Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Happy Birthday, Amelia!

My oldest daughter, Amelia, was born at 10:11 a.m. on this day 22 years ago at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. Because we’re estranged, I don’t know where she is or what she’s doing now. I hope she’s healthy, though, and safe and loved and respected. I hope she has everything she needs and her future is still bright. I hope she knows I’ve never forgotten her and there’s always a place for her at our table and in my life. And I hope she has the happiest of birthdays.

The Kooks - Got No Love

Thanks for the Castration...er, Sequestration, Congress!

It’s interesting that the word “sequester” has two meanings: as a noun it means “a general cut in government spending” and as a verb it means “to remove or withdraw into solitude or retirement.”

I can think of more than a few folks currently taking up space in Washington who really ought to retire and leave the policy-making to those actually willing to do something besides obstructing the president and bouncing from one avoidable, manufactured crisis to another.

I’m not saying lawmakers should regularly defer to the POTUS; I just wish they would actually communicate with the guy once in a while. I wish they would formulate plans and hammer out compromises that serve the best interest of the country, not their party, as opposed to forcing the airplane that is the federal government into tailspin after tailspin, plummeting toward the unforgiving ground while alarms blare and Faux News anchors cheer – only to pull up at the last second with a temporary “fix” that merely postpones calamity rather than eliminating it.

The latest unnecessary emergency facing us is the sequester – the series of harsh, automatic budget cuts that will kick in this Friday, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, cutting vital government services and pushing our economy back into recession (if the prediction of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office proves true).

For those wondering how this latest crisis came about, Congress passed a law back in 2011, the Budget Control Act of 2011, which said that if Democrats and Republicans couldn’t agree on how to reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion dollars, about a trillion dollars of arbitrary and draconian budget cuts would start taking effect this year. (I’ve written about this before – see “Oh, This is Just Super!” from August 25, 2011 and “Nation’s Capital Still a Cesspool” from November 21, 2011).

The intention was to make these cuts so scary and unappealing that the two parties would feel obligated to compromise and actually work together as opposed to endlessly pointing fingers and calling names like my children used to do before they entered elementary school and learned that it’s better to play nice than to shoot spitballs and break all the rules. Of course this didn’t happen – some are saying it’s because Republicans secretly want the cuts to kick in so they can blame the Obama administration for the pain that’s sure to follow – so now we have another ticking time bomb that’s sure to keep those who design clever graphics for the nightly news busy.

Photo Courtesy Reuters
According to the White House, the POTUS has proposed “a balanced plan to not only avoid the harmful effects of the sequester but also to reduce the deficit by more than $4 trillion in total.” Unfortunately, Boehner, McConnell, Cantor et al have placed their fingers firmly in their ears and launched their baseless campaign to lay responsibility for this crisis right at Obama’s size 12 Oxfords.

Essential domestic programs on which people depend are threatened, including but not limited to services for Native Americans, small business assistance, AIDS and HIV treatment and prevention, mental health and substance abuse prevention, unemployment compensation, child care, rental assistance, nutrition assistance for women, infants and children, special education, aviation security and veterans services. More than 700,000 job losses could result. And many of our national parks will close either completely or partially, which means the small businesses and regional economies that depend on the parks to attract consumers will suffer as well.

Here in Michigan, Head Start will be eliminated for approximately 2,300 children, reducing access to critical early education. My state will lose approximately $22 million in funding for primary and secondary education – putting teacher and aide jobs at risk – as well as around $20 million that helps children with disabilities.

We’ll lose more than $7 million in environmental and wildlife protection money and another $1.7 million that would have paid for job search assistance, referral and placement (meaning 54,400 fewer Michigan residents will get the help and skills they need to find jobs). We’ll lose money intended to help domestic violence victims and to provide food for seniors through Meals on Wheels.

Approximately $900 million in small business loans will be gone and up to 373,000 seriously mentally ill and emotionally disturbed people could go untreated. More than 100,000 formerly homeless people, including veterans (and is anything more despicable than the way Republicans pay lip service to our soldiers while denying them the most basic support if and when they get home?), would be removed from housing and emergency shelter programs, putting them at risk of returning to the streets. And this, sadly, is not all.

For a more detailed listing of Michigan-specific cuts, click here.

I thought maybe Republicans were just punishing my state for choosing Obama/Biden over Romney/Ryan 55% to 45% last November until I realized that no state will be immune to the effects of their misguided machinations.

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the current scenario is that mealy-mouthed politicians insist they’re just trying to cut needless government expenditures, restrain future spending and bring fiscal responsibility to Washington. Republicans – who weren’t concerned about fiscal responsibility when Dubya was putting two unnecessary wars on the national credit card or they were awarding billions in tax cuts to greedy fat cats – are of course opposed to closing tax loopholes and asking the richest Americans to pay their fair share. After all, why look for revenue when the real objectives are to drown government in a bathtub and pin the blame on the guy in the Oval Office?

One political historian described the predicament as an “elaborate game of chicken” and said Obama was brilliant to “kick the can down the road” until after last November’s election. It’s the Republicans, he said, who stand to suffer more damage as we approach the 2014 midterm elections.

Republicans won’t suffer the most damage. It’s people who aren’t even playing this stupid game who are really going to lose.

Sources: WhiteHouse.gov, PoliticsUSA.com, shoesofthepresidents.com, Dictionary.com, uselectionatlas.org, International Business Times.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Aged Beauty

Lianne La Havas - Age

Sunday poetry

The Age Demanded

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.

The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.

And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.

~ Ernest M. Hemingway

Monday, February 18, 2013


Bad Company - Shooting Star

It's Hard Out Here for a Kid

My 10-year-old came into the room last night while I was preoccupied with a very important activity - okay, I was playing Spider Solitaire if you must know - and asked me if I knew how many students die each day in the United States.

Because I had no idea, I googled “How many students die each day in America?” and a link to a Children’s Defense Fund page came up. I dig that organization and its founder, Marian Wright Edelman, so I clicked on it and was treated to some genuinely sobering statistics:

Each day in America:
  • 2 mothers die in childbirth.
  • 5 children are killed by abuse or neglect.
  • 5 children or teens commit suicide.
  • 8 children or teens are killed by firearms.
  • 32 children or teens die from accidents.
  • 80 babies die before their first birthdays.
  • 186 children are arrested for violent offenses.
  • 368 children are arrested for drug offenses.
  • 949 babies are born at low birth weight.
  • 1,204 babies are born to teen mothers.
  • 1,240 public school students are corporally punished.
  • 2,058 children are confirmed as abused or neglected.
  • 2,163 babies are born without health insurance.
  • 2,573 babies are born into poverty.
  • 3,312 high school students drop out.
  • 4,133 children are arrested.
  • 4,717 babies are born to unmarried mothers.
  • 18,493 public school students are suspended.

Nothing kills a Cabernet Sauvignon-inspired buzz like reading a bunch of statistics about how much it sucks to be young and vulnerable in this country.

I don’t know why Maya asked this question. I told her I didn’t know the answer but the number probably wasn’t large and I assured her that she’s safe. “I’m sure nothing bad is going to happen to you,” I said.

But I’m not sure.  A few months ago I would have argued that it’s ridiculous to think a gunman would or even could enter an elementary school anywhere in America and use a Bushmaster rifle and two handguns to slaughter 20 innocent first-graders and six adults.

I also came across an interesting article online authored by a guy named Paul Brandus, a member of the White House press corps and founder of WestWingReports.com.  Brandus points out:

Let's face facts: Congress hasn't passed a major gun control bill since 1994, when at the behest of Ronald Reagan, it approved an assault weapons ban (long since expired) and, in 1993, the Brady Bill, which requires background checks on gun buyers when a gun is bought for the first time. (Subsequent sales of those used weapons are often unregulated, thus the so-called "gun show loophole.") The fights to pass those laws were nasty and protracted, and in the ensuing years, positions have hardened even more. Bottom line: As disturbing and outrageous as the Newtown massacre was, there is essentially zero chance that Congress will do anything of substance about it.

Why we pay Congress 3.4 times more than the average full-time American worker – putting our lawmakers among the highest paid in the industrialized world – when its members have proven they’re unwilling and/or unable to address the most important issues facing the nation is a true mystery to me. Most people I know want to talk about banning assault weapons, improving access to mental health services and prohibiting high-capacity magazines; Congress wants to privatize the Post Office and politicize the murder of a U.S. Ambassador in Benghazi.

Anita and I took the kids and our two Maltese to a local park yesterday. The sky was blue and the sun was out but it was cold; after we all walked in the woods for a bit, I pushed the kids on a merry-go-round while Anita and the dogs waited in the van. And as I grabbed each cold piece of steel and pulled to the right as hard as I could – and the kids screamed and laughed and challenged me to go faster – I thought to myself, “I sure am lucky that I can do this with these children, that they’re safe and sound and happy right now.” I consciously filed the memory away in case something happened and I couldn’t experience such a magical moment again.

Sources: Theweek.com, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Children's Defense Fund.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Linkin Park - Lost In the Echo

Sunday poetry

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

~Elizabeth Bishop

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Not Convinced

Gerry & the Pacemakers - Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying

You Made Me Cry Last Night, Barack

You know, he always does this.

I’m referring to President Obama always delivering great speeches, speeches that touch and inspire and motivate and captivate me, speeches that always fire me up and make me stand and applaud and shout, “Yes sir!” to my television screen. Last night’s State of the Union speech was just such an address.

But too often, the things he talks about don’t happen. Either obstructionist lawmakers fail to act – or consciously refuse to act – or the president himself abandons the proposals, pointing fingers and bemoaning the partisan composition of Congress rather than plowing full speed ahead to make things happen. And progressives throw up our hands in disgust and dismay, our feeling of betrayal clouding our ability to see the reality of the cesspool that is Washington, D.C.

I’m hoping things will be different this time. I’m hoping the president will be emboldened by his decisive re-election victory and freed by the fact that he won’t be running for this office again, that he will put his money where his mouth is and doggedly pursue the points and promises that he made last night.

As always, I’m highlighting a few lines from the speech that I found particularly pleasing:

  • But we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and most powerful.

  • The greatest nation on Earth cannot keep conducting its business by drifting from one manufactured crisis to the next.

  • Let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.

  • A year and a half ago, I put forward an American Jobs Act that independent economists said would create more than one million new jobs. I thank the last Congress for passing some of that agenda, and I urge this Congress to pass the rest.

  • Even with the tax relief we've put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

  • Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.

  • And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one.

  • In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

  • One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

That reference to the loss of Hadiya was especially poignant.

Hi, Susan.
Speaking of violence, he mentioned the Violence against Women Act, which the U.S. Senate passed yesterday. He said that his second-in-command, Vice President Joe Biden, actually wrote this bill 20 years ago and it was time for the U.S. House to pass it as well. (I’m told that Biden actually winked at Susan Belcovski Ferraro, one of my Facebook friends and the biggest Biden fan I know, during the speech although I missed it.)

He also discussed immigration reform, Afghanistan, reducing the world’s nuclear arsenals, cyber-terrorism and Syria, among other subjects, and he called for raising the country’s minimum wage from $7.25/hour to $9/hour, which is about as likely as I am to become head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks women’s basketball team.

Ms. Desiline Victor
It was cool when he recognized 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who was in the gallery. A North Miami resident, Ms. Victor waited for six hours to vote at her congested polling place. I sure hope the Obama administration does something about how difficult it is – almost a half century after Jim Crow laws – for some Americans to exercise their right to vote.

The president closed by saying, “Well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”

I was going to continue with the book I’m drafting on a different topic but I suppose I can put it aside in order to help write this great chapter if my president needs me.

It was fun to spot U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the amazing Gabby Giffords and her cool-as-hell husband, Captain Mark Kelly, new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Michelle Obama, one of my all-time favorite White House occupants. (C-Span is my network of choice for these things.) I watched Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) refuse to applaud anything POTUS said, which wasn't surprising, and didn’t see outrageously offensive, washed-up rock-and-roller Ted Nugent at all, which was. (A Michigan resident, he attended the speech as a guest of Republican Texas Congressman Steve Stockman.)

I didn't listen to the batshit-crazy rebuttal of U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), representing the Koch Brothers-funded Tea Party. The older I get, the less willing I am to try to stomach crap and insanity. I did watch the official Republican response delivered by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who convinced me within minutes that not all Cuban Americans are cool. (Note to Gloria Estefan, Desi Arnaz and Andy Garcia: thanks for misleading me.)

After pandering to the “brave men and women of our Armed Forces” who “may be thousands of miles away but will always be in our prayers,” Rubio launched into the same old “tax-and-spend liberal who wants to grow government” attack that Republicans have leveled against Democrats since before I entered the world. In Rubio’s world, Obama believes the solution to every problem we face is for Washington to tax more and spend more. He of course took a swipe at Obamacare and insisted that “more government breeds complicated rules and laws that are too confusing for small businesses to follow.” (Way to denigrate America’s entrepreneurs, Senator.)

Rubio, who spoke in front of a silly set that resembled a heavily-draped window in Scarlett O’Hara’s house and looked like it was glued together by my preteens, kept oddly wiping at his temples like the sweaty, overweight 60-year-old who regularly staggers around a racquetball court at my gym. I was mildly amused when he almost fell over while awkwardly taking a huge gulp of what I assume was water well into his rebuttal. (Click here.) That was something you don’t see every day.

I have to admit I was so plugged into the speech last night, so moved by the words of our basketball-playing Commander in Chief, that I found myself cheering in my living room, tears rolling down my cheeks, more than once. I’m not letting today’s sun catch me crying, though. And I’m not holding my breath.

For the text of the speech, click here.

Monday, February 11, 2013


The Lettermen: Sealed With a Kiss

Going Postal Part Two

Things are getting worse.

I’m referring to the United States Postal Service (USPS), which announced last week that it’s discontinuing Saturday mail delivery beginning in August.


Because it can’t afford it anymore.

And why is this?

This is what a buffoon looks like
Because unlike any other government agency or private company in the country, the USPS has been required since 2006 to pre-fund its retiree health care and pension benefits for 75 years. (Google the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006,” which was sponsored by – this didn't surprise me at all – a Republican, Representative Tom Davis III of Virginia, who resigned from Congress two years later.)

That’s right. Politicians decided to kill the USPS – and Dubya, buffoon that he was, signed their plan into law – presumably so mail delivery in this country can eventually be privatized and their puppet masters can make a fortune at our expense.

What’s to prevent these entities from charging $5 to send a letter from Detroit to LA in the not-too-distant future? What recourse will we have? We certainly won’t be able to appeal to lawmakers to help us out. They've shown time and time again that the interests of their campaign funders trump the best interests of the American people.

I wrote about USPS problems before – see “Going Postal” from December 7, 2011 – back when the organization announced it was closing processing centers and eliminating thousands of jobs throughout the country:

According to the Save the Post Office website, the USPS “has overpaid into the Civil Service Retirement System by as much as $75 billion, as well as overpaying into the Federal Employees Retirement System by about $6.8 billion (as of FY 2009). Combined, these overpayments amount to about $82 billion. If a significant portion of these overpayments were returned to the Postal Service, the ‘crisis’ would vanish in a flash.”

A year ago, USPS Inspector General David C. Williams told U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that 85 percent of the USPS’s financial problems are due to this crazy prefunding mandate.

There are memes circulating in Facebook that share the following interesting facts:

  • It is the single largest business with a union workforce.

  • It receives no money from taxes – unlike large oil companies and corporations that outsource jobs to other countries – but is funded by the products and services that it sells.

  • The Postal Service was explicitly authorized in the U.S. Constitution (before the Army, Navy, roads or right to declare war).

  • It is the second largest employer behind Walmart.

  • It is the “spark plug” for the trillion-dollar mailing industry.

  • It handles more than 40 percent of the world’s mail.

  • Its workforce is made up of 40 percent women, 40 percent minorities and 22 percent veterans. (It employs 130,000 veterans and 49,000 disabled veterans.)

  • The USPS’s biggest challenge isn’t e-mail or unions; it’s the age-old problem of politicians with their hands in the till.

A message I received from Working Assets puts the challenge another way:

By making the public believe that government services are underfunded and poorly managed, Republicans can force more cuts, and eventually privatize services altogether, handing over public goods to private corporations that enrich a select few at the expense of many.

It’s too bad that the processing center closings didn’t bump this issue to the top of the pile months ago. Maybe now that everyone will be impacted by the USPS’s problems, more folks will actually communicate with Washington politicians about the utter ridiculousness of forcing a business – any business – to prefund its health care and pension benefits for three quarters of a century.

I know the POTUS is preoccupied with drones, energy, education and other issues, but it seems like a single speech – or even a reference during tomorrow night’s State of the Union Address – about the true causes of the USPS’s financial travails would bring the issue from Facebook into the real world.

I can’t afford to pay $5 to send a letter to LA.

Sources: Credo Action, govtrack.us.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Beautiful Sydney

Blondie - "Mother"

Sunday poetry

didn't yo mama invent the pay toilet

didn't yo mama invent the pay toilet
or was it the guillotine
some answers are hard
the way the blade sings
the vibration and splinters
the smell of the crowd
and dried blood
the sound
the approach
the warmth and the kneeling
space on a busy day
the expressions
in the baskets below

it is not like fumbling
for a dime and dribbling piss
in questionable clothes
but it is the thought that counts
that someone who cries and shits like you
knew what you would need
and still asked for money
did not care what you heard
or lost as the blade fell

and what's more
would be lost in a crowd
nothing would break them off
from the human womb
we are strange like that
all with mothers

~ Kim D. Hunter

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Some Pig

The Animals - It's My Life

Vote Early and Often for Potter Park Zoo

I don’t normally do this.

I don’t normally use “What’s the Diehl?” to solicit donations from my readers for anyone but myself. I’m making an exception for two reasons: 1) Y’all haven’t exactly broken your index fingers clicking on the “donate” button for the blog, and 2) Potter Park Zoo, the nonprofit charity that I’m plugging in this post, needs your help.

The zoo – the oldest public zoo in the State of Michigan – was just chosen to participate in a “Big Bang-quet Community Charity Challenge.” What this means is that the zoo is one of 20 charities in the area selected to compete via online “votes,” or $5 donations, during the contest period of February 1 through March 15. At the end of the competition, the top three organizations – those that bring in the most donations – earn special credits toward the cost of events at Michigan State University’s fancy University Club banquet facility.

A “reveal” reception is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at the University Club; votes/donations will be accepted there via ballot box contributions as well, and the winners will be announced at the end of the evening.

Now I know not everyone likes zoos or supports putting wild animals on display. I struggled with this question too since I wouldn't want my movements restricted if I were an animal of the four-legged, tailed variety. But none of the animals at Potter Park is neglected, none of the facilities are run-down or inadequate, the health care provided to the animals is top-notch, and I can attest to the positive reactions people of all ages have to their encounters at this particular zoo.

My kids participated in Potter Park’s award-winning “BIG Zoo Lesson,” where they spent a week at the zoo with their classmates gaining knowledge about and respect for specific animals, and they loved the experience. I can’t count the number of times I've strolled through the zoo with family and friends in rain and shine. (I’ll never forget the day years ago when my daughter Amelia and I watched, mesmerized, as an expectant camel gave birth to the newest member of Potter Park’s menagerie.)

Potter Park is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which means it meets rigorous standards for animal care and safety. (Don’t confuse the AZA with the Florida-based Zoological Association of America, which supports the private ownership of exotic pets and the commercialization of wildlife. The ZAA has much lower standards for accreditation than the AZA.) This is no roadside tourist attraction.

I know some “What’s the Diehl?” readers are asking themselves, “I’m in Sydney or London or Ottawa or Los Angeles or Portland or Madison or Detroit or Escanaba. Why should I care about an animal park in Lansing?” Does the Save the Children office in Guatemala only receive support from Guatemalans? Did contributions for MSNBC’s recent “Buy a Desk for a Student in Malawi” campaign come only from Malawians? Do patrons of New York’s Museum of Modern Art live only on West 53rd Street? Of course not. People support causes and efforts that are important to them regardless of dots on a map.

I know there’s no shortage of deserving charities, disaster relief agencies and dedicated bloggers that would love your help. Personally I’ve always liked the idea of supporting the vulnerable – those who for whatever reason can’t help themselves, like homeless and mentally ill folks, children, seniors and animals. I hope you’ll consider clicking here between now and March 15 and voting as many times as you can for Potter Park Zoo – and getting your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors to do the same.

On behalf of Potter Park’s Amur Tigers, Bali Mynah Birds, Tamarin Monkeys, Penguins, Bongos, Bald Eagles, Rhinoceros and other animals representing over 150 different species, I thank you.

This contest is conducted by the University Club of MSU and sponsored by the MSU Federal Credit Union and the Capital Region Community Foundation. In the interest of full disclosure, the Potter Park Zoological Society is a client of Singh & Diehl LLC.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Leo, Mikey, Donnie and Raph

PJ Harvey - Down By The Water

Ad Nauseum

The experts are wrong again.

Apparently they’re ranking what’s being referred to as the “Dodge Ram-Farmer” commercial as among the best that aired during last Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII.

A group of Michigan State University advertising professors, USA Today poll respondents, and professionals at Hanon McKendry & Mindscape (an advertising firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that’s been judging Super Bowl ads for a decade) all insist that the cloying tribute to The American Farmer was among the most effective.

I don’t agree.

It's not easy to see a connection between late conservative radio commentator Paul Harvey – whose 1978 speech entitled, “So God Made a Farmer” was used in the commercial – and Motor Trend magazine’s 2013 Truck of the Year. And I wasn't aware that the Almighty and American farmers unanimously prefer the Ram 1500 to other full-size pickup trucks on the market.

Harvey, to whom I listened when I was young and na├»ve, first delivered the speech at a Future Farmers of America convention during the Carter Presidency. He didn't even write it; it famously appeared in his mailbox anonymously and he was unable to determine the author. Whoever actually drafted the speech apparently had the inside track on knowing the Heavenly Father’s motivation when populating this country’s agricultural community:

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board." So God made a farmer.

"I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife's done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon – and mean it." So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.' I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain'n from 'tractor back,' put in another seventy-two hours." So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor's place. So God made a farmer.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who'd plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week's work with a five-mile drive to church.

"Somebody who'd bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life 'doing what dad does.'" So God made a farmer.

The commercial features Harvey reciting these words while we’re treated to images of a wind-whipped prairie church, barns, fields, farms, Old Glory, mostly white male farmers, tractors, corn, chicks, hay, a white family saying grace at the dinner table, just one African-American farmer, just one woman, a little white girl and some black pickup trucks. (See “The Whitewashing of the American Farmer: Dodge Ram Super Bowl Ad Edition”.) It closes with this tag line: “To the farmer in all of us.”

I didn't know there were farmers in city folks like me. I've never operated a CAFO, shoed a horse, splinted a meadow lark’s leg, tamed cantankerous machinery or shaped an ax handle from a persimmon sprout in my life and I’m not even sure what “pain’n” means.

Harvey, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Dubya in 2005 and died in February of 2009, was pals with dress-wearing former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover – he was known to send his radio scripts to Hoover for approval – and Communist-hating, blacklisting Senator Joe McCarthy. This appeared in the New York Times shortly after Harvey’s death:

He railed against welfare cheats and defended the death penalty. He worried about the national debt, big government, bureaucrats who lacked common sense, permissive parents, leftist radicals and America succumbing to moral decay. He championed rugged individualism, love of God and country, and the fundamental decency of ordinary people.

I worry about the national debt and our moral decay too (which is why I frequently rail against Republicans at this blog). Why don't I have 27 million fans like Harvey did at his peak?

I thought ad agencies wanted to appeal to the broadest segment of consumers or at least to as many demographic groups as possible. I wouldn't rule out purchasing a pickup but I sure couldn't relate to this commercial – not to Harvey, the trite imagery (even Norman Rockwell would, if shown this commercial, deem it cheesy) or the multiple references to He Who Floats on Clouds and Awards Grammys and Touchdowns. (It seems risky to hit the religion thing so hard, too, since one-fifth of the U.S. public, and a third of adults under 30, are religiously unaffiliated according to the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life – the highest percentages ever in Pew polling.)

I won’t be writing $40,000 checks to Chrysler or adding advertising professors to my circle of friends and associates anytime soon.

Sources: www.MLive.com, www.theatlantic.com, The Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life, New York Times, Detroit Free Press.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

All One

Coconut - Harry Nilsson

Sunday poetry

A Lime Goes to Town

Once upon a time, an elf liked a lime.
The lime went to Paris with the elf named Harris.
Harris was "Harry" and the lime was named Gary.

Once upon a time, a wolf ate a lime.
The lime was scared. And the wolf was named Jared.

~ Devina Welch, age 7