Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Importance of Art

Amazing Grace - Andre Rieu

Sunday poetry

New Stanzas for Amazing Grace

I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place
Where I was lost alone
Folk looked right through me into space
And passed with eyes of stone

O homeless hand on many a street
Accept this change from me
A friendly smile or word is sweet
As fearless charity

Woe workingman who hears the cry
And cannot spare a dime
Nor look into a homeless eye
Afraid to give the time

So rich or poor no gold to talk
A smile on your face
The homeless ones where you may walk
Receive amazing grace

I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place
Where I was lost alone
Folk looked right through me into space
And passed with eyes of stone

~ Alan Ginsberg

April 2, 1994

Composed at the request of Ed Sanders for his production of The New Amazing
Grace, performed November 20, 1994, at the Poetry Project in St. Mark’s Church

Friday, April 26, 2013

Alley Girl

The Cure - Just Like Heaven

Skeletons in Komen’s® Kloset

I wrote this more than a week ago but hesitated to post it. I didn’t want to be a party-pooper or cause anyone to think I’m disparaging the many dedicated folks joining together this weekend across the country to fight breast cancer. But I saw a meme in Facebook that conveyed some of the same information – under which people posted comments like, “This bears repeating” and “More people need to know this” – so I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned:

It’s really tough to know which charities are worthy of support and which aren’t. It’s hard to obtain all the information you need, which is why I wrote, “Forgive the Bell Ringers for They Know Not What They Do” about the Salvation Army back in December of 2011 and why this post is about “Susan G. Komen for the Cure”®, the largest and most successful breast cancer organization in the country – if you define “success” as “amassing millions while playing political games and suing other charities up the wazoo for daring to use ‘for the cure’ in their names.”

Komen’s® annual “Race for the Cure” fundraisers – the organization’s single biggest revenue engine – are fast approaching. (In Fiscal Year 2010, Komen’s® 121 affiliates sponsored 147 races that were attended by around 1.7 million people and generated about $120 million. It’s clearly big business.) So it seems timely to provide information about a charity that has its share of skeletons locked in a closet at its Dallas headquarters.

You might remember the controversy surrounding Komen’s® decision early last year to abruptly stop funding Planned Parenthood affiliates because certain folks associated with Komen® are opposed to abortion. (Never mind that abortion – which, incidentally, is still a legal medical procedure – comprises just three percent of all Planned Parenthood health services.) A major brouhaha resulted, complete with boycotts and online vilification, and Komen® was forced to reverse course and restore the grants.

But did you know that Komen® helps corporate America to make money from pinkwashing? (“Pinkwashing” is the use of breast cancer and the pink ribbon by corporate marketers – especially to promote products that might be unhealthy – in return for a donation to the cause.) Komen® receives over $55 million/year from over 200 corporate sponsors.

Click here to read a New York Times piece entitled, “Welcome, Fans, to the Pinking of America.”

Were you aware that the organization opposes potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research for political reasons?

How about the fact that Komen® received generous donations a few years ago from private industries that used Bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical used in some metal coatings and plastics – in their products and then dismissed research studies that found a link between the chemical and breast cancer?

Click here to read, “Susan G. Komen – A Bad Charity Long Before Their Planned Parenthood PR Nightmare.”

Did you know that Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, is a big Komen® supporter? Yes, this is the same Merck that was forced to cough up millions to settle charges that it illegally marketed the drug Vioxx. (Studies had found an increased risk of heart attack associated with the arthritis medication.) I’m not trying to insinuate guilt by association but prospective donors have a right to know who else supports Komen®, don’t they?

Progressive contributors might be interested to discover that in 2011, Komen® partnered with the George W. Bush Institute on an initiative targeting women in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America who suffer from cervical and breast cancer. The advisory board for this “action-oriented think tank” – founded by Dubya in 2009 – is chaired by Condoleeza Rice, and Karl Rove and Jeb Bush sit on it as well.

Oh, and Komen’s® founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, was Dubya’s U.S. Ambassador to Hungary from 2001 to 2003 and U.S. Chief of Protocol from 2007 to 2009.

Did I mention that Komen® receives money from Quilted Northern which is owned by the Koch Brothers? (I’ve written about these characters before; see “Why I’m Still Boycotting Brawny” from April 23, 2012, and “Why I Boycott Brawny and Mardi Gras” from January 13, 2012.) These two fellows are well-known for their far-right politics and hatred of our current Oval Office occupant.

Gee, why in the world would Komen® be accused of having a right-wing political bias?

Of course fighting breast cancer is a good thing – it kills 40,000 American women and 450 men each year, according to the American Cancer Society – and the activists and survivors who are hanging pink ribbons, running in races and raising money to find a cure deserve respect and support. I just think the more we know about a cause, the better able we are to make informed choices. The best charities are committed to making the world a better place for everyone.

Here’s a list of other organizations fighting this fight, compiled by the Chicago Tribune:

  • FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered):
For women at risk of developing hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer, information about finding medical and financial assistance and how to manage and live with hereditary risk factors. 866-824-RISK. E-mail

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Breast Cancer and Mammography Information:
Includes locater link to places where you can get free or low-cost mammograms or Pap smears. 888-842-6355. E-mail

Breast cancer resource center includes message forums, chat rooms, e-mail, books, videos, newsletters, news, information and a resource directory.

  • National Cancer Institute:
Treatment, prevention, causes, clinical trials, cancer literature, research, screening and testing. 800-4-CANCER. English, Polish and Spanish language options. LiveHelp online chat available.

  • American Cancer Society:
Breast cancer overview, detailed guide, treatment decision tool, news, research and prevention.  Includes local office locater.

P.S. I included the little registered trademark symbol ® as much as I could, Komen®, so please don’t sue me.

Sources:, American Cancer Society, New York Times, Susan G. Komen®, Planned Parenthood, USA Today, Jezebel, Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dancing in the Street

Richie Havens - It Could Be the First Day

Thanks to Peter Richards for the recommendation

Add CISPA to the List of Reasons Why Washington Sucks

There was apparently an internet blackout two days ago to protest the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which sailed through the U.S. House of Representatives late last week while all eyes were on Boston and now moves to the U.S. Senate. I didn’t know about it until yesterday – and that was by reading a meme, not visiting a favorite website and finding it black.

According to

CISPA would allow federal agencies unlimited access to nearly all of your personal data and online communications without a warrant. It would provide legal immunity to companies that collect and share your information with the federal government, which might mean businesses can’t be sued or charged with crimes for collecting and sharing that information - even shielding that sharing from transparency mechanisms like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“What’s the Diehl?” participated in a similar blackout – this one relating to the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011” (PIPA) – back in January of last year (see “SOPA/PIPA Blackout,” January 17, 2012). It seems like the opposition was a lot more united that time, which might have something to do with the fact that none of our major cities had been shuttered like a cottage in winter as two teenage terrorists threatened the citizenry.

My own congressman, Mike Rogers, the Über-Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is CISPA’s co-sponsor, says his bill strikes "that right balance between our privacy, civil liberties and stopping bad guys in their tracks from ruining what is one-sixth of the U.S. economy."

It’ll stop the bad guys, huh Mike? I guess if I was a G-Man in my former life (Rogers was in the FBI from 1989 to 1994), I’d see things in black and white too. Judging by Rogers’ voting record, I’m not entirely convinced he has my best interests at heart.

It’s true that foreign hackers are a threat to banks and other businesses – some say hackers from Russia, China and Eastern Europe are especially aggressive and sophisticated – but I’m not crazy about granting businesses who are hacked complete legal immunity as long as they “acted in good faith” to secure our information and protect their networks.

This “in good faith” thing is so subjective.

Surprisingly, 92 House Democrats voted for CISPA, which is co-sponsored by Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD). I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that deep-pocketed corporations like Intel, IBM, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Facebook, Google and Verizon support the bill.

It sure is good to know that when the going gets tough and the media fixate on Beantown, progressives can count on the Democrats in Congress to protect our privacy and personal information. Not.

The Senate isn’t pledging to take on CISPA anytime soon – see “CISPA bill in limbo after it passed House; Senate too busy” – and President Obama’s promised to veto it if it does reach his desk. If the Senate does act on it, we’ll see if he had his fingers crossed behind his back when he made this promise.

If you’re not comfortable putting all your eggs in the basket labeled POTUS, the U.S. Senate switchboard is 202-224-3121.

Sources: Mother Jones,, Associated Press, Project VoteSmart.

Monday, April 22, 2013

War Kills

Genesis - The Knife

The More Things Change...

I’ve been fascinated by the Kent State shootings for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure why.

I guess the unprovoked shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970, has always stuck with me as a prime example of government suppression, the risk of protest, and what can go wrong when young soldiers are sent to quell “disorder.”

People were killed and injured that day. Young people. People who had done nothing wrong, who didn’t deserve to lose their lives just because they either opposed an unjust war or were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Around 2,000 people had assembled that Monday morning near Taylor Hall on the campus of Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, to protest President Richard Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. (The war looked like it was winding down throughout 1969 so people were more than a little disappointed when Nixon announced his “Cambodian Campaign” on April 30.) Just after noon, after repeatedly demanding that the students disperse, National Guardsmen charged the students, forcing them to retreat from the Commons and scatter. Then, without provocation, the guardsmen fired 67 rounds at various protestors, killing four and wounding nine. Not all who were shot had been protesting; some were just on their way to class or had stopped to observe the commotion.

According to reports, none of those wounded was closer than 71 feet to the guardsmen and of those killed, the nearest, Jeffrey Miller, was 265 feet away. The average distance between student and guardsman was 345 feet. It’s therefore a tad implausible that the guardsmen felt threatened by the students, as some later claimed.

A President’s Commission on Campus Unrest created by Nixon a month after Kent State later found the shootings “unjustified.” It concluded that "the indiscriminate firing of rifles into a crowd of students and the deaths that followed were unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable.”

Not surprisingly, Allison Krause, Sandra Scheuer, William Knox Schroeder and Miller remained dead in spite of the commission’s verdict.

Hundreds of universities, colleges and high schools had to close in the days and weeks that followed the shootings because of protests and sit-ins by an estimated four million students. Kent State has been referenced in countless books, poems, songs, films and TV shows and is considered a landmark event in the history of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

I had just turned eight years old when this happened and I don’t remember hearing about it – but I was alive during the Detroit riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, the Apollo 11 moon landing, the trial of the Chicago Seven,
Woodstock and Watergate and I don’t remember these events either. I often don’t remember what I’ve named a document or when I last filled up my gas tank. Thankfully, I have Facebook and the Internet to bring me up to speed on key historical events.

I met a guy in Facebook named Brad Lang who was right in the middle of the action in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, he was arrested for inciting a riot during a demonstration he organized after the Chicago Seven verdicts came in. I asked him about Kent State and his response follows:

Brad Lang
I was 23 and a student at Michigan State University when the Kent State shootings took place. At the time, we were outraged at the idea that the government was willing to go so far as to shoot at peaceful crowds of protesters. We reacted by protesting peacefully, hoping we wouldn't be shot. A student strike shut down MSU only five years after a petition supporting the Vietnam War was signed by a majority of MSU students. The times were changing.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same: 11 days after Kent State, students at Jackson State protesting the war were attacked by police with shotguns.  Two students were killed and 12 were injured.  It barely caused a ripple.  How could that be?  Because Jackson State was a black college.  Those of us in "The Movement" made a point of saying "Kent State and Jackson State," but the fact is that shooting white kids was what set people off.

Sound familiar? Twenty little white children are shot at a school in Connecticut and the nation is outraged. Little black children are killed every day in Chicago and Detroit and…crickets. So looking back on Kent State, I see the same thing I see today. Also, it's another story about guns, because the National Guardsmen were kids just a little older than the protesters, who were given rifles with live ammunition and sent out to face people who many of them believed were dangerous communist radicals seeking to overthrow the government, because that's what the media and their President told them. What did they think was going to happen?

What do they think is going to happen when assault rifles with huge clips are made available to anybody with a little room on his credit card? The same kind of people who sent those Guardsmen out against the students at Kent State are standing four square against gun control. The only thing that's different is that I'm no longer a student, and I’m too old to throw my body against the gears and levers of the machine, to steal a phrase from the late Mario Savio.  I hope today's students will at some point get similarly outraged. Spring is in the air so we'll see.

I’ve also become acquainted online with a woman in Clearwater, Florida named Deborah Gelep who became an activist at a young age and remembers protesting Vietnam and Kent State, among other events. I asked her about it and this is her reply:

It was quite a time in our society. I only wish we did more, fought harder for what we knew to be right. We dropped out, sat in and stood for individuals’ rights, peace, equality and voices. We were kids being drafted into a war we didn't believe in by a government we didn't trust. We became the SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, yet were labeled as anarchists, traitors, a secret society...all of which was directly the opposite. We wanted transparency. Civil rights and liberties. We were peaceful protestors and yet the National Guard was called in to quell the mania they created.

Deb Gelep
I was just a teenage girl who already knew you don't kill to win. That we are all just people. A girl who knew her voice should be heard and count, as should everyone's. That all the Vietnam Wars, Kent States, Tiananmen Squares, Cuban Missile Crises, assassinations of great men and unjust treatment of blacks and women had no place in my world, in anyone’s world. 

I have never quit believing that. I have never quit working toward that. My voice has never stopped, although my fingers do more work now than my mouth. I am still an activist. For the underdog or underprivileged. For our planet and all that occupy it. It has been 45 years. I have not witnessed all that I set out to do when I was young, eager, naive and fearless. And except for the young part, the rest is still true. Yep, even the naive part, because I still have high hopes for the world to one day have peace. Some call that naive. I call that my dream.

Maybe one of the reasons why I’m so fascinated by Kent State is because there were people during that era who got off their bean bag chairs, started fighting the good fight and haven’t stopped yet. It’s too bad there’s still so much to protest but I’m glad for people like Brad and Deborah who’ve been showing us how it’s done for decades.

"Get The Hell Out of Vietnam" photo courtesy LBJ Library/Frank Wolfe.

John Filo won the Pulitzer Prize for his iconic photo of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Violent Femmes - Gone Daddy Gone

Sunday poetry

Parable in Praise of Violence

“Violence is as American as cherry pie.”
—H. Rap Brown, former Black Panther justice minister

Thanks for the violence. Thanks for Walt’s rude muscle
pushing through the grass, for tiny Gulliver crushed
between the giant’s breasts. Thanks for Moby’s triangular hump
and Ahab’s castrated leg. Thanks for the harpoons.
Thanks for this PBS history of the automatic pistol.

The good machine is simple, few moving parts,
an efficiency of what’s preserved and what is wasted,
so with each shot the recoil cocks the gun to shoot again,
then recoil, cock and shoot again, recoil, cock,
and so on till the target buys it, or your ammo’s spent.

Thanks for the poem, which is really a little pistol:
load and cock, point and aim, then the trigger,
the hammer, the powder, the discharge, the bullet,
the target, the recoil, the crime. No smoking gun,
just ballistics, caliber, powder marks, the question why.

My life is like a loaded gun, and when I aim it at you
I hope to take off the top of your head,
no safety on, no playing nice, just the spark,
the flash, the damage, just red American
cherry pie violence. So, thank you

for the harpoon gun we aim at God and death
and all the unknown world, and for the spear-stuck beast,
rope ripping through torn hands, for what
refuses to be caught and what we fathom only by
riding the whale down into the deep, refusing to let go.

~ Tony Barnstone

Saturday, April 20, 2013

In Her Own World

Daily Meds - Insane

In an Insane World by Richard X. Moore

The inescapable reality is that I can barely stand social media anymore.

Give people a tool for expressing thoughts and engaging in discourse and what do we do with it? Turn it into a forum for bigotry, self-aggrandizement, self-pity, and bullshit.

What passes for journalism these days is even worse. We have a buffet of hopelessly manipulated propaganda masquerading as facts and we get to shop around until we find what we need to reinforce what we want to believe about the world around us.

“Entertainment” has mutated into something so wretched that a majority of it doesn’t even merit discussion.

If we pay attention, we quickly learn that as a society, we simply can’t discuss anything important anymore. We shout over each others heads and mock anyone who has the gall to hold a different worldview than we do. We retreat into suspicion and hide behind words not of substance but of shadows and fog. Rather than suffer fools, we embrace them. We have replaced leadership with theater.

And, this week, I am reminded yet again that seemingly ordinary people are capable of unspeakable and totally irrational violence. I suppose I should be grateful that I can’t even begin to understand the mind that could contemplate the random murder of total strangers.

What to do in the face of madness?

Simply Water I (©2004 Richard X. Moore)

Seek some kind of peace inside your own skin. Reacquaint yourself with truth. Remind yourself from time to time that there is a line between fact and belief. Surround yourself with people you love and understand.

I find these days that I am longing for the solace I get by wrapping myself in the sound of moving water, where the noise of a culture gone insane doesn’t creep in to disturb the music of the wind and waves of the shore, or of the rapids and falls of a river dancing on rocks and sand.

I know I can’t ignore the world around me, or ever get away from it for very long.

But please, just for awhile, let me sit on the shore and feel the warm breeze, even if it’s only my imagination playing tricks on me.

~ Richard X. Moore

Richard X. Moore is a social observer, writer, and photographer living in Saginaw, Michigan with the Love of His Life and two dogs. A native Michigander, Moore is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Michigan State University with a background in water resources science and policy. These days, he mainly watches the wheels turn and hopes for better times.

Click here to visit his website.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kids at the Movies

The Tamlins - That's Life

This is Just Round One

Sandy Hook Promise

I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.

I took the Sandy Hook Promise weeks ago. I’ve written about the need for changes to our gun policies several times since then. I’ve talked with and debated people about the need to expand background checks, prohibit high-capacity ammunition magazines and adequately fund mental health services. Given that no less than 90 percent of Americans support requiring background checks before firearms can be purchased, I thought for sure we would finally see some sound public policy emerge from Washington, that the gun lobby would finally know how it feels to lose. We’ve lost innocent people, including kids. We’ve lost our sense of security and our peace of mind. It’s about time the National Rifle Association (NRA) experienced a loss, albeit legislative and not human, I thought.

I forgot how thoroughly f*cked up our political process is.

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted 54-46 on a bipartisan amendment known as Toomey-Manchin that would have expanded background checks. Since 60 votes were needed for passage, the amendment died – and so did my already-diminished belief that when push comes to shove, our public officials are going to do the right thing.

Senators Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, and Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, tried to do the right thing. They bucked the gun lobby and brainless Second Amendment zombies, took a stand, gave it a shot. It was risky, of course, but they proposed to increase the reach of background checks to cover sales of weapons on the Internet and at gun shows anyway.

But as family members of Newtown and Tucson victims watched from the gallery, the will of the people was thwarted by spineless scoundrels and misguided morons who seemed to hold NRA chief Wayne LaPierre in higher esteem than Charlotte Bacon, 6; Daniel Barden, 7; Olivia Engel, 6; Josephine Gay, 7; Ana Marquez-Greene, 6; Dylan Hockley, 6; Madeline Hsu, 6; Catherine Hubbard, 6; Chase Kowalski, 7; Jesse Lewis, 6; James Mattioli, 6; Grace McDonnell, 7; Emilie Parker, 6; Jack Pinto, 6; Noah Pozner, 6; Caroline Previdi, 6; Jessica Rekos, 6; Avielle Richman, 6; Benjamin Wheeler, 6; Allison Wyatt, 6; Rachel D'Avino, 29; Anne Marie Murphy, 52; Lauren Rousseau, 30; Mary Sherlach, 56; Victoria Soto, 27; Dawn Hocksprung, 47; Christina Taylor Green, 9; Dorothy "Dot" Morris, 76; John Roll, 63; Phyllis Schneck, 79; Dorwan Stoddard, 76; Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Jonathan Blunk, 24; Alexander J. Boik, 18; Jesse Childress, 29; Gordon Cowden, 51; Jessica Ghawi, 24; John Larimer, 27; Matt McQuinn, 27; Micayla Medek, 23; Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6; Alex Sullivan, 27; Alexander C. Teves, 24; and Rebecca Wingo, 32.

In addition to these people – the victims of Newtown, Tucson and Aurora – LaPierre also ranks higher, apparently, than their hundreds of family members, friends, co-workers and acquaintances who surely still grieve and always will. (The NRA pays the guy just under $1 million/year to pervert the political process. Nice work if you can get it, huh?)

The four Democrats who voted “no” and will hopefully sleep poorly for the duration of their terms are Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-AK), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D-NV] also voted “no” but his was a procedural vote in order to be able to bring the matter back up again.)

I take small comfort in knowing that Michigan’s two Democratic senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, voted “yes” and were joined by Republicans Susan Collins of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona as well as co-sponsor Pat Toomey. (Trying to earn that “Maverick” moniker again, Senator McCain?)

But after the vote, one pro-gun website posted, “Misfire! Gun control supporters missed the mark as their best hope for further gun control failed when the Senate defeated the Toomey-Manchin bill. Boo hoo.” Another one boasted, “The defeat of this bill should more or less kill gun control for the immediate future in Congress.”

That’s b*llsh*t. As President Obama – who gave a blunt, impassioned, memorable speech right after the vote – said, this is just Round One. (For the video and transcript of the president’s remarks, click here.) The gun nuts might have won this battle but the 90 percent of Americans not represented by Congress yesterday will win this war. Yes, the gun lobby is strong, politicians are weak and corrupt and the electorate is impotent and irresponsible. This will change. Mark my words.

This isn’t about the right to keep and bear arms. This is about our right to life – something politicians claim to respect but thumbed their noses at yesterday.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued the following statement after yesterday’s vote:

“This is an insult to the 90 people killed by gun violence every day and the 90 percent of Americans who believe that felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerous mentally ill should not be able to buy guns without a background check, no questions asked. The Senate failed to pass something that virtually all Americans support and would undoubtedly make this a safer nation. It is unfathomable that a Senator could sit across the table from a Newtown parent who lost a child, and then days later vote against this amendment. We will not give up in this fight and we should not lose sight of the progress we have made. That we have come this far only strengthens our resolve to make the American public heard until we can make the Congress listen. And we will work to make sure that those Senators who refuse to represent the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans on this crucial issue are replaced with others who will.

Click here to read Gabrielle Giffords’ staggeringly powerful New York Times op-ed entitled, “A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip.”

Sources: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Washington Post,,,, National Rifle Association, Talking Points Memo, New York Times.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sand and Water

Edward Elgar - Sospiri op. 70

The Best and Worst in Boston

"Man's nature is not essentially evil. Brute nature has been known to yield to the influence of love. You must never despair of human nature." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

"Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer." ~ Madalyn Murray O'Hair

I told Anita last night that I felt guilty that I was so discombobulated by yesterday’s Boston Marathon bombings. This kind of thing happens all the time in Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Damascus and Ramallah, I said, and I felt like a typical parochial American as I jumped from MSNBC to CNN so I wouldn’t miss an upsetting image or conflicting report. She replied that I was being silly because Boston’s a lot closer – 778 miles away, to be exact – than those other places so of course it might be more impactful.

So I ignored the guilt pangs and signed into Facebook to view all the predictable status updates and cloying memes like WE PRAY FOR BOSTON and LIGHT A CANDLE FOR BOSTON and UNITED WE STAND WITH BOSTON and WE ASK GOD TO BLESS THOSE SUFFERING FROM THE BOMBINGS IN BOSTON. I resisted the urge to post snarky responses pointing out that the family of the eight-year-old boy who was killed or the people whose limbs were ripped from their bodies probably wouldn’t rejoice at the news that they had been blessed by God.

I did tell Anita about my impulse, though. She gently admonished me – she’s not a cynical heathen like I am – and stated that people have the right to embrace their faith or post topical memes if they so choose. Armed with another reason to feel guilty, I turned back to the news just in time to hear the talking heads at CNN criticizing President Obama for neglecting to classify the bombings as “a terrorist act” during his nationally-televised appearance before the White House press corps. (Click here for the video and transcript of the president’s remarks.)

I also learned:
  • Three people were confirmed dead – including the eight-year-old – and more than 144 injured, some critically, as a result of two explosions that occurred at around 2:50 yesterday afternoon during one of the world’s premiere athletic events.
  • Many injuries were to people’s lower extremities, and doctors had to amputate the limbs of at least ten victims.
  • The 26-mile-long Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, attracting over 26,000 runners, half a million spectators and 1,000 media representatives from around the globe.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricted the airspace over Boston after the attacks and security was stepped up in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and elsewhere just in case.
  • There was an explosion at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a mile from the marathon, at around 4:30 that was originally thought to be related but turned out to be unconnected.
  • The Westboro Baptist Church fruitcakes intend to picket the funerals of the victims.
I also heard Piers Morgan and his guests discussing the likelihood that Al-Qaeda masterminded the blasts and Chris Matthews saying he thought the terrorist was of the domestic variety because yesterday was Tax Day after all. And according to the New York Post, a 20-year-old Saudi Arabian national is a suspect and is under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.

Sanitized version of AP photographer
Charles Krupa's shot
There was some online debate about whether or not gruesome images resulting from the explosions should be posted and passed around. Some feel it’s an invasion of privacy and family members shouldn’t have to stumble upon photos of their mangled loved ones. Others, like me, don’t want some hotshot editor or publisher with an agenda determining what we can and can’t see. It’s reality. It happened. Kids shouldn’t be exposed to jarring images, of course, but sanitizing coverage because some adults have delicate sensibilities is unfair to the rest of us – and to the victims, who don’t get to be protected from things that are nauseating and painful. If showing the devastating effects of a bomb, Glock or Bushmaster on the human body serves to motivate activists or deter troubled souls, shouldn’t we do it?

(To see photos, click here and here.)

Regardless of where you stand on this question, we are all Bostonians today, at least until the dust settles and life goes on. As President Obama declared, “On days like this there are no Republicans or Democrats — we are Americans, united in concern for our fellow citizens.”

We saw the best and worst in Boston yesterday. I’m always moved when I see first responders running toward danger and destruction, when people come together to rescue, comfort, aid or save others. It’s a strange juxtaposition, the ugliness of terrorism and the beauty of stranger helping stranger. Today my heart is warmed and broken.

Click here to read “13 Examples of People Being Awesome After the Attack on the Boston Marathon.”  And click here for a timely reminder from Patton Oswalt.

P.S. During the same period, seven Palestinians were killed, 55 died in bombings in Iraq and 32 others died in random attacks, and 12 died in Afghanistan. Oh, and a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck southeastern Iran near the Pakistan border, killing at least 40 people and counting.

Sources: Associated Press, Buzzfeed, TIME, New York Post,, Business Insider.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Counting On Us

Marvin Gaye - If I Should Die Tonight

Help This Be the Moment When Real Change Begins

Ben Wheeler

I know I usually post poetry on Sundays but I’m diverting from the norm because of the importance of this issue.

This is another post about guns. I won’t be referencing my kids like I usually do, though, and insisting that they deserve to be safe and live long lives, etc. Instead I want to share a compelling video from the parents of six-year-old Ben Wheeler, one of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Francine Wheeler delivered the weekly White House Address yesterday instead of President Obama; her husband David, who did not speak but at one point could be heard sobbing, was at her side:

First of all, anyone who watches this video, truly watches and listens and feels this mother’s pain and doesn’t want to curl up on the floor afterwards and sob is either inhuman, irrational or both.

Second, I don’t understand how adults – actual grownups with jobs and homes and cars and loved ones – can post comments at YouTube and other pages where the video’s been shared that ridicule this woman, minimize and trivialize and politicize what she’s saying and try to marginalize her.

People are also insisting that Obama the Tyrant wants to TAKE OUR GUNS AWAY. (I don’t know why so many of these people type in all caps as if shouting something makes it true.) He doesn’t want to take our guns away. He wants to do something about the facts that about two-thirds of all murders in the United States over the past decade were carried out with firearms, representing around 12,000 people per year, and that there have been 3,300 gun deaths since Newtown.

And as I told a gun nut in Facebook the other day who was attacking me for supporting gun control, whatever firearms I’d be able to amass between now and when THE SH*T HITS THE FAN wouldn’t be sufficient against the might and muscle of the federal government anyway:

I see no need to protect myself against a tyrannical government. I'm pretty sure the government’s tanks, bazookas, nuclear weapons, missiles, submarines, etc. already trump any old Glock or .38 I might snag. People who think they need a weapon to protect themselves from the black helicopter threat belong in the woods with their beer, their firearms and their loser friends who wear tin foil hats and insist that the moon landing was faked.

I ended up blocking the guy because he was so caustic but before I did, I was able to type a few other points that he chose to ignore:

  • I'm not up to arguing/debating with someone who isn't able to consider views other than his own. I have weighed the need to preserve the Second Amendment with the need to limit access to high-capacity magazines, require background checks, etc. As the parent of four children, I want to know that I did everything I could to ensure that when they go to school in the morning, they come home in the afternoon. This includes advocating for common sense gun control. Sorry if that's threatening or irritating to you.
  • For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides.
  • Children age 5 to 14 living in states with high rates of gun ownership and weak gun laws were more likely to die in homicides, suicides or accidental shootings in their home, according to a 2002 study.
  • In homes where a gun was kept, there was a 2.7 times greater risk of a homicide taking place compared to homes without guns.

I won’t share what he wrote because you don’t need to read about what a hypocrite I am, how small my testicles are or any of the other insults he posted. I finally said, “I’m done. Find someone else to harass. You're never going to change my mind with your bombastic pablum and I'm not going to change yours with facts. I'm going to feed my kids now. Thank goodness I still can.”

Why do so many Second Amendment cheerleaders have to be so nasty? Do they really think they’ll change minds through intimidation, ignorance, idiocy and insensitivity?

Speaking of idiocy, a radio personality in Minnesota named Bob Davis said the following during the “Davis & Emmer Show” last Friday:

I have something I want to say to the victims of Newtown or any other shooting, I don’t care if it’s here in Minneapolis or any place else. Just because a bad thing happened to you doesn’t mean that you get to put a king in charge of my life. I’m sorry that you suffered a tragedy, but you know what? Deal with it, and don’t force me to lose my liberty, which is a greater tragedy than your loss. I’m sick and tired of seeing these victims trotted out, given rides on Air Force One, hauled into the Senate well, and everyone is…terrified of these victims. I would stand in front of them and tell them, ‘Go to hell.’

To me this is beyond obnoxious. I respect this twit's right to free speech but think he revealed what a worthless piece of excrement he is. (Call 651-989-5855 or 952-417-3000 or send a message to if you agree.) What makes it even worse is that although 74 percent of NRA members support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun, this guy is not an anomaly. Most of the pro-gun folks whose comments I’ve read online are equally callous and obtuse.

The Wheeler Family 
This is not my last gun-related post. Fortunately a friend of mine who’s a pistol-packing, card-carrying NRA member has agreed to answer my questions about guns without becoming incensed and abusive. (I’ve written about her before – see “My frustrating, heat-packing, McDonald's-loving, stupidity-hating diva friend,” October 14, 2011 – and am glad that for whatever reason, we’re able to hold diametrically opposed opinions and still like and respect each other.) I intend to ask her why we shouldn’t ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; why lots of folks believe protecting Second Amendment rights is more important than doing whatever we can to reduce gun violence; why anyone buys into the myth that carrying concealed weapons decreases crime and prevents tragedies like Aurora, Tucson, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Columbine; and what she would say if she found herself alone in a room with Francine and David Wheeler.

Sources: White House, Forbes, NPR,, Joyce Foundation.