Monday, December 15, 2014

Cub Cuteness

Merry Christmas, Darling - The Carpenters

Send a Card to Katie

I hate nursing homes.

I know it’s not fair to lump every single facility in this country together and make such a sweeping condemnation but I’ve been to more than one and I’ve found them to be really, really sad at best. It’s sad that we have them at all. It’s sad that many people have no other option but to deposit aging relatives in them. It’s sad that even the best nursing home employees don’t know how or don’t have the time to love, to honor, to care for our parents and grandparents the way they deserve to be treated. And it’s sad that so many nursing home residents become numbers, files, occupants to be bathed roughly and grudgingly, pushed to the dining room whether they’re hungry or not, left alone when they’re already lonely, forgotten by the same people whose diapers they once changed, whose school lunches they lovingly packed and clothes they laundered with affection and dedication.

I remember the surprisingly loud, haunting sobs that my beloved grandmother began emitting, alone in an empty nursing home dining room in suburban Georgia, as soon as my family members and I kissed her goodbye and headed for our car. I could hear them all the way down the hall and I still remember what they sounded like. My grandma wasn’t a manipulative drama queen. The 94-year-old woman, who probably weighed 100 pounds when wet, was just so devastated to be left alone that every fiber of her, every cell and bone, objected and she became unladylike, undignified, immature and out of control in her desperation. I remember thinking, “Somebody should go be with her, hug her, pat her hand.” When I voiced this to my oldest daughter, Amelia, she replied, “We should.”

Grandma passed away soon after that visit.

I still feel guilty that I didn’t do more with and for her in her final years. It’s so easy to compartmentalize, to push certain thoughts away and justify our individual status quos. And now I’m making the same mistakes with my elderly parents. I’m not doing enough.

So when I signed into Facebook the other day and read a friend’s solicitation on behalf of her own elderly mother, a nursing home resident here in mid-Michigan, I jumped at the chance to heed her call. Diane Hebert, an activist and environmentalist whom I’ve known for years, is doing as much as she can for her 94-year-old mother, Katie. She visits Katie regularly, bringing her favorite food – fish and chips, hush puppies and cole slaw – and complaining when the staff medicates her too much. She recently came up with the idea of requesting that people send Christmas cards directly to her mom so that the staff would see that there are people who care about Katie, so they would remember that she’s there, she’s loved, she’s more than a name on a file or a body in a room.

If you can spare a moment and have an extra holiday card and postage stamp lying around, please send it to:

Katherine “Katie” Beck C37
Brittany Manor
3615 East Ashman Street
Midland, MI 48642

Here’s your chance to spread a little holiday joy. Send a card to Katie and take comfort in knowing that you’ve done your part to keep Christ in Christmas.

Diane and Katie

P.S. I don’t mean to deride the staff at Brittany Manor, by the way. I’ve never been there or met any of them. I just know that they can’t love Katie as much as her daughter does and when I asked if I could issue a call for cards at “What’s the Diehl?,” Diane said yes.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Snow Church

You Bring Me Joy - Mary J. Blige

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

You may notice that I haven’t posted anything in a while. As I explained in a recent Facebook status, this is largely because I’m not sure what to write about the topics of the day – torture, the GOP, racism, police brutality, etc. – that either hasn't already been written or is so obvious that my words would be superfluous. I call it "Writer's Block for the Burned Out and Cynical," I shared. A few friends subsequently reminded me that I’m not obligated to restrict myself to negative topics; in fact, people like reading about joy and awe more than pain and problems.

So here’s some of my joy and awe:

My 13-year-old son, Bryant, who no longer lets me kiss him goodnight but still wants me to come upstairs and tuck him in, never fails to shout goodbye to me by name and reiterate that he loves me as he heads off to school.

Anita loves me so much that she stops almost weekly at one of my favorite local restaurants (Zeus’ Coney Island at 6525 South Pennsylvania in Lansing for those in the area) for takeout even though she’s the family’s breadwinner, money’s tight and I should be eating leftovers.

Nikita (on the right) getting mehndi
before an Indian wedding
My 15-year-old daughter, Nikita, who frequently conveys the same disdain for me that most 15-year-old girls convey for their rule-making father figures, occasionally actually rinses out her oatmeal bowl as requested before leaving for the bus stop and asks if it’s okay before helping herself to late-night ice cream or cookies. (Parents of teenagers will understand why this qualifies as joyful and awesome.)

Amelia and me
The power of the human spirit – the leadership of people like young, Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani Malala Yousafzai, the strength of women like Arizona’s Gabby Giffords and the sheer intelligence of people like astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, President Barack Obama and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow – awes me.

When I recently looked again at an old photo in Facebook of my estranged oldest daughter, Amelia, and me – I had posted it in March of 2010, joyfully announcing a reconciliation that would prove temporary – my friends were notified of my action by Zuckerberg’s ticker and, not realizing that the picture was old, literally dozens congratulated and complimented me.

In larger families like mine, any one member’s return from a trip or errand can be overlooked during hectic moments but one of my two Maltese, Jerry (brother of Ben), never fails to notice that I’m back, rapidly wagging his little tail and licking my nose if I get close enough.

The two fastidious, well-to-do men who live across the street (let’s call them Jon and Hobie) seriously decorate their property – a large house, several different-sized trees and bushes and both their front and back yards – each holiday season. The stunning, tasteful, magical display of wreaths, lights and ribbons draws carloads of gawkers to our neighborhood from the day it debuts until the day it comes down.

Several times in recent weeks, Anita or I spotted deer – large, beautiful does – standing motionless in our backyard at night, watching and listening to whatever it is that these majestic animals watch and listen to for five or ten minutes before bounding off to wherever they go when they’re finished gracing my lawn.

My 11-year-old daughter, Maya, who just started playing basketball in a local youth league, has accompanied me more than once – not her birth father or her athletically-superior brother or her girlfriends, but me – to a local court to practice and work on drills together.

Few things are more enjoyable, in fact, than sitting in the stands or on the sidelines at a football practice, basketball game or swim meet and cheering on your children with other proud parents.

I think it’s awesome any time people come together – altering their lives to better serve others or just altering their day to include another – and provide meaning where it wasn’t obvious before. (Click here to read, “NFL Star Quits Football To Build Free Farm And Feed Hungry People.” Click here to read, “Police officer and young demonstrator share hug during Ferguson rally in Portland.”) Just connecting with someone else – making a bag lunch for the homeless man who resides in a local park, getting down on your hands and knees in a grocery store and picking up spilled berries together with a stranger, or sharing tips and anecdotes with others in line for something – is a source of comfort and joy for me in an at-times cold world. (This ability, which Anita regularly displays, is one of her most attractive and noteworthy traits.)

Game days – Michigan State University football days, to be specific – are always fun and joyful. One can find tasty chips and queso, “kids’ wine” (sparkling juice in wine-looking bottles), four pumped-up children and green and white attire at my house on these special fall weekends. (Anita obtained her bachelor’s degree and her late father earned his doctorate from MSU so her blood runs green and white.)

Sassy Devina
My nine-year-old daughter, Devina, who’s developing the same occasionally-challenging attitude as her older siblings can display, still likes to cuddle with her mommy and hand us loving, homemade cards when no one’s looking on special occasions.

One night last month I stood on a curb in the cold to watch the annual "Silver Bells" holiday parade downtown. Although the temperature felt like it was in the single digits and the kids sat inside a restaurant watching it through a window while sipping hot chocolate – as I conceded in Facebook, they got their intelligence from their mother – I was hit with a sudden jolt of happiness so strong that it was palpable. My family brings me joy. My family is awesome.

Tahquamenon Falls
I know I don’t have a lock on deriving joy from being in nature but this post would be lacking without a mention of woods and waterfalls, lakes and creeks, mountains and meadows, trails and beaches and how just experiencing these can alter my mood, change my day, enhance my life. I’m one of those who just has to remove myself from my home or office (when I have one) and go to a place devoid of the trappings of humankind to feel renewed, invigorated, recharged. I don’t do this nearly enough.

There are of course other sources of joy – music, relationships and babies come quickly to mind – but this is what I’m thinking about right now. And my Facebook friends are right – I feel better after writing and reading this.

Lake Michigan at Muskegon


Friday, November 7, 2014

Happy Travels

American Idiot - Green Day

Maybe the People Have Spoken But Not for Me

I value timeliness and know a post-election post should ideally appear the day after the election but I just couldn’t write anything until now. So sue me.

I just don’t understand it.

I don’t understand why or how Republicans could achieve as many electoral victories as they did three days ago. I don’t understand why Barack Obama is still so reviled by so many – he’s far from perfect but his list of accomplishments is extensive and impressive – and why media coverage up to and on Election Day is so lacking, sophomoric and infuriating. I don’t understand why people either vote against their own self-interests or don’t vote at all. I don’t understand why research and intellect are frowned upon while ignorance and impulse are celebrated. And I don’t understand how my beloved country’s political process could become so impotent, so corrupt and discreditable and contaminated, in less time than it took for the oak tree in my front yard to become mighty and climbable.

Our process of crafting our government and choosing our leaders has been flawed from the beginning, of course, and the rich and ethically-challenged have always enjoyed power and success at others’ expense. Women didn’t even have the right to vote until almost a century and a half after the country was founded; African-Americans were forced to wait until 1965 – just 49 years ago - for the President of the United States to sign a law prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. Corruption has been part of the process for a long time – who hasn’t heard of “vote early and vote often” and Tammany Hall? – and it will probably remain a part of politics as long as unscrupulous men like Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes and Karl Rove play the game. But it wasn’t until the 2000 presidential election – when a dim-witted faux cowboy chosen by the political appointees of the U.S. Supreme Court was substituted for the candidate who had won the popular vote – that I realized how bad things could get and had gotten.

When Democrat Barack Obama – a person of color, no less – wasn’t prevented from winning the White House in 2008 and another dim-witted politician, this one from Wasilla, was kicked to the curb by voters, I felt my cynicism lifting. Maybe the change I had hoped for had come to pass. Subsequent debt ceiling fights, government shutdowns, the escalation of war and drone attacks further tarnished politics for me but I still had hope that the electorate could come to its senses and democracy could prevail.

Even when the corporate media marginalized, ridiculed and ultimately silenced the Occupy Wall Street movement – a genuine, organic movement intended, I thought, to highlight the growing chasm between rich and poor, the class warfare being waged through public policies that favored the wealthy – and corporate personhood permeated the landscape in the form of Citizens United v. FEC, I still had hope. Even when Mr. Obama proved to have a pliable spine and Congress showed that it was less interested in putting people to work than in putting the president out of work, I still had hope that the system, as flawed as it was, could still work.

Fast forward to three days ago. At that point, due more to the executive than the legislative branch, the deficit had fallen by half, unemployment was now below six percent, the price of gasoline had fallen sharply, more people had health care and the economy was growing at a decent rate. The GOP had cost taxpayers $26 million when they shut down the government last year. Republicans had caused the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and a downgrade in our credit rating. They had blocked long-term unemployment benefits, blocked every jobs bill, blocked equal pay for women, blocked the Violence Against Women Act. Surely the chickens would come home to roost on Election Day for the GOP at all levels, I thought.

I was as wrong as a Ford employee driving a Honda.

Republican gubernatorial candidates beat Democrats in Texas (59 to 39 percent), Wisconsin (52 to 46 percent) and Michigan (50 to 47 percent). Mitch McConnell – the man who had promised at the start of Obama’s first term that Republicans would do everything they could to thwart the president – beat Alison Lundergan Grimes 56 to 41 percent to retain his U.S. Senate seat. Tea Party darling Tom Cotton beat Democrat Mark Pryor 56 to 39 percent in the Arkansas U.S. Senate race. The GOP captured control of the U.S. Senate, in fact, which means McConnell is now Senate Majority Leader as well as one of the most off-putting and insipid individuals ever to grace the political stage. And in my own Congressional district, Republican candidate Mike Bishop beat my friend Eric Schertzing, who belongs in public service, 55 to 42 percent.

Here in Michigan, Republicans control the executive office, both houses of the legislature, the attorney general’s office, the secretary of state’s office and the state supreme court. My Great Lake State – the birthplace of the United Auto Workers in 1935, turned into a right-to-work state by GOP politicians in 2013 – is now officially, disgustingly, distressingly, detestably red.

There was some good news. Democrat Gary Peters, who wanted to succeed Michigan’s Carl Levin in the U.S. Senate, beat GOP challenger Terry Lynn Land – who ran one of the worst campaigns ever – by 54 to 41 percent. (Be careful what you wish for, Senator-elect.) Floridians chose Alan Grayson over his Republican challenger, Carol Platt, to represent their 9th District in Congress. The Ted Cruz faction of the U.S. Senate is expected to butt heads with the Mitch McConnell faction at every turn so it won’t be smooth sailing for the man whose mission was to sink Obama’s ship. Voters in the State of Washington approved a common sense background check/gun control referendum. And Congress now has 100 female members – the most in American history.

My friend Curtis Hertel, Jr. is now my state senator, having beaten his GOP challenger 66 to 34 percent. My state representative, Tom Cochran, beat his Republican challenger 54 to 46 percent. Another friend, State Representative Sam Singh, was re-elected 67 to 32 percent. And Ingham County commissioners Rebecca Bahar-Cook, Kara Hope, Todd Tennis and Brian McGrain, good people all, were re-elected. So there were a few bright spots in an otherwise dark night.

But I still don’t get it.

Although I’ve been in politics for more than three decades, I can’t fathom why Republicans did so well in these midterms. Poor ‘Get Out the Vote’ effort by Democrats? Fewer absentee ballots from left-leaning voters? Low turnout by Detroiters and youth? Too much Koch money? GOP-friendly gerrymandering? Uninspiring progressive candidates? I just can’t get my head around the idea that the electorate is simply so stupid, so ignorant and narrow-minded and foolish, that voters actually want to be represented by today’s Republicans.

Aren’t people paying attention? Don’t people read and think and question and investigate? Can people really be so egocentric, so narcissistic, so shallow and short-sighted and misguided and susceptible to falsehoods and spin that they blithely support whores, liars and masterminders in the voting booth? How many of us believe John Boehner, Chris Christie, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul wake up in the morning and think, “How can I make the world a better place?” How many of us drink urine when we’re told it’s Lemonade?

I don’t even know what else to write. The professional pundits will surely pontificate. Perhaps last Tuesday defies explanation.

My friend Stephanie White, who worked on unsuccessful Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer’s campaign, shared a Facebook status by Congressman John Lewis on November 5 that was at least momentarily comforting:

You cannot become bitter or hostile. You have to keep the faith and keep your eyes on the prize. This is not a struggle of a week, a month, or a year. It is the struggle of a lifetime.

Words to remember.

Click here to read, “President Obama Left Fighting for His Own Relevance.”

Click here to read, “Fewer Voted, Snyder Wins – Here’s How He Did It.”

Click here to read, “Michigan Voters Reject Wolf Hunting Laws.”

Click here to read, “Three Incumbents Lose Seats on Holt School Board.”

Click here to read, “Republicans Didn’t Win as Big As You Think They Did. And Obama Didn’t Lose.”

Click here to read, “The Likes of Mitch McConnell and Joni Ernst Leave America a Bleaker Place This Morning.”

Click here to read, “Chill Out, Liberals! The Republicans Took the Senate and That’s TERRIBLE…for Them.”

Click here to read, “Iowans Elect Hog-Castrating Ammosexual Right-Wing Extremist Tea Partier Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate.”

Click here to read, “Is Michigan Now Officially a Red State?”

Sources: Bridge Magazine, New York Times,, Lansing State Journal, The Guardian, Ingham County,,,, Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Eva Cassidy (live)

The Pain Never Goes Away

“It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

~ Rose Kennedy

We just learned that a woman with whom Anita works, a friend, suffered the loss of her teenaged stepson a few days ago. He died, according to a terse Facebook message, as the result of a “tragic accident.”

For some reason this has hit Anita hard. It’s not because she knew the young man. She didn’t. It’s probably because my partner is extremely sensitive and empathetic and she knows exactly how awful and life-changing it feels to lose someone you love.

Anita and her daddy
Anita’s beloved father was killed by bladder cancer. He died on a Saturday morning at the start of Labor Day weekend in 2007. It was a beautiful day – the sun was warm and bright and the sky was a vivid blue – and yet it remains to her the darkest day ever. She’s still brought to tears by the memory of that day seven years ago.

Anita loved her daddy. He was her hero, her first and best protector, the strong and honest and hard-working man against whom all other men in her life are measured. (We all fall short.) She told me that right after he died, she’d wake up and think, “Is this real? Is he really gone?” She was forced to relive the trauma of his death over and over again during those first days and weeks.

Here’s the thing: the death of someone close to you is at first a nightmare. You’re forced to convince yourself that it’s really happened, again and again, at the start of every day, after every shower and every meal, every oil change and trip to the grocery store, until the part of you that accepts bad news finally lets this in. And if there’s guilt – “I should have done more” or “I should have seen this coming” or “I should have demanded a second opinion” or “I should have been better” – it takes even longer to restart your own life.

(I’ve written about death and loss before. Click here to read, “Happy Birthday, Charles McGlashan,” July 15, 2011; here to read, “Sometimes Saturdays Suck,” July 25, 2011; and especially here to read, “Fragility,” August 30, 2011.)

The incessant drip, drip, drip of horrible news these days that young children and black males and innocent bystanders have fallen victim to gun violence at the hands of the police and the mentally ill and those who’re supposed to love and protect them, not hurt them, guarantees that the empathetic among us find ourselves thinking about death a lot more than we’d like.

The dark, cold, scary fact that it’s inevitable for all of us sooner or later doesn’t make it any easier to accept, in my opinion.

Anita pointed out over lunch one day that you never get over the death of a loved one. You learn to live with the loss and the pain and if you’re lucky, you’re buoyed by love and support from friends and family who try to help you move on. Not to get over it but to move on. Because that’s all we can do.

I hope Anita’s friend can move on at some point.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Contemplative Chimp

I Try - This Condition

Criticizing Comcast’s Contemptible Corporate Conduct

Monopoly (noun): the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade
in a commodity or service.

It comes as no surprise to “What’s the Diehl?” readers that I consider Comcast the most awful corporate entity in the history of humankind, bar none. A cursory search of the internet reveals that I’m in good company.

I’ve blogged about this evil company before. I already shared that I’ve devoted hours – and I’m not exaggerating – on the phone with various Comcast “account executives” only to be told that what I wanted, needed or had already been promised wasn’t possible. My phone calls have been disconnected more times than I can count – I bet the telephones at the Comcast call centers are equipped with a “Cut this frikkin’ peon off now” button – and one time I was on hold for so long that not one but both of my cordless phones ran out of battery power and I lost the call.

Our services – Comcast provided our telephone, television and internet service – have been “suspended” (read: cut off) more than once in violation of agreements we made with Comcast employees. We’ve been charged for items and services we never ordered or received and haven’t been able to get anyone to revise our account. Supposed “supervisors” have treated us with smugness and disdain on the few occasions when we reached one. And Comcast’s “confirmation numbers” (the numbers assigned by the company to identify and cement specific transactions) confirm nothing to me except that they’re a bunch of heartless, incompetent, egregious imbeciles.

It’s not difficult to understand how a family of six humans and two dogs can fall a little behind on bills when the household income is slashed due to sudden unemployment. What is difficult to comprehend is how a conglomerate with total assets exceeding $158 billion can callously pull the rug out from under said family and discontinue all services without so much as a “How do you do?”

Do you think Sarah, Pat, Kenneth, Sam, Omar or any of the other Comcast employees with whom Anita and I have sparred recently were inconvenienced by the shutoff of our phone and cable? No.

Do you think it’s right to make payment arrangements with a customer that involve post-dated checks and confirmation numbers, then turn around and unilaterally “cancel” said arrangements without notifying the customer, who acted in good faith and expected the same? No.

Do you think the largest cable and broadcasting company in the world gives a rodent’s derriere about Pat, Anita and our four kids in a suburb of Lansing, Michigan, who rely on TV for education and entertainment and a land line for communicating with four different schools and 911 when necessary? I’ll take another resounding “no,” please.

Comcast, which “serves” customers in 40 states and the District of Columbia, is huge: it brought in around $64.7 billion in revenue in 2013 and employs 136,000 people, most of whom I think I've talked with. (The company is notoriously anti-union.) Headquartered, surprisingly, in the City of Brotherly Love, Comcast received, not surprisingly, a failing grade in 2010 for its corporate governance practices, according to the independent shareholder-research organization Corporate Library, and earned the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the U.S., including the IRS, more than once. (Click here to read, “Massive survey finds Comcast and TWC are the two most hated companies in America – period.”)

There’s even a “subreddit” devoted to Comcast at where people can vent about their “shitty experiences” with the company. (Reddit is the self-billed “front page of the internet” that’s visited by over 114 million internet users/month.)

I wish I were as smart as 32-year-old San Francisco resident Ryan Block. This past summer, he called Comcast to arrange for his service to be disconnected – only he was sharp enough to record eight minutes of his 18-minute phone conversation. Once he posted his recording online, the world could listen to Comcast’s representative refusing Block’s request, badgering him for explanations and arguing with him to a truly unbelievable degree. (Click here to read, “A long day’s journey into canceling Comcast service.”)

I am glad that I’m not Conal O’Rourke, a Northern California resident who claims he was fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in San Jose, California, earlier this year as a result of a billing dispute with Comcast. (Click here to read, “Comcast got me fired after billing dispute, says California man.”) Comcast’s hollow apology, posted at its website, is the kind of meaningless pablum that I expect from Fox News but not from one of America’s corporate titans. If I had a job, I sure wouldn’t want to lose it due to the backroom machinations of corporate drones. (Speaking of job hunting, how is one supposed to apply for jobs online without internet access or take phone calls from prospective employers when one doesn’t have a phone? “Not our problem,” I was told.)

"Your satisfaction is our chief concern
here at Comcast.  Not!"
Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of this whole debacle is the fact that whenever I was on hold with Comcast, I was forced to listen over and over and over again to a recorded voice assuring me that the company is totally committed to customer service and really cares about me and my experience. I was asked repeatedly by Automated Voice if Comcast had permission to call me back later to determine how satisfied I was by the result of the phone interaction. Even though I authorized it and was eager to give them a piece of my frazzled mind, they never called back.

It seems like Citizens United v. FEC, which determined that corporations are people a few years ago, was the last nail in the coffin of the “customer is always right” concept. I’ve lamented this loss on many occasions, but never as strongly as when I’ve interacted with what is in my humble opinion the most infuriating, patience-eroding, double-talking, condescending, aloof, insensitive, inflexible, indolent, spurious collection of nitwits and wankers ever to fill an office building.

If you happen to drive by my house, you might notice a newly-installed satellite dish perched on the roof. The folks on the phone who took our order were informative and helpful and the technician who handled the installation was one of the most likable and efficient professionals ever to visit our home. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I have to climb up a ladder to remove snow and ice or make a phone call to report a problem but right now I feel pretty good that we’ve escaped the Comcast monopoly.

Sources: Washington Post,,, Digital Marketing Ramblings,, BGR Media, Corporate Library.

Friday, October 10, 2014

She Is Not Amused

The Worst (explicit) - Jhené Aiko

Ramming the Worst of Social Media Down Our Throats

Now they’re arguing about lawn signs.

I belong to this Facebook group – and I use the word “belong” loosely – that I thought was created to discuss our local schools. (The school district has made some pretty major decisions in the last few years or so – including “repurposing” my youngest’s elementary school and moving her and my oldest to different facilities – and lots of parents have felt left out in the cold.) It seems, however, that the group has become the preferred hangout of every bored, combative, sour, miserable Facebooker in this community.

On top of that, the administrators subjectively and selectively remove some posts and threads while leaving others alone, regardless of whether or not the group’s standards have been violated. (There’s of course no requirement that administrators have to know how to administer anything.) Because I mentioned someone by name when pointing out how some posts lack civility, my comment was removed. Others, however, are allowed to stay, even when people are insulted by name and folks are told that they deserve to get punched in the face.

I actually went back and forth with one of the administrators via private messages because he accused me of calling someone a bitch. (For the record, I DID NOT.) He just got nastier and nastier – refusing to apologize or acknowledge his mistake but saying he was sorry I couldn’t see things his way – until I finally had to tell him to stop sending me messages or I’d block and report him.

Why do I share all this when people are getting their heads cut off in the desert, black men and boys are being murdered by police and the president who was elected in part to end war continues to mount and escalate them? Because it’s a diversion, an escape from reality, from what really matters.

A hint about the community
to which I refer
What really matters to many of the folks in the group in question is not right and wrong, or grammar and punctuation, or students and schools. What matters is that they can attack, deride, insult and display less maturity than my nine-year-old without fear of retribution.

Someone who just posted about school board candidates’ lawn signs being removed from a local business without permission was told that his posts make people want to punch him in the face.

Someone else keeps talking about pots so much – for example, “pot meet kettle” and “tired of stirring up the pot” – that it’s probably safe to assume this person works in a kitchen, used to work in a kitchen or ought to work in a kitchen.

Several people have little to offer except the tired old “If you don’t like this post or that post, don’t read it” cliché which never made sense to me because how does one know he or she doesn’t like a particular post until he or she reads it? And by then it’s too late to follow this sage advice, isn’t it?

There was even a debate about whether the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, with its assurance of freedom of speech, applies to Facebook groups.

Some groups and pages to which I belong are worthy of regular visits – people post interesting stories and images, good information is shared and laughs and smiles are even generated – but others represent the worst aspects of social media, where trolls and ignoramuses, protected by the anonymity of the internet, are free to sully and defile, distract and disgust, falsely accuse, condescend and misrepresent with abandon.

Guess which category the group this post is about belongs in?

I’d leave the group, just block certain characters and be done with it, except that our local schools are important and our students and parents do need a voice regarding decisions that affect us. I keep hoping that wiser heads will prevail and the group will be infiltrated by grownups who know how to spell and share and be civil to each other.

I’m waiting.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Single File

Woman Is the N** of the World - John Lennon

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

So the guy with whom I chat at our sons’ football practices disagreed with me again.

This time it was about the Ray Rice controversy that erupted last week. My initial response after seeing the video of the Baltimore Ravens running back knocking then-fiancée Janay Palmer unconscious and then dragging her body out of an Atlantic City casino elevator like a sack of potatoes was that the guy should fry. (Palmer married Rice the day after he was charged with third degree aggravated assault against her.) He should be beaten until he can’t remember his own name, I thought. When I shared this opinion with “Martin,” he shook his head and told me I was wrong.

For those who aren’t following this, Rice – one of the best running backs in the NFL – was initially suspended for just two games by the league for his dirty deed. After TMZ released the video and spurred a major public outcry, the two-game suspension was increased to an “indefinite suspension” and he was cut by the Ravens in the middle of the five-year, $50 million contract he signed back in 2012.

Janay and Ray Rice
Martin told me that while of course getting physical with women is abhorrent, it was wrong for Rice to be punished again by the NFL for something that occurred back on February 15. Rice has already been indicted; he was allowed to avoid jail time and enrolled in a 12-month treatment program for first-time offenders. Due process and double jeopardy come into play, Martin explained, if Rice is going to be punished again. (Just as he predicted, the NFL Players Association filed a grievance on behalf of Rice earlier this week demanding that the increased discipline – the indefinite suspension – be overturned.)

Martin also pointed out that lots of professional football players are guilty of the same inexcusable behavior and it isn’t fair that Rice is the public’s scapegoat. It turns out that NFL players – including former Denver Bronco wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who now plays for Chicago, and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer – have been arrested more than 50 times since Roger Goodell became NFL Commissioner in 2006. (And let’s not forget that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was just indicted on child abuse charges for beating his four-year-old with a switch.)

Click here to read, “How the NFL Has Punished Players Arrested for Domestic Violence.” And click here to read, “New Allegations Suggest NFL Ignored Major Domestic Violence Cases Long Before Ray Rice.”

I’m not going to get into what Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome said about Rice. I’m not going to address the fact that people are calling for Commissioner Goodell’s head and pointing out inconsistencies in his version of what happened when. These are distractions. I want to focus instead on these distressing facts:
  • One in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status or other factors.
  • Every year, one in three women who is a homicide victim is murdered by her current or former partner.
  • Every year, more than three million kids witness domestic violence in their homes.
  • A 2005 Michigan study found that kids exposed to domestic violence at home are more likely to have health problems, including getting sick more often, having frequent headaches or stomachaches and being more tired and lethargic.
  • Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Domestic violence survivors face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks and other emotional distress.
  • Girls who witness domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse as teens and adults and boys who witness it are far more likely to grown up to abuse their partners and/or children.
  • There’s a financial cost as well: domestic violence costs more than $37 billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical and mental health treatment and lost productivity.
Interestingly, the Rice mess hit the news just as we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of the federal Violence Against Women Act. The bill, drafted by then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden and signed into law by Bubba Clinton on September 13, 1994, provided $1.6 billion toward investigating and prosecuting violent crimes against women, established an Office on Violence Against Women within the U.S. Justice Department, mandated automatic restitution by those convicted, and funded community violence prevention programs, rape crisis centers and hotlines, and legal aid for domestic violence survivors, among other functions.

The bill passed Congress with bipartisan support in 1994 (although the next year House Republicans tried to cut the act’s funding). It was reauthorized by bipartisan majorities in 2000 and 2005 and signed by Dubya. The law’s 2012 renewal was opposed by the GOP (of course) because conservatives didn’t want it to include protections for same-sex couples and illegal immigrants. After a long battle, it was finally reauthorized in March of last year.

Have I mentioned lately how much I despise mean-spirited conservatives?

Click here to read the actual “Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005.’’

Shortly before my first marriage back in 1986, my dad pulled me aside during a visit and said firmly, “Remember this. Always behave in such a way that you can look at yourself in the mirror and not be ashamed.” Truth be told, I’ve been ashamed at what I’ve seen in the mirror before. (Click here to read, “Ray Rice Isn't Alone: 1 in 5 Men Admits Hitting Wives, Girlfriends.”) But I never forgot my dad’s admonishment and I never stop trying to be a better man.

I hope Ray Rice does the same.

And I hope Martin stops changing my mind all the time.

For help or more information, call 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) or click here.

Click here to read, “Senators Call for Federal Judge to Resign Over Wife Beating.” Click here to read, “Pro sports teams should adopt 'zero-tolerance' policy for domestic abuse, says Michigan House of Representatives.” Click here to read, Republican Federal Judge Caught Brutally Beating His Wife in Horrifying 911 Call (Audio).” And click here to read, “In All But Six States, You Can Be Fired for Being a Victim of Domestic Assault.”

Sources: TMZ, Baltimore Sun,, Huffington Post,,,,,,

Sunday, September 14, 2014

In Zimbabwe

The Greatest Love of All - George Benson

No Child Should Experience This

Regardless of your view about Israel or Palestine or U.S. foreign policy or politics or the Middle East, you must agree that no child should experience this. No child should know the pain of loss and war and death and injury, should see blood on their little brothers and sisters and blank, unseeing stares on the faces of their dead parents. If you don't agree that children don't deserve this, that we must work for a better world, then you are part of the problem and YOU should be dead.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Things I Hate

All About That (Upright) Bass - Kate Davis (jazz cover)

To My Loyal Readers

A local nonprofit organization hired me earlier this year to serve as its development director. I was interviewed by two women – the executive director and associate director – and received a call later that day asking if I could come back in the next day to discuss salary and start date. After working for myself for a long time – and juggling the need to secure clients with the need to do work for said clients – it was a genuine relief to land a “regular” job. Although I’m experienced and capable, it’s been challenging in recent years to compete with younger, better-educated, willing-to-work-for-less individuals for the finite number of jobs in my area. So Anita and I were very, very happy.

Two days after I started I was summoned into an emergency staff meeting and told along with my new colleagues that our executive director – one of the two who had hired me – was no longer employed by the agency for reasons that I won’t reiterate here but weren’t good.

The next four months were more than a little challenging. The associate director who co-hired me became interim director but didn’t have the time or desire to make major decisions or commitments; she was too busy trying to keep the doors open and keep the place from imploding. The disengaged, dysfunctional board of directors didn’t help much. It wasn’t easy to raise money for an organization that was drifting rather than plowing full speed ahead. I did what I thought I should do, juggling multiple balls in the air and doing what I could to position us for greater efficiency, if not success, once the new leader was identified. I even helped with the search process and helped lure the candidate who ultimately snagged the job.

I was fired shortly after she started. No two weeks notice. No severance. Not even a “thanks anyway” as I recall. Done. Five or six of us were let go unexpectedly that day and I’m told a few others were set adrift in the days that followed.

I knew the organization was financially insolvent. I knew I wasn’t bringing in the kind of cash we needed – yet – and the board probably directed my new boss to make hard decisions and take drastic measures to avoid shuttering the doors. So I tried not to take things personally and immediately fired up the Employment Search Machine again – it had barely cooled – and assured Anita that this was just a small setback. I promised her that we’d be able to keep the new van we had just purchased and that I’d land on my feet somewhere real soon.

Weeks later, I’m still looking – when I’m not taking calls from banks and creditors demanding payment and threatening to make things worse.

I’m lucky Anita’s so loyal. She’s put up with a lot from me over the years, I must admit, and a lesser person would have thrown in the towel long ago. Not my partner. She’s committed to the relationship and she’s probably the most loyal, good-hearted person I’ve met in 52 years on Planet Earth. Even she has her breaking point, though, and she deserves way more than the world, and I, have given her thus far.

I wish my last employer knew about loyalty. I was compensated every two weeks while I was there, of course, but I wish my commitment would have worked in my favor when it came time to decide who would get the axe. (They filled a new position a few weeks later so there must have been a few dollars stashed away somewhere.)

I’ve tried to be loyal to friends, family and employers in the past. My record isn’t spotless but I can sleep at night. (Actually I can’t right now, but you know what I mean.) I stayed at one job for eight years and another for over 10. I enjoy the unwavering loyalty on which we can count from our parents if we’re lucky. And nothing’s more loyal than my two Maltese pups. So I still know what loyalty is.

It seems, however, like loyalty as a concept is going the way of customer service and sense of community these days – that is, it’s disappearing. Too many politicians are betraying their constituents. Too many cops are persecuting and not protecting. Too many men think it’s okay to punch their partner’s lights out when the elevator doors close. In today’s “I don’t like what you posted so I’m unfriending you” culture, too many brands and relationships are discarded like used Kleenex and too many employers are less reliable, more demanding and laser-focused on just the bottom line.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s just cynicism. And I hope there’s someone out there who values loyalty enough to consider my skills and abilities and put me on their payroll. I bet many of the 9.6 million other jobless Americans out there would love to prove their loyalty to an employer too.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Photo by Maya Grafmuller

Bucky Done Gun - M.I.A.

“Pistol-Packin’ Yahoo in Aisle 4”

“It’s a myth that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. If more guns in the hands of more people stopped gun crime, we would be the safest country in the developed world. Instead, our gun murder rate is the highest in the developed world.”

~ Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

“There’s no conceivable reason to own an AR-15, a pump action shotgun, armor-piercing bullets or a high-capacity magazine. Firing a semi-auto at a piece of cardboard is no more ‘sport’ than using a bazooka to play pool is ‘leisure.’ It simply appeals to the fraction of the population who dream of re-enacting Scarface’s last stand every time they get a letter from the IRS.”

~ Morris M,

“A broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.”

~ Harvard School of Public Health 

“Every day, 33 Americans are murdered with guns. Seven of them are children.”

~ Everytown for Gun Safety

I now have a good reason to avoid Kroger’s like Mormons avoid casinos: according to an e-mail alert I received yesterday, the supermarket chain is apparently fine with its customers strolling the aisles with TEC-9’s and AK-47’s slung over their shoulders.

The country’s largest full-service grocery retailer – it operates 2,642 properties in 34 states, has 375,000 employees and recorded $98.4 billion in annual sales last year– has responded to the more than 68,000 people who’ve encouraged it to adopt gun sense policies by sticking its corporate fingers in its ears. “Millions of customers are present in our busy grocery stores every day and we don’t want to put our associates in a position of having to confront a customer who is legally carrying a gun,” said company spokesman Keith Dailey. “We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores.”

So Kroger’s has no plans to address the issue because the company’s afraid of confrontation. No need to make space on the mantel for that Profile in Courage award, guys. 

I guess it’s understandable that they don’t want to change their gun policy because it would risk alienating the pro-gun portion of their customer base. But you can’t claim to be committed to a "safe and secure workplace and shopping environment," as Kroger’s does, while at the same time allowing – and in a sense, encouraging – gun-toting troglodytes to brandish their high-powered weaponry in the potato chip aisle.

Businesses exist to sell products and services and not to weigh in on the issues of the day. I get that. But I didn’t pick this fight. If Kroger’s is frustrated, corporate execs should blame the loons and yahoos who decide to head to their stores and flaunt their “Second Amendment rights” and maybe make it on the teevee news that night, not the responsible parents and families who just want to be able to restock their cupboards without worry and discomfort.

Why does someone’s right to terrorize his fellow citizens in response to his own feelings of rage and powerlessness trump the right of people like me to learn, shop, work, travel and entertain ourselves free from intimidation and fear? Why do gun rights advocates think referencing Adolph Hitler and the president’s armed security detail is all they need to do to justify their position?

It’s interesting that the few pro-gun people I know – intelligent, discerning, responsible individuals – can’t tell me what’s wrong with closing loopholes that allow dangerous people to buy guns without background checks, reinstating the assault weapons ban, educating parents about responsible gun ownership and safe gun storage, or limiting the availability of high-capacity magazines like those used in Aurora and Tucson. And when I point out that an armed society is actually not a safer society – one study crunched the numbers and found that successful interventions by armed civilians had occurred in only 1.6 percent of all mass shootings since 1980 – my discussion partners are as quiet as an unprepared student during an oral exam.

Gun lovers are everywhere. At a wedding recently, I was surprised to learn that my brother-in-law – a very likable, responsible fellow – owns and loves guns. He told me that when he’s feeling depressed or has had a bad day, a trip to the firing range with one of his carefully-stored firearms is just what the doctor ordered. I made a mental note to refrain from getting drunk with the guy and asking to see the inside of his safe. (Between 2005 and 2010, almost 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings.) I also vowed silently to remind my kids that if they see a gun at a relative’s house, even if it belongs to a super-cool uncle who’s fun to be with and gives great birthday gifts, they need to run the other way and not look back.

The assertion that gun control is dumb because criminals don’t follow laws anyway is juvenile. Lots of killers, rapists, pedophiles, robbers and drunk drivers don’t follow laws prohibiting murder, rape, possession of kiddy porn, theft or driving while impaired but that doesn’t mean we should get rid of any of those laws. just because a bad guy doesn’t obey one law doesn’t mean he doesn’t obey any of ‘em. And there are dozens of empirical studies showing that stricter gun control laws in the United States do in fact lower the rate of gun deaths.

I was chatting about gun violence with a fellow parent at football practice the other night. She knew Richard Pruitt, a 17-year-old boy who died this week after being shot in the head in Lansing – one of eight local shootings in seven days starting on August 14. “It could have been one of our sons,” I muttered as a bunch of 13- and 14-year-olds threw spirals and charged into blocking bags a few feet away. Then I realized he was.

An estimated 44 million people in the U.S. own approximately 192 million guns. Only a fool would want to try to completely ban them. But polls and surveys show that respondents are largely pro-gun control – it’s our Jello-spined politicians who aren’t. Clearly they’ve been bought by the National Rifle Association just like products for sale on Kroger’s shelves. And we can’t expect corporate America to do the right thing unless their bottom lines are at stake. Target and Starbucks both responded to public pressure by asking patrons to refrain from bringing guns into their stores. Hopefully, Kroger’s will hear from enough of us, come to its senses and follow suit.

The Kroger Co.
1014 Vine Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-1100

P.S. A regular commenter in Facebook known as "Whimsy Wise" in Dillon, Montana, shared the following compelling post in response to this piece (and authorized me to reprint it here):

Excellent as usual, Patrick. This should be a common sense issue. It's not. For the record, if I'm in a store, church, library, etc., and some open carry idiot wants to parade past while armed, I'm out of there. There is nothing I need badly enough in any of those locations to risk my personal safety for.

As for the legality of firearms and “when guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns” thinking, I have close up and personal knowledge of what a crock this is. Four and a half years ago, my 29 year-old son-in-law was murdered by a thief who broke into the home he shared with my daughter and their two small children.

The perpetrator's trial began June 9th of this year and ended July 3rd. He sat in a pre-trial facility all that time because he had no defense, until a stand your ground law was passed in that state in Sept of 2013. Once that law was passed, he was very comfortable with the Zimmerman line of BS of, “at that very moment I was afraid for my life.” Like Zimmerman, he was the obvious aggressor and like Trayvon Martin, my son-in-law was made out to be the bad guy.

For a solid month, my daughter and I sat and listened to the defense attempt to lay waste to Edwing’s character. Was it really necessary to the defense to announce that when Edwing was a junior in high school he got an in school suspension for having a joint? How was this remotely relevant?

Then we got to see the evidence against the defendant, starting with the medical examiner’s report. Along with the verbal testimony there was a power point presentation of the autopsy findings. We saw Edwing’s face, complete with powder burns from a 9 millimeter semiautomatic, indicating that the first shot occurred from 2 to 24 inches away. The bullet entered under his left eye and exited through his right cheek. The second shot most likely occurred at the same range but without powder burns due to clothing. That shot entered his left side went through the lung, heart, and second lung, exiting his right side. His heart had been removed and photographed, showing entrance and exit wounds.

We also got to see the small arsenal confiscated from the shooters lodgings when he was arrested. There was a total of seven semi-automatic pistols, all legal purchased. Get that last part? All legally purchased. This guy had a rap sheet a mile long, including felony assault. Why was it possibly for him to buy these weapons?

The outcome of the trial was a conviction for murder two. Had the shooter not stood on the stand and said, “at that very moment I was scared for my life,” it would have been murder one. The secondary result was both my daughter and myself are now dealing with PTSD, having dealt with the initially trauma and having to relive it again.

I do apologize for the long, drawn out accounting of a rather personal tragedy. This is actually the first time since the trial I’ve been able to talk about it. Please delete this if you feel it’s inappropriate in this space. I guess it’s a jumbled explanation of why I feel as I do about our current gun laws, open carry enthusiasts, Stand your ground laws, and the concept of everyone being armed “to promote safety.” Until you see for yourself the damage a gun does to someone you love, you really don’t have more than an intellectual understanding of why guns everywhere are not a good idea. Trust me, you don’t want to know on an experiential level. It may seem like a fine idea to arm the entire country. It’s not. As the old saying goes, “It’s all fun until somebody loses an eye."

Click here to visit the Everytown for Gun Safety website.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America,,, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,,, Harvard School of Public Health,, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence,