Sunday, February 28, 2016


Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler

Facebook Friends Like Fielder

Josh Fielder with his beloved Izzy
(I'm told this is an actual snapshot.)

Anita’s told me more than once that I spend too much time on social media and she doesn’t think my Facebook friends are real friends anyway.

Most of the time she’s right, of course, but not this time.

Take my friend Josh Fielder from Virginia. Although we have yet to meet in person, we’ve “known” each other for years. We met in Facebook and became instant pals. We know each other’s backgrounds, likes and dislikes. We’re both struggling writers who don’t have pots to….well, you know the expression. We both prefer dogs to cats and progressives to conservatives. (We’re both Sanders supporters.) We’ve both had bad bosses and bad breakups. He used to drive a taxi and I almost drove for Uber. He served in the military and I loved “Saving Private Ryan.” He worked at Bonnaroo, the annual four-day music festival in south central Tennessee, and I wanted to.

We chat in Facebook about a myriad of subjects and our conversations are always interesting, challenging and enjoyable. We share memes and like each other’s posts. And most importantly, we care about each other. We’re more than pals now. We’re brothers.

When Josh is depressed, I do my best to cheer him up and let him know he’s not alone. And when I withdraw from Facebook periodically – sometimes I become overwhelmed by all the information, drama and negative news jumping at me from my newsfeed – Josh is always there, concerned, waiting patiently for me to return. Like all friends and brothers, we even disagree on occasion, sometimes adamantly – we find ourselves on different sides of the fence when it comes to gun control and pointing out Hillary Clinton’s negatives, for example – but we’re able to do so with mutual respect and a shared commitment not to being right but to learning from each other. We find common ground. We keep things in perspective. We recognize that at the end of the day, discord can be healthy and bygones can be bygones.

I used to have lots of real friends. We’d eat and drink together and play darts and golf and help each other move. We’d talk politics and make memories and watch each other buy homes, get promotions, get married and have babies. I don’t have that same network anymore. The passage of time and changing circumstances, financial and otherwise, have led us all down different paths. I now spend less time in bars and more time with my family and my laptop. My virtual relationships have taken on greater importance to me than I once expected. And although I have hundreds of Facebook friends, several of whom are quite important to me, I don’t anticipate meeting them “in real life” but I will meet Josh. Smart, sensitive, generous, tolerant, witty, charming, loyal, compelling pals are hard to come by. I really want to keep this one.

Anita and I are not of one mind on this. She prefers to interact with people in person, to engage directly with colleagues and store clerks, fellow parents and neighbors, anyone whose smile she can see and eyes she can look into. I like the convenience of engaging online, typing on my keyboard, using the written word to connect with fascinating folks regardless of locale, dialect or wardrobe. Or bedhead. Josh has never made fun of my hair – to my face.

Photos courtesy of Josh's Facebook page, of course.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The System

Condolence - Benjamin Clementine

Gynnya Could Have Been Mine

My 16-year-old daughter likes the music they play on our local college radio station. She likes holing up in her room after school, eating whenever and whatever she wants, using the cell phone her mom provides to chat with her boyfriend late at night, and pressuring us to let her drink coffee and wine. She never says “please” or “thank you,” fights with her mother sometimes, and generally acts like she believes she is the best thing since sliced bread.

From what I’m told, she’s a typical 16-year-old.

Gynnya McMillen was a typical 16-year-old too. She was a quiet, healthy, beautiful person with no criminal history. On January 11, one day after she arrived at the Lincoln Village Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for the terrible crime of fighting with her mom, she was found dead in her cell.

Once she arrived at the center, she refused to take off her sweatshirt and the staff immobilized her using a martial arts hold known as “Aikido restraint.” She spent just one night at the center (without a roommate), but didn’t respond to two offers of food and a phone call from her mom.

You’d think the staff would have checked on her at some point but they didn’t. Even when they finally discovered Gynnya unresponsive in her room, the center nurse didn’t immediately try to resuscitate her, waiting 11 minutes and talking with police before finally performing CPR.

Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Bob Hayter was just fired after it was discovered that Reginald Windham, the staffer who was supposed to oversee Gynnya but didn’t, had a history of negligence and use of excessive force toward kids in the center. Windham, who falsified reports and lied about checking on Gynnya every 15 minutes as required, was placed on “special administrative leave.”

Of course, nothing can reunite Gynnya with her family. Since we can’t give her back to those who love her, we can at least give them answers. Demand that the Kentucky Juvenile Justice Commission or GOP Governor Matt Bevin release surveillance video and provide answers for Gynnya’s death. (She had no bruise marks and no history of heart issues.)

Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice
1025 Capital Center Drive
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

Governor Matt Bevin
Office of the Governor
700 Capitol Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

As with adults, black kids who haven’t been convicted of any crimes are placed in detention centers at higher rates for similar crimes as their counterparts. And Lincoln Village, like many prisons and detention centers, receives government funding per day for each child they have in custody. Nothing like providing incentive to incarcerate, huh?

This tragedy didn’t have to happen. Gynnya could have been my daughter – or yours.

The “Justice for Gynnya McMillen” Facebook page is here.

UPDATE:  A source informed me that Gynnya's detention was the result of domestic violence rather than the minor family squabble that I implied above. Everyone agrees, however, that she should not have paid with her life.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Too Beautiful for Words

Art by Irakli Nadar

These Foolish Things - Etta James

Jones Causes Groans

The Dignified Senator from the 24th District

As if the international attention drawn to Michigan by our GOP governor presiding over one of the worst public health disasters in memory weren’t enough, now there’s another reason for people to scratch their heads and wonder what’s in our water besides lead.

State Senator Rick Jones, a Republican from the Lansing suburb of Grand Ledge, is proposing that sodomy continue to be classified as a felony punishable by 15 years in prison. Even though it’s already been deemed unconstitutional by the highest court in the land, the august body of which Jones is part passed a bill reaffirming that oral and anal sex are illegal regardless of whether homosexuals or heterosexuals are involved. But wait there’s more.

According to, Michigan’s ban is “intertwined with a prohibition on bestiality – effectively equating the two.” It’s a felony for anyone to commit "the abominable and detestable crime against nature with mankind or with any animal." And if the offending party is already a sex offender, he or she is looking at the possibility of life in prison.

Our House of Representatives could take up the bill – which is part of a package barring animal abusers from owning pets for five years – as early as next week.

"If we could put a bill in that said anything that’s unconstitutional be removed from the legal books of Michigan, that’s probably something I could vote for,” Jones is quoted as saying, “but am I going to mess up this dog bill that everybody wants? No."

Jones, 63, who worked for the Eaton County Sheriff’s Office for more than three decades before becoming a lawmaker in 2005, is probably best known for comparing a local, well-known public relations expert to a prostitute in December of 2012. He also tried to repeal a state law giving unmarried domestic partners of state employees health insurance, threatened to erect a Christmas Nativity scene on the Capitol lawn when he heard that a Satanic Temple intended to put up its own holiday display – “I cannot stand by and allow Satan to win this one,” he said at the time – and tried to outlaw medical marijuana use by glaucoma patients.

I announced to my Facebook pals last week that I was creating a “People I Loath” list and placing Ted Cruz and Martin Shkreli – the smirking, obscenely rich, 32-year-old prick who hiked an AIDS drug by 5,556 percent – right on top. Consider this the official announcement that Rick Jones has been added to the list for being a Tier One Pain in the Ass Politician and a Judgmental SOB Who Embarrasses Michigan Citizens Just By Being One.