Sunday, September 30, 2012

Old Smiles

Yuna - Live Your Life

Sunday poetry


Jesus comes back like he said he would: a stand-up kind of guy,
reticent to a fault but rock solid.  The shy type everyone likes
but no one thinks much about one way or the other,
until one evening, during a storm, tooling down I-15
in his beat-up vw bug, he passes one of those awful
two-car wrecks &, pulling to the shoulder, hops out,
strolls past the paramedics & cops, & before they can
think to stop him, kneels into all that shattered glass
by the gurneys & sheets &, with a few incomprehensible words
in a language nobody's spoken in two thousand years,
coaxes the dead back to life.  The little kid
gets back his severed leg, & all that blood on the road
disappears like a bottle of trick ink.  Then everyone starts
waking up.  Even the drunk in the Chevy, sober
for once & looking sheepish as hell.  Thank God, he thinks,
no one was hurt.  Outraged, the cops wrestle Jesus
to the mud, snap on the cuffs, & toss him in the back
of their squad car.  But when they're done helping
the two ladies and the kid to their feet & walk back,
the cuffs are on the dashboard & their black K-9 Lab retriever
is curled in the guy's lap, Jesus scratching the fellow
behind the ears - something no one's thought to do
since he was a pup.  Listen, you know as well as I
that none of this is true, just a story I made up
about the world we would like to have been born into,
the world where nothing that we love has to die.
But the Lab retriever I was thinking of was real:
our beloved Raymond, who's been gone now many years,
though I can still see his black tail twitching happily
in his sleep as he'd lie at the foot of our bed, the way he used to.

~ Steve Kowit

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Future

"Money" from Cabaret

The Truth Doesn't Matter to Matty

I really don’t know how Matty Moroun can sleep at night.

The 85-year-old Grosse Pointe billionaire and owner of the 7,500-foot-long Ambassador Bridge – the busiest international border crossing in North America – has been running disingenuous commercials ad nauseam to promote Proposal 6, a b*llsh*t ballot proposal that would amend the state constitution to require voter approval of any new bridge or tunnel from Michigan to Canada. 

The main problem with this proposal is that only the anti-tax, anti-expenditure, anti-progress cretins could turn out to vote – “no” is the default position for this group – and we'd never see another new bridge or tunnel anywhere.  A small, Tea Party-esque minority could be deciding policy questions for the majority.  The campaign with the best get-out-the-vote component could make important infrastructure decisions and not engineers, transportation experts or elected officials.  Some decisions shouldn’t be left to unqualified, emotional activists.   

I’ve written about Mr. Moroun before (Matty Moroun’s Miserable Machinations," June 4, 2011; Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire,” October 10, 2011; I Hate It When I’m Right,” October 21, 2011; Road to Redemption,” October 31, 2011; and Matty Moroun’s ‘Get Out of Jail Free’Card,” January 16, 2012).  It’s worth repeating, though, that the guy will apparently go to great lengths to protect his gravy train – the bridge is worth between $1.5 and $3 billion dollars – including inundating the airwaves with commercials that the Michigan Truth Squad, a project of the nonpartisan Center for Michigan, deems a “flagrant foul.”

An informative piece on Matty and this issue appeared in the Detroit Free Press last Sunday (“The Great Bridge Debate,” , September 23, 2012).  Surely the man who bought the state legislature and then watched Governor Rick Snyder bypass it and sign an agreement with Canada knows that ominous threats and incendiary rhetoric resonate with an unsophisticated electorate.  This is probably why his despicable commercials ask if we “want to pay more for gas?” and insist that “taxpayers will have to spend billions now and $100 million every year” and declare that “we don’t need it and we can’t afford it.”  (Visit this link and this one and this one if you must.)

Don’t need it?  More than 10,000 trucks and 4,000 cars cross the 83-year-old bridge each day, representing more than a quarter of all trade between the U.S. and Canada.  Traffic congestion and resulting air pollution are documented problems.  And the 6,000 new construction jobs and hundreds more to operate the new bridge are nothing to sneeze at either.

Can’t afford it?  The agreement signed by Snyder and Canadian Transport Minister Denis Lebel this past summer states that our Canadian friends will pay for Michigan’s share of the project (about $550 million) and will recoup that money from future tolls.  On the first page of the agreement, it says, “The Crossing Agreement provides a framework for a Crossing Authority established by Canada to design, construct, finance, operate and maintain a new International Crossing between Canada and Michigan…with funding approved by Canada, but with no funding by the Michigan Parties.  The Michigan Parties are not obligated to pay any of the costs of the new International Crossing.”  (Emphasis mine.)  According to the Freep, legal experts who reviewed the agreement are convinced that Michigan taxpayers won’t have to cough up a dime for this.  The truth doesn’t matter to Matty and his minions, however.

I wish it mattered to voters.  Sadly, an EPIC-MRA poll of likely voters conducted earlier this month found that 47 percent supported Proposal 6, 44 percent opposed it and nine percent were undecided.

Guess who’s helping Matty, by the way?  Americans for Prosperity, the far-right, multi-million dollar organization supported by the Koch Brothers which funds the Tea Party, opposes Obamacare, pooh-poohs climate change and engages in near-criminal behavior in order to achieve its goals.  In June of 2011, the group placed fake eviction notices on people's doors in Detroit's Delray neighborhood.  The organization's state director said they wanted to get people's attention and stir up opposition to a second bridge by claiming that their properties could be taken by the state to make way for the new project.

Matty Moroun
There's something wrong when someone with pockets as deep as Lake Superior can hide behind cleverly-named front groups like “The People Should Decide” and blatantly mislead voters with half-truths and distortions.  It’s disturbing that people can say whatever they want, that there’s no requirement that advertising be factual, that honesty is neither demanded nor expected by the listener or viewer.

Since 40 percent of our registered voters don’t even vote in presidential elections, it’s no wonder that campaigns like Moroun’s – which rely on an ignorant subset of eligible voters – ultimately succeed.  When the majority isn’t engaged in the process, that process is much easier to sully and stymie.

Maybe someday a majority of registered voters will turn out on Election Day and send a message to political consultants that deceptive commercials and bald-faced lies are unacceptable.  Of course, voters would have to become more discerning.

I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Moroun photo courtesy

Top Ambassador Bridge photo courtesy Larry Peplin/Grosse Pointe Today.

Sources: Detroit Free Press, EPIC-MRA, Center for Automotive Research, New York Times, Michigan Truth Squad, Michigan Radio.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Genesis - Mama

Sunday poetry


After we buried my mother, we drank beer
and told stories in the room where she'd died.
The hospital bed was gone and the portable
commode I'd helped her settle on, the love
seat tucked flush with the window again, long
sofa shoved against the wall like always, the same
sofa where she'd fall asleep watching baseball
while she waited for me to come home from
some high-school date, and once, when I wasn't
home by midnight, she threw a raincoat
over her flannel pajamas and drove around
until she found me mussed and unbuttoned behind
the Big Boy, sharing a bagged can of Colt 45
with the second-string quarterback. All the way
home and for an entire week, I was punished
by silence, a vast black void of disgust. The last time
I saw her, I wanted her to speak to me, to lock
the front door and turn off the last
light, to follow me upstairs, having made
the house safe for the night. But she didn't
know who I was.

~ Sarah Freligh

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Life lines

Maroon 5 - Payphone featuring Wiz Khalifa

Sunday poetry


Mother, I have been devastated all my life.  I never said anything.
That’s why I wear a parachute.  Why I tiptoed from my bedroom
to yours, and lay my head on the beige carpet for fear of worse.
Were there sirens?  There were.  Were there familiar songs?  Yes.
I am afraid of the beds I have been in.  In the morning there was
the heel of your boot sharper than before.  Mother, what do I do
with your mail?  Do you want to keep this snake in the basement?
What about the kitten?  Do you want all these photographs of other
people’s children?  The temperature in the lizard’s cage is dropping.
Let’s be realistic.  If I open the windows the birds will come in and
eat out the eyes.  Mother, I am bereft.  Mother, I wear your necklace
and nothing else.  Mother, I never.  Nevermind.  Let’s be fatalistic.
The neighbors know I’m down here.  I can hear them watching.
Mother, after they take your eyes I will sew the lids myself.

~Leigh Stein

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fast Friends

10,000 Maniacs - These Are Days

My Name is Pat and I'm Hate-y and Venom-y

I’ve been accused in recent days of being hate-y and venom-y.

Eleanor Roosevelt
This conservative, patronizing, passive/aggressive guy from Denver who requested my friendship in Facebook and then made it his mission in life, apparently, to refute every position I share while insulting me in the process felt it necessary to use Eleanor Roosevelt’s words against me (the ones about how great minds discuss ideas and average minds discuss events but small minds discuss people) and chastise me incessantly for being a venom-filled hater because I dare to post irreverent comments about certain right-wing politicians and uninformed, GOP-supporting celebrities.

Yes, I write about people. That’s because people inhabit my world. Congress is comprised of people and my blog readers and Facebook friends are people and my children – who deserve a better future than the one I fear they’re facing – are people and women who have the right to control their own bodies are people and even those who support Robotron Romney and think Obama is Kenyan are people (I assume). The 100,000+ Iraqi civilians who lost their lives as a result of our flawed foreign policy were people. The thousands of Israelis and Palestinians who’ve died since 1948 because of that conflict were people. Barack Obama is a person; no one seems to refrain from talking about him. And the 2,996 human beings who died on September 11 were people.

I watched “George W. Bush: the 9/11 Interview” on the National Geographic channel yesterday and found myself yelling frequently at our television and wondering out loud if it would be a stroke or a heart attack that would put me out of my misery. This is because nearly every utterance by our 43rd president struck me as arrogant, insincere or patently untrue. I wondered why National Geographic, which I’ve always assumed was a nonpartisan and credible operation, would air such a one-sided infomercial that seemed more like a Christmas present to Dubya than an objective depiction of the events that transpired on that world-changing day.

Indeed, Dubya came across as measured, strong and resolute. Viewers were treated to a depiction of the Buffoon in Chief as an overwhelmingly capable leader who was unexpectedly, even unfairly, thrust into his role as a “wartime president” (a term he used to describe himself more times than I could count) but rose to the challenge with wisdom and conviction. This is when I started to feel nauseous.

When he insisted that no one had any idea what was to come to pass, my mood deteriorated even further. I guess the daily brief that the Central Intelligence Agency prepared for him on August 6, 2001 – the one entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” that was given to him no less than 36 days before September 11 – slipped his mind.

When he assured us that the reason he stayed in the second-grade classroom in Sarasota, Florida for at least seven full minutes, a puzzled look on his face, after being told that the country was under attack instead of excusing himself and taking care o’ business was because he wanted to reassure everyone by being calm, cool and collected, I became downright angry. My understanding is that he earned the title of “Dawdler in Chief,” as a Washington Times writer called him, because he had no frikkin’ idea what to do and was waiting for someone, anyone, to give him a clue.

Later, flying over the smoldering Pentagon in Marine One on the way back to Washington after hanging out at Barksdale Air Force base near Shreveport, Louisiana and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, he recalled not that he felt sad for the families of those who lost their lives or felt an urgent need to ensure that justice was served for the victims of this tragedy. Rather, he thought about how he was now a wartime president and every decision he faced would need to be viewed within that context. What a selfless dude.

As I explained to my twelve-year-old, who was watching TV with me, I wanted to give Dubya the benefit of the doubt at the time. I wanted to give him slack because I knew there was no manual prescribing how he should behave, what decisions he should make and what reassuring phrases he should include in his public comments. But I remember the days and weeks after that tragedy, I told her, and I recall how he squandered the good feelings the world had for us and told Americans to just go shopping.

I remember his insistence that anybody who questioned his subsequent decisions was on the side of the terrorists. I remember him repeatedly promising to track down those responsible for 9/11 and bring them to justice – then disclosing on March 13, 2002 that he was “truly not that concerned about” Osama bin Laden. (Although I’m a little creeped out by the Democrats’ gleeful pride at having sent the mastermind of September 11 to his grave on May 2, 2011, it was the Obama Administration that eventually brought the evil-doer to justice, not the Bush Administration.)

So Dubya’s decision to portray himself to National Geographic as a confident chief executive who never wavered from doing what was best – to try to rewrite history and hide the fact that he took his marching orders from others that day and in the days that followed – made me so angry that I let my ice cream melt and my blood pressure rise.

At the risk of sounding like I’m full of hate and venom, I hate what Dubya did in my name in the weeks, months and years after September 11. I feel downright venomous about the fact that he lied about Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction in order to justify bombing Iraq – a country that had nothing to do with the attack on the Twin Towers. I hate that so many people are ignorant enough to believe that today’s politicians are all solely committed to representing the interests of the American people. And I hate how Republican politicians think they can say whatever they want and facts be damned. (Believe it or not, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said publicly on August 28, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”)

I also hate the fact that millions of Americans think the Fox network is a “fair and balanced,” legitimate news source. (My condescending connection from Colorado insists that Fox “leans to the right” and MSNBC “leans to the left” as if the two networks adhere to the same standards rather than Fox pulling crap out of its propaganda-spreading ass.)

I guess I am a hater.

I wish I could communicate with people who think differently than I do, who see the world in other ways, who can enlighten me and point out what I miss. But if maintaining a line of communication with people on the right means I have to accept their illogical premises, bald-faced lies and convoluted justifications, then call me hateful and small-minded until the cows come home. It won’t change the truth any more than a misleading program on NatGeo.

Ms. Roosevelt was wrong to disparage discussions about people. Most of us can relate more to other people than to policies, politics and history. As a wise political consultant/facilitator named Joel Bradshaw once told me, you need to go where the people are when plotting your strategies and crafting your messages.

I may be hate-y and venom-y but at least I’m not namby-pamby, mealy-mouthed or wishy-washy.

Sources: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Center for Research on Globalization, CBS News.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Room with a View

Brother Brother - Isley Brothers

Sunday poetry


Hurricanes, 2005

Arlene learned to dance backwards in heels that were too high. 
Bret prayed for a shaggy mustache made of mud and hair.
Cindy just couldn't keep her windy legs together.
Dennis never learned to swim.
Emily whispered her gusts into a thousand skins.
Franklin, farsighted and anxious, bumbled villages.
Gert spat her matronly name against a city’s flat face.
Harvey hurled a wailing child high.
Irene, the baby girl, threw pounding tantrums.
José liked the whip sound of slapping.
Lee just craved the whip.
Maria’s thunder skirts flew high when she danced.
Nate was mannered and practical. He stormed precisely.
Ophelia nibbled weirdly on the tips of depressions.
Philippe slept too late, flailing on a wronged ocean.
Rita was a vicious flirt. She woke Philippe with rumors.
Stan was born business, a gobbler of steel.
Tammy crooned country, getting the words all wrong.
Vince died before anyone could remember his name.
Wilma opened her maw wide, flashing rot.

None of them talked about Katrina.
She was their odd sister,
the blood dazzler.

~Patricia Smith

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman

Michelle in 2016!

"I want to elect a man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama."

~ Bill Clinton

Michelle Obama should be president.  Her speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention was nothing short of awesome. It was interesting. It was moving. It was compelling. It was delivered in such a way that I didn’t want her to stop talking and when I heard the obligatory “God bless you and god bless America,” I found myself genuinely disappointed.

And not just because every speech delivered by a public official these days ends with that claptrap.

I was disappointed because I wanted to hear more about Barack and Michelle Obama. I wanted to hear more lines like, “How hard you work matters more than how much you make…helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself” and “Being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are.”

I wanted to hear more about her parents: her strong, wise mother and her determined father who, even though he had Multiple Sclerosis and struggled some days just to get out of bed, hardly ever missed a day of work because he wanted Michelle and her brother, Craig, to be able to go to college. That, Michelle said, was what he thought it meant to be a man.

I wanted to hear more about how Michelle’s husband thinks that “when you’ve worked hard and done well and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you; you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

I was glad to be reminded of Barack’s special qualities: his charm, intellect and commitment to making this country better. Of course it’s no surprise that Michelle would support her man but she did it with such eloquence, intelligence and passion that I was convinced all over again. I had gotten so tangled up in the disappointments of his presidency – extending the Bush tax cuts, admitting to a “shellacking” by Republicans on national television, breaking his promise to quickly shut down the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, accelerating drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed scores of innocent civilians and failing to bring Operation Enduring Freedom, America’s longest-running war in Afghanistan, to a close – that I forgot what a good guy he is at his core, overlooked the degree to which he’s been thwarted by unscrupulous Republicans in Congress, and let the pride I once felt that he was POTUS weaken.

Watching one of the best speeches ever delivered during a political convention, I was brought back into the fold. If Barack Obama can find, snag and keep someone as amazing and credible and talented and strong as this woman, can create a seemingly loving, scandal-free family with her, can become this country’s chief executive with her at his side – not behind him, but right next to him – then there’s something about him worth keeping in the White House.

I admit that I did not watch Michelle’s Republican counterpart, Ann Romney, support her man in a speech in Tampa on August 28. Frankly I don’t understand how any thinking woman can support Robotron Romney, who promised to “get rid” of Planned Parenthood, supported a proposal to allow employers to deny health insurance coverage for any benefit (including birth control) based on a “moral” conviction, and is in favor of a “personhood” amendment stating that life begins at conception (which could ban birth control and in vitro fertilization). To me, a female voting for Mitt Romney is kind of like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders. It makes no sense. (Don’t believe the GOP is waging war on women? Visit this link.)

I prefer the man who, as Michelle pointed out on Tuesday, “believes that women are more capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care.” I prefer the man who believes women shouldn’t be paid less than men and supports giving aid to victims of domestic violence and even thinks more would get done in Washington if more women were in Congress.

I have no idea what it’s like to be an attorney from Chicago, or a Harvard alum, or a person of color, or Commander in Chief and Leader of the Free World. But I know what it’s like to be a parent. I can relate to Barack and Michelle on that level. Although 14-year-old Malia and 11-year-old Sasha have largely been kept out of the public eye, I’ve been impressed by how poised and happy and well-behaved they’ve seemed the few times I’ve seen them. (No photos of brats sticking out their tongues through limousine windows. Not yet anyway.) My kids are poised and happy and well-behaved too. It’s cool to think I have this in common with the Obamas.

And Barack and I both lucked out in the spouse department.

Sources: Detroit Free Press,,,

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Ray Charles & Elton John - Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Sunday poetry

I feel sorry

I feel sorry for the butterflies
When I turn off the light,
And for the bats
When I switch it on...
Can't I take a single step
without offending someone?

So many odd things happen
That I want to hold
My head in my hands,
But an anchor thrown from the sky
Pulls them down...

It's not time yet
To tear up the sails.
Let things be.

~ Marin Sorescu