Sunday, June 30, 2013

What a Setting

Here Comes the Sun (live) - Richie Havens

Sunday poetry

One With The Sun

one with the sun
in trackless fields
of yellow grass and thistle, scent
of humid heavy air and the wing music
of bees and flies.

Child, slender
nakedness to itself unknown,
true colour of the light
dispersed invisibly
or glowing around the black hulls
of distant thunderheads, around
the grasshopper’s countenance,
solemn, vigilant and wise.

Green apples, poured full
of density, of crispness, float unmoved
under leaves on the slope. Brown
fallen apples nest
in secret whorls of grass. The apple tree:
alone in so much space. And below
in the woods by the water
a sweet dead branch
cracks lightly
in the shadow in the wind.

But here is an old track
through the grass head-high
to a child: who
made it? They must have
passed and passed by this one tree,
by the abandoned, tireless car
where rabbits peer out, and the circle
of black embers,
cans, springs, skeletons
of furniture. They too
passed here many times
on their way from the street’s end
to the oaks that screen
the river. There
the sun is nesting now, night
rises with pale flutterings
of white wings from roots
of plants and the black water.

~ A.F. Moritz

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Suite Judy Blue Eyes - Crosby, Stills & Nash

Lazy Lilting Spanish Moss by Deborah Geleb

Courtesy Mark Hirsch

Walking along the bay early this morning, I looked up into the beautiful old live oak trees, dripping with lacy mosses which usually lilt in even the smallest breath of air. There is no movement in the trees, nor a ripple on the water. The egrets usually wading aren't around and the alligator must be hidden in the cooler grasses. It's the hottest June I can remember.

That thought sent my mind on a wild trip bouncing between today and forty years ago. We are experiencing global climate change. Methane gases bursting bubbles in the arctic. We are messing with abortion rights. We are witnessing Big Brother in action, Watergate on a grand scale. We have oil spills killing off marine life and kids' playgrounds quarantined, schools closing and the elderly and poor suffering. Our food is being chemically produced with unknown consequences, and we are constantly fighting amongst ourselves over guns, gays, religion and politics and with many other parts of the world in wars I don't even understand.

I am wondering what happened, where we went wrong. We were protesting Vietnam, sitting in to object to the atrocities at Kent State. We believed in peace. We had communes where we grew our food and had a barter system for things we didn't have. We drove vehicles that when we pooled our funds, two bucks took us anywhere we needed to go, and back. We fought for our rights with Roe v Wade and took abortions out of dirty alleys and into sterile environments.

I remember when the automakers were told to make smaller cars that used less gas and now there are Suburbans and Hummers and F-350s. And these aren't military vehicles or cow haulers or school vans, these go three blocks to the grocery store and use what we called a weeks worth of gas. We have a pizza magnate living in a 40,000-square-foot mansion who refuses to give his employees the smallest in health benefits. A politician against abortions because fetuses masturbate. A kill off of bees by chemicals to produce more food, yet we throw away 40 percent of what we have in our refrigerators now.

I was walking along the bay, as I do nearly every day, just over seven miles, to think about what we have done or should have done or should be doing. I wanted to save the world. I want my grandson to live in peace. I never knew I had to worry about the population of bees. I thought that was a given, as was safe drinking water. I want to trust my fellow man to make responsible decisions, just as I am trying to do for him. All of the rights I fought for are valid. I want to maintain those rights. And when I walk under the old oak tree, I would love to see lacy lilting moss dancing to a breeze of cool air and laugh to myself as I hum an old Crosby Stills and Nash tune, from a day when I thought I knew everything.

Deb Gelep is retired, living along Florida's Gulf Coast. She dabbled in education at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida during the late 60s, protesting the Vietnam War and studying Botany, but her passion has always been working for human rights, preserving the planet and helping to end war. One day she would like to wind up in southern California where her children and grandson reside. For now, she strolls beautiful beaches and ponders her first novel.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Up, Up and Away

The Tide is High - The Paragons

On Marriage Equality, the Tide is High

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

~ Martin Niem├Âller (1892–1984)

So people are anxiously awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supremes about marriage equality. The court is expected to rule on California’s Proposition 8 – the ballot proposal passed by state voters in November of 2008 which specifies that only marriages between men and women are valid in the Golden State – and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by Bubba C. in 1996, which restricts federal marriage benefits to opposite-sex marriages.

I have to admit I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to this. I dutifully changed my Facebook profile photo to the red marriage equality symbol back in March, of course (along with 2.7 million others), and briefly mentioned in an e-mail to a friend a few weeks ago that I hope the Supremes do the right thing. But I wasn’t invested in the decision until I read up on what’s happening.

According to the experts at, the Supremes are expected to uphold Proposition 8 and strike down DOMA. (Everyone expects California’s electorate to come to its senses and overturn Prop. 8 at the next election anyway.) It’s assumed that Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor will vote to invalidate DOMA; Justice Kennedy is predicted to emerge as the fifth vote for striking it down.

(Check out a piece entitled, “Why DOMA’s demise will support Prop 8 surprise,” posted on March 29, 2013.)

I’m not sure why Bubba C. signed DOMA into law back in 1996. But I’m not sure why he repealed Glass-Steagall, allowed children to die in the Waco siege or betrayed Hillary with a homely intern from Brentwood either.

I’m also not sure why Weeper of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) decided to spend more than $3 million in public funds to defend DOMA after President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder announced they would no longer defend the law and it became clear that a wagonload of folks, including dozens of federal judges, thought it was unconstitutional. It might have something to do with the fact that 68 percent of born-again Christians, an important element of the GOP, opposes same-sex marriage. (Republicans 35 and younger support same-sex marriage by a five-to-four majority, however.)

The claims of religious zealots notwithstanding, born-agains don’t represent mainstream America. A recent Bloomberg National Poll found that 52 percent of Americans say they back giving gay couples the right to marry. (Of those supporters, 61 percent want a national law rather than a state-by-state approach.) Twelve states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex weddings – six in the last year alone.

The tide is high.

I do know why it’s now important to me that the Supremes do the right thing. A wise dude from Atlanta who was assassinated in Memphis in April of 1968 once said, “None of us is free until all of us are free." I don’t think of men who love men as gays and women who love women as lesbians. I think of them as people. They’re different and yet they’re the same. And they have the same right to be free as I do. It’s really that simple.

A decision by the Supremes is expected on June 26 or 27.

Sources: The New Civil Rights Movement, Huffington Post, Washington Monthly,,, International Business Times, US News and World Report,

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mom and Me Before She Was 73

Mama's Broken Heart - Miranda Lambert

Sunday Poetry on My Mother's 73rd Birthday


One bright morning in a restaurant in Chicago
as I waited for my eggs and toast,
I opened the Tribune only to discover
that I was the same age as Cheerios.

Indeed, I was a few months older than Cheerios
for today, the newspaper announced,
was the seventieth birthday of Cheerios
whereas mine had occurred earlier in the year.

Already I could hear them whispering
behind my stooped and threadbare back,
Why that dude’s older than Cheerios
the way they used to say

Why that’s as old as the hills,
only the hills are much older than Cheerios
or any American breakfast cereal,
and more noble and enduring are the hills,

I surmised as a bar of sunlight illuminated my orange juice.

~ Billy Collins

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Papa Was a Rolling Stone - Temptations

Richard Escow on the Looting of Detroit

The following op-ed, authored by Richard Escow, originally appeared at the Campaign for America’s Future website last Wednesday:

Nearly 100 years ago two young Detroit girls visited a now-vanished island park that had a dance pavilion, amusement rides, and swimming, and wrote that they were “having fun” on a piece of paper. Then they put the paper in a bottle and tossed it into the St. Clair River, where a diver found it last June.

They wouldn’t recognize the place today. Detroit, which grew and prospered for much of the last century, has become a wasteland of abandoned buildings, lawlessness, and municipal debts.

Somebody’s going to pay for that.

It’s not going to be the politicians whose decisions undermined Detroit. And it’s not going to be the industrial and financial executives who made bad decisions, yet retired with their full pensions and portfolios.

Who’ll pay the price for the fall of Detroit?

There was never going to be any other answer, not in today’s political climate: The bill’s going to the teachers who educated Detroit’s children. The gardeners who tended its public parks. The drivers who carried its people from place to place. The trash collectors who did the city’s dirty work at the break of dawn. They’ll be told they’re paying for decisions they didn’t make.

Those workers didn’t break the economy with Wall Street fraud and recklessness. They didn’t sign those trade deals, or eviscerate the union movement, or allow the ever-growing wage inequality that robbed Detroit’s cars of their markets, its citizens of their spending power, and its children of their hopes.

But they’ll get the bill anyway.

Ritual Sacrifice

Scapegoats have been purged from societies since the dawn of time, and always for the same reason: so the people in charge don’t get blamed.

Detroit’s democracy has already been sacrificed. Under Michigan’s “Emergency Manager” law, the city has already lost most of its right to self-determination to an unelected City Manager. Kevyn Orr was appointed by a Republican Governor who represents precisely the policies that destroyed Detroit in the first place. He’s a viceroy for the corporate/political class.

Photo courtesy Molly Riley/Reuters
Orr is putting the patrimony of Detroit on sale, selling the city’s goods to pay its debtors. How much will that bring in? We’re told the zoo’s healthy, breeding female giraffe could fetch up to $80,000 on the open market. That won’t make much of a dent in the city’s $15 to $17 billion debt, but it would certainly send a message to the people of Detroit: Who do you think you are? A community, a city, a polity? Zoos are not for the likes of you.

There’s no word on the corporate viceroy’s plan for the giraffe, or whether it includes making sure she gets a good home.

Other city property might bring in a little more cash, including as much as $1 million for the Detroit Historical Museum’s prototype 1963 Ford XD Cobra. A million dollars is a lot for a car, but selling it won’t be a problem. The soaring wealth inequality of the last forty years has left the country with tens of thousands of people who can drop that kind of cash for a car without blinking...

...along with millions who don’t know where there next meal’s coming from.

Orr’s fire sale won’t raise much money. Even Detroit’s half of the tunnel to Canada is only worth about $65 million. That’s about 1/230th of Orr’s debt estimate, at most. So why do it? Because it sends a message to Detroit’s citizens: You’re not in charge. You don’t deserve these things. You can’t stop it.

The message is: We dismantled your jobs. Now we’re selling off what remains of the world you knew.


The struggle now taking place between Detroit’s Mayor and its City Council is, in a local columnist’s words, “pantomime theater.” It means nothing. Orr’s calling the shots, and he’s made his lofty declaration: Pensioners must accept “significant cuts” to their benefits, because pending contributions “will not be made.”

As Reuters’ Felix Salmon observes, the city’s bondholders won’t take a loss. (The companies which guaranteed those bonds will take a hit, reasonably, given their bad bets.) And as Cate Long of Reuters points out, Orr’s proposal “seems to be in good faith for bondholders, but less so for the city’s retirees.” Long calls it an attempted “leveraged buyout” conducted on “public employees’ backs.”

As Long says, Orr’s proposal is an “opening gambit” with unions. But what a spectacle: The city’s elected officials are so powerless they’re not even in the picture. And the only budget confrontations being staged are with ordinary retired workers, not the political and corporate forces responsible for Detroit’s troubles.

What’s taking place isn’t just a budget discussion. It’s more symbolism, this time targeting the very concept of public employment. Cops, firefighters and bus drivers are being ritually blamed for the economic breakdown of municipalities all across the country. A decent government job, where you honor your part of the bargain by working for thirty years and then get what was promised, is being treated as self-indulgence.

How distracting. How convenient.

And yet, despite all the claims that pensions are the top problem, Emergency Manager Orr’s fiscal report states that pension and health obligations are only about one-third of the city’s $15-$17 billion debt. And even some of that will be going to bankers, not retirees, as repayment of obligations for “derivatives instruments.”

The Looting of Detroit

In 1967, rioting destroyed 2,000 buildings in Detroit. Today’s economic devastation has left the city with nearly 80,000 abandoned buildings, of which nearly 40,000 are considered safety hazards. And now, after the mismanagement, disenfranchisement and the ritual sacrifices, comes the real payoff.

As a privatization expert told the Detroit Free Press, the real money is in urban assets with a “revenue stream.” That means a city’s water, sewer and transit systems, its parking meters and roads and bridges.

That’s where the money is.

First the people of Detroit will pay with their benefits. Then they’ll give up the city’s few green spaces and other amenities. And after that they’ll pay each and every day – in their utility bills, bus fares, or daily commutes.

It’s not just a ‘leveraged buyout’ financed by other people’s money. It’s a hostile takeover of democratic zones. It’s the Looting of the American City.

Detroit’s hostile takeover is being mirrored in cities across the country. State legislatures are passing corporate-backed bills allowing Emergency Managers to replace democratically elected officials, and these “technocrats” are echoing Orr’s ideologically-motivated actions.

Hostile Takeover

And it’s not just a Republican game. The Democratic Mayor of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, cut a parking-meter deal with a private company that began letting the meters fall into disrepair after promptly quadrupling rates.

An audit later concluded that the company should have paid twice as much for the meter business than it did, but the people of Chicago can’t do anything about it. The money’s already changed hands. Today Chicagoans struggle with their parking meters, but the former Mayor’s a prosperous man. And his successor Rahm Emanuel, handpicked by President Obama, is busy privatizing schools and other city functions.

Rahm Emanuel’s a prosperous man, too.

The ones who break a city are never the ones who suffer. They never pay for the damage. They’re first in line when the legally-sanctioned looting begins. And they’re always the first to endorse “bipartisan” or “technocratic” moves which send the middle class a message: Your way of life is over.

If their hostile takeover isn’t stopped, they’ll be right. A century from now the middle class will only be a distant memory. Future Americans will never know what it was like to have decent jobs with health insurance and a pension, or cities with affordable and efficient services.

They’ll only be able to imagine a world that no longer exists, sent down in memory like a message in a bottle.

Richard (RJ) Eskow is a well-known blogger and writer, a former Wall Street executive, an experienced consultant and a former musician. He has experience in health insurance and economics, occupational health, benefits, risk management, finance and information technology.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Have You Seen Him?

Samy Deluxe - Poesiealbum

I Can't Even Check My E-mail Anymore...

You know what ticks me off?

Having to face the fact that a self-serving, deceptive tool like Mike Rogers represents me in Congress.

I’ve written about Rogers before. (See “Congressman Mike Rogers: Right Wing and Wrong,” and “Hey, Mr. Rogers: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!” He’s also mentioned in “Add CISPA to the List of Reasons Why Washington Sucks.”) He’s the rabidly-partisan, solidly-conservative zealot who to my knowledge has never cast a vote with which I agreed. A fellow blogger described him as “one of the most bought-off politicians by Big Business of any congressman in either party. And he serves their interests well – much to the detriment of his central Michigan constituents.”

I’m one of those constituents and I really resent the poor decision-making of my fellow 8th District voters. (This district became more Republican as a result of partisan redistricting in 2011.) These jokers preferred Robotron Romney to the incumbent in last year’s presidential election. They also chose Rogers over Lance Enderle, his Democratic opponent, 58 to 37 percent – in spite of the persuasive and compelling endorsement of Enderle that appeared here at “What’s the Diehl?” four days before the election. (See “Give Lance a Chance,” November 2, 2012.)

I guess Anita and I can take comfort in knowing we were two of 128,657 voters in the 8th District who didn’t make the gargantuan mistake last November of re-electing the guy who votes with the Republican party over 98 percent of the time and is getting richer every year. (According to the Center for Responsive Politics, his net worth in 2010 was estimated between $136,011 and $391,000; the following year it had jumped to between $1,626,020 and $3,565,000. Must be nice.)

I subscribe to Rogers’ e-newsletter – I don’t have enough irritation in my life, I guess – and regularly receive messages from him that are so pro-GOP, anti-Obama and, of course, pro-Rogers that I find myself reaching for the bottle of anti-nausea liquid that I’ve learned to keep near my laptop. His latest transmission includes the following:

As Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, it is my responsibility to ensure strict and thorough Congressional oversight of the important work done by America’s intelligence agencies. As a result, I have been disheartened by recent dangerous national security leaks that have grossly distorted two vital National Security Agency (NSA) programs that have proven very effective in preventing terror attacks in the United States without infringing on Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.

At a time when the Obama Administration’s IRS, Benghazi, and DOJ scandals have understandably damaged Americans’ trust in their government, it is important to understand why these programs are different. Here are the facts. Neither program allows the NSA to read emails or listen to phone calls of American citizens. Both programs are constitutional and do not violate any American’s Fourth Amendment rights. Both are strictly overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a federal court created in 1978 to protect the rights of American citizens in the course of foreign intelligence gathering.

I thought our elected officials were supposed to refrain from blatant partisanship in official communications.

Felon/Whistleblower Edward Snowden
The missive goes on to glorify the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Rogers’ former employer, praise the PATRIOT Act and slam Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old dude who recently leaked the news that the National Security Agency spies on Americans and has been hacking into China’s computers since 2009:

It is important to consider the source of the recent press leaks about these two vital intelligence programs. These leaks came from a person not involved in the careful execution of these programs, and with access to only small pieces of a large puzzle. He decided to break the law and the oath he took to the American people by publicly disclosing parts of these classified programs, and then fled to communist China. These are the actions of a felon, not a whistleblower.

I thought our elected officials were supposed to refrain from demonizing Americans in official communications – especially those who haven’t yet been found guilty of any crimes and whose actions are considered heroic by a significant number of constituents.

Anyone who’s praised by none other than Daniel Ellsberg, the King of Whistleblowers who leaked the Pentagon Papers back in 1971, and trashed by Rogers, Weeper of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) is welcome at my dinner table anytime.

There was speculation that Rogers, now in his seventh term, might run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Carl Levin, the Democrat who’s been there for 34 years and who’s calling it quits next year. (See "So Long, Senator Levin," March 9, 2012.) But last week Rogers announced he would not be throwing his hat in the ring – he’s smart enough to know he’s got a good thing going as chair of the powerful U.S. House Intelligence Committee and it would be stupid to trade in his prestige and perks to become Michigan’s junior senator – which surprised no one and means he’ll continue to tick me off and make me least until the Democrats learn how to win and gerrymander like the Grand Old Party.

Edward Snowden photo courtesy ABC News.

Sources: Washington Post, Congressman Mike Rogers, National Journal, NPR,, Center for Responsive Politics.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Nintendo With My Dad

My Father's Eyes - Eric Clapton (live)

Sunday poetry

The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

Had you entered that afternoon
you would have thought you saw a man
planting something in a boy’s palm,
a silver tear, a tiny flame.
Had you followed that boy
you would have arrived here,
where I bend over my wife’s right hand.

Look how I shave her thumbnail down
so carefully she feels no pain.
Watch as I lift the splinter out.
I was seven when my father
took my hand like this,
and I did not hold that shard
between my fingers and think,

Metal that will bury me,
christen it Little Assassin,
Ore Going Deep for My Heart.
And I did not lift up my wound and cry,

Death visited here!
I did what a child does
when he’s given something to keep.
I kissed my father.

~ Li-Young Lee

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Change the World

Man in the Mirror - Michael Jackson

You Must See, Hear and Read This Speech about Love

Cecilia Cissell Lucas at UC Berkeley on May 19, 2013

A remarkable young woman named Cecilia Cissell Lucas delivered this moving speech last month at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education commencement ceremonies. Thanks to Mares Hirchert, a peace activist and Facebook friend, I was able to obtain permission to repost it here:

Good afternoon! Thank you all for being here, and for all of your support for one another over the years. And thank you also to those who would like to be here today, but could not. This includes my Mom, who always made fun of me for taking forever to graduate -- but she passed away a couple of years ago and I am missing her today.

Of course, death is not the only thing that keeps people apart. Friends and families are ripped apart every day in this country due to an immigration system which criminalizes and deports people without “documentation”; and due to a prison industrial complex which disproportionately criminalizes and locks up dark-skinned people.

I raise these issues at an education graduation not only to honor those who may not be able to be with us today, but to raise the question of what it means for educators to be there for and with our students.

I think the answer to this question is, simply: to love. Simple, but not easy. Love is a discipline that must be practiced rigorously, and often involves taking risks.

Bell hooks has argued that where there is domination, love is impossible because domination is the opposite of love. To love, then, means being committed to bringing about justice.

This is also a pragmatic issue in our classrooms, if we are concerned with equity. We know that social policies and structures impact our students. Poverty, hunger, and housing insecurity impact a person’s ability to learn. So do the daily micro- and macro-aggressions of racism, nationalism, sexism and homophobia – all of which are systems of domination. These issues require our engagement beyond the classroom. But as educators, we should also interrogate the ways in which our curricula, pedagogies, disciplinary practices and school policies are supporting and justifying, rather than countering, economic and social systems of domination.

For example, I am inspired by the strong and growing movement against high stakes standardized testing. However, aren’t all tests -- and isn’t grading itself -- “high stakes” in the context of a society that thinks it is okay to discriminate on the basis of educational achievement?

All of us know that while, yes, we worked hard to get into UC Berkeley and to be here graduating today, this does not necessarily make us any smarter or more hard-working than others who do not have these degrees. And certainly our credentials do not make us more or less worthy as human beings. But that is what our society teaches us when our credentials are correlated with greater income and greater positions of power and influence.

There is a movement for “college for all” – but even if everyone were to get a PhD, does this mean that there would miraculously be enough well-paying and meaningful jobs available for everyone? We are told we need to improve our schools so that we remain “globally competitive” and that we are being responsible parents when, if we have the resources, we remove our kids from public schools or insist on AP and honors tracks within schools – but what does this say about our attitude towards the worth of children in other countries, poor children and/or children who are left out of honors and AP?

In a ranked system there is no such thing as “no child left behind” because ranking means some people’s success depends on others being less successful; the term “race to the top” is at least more honest.

Can we refuse to participate in a system which brutalizes so many of our students in this way, and reclaim schools for the kinds of learning that can help us build more just and loving societies?

We deal with many institutional constraints, but we are not helpless. Many people are working to create change using a range of strategies: direct resistance, subversive actions under the radar, acquiring positions of decision-making power, and creating alternative institutions.

Regardless of the strategies, we need to remain aware of the ways in which we compromise with oppressive practices. And we need to be doing this work in collaboration with our students and communities because we need all of our efforts and insights to shift from a norm of domination to a norm of love.

This rigorous discipline of love also requires learning to distinguish between liberatory and oppressive perspectives. This means teachers should not attempt to be neutral. There is no such thing as neutrality. That which appears neutral typically appears that way because it resembles the norm. But when the norm is characterized by domination, that is what we end up supporting when we attempt to be neutral.

While I am raising many difficult issues, I am actually quite hopeful. Cornel West distinguishes between hope and optimism. Optimism, he says, is “based on the notion that there’s enough evidence out there to believe things are gonna be better.” Hope, however, looks at the evidence and says, “It does not look good at all. But gonna go beyond the evidence to create new possibilities based on visions that become contagious to allow people to engage in heroic actions always against the odds, no guarantee whatsoever.”

And, the thing is, people have always done this. That is, people have always created liberatory visions that they’ve resiliently acted on against the odds. The question before us, as educators, is whether we are willing to join in that legacy of past and present love warriors.

In our classrooms, this means that instead of creating docile obedient bodies, we need to foster intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical daring. We also need to develop radical imaginations that can expand our sense of the possible. How many classrooms have you been in where you simultaneously developed rigorous analytical capacities, connected the classroom work to meaningful work beyond the classroom and experienced a learning process in which it was okay and even encouraged to publicly cry, laugh, rage, dance, be playful, be honest, be still, be unknowing, and take risks?

I ask my students to take many risks in the classroom, including trying things that might feel scary. It’s useful to practice in low-stakes situations so that we might be prepared in situations with higher-stakes consequences.

In the spirit of practicing what I preach, I’m going to conclude with something that feels scary to me. I don’t sing, and have certainly never done so into a microphone. So in the spirit of working together, I’m asking all of you -- in the audience and up on stage -- to please stand up and help me out; I know many of you know the words, and we’ll sing the chorus a few times so everyone can join in. If you don’t want to say “man,” you can say:

I’m starting with the one in the mirror. I’m asking her to change her ways. And no message could’ve been any clearer: if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.

Know that the mirror is not just on the wall but also in the eyes of other people who help us to see ourselves and the world in clearer ways. So commit to each other. Commit to loving as fiercely and uncontrollably as possible. Shout it out in your own way, in your own languages of the tongue and of the body: love, love, love, love, love. Thank you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dogs at Sunset

Instagram user @bmdpawz took this photo at
the Lake Michigan Recreation Area 

Deborah Harry - Oasis

Harry Patch Was Right

“War is organized murder and nothing else." ~ Harry Patch, 1898 - 2009

I expect my cynicism as expressed in this post will turn some people off.

Oh, well.

I’m tired of scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed at any time of the day and night and seeing photos of American servicemen and women on airport tarmacs and in terminals greeting their spouses, lovers and children, meeting them for the first time, becoming reacquainted with dogs and cats, and otherwise resuming their place in the lives of those they left. If one more person tries to pressure me into “liking” these photos in gratitude for our soldiers’ willingness to sacrifice for my freedom, I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

I find it inaccurate to cast their experience in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as an attempt to sacrifice for my “freedom.” Those who fought the Germans and Italians in World War I preserved my freedom. The Americans who fought the Germans, Italians and Japanese in World War II protected my freedom. (I guess a case can be made that the American Revolution was about my freedom, although I’m not sure if the British gave my ancestors any grief back in 1775.) But the interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan had more to do with Communism, oil and politics than with making sure that I’ll always be free to do whatever I want whenever I want with whomever I want.

Speaking of that, conservative politicians kind of want to put the kibosh on that whole “I can do whatever I want” thing anyway, don’t they?

Don’t get me wrong. I respect those who’ve served in the armed forces. I respect their sacrifices and discomfort and the risks they’ve taken. I’m sorry that we’ve lost some of our soldiers on the battlefield and some after they’ve returned home. But every time I see a photo of an American G.I. kneeling to hug his or her beaming offspring, I think about all those who can’t hug their children anymore because of American foreign policy. I think of the Americans who will never experience a joyous homecoming with their sons and daughters and I think of the parents with brown skin – those who worship Allah instead of Christ – who don’t love their offspring any less but have had to bury them because of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, oil reserves or some agenda item discussed in Washington, D.C.

I also think, whenever I see one of those surprise homecomings – when the father shows up in his child’s classroom or appears during halftime at the Army-Navy football game – that the whole thing is trumped up and unnecessary. So many families suffer and sacrifice and do without for specious reasons that I find myself actually resenting the tugging of my heartstrings and the mawkish displays in front of audiences and news cameras.

(I’ve expressed this sentiment before. See “He Surprised My Achy Breaky Heart,” July 20, 2011.)

If these families feel better – if it helps them to go without and get through the day – by telling themselves that their loved ones are fighting for our freedoms rather than protecting our oil interests, I’m not inclined to burst their bubbles. But just between you and me, it’s sad that we force people to pull the wool over their own eyes when it doesn’t have to happen, isn’t it?

I recognize I'd have more credibility if I had actually served in uniform – if I had slept in barracks, cleaned latrines, fired an assault rifle, forced down MREs and watched friends who had become brothers die. If our borders were actually invaded, if enemy paratroopers descended upon our local high school football field and forced my neighbors to flee into the mountains a la “Red Dawn,” I’d like to think I’d fight for my family, my freedom, my country, my way of life. But the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld machinations don’t qualify as justification to shout, “Wolverines!” and take up arms against evildoers.

We spent $1.4 trillion on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A million civilians lost their lives. Thousands of Americans were killed or injured. And for what? What was the return on this investment? The costs, tangible and less so, of this criminal folly can never be recouped. (Click here to read, “One Million Civilians Dead, 37,000 American Soldiers Dead or Injured – And We’ve Learned Nothing from Iraq Debacle,” March 19, 2013.)

I surprised even myself when I wrote last month that I support more forceful U.S. support of the Syrian rebels in order to stop of the slaughter of innocent children 6,000 miles away. (See “Israel Helps Syrian Rebels: We Do Nothing,” May 6, 2013.) When I posted the piece in an anti-war Facebook group, a prominent and wise peace activist named Margaret Nielsen commented, “Share your concern for suffering people - but know that more guns and bombs will only worsen their suffering.”

Ain’t that the truth.

Click here to visit the “Jobs, Not Wars” website and obtain a petition urging politicians to “redirect our nation’s resources from war and uncontrolled Pentagon spending to fund social programs and public services, protect and improve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, repair the social safety net, meet the challenge of climate change, and reduce poverty and inequality.”


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Michi gami

Lake Michigan shoreline
June 7, 2013
Photo by Lisa Wozniak

CREEP - Days

Sunday poetry


Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,
And marching single in an endless file,
Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
To each they offer gifts after his will,
Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all.
I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,
Forgot my morning wishes, hastily
Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lilyan at "Mess is the Best"

Dean Martin - Sway

Damn! Dean Dingell's Definitely Delivered!

Courtesy McClatchy Newspapers/Eastern Echo

I know some people think politicians shouldn’t stay in their jobs for more than a few years but I disagree. I think it depends on the person.

The late Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina), who was in the U.S. Senate for almost 48 years, was opposed to civil rights (although he wasn’t opposed to impregnating a 16-year-old African-American girl who worked for his parents when he was 22 and having a secret daughter with her), married a 22-year-old employee when he was a 66-year-old senator, and sent a secret memo to Nixon administration officials urging that John Lennon be deported because of his politics. This guy shouldn’t have eaten at the public trough for so long.

Charlie Rangel (D-New York) has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since I was eight years old. In July of 2010, the House Ethics Committee charged Rangel with 13 counts of violating House rules and federal laws. He was found guilty of 11 of the charges and formally censured (which means little in the whole scheme of things). This guy shouldn’t still be eating at the public trough.

The late Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who was in the U.S. Senate for 40 years, was investigated by the FBI and found guilty of corruption as he campaigned for re-election in 2008. Charges included steering federal dollars to personal friends, failing to report large gifts, and making false statements about extensive remodeling at his home in Girdwood, Alaska. He lost his re-election bid by 3,724 votes. It’s good that Alaska’s electorate removed this guy from the public trough.

JFK and Dingell
But Michigan’s John Dingell, who became the longest-serving member of Congress in American history yesterday – he’s served since 1955, seven years before I was born – is different. I don’t know the guy but I assume he came up believing public service is a noble profession, that it’s a gift to be able to make life better for people, because he’s spent so long doing so much for so many of us. One doesn’t become the Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives by being self-serving and unscrupulous and taking one’s constituents for granted.

Anita and I attended a Michigan League of Conservation Voters fundraiser at the Ark in Ann Arbor a few years ago and Congressman Dingell was there. I don’t remember if he was being honored by the group or was just there because the event was in his district but I remember being impressed by the guy.

Debbie and John Dingell
Although he was 81 and was joined onstage by his cane, he was commanding and compelling. I thought it was noteworthy that someone who sided with the domestic auto industry on every issue – including opposing enhanced fuel efficiency standards and alternative energy vehicle production – was willing to hang out with a bunch of environmentalists who blame the internal combustion engine for some of our air pollution problems. (The congressman’s wife, Debbie, works for General Motors, is the granddaughter of GM’s founders and is a major political force in her own right.)

His comfort and confidence might have had something to do with the fact that he created the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, helped snag federal funding to clean up the Rouge River, and helped enact many of our country’s most important environmental laws, including the Water Quality Act of 1965, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act of 1977.

The more I researched Congressman Dingell’s record, the more impressed I became. In no particular order, obviously:
  • In 1965, he helped create Medicare to provide health insurance to people age 65 and older regardless of income or medical history.
  • He voted for the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. (Among other things, the bill enhances judicial and law enforcement tools combatting violence against women and improves services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.)
  • He voted to restore funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998.
  • He voted to prohibit drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • He voted for campaign finance reform in 2001.
  • In June of 2007, he and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-New York) introduced a gun control proposal requiring the head of each federal agency with records pertaining to people who shouldn’t own or buy guns to share that information with the Attorney General so it can be included in our background check system. The bill was signed into law in January of 2008. It’s interesting that Congressman Dingell co-sponsored this legislation; a former NRA board member, he’s in the past opposed most gun control measures. (See postscript below.)
  • A World War II veteran who’s always won re-election by double-digit margins, he’s one of the most powerful guys in Washington.

As with every politician who has a lengthy voting record, I don’t agree with every position he’s taken:
  • He voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. (The U.S. Supremes are currently considering the constitutionality of DOMA, signed into law by Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996.)
  • He was a supporter of the Vietnam War until 1971.
  • In 1993, he voted for the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” amendment which prohibited openly homosexual folks from serving in the military. (The policy was repealed in the fall of 2011).
  • In 2007, he tangled with then-colleague Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts) over creating a new energy task force. (That same year, during a C-SPAN interview, he said he was thinking about proposing a new carbon tax to limit greenhouse gas emissions. See “John Dingell’s Carbon Tax Bill is Designed to Be Unpopular,” October 3, 2007.)
  • On September 14, 2001, he voted to authorize Dubya to “use the United States Armed Forces against anyone involved with the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and any nation that harbors these individuals.” (However, he voted against the “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002” that started the Iraq war.)
To be sure, not everybody digs Dingell. But wasn’t it Churchill who said something about how making enemies means you’ve stood for something?

Thanks for leaving such an indelible mark on our quality of life, Congressman Dingell. I appreciate your truly remarkable service and don’t mind at all that you’ve eaten from the public trough for so long.

Click here to read, “John Dingell's list of accomplishments as long as his career,” June 7, 2013. And watch this video from last Monday night to see Stephen Colbert ask Congressman Dingell if he was a Whig or a Bull Moose when he first ran for office:

P.S. I vaguely remember back in the late 1980s or 1990s when John Dingell’s son, Chris – who was a state senator at the time – received a lot of press attention for dropping his loaded pistol on the Senate floor. Thankfully, Dingell, now a Circuit Court judge, didn’t hurt anyone. Google must be broken because I couldn’t find anything validating my recollection.

P.P.S. It’s kind of cool that Congressman Dingell’s dad, John D. Dingell, Sr., represented the same district in Congress from 1933 to 1955 when his son took over.

P.P.P.S. My favorite line from Congressman Dingell’s Colbert Report appearance: “’Compromise’ is an honorable word.”

Sources:, Library of Congress,,, Dingell press release, Detroit Free Press, U.S. Department of Justice.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Like a Fiddle

Bone Thugs N Harmony - Crossroads

Sunday poetry

Bone and Hue

There was a young woman
who lived in her shoes.

Bare-backed, she sat
with elders and sheened
her nails with sloe.

Felt purse, trunk,
berries in bottled gin.

Smoke rose
from the purples of the ground.

Moscow maybe next, or
Poland, where the numbers burned.

Purples of the mosses turned.
Some million shades.
Six million more.

Purples of the mosses,
and all the millions, blue.

She had so many lives,
she didn’t know what to do.

~ Olivia Clare