Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or treat...

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Occupy the Great Pumpkin

Canned Heat - On The Road Again

Road to Redemption?

I’m pretty cynical, but not so much that I can’t give politicians credit for something when they deserve it.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder – the nasally dweeb who’s been lambasted by progressives, including me, for robbing from the poor to give to his rich business buddies – is apparently singing the right song when it comes to transportation issues. He announced his proposals for rebuilding Michigan’s infrastructure last week, complete with a clever, if elementary, new catchphrase: “Better roads drive better jobs.”

Snyder’s plan includes the following, among other ideas:

  • Boost annual infrastructure investment by $1.4 billion, in part by increasing vehicle registration fees by $120/year. (Someone told me the fancy SUV driver would pay the same as the coed in the clunker, which doesn’t seem right, but maybe she’s wrong.) 

    • Revive regional registration fees. This means if voters approve, regions or individual counties could charge up to $40 per vehicle, which could raise nearly $300 million/year for local roads or public transportation. (I’m pretty sure voters aren’t going to support this but what do I know? I didn’t think Dubya would be re-elected either.) 

      • Revise motor fuel taxes. Instead of continuing Michigan’s per-gallon fuel taxes – 19 cents for unleaded and 15 cents for diesel – paid at the pump, Snyder suggests we replace them with a wholesale tax to be collected when fuel is delivered to retailers. 

        • Consolidate road commissions. Michigan currently has 82 of them, and 83 counties. Road commissions, which get almost all their funds from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, employ around 7,000 regular and temporary workers across the state. (It would be nice if consolidation didn’t result in a lengthening of the unemployment line.)

          • Consolidate small-city road funding. Snyder said road funding should be diverted from small cities to larger, more sophisticated road agencies better equipped to use those funds efficiently. (Who would make these decisions and on what would they be based? Just because an agency is bigger doesn’t mean it’s better. Right, FEMA?)

            • Focus highway investment on high-volume roads. (This seems logical, unless “focus” really means “spend only on.”)

              • Create a regional transit authority for Southeast Michigan. (Again, this seems logical on its face.)

                • Build the Bridge. (I’ve written before that Snyder supports the New International Trade Crossing proposal, although Matty Moroun, the greedy billionaire who owns the only bridge currently connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, doesn’t. A second bridge is opposed in the Moroun-owned, GOP-controlled legislature but Snyder might have a trick up his sleeve.)

                  • Build a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie. Snyder supports replacing two obsolete locks built during World War I. Approach channels have already been deepened and Congress authorized the project back in 1986, but the state needs $546 million to finish the project.

                    • Close the Digital Divide. Snyder said increased computer connectivity can help Michigan add jobs and improve government, education, health and wellness.

                    Megan Owens, who heads up Transportation Riders United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving transportation access and mobility in Greater Detroit, said, “I'm excited that Governor Snyder clearly understands the importance of investing in transportation. TRU strongly supports his ideas of a Regional Transit Authority and more local funding options.

                    “Now we just need to convince the Michigan Legislature that some things are worth the investment,” Owens added.

                    The Detroit Free Press published an interesting editorial that gives Snyder credit for standing up to the anti-spending loons in his own parties while pointing out that his proposal represents a “big hit to people's wallets in a state still struggling to rebound from a decade-long recession.”

                    Michigan has the fourth largest road system in the nation, with 88,000 miles of county roads, streets and highways and more than 5,700 bridges. Our infrastructure, like others, has been crumbling and neglected for years. It’s refreshing to see our chief executive talking about doing something positive for the state instead of implementing the foolish, backward ideas of the Mackinac Center, the Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist and the other selfish entities that currently have a lock on the Republican Party.

                    I’m still don’t trust the guy and I’m not convinced that he suddenly has the best interests of the state at heart. But I’m no longer convinced that he doesn’t.

                    Sources: Detroit Free Press,, Bay County Road Commission.

                    Sunday, October 30, 2011

                    Is it right?

                    Vanessa Mae - Toccata & Fugue In D Minor

                    Sunday poetry

                    Give Away

                    I am ready to give away
                    many things to the Earth
                    things that I have held
                    and held too long
                    that I am right

                    I am ready to give away
                    my sorrow and grief
                    that familiar pain
                    gouging my flesh
                    the pleasure from certainty
                    that I was wronged

                    I am ready to give away
                    the loss of dignity
                    the gain of humiliation
                    violations of body mind soul
                    the wound and scar

                    to the Earth
                    I am ready to give away
                    that takes away
                    my hope
                    my joy
                    my peace
                    the choice to live
                    in love

                    ~ Melissa Dey Hasbrook

                    Melissa has published a noteworthy collection of poetry and prose entitled, “Circle...Home.” For more information, visit Dey of the Phoenix.

                    Saturday, October 29, 2011

                    Nelly - Just A Dream

                    Guest post: Katz on AIPAC

                    I’m Facebook friends with a really smart guy named Joe Katz, who shares my discomfort with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby that has so much power in Washington. It’s downright disgusting to see politicians of both parties – from the POTUS on down – pay such homage to AIPAC and treat its annual conference as the Event of the Season.

                    Katz – who teaches Hebrew and Judaic studies to fourth and seventh graders at his local synagogue, Beth Sholom Temple – is a senior at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He used to be a die-hard Zionist until he spent a month with right-wing Jewish settlers in the West Bank several years ago. Since then, he’s come to oppose all forms of nationalism and any attempt to demonize Israelis or Palestinians. He told me he’s long been concerned about the damage AIPAC is doing to the United States and our Jewish community. I asked him to expound on this statement for “What’s the Diehl?” readers. Here’s his blistering guest post:

                    Everyone who cares has long been familiar with the fact that AIPAC distorts American foreign policy in ways that hurt our interests. And just in case anyone couldn’t figure that out on their own, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer broke the story wide open a few years ago with their excellent book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. It’s also pretty well known, especially in the Jewish community, that AIPAC has a militarist, expansionist, right-wing agenda that endangers Israel as much, if not more, than the United States. What is less well known, however, is the degree to which AIPAC’s agenda damages the Jewish community here in America.

                    Though this issue has gone almost entirely unmentioned in both the mainstream and alternative press, it is a major problem with many facets that deserves to have book after book written about it. I’ll try to keep my criticism of the AIPAC agenda limited to its affect on Jewish organizations that aren’t, and shouldn’t be, overly concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That’s because a great example of it fell into my lap yesterday when I opened my e-mail and saw this message from the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC):

                    Next Monday, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is expected to vote to accept Palestine as a full member. Under legislation passed by Congress 15 years ago, this will trigger an automatic cutoff of U.S. funding, wreaking havoc with many of the agency’s programs.
                    The United States funds around 22 percent of the UNESCO budget – around $70 million a year. So far, the Palestinians have refused to step back. They hope to have holy sites, like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Joseph’s tomb in Nablus and Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem, declared as wholly Palestinian heritage sites. It is all part of their campaign to erase the historical Jewish bond to the Land of Israel.
                    Let's remember that the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, according to the Book of Genesis Chapter 23, was bought by Abraham as a burial place for his wife, Sarah. It is the burial place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah. Centuries later, Muslims built a mosque on the site.
                    UNESCO could be just the start of a process. The Palestinians will almost certainly go from agency to agency seeking membership – the World Health Organization, the International Labor Organization, the International Criminal Court and even the International Atomic Energy Agency. This last truly represents the nightmare scenario for Washington which could conceivably find itself effectively forced to pull out of the very agency that is taking the lead in monitoring Iran’s illegal nuclear weapons program.
                    Already there was a vote on the issue at the executive committee level where the vote was 40-4 against America and Israel. Many of the countries that voted against the United States, including 12 of the 13 African nations on the committee, get sizable foreign aid from the U.S. taxpayer.
                    Please click here to use our automated system to send a letter to your elected officials so that Americans understand how dangerous and damaging this Palestinian move has become to poor people around the world, religious freedom and to U.S. interests. Please try to use your own words as much as possible in urging them to make clear to the world that responsibility for this move lies entirely with the Palestinian leadership.

                    Now, getting e-mails from Jewish organizations encouraging me to “take a stand” against Palestinian self determination is nothing new. In fact, I get them almost every day. This one kind of surprised me though, because usually when I get e-mails from the JCRC they have to do with environmental justice, fighting poverty, standing up for immigrants’ rights, etc. You know, basic stuff that appeals to religious Jews who understand the lessons of the Torah, as well as secular Jews like myself who are familiar with our people’s pre-WWII history as oppressed, poor immigrants forced into ghettos filled with toxic waste.

                    I have always assumed that the JCRC tries to stick to these issues rather than Israeli-Arab issues because, frankly, there’s a lot more agreement in the Jewish community when it comes to immigration and poverty than Israel and Palestine. The vast majority of Jews oppose the U.S. government’s militarist and imperialist policies, and when properly informed, we oppose similar policies of the Israeli government.

                    But that’s exactly why groups like the JCRC are so useful, and I would even say necessary, for AIPAC. AIPAC does a pretty good job of keeping vital information about Israel’s behavior from the American Jewish community. But just keeping information away from Jews doesn’t inspire anyone to organize a protest, to write letters or call senators, or to go on Facebook and demonize anyone who criticizes Israel. That requires subsidiary organizations who can build trust with the community by fighting for issues that actually appeal to Jews, most of whom are liberal or left leaning and not nationalistic or militaristic. Furthermore, most Jews are extremely critical of the U.S. government but obviously don’t hate Americans, so the idea that critics of Israel hate Jews strikes most of us as absurd on its face. In other words, the right wing AIPAC lacks the credibility to persuade liberal Jews to pursue its agenda, so it relies on intermediary organizations like the JCRC to do the dirty work for it.

                    How far down the AIPAC path the JCRC plans to go has yet to be seen, but we can make some predictions based on another organization that was assimilated by the AIPAC agenda decades ago. I’m talking about the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, an organization that once did phenomenal work that benefited American Jews and non-Jews alike. The ADL used to be known for going after the KKK, neo Nazis, and other bigots. It distributed curricula to public schools to help them teach about the Holocaust and the civil rights movement, and it provided legal assistance to people of all faiths who felt they had been the victims of religious or ethnic discrimination. On top of all this, as its name implies, it did great work combating real anti-Semitism all over the country.

                    Through this work, the ADL built a reputation in the Jewish community as a liberal organization that fought for real American and Jewish values, namely religious freedom and opposing discrimination. And that’s why AIPAC just HAD to have the ADL on its team. There was no way the right wingers at AIPAC could convince liberal Jews that anti-Zionism was equivalent to anti-Semitism. But the ADL could. Jews trusted the ADL, and so did a lot of people from other ethnic groups. If one of the leading warriors against racism said Israel’s critics were bigots, it was bound to get attention – and legitimacy – in Jewish circles and the mainstream media. So AIPAC courted the ADL, and over the years the ADL turned its attention away from issues of racism and real anti-Semitism and diverted most of its resources toward smearing Israel’s critics as anti-Semitic. Now, the organization that used to be known for suing racist groups into bankruptcy is better known for denying the Armenian genocide and leading the fight against Muslim Americans who wanted to build a mosque in New York City. The damage done to American Jews and other minorities who used to look to groups like the ADL for support is incalculable.

                    AIPAC used the ADL’s legitimacy to convince millions of people that critics of Israeli war crimes were anti-Semitic, and now it is looking to use groups like the JCRC to get another victory for Israel’s government, at the expense of American and Israeli Jews. AIPAC has long dreamed of convincing Americans that Israel actually has one of the most humanitarian and compassionate governments in the world. With limited success, they have aggressively distributed accurate information about the commitment of many Israelis to environmental justice, Israel’s expansive programs to help its poor citizens (of which there are many), its commitment to higher education, and especially the incredible achievements of Israeli scientists when it comes to medical and green technology and pharmaceutical innovation. While these efforts have surely filled many Jews with pride, AIPAC has understandably had trouble translating these achievements in fighting poverty and disease into a justification for supporting the right-wing, militarist, and imperialist policies of Israel’s government.

                    It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that AIPAC is hoping groups like the JCRC will be able to fill that gap for them. Just as the ADL once had credibility on the issue of racism, the JCRC, the Jewish Center for Public Affairs, the American Jewish World Service, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and many others have credibility with liberal Jews – or as I call them, “Jews” – when it comes to poverty, the environment, health care and human rights. And just as AIPAC’s corruption of the ADL was devastating to American Jews and other minority communities, AIPAC’s corruption and essential destruction of Jewish anti-poverty groups will have a similarly devastating impact on American Jews, the poor, immigrants and the environment.

                    I hope the e-mail I received yesterday will prove to be an anomaly and that the JCRC will go back to fighting for economic and social justice. Of course, I support much more revolutionary solutions to our country’s problems, but we desperately need groups like the JCRC fighting to keep the social programs we already have while the rest of us work for permanent, systemic change. But one thing is certain: That e-mail cannot be viewed as any kind of “natural” Jewish reaction to an event that some perceive to be threatening to the Jewish state. It is the result of a concerted effort by AIPAC and its subsidiaries to control the conversation about Israel within the Jewish community as much as it does within the mainstream media and the halls of Congress.

                    More importantly, to Jews anyway, it is the result of AIPAC’s agenda to turn every single Jewish organization in this country into a robotic arm of the right wing of the Israel lobby, and to get American Jews to forget about the parts of our culture and history that have won us so much respect in American society – our commitment to ending poverty, achieving justice, repairing the environment and stopping racism. When viewed in this light, I think it is clear that AIPAC poses much more of a threat to the Jewish people than some UN resolution recognizing that the Palestinians have the same rights as everyone else.

                    Friday, October 28, 2011

                    Here I Am

                    At Occupy Boston.

                    Neil Young - Ohio - Live at Massey Hall

                    Americans are shooting Americans again

                    I would be remiss if I didn’t write about Scott Olsen.

                    I’m cognizant of the fact that readers get tired of repetition and I’ve written about the Occupy Wall Street movement already, but I can’t claim that “What’s the Diehl?” addresses current events and not express my outrage at the upsetting, shameful, sickening, unconstitutional assault that took place at the hands of “law enforcement” in Oakland, California, last Tuesday night.

                    Olsen, a 24-year-old, two-time Iraq war veteran, was hospitalized in serious condition with a skull fracture after being hit above his right eye by a tear gas or smoke canister fired by police at a non-threatening, non-violent, scattered crowd that was exercising its right to peaceably assemble guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

                    Adding insult to serious injury, the police then intentionally lobbed a flash grenade into the crowd of people rushing to Olsen’s aid.

                    Olsen’s been upgraded from critical to fair condition and is being kept in a medically-induced coma at Oakland’s Highland Hospital.

                    People are accusing police of using bean bag rounds – a controversial projectile that looks like a small bean bag but is filled with lead – as well as rubber bullets and concussion grenades on the protesters. The “unfortunate incident” – as the corporate media insists on referring to the assault – has angered people around the world and spurred calls for independent investigations and the removal of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan.

                    Olsen isn’t an unemployed, hackey sack-playing hippie who’s trying to get the government to buy him a college education. The Wisconsin native – a Marine who fought al-Qaida in Haditha and at the Iraq/Syria border – has a good job as a network engineer and a nice apartment overlooking San Francisco Bay. This activist with Veterans for Peace just felt so strongly about his beliefs that he decided to camp out with other protesters after work.

                    It’s safe to assume he didn’t anticipate getting his skill fractured by Oakland Police.

                    There’s a photo circulating in Facebook of an injured, bloody Olsen being carried away by his fellow protesters with the caption, “Do you want to live in an America where THIS is the price for speaking your mind?”

                    My answer, and surely Scott Olsen’s, is a resounding “Hell, no!”

                    Visit the Daily Mail for photos and more information.

                    Sources: Washington Post, San Jose Mercury News, UK Daily Mail.

                    Thursday, October 27, 2011

                    Luther Vandross - Power of Love

                    Just what the doctor ordered

                    I intended to write about Occupy Wall Street today but when I checked Facebook first, as is my routine, I ran across a video posted by my friend Heather that choked me up and changed my mind.

                    The clip was of a man named Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick, who’s my age. Father and son compete in marathons, duathlons and triathlons – including Ironman competitions – all over the country. And because of Rick’s situation – he was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy – his amazing and loving father pushes his wheelchair, pulls him in a raft and propels him in a special bicycle built for two because Rick once told his dad that when they’re running, he doesn’t feel handicapped.

                    You’ll notice I didn’t use that word to describe Rick. He doesn’t strike me as handicapped at all. He’s different, sure, but he’s staggeringly fortunate, if you ask me, to have parents and friends who love him as much as Dick and Judy Hoyt and others obviously do.

                    Rick communicates with the help of a special, interactive computer designed just for him. (His first words weren’t “Hi, Mom” but rather “Go, Bruins!”) His parents fought to get their son admitted to public school – Rick eventually graduated from Boston University – and to see Rick as having potential just like everyone else.

                    In fact, Team Hoyt’s potential to touch, inspire and motivate others is pretty damn high. They biked and ran across the United States in 1992, covering 3,735 miles in 45 consecutive days, and the 2009 Boston Marathon was officially their 1,000th race. If that doesn’t impress you, there’s something wrong with you.

                    I know some people are cynical and find the Hoyt’s story cheesy in this volatile time, when cops are shooting people in the streets with tear gas and rubber bullets. But this story of heroism, devotion, perseverance and the truly remarkable power of love is just what the doctor ordered for me.

                    At Team Hoyt’s website, it says that when someone asked Rick once what he would give his father if he could give him anything, Rick replied, “The thing I'd most like is for my dad to sit in the chair and I would push him for once."

                    If that doesn’t choke you up, you’re dead.

                    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

                    Tuck Andress - Man in the Mirror

                    You take this one, Big Guy

                    I ran across a cute little quote in Facebook yesterday absolving God for any responsibility for pain, suffering and injustice in the world. The bumper sticker-worthy message – “Sometimes I’d like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it but I’m afraid He would ask me the same question” – threw the onus back onto my lap and made me think.

                    I’m not sure I could have prevented the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan last March, triggering a deadly tsunami, nuclear power plant meltdowns, the death of 15,838 men, women and children and the suffering of countless others.

                    Not to shirk my responsibility or anything, but the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan – which shifted the earth on its axis – seemed like a calamity better addressed by someone who’s a tad more supreme and omnipotent than I am.

                    There’s a lot of pain and suffering in Turkey right now on account of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed 460 people and injured 1,350 and counting last Sunday. I know the people there are mostly Muslim and we’re not supposed to like Muslims but thousands are homeless or too afraid to return to their damaged houses – there have been 500 aftershocks – and 2,000 buildings have collapsed.

                    I just learned that four million acres in Thailand are underwater right now in that country’s worst flooding in 50 years. Over 370 people have been killed in the past three months due to unusually heavy monsoon rains. Tens of thousands have been forced into evacuation centers and the crisis is still unfolding.

                    There’s still pain and suffering in Haiti even though it’s been almost two years since a magnitude 7.0 earthquake occurred west of Port-au-Prince in January of 2010, killing 316,000 people and wiping out 250,000 homes. I know 95 percent of Haiti’s population is black and some of us have issues with helping people who don’t look like us but I’m pretty sure Academy Award-Winning Actor/Director Sean Penn, who’s been hanging out there and pitching in, can’t do it all.

                    Here’s the thing: I know I have the power to make the world a better place and that I create ripples yada yada yada. But it sure would be nice to get a little help from the Man Upstairs. (The Comcast guy is installing cable in my son’s bedroom as I type this so I guess I should be more specific. I’m talking about the Creator of Heaven and Earth here.) If half the people who claim in Facebook to be praying for this or that are actually doing so, the prayer lines leading to the Golden Throne must be overwhelmed.

                    I’m not trashing the Bearded One Who Floats on Clouds and Awards Emmys again. I’ve made my intellectual and emotional struggles with organized religion known already – no sense beating a, messiah. But it just seems like with all the pain and suffering and greed and corruption and violence and unrest in the world right now, it might be a good time for a little divine intervention. If there really is such a thing.

                    Sources: Associated Press, Yahoo News.

                    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

                    Sleeping in Class

                    Michael Jackson - Black Or White

                    We still call it the "White House," don't we?

                    A little five-year-old girl is missing in Glendale, Arizona. You probably haven’t seen anything about it on television, though, because Jahessye Shockley’s not white.

                    According to the Washington Post:

                    "Jahessye Shockley has been missing since Oct. 11 after police believe she wandered from her apartment in Glendale, outside Phoenix, while her mother was running an errand. The girl’s three older siblings were the last to see her. Police have no evidence, suspects or promising leads, but the case points to a kidnapping because they found no trace of her after combing a 3-mile radius around her home."

                    I’ve written before about the infuriating disparity in media coverage of crimes against little girls. In “Justice for Aiyana?” on October 5, I wrote that “pictures of the pretty little girl with the big dimple, braided hair and beautiful eyes should be on television as much as Caylee Anthony’s and Natalee Holloway’s and Jaycee Lee Dugard’s and Elizabeth Smart’s and all the other white victims of crime.” (Aiyana was a seven-year-old black girl from Detroit’s east side who was sleeping on the couch when police burst in and shot her in the neck on May 16, 2010.)

                    And in “Who’s Turning Their Porch Lights on for Aiyana Jones?” back on July 6, I took Nancy Grace to task for devoting hours of airtime to the Caylee Anthony case – the little white girl allegedly murdered by her mother, Casey – and nothing to Aiyana’s. (Casey Anthony, as we all know, was subsequently acquitted.)

                    The Washington Post has run eight stories about Jahessye’s disappearance since October 13. And Yahoo News features a story entitled, “Missing 5-year-old Jahessye Shockley Gets No Prime Time.”

                    But as the Facebook post that brought this to my attention points out, “The family of this beautiful little girl is asking people to use their Facebook and Twitter Pages to spread the word about this story. Black people I think we all know that we cannot rely on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, or MSNBC to give this little black girl the same coverage they give white missing children so it’s up to us to use every resource we have to spread the word.”

                    This isn’t a crimes blog and as a middle-aged white guy, I’m not qualified to write about the African-American experience in this country. But it’s embarrassing, frustrating and irritating to scroll down my news feed in Facebook and see several posts about a missing white baby, Kansas City’s Lisa Irwin, and just one about Jahessye.

                    I hope she’s found safe and sound. And I hope people think about how ingrained racism is in this country’s systems and processes and institutions.

                    And if you’ve seen Jahessye Shockley, please call (623) 930-4357.

                    Monday, October 24, 2011

                    Beck - Loser

                    The GOP Presidential Contenders in a Nutshell

                    People give me considerable grief for taking Barack Obama to task so often in “What’s the Diehl?” and Facebook. It’s true that I complain about the guy more than I praise him, but I view it as giving my brother a hard time more than trash-talking an enemy. His ties to Wall Street and many disappointing decisions notwithstanding, I still feel closer to Obama politically than to any of the freaks and losers vying for the GOP nomination. Let’s take a look at the kooky Republican field for a minute, shall we?

                    Mitt Romney

                    Someone posted a photo of the Mittster in Facebook the other day with the following caption: “He’s worth a quarter of a billion dollars, earned by liquidating profitable businesses and firing their employees. He’s the 1%.” This kind of sums it up for me.

                    Romney, the son of former Michigan governor George Romney – who I met and liked – and a former governor of Massachusetts, has always given me the heebie jeebies. Maybe it’s his slick, robotic, President-from-Central-Casting persona. Maybe it’s his flip-flopping on the issues. I can’t really put my finger on it but I wouldn’t let the guy babysit my kids, let alone vote for him to lead the country.

                    So he was in charge of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. I’ve always thought the Olympics were an overrated, overblown, cheesy production intended more to sell sh*t and give NASCAR-loving Merkans another reason to pound their parochial chests than to highlight genuine athletic achievement and foster international goodwill. So this doesn’t impress me much.

                    I was impressed when I learned that Romney signed first-in-the-nation health care reform into law as governor of Massachusetts, providing almost-universal health insurance to his constituents. Then I watched him subsequently downplay and deny and backtrack and disown this one achievement that would make me give him a second look, and I turned away.

                    Why this creepy Mormon millionaire is leading the GOP pack is a mystery to me.

                    Herman Cain

                    The guy said publicly that God told him to run for president. Do I need to write any more?

                    Okay, fine. Before becoming the head honcho at Godfather’s Pizza, he was in charge of 400 Burger King outlets in Greater Philadelphia. (A Burger King in New York, you may recall, just refused to serve Occupy Wall Street protesters.) The food sucks at Burger King and is a major reason why many people in this country are morbidly obese.

                    So then he became the head of Godfather’s and cut costs by reducing that company from 911 stores to 420 in little over a year. Maybe that was a good business decision – even though I’m sure a lot of folks lost their jobs – but I’m not one of those twits who wants this country run like a business. It’s not a business. It’s home to more than 307 million people, with a myriad of needs and views and hopes and dreams and problems. There’s more than one bottom line in the USA. Sorry, conservatives, but one size doesn’t fit all here.

                    Cain has ties to the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which “promotes economic policy that supports business and restrains regulation by government.” According to one source, AFP is heavily involved in political activities aimed at reducing regulation of the oil and gas industry.

                    He was a senior economic advisor to the Bob Dole/Jack Kemp presidential campaign in 1996. Does anyone remember how creepy those two were? I wasn’t surprised that Clinton/Gore carried 31 states to Dole/Kemp’s 19 in that election.

                    Lastly, Cain’s silly “9-9-9” economic proposal – which would replace the current tax code with a nine percent personal income tax, a nine-percent business transactions tax, and a nine percent federal sales tax – has been criticized for shifting much of the current tax burden from the rich to the poor. That’s why the hippies are sleeping in tents on Wall Street, isn’t it?

                    Michele Bachmann

                    This Congresswoman from Minnesota is bat-sh*t crazy.

                    She received her law degree from Oral Roberts University. She founded the Tea Party Caucus in Congress. Her husband, Marcus, received his master’s degree from Pat Robertson’s Regent University and runs a Christian “counseling center” even though he’s not a licensed psychologist. (He allegedly does the whole “pray away the gay” thing for poor, misguided homosexuals.)

                    Even though Bachmann poses as a defender of taxpayers, her husband’s clinic received nearly $30,000 from Minnesota government agencies between 2006 and 2010 and at least $137,000 in federal payments and another $24,000 in government grants for “counselor training.” And her family accepted $260,000 in federal crop and disaster subsidies between 1995 and 2008.

                    Bachmann proposed a constitutional amendment that would bar her state from legally recognizing same-sex marriage. At one time, she was part of a church that believed the Pope is the Antichrist. And this pro-life activist has engaged in “sidewalk counseling,” a protest activity in which participants approach people entering abortion clinics in an attempt to dissuade women from obtaining abortions.

                    That’s what every troubled woman struggling with this traumatic situation needs: an “intervention” with an insensitive, judgmental, hypocritical wench in front of a place she probably doesn’t want to be in the first place.

                    I could reference other positions she’s taken – such as her opposition to the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 which would have slightly increased Pell grant amounts and lowered interest rates on student loans, making it possible for more students to attend college – but I feel like it’s a waste of time.

                    Suffice it to say that this individual is a loon, a grotesque political anomaly who deserves to be President of the United States as much as I do. (Apparently her entire New Hampshire staff agrees. Although Bachmann initially denied that they resigned en masse, it was confirmed last Saturday.)

                    Newt Gingrich

                    This jackass shut down the federal government back in 1995-1996 because he felt slighted by Bubba Clinton.

                    Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress from 1979 to 1999 and was Speaker of the House from 1996 until he resigned, felt snubbed by the president while on a trip to Israel for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral. The co-author of the disastrous 1994 “Contract with America,” Gingrich resigned after Republican losses in the 1998 mid-terms. (His being disciplined for ethics violations probably had nothing to do with it.) Turns out the Republican Party’s attempts to delve into Bubba’s personal peccadilloes and remove him from office weren’t so popular with the American people.

                    Now he writes books, is a fellow at conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, and shows up on my television, making his b*llsh*t points with his pompous, nasally voice. He blamed 1999’s Columbine massacre on liberals. He said the only way to avoid future tragedies like Susan Smith’s 1994 drowning of her two young sons was to vote Republican.

                    He blamed the residents of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward for a “failure of citizenship” by being “so uneducated and so unprepared, they literally couldn’t get out of the way of a hurricane.”

                    This guy shouldn’t even get quoted, let alone make a bid for the Oval Office.

                    Ron Paul

                    A pro-life gynecologist and Texas congressman, Ron Paul has been called “the intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party. He has the most conservative voting record of any member of Congress since 1937. He spawned Rand Paul, a U.S. Senator from Kentucky and pro-life Tea Partier who scares the sh*t outta me.

                    He was an advisor to Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential campaign. (I hope Buchanan doesn’t sue me for saying he’s one of the biggest dicks on television.) He’s endorsed the elimination of most federal government agencies, including the Department of Education; our withdrawal from the United Nations; and the abolishment of the income tax. Oh, and he opposes the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and has written racist and anti-gay newsletter articles.

                    I understand why he’s popular with people who oppose excessive government spending. I don’t understand why that makes him a viable presidential candidate. The guy’s as wacky as Michele Bachmann.

                    Rick Perry

                    This pro-life Eagle Scout and former Democrat also gives me the creeps – not because he’s Mitt-like but because he glorifies the fact that Texas has executed 234 human beings since he became governor. (I wrote about how Texas murdered an innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, in 2004.)

                    As Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Perry publicly supported Bubba Clinton’s health care reform efforts. But as governor, Perry has been an outspoken opponent of federal health care reform proposals.

                    In 2009, he signed Grover Norquist's pledge to "oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” (Talk about creepy: Grover Norquist’s photo is next to the word in the dictionary.)

                    In February 2007, he issued an executive order mandating that little girls in Texas receive the HPV vaccine, which protects against cervical cancer. Then it was discovered that the vaccine’s manufacturer, Merck, contributed almost $30,000 to Perry’s campaigns. (That May, the Texas Legislature passed a bill undoing the order which Perry decided not to veto.)

                    He’s on record as stating that people who don’t accept Jesus as their savior will go to hell. He’s a darling of the National Rifle Association. He’s a climate change skeptic who’s called social security a “crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal” and “an illegal Ponzi scheme."

                    Need I say more? I think not.

                    Jon Huntsman

                    Surprisingly, this guy – a Mormon, Eagle Scout and former governor of Utah who’s been described as a “center-right conservative" – isn’t that bad. For a Republican, that is.

                    Although he worked for St. Ronnie of Reagan in the White House and was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Singapore by Dubya’s daddy, George H.W. Bush, he’s said publicly, “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming,” and Barack Obama appointed him U.S. Ambassador to China, where he served from 2009 until earlier this year. He’s got a lock on the “cool factor,” joining REO Speedwagon on the piano for two songs during their concert at the Utah State Fair in September of 2005.

                    But he signed numerous bills restricting abortion as governor. He's a strong supporter of Israel and has made a number of trips to the “Holy Land.” And he’s a third cousin, once-removed, of the Mittster.

                    This is not a crop of presidential candidates of which I could be proud. In fact, I couldn’t vote for any of these stooges even if I plugged my nose and closed one eye.

                    Yes, I’m tough on Barack Obama. And yes, there are things about him that disturb me. But he’s no Republican – if I believed in God I would thank her for that – and fortunately or unfortunately, he’s getting my vote next year for that reason alone.

                    Sunday, October 23, 2011

                    Flamingos - I Only Have Eyes For You

                    Sunday poetry

                    When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer

                    When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
                    When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
                    When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
                          and measure them,
                    When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured
                          with much applause in the lecture-room,
                    How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
                    Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
                    In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
                    Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

                    ~ Walt Whitman

                    Friday, October 21, 2011

                    Thank you, God.

                    Pink Floyd - Money

                    I Hate It When I'm Right

                    On October 10, I wrote about how Grosse Point billionaire and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, who has a lock on U.S/Canadian bridge traffic, was spending $5 million on misleading, dishonest television ads to trick the public into opposing the construction of a second bridge. I predicted that in today’s political climate, in which money speaks louder than the voice of the people, Moroun would probably get his way.

                    I was right.

                    New International Trade Crossing (NITC) legislation was voted down in the Senate Economic Development Committee yesterday. And the legislation’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), is throwing in the towel. “I’m done with it at this point. It’s unfortunate. An opportunity was missed” to create 20,000 to 40,000 jobs,” Richardville told the Detroit Free Press. “But there are other things we should be talking about.”

                    Like making abortion super-duper illegal, Senator? Or prohibiting medical marijuana even though 63 percent of state voters approved it a few years ago? Or how about considering that pressing teacher/student sex issue that’s on everyone’s minds?

                    Matty Moroun
                    Even though the Ambassador Bridge – completed when Herbert Hoover was in the White House – is North America’s busiest border crossing, a new bridge is supported by Republican Governor Rick Snyder and all major business and labor groups, and Canada’s offered to front $550 million to pay Michigan's share of the project costs, state senators sided with the man who rakes in $60 million each year in toll revenues and doesn’t mind spending some of that cash on campaign donations.

                    Color me surprised.

                    A coalition of more than 100 business, labor, and civic organizations that support a second bridge issued the following statement yesterday:

                    “We are deeply disappointed in the Senate committee’s failure to move the New International Trade Crossing legislation to the full Senate for a vote. A majority of senators on the committee support the building of the NITC, they just have to craft a piece of legislation that everyone can agree to. We urge the governor and the legislature to continue to work to find a compromise that a majority of senators can support. We encourage the legislature to put partisan politics aside and put the economic interest of our state and our workers first.”

                    Put partisan politics aside? Yeah, that’ll happen.

                    As a friend who works for a state senator says, “He who has the most cash wins.”

                    Thursday, October 20, 2011

                    The Animals - House of the Rising Sun

                    More Dead in Ohio

                    There’s a petition circulating in Facebook today urging Ohio Governor John Kasich to permanently ban dangerous exotic animals. Apparently Ohio has some of the weakest exotic pet laws in the nation, which is why some idiot named Terry Thompson was able to stock his 73-acre Muskingum County Animal Farm near Zanesville, Ohio, with 56 lions, bears, monkeys, wolves and other animals – including 18 rare Bengal tigers – and set them loose before committing suicide.

                    Sheriff's deputies shot 48 animals.

                    I’m not a supporter of the whole Internet petition thing. Seems real lazy and ineffective to me. If I were an elected official or Grand Poobah of something, I sure wouldn’t be swayed by the fact that a bunch of people sacrificed seven seconds and eleven or twelve keystrokes in order to persuade me on an issue. Send me a letter, for Pete’s sake. At least you had to lick a stamp.

                    But I agree that keeping exotic, wild animals as pets in backyards and basements is wrong and ought to be illegal. It saddens me that whenever a human “owner” screws up, it’s most often the animal that pays. In this case, Thompson – who just got out of federal prison for illegal guns and had a history of animal cruelty and neglect – isn’t the only person with exotic animal blood on his hands. Politicians and state officials need to explain why Ohio is one of fewer than 10 states that have no rules regulating the sale and ownership of exotic animals.

                    And why weren’t the animals tranquilized instead of killed? According to one report, “Officers were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness.”

                    Or, as my friend John Mertz said, “Cops like to shoot things.”

                    Jack Hanna
                    Television personality Jack Hanna told ABC News that “there was no choice” but to kill 49 animals. “Otherwise, we would have had carnage.” Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, always struck me as kind of a buffoon; his latest prediction doesn’t change my perception.

                    I’m not convinced that scores of really cool wild animals had to be slaughtered yesterday. And we really didn’t need another example of how ill-served everyone and everything is by those who call the shots.

                    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

                    West Coast Revival - My Mind Is At Ease - 1977

                    Time to piss some more people off

                    It’s time for another bitchy blog post about the president.

                    I’ve been watching to see what President Obama says or doesn’t say about the Occupy Wall Street protests sweeping the landscape. I’m still a little miffed that he promised to “put on some comfortable shoes” and defend labor if it were attacked and then was a no-show when exactly that happened in Madison, Wisconsin. So I’ve been interested in his reaction to the anti-class warfare, anti-greed, anti-politics-as-usual rallies that have been drawing diverse crowds to the Big Apple and elsewhere for over a month now.

                    I haven’t heard anything.

                    A Facebook friend claimed that yes, indeed, Obama expressed his support for the protesters. Another told me the president would be a fool to align himself with the “hippies and anarchists” at Zuccotti Park. Still another advised me not to hold my breath since the POTUS and the Dems rely on the same campaign cash from Wall Street and corporate America that the GOP enjoys. And someone else told me, “The movement transcends any one politician, man. No one cares what the prez says because he’s part of the problem.”

                    But that’s what Barack Obama does best. He says things. Like when he said this:

                    “It is wrong that in the United States of America a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay higher tax rates than somebody pulling in $50 million.”

                    Or this:

                    “Anybody who says we can't change the tax code to correct that, anyone who has signed some pledge to protect every single tax loophole so long as they live, they should be called out.”

                    Or this:

                    “…we can have an argument about how much regulation we should have. We can have an argument if you want about health care; I think we did the right thing. But don’t pretend…that creating dirtier air and water for our kids and fewer people on healthcare and less accountability on Wall Street is a jobs plan. I think more teachers in the classroom is a jobs plan. More construction workers rebuilding our schools is a jobs plan. Tax cuts for small business owners and working families is a jobs plan. That’s the choice we face.”

                    Or this:

                    "I’m not the Democratic President or Republican President – I’m the President. And I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat – because we're all Americans and we are in this together. We don’t need a Republican jobs act, or a Democratic jobs act; we need a jobs act. We need to put people back to work right now."

                    The guy really knows how to burn a barn when he speaks. I’ll give him that.

                    I take exception to him speaking as if Democrats and Republicans are equal in their desire to see our country’s problems fixed and the 14 million who are unemployed put back to work – it’s clear that the GOP’s goal is to end the Obama presidency by any means necessary – but I know what he’s saying. The thing is, “everybody” means people on the left, too. It includes the thousands sleeping in tents by choice or necessity all over the country. It includes those camping out on Wall Street as well as those working there.

                    Now Obama defenders are using Facebook to promote a study that just found he’s a victim of “unrelentingly negative” media coverage. Yeah, that’s why progressives feel deflated and defeated: because Obama’s not treated fairly by Faux “News” et al. It has nothing to do with his extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest one percent, or reneging on more campaign promises than I can enumerate here, or pulling the plug on a long-term home care program included in his 2010 health care “reform” law, as was just announced. (The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports, or CLASS program, co-authored by the late Senator Ted Kennedy, was designed to give the disabled and elderly cash to receive care at home instead of usually more expensive institutional care.) It has nothing to do with him talking like a Democrat but acting like more of a Republican than some Republicans.

                    I receive fundraising e-mails from the POTUS, his campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Director Robby Mook almost daily. I hope someone’s responding to these pleas because I’m not.

                    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

                    Chicago - Saturday in the Park "Live" (1972)

                    Breathing easier because of me

                    I’m inspired by Dewey Bozella, 52, who spent 26 years in jail for a murder he didn’t commit.

                    He was offered a plea deal by prosecutors who believed he killed an old woman back in 1977 but he refused to say he did something he didn’t do so New York’s Sing Sing prison became his home in 1983. His conviction wasn’t overturned until October of 2009, when witnesses recanted.

                    Dewey Bozella courtesy
                    I can’t imagine the inner strength, the self-esteem, the unwavering awareness of right and wrong that Mr. Bozella must have. I’d probably admit to being on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, Texas, on the morning of November 22, 1963, if it meant I wouldn’t have to be locked up like a rabid animal.

                    Of course I’m inspired by Dr. King and Nelson Mandela and Robert F. Kennedy and Rosa Parks and Michael Jordan and the other icons about whom we learn in grade school. But I’m also inspired by Troy Davis and the West Memphis Three and the people I’ve seen and written about recently who stand on busy corners holding cardboard signs and asking for help because although they surely don’t want to, they believe they must.

                    I’m inspired by Jack Diehl, who taught me that love isn’t always about genetics, that it’s possible to care for another man’s children as our own, to invest in their happiness regardless of whether we were present at their birth. It’s what we do and don’t do once we’ve met that matters.

                    I don’t always like the people who inspire me. I didn’t know him but from what I’ve read, Charles Bukowski wasn’t a very likable fellow. Yet he turned ugliness into poetry and laid everything on the table, raw and real, for his readers to chew and consider and take or leave.

                    I didn’t particularly like a former boss, at least not at the end, but I always respected this person and was inspired by the wisdom that was shared and the example that was set.

                    There’s a cocky young punk I know who’s active in politics and has more talent, energy and connections than most people twice his age. I don’t like him – his decision to unfriend me in Facebook might have something to do with it – but I’m inspired by his “in your face” style and go-getter attitude.

                    I want to be strong and patient and empathetic and tolerant, not only for my family and friends but for my community, country, planet. I want to see beyond my lawn, my neighborhood, my needs. I want to care about other people even if I don’t know their names or whether they vote like I do. I want to make the most of every day, even if it’s by blogging about something I’d rather ignore or not becoming irritated when someone unfriends me in Facebook or cuts in front of me in line.

                    Ralph Waldo Emerson said it well:

                    “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

                    This inspires me, too: knowing that I have the power to make another human being breathe easier.

                    Not failure, but low aim, is the crime, right?

                    Monday, October 17, 2011

                    Not a sheep...

                    Stevie Wonder - Signed, Sealed, Delivered

                    It's a sign

                    On not one but two occasions yesterday we saw people holding up cardboard signs asking for money.

                    The first time was when we were exiting the Target parking lot. The woman’s sign read, “Anything helps."

                    The second time was when we were leaving an Apple Butter Festival at our local nature center. It may have been my imagination but the man really seemed to have a look of desperation in his eyes. His sign said, “My family’s hungry. Please.”

                    According to an article in yesterday’s Detroit Free Press:

                    • About 41,000 people statewide will likely lose cash assistance payments starting November 1.

                    • According to the state Department of Human Resources, 43 agencies – food banks and soup kitchens – have been cut from Emergency Services funding for the fiscal year that began October 1. Last fiscal year, they received a total of $1,261,659 in funding.

                    • William Long, interim executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan, said there has been an overall 30% decline in food help from major sources – federal, state and private.

                    Yet we cut taxes on rich people and businesses at the state and national levels while spending over a trillion on purposeless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and politicians beholden to Wall Street gather to make additional cuts to programs on which people rely.

                    I’ve been reading a lot of signs lately. There were some good ones at last Saturday’s Occupy Lansing rally, including “Out of a Job? Join the Occupation” and “I’m Here Because I Can’t Afford a Lobbyist” and “Stop Corp. Greed” and “People over Profits.”

                    Occupy Wall Street protesters have been photographed holding signs that say, “Screw Us and We Multiply,” “Lost My Job, Found an Occupation,” “America! Wake Up!,” “One Nation Under Greed,” “Up Against the Wall Street,” “It’s Class Warfare and We’re Losing” and one of my favorites: “Dear 1%, We Fell Asleep For a While. Just Woke Up. Sincerely, the 99%.”

                    You think it’s a drag to always read about the b*llsh*t going on in Lansing and Washington? Well, it’s a drag to always write about it too. But it’s also a drag to have to explain to my kids why we can’t drive around town on a sunny Sunday afternoon without seeing hungry and homeless and desperate human beings holding up signs and begging for help.

                    It sure would be cool if all these signs became as unnecessary as the wars we’re fighting and the games our politicians play.

                    Source: Detroit Free Press.

                    Sunday, October 16, 2011

                    This stuff doesn't write itself....

                    Hey, I think and I read and I research and I write and edit and proofread and rewrite. I google, I fact-check, I choose the best music and I post the perfect pictures. I ignore my kids and leave dirty dishes in the sink and the grass grows too long and the leaves cover the sidewalk - all because I'm trying my hardest to make "What's the Diehl?" one of your favorite blogs. The least you could do is click on the "Donate" button in the upper right-hand corner and express your appreciation for my commitment and diligence, don't ya think?

                    The Gap Band - You Dropped A Bomb On Me

                    Sunday poetry

                    The terrorist, he watches

                    The bomb will explode in the bar at twenty past one.
                    Now it's only sixteen minutes past.
                    Some will still have time to enter,
                    some to leave.

                    The terrorist's already on the other side.
                    That distance protects him from all harm
                    and, well, it's like the pictures:

                    A woman in a yellow jacket, she enters.
                    A man in dark glasses, he leaves.
                    Boys in jeans, they're talking.
                    Sixteen minutes past and four seconds.
                    The smaller one, he's lucky, mounts his scooter,
                    but that taller chap, he walks in.

                    Seventeen minutes and forty seconds.
                    A girl, she walks by, a green ribbon in her hair.
                    But that bus suddenly hides her.
                    Eighteen minutes past.
                    The girl's disappeared.
                    Was she stupid enough to go in, or wasn't she.
                    We shall see when they bring out the bodies.

                    Nineteen minutes past.
                    No one else appears to be going in.
                    On the other hand, a fat bald man leaves.
                    But seems to search his pockets and
                    at ten seconds to twenty past one
                    he returns to look for his wretched gloves.

                    It's twenty past one.
                    Time, how it drags.
                    Surely, it's now.
                    No, not quite.
                    Yes, now.
                    The bomb, it explodes.

                    ~ Wislawa Szymborska

                    Saturday, October 15, 2011

                    The Hollies - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

                    We Occupied Lansing But Skipped the T-Shirts

                    I took Bryant, Maya, Ben and Jerry to the Occupy Lansing rally today at the State Capitol Building. It was windy and gray and there weren’t as many people there as I had hoped – at first. The crowd soon swelled to hundreds, young and old, hippies and professionals, and everybody chanted and applauded and responded to the speakers as if they had stopped at Biggby’s Coffee beforehand and primed themselves with double cappuccinos and triple lattes because they knew they were a part of something big even if Faux News didn’t agree.

                    Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero was first, introduced by talk show host Tony Trupiano. Using index cards and a bullhorn, he fired up the crowd and introduced his elderly father as an example of those held in contempt by the Richest One Percent. Bryant and Maya clapped, more out of respect for the nice old man, I think, than from agreement with America’s Angry Mayor. He wasn’t at his best this morning but it could have been worse.

                    A young woman who had screamed herself hoarse at Occupy Wall Street for a week, had been arrested and molested, and had returned home more convinced than ever that this fight was right spoke next. Although she seemed like a professional activist who had carefully chosen her wool cap and ensemble, her words resonated with the crowd and her smile was contagious.

                    An activist from Rochester was up next. He read his lengthy speech about the evils of ALEC – the nefarious American Legislative Exchange Council, which works with conservative Republican legislators across America to screw the rest of us – word-for-word and plugged an anti-ALEC website.

                    A 37-year-old woman who had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis her whole life followed the anti-ALEC dude. She started out slow but found her stride and riled up the crowd with her story about struggling with insurance companies, depression and chronic pain. Her plug for medical marijuana was met with scattered applause, and when she decided to put the faulty bullhorn down and project her rage to the sympathetic crowd, I became her fan.

                    Although an odd-looking SUV with “Homeland Security Federal Protective Service” emblazoned on the side cruised slowly by as we were walking to the Capitol, there wasn’t much of a police presence. I counted just two police cars, and one of the coppers even smiled at my dogs.

                    The crowd was attentive and supportive. I didn’t see any bare feet, hackey sacks, skateboards or marijuana; although I did run across an older, clean-cut guy carrying a bongo drum, he didn’t play it. No one objected to my blocking their view as I stood in front of them to take a photo. Even though today’s event was all about “us vs. them,” I felt the same sense of community, of connectedness, that I felt back in February when I attended a worker rights rally with a few of my kids. We’re not alone. Other people are mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.

                    We left after the arthritic woman finished speaking because the kids were getting antsy and had “seen enough of history being made.” (On the way downtown, I had explained what Occupy Lansing was all about, why more than 1,000 rallies were taking place around the world, and how they were helping to make history by turning off their XBOX 360 and joining me.) It was time to switch our focus from class warfare to the gridiron rivalry between Michigan State University and the arrogant boys from the Big House in Ann Arbor.

                    I’m rooting for the Spartans. And I’m rooting for the 99 Percent.