Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Old Theater

Mister Magic - Grover Washington, Jr. (1974)

Can we just move on?!

I received an e-mail yesterday from Ilya, Robin, Mark, Victoria and the rest of the team asking me to call Levin, Stabenow and Rogers (yeah, right) and demand that they allow the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of the year without cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits.

The message confirms what I wrote on November 16 when I posted that there is no steep “fiscal cliff” over which we’ll go unless some drastic congressional action is taken in the next few weeks.

The message said, “[Congressional Republicans have] fabricated a story that, somehow, our economy will fall apart if they don't get what they want. It's not true, but negotiations are underway and a ‘deal’ could come together at any time.”

Turn on the network news and the nonexistent cliff is all the talking heads are talking about. And whenever Boehner, Cantor or another GOPer starts to dictate what’s on and off the table and warning about the dire consequences that will befall us all if taxes are raised on the rich – something that no one is proposing to do; we’re talking about letting existing cuts expire as scheduled – I ask myself the same question that proposes: didn’t the Democrats win earlier this month? Didn’t the Republicans receive a huge shellacking? Why are they still determining the parameters?

Speaking of GOP-related things I don’t understand, why has it taken so long for Republicans to disavow Grover Norquist, the founder of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) who for decades has been persuading state and federal officials to swear on their mothers’ graves that they’ll never raise a single tax as long as they live amen? (Heading into the 2012 elections, 279 lawmakers had signed the pledge according to ATR.)

For more on Norquist, see "Bathtubs and Rat Butts," November 18, 2011.

Only now are prominent conservatives – Christine Todd Whitman, Saxby Chambliss, Peter King and Lindsey Graham among them – breaking ranks and indicating a willingness, at long last, to tell the unelected conservative activist to shove his “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” where the sun doesn’t shine. As one Facebook pundit posted, “Anybody got a butter knife handy? Norquist is finally toast.”, which is trying to generate calls and letters to politicians in Washington, D.C., points out, “The truth is that nothing drastic will happen to our economy on January 1. The House can simply vote to extend tax cuts to 98 percent of Americans – as the Senate has already done. It's that easy.”

I’ve learned that when it comes to politics, nothing is easy.

By the way, read Andy Borowitz’ essay entitled, “Please stop talking about the fiscal cliff" in the December 3 issue of The New Yorker. It’s almost as amusing as the clowns in Congress.

Sources: The New Yorker,, Huffington Post,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rick's Bike

Lady - Kenny Rogers

With Apologies to Helen Milliken

Another really good person died recently.

Helen Milliken was 89 when she passed away on Friday, November 16. Mrs. Milliken, Michigan’s longest-serving First Lady, was married for 67 years to Bill Milliken, our state’s governor from 1969 to 1983.

I’m so sad for Governor Milliken.

Mrs. Milliken was much more than a deferential political spouse. She was a trailblazer and a strong, principled advocate for women’s issues – including the right to choose and the ill-fated Equal Rights Amendment - as well as environmental protection and the arts. She became Enemy Number One in some quarters after publicly decrying highway billboards as unsightly (but probably gained an equal number of admirers) and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1983.

As I write this, I can’t stop thinking about how unfair life is. Mrs. Milliken’s passing was covered by the Huffington Post, the Detroit Free Press, ABC News, the Traverse City Record-Eagle,, the Petoskey News, the Washington Post, Fox News, the Detroit News,, the Miami Herald, the Oakland Press, Michigan Radio and, among other outlets. Politicians paying tribute to her included Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman Sander Levin and former Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Have you heard or read about one-year-old Jumana Abu Asaifan or nine-year-old Tasneem Nahal? What about ten-month-old Hanin Tafesh, nine-year-old Fares Al-Basyouni or four-year-old Mahmoud Raed Sadallah?

Their premature deaths didn’t get anywhere near the same coverage.

I’d wager you don’t remember hearing about the death of Ranan Arafat, 7, Omar Misharawi, 11 months, or Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa, 13. Lots of twelve-year-olds were killed this year, including Maamun Muhammad Zuhdi a-Dam, Ayoub Amer Muhammad Asaliya, Zayed Juma Zayed Jaradat and Hamza Muhammad Zayed Jaradat. We also lost siblings Ranin (5), Jamal (7), Yousef (10) and Ibrahim (1) Mohammed Jamal Al-Dalou.

These Palestinian children were among 37 who died in 2012 alone. In fact, over 1,500 Palestinian kids have been killed since September of 2000. We don’t hear about them, though, because they have funny names and they don’t matter as much as prominent, well-off white people here at home.

The Palestinian youngsters died quickly due to gunfire, missiles and air strikes. They didn’t have a chance to exchange heartfelt words, sentences and paragraphs with loved ones like Mrs. Milliken, who died of ovarian cancer, probably did.

As a parent, I find that especially distressing.

You know what else is distressing? When I posted jarring images of some of these murdered children recently, more than one person insisted that the pictures were undoubtedly staged or photo-shopped because those underhanded Palestinians will do anything to garner public support for their cause.

You know, the cause of not having their sons and daughters shot and blown up.

Mrs. Milliken contributed a great deal to the quality of life in our Great Lake State and she indeed deserves thanks and praise. I join thousands of other Michigan residents in thanking and praising her for the gifts she gave us.

Some might even say she deserves better than to have to share blog space with unknown dead kids from 6,000 miles away.

Based on what I’ve heard about how classy and compassionate she was, I bet she wouldn’t mind.

Rest in peace, all of you.


Saturday, November 24, 2012


P!nk - Family Portrait

Sunday poetry


When you swim in the surf off Seal Rocks, and your family
Sits in the sand
Eating potato salad, and the undertow
Comes which takes you out away down
To loss of breath loss of play and the power of play
Holler, say
Help, help, help. Hello, they will say,
Come back here for some potato salad.

It is then that a seventeen-year-old cub
Cruising in a helicopter from Antigua,
A jackstraw expert speaking only Swedish
And remote from this area as a camel, says
Look down there, there is somebody drowning.
And it is you. You say, yes, yes,
And he throws you a line.
This is what is called the brotherhood of man.

~ Josephine Miles

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I Got Nothin'

No music or image today. I just don't feel like it.

Save the Children!

I want the kids to stop being killed.

This is what I think about the current crisis in Gaza. I've written before about how the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has too much sway over our foreign policy, how Israel shouldn't have gotten away with Rachel Corrie's murder, and how it’s wrong to encroach upon Palestinian land and restrict the movement of the Palestinian people. I also think it’s wrong to kill children and write their deaths off as collateral damage and I want it to stop.

Do you hear me, generals and ambassadors and ministers and experts? Just stop escalating the latest round of violence. More than 110 Palestinians (and three Israelis) have been killed since the sh*t hit the fan late last week. This statistic alone conveys how unjust and unbalanced the Israel/Palestine conflict has become.

My president’s approval of Israel’s aggression – three days ago he publicly announced his backing of Israel’s right to “defend itself” – reminds me of how disappointed I was in 2009 when the Nobel Committee gave him the Peace Prize for his efforts to “strengthen cooperation between peoples.” Obama also said that the escalating violence in the Middle East threatens the prospect for a lasting peace process.

Gee, Mr. President, ya think?

I don’t support bullies. And that’s what Israel has become: a big, dumb bully that’s too thick-headed and blinded by ideology to see that the world is against it. Everyone except, of course, my own country, which is kind of like Nancy in the film “Oliver” to Israel’s Bill Sikes – smart and beautiful but somewhat naïve and consumed by an unwavering love for someone who’s clearly not good for her or anyone else whose path he crosses. Nancy dies a violent death at Sikes’ hands toward the end of the movie; although the U.S. is nowhere near as vulnerable, it’s easy to see decay in the way we vote for our favorite contestant on “The Voice” but don’t lift a finger to protest the slaughter of scores of innocent Palestinian children.

By the way, if I hear one more supporter of Israel justify the deaths of these boys and girls by claiming that Palestinians use their own kids as human shields, I’ll go nuts. Even if that were true – and it’s not – people don’t need shields unless they’re trying to protect themselves from something. Stop pounding Palestine militarily, Israel, and children won't die in the streets like dogs.

Speaking of dogs, that’s what one Facebook friend likened Palestinians to during a recent online conversation about the violence in Gaza. He back-pedaled when challenged on this, thankfully, but I found this attempt to dehumanize an entire segment of the population interesting – especially coming from a Jew. One would think Jewish people would have a special sensitivity to persecution and dehumanization. (This is the same conversation during which I was labeled “anti-Semitic” because I dared say something less-than-glowing about the country that received more than $3 billion in foreign aid from American taxpayers in 2012.)

I don’t pretend to be a foreign policy expert and I acknowledge that this conflict is complex, wide-ranging and as old as Mitt Romney. I realize the Jewish people have rights to self-determination and safe cities (although not at the expense of the same rights of Palestinians). So I have a simplistic and perhaps naïve response to the latest round of fighting: just stop. Both sides need to just stop firing missiles, justifying murder and causing needless death. At this point it’s not about Hamas or Zionism or Bibi Netanyahu or a two-state solution. It’s about kids dying.

It doesn't even matter who fired the first missile or dropped the first bomb in this latest escapade. Perhaps Hamas bears responsibility for intentionally provoking Israel in order to garner public support. Maybe Israel is indeed defending itself and it just doesn't know its own strength. (Israel has top-of-the-line weapons and computer systems, is known for its advanced rocket and missile technology, and spent $16.2 billion on its armed forces in 2008 alone. Hamas has 300 fighters in the West Bank.) Both sides need to just stop dropping bombs and preparing for invasions.

Pound on negotiation tables and stick your tongues out at each other. Call each other names, spit in each other’s soup and walk on different sides of the street if you must. But stop dropping bombs on each other. Stop making a bad situation immeasurably worse.

As I write this, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on the way to the Middle East to advocate for an end to the violence - I wonder what Madam Secretary thinks about her own country’s drone attacks on Pakistan - and Egypt, which has been mediating talks, just announced that a ceasefire is expected soon. Israel hasn't confirmed this yet, though, and it’s surrounded Gaza with ground troops, insisting that “we’re ready” to fight like an overweight, pimply teenager who’s amped up on Red Bull and just itching to take a smaller kid’s lunch money. I sure hope the testosterone-fueled schoolyard bully turns around and walks away.

Update: No truce or ceasefire as of Wednesday morning. A bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv, injuring 10 and demolishing the vehicle; Hamas militants are suspected. Sh*t’s still going down.

Update II (1:58 p.m.):  Multiple outlets are reporting that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire that begins at 9:00 p.m. Cairo time (2:00 p.m. ET).  

Image courtesy of Oriental Review

Sources: Huffington Post, BBC World News,,, Council on Foreign Relations.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Love in India

Steve Earle - Rich Man's War

Sunday poetry

The semantics of flowers on Memorial Day

Historians will tell you my uncle
wouldn't have called it World War II
or the Great War plus One or Tombstone

over My Head. All of this language
came later. He and his buddies
knew it as get my ass outta here

or fucking trench foot and of course
sex please now. Petunias are an apology
for ignorance, my confidence

that saying high-density bombing
or chunks of brain in cold coffee
even suggests the athleticism

of his flinch or how casually
he picked the pieces out.
Geraniums symbolize the secrets

life kept from him, the wonder
of variable-speed drill and how
the sky would have changed had he lived

to shout it’s a girl. My hands
enter dirt easily, a premonition.
I sit back on my uncle’s stomach

exactly like I never did, he was
a picture to me, was my father
looking across a field at wheat

laying down to wind. For a while,
Tyrants’ War and War of World Freedom
and Anti-Nazi War skirmished

for linguistic domination. If
my uncle called it anything
but too many holes in too many bodies

no flower can say. I plant marigolds
because they came cheap and who knows
what the earth’s in the mood to eat.

~ Bob Hicok

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dearly Parted

The National Anthem - Whitney Houston

Rob Ellsworth's Amazing Essay

Rob Ellsworth, a Georgetown University graduate and former congressional staffer who co-founded the Majority Group, a bipartisan lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., posted the following amazing essay in Facebook shortly after the November 6 elections:

I'm seeing Americans post photos of our Flag hung upside down because the President won reelection. They're defending this action as a "Naval sign of distress". Let me tell you something: you are not on a battleship, you are a manager at McDonalds in Follansbee, WV, and you are in fact, a lunatic.

I've avoided "spiking the football" over a great night for the President and for common sense in the Senate - Richard Murdock and Todd Akin deserved more than a loss. But I've held off, because I respect, am friends with, and on certain issues agree with, many patriotic Republicans who work hard to make this country a better place and simply disagreed with who should be Commander in Chief. That's fair and healthy.

And, I also didn't spike the football because I've lost elections before and I know how terrible it feels.

It's called maturity and not enough people in either party have it.

The following jaw punch is not directed at common sense Republicans, nor does it condone radicals on the Left. It is directed at the right wing fanatics who put party before country, conspiracy before reality, and ideology before science and intellect.

To Tea Party Patriots and hardcore Religious Engineers:

Republicans lost because their party leadership and most candidates feared you, listened to you, and looked the other way on important issues as you picked the dumbest, craziest nominees in key primaries (Murdock and Akin), or converted otherwise sensible, experienced candidates to Crazy Town (Romney).

There's nothing wrong with wanting limited government. I do. There's nothing wrong with believing in God, the Golden Rule, or wanting to reduce abortions. I do, too. But you've taken it too damn far and scare the shit out of people you could otherwise persuade.

Yes, the message and messenger matter (you're failing at both, BTW), but no Madison Avenue P.R. firm, K Street lobbying firm, Fox News "analyst", or local chapter of "Freedom Works" can sell the flaming dung you're slinging.

Smart people can lose. But smart people always learn.

You didn't lose because you "weren't conservative enough" or because the country has become full of lazy "takers" who don't want to earn a living or just want America to "turn in to Europe".

You didn't lose because of Hurricane Sandy or because Chris Christie hugged the President on TV - they were both doing their jobs.

You didn't lose because of a liberal media, liberal college campuses, liberal polls that were "weighted to Democrats" (mostly because they were accurate), or because of "election fraud"... actually, that probably benefited you this time.

No. You lost because your policies, tone, conspiracies, rigid inflexibility and irrational rhetoric helped align enough moderates, swing voters, and minority groups whom otherwise could be persuaded by Republicans, to align with Democrats and a beatable incumbent.

It's not that you didn't get your message out, it's that we all actually heard it and threw up a little in our mouths.

There isn't a mandate for Democrats in this election. Liberalism wasn't rewarded in this election. However, calm pragmatism, compassion, working together, compromise and sincerity were rewarded. People may not have agreed with President Obama, but more felt he was sincere and that he understood their daily problems, fears, and dreams. If you don't trust what the polls say, take a look at who is sworn in on January 20th. I thought you'd at least believe in Math when it came to counting to 270.

Sincerity is the only thing in politics you can't fake. You can't teach it. No matter how shiny a candidate's bio is, how smooth he is, or how perfect the gray hairs rest on his temples --- any average Joe on the street can spot a bullshitter.

Mitt is a generous and good man, but he didn't know who he was or "needed" to be at any given time in that campaign. That's largely his fault for lacking core convictions or personal toughness (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush possessed both traits - that's why they won).

But you, the right wing base of the party, who drove so many of us moderate republicans out the door years ago, were the main catalyst. Your inability to reason, compromise, or let new facts and evidence challenge your predetermined outcomes led millions of moderates to no longer be able to stand on stage with you.

Frankly, you're embarrassing - more so than a crazy family member at dinner, or having your mom drop you off at a high school dance.

You say stupid shit and look stupid saying it.

You pass amendments to ban flag burning and then hang it upside down and post it on Facebook when you lose.

You preach limited government in the economy when Democrats are in charge and then look the other way when you're in charge.

You want a government small enough to stay out of corporations and banks but big enough for bedrooms and hospital respirators (see Schiavo, Terri).

There's a hatred inside of you that burns in a way that scares normal people.

You made unlikely allies in large corporations who are more interested in tax breaks and loopholes even if the government has to cut your Medicare and Social Security or cut education to a point where states and local governments have no financial choice but to educate your children in portable trailer classrooms with 35 other students.

Would these corporations do this just to help pad their quarterly earnings reports with certain tax and regulatory policies? You bet your sweet ass they do. And you better believe they're happy to have you make the "freedom" argument as "concerned citizen patriots" on their behalf.

Yet, after those corporations spent billions on TV adds and herded you like sheep over the last half decade to discredit Barack Obama for everything from being a "Godless communist" --- to his "being born in Kenya and hatching a secret plot to take down America" --- to Obamacare's "death panels and job killing regulations" -

YOU still lost.

After having a Senate Republican Leader state that his party's top priority in Congress was to make "Obama a one term President" and a House of Representatives that blocked everything he tried to do and then had the brass to criticize him for "not getting anything done" -

YOU still lost.

After attacking gay people who want equal protection under the law (BTW, I'm referring to the 14th amendment to the constitution, I know you forget most of the amendments after the 2nd one) -

YOU still lost.

After attacking the Hispanic community who's tired of being spoken "at" like criminals, attacking low income women who rely on Planned Parenthood for services of which 98% have nothing to do with abortion, and attacking relatively trivial things like PBS that children and adults enjoy as "1" damn television channel that doesn't include Honey Boo Boo or a "Fox News Breaking Alert" announcing Obama's latest "Czar" appointment -

YOU still lost.

The author with what's-his-name
And after throwing all the red meat in your warped political base out to the rest of the country to eat, the majority of Americans weren't hungry for it and didn't trust ordering from your unhealthy, de-regulated menu -

YOU still lost.

You can read me the constitution, but you clearly don't have a practical understanding of what you've read, heard on television, or forwarded to your entire email list of like minded xenophobes.

This country is great because our founders were smart enough to limit the government's power and give the people enough freedom and authority to correct their own mistakes in pursuit of a "more perfect union" (it's in the first damn line of the Preamble, in case you can't find it in your Tea Party Constitution Cliffs Notes).

Our founders were utterly brilliant and sophisticated. I don't like to speak for them, but I doubt they would have been friends with Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin. Nah, they wouldn't have made the guest list at Mt. Vernon or Monticello.

But let's be clear, our founders weren't perfect. They owned slaves. Only White male property owners had a say in things. Women, blacks, Native Americans, and other constituencies had to wait for an American dream and in many cases, are still waiting and working for it. Speaking of work, children were working 12-16 hour days with zero safety protections in statute. Zero.

The constitution, subsequent amendments and Supreme Court rulings and opinions since 1800 aren't perfectly clear (those who think they are tend to have had a healthy serving of Kool-Aid and have never watched oral arguments at the Supreme Court).

The founders knew that they, and the constitution they drafted, weren't perfect. This is why they added a Bill of Rights and why they created a Supreme Court and a process that has allowed us to add 27 amendments to their work of art.

Their imperfection is what led to a Civil War to prove that human and civil rights aren't a "states' rights issue" - they're endowed by our creator, not by legislatures in Mississippi or Alabama, and they're protected equally in our constitution, but also in our democratically passed laws.

I run from the Capitol steps to the Lincoln Memorial most mornings that I'm in Washington. I may not be fast or smart, but I can read what's carved in stone.

Please. I welcome a challenge to what I've said. If you think because I voted for President Obama that I'm a socialist or that I don't want a better America, I'm happy to take time from running a business I've co-founded and time from money I'm trying to raise for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to pause and give you a fresh one. At no charge.

But I do ask this: be a real Patriot. Look at that flag you've hung upside down. Look at what you've done to it and what that means. Thousands of our bravest men and women, braver than me, just lost limbs and in many cases their lives so that Iraqis and Afghanis could vote however they see fit. I did that on Tuesday and so did you. That's what that flag stands for - equal access to a process, not a guarantee for any of our desired outcomes.

A country that defeated Hitler, Mussolini, and bin Laden won't crumble because the guy you wanted to be President got beat.

You lost. Now learn from it.


A Proud American

Reprinted with permission.  All photos courtesy Rob Ellsworth.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Three Dog Night - Liar

Fiscal Cliff My Ass

This Cliff is more real

As people who are a lot smarter than I am have tried to point out in recent days, there is no steep “fiscal cliff” that we as a nation are about to go over unless some drastic action is taken in the next few weeks. This is made-up b*llsh*t designed by politicians who either want political cover for their own heinous plans (the Democrats) or want to hold everybody hostage until they get what they want (the Republicans).

The corporate “mainstream” media – which, as we all know by now, are worth about as much as a polluted swimming pool in Antarctica – are of course going along with the program, trying to instill fear into the hearts of Joe the Plumber and Jill the Soccer Mom by insisting the sky is falling and beating the drums for desperate measures in these oh-so-desperate times.  Meanwhile, Congress and the White House bicker for the television cameras about whether or not to slash anti-poverty programs, cut Social Security and Medicare, and extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest two percent, among other proposals.

In the last few days I've heard that the markets are unstable in anticipation of the looming crisis, President Obama is playing politics with the economy, the only way we’ll see an increase in revenue is if we “reform” the tax code and fast, negotiations are tense and all hell is about to break loose.

It’s no wonder people are tuning out the noise and focusing on holiday preparations. After the last several months of gutter politics, ugly TV commercials, lies, spin and accusations, I bet even the POTUS wants to down a couple of brewskis on a beach somewhere and forget about all this caustic crap.

I wrote about the debt ceiling and the deal that was struck in the summer of 2011 a lot (see here and here and here and here). I now want to point out to “What’s the Diehl?” readers that although things haven’t gotten much better – Texas’ threat to secede notwithstanding – all this talk about cliffs and crises is a bunch of malarkey. (H/T to the VP.)

I read an excellent op-ed by Richard Eskow of Campaign for America’s Future, a D.C.-based nonprofit center that seeks to advance a progressive agenda. (According to its website, AFS works “against privatization of Social Security, for investment in energy independence, good jobs and a sustainable economy, for an ethical and accountable Congress and for high quality public education.”) The essay, entitled, “The ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Is a Hoax...and a Mel Brooks Routine,” takes aim at both political parties and points out in easy-to-understand language why the whole fiscal cliff calamity is manufactured, more of a slope than a cliff, and entirely reversible through legislative action (an oxymoron if I ever saw one). The best part of Eskow’s piece is this:

Why would deficit talks include two ideas that won’t reduce the national debt, especially when “tax simplification” will undoubtedly increase that debt substantially? That’s an easy one: Because this phony “crisis” has nothing to do with deficits.

It’s all part of a long-range plan to scam the public into transferring even more of its wealth to the wealthiest among us: first by giving them lower tax rates, and then by cutting a program the public has already paid into. That way there’ll be less pressure to increases taxes on the wealthy later on. (They may also want to raid Social Security’s trust fund to pay for the deficits caused by their tax breaks.)

Interesting how some people are promising that the deficit will decrease significantly once the automatic, Draconian expenditure reductions kick in, while others are warning that it’ll actually balloon as a result of GOP plans to address the “crisis,” isn't it? Even the economists aren't united in their predictions.

Maybe we should ask Nate Silver what he thinks. I heard he’s pretty good with predictions.

P.S. Visit this link to watch Chris Hayes rant about the “fiscal cliff.”

Sources: Campaign for America’s Future,

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wuppertal, Germany

Lynyrd Skynyrd - On The Hunt

Oh, deer!

Today is a Big Day for many Michiganders.

Firearm season for deer hunting begins today and continues until the end of the month here in my state. Between 650,000 and 700,000 hunters are expected to abandon their spouses to join their buddies in the woods for the next two weeks, visions of dead Bambis dancing in their heads.

And thanks to pandering politicians and our powerful hunting lobby, some of these hunters will again be preteens. This is because Michigan’s cleverly-named “Hunter Heritage Act,” which took effect in September of 2011, made it legal for ten- and eleven-year-olds to hunt deer, bear and elk with firearms.

Call me silly but I just prefer if the people walking around with loaded guns are at least old enough to have pubic hair if not driver’s licenses.

Courtesy Kalamazoo Gazette
If you listen closely, you’ll probably be able to hear the beeps and whir of ATM machines as well as gunshots. This is because deer hunters spend an average of $800 each, making deer hunting a $500 million dollar industry here in the Great Lake State.

This year officials are concerned about an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD); the state Department of Natural Resources has received reports of 13,200 dead deer from the disease. (The actual number is probably much larger, according to an agency staffer.) The disease – which has been around since 2006 and has been reported in 30 counties, mainly in the southern Lower Peninsula – causes deer to suffer from high fevers and head toward water to seek relief, where they’re often found dead. Some hunters have reportedly decided to stay home this year because of EHD.

I ran across an interesting paragraph lifted from Bridge Magazine:

Fewer hunters mean less money for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to manage wildlife; less money to maintain forests, marshes and other areas where birds and mammals reside; less money for conservation officers who keep poachers in check; and less money for small businesses that count hunters among their best customers.

I’m sorry but there’s something wrong when government depends on the slaughter of animals in order to function. I realize overpopulation is an issue – there were over 61,000 reported deer-vehicle collisions in Michigan in 2008 – and I admit I’m a walking contradiction since I still eat meat (although I detest venison) but you’ll never find me taking my kids or anyone else out to shoot wild animals for sport and haul their bloody carcasses back to wherever hunters take the corpses of their kills to be photographed and processed.

My post last March about trophy hunting (“Ask the Animal if it’s a Game”), which received over 2,000 hits and generated more than a few comments (not all of them nice), included the following tribute to Anita’s psychotic ex-husband:

My partner’s ex-husband is a boastful hunter who felt it necessary to display the detached heads of dead animals in their living room against Anita’s wishes; the first thing I did after Anita and I began dating was to remove these despicable monuments to his warped sense of décor – this was the home of four young, animal-loving children in suburban Lansing, after all, not a testosterone-filled hunting lodge in the Wild, Wild West – and relegate them to Anita’s garage where they remained until he reclaimed them.

I post this paragraph again because I bet he’s among those who took the day off to drink alcohol and tote a rifle in some field or meadow this morning, hoping for the opportunity to send a bullet or two into the heart of a member of the family Cervidae and gaining another head for his grotesque gallery.

I wonder if humans can contract epizootic hemorrhagic disease.

P.S. I read yesterday that Yellow, a 20-year-old black bear that became famous because she could open supposedly bear-proof locked food canisters used by backpackers, was shot and killed on October 21 in the eastern Adirondacks by some piece-of-sh*t hunter. She had never threatened humans and would run away when confronted.

Sources:,,, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, New York Times.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Welcome Home

Papa Was A Rolling Stone - Temptations

The food sucks anyway

Now I have another reason to avoid McDonald’s like a cat avoids a bath.

A McDonald’s in Follansbee, West Virginia, decided to fly the American flag upside down – the international signal for distress – recently to protest President Obama’s victory on Election Day. (The franchise owner later tried to blame everything on an equipment malfunction but methinks she became concerned about the bottom line.)

McDonald’s is in dire need of assistance because its food tastes like sh*t, not because the POTUS won another term fair and square.

Want to know why I’m not doing Applebee’s, Red Lobster, Papa John’s or Olive Garden anymore either? Each of these businesses – and a few others – has also publicly lamented Obama’s re-election and/or threatened to lay off workers, discontinue hiring or only employ part-timers in order to get around providing health insurance for its employees. (Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses of 50 people or more must provide a health care option for their employees by 2014.)

As a former member of their ranks, I feel sorry for restaurant employees who are caught between a rock and a hard place. Many of them don’t qualify for Medicaid because they make too much but can’t afford private insurance because they make too little.

I’m also avoiding these places because much of their food is tasteless and laden with sodium, fat and sugar, but mainly it's because these guys have decided to throw their paper hats into the political arena where they don’t belong and align themselves with one segment of the population over another.

I will miss the spicy buffalo wings at Applebee’s. Damn you to hell, Applebee’s!

I’m no business expert but it seems to me that one is more likely to enjoy a healthy bottom line if one appeals to as many consumers as possible. Why these establishments want to risk alienating the 62,085,892 Americans who voted last week to keep Barack Obama in the White House is a mystery to me.

There’s something to be said for standing behind your principals and lying in the bed you've made because you believe you must. But are these restaurant owners really such diehard Romney supporters that they feel obligated to thumb their noses at paying customers who thought the dude who rescued us from economic collapse, killed bin Laden and provided health care for millions of uninsured Americans was the better choice?

A meme making the rounds in Facebook takes pizza magnate John Schnatter, aka “Papa John,” to task for his greed and short-sightedness:

John Schnatter (“Papa John”) lives in a 40,000-square-foot castle with a 22-car garage, private golf course and private lake with a drawbridge. Immediately after the election, he said the Affordable Care Act will increase his business costs and possibly result in employees’ hours being cut...because he can’t afford an additional 14 cents per pizza to cover employee health care costs.

A boycott is clearly in order here.

I’m not the best boycotter because a) I’m not good at keeping track of all the unscrupulous or right-wing businesses I’m supposed to be boycotting for one reason or another, and b) I've been known to temporarily lift a particular boycott if a craving becomes overwhelming or a suitable alternative is unattainable. But I’m not the worst, either, so businesses which disrespect the duly elected President of the United States just might have to get by without my money or that of my large group of family and friends.

I don’t remember any businesses protesting the theft of the presidency back in 2000 or flying their flags at half-staff after Dubya finagled another term in 2004.

I was prepared to remain in the United States even if Romney had won a week ago. (I wouldn't have been the happiest guy in my neighborhood but I wouldn't have thrown a temper tantrum.) I intended to stay here and raise my family, pay taxes and abide by our laws regardless of the election results. It never occurred to me to turn my flag upside down or make my workforce pay for my political views (my “workforce” is quite small but you get my point) in the event that my candidate didn't pull it out.

Is Obama really that bad, or are these businesses just trying to make him a scapegoat for a changing marketplace and/or their own greed and incompetence?

It’s interesting that some of the same folks who questioned Obama’s allegiance to this country are now revealing a lack of it themselves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Kitten

John Mayer - Daughters

Glücklicher Geburtstag, Tochter!

Nikita is officially a teenager today.

Our relationship is challenging. Not only are the normal hormonal causes at play here – the way she goes from normal to exasperated in three seconds, gets irritated if I breath the same air that she’s breathing, and finds me to be the dumbest, most disgusting creature ever to walk the face of the earth – but the “You’re not my real dad” thing frequently rears its ugly head. She’s at that age where she’s an obnoxious little kid one minute and a woman the next. And I've made some Tier One mistakes that guarantee I’ll enjoy even less respect and affection from her than the average 13-year-old shows her mother’s man.

It’s unfortunate that these variables conspire to make our time together less than comfortable these days because she’s really a unique, amazing, compelling girl. She’s more self-aware and self-assured at 13 than I was at 30. Her intellect and self-discipline are noteworthy and rare in someone who’s not supposed to be finished developing yet. She knows things that I don’t know and is interested in things that I don’t even understand and is confident and precocious but not off-puttingly so.

It seems like just yesterday that she held my hand on the way into Meijer’s; now I can’t even get her to step outside with me if the house is on fire. She used to ask me my opinion and tell me hers; now she won’t even respond to my text messages. When I first came on the scene, she’d compete with her siblings for my time and attention; now I’m an intruder who’s barely tolerated even when I’m on my best behavior – which, if truth be told, is certainly not always, in the context of our connection.

We are connected. We both love her mother. She likes how I can drive a car and use an ATM machine. She knows I respect her academic prowess and would jump in front of a bus to save her life. There are times when she forgets we have issues and laughs and jokes with me like she used to. But we both know she‘s moving away, as she should and must, which isn't going to change for quite some time. Now it’s a figurative thing but it’ll be literal in the blink of an eye.

My first wife and I split up when our oldest daughter, Amelia, was just five, so I have no experience with 13-year-old girls. I’m trying to do the right thing – now – but it really is hard. It’s hard to be my best when Nikita’s at her worst. I want to make the most of this opportunity but too often patience takes a back seat to frustration. I know I don’t convey to her how important she is, to me and to the world. Whenever I ruminate on this, I always pledge to rectify it but when it comes to Nikita, my best intentions often remain just that.

Maybe when she sees how cool I think she is, when she realizes that I’m more than my loud voice and bad temper, we’ll get along better. Maybe we’ll forgive and forget and start anew. Maybe the times when I listened to her practice her French Horn and drove her to swim practice will trump the times when I succumbed to impulse and raised my voice. Maybe she’ll believe me when I tell her I’m proud of her and still enjoy being around her and wish I had been just like her when I was her age.

Most importantly, I hope she has a fantastic celebration of her 4,748th day on Planet Earth. I’m so glad she’s here, on the same continent that I’m on, the same city, the same house. Our challenges notwithstanding, I wouldn't have it any other way.


A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent,
holding earth and sky together with her shadow.
She sleeps upstairs like mystery in a story,
blowing leaves down the stairs, then cold air, then warm.
We who at sixty should know everything, know nothing.
We become dull and disoriented by uncertain weather.
We kneel, palms together, before this blossoming altar.

~ James P. Lenfestey