhere and do anything to get better, but she couldn’t.

I think it’s sad that some snarky little sh*ts on Facebook thought the proper thing to do to mark the occasion of Ms. Winehouse’s death was to post catty messages about how her demise was no surprise.

I think it’s sad that Norway – one of the most peaceful nations on Earth, home to the Nobel Peace Prize, for Pete’s sake – isn’t immune to the senseless violence and pain and murder and mayhem that we know too well in the United States.

I think it’s sad that mothers and fathers in Oslo will be burying their sons and daughters, which is so wrong, and that Amy Winehouse’s parents will be mourning their special little girl as well.

And I think sometimes Saturdays suck.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Amy Winehouse - Love Is a Losing Game

Sunday poetry

Back to Black

He left no time to regret
Kept his dick wet
With his same old safe bet
Me and my head high
And my tears dry
Get on without my guy
You went back to what you knew
So far removed from all that we went through
And I tread a troubled track
My odds are stacked
I’ll go back to black

We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to…

I go back to…

I love you much
It’s not enough
You love blow and I love puff
And life is like a pipe
And I’m a tiny penny rolling up the walls inside

We only said goodbye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to

I go back to…
I go back to…

We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to…

We only said good-bye with words
I died a hundred times
You go back to her
And I go back to black

~ Amy Winehouse

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Look out, Muhammad Ali!

Abba - SOS

Saturday morning sadness

I woke up to the news that a bomb exploded in downtown Oslo – where the Nobel Peace Prize originates, ironically – and at least 80 people were mowed down shortly thereafter at a children’s camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya, 20 miles northwest of Oslo. The same piece of sh*t is suspected in both attacks.

I feel compelled to write about this. I’ve already written about how we kill our kids and I doubt I can come up with anything new to convey about the carnage in Norway. But I feel like I should mark the horrible occasion somehow. To let anyone who stumbles upon my blog know that there’s a middle-aged white guy in a suburb of Lansing, Michigan, who is sorry for what happened 3,900 miles away and who doesn’t understand and who feels your pain, as the Big Dog would say, and who can’t think of anything else right now.

Both attacks were allegedly carried out by a lone 32-year-old nutcase, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Christian who hates Muslims named Anders Behring Breivik. One report said he was dressed like a policeman and when he yelled at young campers to come closer so he could protect them from the gunshots they heard, they ran to him, only to be taken out like targets at a shooting range.

Some of the kids tried to save themselves by diving into the water and swimming for it or pretending to be dead. It took as long as 30 minutes for a SWAT team to arrive.

An official was quoted as saying the downtown attack "is probably more Norway's Oklahoma City than it is Norway's World Trade Center." I wonder how the patriotic yahoos who wave the American flag at the drop of a hat and listen to Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood and watch Faux “News” feel about the fact that this country is always referenced when others experience madness and mayhem. Terror in Brazil and Germany and Spain and India and England is always compared to our terror, our violence, our loss of innocent life. Finally! Something at which we’re still Number One!

I assumed the murderer would be convicted and sentenced to death but I read that the toughest penalty he can receive is 21 years in prison. A Norwegian reporter said, “That means he is out after 16 years. He might be out after 14 years. And then he will be a free man. And he killed so many.”

Brisenia Flores
There are times when my opposition to capital punishment fades and I’m left with the desire to pull the switch or administer the lethal injection myself. The 2009 killing of nine-year-old Brisenia Flores in Arizona, who was shot twice in the face as she begged for her life, is one of those times. Thinking of how those young campers on the island must have felt when they ran toward Breivik and saw him pull out his gun is another.

I’m sure we’ll hear more about this in the hours and days ahead. The death toll will rise and new laws will be proposed and people will wring their hands and denounce the violence which happens in Phoenix and Oklahoma City and Wichita and Columbine and all over the United States but not in the Land of the Midnight Sun.

Norway is a peaceful nation; this is its worst violence since World War II.

No one is safe anywhere anymore.

Sources: Anchorage Daily News, Huffington Post, NPR.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kenny Loggins - Conviction Of The Heart

The Big Apple's Mayor and the Sierra Club

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg – the 13th richest person in the United States – announced yesterday that he’s pulling $50 million out of his wallet and giving it to the Sierra Club over the next four years to help move the country away from burning coal to make power.

Bloomberg said his gift would enable the Sierra Club to close as many as one-third of America’s oldest coal-fired power plants by 2020.

This is not the man’s first charitable contribution. He’s donated money to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health; the World Lung Foundation and the World Health Organization. He gave Harvard a $3 million gift in honor of his father, and reports contributing $254 million in 2009 to almost 1,400 nonprofit organizations, saying, "I am a big believer in giving it all away and have always said that the best financial planning ends with bouncing the check to the undertaker."

If my net worth exceeded $18 billion like Bloomberg’s does, I’d give the Sierra Club some cash too. Since the organization launched its “Beyond Coal” campaign in 2002, it’s stopped over 150 proposed coal-fired power plants through community organizing, litigation and effective communication. The Sierra Club wants to make sure our existing fleet of outdated coal plants gets cleaned up or phased out and is replaced by greener energy sources.

Think generating electricity by burning coal is a good idea? Think again:

  • Coal harms communities and public health at every step of its use – from mining the coal to burning it to storing the leftover toxic waste.

  • Coal plants are the Number One source of mercury pollution in the United States.

  • Each year, coal pollution causes 12,000 emergency room visits and $100 billion in health costs.

  • Coal pollution causes 13,000 asthma attacks a year, and one in ten kids in this country suffers from asthma.

  • Coal use, primarily for the generation of electricity, now accounts for roughly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Coal is inherently higher-polluting and more carbon-intensive than other energy alternatives.

Mayor Bloomberg’s generosity didn’t go over so well in coal-rich West Virginia.

“The next time the lights go out, the people in New York City will all know exactly whom to blame — their mayor, Michael Bloomberg,” said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV).

West Virginia’s Acting Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, called coal “the most stable, cost-effective means of meeting the energy demands of our country and the world.”

“It sends a terrible message to coal miners and families that depend on coal, not only in West Virginia but across this country,” opined Bill Raney, head of the West Virginia Coal Association. “[Coal] has provided energy to make steel and power throughout the history of this country. Now, all of a sudden, he’s made a lot of money doing something, and he wants to put it into something that sounds pretty shallow, pretty selfish.”

Shallow and selfish? You know, sometimes the pro-coal forces utter such nonsense that you feel sorry for them and it’s not worth responding. And the media uses phrases like “weighed in on the controversy” and “opponents countered with the fact that…” as if both sides of the coal debate are equally credible. In fact, one side in this “controversy” has truth and science and wanting children to breathe better on its side and the other side, desperate to maintain the status quo, can’t defend its position so it resorts to calling names and attacking the messengers.

Since half of the electricity generated in the United States is from coal, the Sierra Club and its allies have their work cut out for them. Fortunately, politicians like Michael Bloomberg are willing to put their own money, not just ours, where their mouths are.

Sources: The New Yorker, The West Virginia Register-Herald, The Sierra Club, The Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Buggles - Video Killed the Radio Star

YouTube's been co-opted for nefarious purposes

I received an e-mail from a friend containing a link to a YouTube video that wasn’t named or described but had received NINE MILLION HITS, the message claimed, and was a MUST SEE! I was supposed to be working so naturally I clinked on it.

Turns out it was the most blood pressure-raising, off-putting, offensive, irresponsible, misleading anti-Obama video I’ve ever seen.

As I looked at images of the American flag, the bald eagle, armed, resolute soldiers, the Constitution, Tea Party signs decrying socialism and excessive taxation, and a number of obviously miserable individuals frowning and flashing thumbs down, a shrill female’s voice described how “we the people have stated resolutely that we reject your vision for our country” and “we the people have assembled across America resisting your efforts to subvert our constitution and undermine our liberty.”

The shrew went on to quote Dubya and Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson and spoke about how the time has come and our greatest treasure is freedom and Obama’s subjugation is not the kind of change we wanted or will accept and he has expanded government, violated our Constitution, confounded laws, seized private industry, destroyed jobs, perverted our economy, curtailed free speech, corrupted our currency, weakened our national security, endangered our sovereignty, shot J.R. Ewing, put the bop in the bop-sho-bop-sho-bop, let the dogs out, cut the cheese, stole the cookie from the cookie jar and whatever other really, really bad things you can imagine.

The video states that through generational theft, whatever that is, Obama’s robbing the unborn of opportunity. So our duty to our soldiers and ourselves is to treasure freedom enough to live up to it, whatever that means. The clearly constipated narrator warned the president to “dismiss us at your political peril” and declared that “we will not accept tyranny under any guise” and vowed to forever resist coercive government because Obama’s policy to redistribute the fruits of our labor is “statism” and will not be tolerated and patriots will not stand silent as he attempts to dismantle the greatest nation on earth.

It concluded with the promise that “we the people will defend our liberty and protect our beloved country and America’s exceptionalism will prevail,” followed by the obligatory “God Bless the United States of America!”

I watched it more than once, difficult as that was, because I wanted to count how many facts were hidden in the five minutes and nineteen seconds of what appeared to me to be claptrap and drivel. The answer: zero. Not one verifiable fact or genuine piece of information. The clip was full of clichés and platitudes and important-sounding phrases and serious-sounding allegations but was completely devoid of truth about the President of the United States and his policies.

Let me be clear: I’m not shy about criticizing Barack Obama. He’s disappointed me more than once. But I don’t think for a second that he’s trying to dismantle the greatest nation on earth or is a tyrant or has perverted our economy or weakened our national security or tried to undermine our liberty, whatever that means. I’m glad he’s in the Oval Office and I’m sad that humanoids like the 9,751 who “liked” this video are walking around, free to send trite, dishonest videos to anyone they want, free to pull a lever on a voting machine, free to spread their bigoted nonsense and validate the fears and prejudices of other ridiculous oafs.

No wonder things aren’t getting better. The rich puppet masters, with their “news” networks and YouTube videos and scripture, have a ready-made army of non-thinking soldiers to distract and divide and perpetuate lies and myths and half-truths while they raid the Treasury and rob from the poor to give to the rich. The minions appear kind and sweet and loving. They have friends and loved ones and cars and cottages and jobs and bosses and dreams and hobbies just like thinking people. But wave an American flag in front of them and tell ‘em the Constitution is threatened or the illegal Mexicans are stealing their jobs or the welfare mothers are pumpin’ out the crack babies or the Muslims are building a mosque at Ground Zero and they’re primed and ready to do the bidding of their Masters.

I think when Al Gore invented the internet, he should have restricted YouTube posting privileges to those who want to make the world a better place. This anybody-with-a-computer-can-post-a-video thing just makes the series of tubes uglier.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Billy Ray Cyrus - Achy Breaky Heart

He Surprised my Achy Breaky Heart

I forgave Billy Ray Cyrus for 1993’s “Achy Breaky Heart.”

I even forgave him for foisting Hannah Montana on the world, as ugly as that whole thing was. (Disney, which has hypnotized all of my children at one time or another, isn’t off the hook yet.) It’s not his fault that in this country one can make millions by promoting one’s saccharine daughter, Miley, and her hackneyed sitcom to indiscriminate preteens who have yet to develop a sense of taste or the ability to recognize a laugh track when they hear it.

But I just watched an episode of “Surprise Homecoming” on TLC and I think Mr. Mullet Mr. Soul Patch has finally gone too far.

I was taking a break from mowing my lawn in 90 degree heat, which taught me, incidentally, that I need a) my youth back, b) a smaller lawn, and c) a MedicAlert bracelet so the paramedics who are hopefully able to resuscitate me will know that I’m just overweight, not swollen from a fall off my roof or allergic to their medication. Anita had the television tuned to TLC although she was supervising our new puppies in another room when I wandered in, sat down and was hooked. Otherwise I’m sure she would have warned me.

I’m not ashamed to shed a tear or two when I’m moved by something. I just resent being moved by something as crass, manipulative and maudlin as the filmed, staged reunions of returning soldiers and their families.

I felt like a voyeur, like I was intruding on what should have been private moments. Some of the children clearly looked uncomfortable, if not taken-aback, by the onlookers. One dad reunited with his wife but waited 24 hours before reconnecting with his three- and six-year old children because he wanted to surprise the unsuspecting tots by revealing himself in front of hundreds at Disney World.

I would have insisted on seeing my kids within an hour of my plane touching down at the latest.

I kept thinking, too, about all the families who would be robbed of these joyful reunions, the more than 6,000 soldiers who weren’t so lucky. And I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that there’s really no reason why these people have to endure being separated in the first place.

I respect Billy Ray Cyrus for traveling to both Iraq and Afghanistan to entertain the troops.

And I respect every soldier who’s ever risked or sacrificed his or her life so that I can be free to say or do or write whatever I want.

I just don’t think these two latest military escapades fall in that category, so the reunions hosted by the “Achy Breaky Heart” dude seem hollow and exploitive and cloying.

I don’t want to be the crabby, jaded old guy who discounts displays of genuine emotion and refuses for political reasons to appreciate beauty when it’s right on his TV. But I’m afraid it’s too late.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Happy birthday, Mr. Mandela!

Joe Cocker - You Are So Beautiful

I hope Anita's got my back when the African rock pythons get here...

When I opened my eyes last Sunday morning, I found myself looking at a picture of a yard trimmer.

Anita was reading The Family Handyman in bed while she waited for me to get up.

Other women read Cosmo and Vogue and Glamour; Anita reads The Family Handyman and Consumer Reports and Forbes.

Other women read about how to make their men happy and where to buy three pair of shoes for the price of one and when to break out the bikini; Anita reads about how to change a circuit breaker and when’s the best time to fund a Roth IRA and why Jenn-Air appliances and granite countertops are the top choices of kitchen remodelers.

Other women jump out of bed and get their showers out of the way and head to the mall or the café to meet their girlfriends; Anita waits for me to wake up so we can decide how to spend our day together. (This is on weekends when the kids aren’t with us; when they’re here she’s out of bed and making breakfast, noisily, by 6:30 a.m. at the latest.)

Other women feel threatened and insecure when they catch their men appreciating the beauty of other females; Anita bought me a copy of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition one time.

We took the kids over to Anita’s mom’s for dinner the other night – she lives just five miles away – and after we finished eating we gathered in the family room and turned on the TV. The kids and I started to get into a show on Animal Planet about African rock pythons threatening Miami. I couldn’t really hear, though, because Nani (Hindi for “grandmother”) kept saying things to Anita in Hindi as they occurred to her. They would only occur to her during the show, not during the commercials, and mostly at the exact same moment the narrator was imparting a significant fact such as, “The African rock python has been known to COULDN’T HEAR THE REST” or “If you actually run across an African rock python, you’re advised to COULDN’T HEAR THE REST.” Since Nani doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Hindi, for all I know she might have been telling us that we’re supposed to stop, drop and roll if attacked by an African rock python. It’s more likely she was asking Anita how to change a circuit breaker.

After several minutes of this, I excused myself, went out to the van and waited for Anita and the kids to appear. When they did, I expected Anita to be irritated that I had abandoned my family over a silly reason like not being able to understand the television or the mother-in-law, but she just smiled, shrugged her shoulders and said, “That’s my mom.”

I had a minor altercation at the customer service counter – and I use “service” loosely here – at Meijer the other day. I wanted to pick up a Mega Millions ticket or two since winning the lottery is my retirement plan. The number of employees behind the counter was insufficient, as usual, to promptly serve the number of customers on the other side and I could feel myself aging as I waited in line.
And waited. And waited.

After ten minutes or so, I forced a smile on my face and loudly asked Anita, who was waiting ten or fifteen feet away, if there wasn’t a time limit for customers monopolizing the employees (a woman who was trying to return an item clearly didn’t like what she was being told and was going back and forth trying to persuade the employee to see things her way). Instead of helping to end the negotiations, though, I incurred the wrath of the twenty-year-old punk behind the counter who said something about me being rude and needing to wait my turn. I responded that I’d be glad to show her what “rude” really is but then I left the line and headed for the door, assuming Anita was right behind me.

I stormed outside and waited for her...and waited…and waited…and was just starting to think I’d never escape from the Black Hole of Meijer that I had apparently fallen into when she appeared. I expected her to be irritated that I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut and grow a beard in line like every other guy but it turns out she spoke with one manager, then another, about the need for Meijer to teach its employees what “customer service” means and pointed out that our family of six spends a pretty penny at Meijer every week and that twenty-year-old punk behind the counter shouldn’t have spoken to me that way and we’re just going to buy our two Mega Millions tickets somewhere else. So there.

It’s a good feeling when your partner has your back.

Remember that Enjoli perfume commercial from 30 years ago with the beautiful woman who brings home the bacon, fries it up in a pan, and never, never lets her guy forget he’s a man? That’s Anita.

Maybe other women are with men who're too stupid to understand how fortunate they are but Anita isn’t. I thank my lucky stars every day.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mind Games - John Lennon

Obama Screws Warren, McConnell Smiles

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Before the Obama ass-kissers start giving me crap for this post, let me just say pre-emptively: shut the f*ck up.

I am so sick of the POTUS jumping every time anyone says, “Boo.”

And I’m equally tired of Obama apologists trying to take my voice away by patronizingly shaking their heads while patting mine and telling me I’m politically naïve or too demanding or ungrateful or forgetful because things were much worse when Dubya was in charge, don’t I remember?

Yes, I remember how frustrating it was when I didn’t have a voice from 2001 to 2009. And it’s been equally frustrating since, for the same reason. Barack Obama is not speaking for me.

He wasn’t speaking for me when he jettisoned the public option during the health care “reform” debacle but decided to require me to buy insurance from private companies.

He wasn’t speaking for me when he broke his promise to end the needless, unjustifiable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or reneged on his pledge to slip on some comfortable shoes and march with labor when working men and women were threatened, or extended the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans in exchange for a lousy 13-month extension of unemployment benefits.

And just when I thought he found his testicles – he’s made a few speeches recently that sound more like Candidate Obama than President Obama – he wimps out and names someone other than Professor Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Even though it was her idea.

Who in their right mind would want a Harvard law professor with a reputation for being a blunt and tenacious advocate for consumers to head up an agency charged with protecting consumers? Why would we want a bankruptcy expert who oversaw the government bailout program and was named one of TIME magazine’s "100 Most Influential People in the World" two years in a row to head up this agency when we can tap one of her deputies, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, to fill the role that should be hers?

Apparently the President of the United States takes his direction from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” recently that Republicans were "pretty unenthusiastic about the possibility of Elizabeth Warren." He also said Republicans aren’t happy about the new bureau and want changes because they think it threatens the financial system.


The bureau is charged with "promoting fairness and transparency for mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer financial products and services." According to its website, “The central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans – whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products."

Oh, I can see why Republicans fear that this will bring down our financial system. I’m shaking in my boots for the poor little banks even as I type this.

I read that Obama’s Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner – who was once president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York – was opposed to Warren heading up the agency she proposed because he feared she’d be too tough on his Wall Street pals. (I wonder what role Geithner’s opposition played in the Senate’s decision to not confirm Professor Warren if she were nominated.) So rather than stand up to his own Treasury Secretary, Obama decided to capitulate once again.

Compromise is one thing. Folding like my grandma’s broken picnic chair is quite another.

I hate being taken for granted. Too often politicians who are “left of center” tack right and break their promises once the progressive constituency on which they rely for victory has served its purpose because who else are we gonna support? The Republican? No, we’re gonna stay home.

That’s what happened in last year’s mid-term elections, which gave the lower house of Congress to the GOP. See, it’s bad to take the left for granted. You’ve got to give us something every once in a while or we’ll wilt like a hothouse flower that isn’t getting any water.

Photo courtesy Scott Olson/Getty Images
Contrary to an accusation made against me, I didn’t think my work was done on that historic night in November of 2008 when Obama shattered more than 200 years of history by winning election as the first African-American president of the United States.

And I didn’t think Obama’s work was done that night either.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fund Me!

If you feel like helping me to continue offering incisive, provocative writing, top tier music and interesting photographs - and I hope you do - please use the "Donate" button on the upper right and make a left-leaning, middle-aged blogger with mouths to feed happy.

Marsha Hunt - Oh, no! Not the Beast Day!

Sunday poetry

nobody loses all the time

i had an uncle named
Sol who was a born failure and
nearly everybody said he should have gone
into vaudeville perhaps because my Uncle Sol could
sing McCann He Was A Diver on Xmas Eve like Hell Itself which
may or may not account for the fact that my Uncle

Sol indulged in that possibly most inexcusable
of all to use a highfalootin phrase
luxuries that is or to
wit farming and be
it needlessly

my Uncle Sol's farm
failed because the chickens
ate the vegetables so
my Uncle Sol had a
chicken farm till the
skunks ate the chickens when

my Uncle Sol
had a skunk farm but
the skunks caught cold and
died so
my Uncle Sol imitated the
skunks in a subtle manner

or by drowning himself in the watertank
but somebody who'd given my Unde Sol a Victor
Victrola and records while he lived presented to
him upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a
scrumptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with
tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything and

i remember we all cried like the Missouri
when my Uncle Sol's coffin lurched because
somebody pressed a button
(and down went
my Uncle

and started a worm farm)

~ e.e. cummings

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cecilia luvs Allison

This photo of my friend Cecilia Joann Garcia and her daughter Allison was among those chosen by Children’s Hospitals of Minnesota for installation in patient rooms within their Minneapolis ER department.

Friday, July 15, 2011

John Williams - Schindler's List

Happy Birthday, Charles McGlashan!

Charles F. McGlashan (1961-2011)

My friend Charles McGlashan would have turned 50 today if he hadn’t suffered a fatal heart attack a few months ago.

I met Charles years ago when he married one of my best friends, Carol Misseldine. Carol – who is without a doubt one of the wisest, strongest and most compassionate human beings ever to walk the face of Planet Earth – didn’t deserve to lose her partner, her best friend, the love of her life. Fate really can be a royal, lousy, vicious bitch.

Charles’ life was celebrated by hundreds at a memorial service at the Marin Center Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael, California, last April 9. The Marin County Sheriff’s Department posted a Color Guard on horseback at the entrance to the facility. U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey, author Paul Hawken, Charles’ brothers and others joined Carol in speaking about Charles the warrior, the public servant, the brother, the colleague, the friend.

Someone from the Golden Gate Opera sang. Hundreds of people who knew Charles or knew what he had done for them, for the community, for the planet, wrote messages on poster board set on easels outside of the ceremony. It was apparently one of those events where you laughed as tears streamed down your face, and felt miserable and grateful at the same time, and knew you were celebrating the life and gifts of a one-of-a-kind man who would not soon be forgotten.    
Photo courtesy San Rafael Patch

I wrote back in March, when he died, that Charles had been president of the Marin County Board of Supervisors who promoted sustainability, energy efficiency and renewable power. I wrote about the awards he had won and the important issues he championed like affordable and 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, among others.

What I didn’t write was how special he must have been to have caught Carol’s eye, to have lured and snared someone as discerning and exceptional as she is. I didn’t know him well – I had only spent hours with him – but I knew he was worthy of respect because Carol respected him. I knew he was a lovely man because Carol loved him. I knew he was making a significant mark on the world because he made one on my friend, who misses him so much, she admitted, that sometimes she’s brought to her knees by longing and sadness and the desire to see his big smile and feel his big embrace one more time.

I noticed in the few conversations I’ve had with Carol since Charles’ death that she talks mostly about wanting his spirit to be free now. She wants him to not be sad or in pain or lonely or afraid. She wants him to cross over peacefully and begin his new journey, whatever that is, in comfort. She doesn’t speak with bitterness or wallow in self-pity or dwell on how devastated she is or talk about herself at all, hardly, except to express gratitude for the support she’s received from the many who loved him.

She posted this on Facebook yesterday:

The mystics say that those who have passed are well served if those of us who remain behind send blessings and prayers their way. So if you are so inclined, please take a moment tomorrow to envision Charles enveloped in golden loving light, free of all disturbance and experiencing a profound and lasting peace.

I’m envisioning this a lot.

That’s how amazing Charles McGlashan was. He lived his life in such a way that people want nothing but the best for him even after he’s gone. Even in death, he’s still bringing out the best in others.

Happy 50th birthday, Charles, wherever you are. You are so missed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

David Bowie - Changes

Things Change

I didn’t realize the Women’s World Cup soccer championship was underway or that the Americans were heading to the semifinals after beating Brazil. There was a time when I would have watched every moment on television while wearing a Brazilian jersey and screaming, “Viva Brasil!” Now I’m barely aware of sporting events unless my ten-year-old son brings me up to speed.

I used to live and breathe state politics; I could tell you the name, party affiliation and hometown of most state lawmakers, who was last Friday’s guest on Tim Skubick’s Off the Record public television gabfest, and who headed up Michigan’s various state departments. Now I can’t even tell you how many there are.

I used to have long, curly brown hair and weigh 170 pounds. Now I’m bald – by choice, I feel compelled to state – and 50 pounds overweight. I used to be able to run like the wind. Now people probably laugh at me when I jog/waddle through a crosswalk.

I used to laugh a lot, at the drop of a hat, my mouth wide open. Now it takes a really funny comic or one of my kids to get me to laugh and my jaw stays closed.

I used to read books, lots of books, a few at a time, and was seldom without one. Now I mostly read magazines and blogs and articles posted on Facebook, and watch more television than ever before.

I used to have a lot of money; I could go wherever I wanted and buy whatever I fancied. Now I go days with just a few singles in my wallet and rent DVDs with the family instead of sitting in a theatre. I used to travel a lot but now can count on one hand where I’ve been in the last two years.

I used to visit my parents regularly; now we go weeks without talking and years without seeing each other. I used to think I knew it all; now I know how little I know.

I used to like slasher movies and mysteries and scoff at “family programming.” Now I can’t watch someone being terrorized onscreen without feeling a little jittery; “Wipeout” and “Amazing Race” have replaced “48 Hours” and “Law and Order” on my TV.

I used to have faith in my fellow man but now it’s lacking. I used to respect my elders but now I’m jaded. I used to instill fear with just a look; now I’m afraid of what I might see when I look in the mirror. I used to believe in god but now I see him as a man-made mechanism, a fundraising tool, a crutch like pot or coke or whiskey. I can’t stop paying attention anymore to the men behind the curtain.

I used to be more tolerant, more patient, more ambitious. Now I’ve embraced the idea that I’ve paid my dues and I’m set in my ways and it’s up to younger generations to adapt to me.

What used to be important, exciting, even vital can turn silly and meaningless in the span of a week, a month, a year. Now I sound like my father and wish I were a better son. Now I have more regrets than dreams, more worries than peace. Now I have new goals and priorities, new problems and preferences.

Things change.