Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Mad World - Gary Jules

Serenity Now!

I’m trying to accept the things I cannot change in an effort to achieve a greater sense of happiness. So far it’s not working.

On a larger scale, I’m having a hard time dealing with my frustration about social and political issues: the Syrian refugee crisis, the Israel/Palestine dilemma, the class warfare taking place in this country, the climate change problem, unnecessary wars, the transformation of the GOP into an evil entity comprised of ignorant, gun-loving knuckle-draggers and greedy one-percenters who only want to become richer at everyone else’s expense, the possibility of a bigoted jackass like Donald Trump or a lying imbecile like Ben Carson becoming President of the United States…you know, the usual.

On a personal level, I’m more than a little troubled by the frequency and abundance of problems that most of us in the shrinking middle class face. When it rains, it sure as hell pours.

Take my hot tub, for example. Because money’s tighter than a miser in a Dickens tale – I’m not making money and Anita’s shouldering the entire burden of funding a family that includes two teenagers, two preteens, two dogs and an overly-sensitive, middle-aged, slightly-overweight partner – we aren’t in the position to purchase any big-ticket items right now. So when one of Anita’s friends offered up her hot tub “for free” (all we had to do was pay to transfer it 15 miles from her house to ours and put it back in running order since it sat in her backyard unused for a year), we jumped at the opportunity. Our 12-year-old was having a party soon and we thought it would be nice to have a hot tub option for her young guests.

As some of my friends know, I needed a cheap electrician to hook the tub up to power; after we paid $200 for that we found that the tub wasn’t heating properly. To make a long story short, some guy we didn’t know who responded to our Craigslist ad – a guy named Bill Blondheim from Bronson Development in Fraser, Michigan, an hour and a half away – spent half a day fiddling around and charged us $340 even though he didn’t fix anything. Because the tub still wouldn’t heat and wouldn’t be ready in time for our daughter’s party, we stopped payment on the check. He took us to Small Claims Court and the magistrate ended up siding with him, stating that Blondheim had the right to be paid for whatever work he had done. So over $400 ended up being deducted from Anita’s next paycheck – money that would have come in handy for Christmas, new wresting shoes for our son, a car payment, dog grooming or the other bills piling up on our dining room table.

I’m still losing sleep over this one, wondering why someone who didn’t do what we hired him to do was rewarded by our court system for being a morally bankrupt shyster.

Add to this a psychopathic ex-husband who’s been able to use that same legal system to his advantage and our detriment, a house in need of repairs, the death of friends, a second vehicle that no longer works and the normal obstacles to fulfillment and relaxation that we all experience, and one can see why serenity is more of an abstract concept – like democracy, world peace and obedient children – than a goal that can be achieved.

Things would be worse, of course, if any of us developed health problems, Anita lost her job, the kids weren’t stellar students or we had to sleep in our van. We have friends and we have each other, for which I’m thankful. But it’s hard to fulfill obligations when there’s not enough income. It’s hard to sleep when insomnia rears its head. It’s hard to smile when you just want to cry. And contentment is proving to be something to read about rather than feel.

In the words of Frank Costanza of NBC’s Seinfeld, “Serenity Now!”

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

So Long, Bonnie Bucqueroux

People who think Facebook friends aren’t real friends are full of crap.

Bonnie Bucqueroux was a real friend.

She was generous and thoughtful and witty and talented and wise and interesting and one-of-a-kind. I’ve met a lot of people in my five decades on Planet Earth, and I can say with confidence that Bonnie was one of the most wonderful, intelligent, encouraging, dedicated and compelling women I’ve ever known.

The thick-skinned Michigan State University journalism professor and progressive activist died this morning at the age of 70. Although she had been experiencing health issues in recent weeks, her death was unexpected and took everyone by surprise.

Judging from her Facebook page, Bonnie touched a great number of people in a variety of ways while she was with us. It’s just been a few hours since she passed away and there are hundreds of messages, some short and sweet and some long and rambling. All of them pay tribute to a unique and giving woman who was loud when fighting for what was right and quiet when encouraging students and friends to feel good about ourselves, reach for our goals and make the most of the time we’ve been given.

Just like she did.

The “What’s the Diehl?” masthead at the top of this blog was designed by Bonnie. I didn’t ask her to do this; she just did it one day and forwarded it to me. In my early days of blogging, she provided input on the design and was one of the first to link her website, Lansing Online News, to this blog. She periodically sent unsolicited job announcements to me by private Facebook message and repeatedly invited me to appear on the radio show she hosted with a partner on Lansing Community College Radio WLNZ (89.7) although, like a fool, I never accepted her invitation.

Bonnie's YouTube channel has been viewed more than two million times.

Bonnie knew about photography and grant writing, computers and web design, community gardening and of course blogging. (A former congressional candidate on the Green Party ticket, she was a true trailblazer.) She told me once that she usually prefers animals to people – although judging by the roster of diverse guests who appeared on her radio show, she connected with people as easily as a duck takes to water. She cared about climate change, sustainable agriculture, politics and, of course, journalism, mentoring countless students and professionals and leaving a wider mark on her community, state and world than most do. She was a rabble-rouser, a radical, a hippie of sorts, from what I understand. I could and should have gotten to know her better. I really wish I had.

Rest in peace and thank you, Bonnie. Hopefully you know how lucky people feel to have known someone as good as you.

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Living Doll

Titties 'N Beer - Frank Zappa

So Shoot Me

“Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade."

~ Pope Francis, in remarks to the U.S. Congress on September 24, 2015

A beautiful little girl in east Tennesee was shot in the chest by her 11-year-old neighbor nine days ago because she wouldn’t let him play with her puppy.

Maykayla Dyer
The boy, who had a history of bullying eight-year-old Maykayla Dyer, used his daddy’s 12-gauge shotgun to shoot the second-grader from inside his house. The 11-year-old was charged with first-degree murder in juvenile court; his father hasn’t been charged at all.

This is so damn frustrating and distressing and unnerving and disconcerting and infuriating and just plain wrong. It’s wrong that every time an innocent human being is gunned down, the National Rifle Association digs in its heels, launching preemptive strikes, insisting that “guns don’t kill people” and winding up its knuckle-dragging members with nonsensical warnings about rights being taken away by Kenyan-born communists in the Oval Office.

It’s wrong that politicians listen more carefully to the NRA puppeteers who pull their strings than the voters who put them in office. It’s wrong that candidates pander to the mouth-breathing open carry dweebs who bolster their manhood by intimidating women and children in coffee shops and grocery stores. It’s wrong that the NRA’s minions bleat about how “now is not the time to discuss gun violence” and “this issue shouldn’t be politicized” and “emotions shouldn’t drive this discussion” every time a maniac slaughters someone’s loved one.

If not now, when? When can we take action to stop the murder of innocents, of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and nieces and nephews and co-workers and friends who have the same dreams and wants and goals and likes and dislikes and habits and preferences as the rest of us? When will we stop tolerating our broken system and our broken culture, our skewed and tired practice of bemoaning the latest killing spree, wringing our hands, sending thoughts and prayers, shrugging our shoulders and then looking away, picking up our books again, getting back in our cars, switching our TV channels and moving on with our lives because we still have ours?

And why should we try to squelch our emotions? Why can’t we turn our anger and rage and disgust and fear into things that work, that benefit us, that help to stop the needless carnage – is carnage ever needed? – and actually make life better for ourselves and our families? We have the facts and figures, the reports and studies. The gun lobby discounts those. We have the case studies and the anecdotes. The gun industry discounts those. We have the expert’s opinions and the examples from other countries. The Second Amendment lovers discount those. So now we can’t appeal to people’s emotions either? We can’t use the power of our feelings to motivate people to action, to get them to vote out the NRA’s whores, to demand an end to this dreadful scourge once and for all? Then what the f*ck can we do?

I posted this Facebook status update on October 8:

I apologize to 8-year-old Maykayla Dyer on behalf of all American grownups. Because our politicians are spineless and our gun nuts are stupid pricks, you've been added to the long list of children lost to gun violence. Say hi to Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt and all the other precious kids who've been sacrificed at the altar of the National Rifle Association.

I had posted this one earlier, on August 26, after television news personality Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were shot dead by a “disgruntled co-worker” during a live broadcast in Virginia:

You know what really ticks me off? When a TV news reporter and cameraman are shot to death during a live broadcast in Virginia and people take to Facebook with the same old "guns don't kill people/Second Amendment/could have been a knife" claptrap. I'm so sick of the carnage, the dead children, the justifications, the denials, the NRA and its brain-dead sheeple...

And then, 13 days ago on October 1, a 26-year-old miscreant who shall remain nameless opened fire at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Oregon, killing 10, wounding seven and becoming one more of many sick SOBs who’ve turned this country into the kind of place that tourists avoid and foreigners fear. Like so many of these twisted cowards, he took the easy way out, killing himself before he could be captured and made to face justice.

This spurred me to take to Twitter and tweet a few anti-gun messages:

I didn’t expect to agitate so many gun nuts but apparently I did because I must have received 30 responses and been mentioned in 30 more, all calling me names (what exactly is a “libtard” anyway?), trashing me for my emotion-driven remarks and sharing stupid memes as if their bombastic words carry more heft when typed over pictures.

And while Second Amendment lovers were still taking me to task for my tweets, a student was killed and three were injured in a shooting last Friday at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Before I decided to take a much-needed break from Twitter, I tweeted the following:

If gun lovers spent as much time on important stuff as they do attacking and insulting people in Twitter, this would be a much better world.‪ #‎TheGunNutsAreAfterMe‬

It should go without saying that the Second Amendment was never meant to enable people to visit their local Starbucks and Krogers with AK-47s and Tech-9s slung over their shoulders. Most people know that cannons and single-shot muskets were the weapons of the day back in 1791 when the amendment was crafted and that it actually includes the term “well-regulated.”

I understand why people don’t want to relinquish their personal weapons and then have to pray that their government won’t take advantage of their inability to defend themselves and their loved ones. I understand the fascination with firearms, the odd power one feels when one holds a gun in one’s hand, aims it at a target and squeezes the trigger. And I understand people not wanting others – not politicians or bloggers or anybody – to tell them what they can and can’t do or have or think. What I don’t understand is this: when faced with the knowledge that a number of little boys and girls were torn to shreds by multiple bullets fired from a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle at 9:30 in the morning in December of 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, because it's so easy for disturbed pricks to get their hands on deadly weapons, how can anyone shrug their shoulders and insist that there’s nothing we can do?

Someone sent me a private message in Facebook a little while ago telling me that I “harp too much” on gun violence. Before I unfriended him, I sent him a reply saying, “So shoot me.”

How Do We Fix This?
  • Reinstate the assault weapons ban which was signed into law by President Clinton in September of 1994 and allowed to expire 10 years later (some say its effects were negligible but others insist that the ban had an impact on gun crime);
  • Ban high-capacity magazines such as those used by Jared Lee Loughner in Tucson, Arizona, in January of 2011 (Loughner killed six people and injured 15 others, including then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords). These substantially enhance the deadliness of gun attacks;
  • Reform mental health laws to help keep firearms out of the hands of people with mental illness (a 2013 survey of National Rifle Association members found that almost 91 percent favor this);
  • Require background checks for all gun sales, including gun show gun sales;
  • Stem the tide of open carry and concealed carry proposals cropping up in municipalities across the country (my state, Michigan, is a "shall issue" state for concealed carry and open carry is generally permitted);
  • Ban semi-automatic firearms (firearms that shoot one bullet per trigger pull); and
  • Vote against any politician who cares more about getting or keeping his/her job than about standing up to the gun lobby and saying, “My constituents are mad as hell and they’re not gonna take it anymore.”

Want to Read More?

Click here to read, “Oregon Shooting at Umpqua College Kills 10, Sheriff Says,” October 1, 2015.

Click here to read, “What If Congress Treated Gun Violence Like It Treated The Benghazi Attack?,” October 9, 2015.

Click here to read, “Shoot! So Far Nothing's Changed!," December 22, 2012.

Click here to read, “Oregon Killings Amplify Crusade of Virginia Tech Victim’s Father,” October 10, 2015.

Click here to read, “POTUS on Umpqua,” October 2, 2015.

Click here to read, “Grieving for Grace,” March 30, 2013.

Click here to read, “5 Indefensible Tweets From The NRA Since The Oregon Gun Massacre,” October 7, 2015.

Click here to read, “Gun Control Push Coming in Senate,” October 6, 2015.

Click here to read, “Final Report on Sandy Hook Killings Sheds New Light on Gunman’s Isolation,” December 27, 2013.

Click here to read, “When Deciding to Live Means Avoiding Guns,” September 24, 2015.

Click here to read, “We’ve lost the gun debate: Our relationship with guns is dysfunctional, and we won’t do a thing about it,” July 24, 2105.

Click here to read, “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll,” September 28, 2013.

The Huffington Post has a collection of stories about gun violence in Chicago, where there were 2,500 shootings in 2014, a 13 percent increase from 2013 numbers. Click here.

Sources: Heavy.com, New York Times, Salon.com, Thinkprogress.org, TheHill.com, USAtoday.com, HuffingtonPost.com, NPR.org.

Friday, October 2, 2015

There Is a Difference

Paper Planes - M.I.A.


President Barack Obama spoke from the podium of the James Brady Press Briefing room on Thursday, October 1, 2015, in the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, where at least 10 people were killed and seven others injured:

There’s been another mass shooting in America — this time, in a community college in Oregon.

That means there are more American families — moms, dads, children — whose lives have been changed forever. That means there’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children.

I’ve been to Roseburg, Oregon. There are really good people there. I want to thank all the first responders whose bravery likely saved some lives today. Federal law enforcement has been on the scene in a supporting role, and we’ve offered to stay and help as much as Roseburg needs, for as long as they need.

In the coming days, we’ll learn about the victims — young men and women who were studying and learning and working hard, their eyes set on the future, their dreams on what they could make of their lives. And America will wrap everyone who’s grieving with our prayers and our love.
But as I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough. It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.

We don’t yet know why this individual did what he did. And it’s fair to say that anybody who does this has a sickness in their minds, regardless of what they think their motivations may be. But we are not the only country on Earth that has people with mental illnesses or want to do harm to other people. We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings every few months.

Earlier this year, I answered a question in an interview by saying, “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws — even in the face of repeated mass killings.” And later that day, there was a mass shooting at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. That day! Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.

We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg, after Tucson, after Newtown, after Aurora, after Charleston. It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

And what’s become routine, of course, is the response of those who oppose any kind of common-sense gun legislation. Right now, I can imagine the press releases being cranked out: We need more guns, they’ll argue. Fewer gun safety laws.

Does anybody really believe that? There are scores of responsible gun owners in this country –they know that’s not true. We know because of the polling that says the majority of Americans understand we should be changing these laws — including the majority of responsible, law-abiding gun owners.

There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America. So how can you, with a straight face, make the argument that more guns will make us safer? We know that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths. So the notion that gun laws don’t work, or just will make it harder for law-abiding citizens and criminals will still get their guns is not borne out by the evidence.

We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.

And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic. I would ask news organizations — because I won’t put these facts forward — have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who’ve been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who’ve been killed by gun violence, and post those side-by-side on your news reports. This won’t be information coming from me; it will be coming from you. We spend over a trillion dollars, and pass countless laws, and devote entire agencies to preventing terrorist attacks on our soil, and rightfully so. And yet, we have a Congress that explicitly blocks us from even collecting data on how we could potentially reduce gun deaths. How can that be?

This is a political choice that we make to allow this to happen every few months in America. We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction. When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our Constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon, when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt and protect their families and do everything they do under such regulations doesn’t make sense.

So, tonight, as those of us who are lucky enough to hug our kids a little closer are thinking about the families who aren’t so fortunate, I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these laws, and to save lives, and to let young people grow up. And that will require a change of politics on this issue. And it will require that the American people, individually, whether you are a Democrat or a Republican or an independent, when you decide to vote for somebody, are making a determination as to whether this cause of continuing death for innocent people should be a relevant factor in your decision. If you think this is a problem, then you should expect your elected officials to reflect your views.

And I would particularly ask America’s gun owners — who are using those guns properly, safely, to hunt, for sport, for protecting their families — to think about whether your views are properly being represented by the organization that suggests it’s speaking for you.

And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up. Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself. I’ve got to have a Congress and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.

I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as President to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances. But based on my experience as President, I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say. And it can change.

May God bless the memories of those who were killed today. May He bring comfort to their families, and courage to the injured as they fight their way back. And may He give us the strength to come together and find the courage to change.

Thank you.


  Transcript courtesy TIME.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Look At Me

Baby, Baby - Amy Grant

A Persuasive Pope

Photo courtesy U.S. News & World Report

Let us say no to an economy of exclusion and inequality,
where money rules rather than service.
That economy kills.
That economy excludes.
That economy destroys Mother Earth.

~ Pope Francis

Regular “What’s the Diehl?” readers might remember that I grew up Catholic but have come to think there is no such thing as God, at least not in the Bearded-Man-Who-Floats-on-Clouds-and-Awards-Touchdowns-and-Grammys kind of way.

In my own life and in the lives of countless others – in Syria, Gaza, Japan, Sandy Hook and everywhere else where there is pain, injustice and violence – I’ve found it implausible that some higher power exists, that someone or something greater than ourselves is spinning the wheel and calling the shots.

We all know that it’s hard to believe in God when little girls are raped by their protectors, politicians rob from the poor to give to the rich and the good die young while the bad live forever (I’m talking to you, Dick Cheney). We know all the terrible things that have happened in the name of religion – from the Crusades to 9/11 – and have heard all about the systemic abuse, oppression of women and many other reasons why it makes more sense to believe in Elvis than the King of Kings.

Having said all this – and having embraced atheism as tightly as my children used to embrace the idea of the Tooth Fairy – I must admit that the current leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is the most Jesus-like pontiff I’ve ever seen. Watching how he acted and hearing what he said during his historic visit to the United States, I realized that I was actually proud to have been an altar boy four decades ago.

Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires on December 17, 1936, he became the Pope in March of 2013 and chose Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi. (Growing up, St. Francis was my favorite saint. Google him.)

Yes, the man is strongly pro-life – he once suggested that gynecologists invoke the conscience clause and refuse to perform abortions if asked – and he opposes the ordination of women. Yes, he opposes same-sex marriage. But he said he believes gays should be treated with respect and love, supported the restoration of U.S. relations with Cuba and opposes capital punishment and life imprisonment. Additionally, he thinks we need to address global warming and has condemned class warfare and economic injustice.

Is this pope cool or what?

I watched his historic address to Congress this morning and found myself moved to tears and brought to my feet more than once by what this charming, gentle 78-year-old Argentinian had to say.

Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.

Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.

We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces.

For the text of the speech, click here. For the video, click here.

I don’t intend to rejoin a parish and start quoting scripture. I still think praying is silly and one can be good and moral without owning a Bible or a crucifix. But I dig Pope Francis and am less ashamed of having been Catholic than I used to be. I hope he continues to inspire and invigorate and charm and challenge. As I said in a Facebook status, the guy is rocking the Jesus thing and I really, really like him. I know I’m not alone.

Sources: U.S. News & World Report, U. S. Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Illegal - Harmonik

E-Mailing Mom about Illegals

"I've never met an 'illegal' human being."

~ U.S. Senator Cory Booker

My beloved mother, who’s become a tad more right-leaning in her older age, just forwarded one of those chain e-mails designed to fire people up and get us to grab our pitchforks and torches and take to the streets. This one (which I won’t repost here because I don’t want to help disseminate drivel), sent to her by my very conservative Uncle Don, attacked illegal immigrants and contained the kind of fiery bombast you find in the public comments section of most online newspapers. I knew by the subject line, “Are We Stupid or What?,” that this was going to raise my blood pressure and lower my level of affection for my mother’s brother-in-law. Mom introduced the message by typing, “I don’t know if these claims are true but I trust you’ll take the time to verify.”

Here’s how I replied:

Actually, Mom, I'm not going to take the time to verify this crap. It's offensive, divisive and disgusting. Here's my response:

Forbes, no liberal bastion, asked in a March 2014 article why there's no conservative outrage about corporate welfare. Boeing receives $13 billion in government handouts, for example, and everyone yawns. Whether in the form of tax breaks, incentives, refunds or direct appropriation, corporate welfare is far more expensive than benefits allocated to those dastardly "illegals."

* The government spends roughly 50% more on corporate welfare than it does on public assistance programs. (Click here for the source article.)

* Big Oil's profits in the first six months of 2013: $47.4 billion. (That's with a "b.") So why are we still giving Chevron, Shell, Exxon, BP, Conoco et al $10 billion in subsidies each year? And where's the conservative outrage about that?

* 32 companies dodged $72 billion in taxes in 2012 - enough to fund the entire federal education budget. But we've got to get tough on illegals, don't we?

* Illegals are by no means America's biggest welfare queens. Know who is? Walmart. Each Walmart drains more than $900,000 from taxpayers in the form of food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, housing and other social programs for their poverty-wage employees. (The Walton family, by the way, is worth $144 billion [$144 thousand millions]. This year the government is giving them back $6 billion [$6 thousand million] in tax breaks. This is enough to pay the tuition of 10 million students.)

* Finally, according to CNN Money (again, no liberal mouthpiece), myths about illegal immigrants include:

1. They don't pay taxes. Yes, they do. In fact, they paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010 alone.

2. They don't pay into social security. Yes, they do. They pay more in payroll taxes than they'll ever use in public benefits. Unauthorized immigrants aren't eligible to receive social security yet they paid $100 billion into the fund over the past decade.

3. They drain the system. No, they don't. They don't qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and most other public benefits. Most of these programs require proof of legal immigration status and under the 1996 welfare law, even legal immigrants can't receive these benefits until they have been in the U.S. for more than five years.

4. They take American jobs. No, they don't. This has been disputed by an overwhelming number of economic research studies and data.

5. It's just a matter of following the law. No, it isn't. It's extremely difficult to enter the U.S. legally and the line of applicants from all over is long. It can take years and even decades. In some countries, such as the Philippines and Mexico, people have been waiting over 20 years for approval of a family-sponsored visa. It's often cost-prohibitive too.

In short, illegal immigration is not as big a problem as the silly message you forwarded claims although I can see why corporate America and its minions in the media, Congress, etc. want us all to think so. Stoking the fires of fear, ignorance and prejudice is so much easier than making a case with facts and numbers.

I ask that you forward this response to Uncle Don and all the other recipients of this pablum. And I also ask that you refrain from forwarding similar e-mails to me because I find them aggravating and insipid and I don't want to have an apoplectic seizure and die.


I probably shouldn't hold my breath waiting for a Christmas card from Uncle Don this year.

UPDATE: A reader requested source information that I couldn't readily provide so I removed the statistic and rewrote the post.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Is Anyone More Beautiful?

Billy Paul - Am I Black Enough For You?

Just Because I'm White Doesn't Mean I'm Wrong

I understand what it’s like to be white.

I understand the privileges bestowed on me purposely and unconsciously by others just because of how I look.

And I understand that I don’t understand what it’s like to not be white. Intellectually, maybe, but not really.

It’s not right to assume that I’m blind or ignorant or incapable or unqualified to have opinions about race because I never had to sit in the back of a bus or drink from a designated water fountain.

I get to define what I think about black people.

Not black people.

Not other white people.


I get to decide what I think is effective and less so when it comes to addressing race relations. I don’t have to be black to have ideas about how best to fight racism. My ideas might not be the best but they’re not automatically the worst just because I’m less likely to die during a routine traffic stop than a person of color.

I believe that #BlackLivesMatter and I want to help address the problems faced by people of color in this country. But when I dared to use Facebook yesterday to criticize Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson, the two women who disrupted a political rally in Seattle last Saturday, August 8, I was ridiculed, unfriended and patronized by blacks and whites alike.

I was accused of being blind to the benefits of white privilege and unqualified to have an opinion about effective activism. My posts (shared below) were reposted with derisive introductions and I found myself for the first time in the strange position of having to defend myself against accusations of racism.

For the record, I judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Always have and always will.

Isn’t that a good thing?

I get it. People are frustrated because their wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children and friends can’t go outside without being killed. It’s not safe in Ferguson, Staten Island, McKenney, Hempstead, Sanford, Cincinnati or anywhere else. But it’s not right to marginalize, silence or disregard me because I don’t look like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Troy Davis, Sam DuBose or the countless other people of color who’ve been terrorized and murdered in the last few years. Just like it’s wrong to obstruct Barack Obama’s agenda and torpedo his presidency because he’s not white, it’s wrong to insult and alienate me because I am.
  • I was just unfriended by a young African-American man because I objected to his saying, "Most white people are evil." How strange to find myself in this position.
  • Wow. I was unfriended by a black guy for essentially being white and told by people half my age that I need to learn about white privilege and to let people fight for justice and equality using whatever tactics they want. Time to take a break from Facebook.
  • I just unfriended a white Malcolm X wannabe for calling me a "condescending, paternalistic asshole." One thing Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson have succeeded at is shortening my Facebook friends list.
  • People are turned off by combativeness and obnoxiousness when it isn't obviously connected to any message or "ask." No one likes loud for the sake of loud, as any Occupy Wall Street activist can now tell you. What did Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson achieve with their performance? Who did they reach? What was their message? Whose eyes were opened? They achieved nothing - other than to make people dislike them and not care what they would have said had they been able to say it. They weren't off-putting because they forced white people to look at the systemic racism that's killing black people in this country. They were off-putting just for the sake of being off-putting. That makes potential allies look to other issues and causes and is therefore stupid.
  • One of my Facebook friends - a young white guy - keeps posting that it's just too bad if people have a problem with confrontational disruptions. Play Malcolm X all you want, pal, but Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Jenae Johnson alienated potential allies and damaged, more than helped, the BLM movement. That's a fact.
  • Note to people of color: there are many of us white people who truly believe that black lives matter and desperately want to play a role in making things better. If you're telling us that we have to embrace assholes like the two Seattle women and their embarrassing behavior in order to affect change, you're alienating people who want to be in your corner. That seems nonstrategic and unwise to this middle-aged white dude.
  • Note to BLM activists: I suggest more Bree Newsome and less Mara Jacqueline Willaford/Marissa Jenae Johnson.
  • Call it whatever you want but that wasn't "uncomfortable activism" in Seattle the other day. That was two obnoxious, shrill, off-putting microphone hogs embarrassing themselves and temporarily derailing an important movement. Those two immature assholes alienated your allies and made it MORE likely that you'll continue to fear for your lives when you see blinking red and blue lights in your rearview mirrors. Why you claim and embrace misguided fools is a mystery to this middle-aged white dude.
  • Now that I've seen this clip, I'm even more sure of my opposition to these shrill, obnoxious, off-putting "activists." This isn't about frustration over police brutality and racism; this is two immature assholes embarrassing themselves and derailing an important movement. If you think my view is shaped by my racism and/or white privilege, let me know and I'll unfriend you faster than butter melts on a hot August sidewalk.
When I said yesterday that I was going to take a break from Facebook because of the vitriol, someone told me not to be so sensitive. I may be thin-skinned but I’m not thick-headed. It’s not helpful to attack people who want to fight this fight with you. Yes, some white people are the problem. But some white people are not. Race relations may not improve even if we’re at the table but things sure won’t get better if we’re kicked out of the room.

Just like one would think Israelis would know better than to do to Palestinians what was done to them, you’d think people of color would know better than to silence people who want to communicate with them. I guess nothing’s black or white, huh?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Club I'd Like to Join

Old Days - Chicago

Sara MacCalman Responds to Right Wing News

Sara MacCalman is a gifted writer who gave me permission to repost her response to an obnoxious meme circulated in Facebook by a group calling itself "Right Wing News."  It's brief but wonderful.

I guess you must be referring to the old America where one person could support a family, where kids could go to college without going into debt, where the water was still relatively clean, where there was a thriving manufacturing economy and finding products that were made in America wasn't just about impossible.  That fine old America where 30% of workers were union members, where the tax rate for wealthy Americans was 91% (1950),where the majority of people actually voted and they voted on paper ballots counted by honest, trustworthy local citizens.  Those were the days, that's for sure.  The days when the media was not all owned by one or two corporations whose goal is to keep people sedated with nonsense and out-right lies, when people trusted and respected the officials they elected and when campaigns were based on issues, not the amount of money raised.  The America where we all valued that which we held in common, like our public schools and our public land. Where we, in the form of our government, dealt with problems such as crime from the standpoint of public safety and restorative justice rather than the profit motive.  I would say that most of us miss that America.

Sara MacCalman is a self-described “5th generation Montanan, an avid reader of everything I can get my hands on, a permaculturist who feels that the most radical thing to do in these mad times is to grow as much of your family's food as is humanly possible, a firm believer that most dogs are finer human beings than most people, and a glutton for hope in any of its myriad forms.”

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Thirsty, Officer?

That's the Way I Always Heard It Should Be - Carly Simon

Mark Richardson on Michigan's Proposal 1

I ran across a well-researched, well-written analysis of Proposal 1 – Michigan’s complex, convoluted, controversial ballot measure that’ll be decided by voters this coming Tuesday – a few days ago that conveys the reasons why the “road and bridge repair proposal” should be defeated much better than I can. The author, Mark Richardson, gave me permission to share it here for “What’s the Diehl?” readers.

After much study and a lot of soul-searching, I’ve decided to vote no on Proposal 1. Needless to say, I’m speaking for myself only and no other organization or group I’m associated with.

I understand very well that our roads are in deplorable condition. And contrary to conservative opponents of Proposal 1, I believe we need to increase taxes to repair and maintain them. We spend less per capita on roads than any other state.

I also understand that delaying needed road repairs just adds to the costs, and that Michigan residents pay a “hidden tax,” in the form of auto repairs, as a result of bad roads. I am also aware of the earmarks for education and local governments in the legislation appended to the ballot proposal. I understand how schools and municipalities have struggled and I know that additional money would help.

None of these facts are enough to persuade me to vote yes.

Proposal 1 would virtually complete, and via constitutional amendment cement into place, the largest tax shift from business to individuals in Michigan history.

Beginning in 2011, Governor Snyder and the Republicans have moved to minimize or eliminate the tax burden on business in this state. They replaced the Michigan business tax with a flat 6% tax that resulted in a $1.7 billion tax cut for business. In 2014 they eliminated the business personal property tax. This tax cut starts out at $100 million in 2016, increases to $350 million in 2017, and to $500 million per year in 10 years. All in all, Snyder and company will have reduced business taxes by about $2 billion per year, give or take, when the cuts are fully phased in.

At the same time the Republicans have increased taxes on individuals. Eliminating deductions and credits, taxing pensions, and canceling a scheduled income tax rate reduction increased individual taxes by about $1.4 billion per year starting in 2012. Now, Proposal 1 asks us to increase the sales tax by 17% and the motor vehicle fuel tax, initially, by over 100%. These, together with other measures, such as the elimination of registration fee discounts based on vehicle depreciation, amount to a combined tax increase of about $2 billion additional dollars to be paid, again, mostly by individuals.

I believe in fair and progressive taxation. Proposal 1 would result in a tax system that is more regressive and more unfair than ever before. Almost 100,000 businesses in Michigan pay no taxes at all anymore. The business share of overall taxation is now smaller in Michigan than it is in 47 states. On the other hand, Michigan would end up tied for the second highest sales tax rate in the country if Proposal 1 is adopted. The increases in the sales tax and fuel tax will add hundreds of dollars to the tax burden of average households. The proposed increase in the earned income tax credit will help, but not by enough to offset the increase.

I might feel differently if I thought Proposal 1 would actually solve our problems. But reliable estimates are that it will actually take at least $2 billion or more per year to put our roads in acceptable condition. Proposal 1 would make $1.2 billion available, raising questions as to whether it would even raise enough money to be effective.

Moreover, road funding will depend even more heavily on fuel tax revenues, which may continue to decline as vehicles become more efficient and as people drive fewer miles. Declining fuel tax revenue is the reason we fell behind on road maintenance to begin with! In short, I do not see Proposal 1 as the answer to our road problems.

Supporters on the progressive side say the alternatives are worse. In the short term, they are. I have no illusions about what this legislature would try to do. But we should bear in mind that the next election is just 18 months from now. We should keep fighting for the philosophy of government we believe in, now and next fall.

It seems to me that the economic and social harm to this state which would result from the system of regressive taxation we are being asked to ratify far outweighs the risks harm from continuing to fight for a fair and feasible funding mechanism for the roads.

*                                                  *                                             *

Click here for the official ballot language. And click here for MLive’s slideshow entitled, “Michigan Proposal 1 and the 10 laws it would trigger.”

Mark Richardson, 64, is an attorney who focuses on environmental and zoning and planning law. A graduate of Michigan State University and Wayne State University Law School, he worked in a county prosecutor’s office for over 15 years where, as chief of the water quality unit, he prosecuted environmental lawbreakers. He teaches environmental law and policy at Oakland University, serves on his local planning commission, and helped create both the Michigan Environmental Council and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Mark and his wife, Susan, are the parents of two adult children. He’s been to Alaska twice in recent years, fishing and hiking in the wilderness, and enjoys baseball, cycling and social media.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Let Me Help You

Prince - Breakfast Can Wait

Why I'm Not Voting for Hillary Clinton

Former First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made it official: she’s running for President of the United States. This surprised no one, of course, except probably the scruffy, bearded guy who lives in the woods near my home and mumbles to himself a lot. The “She’s In!” fundraising e-mails have already flooded my inbox and the fawning Facebook posts are cluttering my news feed.

I’m not particularly happy about this.

I’ve read a lot of disappointing news and information about Secretary Clinton (see below); the only reason to vote for her, it seems, is because four U.S. Supreme Court justices are over 70 (Stephen Breyer is 74, Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia are 76 and cancer survivor Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 79) and we wouldn’t want President Ted Cruz or Rand Paul – I shudder even as I type this – to chose their successors.

I understand why presidential Supreme Court appointments are important but you’ll never convince me that the best reason to support a Democratic candidate is because she wouldn’t appoint the same *ssh*l*s to the court that a GOP candidate would.

I’m pretty sick and tired of this “Hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils,” “Don’t be an ideological purist” and “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” crap too. I want to be excited again – like my parents were about JFK in 1960 and Anita and I were about BHO in 2008. These candidates were not perfect and pure yet they attracted voters to the polls. “I Offer Hope and Change” is more alluring than “I Could Be Even Worse.”

Why is Secretary Clinton the wrong choice? I thought you’d never ask:
  • She’s pro-fracking.
  • She’s too cozy with Big Oil.
  • She’s too cozy with low-wage, pro-sprawl, anti-union Wal-Mart – she served on its Board of Directors from 1986 to 1992.
  • She was one of the most hawkish members of President Obama's cabinet, rattling sabers about a nuclear Iran and bragging about having presided over the imposition of "crippling sanctions" on the Iranian economy during her tenure as secretary of state.
  • She strongly defended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of Israel’s criminal and despicable assault on Gaza.
  • She voted for the Patriot Act and accused whistleblower Edward Snowden of “supporting terrorism” for revealing the seamy side of American military operations to the American people.
  • She co-sponsored legislation to criminalize flag-burning.
  • She voted to loosen restrictions on cell phone wiretapping.
  • She’s pro-death penalty.
  • She voted for the Iraq war and it took her more than ten years to express regret for that vote.
  • She’s supported off-shore oil drilling.
  • She refuses to reveal where she stands on the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.
  • She’s pro-GMO – even going so far as to appoint a former Monsanto lobbyist to her team of campaign advisors.
  • She’s pandered to the pro-censorship crowd when it comes to video games.
  • In 2005, she supported the Workplace Religious Freedom Act which, according to the ACLU, would effectively have legalized discrimination.
This is just a partial list. (Visit this link for more about where she stands on the issues.) You can’t say I haven’t done my homework.

I dig U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). But Senator Warren continues to stress that she’s not running and I doubt Senator Sanders can garner the support he needs to capture the nomination. Fortunately there’s already another option: former Democratic Governor of Maryland and Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley.

Governor Martin O'Malley
Click here to watch Governor O’Malley’s appearance on “ABC This Week” with George Snuffleupagus. Click here to read “Martin O’Malley Says Republicans Who Hate Obama More than Ayatollah Are Unfit to Be in Government.” And click here to read The New Yorker’s “A real Democratic Challenger for Hillary Clinton?” by John Cassidy.

Although he does come across as a politician and it’s too bad he thinks a nuclear Iran is the biggest threat we face, an O’Malley candidacy would be more exciting than Hillary Clinton’s in my opinion. And I share the governor’s belief that our leaders should be elected, not crowned or appointed.

It’s possible, too, that someone else will emerge that excites and energizes progressives more than the We Might As Well candidate. I sure hope her coronation isn’t inevitable as some Facebook commenters believe.

I concede that I share Secretary Clinton’s position on some issues (e.g. supporting a woman’s right to choose, cracking down on sex trafficking, pro-animal protection, pro-clean air, pro-gay marriage, pro-medical marijuana). I don’t subscribe to the “Hillary’s evil ‘cause she sent private e-mails while Secretary of State” crap, I don’t support the National Rifle Association’s efforts to vilify her for being anti-gun, and I don’t hold her responsible for what happened in Benghazi in 2012. (The GOP, which conveniently neglects to admit that it slashed funding for U.S. embassy security by $128 million, bears responsibility for what happened there in my book. While Secretary of State in 2011, Clinton warned that inadequate funding represented a threat to U.S. security.) It’s also past time for a woman to sit at the desk in the Oval Office.

Just not this woman.

Here are links for more information:

At one point – in January of 2013 – I pledged to knock on doors for Madame Secretary. Read why here.

I love how she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Visit this link to see her with Amy Poehler on “Saturday Night Live” in 2008.

And there’s more:

There’s a Reality About Hillary that Many Liberals Need to Face.”

Five Reasons No Progressive Should Support Hillary Clinton.”

Eight Things You Need to Know About Hillary Clinton and Climate Change.”

Hillary Clinton is Running for President. Here are 11 Stories About Her that You Should Read Now.”

Why Hillary Clinton is Probably Going to Win the 2016 Election.”

If you like a little fluff with your research, check out “Five Things You Should Know About Hillary Clinton.”

And for a comprehensive list of articles, check out The New Yorker’s “Hillary Clinton: A Reading List.”

Sources: Act.Watchdog.Net, Forwardprogressives.com. truth-out.org, Grist.org, NPR.org, Tampa Bay Times, New York magazine, Rolling Stone magazine, OntheIssues.org, CNN.com, NewYorker.com, AddictingInfo.org, Huffington Post, ABCNews.com.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hair of the Dog...

Drinking Again - Aretha Franklin

Sorry, AA, But I’m Not Powerless

Alcoholism is a chronic and often progressive disease that includes problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol, continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems, having to drink more to get the same effect (physical dependence), or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking. If you have alcoholism, you can't consistently predict how much you'll drink, how long you'll drink, or what consequences will occur from your drinking.

~ Mayo Clinic

It’s fitting, I suppose, to be posting about alcoholism a few days after one of the most popular drinking days in America, St. Patrick’s Day. Although I used to drink to excess – and not just on March 17 – thankfully those days are behind me now. It’s not because I came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity, though, or because I prayed, made amends to those I had wronged, embraced abstinence or had a spiritual awakening.

It was only when it became clear to me that I was making life harder for myself and those around me that I made a concerted effort to learn how and when to put on the brakes. I admit that it took a while. But it wasn’t a result of my asking God to remove this character defect. I came to rely on myself.

I was sentenced to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings more than once as a result of impaired driving convictions. I dutifully obtained the necessary signatures from meeting chairs that proved to my probation officers that I had adhered to the directives of the court. I learned the Serenity Prayer, endured secondhand cigarette smoke and held hands with strangers at the end of each meeting. I even secured a sponsor – although I can count on one hand how many times I spoke with him – and earned my chip for a year of sobriety. But I was just going through the motions and bluffing my way through meetings and conversations. I didn’t like thinking of myself as a helpless victim of my addiction and I resented being forced by a judge to accept that I could only master my problem by relying on a Higher Power. (I remember being told that “higher power” isn’t necessarily “God” but rather can represent whatever works for a particular individual. It could even be a bedpan, one AA meeting attendee offered.) So I faked it.

For the uninitiated, here are AA’s Twelve Steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Do these look like they would work for anyone struggling with alcoholism? Would they work for you?

Another thing that didn’t work for me was AA’s built-in program protector. If you express doubt or resistance or display the ability to question and think for yourself, you’re labeled a “dry drunk” who’s “in denial.” You’re marginalized. You’re not working the steps, you’re told, or you haven’t “hit rock bottom” yet. Things had to get worse before they could get better. Well, I didn’t want anything to get worse. I didn’t want to lose my job or kill someone on the road or hurt caring family members any more than I already had. I didn’t want to end up hospitalized – I wanted to learn how to get my drinking under control before I hit rock bottom. So I learned how in spite of Bill W., not because of him. (Bill Wilson founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1938.)

This was years ago. I still drink more wine than I should at times. Just like I occasionally exceed the speed limit and eat more turkey on Thanksgiving than is wise. No one’s insisting that I abstain from driving or eating, however; why teetotalism is in so many folks’ view the only real answer to excessive drinking is a mystery to me. Must be because Catholics, Presbyterians and Mormons are so influential.

My experiences with AA came to mind the other day when I reposted an interesting article in Facebook entitled, “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” by Gabrielle Glaser. The article – which points out that researchers have debunked AA doctrine and found dozens of other methods to address alcoholism to be more effective, and challenges the prevailing wisdom that AA “cures” most of its adherents – contained the following assertions that stayed with me:

"Nowhere in the field of medicine is treatment less grounded in modern science."

"Alcoholics Anonymous was established in 1935, when knowledge of the brain was in its infancy. It offers a single path to recovery: lifelong abstinence from alcohol."

"The history of AA is the story of how one approach to treatment took root before other options existed, inscribing itself on the national consciousness and crowding out dozens of newer methods that have since been shown to work better."

The article also claims that AA’s actual success rate probably doesn’t exceed 8 percent. (Given that 78.4 percent of U.S. adults identify as Christian, it surprises me that it isn’t higher.) So much for the 95 percent success rate that one meeting chairperson assured me.

The reaction of Facebookers to my posting the article was mixed. Comments included:
  • "AA isn't for everyone, but it works well for many (even agnostics like me)."
  • "I've never seen that kind of judgment in AA from those that are truly in recovery. If you leave the program, that’s okay. We understand it is not for everyone and never judge if you come back. That's why it was my path to get sober."
  • "I think that the single digit success rate of AA is pretty damned accurate."
  • "Don't like it, don't go. Don't criticize as if they have anything but pure motives."
  • "I've been around alcoholics all my life...the ones that accomplished the rewards of sobriety went cold turkey on their own."
  • "When the courts send everyone there who has an alcohol-related crime, it will water down the success rate. But what is the point of the criticism?"
  • "AA, as the article notes, is non-profit, non-political and has no agenda. In fact, one of their core principles is that the AA system should never be professionalized. If AA were a self-serving for-profit group, then I would have a more negative opinion of them."
  • "The problems start with the many for-profit treatment centers that have kept the trappings of AA while abandoning the non-profit nature. Those are the types of entities that the article should properly call on the carpet."
  • "So many have been helped!"
  • "There is such stigma attached to substance abuse and mental health disorders. It's too bad that treatment options for either are so limited and kept so hidden. Someone suffering from diabetes would not be looked down upon, nor would they attend a 12 step program in hopes of curing or controlling the disease, but groups seem to be the expected route in substance issues."
  • "Wonderful program that has helped so many...thinking not one program can help everyone every time..."
  • "Going on 22 years with AA and therapy. AA says it's NOT the only way and 'we know only a little.' Those who contend otherwise are violating the very tenets of their own program."
  • "Living in a family of alcoholics. I think the most important things is a support group and non-judgmental friends."
  • "It’s a disease for sure and new ideas, treatments and questions are necessary. It’s sure not a cookie cutter answer for everyone and help is so needed for addiction's victims and their family and friends."
  • "Amen. Great article. How come when I say this stuff, I'm just an asshole that didn't work the program?"
  • "I think it's an effective organization and method that has more than proved itself."
  • "We need more scientifically proven therapies mostly. I think it is great if AA helps people, but if it does not help a huge segment of alcoholics, we need additional programs."
  • "I want to like this about 17, 293 times."
Not sure why anyone would want to drop thousands on high-priced consultants and focus groups when all you have to do is post something controversial in Facebook.

In 1989 I came across Rational Recovery’s The Small Book, an “alternative for overcoming alcohol and drug dependence.” (AA’s “Bible” is nicknamed The Big Book.) Rational Recovery, which was designed as a direct counterpoint to AA, was based on cognitive behavior therapy, not “working the steps” or admitting anything to God. While abstinence was the goal in RR too, it regarded excessive alcohol consumption as a behavior, not a disease, and rejected the idea that alcoholics were forever “in recovery.” RR phased out group meetings in 1999 – I never attended one – and its website now focuses more on its “Addictive Voice Recognition Technique” but back when I was struggling with sobriety, knowing that there was a viable alternative to AA was encouraging.

I’m not trying to offend or belittle the five to eight percent of problem drinkers whose lives have been saved by Alcoholics Anonymous. And I readily admit that the fellowship and goodwill one feels at AA meetings is very cool and comforting. But I don’t believe a faith-based, non-scientific, abstinence-only approach should be the only way we address alcohol abuse or that members of government’s judicial branch should sentence anyone and everyone to a single program that's built around submission to God.

The foreword to the Third Edition of the Big Book concludes this way: “Each day, somewhere in the world, recovery begins when one alcoholic talks with another alcoholic, sharing experience, strength, and hope.”

Doesn’t sound like they’re powerless to me.

Sources: The Small Book: A Revolutionary Alternative for Overcoming Alcohol and Drug Dependence by Jack Trimpey; Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: The Basic Text for Alcoholics Anonymous, Third Edition; TheAtlantic.com, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Pew Research Center.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Iyad in Gaza

Palestine Song فلسطين أغنية

He Might As Well Have Written to Santa Claus

Mohammed El Kurd

“Every time anyone says that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, I can’t help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East.”

~ John Sheehan, S.J. (Jesuit priest)

Israel and Palestine have been in the news again recently because Palestine had the audacity to try to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), the intergovernmental, international tribunal located in the Netherlands that can prosecute people for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Palestine submitted documents to UN headquarters in New York yesterday saying they wanted to achieve “justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”

This comes as the official death toll from Israel’s 51-day Gaza offensive of last summer is revised to 2,310; the new, significantly higher number includes many Palestinians whose bodies were found in the rubble following the end of the Israeli bombardment as well as dozens who’ve died of their wounds in hospitals in the months since the conflict's end. (An additional 10,626 Palestinians were injured.)

Of course Israel and its lapdog, the United States, immediately condemned the ICC action; Israel decided to freeze the transfer of half a billion shekels (more than $127 million) in tax revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinians, and the U.S. threatened to invoke one of our laws law cutting off U.S. aid to Palestine – approximately $400 million in economic support each year – if Palestinians used membership in the ICC to make any claims against Israel.

I wasn’t aware that such a law was on the books but I’m not surprised.

I receive a lot of my information on the Israel/Palestine conflict from a Facebook group entitled, “Americans Against Genocide in Gaza.” The group just shared a compelling letter to President Obama written by 14-year-old Palestinian Mohammed El-Kurd that I’m reposting here:

Dear President Obama,

I am 14 and live in the Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem. Almost four years ago my family and I were evicted from part of our home by Israeli settlers, backed by Israeli court decisions. The process has made life almost unbearable for me and tens of thousands of Palestinians. Settlers are working towards Jewish control of all of East Jerusalem, at times using violence against Palestinians.

This was once a beautiful neighbourhood. Everybody was so close, and before part of my house was evicted, I was never afraid of going to sleep. We used to have no worries. Now it doesn't feel like a Palestinian neighbourhood any more. All the signs are in Hebrew, and the music too.

The people who've been evicted have lost financially and emotionally. My father has stopped going to work for almost a year, because it was so crowded and dangerous and every day there was tension and violence, so he couldn't just leave us alone in the house with the settlers. The little kids wet their beds. My sister couldn't sleep. The settlers have a dog in our house and every time it went past, she wet herself.

This thing that happened tore us apart. We were one big family, and now everyone lives in a different city. We are extremely uncomfortable and uncertain about what is going to happen here. Children my age and much younger are regularly arrested, interrogated and beaten by Israeli police, and violently attacked by settlers. For most of my life I have felt unsafe and threatened in my own neighbourhood and even in my own home.

Mr President, you have the power to change that. The most simple thing you could do is see our situation for yourself and speak out about it, to see the reality and talk about what you see. It's not like you don't know what's happening here. I'm sure you know everything.

On this trip I hope that you will speak out against the Israeli government's role in supporting the settlers and pressure the Israeli government to change its policies. US military aid to Israel is used directly against unarmed Palestinian demonstrators. I hope in the future you will stop giving military aid to support Israel's illegal occupation of my people.

I also hope that in the future justice will return to the people. I hope the world will begin to speak out against the oppression we face in my neighbourhood and [the oppression] against all Palestinians. That you and others will not remain silent while our homes are taken, children are arrested and injured, and our future threatened.

Mr President, we want our houses back. And our pre-1948 land. It's not fair what's happening here, and most of the world doesn't realise it. So if I had one wish I would get everyone's rights back. From a little ball they stole from a boy in the street to a big farm they stole from a grandfather.

Mohammed El Kurd

Mohammed is around the same age as my daughter Nikita. He should not have to write letters like this to the President of the United States.

And American politicians should stop taking their marching orders from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The following video, My Neighbourhood – directed by Julia Bacha and Rebekah Wingert-Jabi – tells the story of Mohammed El Kurd, a Palestinian teenager growing up in the heart of East Jerusalem. When Mohammed's family is forced to give up a part of their home to Israeli settlers, local residents begin peaceful protests and in a surprising turn, are quickly joined by scores of Israeli supporters. Mohammed comes of age in the face of unrelenting tension with his neighbours and unexpected co-operation with Israeli allies in his backyard. My Neighbourhood is the latest short film by Just Vision, an organization that uses film and media to increase the power and legitimacy of Palestinians and Israelis working to end the occupation and resolve the conflict nonviolently. Learn more about Just Vision at www.justvision.org.

Sources: Haaretz, Maannews.net, Guardian, ynetnews.com, Americans Against Genocide in Gaza.