Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Girl

Woman Is The Nigger Of The World - John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Some Men Suck

“Stop trying to teach women how to not get raped, and start teaching men not to rape.”

~ mocaccino

Sometimes I really hate men.

Like, for example, when six of them take turns brutally raping and beating a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in New Delhi. (The young woman, who was attacked on December 16, died of organ failure and massive internal injuries last Saturday and the six were charged with murder.)

People are demanding that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh take action and blaming the Indian government for a tin-eared initial reaction that included banning all anti-rape protests. Millions of angry Indians across the country have demanded better protection of women from sexual violence; a rape is reported there every 20 minutes.

Incredulously, the chief of police in Thane, a city near Mumbai, proposed after the attack that females avoid sexual assault by not going out at night or by throwing chili powder at would-be rapists.

India clearly has work to do on the “educate the cavemen” front.

But so does my country. According to the U.S. Justice Department, a woman is raped every two minutes in America. An average of 207,754 females age 12 and older are victims of rape and sexual assault each year – enough to fill New York’s Yankee Stadium more than four times.

I won’t even go into the War on Women being waged in Lansing and Washington, D.C.

I have four daughters, a wife, a mother and female friends, siblings, cousins, neighbors and ex-wives so I have a vested interest in seeing sexual assault eradicated. But the thing is: even if I didn't know a single female – if I had no friends or family and lived like a hermit on the top of a mountain somewhere and only saw women on television – I'd still embrace the notion that no guy should touch a female anywhere, at any time, without her explicit permission/cooperation (and of course never if the female can’t consent). I know I’m not unique or alone in thinking this way – so I can’t understand how any man or culture can justify, minimize, explain or excuse such barbarianism.

I’ve heard more times than I can count that rape is about power and not sex. But from where I sit, those who give in to their most animalistic impulses are the least powerful. They’re weak, sad, sorry, shameful, embarrassing, twisted, savage little wimps who give all of us with penises a bad name. The truly powerful are those who behave with class, empathy, maturity, self-control and respect for the rights of others regardless of gender.

Several years ago I went to the movies with a platonic female friend named Melanie. The reason I remember this particular experience is because as we were walking to my car in the dark, almost-deserted parking lot after the film, Melanie seemed uncomfortable and was walking closer to me than usual, especially when we heard the laughter of males we didn't know and couldn't see. When we were safe in the locked car, I asked her if something was wrong and she answered, “This is just how I am walking around at night.” I said I didn't understand and she went on, “You’re a guy so you don’t need to worry about it, but I always have to pay close attention to every person, noise, bush, tree and corner in the vicinity. Being aware of everything about my surroundings is the best way to avoid being raped or worse.”

And that’s when I first learned how different it is to be a woman – and to be vulnerable at all times not because you’re small or weak or inebriated or distracted, but just because you’re a woman. I’ve never forgotten the lesson and I’ve tried to teach my daughters that, sadly, they too must add an element of vigilance to their every move.

This is not to say that men and boys are never the victims of crime – but I bet we worry about it a lot less.

Bertrand Russell, the late British philosopher and Nobel Prize winner, once said, “Respect for the liberty of others is not a natural impulse in most men.” I like to think that we’ve evolved in the years since his death in 1970. Too bad there’s a grieving family in New Delhi that can prove me quite wrong.

Sources:;;; Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), New York Times.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter Water

Nancy Wilson - What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Sunday poetry

New Year’s Day

The rain this morning falls
on the last of the snow

and will wash it away. I can smell
the grass again, and the torn leaves

being eased down into the mud.
The few loves I’ve been allowed

to keep are still sleeping
on the West Coast. Here in Virginia

I walk across the fields with only
a few young cows for company.

Big-boned and shy,
they are like girls I remember

from junior high, who never
spoke, who kept their heads

lowered and their arms crossed against
their new breasts. Those girls

are nearly forty now. Like me,
they must sometimes stand

at a window late at night, looking out
on a silent backyard, at one

rusting lawn chair and the sheer walls
of other people’s houses.

They must lie down some afternoons
and cry hard for whoever used

to make them happiest,
and wonder how their lives

have carried them
this far without ever once

explaining anything. I don’t know
why I’m walking out here

with my coat darkening
and my boots sinking in, coming up

with a mild sucking sound
I like to hear. I don’t care

where those girls are now.
Whatever they’ve made of it

they can have. Today I want
to resolve nothing.

I only want to walk
a little longer in the cold

blessing of the rain,
and lift my face to it.

~ Kim Addonizio

Friday, December 28, 2012


P!nk - Just Like A Pill

"The Pills Made Me Do It"

"The public is being misinformed about the precision of these selective serotonin uptake inhibitors..."

~ Candace B. Pert, Research Professor, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington

Shortly after the Newtown massacre on December 14, a Facebook friend, Darin Raney, posted the following:

If I had a billion dollars, I would bet every dime of it that the elementary school shooter was taking an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor).

I posed the following question in response:

You think SSRIs enable people to point Glocks at five-year-olds and pull the trigger?

I expected Darin to backpedal and reference the usual litany of causes of violence - like poverty, poor parenting, video games, Hollywood, etc. - but he stuck to his guns, so to speak:

I KNOW. 14,000 suicides and homicides per YEAR are linked to SSRIs. Every single mass shooting in this country since 1989 has had an SSRI involved. It’s a $68 billion/year industry.

At this point I asked if he knew of any links I could visit to learn more and he posted several within 30 seconds, including this one. Click on this and you’ll find a comprehensive list of instances in which Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Cymbalta, Celexa, Wellbutrin, Strattera, Chantix and other drugs were linked to murder and violence.

You’ll also see headlines like "Prozac At Higher Doses May Cause Destabilized Behavior: Molecular Brain Journal," "12-Year-Old Kills His Grandparents," "15-Year-Old Girl Kills 6-Year-Old Brother," "O.J. Simpson on Double Dose of Prozac at Time of Murders," and "12-Year-Old Kills Self: On Both Antidepressants & ADHD Med." And you’ll learn that the “SSRI Defense” is an actual legal strategy that’s been used several times. (And hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against drug manufacturers seeking compensation for harm attributed to SSRIs.)

An article at another link, written after the Aurora tragedy, points out that at least fourteen recent school shootings were committed by people taking or withdrawing from psychiatric drugs:

1. Huntsville, Alabama, February 5, 2010: 15-year-old Hammad Memon shot and killed another Discover Middle School student, Todd Brown. Memon had a history for being treated for ADHD and depression. He was taking the antidepressant Zoloft and "other drugs for the conditions."

2. Kauhajoki, Finland, September 23, 2008: 22-year-old culinary student Matti Saari shot and killed nine students and a teacher and wounded another student before killing himself. Saari was taking an SSRI and a benzodiazapine.

3. Dekalb, Illinois, February 14, 2008: 27-year-old Steven Kazmierczak shot and killed five people and wounded 21 others before killing himself in a Northern Illinois University auditorium. According to his girlfriend, he had recently been taking Prozac, Xanax and Ambien. Toxicology results showed that he still had trace amount of Xanax in his system.

4. Jokela, Finland, November 7, 2007: 18-year-old Finnish gunman Pekka-Eric Auvinen had been taking antidepressants before he killed eight people and wounded a dozen more at Jokela High School in southern Finland, then committed suicide.

5. Cleveland, Ohio, October 10, 2007: 14-year-old Asa Coon stormed through his school with a gun in each hand, shooting and wounding four before taking his own life. Court records show Coon had been placed on the antidepressant Trazodone.

6. Red Lake, Minnesota, March 2005: 16-year-old Jeff Weise, on Prozac, shot and killed his grandparents, then went to his school on the Red Lake Indian Reservation where he shot dead seven students and a teacher, and wounded seven before killing himself.

7. Greenbush, New York, February 2004: 16-year-old Jon Romano strolled into his high school in east Greenbush and opened fire with a shotgun. Special education teacher Michael Bennett was hit in the leg. Romano had been taking "medication for depression."

8. Wahluke, Washington, April 10, 2001: Sixteen-year-old Cory Baadsgaard took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates and a teacher hostage. He had been taking the antidepressant Effexor.

9. El Cajon, California, March 22, 2001: 18-year-old Jason Hoffman, on the antidepressants Celexa and Effexor, opened fire on his classmates, wounding three students and two teachers at Granite Hills High School.

10. Williamsport, Pennsylvania, March 7, 2001: 14-year-old Elizabeth Bush was taking the antidepressant Prozac when she shot at fellow students, wounding one.

11. Conyers, Georgia, May 20, 1999: 15-year-old T.J. Solomon was being treated with the stimulant Ritalin when he opened fire on and wounded six of his classmates.

12. Columbine, Colorado, April 20, 1999: 18-year-old Eric Harris and his accomplice, Dylan Klebold, killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 26 others before killing themselves. Harris was on the antidepressant Luvox. Klebold’s medical records remain sealed.

13. Notus, Idaho, April 16, 1999: 15-year-old Shawn Cooper fired two shotgun rounds in his school, narrowly missing students. He was taking a prescribed SSRI antidepressant and Ritalin.

14. Springfield, Oregon, May 21, 1998: 15-year-old Kip Kinkel murdered his parents and then proceeded to school where he opened fire on students in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 25. Kinkel had been taking the antidepressant Prozac.

Still another link discusses “inappropriate prescribing” and claims that "all too often, Americans are taking medications that may not work or may be inappropriate for their mental health problems."

Years ago I was prescribed Strattera and Adderall for ADHD, and I still take 300 milligrams of Wellbutrin every day to combat depression. Although I've never felt the urge to force my way into an elementary school and murder 20 first-graders, I can’t deny the overwhelming evidence that there’s a direct link between SSRIs and murder, suicide and violence.

Did we need another reason to distrust Big Pharma?

Sources:, American Psychological Association,, International Coalition for Drug Awareness.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Backyard of St. Nick

Vince Guaraldi Trio - Christmas Time Is Here

My Letter to Santa

Dear Rotund, Out-of-Shape, Bearded, Jolly Dude Who Poses for Photos With Unrelated Children in Malls Around the World Each Holiday Season, Breaks Into Millions of Private Residences Via Chimneys Each December 24 and Spends an Inordinate Amount of Time in Frigid Temperatures With A Bunch of Crafty, Gaily-Dressed Little People and Nine Flying Reindeer:

I want wars to end and enemies to become friends.

I want the have-nots to be given more and the haves to be happy with what they've got.

I want six-year-old boys and girls to be safe in their classrooms and for no mother or father to have to choose a casket for their child.

I want cancers and diseases to be things of the past and for drug companies to put people before profit for a change.

I want politicians to start representing the little guys and for the big guys to find out how it feels to be belittled and ignored.

I want to see my parents more often.

I want it to be illegal for anyone to lie on television unless it’s for a dramatic role and for news networks to report actual news and let viewers decide what it means.

I want religion to be a source of comfort, not a justification for prejudice, judgment, greed, ignorance and murder.

I want it to be as easy to lose weight as it is to gain it.

I want everyone who drives a car to give a fellow motorist the right of way at least once a day.

I want corporations to be required to make business decisions that lead to healthy communities as well as healthy bottom lines.

I want people's sex lives to be their own business.

I want people to stop vilifying the messenger when they don’t like the message and for people like King, Gandhi, Lennon and RFK to stop getting shot.

I want a personal jetpack like we were promised back in the 1950s.

I want females to feel safe wherever they go and for males to know that “no” means “no.”

I want there to be fewer guns and more hospitals, parks, food kitchens and community centers.

I want girls to be able to walk to school without having acid thrown in their faces and to be able to congregate at bus stops without getting shot in the head.

I want there to be more money for schools and libraries and less for prisons and the Pentagon.

I want freedom to come with obligations and tolerance to be more than just the capacity to endure pain.

I want a sense of community to trump a sense of entitlement.

I want Donald Trump, Pat Robertson, Honey Boo Boo, Mitch McConnell, Mike Huckabee, Eric Cantor, Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter, John Boehner, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Fred Phelps, Geraldo Rivera, Roger Ailes, Matt Drudge, Orly Taitz, Sarah Palin, David and Charles Koch and John Stossel to relocate to an uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific within the next 60 days where they can do to each other what they’ve done to this country.

I want Anita to be happy.

I want Walmart, McDonalds and Starbucks to make sizable cash donations to local charities whenever they build a new outlet/franchise.

I want my kids to realize how lucky they are and to devote a percentage of their time to making others feel lucky too.

I want public transportation, alternative energy and urban renewal to be promoted and pursued, not tabled and ridiculed.

I want to reconcile with my oldest child.

I want crime rates to decrease and good deeds to increase.

I want the lonely to have company, the hungry to have food, the sick to have medicine and the sad to be comforted.

I want Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, Janis Joplin, Aaliyah, Marvin Gaye, Freddie Mercury, Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Selena and Karen Carpenter to come back to life and resume their music careers.

I want The Learning Channel to find some self-respect and stop airing crap.

I want a Lexus IS 250C.

These are my Christmas wishes in no particular order. If you’re willing and able to grant these, I’ll do everything within my power to convince people that you, unlike Gandalf, God, Holly Golightly and Little Orphan Annie, are real.

Thanks for your consideration.

Pat Diehl

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Darling Devina in the Fall

Stevie Wonder - We Can Work It Out

Sunday poetry

Spring Maneuvers

If one of these helicopters tried to put down in my yard,
the branches of my many maples would splinter the blades
into arpeggios or fluffy obbligatos and angle the copter

over so marines or other fatigued figures would spill
out of the square doors, eggs plopping out of seaturtles,
beads of caviar out of roe, peas out of pods, extrusions

out of extruders, sheep pills out of bleak arrangements,
and so forth: caught gangling in the branches or dipped
over to the ground by branches or dropped flawed on the

permafrost (winter still on track here) these fatiguées
might recover and come after me with rifles bored black
(are these guardians mostly ours?) and I would hide behind

the marble bench and flail them rotten with dead elm limbs
when they crept by, or I would jump back and forth behind
the elm trunk, marble bench, and brush heap and, making

flubbery sounds, attract them over, when I would bonk their
heads or astonish them with a gig in the crotch:
thump, thump, thump, thump the whirliwords are all over

the place today, jarring brook bottoms, but I don't care:
when copters capsize in my high elmwork and leak
fatigued blood, I'm going to have little trenches, a million

light-years deep, grilled across my yard, each trench sloppy with
nits, jumpies, wigglies, and slick stickies that dissolve
brogans and reveal meatless anklebone: whatever

there is to be afraid of, I'm afraid of nothing:
I'm as prepared as I'll ever be, perfectly, and
anything tried around here today is not likely to work out.

~ A.R. Ammons, from the Summer/Autumn 2012 issue of
Chicago Review

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Near Peshawar

Burton Cummings - Guns Guns Guns

Shoot! So Far Nothing's Changed!"

Courtesy John Doherty

"In response to the NRA's suggestion that 'the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun:' Can't wait for the NRA's new anti-rape campaign where everyone gets a penis." ~ Erin Gloria Ryan

I didn’t catch the now-infamous National Rifle Association (NRA) press conference live yesterday, but the many derogatory posts that clogged my Facebook news feed later in the afternoon spurred me to google the video and transcript.

I was genuinely surprised.


Because after the indescribable tragedy a week ago inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut – when 20-year-old deranged prick Adam Lanza pointed his Bushmaster AR-15 at the heads of 20 terrified little first-graders and pulled the trigger – I expected that even the most fervent pro-gun zealots would see the need to modify their combative, over-the-top tactics. And when the pro-gun lobby remained wonderfully silent in the initial days after the evil of December 14, I thought it might have actually seen the light and done just that.

Sadly, I was wrong.

Instead of tempering its rabidly pro-gun, anti-Obama message and trying something new, it doubled down at a "press conference" yesterday and insisted that more guns in our schools is the answer to the problem of guns in our schools.

Before NRA president Dave Keene introduced Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre (who, as I've written before, is lucky that he’s probably packing heat at all times because I’d really like to rearrange the guy’s face), he declared glibly that no one from his organization would be taking any questions until next week because this was just the beginning of “important dialogue.” Then Insane Dwayne took the stage and, let’s just say “eroded.”

LaPierre intoned somberly that violent crime was increasing again for the first time in 19 years because of a “declined willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals.” He revealed the dirty little truth that "the media try their best to conceal" – that there “exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people” – and took a heavy-handed swipe at “vicious, violent video games” like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, Splatterhouse and Kindergarten Killers (and slammed edgy movies like "American Psycho" and "Natural Born Killers” for good measure).

To be honest, I was a bit concerned about the possible link between video games and real life violence – my 11-year-old spends a fair amount of time in his room playing Call of Duty on his Xbox and Grand Theft Auto on his iPhone – until I heard some expert from academia on the car radio yesterday assure us that any link between the two is weak at best.

We could lock Gandhi in a room and force him to play Call of Duty for three days, the professor said, and he’s not going to come out and shoot up a school full of six- and seven-year-olds. A person who’s been diagnosed with a mental illness and has anger management issues and a history of violent behavior, on the other hand, would make the professor nervous. There are many factors that contribute to someone’s decision to slaughter innocent people. Although Lanza was known to play violent video games in his basement for hours, his fondness for Dynasty Warriors and Call of Duty isn't why he massacred 27 human beings, including his own gun-loving mother.

So now I’m convinced that just because my sweet, sensitive, loving son likes to blow the heads off of charging zombies and spray automatic gunfire indiscriminately throughout airports occupied by foreign soldiers when he gets off the school bus instead of doing his homework, that doesn't mean he’s a bad seed.

Other pearls from Insane Wayne:

* "A child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18."

* "Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away."

* "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Unsurprisingly, LaPierre also slammed the POTUS, pointing out that “this president zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year's budget, and scrapped ‘Secure Our Schools’ policing grants in next year's budget.”

Yeah, Wayne, Barack Obama deserves more blame for Newtown than the NRA.

Insane Wayne also asked why we can’t afford to put an armed cop in every school in this country (after all, the federal budget is big and we do give money to other countries) and wondered when the word “gun” became a bad word?

Oh, I don’t know, Wayne. Maybe it was when people learned that the homicide rate by firearms is 200 percent higher in the United States than in Canada and several hundred percent higher than in other “advanced” countries like England, France and Japan that have stronger gun control laws. Maybe it was when enough people heard that four people are killed by firearms every hour in America. It might have been as recently as yesterday morning when it was reported that shooting deaths in the U.S. just since Sandy Hook have topped 100.

When LaPierre called on Congress to “act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school...,” I was so irked that I slammed my left hand on the coffee table and broke a nail.

Why is this guy authorized to call on Congress anyway? NRA membership is no more than four million. Last time I checked there were 311,591,917 men, women and children in the United States. The calls of the thousands of families who have lost loved ones to gun violence ought to trump the calls of one sleazy, immoral lobbyist and his knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, poorly-endowed constituency.

(I couldn't find a definitive number of annual gun deaths in the U.S. One source asserted that over 32,000 deaths are caused by firearms each year; another claimed an average of just 10,987 deaths are related to guns. In this country, anything over 10 is an abomination if you ask me.)

I was amused by the fact that the “press conference” was interrupted not once but twice by loud protesters. The first guy loudly claimed that the NRA had “blood on its hands.” After the second protester, a woman who demanded that assault weapons be banned now, was forcibly removed, LaPierre was asked, “What's your reaction to this?” Shockingly, he ignored the question.

Insane Wayne also announced that the NRA was launching a "National School Shield" training program – to be headed by former congressman, Drug Enforcement Agency administrator and all-around dweeb Asa Hutchinson (R-Arkansas) – to help schools train security personnel and develop security plans. I've been around long enough to know that the person with the checkbook determines the content of any endeavor. If this “National School Shield” doesn't have a pro-gun slant, I’ll eat my hat and yours.

I’m afraid nothing will change in my lifetime. Although I’m encouraged by small victories – including the defeat of an NRA-backed amendment in Congress yesterday that would have prevented military commanders from counseling soldiers with mental health issues about the risks of firearms in the home – I can’t stop focusing on how rich white men hold press conferences in our nation’s capital to justify little girls and boys getting gunned down in their elementary school classrooms.

This blog post is dedicated to the memory of:

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel Davino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Dawn Hocksprung, 47
Madeline Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Lauren Russeau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto, 27
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6

For further reading:

The Most Revolting Press Conference in History

Gun Control Fights Won’t Solve the Real Issue

The Ten Craziest Quotes from the NRA Press Conference

What Are the Odds of Gun Control Changes?

Shootings Costing U.S. $174 Billion Show Burden of Gun Violence

Don't Trust the Research Saying Video Games Cause Real-World Aggression

Guns in America, a Statistical Look

The solution to gun violence is clear

Sources: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Census Bureau.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Earth, Wind and Fire - September

Remember All the Children, Mr. President

Courtesy Associated Press

Remember the 20 children who died in Newtown, Connecticut.

Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.

Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.

Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.

Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.

Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.

Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.

Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.

These tragedies must end.

Written by Bill Quigley. Reposted with permission.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

k.d. lang - Crying @ MTV Unplugged

Sunday poetry

The Day Innocence Died

It is my right to bear arms they say
And no one has the right to take that away.
I need my gun to protect me and mine
Is what they further opine.
Besides, guns do not kill – people do,
Is the point that some even argue.
On and on they went,
To keep their guns was their intent.
Little did they know,
Just how soon children’s blood would flow.
Until on that fateful day
When one young man who had gone astray
Burst into the school with guns drawn
And one by one shot innocence down.
When it was over many had died
And throughout that night many loved ones cried
Why, oh why did he do this?
Did he not know our children we would miss?
No one knew what was in the shooter’s head
because after it was over he too was dead.
It will be a long time before all the tears are dried
That were cried on the day that innocence died.

~ Verona Elliott
  Freeport, Bahamas

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mom and Bryant

Anoushka Shankar - Your Eyes

When Will It Stop?

Courtesy Reuters/Michelle McLoughlin

New morning routine: 1) Pack lunches 2) Make sure homework is in backpacks 3) Pray sick person with a beef & access to firearms stays home.

~ Cassie St. Onge, on Twitter

Within hours of politicians in Michigan voting in the wee hours of the morning to abolish local gun boards and allow concealed weapons in formerly gun-free zones (e.g. bars, hospitals, schools, churches and day care centers), the news broke that 20 children and six adults were slaughtered by a heavily-armed lunatic at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut this morning. (Details are still emerging as I write this.)

Twenty children. All five to ten years old.

A source told me Governor Snyder intended to sign the bill into law before Newtown happened; whether he changes his mind or proceeds with the marching orders he received from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) remains to be seen.

I’m lucky enough to have four young, beautiful, amazing children – each with a charming, unique personality, specific likes and dislikes, and incredible potential to achieve goals and make the world better. I resent having to add “Getting shot in the head in the classroom” to the list of things I worry about each and every morning when they step off the front porch into unprotected reality.

Courtesy Shannon Hicks/The Newton Bee
I feel so bad for the parents and families of the victims in Connecticut. Their lives must be as horrific and their hearts as broken as mine would surely be. And I feel sorry for the victims, too, who were robbed of so many years and who must have been so surprised and afraid in their final seconds.

Some of the parents probably already purchased Christmas presents to place under the tree for their young sons and daughters to excitedly unwrap just ten days from now. How many of those little girls and boys already sat on Santa’s lap at the mall and shyly shared their hopes? How many stockings will remain untouched? How many toys and books will stay hidden on shelves in closets until someone musters the strength to take them out and give them away?

Aren't swayed by emotion? How about some statistics?
  • There have been 31 school shootings since Columbine in 1999.
  • The majority of Americans – including police chiefs, gun owners, NRA members, swing state voters and high school students – support common sense gun laws to reduce gun violence.
  • 94% of police chiefs favor requiring a criminal background check for all handgun sales.
  • 82% of police chiefs favor requiring a background check for all rifle and shotgun sales.
  • 87% of Americans support background checks on private sales of guns (including at gun shows).
  • 83% of gun owners support background checks on private sales of guns (including at gun shows).
  • 69% of NRA gun-owners support requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns.
  • 92% of high school students support background checks for all sales.
  • Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the U.S.
  • States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence.
  • Gun violence impacts society in countless ways: medical costs, costs of the criminal justice system, security precautions such as metal detectors, and reductions in quality of life because of fear of gun violence. These impacts cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
I don’t care if the Michigan legislation mandates participation in pistol training and safety programs. It also allows authorities to suspend, rather than revoke, licenses of individuals found guilty of committing certain alcohol-related offenses and reduces the amount of time in which licensing authorities can make determinations on renewal licenses from 60 to 45 days.

This is clearly a bad idea. But so are restricting a woman’s right to choose, eliminating the personal property tax, busting the unions, making it tougher to recall politicians and replacing the emergency manager law that voters rejected just a few weeks ago with a new one that’s virtually identical, and that didn't stop 'em from doing all of that. It didn't matter to the short-sighted lame ducks who stayed in session until 4:30 a.m. that they were literally ruining the state of which I used to be proud.

It also didn't matter to GOP politicians that the bill was opposed not only by Democratic lawmakers but by the Michigan Association of School Boards, Beaumont Hospital, Sparrow Hospital, the Michigan Catholic Conference, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, the Michigan Municipal League, the National Council of Jewish Women, Spartan Child Development Center, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church and the Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, among other organizations. All that mattered is that supporters like Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Michigan Open Carry, Inc. thought the change was in line with the Second Amendment and would make us all safer.

Safer like the 20 dead kids in Newtown?

“I'm sure glad the Michigan Legislature worked until 4:30 this morning to ensure we can carry guns in schools and churches. I guess that’s why the U.S. has the highest rate of gun-related injuries among developed countries. I’m going to get a wristband that says WWJP – What Would Jesus Pack?”

~ Kevin Shopshire

“Maybe if there was some sort of legislation in place to allow for all elementary school children to carry concealed weapons, they would be better prepared to protect themselves.”

~ A Facebook Group Moderator

“One jackass tries to light his shoe and every American has to take their shoes off at airports. Mass gun violence and there’s nothing we can do.”

~ Yousef Munayyer

“Awful things happen, we mourn them and then we shrug. And that’s why they keep happening.”

~ E.J. Dionne

Here’s a link to “Mourning and Shrugging,” the post I wrote following last summer’s mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 dead.

Sources: Reuters, WABC-TV,, Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,,, Detroit Free Press, Michigan Legislature, Washington Post.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Step Right Up

Bob Marley - Get Up Stand Up

A Sad Day in Michigan

Courtesy Michigan House Democrats

“We must guard against being fooled by false slogans like ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil and job rights.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Some are saying the largest nonviolent protest in decades took place yesterday at my State Capitol Building.

I say “my” because contrary to the views of state politicians and their minions in blue, it’s the people’s house, not Governor Rick Snyder’s or the GOP’s or the Koch brothers’ or Dick Devos’s.

Courtesy Lansing City Pulse
It was confirmed that 12,500 people converged on the Capitol yesterday to protest Republican lawmakers’ sleazy effort to make Michigan – birthplace of the United Auto Workers – the 24th right-to-work state in the country.

My friend and neighbor Karen Dickey Cowles, who participated, wrote later in Facebook, “I've lived in this area for almost 45 years and I've never seen that many people or that much positive energy at a rally.” A number of downtown streets were closed and at least two school districts (Taylor and Warren Consolidated Schools) cancelled classes because so many of their teachers were in Lansing.

Of course it didn’t do any good, at least in terms of swaying GOP politicians.

One particularly offensive twit, GOP Representative Dave Agema (R-Anus), took to his Facebook page to write, “I fell (sic) like I’m back in the military – I’m rather enjoying this. It brings back memories.”

Courtesy Sam Inglot/Lansing City Pulse
There was pepper spray (former Democratic congressman Mark Schauer was among those maced by police) and profanity. The Reverend Jesse Jackson made an appearance to prove that just because he’s 71 doesn't mean he won’t show up wherever there are TV cameras. There were practically more riot gear-wearing police on hand than there are needles on a Christmas tree. There was more of the now-usual disregard for legislative rules and process by myopic Republican lawmakers – many of whom don’t give a sh*t about what happens from this point on because they’re lame ducks whose “service” concludes in a few weeks. (“Service” in this instance means “screw the State of Michigan without remorse or lubricant.”)

And shortly after noon, the first RTW bill (covering public employees) passed by a vote of 58 to 51; the other bill (covering private sector workers) passed 58 to 52 at around 1:30. Both bills had already passed the Senate so they were sent to Governor Snyder, who signed them into law early last night.

I watched the rally via livestream (although the constant buffering was more than a little irritating). Protesters chanted, “Whose house? Our house!” and “Hey hey, ho ho! Right-to-work has got to go!” and “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” The crowd cheered when a large, pro-RTW tent sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ Tea Party group, either collapsed or was taken down a few hours into the event. (Anita, who attended and tried to read a sign on the side of the tent but was blocked by two cigarette-smoking right-wingers, heard that the tent was probably there in order to distort the PA system.)

Courtesy @Jeffrae
I also tuned in to some of the legislative proceedings thanks to Michigan Government Television (MGTV). I caught passionate, heartfelt remarks by State Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit). I heard a bunch of right-wing crap from State Representative Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) – whose speaking style is akin to that of a groggy Elmer Fudd with marbles in his mouth – and was moved by the remarks of my own representative, Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga), who said, “This is not the Michigan that I grew up in and this is not the Michigan that I want written in history.”

I listened to an unlikable State Representative Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) try to justify lawmakers' actions by referencing Proposal 2, the collective bargaining ballot proposal that was turned down by voters last month. WTF, dude?

I was glad that State Representative Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing) called the GOP’s moves “cowardly” and pointed out that right-to-work states have less medical coverage, lower pensions and a lower standard of living, and could relate to State Representative Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek), the House Minority Floor Leader, who said yesterday’s legislative process, sadly, is nothing like what her six-year-old daughter learned. (I’ve had similar conversations with my kids.)

Did you know that Republicans tried to make the bills repeal-proof? They attached a $1 million appropriation to the legislation; under state law, spending bills can’t be placed on the ballot for people to vote on. RTW opponents are scrambling to determine how, if at all, they can reverse yesterday’s legislative travesty.

As I wrote in a blog post last Friday, it sure is a sad time for proponents of sound public policy.

And now we come to the “Cool Links” portion of today’s blog post. For a good description of how Snyder is doing the Koch brothers’ bidding on this issue, click on this link.

To read about how state Republicans are marching to the beat of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), click here.

And make sure to check out this paper, entitled, “What ‘Right to Work’ Would Mean for Michigan,” by Dr. Roland Zullo, a research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations. Professor Zullo makes some great points, including:

Unionized workers earn wages that are ten to forty percent higher than their nonunion counterparts. The positive differential for other forms of compensation, such as health care insurance and pensions, is even greater.

In states that have passed RTW legislation, the wages and benefits of all workers, union and non-union, are lower than national averages.

In every capitalist economy, the standards for economic, political and social equity are owed in part to a vibrant, independent union movement.

Too bad Republican politicians prefer ALEC publications.

Courtesy Rogue Planet

Courtesy Michigan Senate Democrats

Courtesy Josh Barnes

Courtesy Gretchen Whitmer

Courtesy Graham Davis

Courtesy Michigan Senate Democrats

Courtesy Mike Mulholland

Courtesy Lansing State Journal

Courtesy Detroit News

Courtesy Amy Morris

Courtesy Karen Dickey Cowles

Sources: Huffington Post,, PR Watch, We Are Michigan,