Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mother and Child

The Andrews Sisters - Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B

See ya, Hadiya

I was disappointed to read another sad and maddening story set in my beloved City of the Big Soldiers yesterday.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot and killed two days ago while hanging out in a park after school. (The park is just a mile from President Obama’s Chicago home.) An honor student, volleyball player and majorette at King College Prep School, Hadiya “had no gang affiliation and likely was not targeted in the shooting attack,” according to CBS News.

Hadiya Pendleton
Her murder is receiving more media attention than other crimes because she had just performed a week ago with her high school band at the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. Now, in the city over which foul-mouthed former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel presides as mayor, she’s become a symbol of escalating violence and another poignant anecdote in the national debate about guns and crime.

I've traveled to Chicago many times – most recently by train with Anita and the kids – and I've loved it every time. Whether I had a meeting on Wacker Drive (a name that always makes me giggle like a 15-year-old majorette), was expanding my brain at the Museum of Science and Industry or expanding my stomach at the Cheesecake Factory on the ground floor of the Sears Tower (I refuse to acknowledge that the building was renamed “Willis Tower” in 2009), I always thought the city had great energy.

I experienced the amazing “Taste of Chicago” outdoor food festival in Grant Park years ago and remember it like it was yesterday. Jazz clubs, Wrigley Field, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Magnificent Mile and the Chicago Water Tower, Lake Shore Drive along the Lake Michigan shoreline, the hot summers and frigid winters...the number of reasons why this city is at the top of my “Places I Dig” list is large.

I never experienced the violence that’s such a big part of Chicago.

More than 500 murders occurred in Chi-town in 2012; 87 percent of these – or 435 – were committed with guns. A total of 2,400 shootings were reported to Chicago police last year.

And things are getting worse. Chicago’s 2012 murder rate was 19 percent higher than in the year before. More than 40 people have been killed in the Windy City just this month.

Just because Chicago is the third most populous city in the country and has a violent history doesn’t mean we should just shrug our shoulders and look away when good kids are gunned down after school.

The White House called Hadiya’s murder “a terrible tragedy.” I think that’s b*llsh*t. To me a tragedy is a car accident. A tornado. A tsunami. War. Genocide. An earthquake. A cowardly gunman running down an alley and shooting at a bunch of kids chillin’ in a park on the corner is different. It’s disgusting. Stomach-turning. Despicable. And what’s most infuriating is that it’s in many cases preventable.

As Hadiya’s devastated mom told a reporter yesterday, “Something does need to change.”

So the young girl who her cousin called “a walking angel” – the one whose biggest transgression was running up her parents’ credit card buying books on Amazon – is in the morgue.

And Shedd Aquarium is no longer the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Chicago.

Rest in peace, Hadiya Pendleton.


Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

~ Carl Sandburg

Sources:, Chicago Tribune, Washington Monthly,

Monday, January 28, 2013


Kings Of Leon - The Bucket

Before We Kick the Bucket...

Anita and I spent an hour yesterday creating bucket lists.

We had talked about it before – and about specific entries that would eventually appear on our lists – but we never felt like spending the time racking our brains and actually putting ideas to paper until yesterday afternoon.

Once I started typing things into my Excel document, I was tripping over myself to get everything down. Anita, on the other hand, found it helpful to check out other folks’ online lists for ideas. As I write this, in fact, she hasn't finished her list yet. But I’m fighting the urge to lengthen my list beyond the 100 entries I speedily compiled.

We haven’t yet shared our lists. Anita’s traveled more extensively than I have so I expect there are fewer references to other countries and locales on her list than on mine. (I want to see the Great Wall of China, for example, and the Hoover Dam and the Taj Mahal, among other landmarks.) And as I’ve written before, Anita couldn't care less about celebrities so I don’t expect “See taping of television show,” “Meet Motown artist(s)” or “Have dinner with famous person” to appear on both of our lists (unless the famous person was, say, noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson).

We argued briefly about what’s listable and what’s just a life goal. My position was that losing weight or attending our kids’ college graduations, for example, were worthy goals but not the kind of things to go on a bucket list. Riding a zip line, seeing the Northern Lights and meeting the President of the United States were more listable, I insisted.

It was at this point that she told me she was about to add, “Get Pat to mind his own frikkin’ beeswax because this is my list and he’s not the boss of me” to her document.

We did agree that we could put things down even if we've already done ‘em. We each relished the sense of accomplishment we derived from placing an “x” next to some of our entries. When I counted up my x’s and saw that over half the entries on my list have already been achieved, I felt cooler than before our little exercise.

There were some things – some events and memories and accomplishments – that I didn't include even though I thought they were listable. (Examples include sitting on Dolly Madison’s couch in the White House and eating jumbo shrimp or taking professional quality photographs of my laughing child on a merry-go-round, both of which I've done.) And some ideas weren't added because their time has most likely come and gone (like running across the country like Forrest Gump, for example, or competing in the Tour de France) or they’re painful to think about (like reconciling with my firstborn or visiting my birth father’s grave). But there are still plenty of challenges to tackle before my number’s up.

I’m sure I’ve left off some noteworthy ideas, and maybe I cheated by including so many things that I’ve already done. But I’ve already lived for five decades; it’s not like I’m just starting out on this amazing journey. I’m printing my list below (italicized entries have already been done). Tell me what you think, and how does mine differ from yours?

Pat’s Bucket List

Touch water from all five Great Lakes
Touch water from the three major oceans
Drive down crookedest street in America
 See Hollywood sign 
See Mann's Chinese Theatre 
Meet President of the United States
Tour White House 
Be on television 
Be on the radio 
Have name appear in a book 
Have photo appear in a book
Write/publish a book
Create a blog
Visit India
Visit Brazil
Visit China (and see the Great Wall)
Go to the Super Bowl
See taping of television show
Drive along Pacific Coast Highway

Travel across country
Go skydiving
Ride in hot air balloon
Canoe down remote river
See Grand Canyon (and skywalk)
Go whale watching
Go on a cruise
Experience "Taste of Chicago"

Visit major aquarium 
Go behind the scenes at a zoo
Travel by train to Chicago 
Travel by train to Toronto 
Go hiking in national park
Hike part of Appalachian Trail
See Mt. Rushmore 

See Statue of Liberty 
Find the Love of My Life
Rent/own RV and travel country w/LOML
Meet Motown artist(s) 

Work in executive branch of state government
Work in legislative branch of state government
Work for self 
Serve as pallbearer 
Give speech in front of crowd
Sing in front of crowd 
Ride in a helicopter
Visit Hawaii
Drive a motorcycle
Drive a speedboat
Graduate from college
Make my kids laugh
Set foot in all 50 states
Appear in a movie
Have sex outside 

Own a house
Visit Italy
Visit Amsterdam
Visit France
Visit England
Visit Bali
Learn how to play piano
Shave head 

Grow moustache and beard 
Get tattoo
Ride a horse
Have dinner with famous person
Hold a snake
Go to Disney World 

Go on a ski trip
See an opera
See a play on Broadway
Have coffee at an outdoor café in Europe
Witness major surgery
Be the boss at work 

Witness childbirth/cut the umbilical cord
Ride in a small plane
Attend Cannes Film Festival
Ride in a limousine
Ride on a zip line
Stay at Hotel Coronado on Catalina Island, California

Visit Meteor Crater in Arizona
See Hoover Dam
See intersection of Florence and Normandy in LA
Meet Muhammad Ali
Cut down my own Christmas tree
Work out with the help of a personal trainer
Visit New Orleans' Ninth Ward
Travel to the top of an active volcano
See the Mona Lisa at the Louvre
Swim with dolphins
See Andy Warhol's ‘Campbell's Soup Cans’ at MoMA

Fire a gun 
Sleep in a hammock
Play the Old Course at St. Andrews with Anita
See the Northern Lights
Visit Times Square 

Visit the top of the Empire State Building
Ride a roller coaster
Shower in a waterfall
Visit Niagara Falls
Visit a winery

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mya Likes Sledding

The Corrs - Only When I Sleep (Unplugged)

Sunday Poetry


Pawnbroker, scavenger, cheapskate,
come creeping from your pigeon-filled backrooms,
past guns and clocks and locks and cages,
past pockets emptied and coins picked from the floor;
come sweeping with the rainclouds down the river
through the brokenblack windows of factories
to avenues where movies whisk through basement projectors
and children peel up into the supplejack twilight—
there a black-eyed straight-backed drag queen
preens, fusses, fixes her hair in a shop window on Prince,
a young businessman jingles his change
and does his Travis Bickle for a long-faced friend,
there on the corner I laughed at a joke Jim made.
In the bedroom the moon is a dented spoon,
cold, getting colder, so hurry sleep,
come creep into bed, let’s get it over with;
lay me down and close my eyes
and tell me whip, tell me winnow
tell me sweet tell me skittish
tell me No tell me no such thing
tell me straw into gold tell me crept into fire
tell me lost all my money tell me
hoarded, verboten,
but promise tomorrow I will be profligate,
stepping into the sun like a trophy.

~ Meghan O’Rourke

Saturday, January 26, 2013

She Deserves Better

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band - The Beatles

Strong Woman Pounds Silly Little Men

So some nitwits and numbskulls who were somehow elected to Congress took on the most admired woman in the world last Wednesday and by most accounts, they went down for the count.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee each held a hearing to examine issues surrounding the murders of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others last September 11 in Benghazi, Libya. For two and a half hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon, the outgoing Secretary of State – who was hospitalized just a few weeks ago after doctors discovered a blood clot in her head – more than held her own against pandering politicians who were hell-bent not on getting to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi but on trying to tarnish the credibility and reputation of Clinton and her boss, President Obama. (Right-wingers insist the administration ignored intelligence that the attack was imminent, didn't provide adequate security for the U.S. Consulate and is now trying to cover everything up.)

First of all, it’s not incredibly astute for lawmakers to go after Hillary Clinton. The American people have named her the Most Admired Woman for each of the last 11 years, according to Gallup polls. (In fact, she’s been named Most Admired more than any other woman in Gallup history.) Congress, on the other hand, ranks somewhere below cockroaches, traffic jams and Nickelback in Americans' esteem, according to Public Policy Polling.

J. Christopher Stevens
Secondly, anyone who watched the hearings could see that committee members were interested more in appearing big and strong for eventual campaign commercials than in finding out how and why over 100 gunmen attacked the U.S. Consulate just five months ago. (Ambassador Stevens died from asphyxiation caused by smoke inhalation; U.S. Information Officer Sean Smith and embassy security officers Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods also lost their lives.)

The administration initially said the assaults were retaliation for the release of an anti-Islamic video, “Innocence of Muslims.” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice appeared on interview shows on September 16 armed with talking points provided by the CIA suggesting that the brouhaha in Benghazi was “spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi.” Two days later, the POTUS himself told David Letterman that "extremists and terrorists used [the anti-Muslim YouTube video] as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies."

It emerged later that it was in fact not an impromptu act by an inflamed mob but a clearly-planned, military-type attack resulting from American foreign policy.

So politicians decided this ambiguity warranted televised congressional hearings, and smarmy panderers like John McCain (R-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) went to town. McCain told Clinton, “The answers you’ve given this morning, frankly, are unsatisfactory to me.” Johnson, a Tea Party-backed first-termer, insisted that Ambassador Rice had “intentionally misled” people – a claim with which Madame Secretary did not agree.

Paul called Benghazi “the worst tragedy since 9/11.”

Rand Paul
Apparently he forgot about that little skirmish in Iraq launched by Dubya back in 2003 which lasted more than eight years, resulted in the deaths of almost 4,500 Americans and over 1.4 million Iraqis, and didn’t turn up a single weapon of mass destruction.

You know why these hearings are nothing more than a partisan dog and pony show? Because the same folks who are indignantly interrogating Hillary Clinton have stymied the Obama administration’s attempts to boost security and increase funding for the 260 embassies, consulates and missions that we maintain in 180 countries around the globe.

Last September 18, the Center for American Progress pointed out, “In each of the last two years, Congress has cut President Obama’s request for U.S. Foreign Service and U.S. Agency for International Development staffing levels despite repeated analysis by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, indicating that our embassies are critically understaffed.”

But wait. There’s more:

“In the 2011 continuing resolution, Congress, at the insistence of the House of Representatives, slashed the president’s request for embassy security and construction and forced another cut in fiscal year 2012. Altogether Congress has eliminated $296 million from embassy security and construction in the last two years with additional cuts in other State Department security accounts.”

Here's even more from the Washington Post:

“For fiscal 2013, the GOP-controlled House proposed spending $1.934 billion for the State Department’s Worldwide Security Protection program — well below the $2.15 billion requested by the Obama administration. House Republicans cut the administration’s request for embassy security funding by $128 million in fiscal 2011 and $331 million in fiscal 2012. (Negotiations with the Democrat-controlled Senate restored about $88 million of the administration’s request.) Last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Republicans’ proposed cuts to her department would be ‘detrimental to America’s national security’ — a charge Republicans rejected.”

Don’t like the Center for American Progress or the Washington Post? How about the New York Times? The Old Gray Lady published an op-ed on October 14, 2012 that included the following:

“The ugly truth is that the same people who are accusing the administration of not providing sufficient security for the American consulate in Benghazi have voted to cut the State Department budget, which includes financing for diplomatic security. The most self-righteous critics don’t seem to get the hypocrisy, or maybe they do and figure that if they hurl enough doubts and complaints at the administration, they will deflect attention from their own poor judgments on the State Department’s needs.”

As I posted in Facebook the other day, I resent these guys using the deaths of four human beings to try to score political points and slow Hillary Clinton's rush to the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. After watching these sleazy bozos, I can't wait to knock on doors and lick envelopes for her.

Click here for a story entitled, “Hillary Clinton exits Benghazi probe looking stronger than ever,” and click here to read New York magazine’s “Seven Things Hillary Clinton Was Saying When She Adjusted Her Glasses.”

Sources: Washington Post, Los Angeles Times,, CBS News, Public Policy Polling, New York Times,, Gallup,, Center for American Progress.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pretty Sunrise

Courtesy Jacquelyn Styrna

Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples: Oh Happy Day

The Inaugural Address

The full text of President Barack Obama's Second Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013:

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have.

Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.

Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Courtesy Anne C. Savage

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias. No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.

This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun. America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.

We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully – not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear. America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.

Courtesy Anne C. Savage
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.

For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service. But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.

They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.

Sources: National Constitution Center, New York Times.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Spreading Her Wings

Sheryl Crow - My Favorite Mistake

Coming Up Short To Nikita

My 13-year-old told me matter-of-factly last night that she thinks I’m capable of much more than I’m currently achieving and that I really should start seeking the balance that’s lacking in my life.

Part of me was touched that she cared enough to offer this wisdom – usually she finds my breathing annoying and is guaranteed to roll her eyes at every syllable I utter – and part of me was mildly irritated that I was being judged, harshly, by someone who wasn’t even born until I was well into my 30s.

I was also a little irked because while not the 36th richest man in America like Lord Zuckerberg or internationally idolized like George Clooney (my contemporary), I’m relatively comfortable with where I’m at. It would be nice to not violate bank policy by dropping below the minimum balance every time I withdraw gas money from my checking account, of course, and I’d be lying if I said I have no regrets – but I’m better off than lots of folks, my job is flexible and I’m able to incorporate what I enjoy doing (writing) into my work unlike many cubicle slaves I know.

Part of the problem, I think, is that Nikita noticed the photo propped up on my desk of me shaking hands with the 42nd president of the United States in the White House back in June of 1996. My career has since “evolved” to the point that I’m more likely to win NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series than to be photographed anywhere near the Leader of the Free World.

Another reason for my confused reaction to her evaluation is because our relationship is currently more than a little challenging, thanks in part to normal teenage hormones, mood swings and boundary-pushing. Add to that a pinch of “I’m not her real father” and a dash of “I’ve made some big mistakes” and you can understand why I’m not sure how to respond to her character analysis.

I remember when Nikita was born – I wasn’t there but her mom and I were professional colleagues at that point and I remember the pregnancy – and I even babysat her once when she was still in diapers. So I’ve always felt that she and I go way back and ought to be able to talk about anything. The fact that we can’t talk at all much of the time has caused more than one sleepless night for both of us. It’s too bad, really, because there’s a lot about her that I genuinely like and respect – her self-discipline, confidence and commitment to her academic goals come to mind – and I’d love to be able to devote my limited number of brain cells to life’s other challenges.

I’m sure she’d rather not have to deal with my demands and adapt to my preferences too.

I think I’m going to keep quiet about last night’s appraisal. After all, the conversation was better than most of our recent interactions – no one raised their voice or stormed out of the room – and it’s not like she’s going to be 13 forever.

I guess it’s just that I want her to look up to me, not down at me.

P.S. Do not tell her I blogged about her. I’m sure it would really tick her off.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Jay-Z - Dead Presidents

Sunday poetry

Praise Song for the Day

A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other’s
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what’s on the other side.

I know there’s something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

~ Elizabeth Alexander

Friday, January 18, 2013

Hi Technorati!

So I'm trying to arrange for to include "What's the Diehl?" in its list of 9,432,567 blogs worthy of internet surfer consideration. Technorati's process of "claiming" a blog is a tad daunting for someone with ADHD like myself but I'm committed nonetheless to broadening my readership beyond immediate family and Facebook friends. So I'm supposed to include a special code in a blog post. I'm not going to tell you what it is because I don't want you to claim my blog. So don't look.


Since I'm reading right now about RSS feeds and technical stuff like that - and I'm supposed to be working on something else - I can't spend any more time on this post. See ya.

Isn't This Great?

Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

Josh Fielder on Guns

My friend Josh Fielder posted this fantastic essay in Facebook two days ago after President Obama released his new gun control proposal – a day after the National Rifle Association released a new ad targeting the Obama girls. (Yes, this is the same NRA that blamed violent video games for the Sandy Hook tragedy and then released its own mobile target-shooting game a month later.) For highlights of Obama’s proposal, visit this link.

So, here's my two cents (which will end up being closer to $1.50, I'm sure) and I'm sure I will regret posting this later, due to the "friends" I will lose while exercising my First Amendment, but here goes:

Instead of posting a meme with a picture and a falsely-attributed quote or a made-up statistic, I've spent my time researching the gun violence/gun control debate. And I'd like to talk about some of the pervasive themes I've seen lately.

First off, Hitler did not say, "In order to conquer a country, you must first disarm its citizens." In fact, Hitler made it his position to enable guns to be obtained more easily. (See this link.)

Secondly, the presidents – and I mean ALL of them – and their families receive death threats on a daily basis. President Obama did not enact the regulations that REQUIRE Secret Service protection for him and his family. If you believe your children are as much of a target as the president's children, then you have a self-inflated idea of your position in this world. (See this link.)

Thirdly, there is NO law or bill being considered that would allow anyone to come marching into your home to take your legally-obtained and legally-owned firearms. There are possible laws that are being explored that would require more responsibility on the part of the gun owner or person purchasing a gun (i.e. pass a background check even if buying a gun from a gun show dealer). If you buy a car from a dealer, it must be registered (a record of the transfer is documented). If you buy a car from a private citizen, it must be registered. If you buy a gun from a dealer, there is a record of that sale and it is registered. So how is it illogical to require the same for private sales of firearms?

Fourth, there are not more people being killed with baseball bats than guns. If you disagree with that because you saw a picture stating otherwise on the internet, then I would like to offer you the chance to buy some oceanfront property in Arizona and I'll throw in the Brooklyn Bridge for free. There is no magical solution for solving the problem of gun violence. THAT is what we need to solve. (See this link.)

We don't ban cars that are used in DUI-related deaths, but we do enact regulations regarding blood alcohol limits, prosecute people who enable a drunk driver to operate a vehicle after serving them, promote a DUI campaign raising awareness and educating drivers on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. All of which has reduced DUI-related fatalities by over 40% in a decade. (See this link.)

The media is not hiding other gun-related stories because they want to sensationalize the problem; they are simply unable to cover every gun death story because there would be an average of 80 of them each day. So they concentrate (unfortunately) on the massacres which, I think we can all agree, happen all too often.

I find the fact that more children are killed in the U.S. by guns than in the entire Middle East region very disturbing.

I find it disturbing that the NRA blames the rise in violent shootings on video games and then comes out with its own shooting video game (categorized for children as young as 4 years of age) less than a month after Newtown.

I find it disturbing that other countries spend in excess of twice as much as the U.S. on violent video games and have a small fraction of the amount of gun-related deaths/injuries.

I find it disturbing that instead of looking for a solution to a problem like Newtown, there are people wasting their time and energy trying to turn it into a conspiracy theory.

I find it disturbing that guns are the third largest killer of children ages 5-14 in the U.S.

I find it disturbing that a child in America is 12 times more likely to be killed with a gun than the rest of the "developed" world.

I find it disturbing that there are more privately-owned guns in America than the next SEVENTEEN countries combined.

I find it disturbing that all of these statistics are not discussed but fake statistics about a baseball bat death rate are plastered everywhere.

I find it disturbing that some people believe that the ONLY answer to this problem is more guns.

Banning all firearms is NOT the answer, which is exactly why it's not being proposed. This country has enacted laws that didn't work before, so they've been revised, repealed and reformed. Isn’t it ludicrous to think that we evolve as a society but the laws governing us cannot? The NRA states that the assault weapons ban didn't work the first time. Well, you know what they say: "If at first you don't succeed, f*%k it.” If armed guards are the only answer to ending school shootings, then explain the Virginia Tech shooting. Virginia Tech had an entire police department complete with a SWAT unit. Explain Columbine, which had an armed officer on staff. When discussing an end to gun violence in schools, there should be NOTHING left off the table.

Ronald Reagan, a huge gun proponent and signer of the Brady Bill, wrote to Congress in 1994 asking them to propose legislation limiting or stopping altogether the manufacture of guns classified as assault weapons. (Anyone who says "assault weapon" is a made-up term should remember that every word in every language is, in fact, made up.)

No, criminals don't typically obey laws, but we still have them. Can you use that logic to say there should be no laws at all? No.

Let me be clear: I am NOT anti-gun. I have nothing against guns or responsible gun owners. I served proudly in the military. I worked in armed security. I’ve hunted and enjoyed target shooting since I was a kid. I'm sure most gun enthusiasts are the same way. However, this issue should be discussed logically and rationally, and all I see are comments and pictures that are anything but rational and for the most part are just viral, inflammatory, unresearched vitriol.

The president enacted 23 executive actions today, of which only two have anything to do with limiting the availability of a category of gun or a magazine capacity. The remaining 21 deal with aspects regarding background checks, school safety and mental health system requirements and deficiencies. Will it be a perfect solution? No. Will it help? We'll see. Is it better than doing nothing? Definitely. If we keep insisting, "It's too soon to talk about it" after each tragedy, pretty soon we'll never talk about it.

Okay, so maybe it ended up closer to $2.00 instead of two cents. So shoot me.

Josh, 38, is a Virginia native who served in the U.S. Air Force at the National Security Agency for six years. The son of a sheriff’s deputy who taught him gun safety at the age of 11, Josh is a single father of two teenagers who runs a custom-made dog collar business, RBD Pet Outfitters, and promotes social, political, economic and environmental change in his spare time. He doesn’t take himself too seriously.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Snyder's Speechwriter

Michael Jackson - Bad

You Say "Not Bad," I Say "Unintelligible"

"Snyder’s Pure Michigan: Taking Away Our Choices...Silencing Our Voices"

~ Flyer being circulated in Lansing by Democrats

I understand that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and one person’s junk is another person’s treasure but come on. Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. (Can we still use that expression?)

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s third State of the State speech last night was jarringly bad. It was beyond poor. It was completely devoid of detail, logic and cohesion. I know I’ve criticized his delivery and his grating, clipped, nasal monotone before but last night takes the cake. It was unmitigatingly awful.

So what I can’t figure out is why so many pundits, journalists and others are complimenting the guy and no one’s climbing to the top of the highest mountain in Michigan – Mount Arvon, elevation 1,979 feet, located eight miles south of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula’s Baraga County, for those who care – and screaming, “Your leader is an idiot. You’re all in danger.”

Seems like these folks have a moral obligation to tell the truth and warn the populace rather than pretending the emperor is wearing wonderful new clothes that are oh so refreshing.

I watched the whole thing – all 56 minutes of Snyder’s rambling, disjointed pablum. If we forced captured insurgents to view this speech without interruption, I’m pretty sure our agents would sprain something in their rush to write down every confession, secret and revelation.

Courtesy Lansing State Journal
Snyder started out by making a lame joke about the Senate Majority Leader, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House, who sit behind him during the speech, having to stare at his back. Then he went right to the pandering, demanding a round of applause for the Armed Forces, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Attorney General Bill Schuette, his Cabinet (I thought the secretary of state and attorney general were part of his cabinet...maybe they’re his favorites) and others.

He went on to talk about the “Big Three,” which in his world were autos, agriculture and tourism. He mentioned that the cars deemed “best” by North American International Auto Show people were built right here in Warren and Lansing (the Dodge Ram and Cadillac ATS, respectively) and said, “If you want the best, you buy it from a Michigan product.”

I swear to dog. Review the tape.

He said our economy and income growth are doing well. He touted private sector job growth, boasting that we've added 177,000 jobs (I didn't catch the time period). He said the home market is coming back and our population is growing again.

It was at this point that I realized/remembered he famously doesn't use Teleprompters or actual written speeches – he apparently relies on note cards with abbreviated outlines. And it shows. This explains why he jumbles words and throws out random statistics and factoids as they occur to him.

He said that last year he wanted to focus on jobs, people and good government. Then he pointed to three major tax reforms: personal property tax reform, a non-ferrous metals tax change that will bring jobs to the Upper Peninsula, and unemployment tax reform. (I know. Huh?)

Then he mentioned regulatory reform and said we eliminated over 1,000 rules last year, creating an environment that’s conducive to business. (No wonder postcards that say, “Come to Michissippi” are currently selling like gangbusters.)

Courtesy MEA
Then he referred to our infrastructure, spoke about the New International Trade Crossing (the controversial proposed second bridge to Canada that everyone wants except Matty Moroun, the owner of the first and only bridge, and the politicians he’s bought) and gave the first of many “shoutouts” to some Canadian politician whose name I didn’t catch.

Not sure what was with all the shoutouts. When did we elect Arsenio Hall governor?

Next, he started talking about the new Regional Transit Authority (RTA) for southeast Michigan, announcing that he was appointing Paul Hillegonds – a senior official at DTE Energy who was a state representative for almost two decades and was Speaker of the House in 1995 and 1996 – to chair it and giving a shoutout to State Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) for being the “Yooper who brought mass transit to metro Detroit.”

For those who don't know, "Yooper" is what the cool kids call someone from Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Then he promised to “put the rapids back in Grand Rapids," announcing that it was a big environmental win that people in west Michigan will be able to kayak there again.

This was followed by a reference to “Pure Michigan Business Connect.” The governor explained that he worked with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to make it happen. To make what happen, you ask? Well, now we’re asking Michiganders to do more business with Michiganders. I’m not sure to whom Snyder was referring when he proudly spoke of the “matchmakers.”

He went on to talk about loans and programs, success coaches in our schools and “going to the customer.” He gave a shoutout to success coach Dana Trafallette, client Yolanda Foster and her young son, Joshua, who earned a Most Improved Award in math at his school. They all stood up when the governor recognized them, although Joshua looked like he would have preferred to undergo an invasive medical procedure than be recognized during this speech.

Snyder then boasted, “This last year we did almost 750 kids.” I have no idea what he meant and no, I’m not going there. He introduced Anton, a resident of the east side of Detroit who was attending Macomb Community College, liked basketball and bowling, and has applied for a position at the Department of Natural Resources. Anton, Snyder said, was “the kind of success we have in this program,” although I didn't catch the program.

Courtesy John Beutler
This was followed by the claim that we've “made tremendous success with autism.” We have at least 15,000 qualified candidates to get assistance, the governor said, and there are no losers. (Again, no idea.) He said this (not sure what) “helps society in terms of being more successful,” and then gave shoutouts to Senators Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley (R-Dearborn). I don’t know why.

Snyder then mentioned a “Healthy Kids Dental” program. He said 440,000 (children?) are in this program, announced that we’re adding another 90,000 kids, and declared that we should continue with this.

What was next? A reference to the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which consisted of just $2 million in 2010 – enough to run the government for 20 minutes, the governor pointed out – and now contains $500 million. How did this happen? Where did the $498 million come from? No idea.

Then he said something about people counting on retirement checks when they retire before moving into a brief discussion about “Bureaucracy Busters,” an effort spearheaded by Lieutenant Governor Calley to “get state employees more fired up.” State workers have been so fired up that they've suggested over 1,000 ways to bust the bureaucracy, which the governor said was “really cool.” (We had this program when I worked in the governor’s office in the 1980s; we called it the “State Employees Suggestion Awards Program” which is admittedly less cool.) Snyder clarified that the program is “not about a bureaucracy” but is about “serving the customer, our citizens.”

Time to mention new performance measures for Michigan courts, of course, and court consolidation, and to give shoutouts to the Michigan Supreme Court and the entire judiciary. Then the speech became interesting.

Why? Because this is when Snyder referenced the obscene mangling of the legislative process that occurred in the waning hours of last year, when lame duck Republican lawmakers jammed a number of horrible bills through the process without allowing Democratic lawmakers to get a word in edgewise and in spite of massive protests taking place outside on the Capitol lawn. Only he never mentioned “making Michigan a right-to-work state” or “limiting women’s access to a legal medical procedure” or “a new emergency manager law that’s identical to the one voters repealed a few weeks earlier” or “making it tougher to recall state lawmakers.”

Instead, he said “at the end of the year we had a difficult time” and “it was a divisive period” and “sometimes it happens in the world” and “I wish we hadn't” and “I hope we can work together” because “our role is to give the people of Michigan great customer service” rather than “dwelling on our own issues” and it’s time to “say how do we work together to find common ground?”

This was so infuriating, so patronizing and disingenuous and lacking and insufficient and inaccurate that I would have thrown something at the TV had I not been so busy taking notes.

I didn't have time to dwell on this issue, though, because Snyder went right back to being boring and incomprehensible. He said he had some legislative “asks” – I've always disliked that term – and insisted that the toughest single issue we face is our roads, which he said really means our roads and bridges and rails and harbors. He said it’s time to invest more in our roads and this means user fee increases to the tune of roughly a billion dollars a year.

Did you catch that? Snyder's proposing to raise a billion dollars a year - not by making businesses pay their fair share but by increasing fees on drivers.

This was followed by the admission that “we’re not getting enough performance out of our education system” because “over 60 percent of our kids have to take remedial class when they go to community college.” Then he boasted of something called the Educational Achievement Authority, or EAA, which received an award from the Gates Foundation. (I have no idea why.) Then it was time for more shoutouts to people of color, this time to two young men named Kente and Marquis. (I have no idea why.) He talked about “getting kids in early childhood programs” and then he interrupted himself because he “missed a shoutout on education.” He forgot to recognize two legislators for their education reform efforts: State Representatives Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto) and Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township). (I don't know what they did.)

The governor then whined, “We should go back and do Blue Cross/Blue Shield,” whatever that means, and went on to describe Michigan as the tenth most expensive state in the nation when it comes to auto insurance. The average claim in Michigan is $44,000, he said, and we’re home to three of the top cities (he said “states” but I’ll cut him some slack here): Detroit, Novi and Muskegon which are first, sixth and ninth, respectively. (I don’t know what they’re first, sixth and ninth in/of.) Then he said we need to reform no-fault, whatever that means, announced that he just signed an executive order to create a new department of insurance and financial services, and encouraged the new director, Kevin somebody, to “get goin’.”

He also promised to create a new agency for veterans affairs by the end of the week; talked about making it easier for veterans in some occupations to get licensed; spoke of the need to create more public/private partnerships to work on mental health; referenced slumlords, metal recycling and more troopers; and urged lawmakers to “get more stuff done.” (No, he wasn't channeling Larry the Cable Guy, although I would have welcomed Larry’s superior public speaking skills at this point.)

He actually went on for several more minutes (I still have three more pages of notes – single-spaced), speaking clumsily and referencing unrelated topics, but you get my point. It was a terrible effort, a thoroughly embarrassing speech by my state’s chief executive, and when he finally bleated, “God bless Michigan and all of us,” I was actually delighted to hear those words. Like a court appearance or a meeting with Anita’s ex-husband, I was relieved that it was finally over.

I caught a few minutes of Senior Capitol Correspondent Timmy Skubick’s post-speech analysis on public television – he and his panel members were yucking it up, praising the governor’s skill at knowing what to leave out while listing all of the urgent and combustible issues that received nary a mention, and complimenting him on his “passion” at the end. (The mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, was in the audience at the speech but was apparently not worthy of a Snyder shoutout.) But Skubick, like Honey Boo Boo and anyone from The View, is on my “I Can Only Take So Much of These People” list so I turned the TV off and opened another bottle of Lindemans Cabernet Sauvignon. (Just kidding. Although that might have helped.)

I then made the mistake of checking Twitter before closing my laptop and saw that a longtime Lansing mover/shaker and public relations guru I know tweeted, “For a guy who only spoke from notes, gotta hand it to the guy - not bad.”

Not bad?! Are you serious? My seven-year-old gives a better speech. Even when the flu’s made her feverish and delirious. And she’s had oral surgery. And both hands are tied behind her back. And it's raining.