Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taking a Dive

Pigmeat Markham - Here Comes The Judge

Local Prosecutor Adds Insult to Injury

Courtesy Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal

I try not to write about local issues unless I think they either have larger significance or are so infuriating, so unjust and ridiculous and downright wrong, that I can’t control myself.

The latter is what’s going on 15 miles northwest of my Ingham County home.

Last January, 16-year-old Haille Collett was driving her 12-year-old sister, Brielle, to school when she lost control of the Jeep Liberty she was driving and slid into a school bus. Investigators determined that she wasn’t texting or applying makeup at the time – she just lost control on a snow-covered road. Happens all the time. She wasn’t even ticketed. Yet the county prosecutor in neighboring Eaton County, Jeff Sauter, has decided that Haille should be charged in juvenile court with a “moving violation causing serious injury.” She faces as much as two years in a juvenile facility.

Jeff Sauter photo courtesy
Greg DeRuiter/Lansing State Journal
Although Haille was hurt in the crash, her little sister was critically injured. Brielle was in a coma for a month, has had seven surgeries and is in a rehabilitation facility in Grand Rapids, an hour away. She will need extensive therapy and for now can only communicate with her family through limited hand gestures.

Can you imagine the guilt that young Haille’s feeling? I’m told she visits her sister – with whom she’s always shared a special bond – several times a week, maintains good grades, works part-time and holds down the fort at home when their mother’s in Grand Rapids. The last thing she needs is to be raked over judicial coals by a heartless, overzealous, showboating prosecutor who obviously has questionable judgment, too much time on his hands, or both.

Sauter – who’s been Eaton County Prosecutor since 1991 – was quoted in our local paper, the Lansing State Journal, as saying the charge “could have no consequences for her.” Then why spend tax dollars and exacerbate an already-traumatic situation, Mr. Sauter? It’s not like you need your name in the newspaper. (Did I mention that Republican Governor Rick Snyder just appointed Sauter to fill a 56th Circuit Court judge vacancy?)

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for early June. Sauter can change his mind, and local Magistrate Colleen Maylee can dismiss the case if she so desires. If “What’s the Diehl?” readers want to share their thoughts on this matter, here’s how to do it:

Eaton County Prosecutor Jeff Sauter
Eaton County Courthouse
1045 Independence Boulevard
Charlotte, MI 48813

Magistrate Colleen Maylee
Eaton County Judicial Circuit
Family Division
822 Courthouse Drive
Charlotte, MI 48813

Sources: Lansing State Journal, Juvenile Justice Association of Michigan,

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Clear and Gorgeous

Tahquamenon Falls photo courtesy Lee Antonia Tobar

Florence + The Machine - Dog Days Are Over

If the Media Don't Tell Us, We Must Not Need to Know

Lansing's March Against Monsanto

If these Facebook posts I'm seeing are accurate and there were massive protests against Monsanto all over the world, how come I haven't heard/seen anything about it on the TV news?!

It’s easy to dislike Monsanto. The multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation – producer of genetically engineered seeds and genetically modified crops as well as the herbicide known as “Roundup” (and former producer of DDT and Agent Orange) – is a fine example of what’s wrong with our economic system. Its only goal is to make a profit for the few at the expense of the many.

What’s not easy is watching or reading anything in the mainstream media about what politicians and greedy conglomerates like Monsanto are doing to us and how we’re responding.

Last Saturday, two million people gathered in more than 100 U.S. cities – including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, Washington D.C., Minneapolis, Philadelphia and right here in Lansing, Michigan – and over 50 other countries around the world to “March Against Monsanto.” Yet it was easier to find the back of an earring in my front lawn than to find television coverage of this massive, nonviolent event. Apparently global protests against GMOs and unethical business practices are as newsworthy as the genocide in Darfur or the disappearance of young American females who don’t have white skin and blond hair.

If you ask me, any time the United States is on the same page as Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Channel Islands, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Macedonia, Malta, México, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey on any issue, it’s worth interrupting our vapid sitcoms and reality shows.

So why were so many people taking to the streets and public squares last Saturday? According to Occupy Monsanto:

  • Research has found that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects.
  • Here in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the agency charged with ensuring our food safety – is steered by former Monsanto executives (which explains the lack of government research on the long-term effects of GMOs).
  • Congress just passed and President Obama signed what’s been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.
  • Monsanto has long been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to enjoy a monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.
  • Monsanto’s GMO seeds are harmful to the environment; scientists have discovered a direct link to colony collapse within the world’s bee population among other negative impacts.

What do protestors want? For starters, a) labeling of GMOs so consumers can make informed choices more easily, b) repealing relevant provisions of the Monsanto Protection Act, and c) calling for more scientific research on the health effects of GMOs.

Sounds reasonable to me. It’s not like they’re asking for free college tuition or the right to occupy Zuccotti Park, for Pete’s sake.

Click here to read, “A New App Lets You Boycott Koch Brothers and Monsanto By Scanning Your Shopping Cart.”  Click here to read, “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! GMOs Have Got to Go!,” March 19, 2013.

Visit this link to learn about “Fooducate,” which helps consumers make better food choices and is “like having a dietician on speed dial.” Click here for a list of Monsanto companies to avoid, and here to read, “Monsanto’s Dirty Dozen: The 12 Most Awful Products Made By Monsanto.”

And watch this video:

Special thanks to Ken D. Orlich for his activism on this and other issues.

Sources: Occupy Monsanto,, United Human Rights Council,,, Fractured Paradigm.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remembering Travis

Courtesy Reuters/Larry Dowling

Linkin Park - Castle of Glass

Sunday poetry

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight

(In Springfield, Illinois)

It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down.

Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us:—as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.

His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come;—the shining hope of Europe free;
The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.

It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?

~ Vachel Lindsay

Friday, May 24, 2013

Happy Trails

Dick Dale & The Del Tones - "Misirlou"

Weiner Haters Are Dicks

This is another one of those times when I expect people to strongly disagree with me.

It happened with gun control. It happened with Michael Vick. It happened with Barack Obama and the debt ceiling and motorcycle helmet laws. And now it’s going to happen with Anthony Weiner.

The former Democratic congressman from New York’s 9th District who resigned in the summer of 2011 due to a sexting scandal announced two days ago that he’s throwing his hat back in the political ring, this time as a candidate for Mayor of the Big Apple.

I hope the guy wins.

Visitors to Weiner’s website can find an extensive policy document containing not ten or 20 but 64 proposals to keep New York “the Capital of the Middle Class.” Ideas include training and paying teachers well, reducing hunger by eliminating barriers to food stamps, promoting biking to work, helping small businesses that are struggling with an “overbearing bureaucracy,” shifting responsibility for rent control from the state to the city, offering a tax credit to family members who care for aging and frail parents and grandparents, allowing gay men to donate blood, tracking sex offenders using GPS technology, helping to clean up contaminated brownfield sites, providing incentives for hybrid taxis and lowering the tax burden for “outer borough” job creation, among others.

Weiner’s clearly intelligent.

He served on the New York City Council for over six years before being elected to replace his mentor, Chuck Schumer (D-Brooklyn), in Congress in 1998. (Schumer had decided to run for U.S. Senate.) While a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he supported a woman’s right to choose, Medicare expansion, a public option as part of health care reform, the auto bailout and reintroducing the Equal Rights Amendment.

Weiner also voted to enforce anti-gay hate crime laws and limits on carbon dioxide pollution; maintain a moratorium on offshore drilling, raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and provide incentives for alternative fuels. He voted to allow travel between the U.S. and Cuba, opposed allowing commercial airline pilots to carry guns and believes in the separation of church and state. And he opposed making the Patriot Act and Bush tax cuts permanent and eliminating the estate tax (aka “Death Tax”).

But what about those terrible tweets? An indiscretion that’s more embarrassing than criminal – and that’s largely between Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin – doesn’t trump an impressive public service career in my book.

Gee, I wonder if the real reason conservatives wanted Weiner driven out in 2011 was not because of moral failings or inappropriate tweets but because he’s a hard-core liberal who’s outspoken, eloquent, smart and not afraid to fight? I’m reminded of married U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana), who in July of 2007 admitted that he visited prostitutes but was given a free pass by the GOP because if he resigned or was forced out, the governor of Louisiana – a Democrat at the time – would likely have appointed a Democrat to replace him until a special election could be held.

The hypocrisy, it burns.

Sure, Weiner’s loud, intense and high-strung. His record’s not perfect – he supported the Iraq war in 2002, is pro-Israel to a fault (referring to Palestinians as “terrorists” in 2006), and voted in favor of building a fence along the Mexican border – and he had one of the highest staff turnover rates while in office. And I’m no expert on NYC politics; another candidate might emerge who’s better for the city. But Weiner doesn’t deserve to be dissed and dismissed just because the guy sent a few tweets that he shouldn’t have sent.

It’s good that the “Anthony Weiner” Facebook group has 56,698 likes – the “David Vitter” group only has 48,071 – and that his mayoral campaign announcement was met with “It’s time to forgive and move on” editorials as well as “He should be pilloried until the cows come home” pieces. Hopefully the GOP sleaze machine, of which Faux News is an important part, doesn’t succeed at closing the door on his second chance.

Click here to read “Anthony Weiner’s 10 Best Explosive Smackdowns and Snarky Jabs,” complete with video. And click here to view his campaign video.

Sources: Facebook,,,

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Flippers

My Chick Bad - Ludacris & Nicki Minaj

You Can't Win If You Don't Play...Or Even If You Do

I wish I had purchased my Powerball ticket at a Publix supermarket in Zephyrhills, Florida, because that’s where the person who recently won the second largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history bought his or hers. He or she may have 99 problems but being broke ain’t one: the winning jackpot consisted of more than $590 million clams.

Snyder and Scott won the prize for
"Worst Two GOP Governors named Rick in America"
That’s a whole lot of clams.

Zephyrhills is small – it’s home to fewer than 13,340 residents – and is located 30 miles northeast of downtown Tampa on the west side of the state. Why the state that helped give us President Dubya in 2000, has “In God We Trust” as its official motto and is governed by one of the creepiest-looking politicians in the country – Republican Rick Scott – is now home to one of the richest individuals ever is a mystery to me.

I was just starting to feel my envy turn to rage and my disappointment to disgust when I read an article entitled, “How Lotteries are Bad for Players, Winners and States.” According to the article:

  • Lottery players lose an average of 47 cents on the dollar for each ticket.
  • Tickets actually act as an implicit tax of 38 percent.
  • One study found that lottery sales are highest in our poorest neighborhoods because they exploit low-income individuals’ desire to escape poverty.
  • As much as 70 percent of lottery winners lose their money eventually, and some winners become losers due to bankruptcies, drugs and fractured families.
  • Lottery revenue is really a regressive tax because states use them to fund public services like education.
  • While states that have lotteries increased per-capita spending on education at first, after time they ended up decreasing overall spending, while states without them increased investment.
I wrote before about how Anita and I would set up a charitable foundation and give lots of money away if we were lucky enough to experience such a windfall. (Click here to read “You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play Nice,” April 16, 2011.) I just learned the odds of hitting the Powerball jackpot are one in more than 175 million. Math isn’t my forté but even I know that scouting for office space for my foundation is premature.

Now that I know the lottery is regressive, exploitive and evil, I’ve decided to buy just one Powerball ticket per drawing as opposed to my usual two. Hey, you can’t win if you don’t play...


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Power in Numbers

Honey Bee - Blake Shelton

Hope Oklahoma's Okay

Courtesy Brett Deering/Getty Images

I had another post ready to go, but then I heard about the Oklahoma City tornado. As I write this, 51 people are dead.

This kind of thing is especially jarring because it isn’t easily reduced to politics or religion or land or criminal behavior. This is about nature – the awesome, unpredictable, scary, not-to-be-underestimated power of nature to devastate, to kill indiscriminately. It doesn’t matter how old you are or which politicians you support or whether you live in a trailer or a gated community – if a tornado wants to wipe your house, your street, your neighborhood or your city off the face of this floating blue orb, it will.

Paul Hellstern/The Oklahoman
Anita and I were watching The Voice last night; at the top of the show, host Carson Daly referred to the tragedy in Oklahoma City and threw it to coach Blake Shelton, who expressed concern and hope that everything would turn out okay. I turned to Anita and remarked, “Geez, are they drama queens or what? It’s weather, man. And it’s Tornado Alley. I hate it when people on television are mawkish and try to pull at our heartstrings.”

Then I learned via a special report by NBC’s Brian “Not a Single Hair is Out of Place on My Serious Newsman Head” Williams that the death toll exceeded 50 (20 of whom were children) and residents of Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, had no electricity, no water, no phones and as of 9:00 p.m., no hope. (Moore was already obliterated by a tornado once, back in May of 1999; 41 people were killed and hundreds were injured.) I learned that schools packed with students were destroyed. I learned that hospitals in the area were caring for at least 145 injured people, 70 of whom were children. I learned that the death toll was expected to climb as communication was restored. And I learned that sometimes I’m a cynical *ssh*l*.

Courtesy Sue Ogrocki/AP
The New York Times reported that entire neighborhoods were completely leveled and damaged roads and debris were making it difficult for emergency responders to get to the folks who needed help. According to the National Weather Service, the tornado, which was reported to be two miles wide and consisting of 200-mile-per-hour winds, touched down just before 3:00 p.m. yesterday and traveled for 20 miles. It was on the ground for 40 minutes, the spokesperson said, and was a Category 5 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale, which measures tornado strength on a scale of 0 to 5.

I could use this opportunity to expound upon the futility of prayer – I antagonized a bunch of self-righteous brethren in Facebook who were typing, “Praise Jesus!” and “God is Good!” under a photograph of a rescued child in Moore, telling them that I doubt folks in Oklahoma City were clamoring to compliment The Bearded White Dude Who Floats on Clouds and Awards Touchdowns and Grammys for slaughtering their loved ones – or make the case for government action to combat climate change or take swipes at the many mealy-mouthed politicians who’ve opposed sending aid to areas stricken by natural disasters but I won’t.

Courtesy Brett Deering/Getty Images
Instead, I’ll use “What’s the Diehl?” to send genuine best wishes to the people of the Sooner State. Whether it’s cheesy or not, I’m reminded at times like this that we’re all neighbors on Planet Earth. I hope the death toll is low and our compassion is high in the coming days and weeks.

Update: As of 4:30 p.m., CNN and The Washington Post are reporting that 24 people were confirmed dead, including nine children. (Earlier reports of at least 51 deaths were erroneous, according to the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's Office.) More than 230 people have been injured; at least 100 have been rescued from the rubble. The death toll could still rise.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has created an “Oklahoma Tornado Response Fund” to help affected communities. Operation USA is another alternative for those wishing to help.

Courtesy Alonzo Adams/AP
Courtesy Steve Gooch/AP

Sources:, New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Amazing Colors of Venice

True Colors - Cyndi Lauper

Sunday poetry

As You Solo in the Bright Colors of the Rainbow

forget that previous tune you heard
the one with the tinsel
hung about throughout
and the ornaments
here is a new tune
it is raw
biting like a red pepper
hot upon the tongue
you will taste its shattering impact
ring in your ear
somewhat the same as
startling sirens
all at once blasting
early sunday morning
as you lie half awake and unsuspecting
this tune will come crashing
will pierce your ears
wound you
you will stick your finger in the hole
to stop the bleeding
but the wound will suck in
your finger
your hand
your arm
all of you
until the question
"am i anyone?"
hangs over your head
haunts you like the gleaming eyes
of a dead horse hanging
and this time you will know
and remember
the pain of being born
this is what takes place
i have felt it in my own face
when one's long held belief
is shaken loose by the impact
of reality's iron ball
it unsettles you
undermines your foundation
leaves you cracked and unsure
until you grasp the meanings
toss away the old feelings
and plant yourself upon a new base
gaze toward a sunny and bright sky
delight in the opening of your eyes
believing something now
because it makes sense
instead of your prior standing behind the fence
of others' thoughts which
you were brought up to believe
is it so easy to be dead
and lying in the midst of myths
and so hard
don't you know
like spitting this high note from the horn
but so pretty
to be reborn.

~ David Rice

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Ride

Toni Basil - Mickey (Director's Cut)

Three Cheers for Alli!

I wouldn’t have expected three of my kids to be into cheerleading but they are.  They really love it.

Maya was first – she’s been training at a local cheer facility for a year. She’s the most proficient at back handsprings, tucks, roundoff back handsprings, roundoff multiples, connection passes, front aerials, punch fronts, front and back walkovers, cartwheels, layouts and basket tosses.

Devina and Bryant are now on board too. Devina’s small size makes her a favorite with her teammates and Bryant’s athleticism and gender work to his advantage. Maya describes her team as her “second family” – she said she really feels like she belongs to something – and Bryant and Devina, who enrolled just last month, look forward to the daily practices as much as Maya does.

It didn’t take me long to realize how good this experience is for the kids. (Anybody who thinks today's cheerleading is not a sport requiring practice, teamwork, conditioning, strength, stamina and attitude probably thinks Dubya was a good president too.) Although it’s costly, the benefits they receive from participating in this activity justify the expense.

Maybe this is why I was so repulsed to read that the Elgin School District in north-central Ohio is refusing to allow a 14-year-old girl with Down syndrome to participate in her middle school’s cheerleading program – even though she cheered with her team from fourth through sixth grade.

“We didn’t want her to take a spot away from the typical cheerleaders,” the girl’s mother, Robin Williams, told a local reporter. “We just wanted her to feel like she belongs.”

This is why she proposed that her daughter, Alli, be allowed to join the other girls out on the field as an honorary cheerleader for one or two cheers – or even as cheer manager. School officials denied the request on the grounds that it wouldn’t be fair and are now hiding behind an attorney.

How would you like to have to be the one to explain to Alli why she can’t cheer anymore? What would you say?

Fortunately there’s a nonprofit organization that helps students across the country to create cheerleading and dance teams in middle schools, high schools and colleges that include students with disabilities. The Sparkle Effect provides starter kits, peer mentoring, on-site training and even grants for uniforms. Their website states that they’re “not about perfection, they’re about connection.” Maybe they can help Allie since the local professionals who are charged with doing so are failing.

I’ve attended cheerleading competitions for Maya that have included teams of special needs kids. I’m pleased to report that the applause was always thunderous when these teams finished their routines. Thankfully, spectators seem to agree that all kids deserve to feel confidence and joy, not just the “normal” ones.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Jumping for Joy

I Who Have Nothing - Candice Glover

Send Sydney to Beijing!

Courtesy Michigan State University

I wrote about my young friend Sydney Rostar back in February of 2012. (Click here to read “Sweet and Stunning Sydney, the Stupendous, Special Singing Sensation,” February 23, 2012.) She’s the future opera diva with a voice that can shatter glass and give you goosebumps who I’ve known since she was knee-high to a grasshopper.

Since my last post, Sydney has completed her freshman year at Michigan State University, where she’s studying vocal performance. She was just accepted into the MSU-China Vocal Collaboration Program, established eight years ago to give students in both countries the chance to visit and learn about each others’ music and culture. She’s scheduled to visit the Central Conservancy of Music in Beijing with seven other MSU students this fall.

One of the program’s creators, MSU Professor Richard Fracker, said, “The MSU-China exchange has grown immensely in musical quality and mutual friendship since its inception. We want students to develop a mutual respect for the great culture both of our nations represent, and to grow and learn from one another.”

In addition to performing here and in Beijing, Sydney expects to visit the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and other amazing locales that I’ve only seen in movies. To say I’m a little envious of her is like saying Bigfoot is a little hard to spot.

We know that art and music are closely connected to academic achievement and that by traveling to other countries, we develop a better appreciation for people and places that are different. Sydney’s about to witness firsthand how music has the power to overcome language and cultural barriers and bring individuals closer together.

If, that is, she can come up with the cash.

Sydney’s no Tori Spelling and plane fare and program costs are daunting so she’s set up a fundraising page at I promised I’d share this at “What’s the Diehl?” so that readers can help to build another bridge between disparate nations and expand Sydney’s world.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

You Talkin' to Me?

Radiohead - Dollars and Cents

They Took the Money and Didn't Even Run

“I'm a content man.”

~ Dubya, to CNN, April 25, 2013

I know everyone wants to look to the future – to graduation parties and the Fourth of July and vacations – and no one wants to talk about depressing topics when important new stuff is happening like a Spice Girl and a supermodel becoming judges on “America’s Got Talent,” but something’s been bothering me for a while and I can’t seem to shake it:

Around $6.6 billion of what the U.S. spent on Iraqi reconstruction remains unaccounted for because of inefficiencies and bad management.

Read that again if you want. That’s MORE THAN SIX AND A HALF BILLION DOLLARS.

Way back in 2005, a guy named Stuart W. Bowen Jr. who was director of something called the “Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction” announced that auditors couldn’t verify that taxpayer funds were spent for their intended purposes in Iraq. Bowen’s office also found that spare parts shipped to U.S. contractors went missing; almost 200,000 weapons – including over 100,000 AK-47 rifles – disappeared; tractor trailers, tank recovery vehicles and other equipment and services that we provided to Iraqi security forces were unaccounted for; and thousands of “ghost employees” were added to Iraq ministry payrolls that were financed by us.

Your worst nightmare
Additionally, Halliburton, the multinational corporation headed by Dick Cheney from 1995 to 2000 that was awarded no-bid contracts worth millions for “work” in Iraq, was found to have overcharged its client – the American people – to the tune of $1.4 billion.

Let’s do this again. That’s almost a BILLION AND A HALF DOLLARS.

Click here to read “Cheney’s Halliburton made $39.5 billion on Iraq war,” March 20, 2013.

Bowen went so far as to refer to the situation as “the largest theft of funds in national history.”

Since there were accusations that the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food Program in Iraq – created by the Clinton Administration in 1995 and discontinued when we invaded Iraq and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the transitional government set up by the U.S. and our allies, took over in 2003 – was corrupt and inefficient, U.S. officials should have known that Iraqi ministry officials couldn’t or wouldn’t guarantee every dime sent their way would be used for its intended purpose.

Bowen’s report was prepared for and delivered to Congress (which is a bit ridiculous since Congress is about as fiscally responsible as a lottery winner with a drinking problem) and covered by the media. A Pentagon spokesperson responded to the report by saying, “We simply disagree with the audit's conclusion that the CPA provided less-than-adequate controls over Iraqi funds that were provided to Iraqi ministries through the national budget process for hundreds of projects, essential services, Iraqi salaries and security forces."

In other words, “Nuh uh.”

Why Do These Guys Look So Pleased?
I know President Obama refused to investigate Dubya, Cheney et al for war crimes, telling CNN in early 2009, “I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backward, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there.” I know people who point out discrepancies and refuse to let sleeping dogs lie are marginalized and ridiculed. I know it’s irresponsible to make accusations without evidence and Bush and Cheney may in fact not be immoral, deceitful war profiteers. But I just can’t get out of my head that I’m going to jail if I don’t pay the IRS $700 in back taxes in the near future, yet politicians still can’t say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash.

And apparently they don’t have to.

Click here to read, “Missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say,” June 13, 2011.

This is what billions buy...

Photo of U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman HM1 Richard Barnett and Iraqi child courtesy REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.

Sources:, Americans against the Tea Party, Asian Tribune, Los Angeles Times, International Business Times.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Bob Marley & the Wailers - She's Gone

Bye, Dr. Brothers

Dr. Joyce Brothers died yesterday.

The 85-year-old cultural icon – which is what she was to me – succumbed to respiratory failure at her New Jersey home.

I thought of her more as a television personality than a psychologist – I remember watching her in “Ellery Queen,” “Match Game,” “Saturday Night Live,” “Hollywood Squares,” “The Love Boat,” “Frasier” and of course “The Tonight Show” when Johnny Carson was the host – although I remember reading her syndicated newspaper column on occasion too. I loved how she didn’t seem to take herself too seriously during these guest appearances; I sometimes got the sense that as she was saying her lines, she was suppressing a smile and thinking, “Yeah, I know this is kind of silly but it’s fun and they’re paying me.”

Her obituary in the New York Times refers to her as “the mother of mass-media psychology because of the firm, pragmatic and homiletic guidance she administered for decades via radio and television.”

When I “pass on” (is there a dumber euphemism for dying?), I want some clever writer to put together a sentence filled with four-dollar words like that to describe me.

She was also a women’s advocate – she proposed changing textbooks to remove sexist bias back in the 1970s – and wrote several books, although I never read one. Unlike many advice-givers who call themselves “doctors,” she was the real thing, earning her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia.

If you google “Dr. Joyce Brothers quotes,” you’ll discover these gems, among others:

Marriage is not just spiritual communion and passionate embraces; marriage is also three meals a day, sharing the workload and remembering to carry out the trash.

Love comes when manipulation stops; when you think more about the other person than about his or her reactions to you. When you dare to reveal yourself fully. When you dare to be vulnerable.

Being taken for granted can be a compliment. It means that you've become a comfortable, trusted element in another person's life.

The world at large does not judge us by who we are and what we know; it judges us by what we have.

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.

Dr. Brothers’ Wikipedia page credits her with inspiring Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura. I liked her anyway.

For some reason, I find myself impacted to a greater extent by the death of celebrities with whom I grew up than is logical or probably healthy. Every time someone like Soul Train’s Don Cornelius, Three’s Company’s John Ritter, Mr. Rogers, Captain Kangaroo or Peanuts creator Charles Schulz leaves this mortal plane, I feel like I’ve lost someone I actually knew, someone who occupied space in my life. I guess I’m reminded of my own advancing age and mortality. At least that’s my diagnosis. Dr. Brothers would probably concur.

Check out this cheesy skit with Dr. Brothers and Sha Na Na:

Sources:, New York Times.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

New Mother

Pink Floyd - Mother

Sunday poetry

Mom and me, around 1967
First Miracle

Her body like a pomegranate torn
Wide open, somehow bears what must be born,

The irony where a stranger small enough
To bed down in the ox-tongue-polished trough

Erupts into the world and breaks the spell
Of the ancient, numbered hours with his yell.

Now her breasts ache and weep and soak her shirt
Whenever she hears his hunger or his hurt;

She can’t change water into wine; instead
She fashions sweet milk out of her own blood.

~ A.E. Stallings

On this special day, I’m thinking not only of my wonderful mother and the mother of my kids but of the mothers of Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel D’Avino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler and Allison N. Wyatt, who undoubtedly feel piercing pain every day but especially today.

To sign an online Mother’s Day card for these women, click here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Love in the Rain

Greatest Love of All - Whitney Houston

Won't You Do It for the Children, Mr. Snyder?

Courtesy Karen Apricot

The 420 or so students in Buena Vista Township, Michigan, about 20 minutes south of Bay City, have been forced to stay home from school for more than a week.

Why? Because Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder doesn’t really care about them.

See, the Buena Vista Township school district laid off all but three employees on May 6 because the district can’t make its May 24 payroll. No teachers equals no classes, so students are watching television, playing Xbox and whatever else kids do when they’re relieved of the obligation to pursue academic goals.

State Representative Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw), Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) and Congressman Dan Kildee (D-Flint Township) are among those asking Snyder to tap into Michigan’s Rainy Day Fund (known officially as the Budget Stabilization Fund) to help get these kids back in school. But Snyder’s insisting that’s not what the fund is for and said the state superintendent is working to address the concerns of students and parents in the area, whatever that means.

Whitmer – who pointed out that state budgets signed by Snyder over the past several years have raided more than $2 billion from the School Aid Fund to instead pay for corporate tax handouts – said, “This administration has consistently prioritized corporate profits over the needs of our schools, but it's time for Governor Snyder to start caring more about Michigan's kids than he does about his Wall Street friends.”

I’m sure Snyder’s refusal to tap into the Rainy Day Fund has nothing to do with the fact that the majority of the community’s population is African-American, or that 20 percent of Buena Vista’s population falls below the poverty line. (For a family of three, that’s just $19,530.) But since the fund is “designed to help the state weather challenging economic periods or unforeseen emergencies,” according to the state’s website, and there’s plenty of cash in it (it stood at around $364.9 million at the end of fiscal year 2012), I don’t really know why he’s stalling.

Get this: although local officials are probably most at fault for the crisis - I haven't reviewed their books or even stepped foot in Buena Vista Township - things were exacerbated by the state Department of Education, which is withholding state aid payments for at least April, May and June because the district spent state money it wasn’t supposed to on educating students from a local residential treatment program for delinquent males.

Who thinks punishing innocent children for the mistakes of adults is sound policy?

The district just approved a new deficit elimination plan – an earlier one was rejected by the state – and officials have formally asked the state to conduct a financial review “to determine the existence of financial stress." Residents are calling for the heads of the Buena Vista School District superintendent and Board of Education president. Regardless of who’s responsible for the fact that the kids of Buena Vista Township are posting in Instagram and painting their fingernails instead of reading, writing and doing arithmetic, emergencies like this require decisive action by the state’s chief executive, not buck-passing and thumb-twiddling.

Snyder – a former high-tech venture capitalist and head of Gateway Computers – carried Saginaw County, in which Buena Vista Township is located, by over 8,900 votes over the Democrat, Virg Bernero, in 2010. (Interestingly, Buena Vista Township’s total population is fewer than 8,700 people.) For someone who claimed during that campaign to be “One Tough Nerd,” he sure seems to be lacking leadership skills – or maybe he just doesn’t care that much about people who don’t live in gated communities with guard houses and swimming pools.

To access’s coverage of the Buena Vista situation, click here.

Sources:, U.S. Department of Health and Social Services, Michigan Department of State,