Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's been a while...



It's been a while since I last asked "What's the Diehl?" readers to express their appreciation for this blog's contents by making financial gifts. (My last appeal was way back on March 7.) Since I'm still trying my best to provide thought-provoking and stimulating content - albeit slightly less frequently than before - and since a household income reduction is looming for us, I'm asking again.

Please click on the "Donate" button on the right and prove that just 'cause some things are free doesn't mean they're not worth supporting. If your contribution is large enough, I'll even post your most flattering photo and write nice things about you for people across the globe to read.


Is this a lot of mouths to feed or what?

Peace Stones

Dirty - Hit Da Floe

Sunday poetry



Dirty Face

Where did you get such a dirty face,
My darling dirty-faced child?

I got it from crawling along in the dirt
And biting two buttons off Jeremy’s shirt.
I got it from chewing the roots of a rose
And digging for clams in the yard with my nose.
I got it from peeking into a dark cave
And painting myself like a Navajo brave.
I got it from playing with coal in the bin
And signing my name in cement with my chin.
I got if from rolling around on the rug
And giving the horrible dog a big hug.
I got it from finding a lost silver mine
And eating sweet blackberries right off the vine.
I got it from ice cream and wrestling and tears
And from having more fun than you’ve had in years.

~ Shel Silverstein

Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's been a while...


It's been a while since I last asked "What's the Diehl?" readers to express their appreciation for this blog's contents by making financial gifts. (My last appeal was way back on March 7.) Since I'm still trying my best to provide thought-provoking and stimulating content - albeit slightly less frequently than before - and since a household income reduction is looming for us, I'm asking again.

Please click on the "Donate" button on the right and prove that just 'cause some things are free doesn't mean they're not worth supporting. If your contribution is large enough, I'll even post your most flattering photo and write nice things about you for people across the globe to read.

Is this a lot of mouths to feed or what?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jailed Pussy

You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine - Lou Rawls

Color Me Outraged



There’s an outrageous photo circulating in Facebook of a beat-up Dodge Caravan with “If it’s not white, it’s not right – NOBAMA” prominently featured on the rear window, directly above a sticker of a Confederate flag. Is it some arrogant cowboy in Texas? A toothless redneck in the Deep South, perhaps? No, people. The license plate reads, “Wisconsin.”

Racism can still be found everywhere, apparently. I’ve never been a victim, probably because I’m in the demographic more commonly associated with the persecutors than the persecuted. Although my partner is technically a woman of color (her parents emigrated from India in 1968), I’ve only witnessed a few cold stares while out with her in public and they might have been directed at me. I’ve never heard a negative comment or witnessed anything covert while in her presence. She says, however, that she’s been overlooked and looked down upon at appliance stores and car dealerships and has been asked where she “came from” more times than she can count.

I’ve been around people of color more times than I can count, thanks in part to my progressive mother who taught me that it’s what’s inside that matters – the content of one’s character, if you will – and that you can’t judge a book by its cover. In fact, I can recall only one awkward moment with a person of color in five decades on Planet Earth: I commuted from metro Detroit to Lansing for a few weeks back in 1983 with former Detroit Lion Rudy Redmond, a black man, who took offense at my ignorant but innocent question about whether or not black people could get sunburned. (I moved to Lansing shortly thereafter.)

Nelson Mandela
I’ve worked with and for people of color, shared food, drink and beds with people of color, trusted and shared secrets with people of color, laughed and cried with people of color, and fought and made up with people of color. One friend, a black guy named Aten, protected me from harm when I had too much to drink at a jazz festival in Kalamazoo to take care of myself. (Aten is the guy who informed me that Elvis was racist and soured me on the King’s music forever.) In June of 1990, Aten and I traveled to the old Tiger Stadium on Trumbell and Michigan in Corktown to attend a sold-out rally for Nelson Mandela, who was touring the U.S. after being released from a South African prison. I was among the 49,000 people who celebrated the end of the anti-apartheid activist’s 27-year jail stint and enjoyed musical tributes by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Frankie Beverly. I didn’t feel like an interloper; I felt like I was a small part of what was surely an important historical event. (Here’s a guy who truly deserved the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded a few years later.)

Motown is my favorite music; I’ve met Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves, the late Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops, Junior Walker, Dionne Warwick and the Queen of Soul herself. I used to pray back when I believed in God for the chance to meet Marvin Gaye, Lou Rawls and Michael Jackson. My favorite live concerts were Whitney Houston’s, George Benson’s, Macy Gray’s, Patti LaBelle’s and an amazing 1988 Anita Baker/Luther Vandross show at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena. (I liked Lil Bow Wow’s 2002 concert too but that was because I took my firstborn, Amelia.)

I share all of this not to come off as Donald “I Have a Good Relationship with ‘The Blacks’” Trump but rather to make the case that I really don’t understand racism. I don’t understand why Rosa Parks – whose hand I once shook – had to sit in the back of a bus and why police dogs and fire hoses were unleashed on black people in Birmingham, Alabama and why people of color couldn’t use the same toilets or drinking fountains as palefaces like me. I don’t get why the color of Barack Obama’s skin inspires such hatred and animosity throughout the country – not just in our remote regions and backwater towns – and why it was such a big deal when young Jacob Philadelphia of Columbia, Maryland touched the president’s hair back in 2009. (See White House photographer Pete Souza’s photo above.)

I don’t get why one in every 15 black men is incarcerated in the United States (compared to one in every 106 white guys) and why although people of color comprise just 30 percent of this country’s population, they account for 60 percent of those we’ve imprisoned. I don’t understand why non-white students get in more trouble in school than white kids or why 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on past felony convictions, which disproportionately affects men of color. (See “The 10 Most Disturbing Facts about Racial Inequality in the U.S. Criminal Justice System," March 17, 2012.)

Is it fear? If it is, that makes no sense to me. I’m afraid of cancer, nuts with guns, corrupt politicians, rich, greedy, powerful white men and something bad happening to those I love, not people who have more melanin in their skin than I do.

I’m afraid of living in a country where black men are beaten, urinated on, chained to pickup trucks and dragged on asphalt roads, conscious, for three miles until they die.

I’m afraid of living in a world where it’s okay to shoot hoodie-wearing, Skittles-carrying teenagers if they’re black.

I don’t know what I’d do if I actually encountered a vehicle plastered with blatantly racist stickers and slogans. I know I should respect the guy’s right to freedom of speech but I don’t think I could keep my big mouth shut.  It was Dr. King who said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”


Mandela photo courtesy Detroit News.

Source: alternet.org.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Avenue of the Baobabs

Whitney Houston - I'm Every Woman

Sunday poetry


What Do Women Want?

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it 
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess 
what’s underneath. I want to walk down
 the street past Thrifty’s and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their cafĂ©, past the Guerra brothers 
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I’m the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I’ll pull that garment 
from its hanger like I’m choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I’ll wear it like bones, like skin,
it’ll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

~Kim Addonizio

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chums

Steve Miller Band - Fly Like An Eagle

Hacks, Planes and System Transformation


Driving home from work last night, I listened to a story on NPR that was more than a little disconcerting, especially for someone like me who’s not crazy about flying in machines that contain six million parts and 171 miles of wiring and have wings that weigh 95,000 pounds each. The report, entitled “Could the new air traffic control system be hacked?,” was about how easy it is, apparently, to hack into a new, billion-dollar air traffic control system that’s being phased in over the next eight years.

The future?
The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), which relies on GPS instead of radar, is supposed to make it possible for air traffic controllers and pilots to pack more planes, helicopters and drones into our skies. (Makes me think of the crowded skies of The Fifth Element, the 1997 sci-fi movie with Willis and Jovovich.)

That’s just what we need, isn’t it? More planes and drones.

Our current radar-based system is slow, inaccurate and overwhelmed, the report said, with radar ground systems that require lots of space and are expensive to maintain. By 2020, planes will all be equipped with GPS and will be required to use NextGen’s new automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) system to enter crowded American airspace.

It turns out that ADS-B signals look like computer code. But, the story says, “unlike traffic on the Internet, these signals are unencrypted and unauthenticated.” This means computer nerds who know their way around a CPU can penetrate the system and create fake “ghost planes” in the sky, confusing air traffic controllers and causing more than a little chaos.

Believe it or not, one computer geek, a guy named Brad “RenderMan” Haines, gave a talk at a conference in Las Vegas in which he explained exactly how to do this – complete with a slide presentation. You know, I’ve been to lots of conferences and the most interesting thing I can remember viewing is a registration table collapsing and spilling name tags all over the nondescript carpet.

Collision course with history?
Hackers aren’t the only ones talking about NextGen. Last year, some Air Force bigwig who studies cyberwarfare said this system may put us "on a collision course with history." Not sure what that means but it sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

It makes sense in this day and age to make the conversion from a ground-based to a satellite-based system, although I don’t understand how putting more aircraft into the air will save fuel and reduce gridlock, as proponents claim. (The Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates and oversees all aspects of civil aviation in this country, estimates that NextGen will reduce aviation fuel consumption by 1.4 billion gallons by 2018. Also, in-flight movies will be better, flight attendants will be more attractive and less irritable, and select overhead compartments on domestic flights will contain free jewels and lottery tickets.)

When NextGen’s vulnerabilities first came to light, the FAA released a one-paragraph statement that said in part: "An FAA ADS-B security action plan identified and mitigated risks and monitors the progress of corrective action. These risks are security sensitive and are not publicly available." Why government bureaucrats are always accused of using doublespeak and gobbledygook is beyond me.

To my consternation, I wasn’t able to Google a definitive answer to the question, “Who’s paying for NextGen?” before my bedtime last night but if airline passenger taxes and congressional appropriations are part of the mix, and I assume they are, then the answer is “We are.” It’s therefore particularly irksome that public safety is evidently not a Tier One concern of those who’re calling the billion-dollar shots here. (It’s not like the idea of undertaking a massive transformation of our nation’s air traffic control system just popped up a few months ago.)

The NPR story concluded by pointing out that people want the FAA “to be more transparent about how it's testing a multibillion-dollar system the public will soon rely on to keep it safe in the air.”

I’m taking the train.


Sources: National Public Radio, Boeing, Federal Aviation Administration.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

International Relations

Rebecca Ferguson - Nothing's Real But Love

Sunday poetry


When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled 
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

~ William Butler Yeats

Saturday, August 11, 2012

World of Many Colors

Christina Aguilera - Dirrty

Next up: leash laws for unicorns


Does anybody give a rat’s behind that the GOP is clawing for power by any means necessary, the latest being by passing unnecessary, unjustified laws to prevent people from exercising their Constitutional right to vote?

Unnecessary and unjustified. That’s what today’s Republicans are all about. They invaded Iraq in March of 2003 and have spent upwards of $805 billion – and caused the deaths of 4,488 Americans and at least 117,953 Iraqi civilians – for no reason other than to fatten the wallets of Dick Cheney and the other greedy, dishonest, rich old white guys who profit from war. They’re waging war on the middle class and destroying the economy so that those damn Obamas get sent back to Chi-town and rich white folks repossess the White House. Today’s Republicans are all about doing whatever they want regardless of need, consequence, illegality or immorality.

As Jon Stewart brilliantly conveyed (see video clip below) a few days ago on the only real news show on television, voter fraud is a bigger problem than ringworm but not as big as Bieber fever. In fact, in the last decade there have only been 340 cases of voter fraud in all of America – which, as Stewart calculated, represents a whopping 0.7 cases per state per year.

Holy crap!

No wonder we urgently need to make it harder for minorities and other non-Romney voters to actually cast ballots. Let’s purge voter rolls. Let’s require photo identification like they do in the Keystone State, ban early voting like they’re doing in the Buckeye State and insist that voters confirm our U.S. citizenship like they just did here in my beloved Great Lake State. That’s what conservatives Republicans are all about.

I refuse to use the word “conservative” to describe today’s Republicans because there’s nothing conservative about regulating female genitalia, running up massive deficits, increasing the size and scope of government, trashing the environment, forcing Christianity down our throats, expanding oil drilling in sensitive areas, robbing from the poor to give to the rich, outlawing some love because it’s sacrilegious, voting 19 times to increase the debt ceiling by $4 trillion during Dubya’s presidency, mandating that fetuses and corporations enjoy the same rights as people, giving the richest one percent of Americans almost $750 billion in tax cuts over the last decade, spying on law-abiding Americans or executing the innocent and the mentally challenged.

Teddy Roosevelt was a conservative. Frederick Douglass was a conservative. Warren Burger, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Booker T. Washington were conservatives. It’s not only wrong but downright offensive to include them on the same list as Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh – five of the most corrosive, divisive, derisive, destructive personalities in the history of American politics – as one pro-conservative website does.

An excellent article entitled, “Voter ID Laws: The Greatest Election-Stealing Conspiracy in US History” reveals a “widespread and pernicious phenomenon occurring in many critical swing states – one that, unless checked, could erase Obama's electoral edge.” The author points to “efforts by Republican governors and Republican-controlled state legislatures to pass restrictive new voting rules just in time for Election Day. As a result, at least 5 million Americans could essentially lose their right to vote, according to the non-partisan Brennan Center in New York.” (Notice the many attempts to marginalize the messenger in the comments section that follows the article. By any means necessary...)

Josef Stalin
Anything to corrupt the system and amass more power and wealth, right, fellas? If you can’t win the war of ideas – and we all know how bereft of ideas and solutions today’s Party of No is – then rig the process, dispute the hanging chads, preprogram the electronic voting machines, tie things up in court and pass laws making it more difficult, if not impossible, for traditional Democratic constituencies to be heard on Election Day.

Today’s GOP has clearly embraced the wisdom of beloved statesman and humanitarian Josef Stalin, who said, “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.”





Sources: Commondreams.org, costofwar.com, blackstarnews.com, boycottliberalism.com, thinkprogress.org, thenation.com, iraqbodycount.org, The Daily Show, antiwar.com.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Light

Peter Gabriel - I Grieve

Thanks for the perspective, Carol


I needed some perspective after the day I had last Friday.

I had a pretty awful day at work – more awful than usual, I should say – which culminated in my boss and me determining the last day of my employment. Now I have a tight window in which to find a new gig and no time in which to do it. I’m actually glad that I can now see a light at the end of the tunnel but I’m disappointed that I’m back in the hunt again so soon. I need the stress that’s been added to Anita’s and my life to dissipate sooner rather than later.

South Heaven, Michigan
So Anita, the kids and I headed to “South Heaven” (as my nine-year-old calls South Haven, Michigan) the next day and frolicked in the warm, wavy waters of Lake Michigan with Carol Misseldine, a former boss and one of my best friends, whom I hadn’t seen in years because she lives in Northern California now. She was back in Michigan to visit family and friends and fortunately we made the list.

I didn’t think I was lucky enough to enjoy the kind of friendships that you hear about – the ones where the friends can go for years without seeing each other and then are so comfortable upon being reunited that it seems they were never separated – but I learned Saturday that I am. There were no pregnant pauses or uncomfortable silences. Carol made me laugh with just a facial expression the way she always could. I was genuinely excited on the way to see her, genuinely happy when I finally did – I could feel it – and genuinely sad when it was time to depart.

Lake Michigan
Her friendly, gracious family joined us on a sandbar in the lake for some Monkey in the Middle; there were 12 of us, adults and kids, laughing and jumping and diving for Frisbees and tennis balls – Carol and her relatives Mary, Robert, Dennis, Holly and Jim, and Anita, Bryant, Maya, Devina, Nikita and yours truly. Anita, who doesn’t smile a lot, did so like an only child on Christmas morning which was good to see. Our kids were their usual charming, poised, well-behaved selves. At one point I actually thought to myself, “It doesn’t get much better than this.”

Charles and Carol
At the end of the day it felt like we hadn’t had enough time, hadn’t talked or laughed or gossiped enough. I didn’t get to hear enough about her professional pursuits, which now involve protecting animals and saving the world. I didn’t ask for her advice like I needed to – she remains one of the wisest, most supportive and perceptive people I’ve ever known – and we didn’t spend enough time discussing the worst thing ever: her beloved husband, Charles, dropped dead just 15 months ago, the victim of a previously-unknown heart condition. I wanted to commend her for being so resolute, to offer my sympathies yet again, to comfort her and say something that would enlighten and serve her like she so often did for me. Instead, we didn’t discuss it much. I didn’t know how.

I did make one wince-worthy mistake. We were all sitting on the hot sand at one point, with Carol 36 inches away from me, when I answered someone’s question by saying, “Yes, and it’s good to be alive.” These are not the words I should use when sitting next to a strong but nonetheless hurting widow, I immediately thought, so I clumsily added, “Not to be insensitive or anything” which probably made things worse. Hopefully this faux pas wasn’t damaging or remembered. No one slapped me or burst into tears.

See, you never get over the death of a loved one, Carol and Anita agreed at lunch. (Anita adored her father and misses him as much today as she did when he died of bladder cancer five years ago.) You learn to live with the loss and the pain, they agreed, and to focus on the good. In fact, Carol told us, if you’re lucky you have so much love and support to receive from friends and loved ones who are there for you that your heart actually has to expand, to get larger to absorb it all.

Carol’s heart and brain are so large.

On Saturday it felt like I was a lot farther from my office-for-a-few-more-weeks in northeast Lansing than the 120 or so miles on the map. And it was good to be close again to Carol, who lives 2,335 miles away. It’s all about perspective.

Pat and Carol 15 years ago

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gabby Gets The Gold

Three Dog Night - Old Fashioned Love Song

Sunday poetry



An Old Story


A few days after my mother died
the furnace went out, and my father,
who had been sitting in his chair
across from hers since the funeral,


his unshaven chin on his chest,
heaved himself up and went down
the cold gray cellar stairs to see if
he could relight the pilot himself


or would have to call for help.
I know what it must have been like
because I remember him other times
on his back down there, cursing


match after match, god damning
each for burning his fingers, as he
reached through the tiny metal door
as many times as it took. This time


it lit, caught, and roared back to life.
When my father sat up he faced
the washer, the dryer, the empty
laundry basket, the ironing board,


and my mother’s radio above the sink,
her absence so vivid that climbing
the stairs he thought he heard her
behind him, and he turned around.


~ Richard Hoffman