Thursday, June 8, 2017
I go back and forth on Bill Maher.
Some days I’m a fan and on other days I find him rude, pompous and closed-minded, inclined to speak first and think later, a dickhead who is or was friends with Ann Coulter, arguably one of the yuckiest individuals on Planet Earth.
Anita and I saw him live the other night at Soaring Eagle Casino. Anita snagged tickets to the “An Evening with Bill Maher: Live Stand Up Tour” and we went with another progressive couple to Mt. Pleasant, the home of Central Michigan University, an hour or so north of where we live. This was one day after the sh*t hit the fan about Maher’s use of the term, “house n*gger” during a June 2 “Real Time” interview with Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and I expected Maher to mention his faux pas.
I can’t even recall if he did.
I liked what he said about Betsy DeVos, the super-rich, unqualified boob from West Michigan who heads Trump’s Department of Education. DeVos – an anti-public school crusader and religious zealot who is yucky like Ann Coulter only without the intelligence – is living proof that money buys high-level presidential appointments regardless of the unsuitability of the appointee.
|Courtesy David Shankbone|
I liked what Maher said about how people in Michigan care about jobs, not the genitalia of others in public bathrooms.
I liked all the things he said about Trump – including pointing out that Trump’s attacks on people with handicaps, vets and reporters are alarming and shameful – and how he mocked Pestiferous Mike Pence. I agree, sadly, that our country is now a laughingstock on the world stage.
I liked how he said the Democrats need to commit to “When they go low, we kick ‘em in the nuts” and not Michelle Obama’s “...we go high.”
I like how he described himself as a gun owner who supports common-sense gun control proposals.
I like how even though he famously gave Obama $1 million so Romney wouldn’t be president, he said today he would give Romney $1 million to BE president. “I’ll wear the magic underwear,” Maher promised.
|Told you we were there.|
I like his positions on marijuana and religion. I like that he’s a 61-year-old, pot-smoking atheist.
I like how one of the best television moments ever took place on “Real Time with Bill Maher” back in October of 2011 when then-Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson put a patronizing little prick named P.J. O’Rourke in his place and represented the short-lived Occupy Wall Street movement better than anyone else. (See below again.)
On the other hand, I don’t like how Maher’s strident, myopic anti-Muslim position sometimes rears its ugly head like it did during an episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” that featured Sam Harris and Ben Affleck. (See below again.)
And I don’t like how easily an ugly, offensive, corrosive term can work its way into Maher’s shtick. I’m not quick to wring my hands and jump on bandwagons but I find myself backing away from my former status as a big fan. (I know people on the left are supposed to learn from conservatives that you close ranks when one of your own messes up, not join the enemy in kicking ‘em when they’re done. But I just don’t like Maher enough to defend or overlook his failings.)
Maher next to his star at a ceremony
on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,
September 14, 2010. Photo
courtesy Angela George.
I checked the pages of a few Facebook pals immediately following the “house n*gger” blunder and found some people piling on the guy, calling him an asshole, misogynist and dick, while others defended him, pointing out that “real racists say far worse and we should save our ire for those on the Dark Side, not for one of our bright lights that occasionally goes dim.” Some of my pals strongly condemned Maher’s use of the slur while others declared that he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.
How does one earn a doubt’s benefit, anyway? I really don’t know.
I do know that I don’t need anyone to try to dictate what I should think and how I should feel when a celebrity’s indiscretion, crime or controversy is publicized.
I know the funny, topical, fearless comedian who made Anita, me and thousands of others laugh the other night seemed talented, informed and empathetic, not bigoted, ignorant or insensitive.
I know when the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue tweets and spews his obnoxious, offensive, ignorant, unwise, immature, racist, sexist crap, he’s reaching a hell of a lot more people than even Bill Maher. (Hear that, Trump?! Your audience is BIGGER!)
But I know that as a 55-year-old white guy, I have no idea how it feels to be a person of color and hear someone use the term “house n*gger” so I'm gonna defer to those around me who do.
P.S. Yes, I use a lot of 'I's. It’s my blog.
Click here to read, “Bill Maher says he is ‘very sorry’ for using a racial slur on his HBO show,” June 4, 2017.
Rick Perry's "oops" moment:
One of my all-time favorite television moments:
Sources: HBO.com, PBS.org, WashingtonPost.com.
Thursday, May 25, 2017
I used to know this woman. A long time ago, I was working as a consultant in Lansing, Michigan, and my then-boss introduced me to her; she worked as a recycling coordinator for a city in Oakland County, a heavily populated area north of Detroit. She was smart and energetic and unique and I liked her but only talked with her a little before I left the firm.
Fast forward a few decades. I was able to find her again thanks to Lord Zuckerberg of Facelandia. We liked each other’s posts and appreciated each other’s writing but that was it. I learned that she relocated years ago to an extremely rural area of northern Lower Michigan with her husband and daughter. She works from her home as a writer, although the word “writer” doesn’t do her justice. She’s a “word goddess,” as her wonderful new website proclaims. A “wordologist.” A “content collaborator.” And I just discovered that she’s one of the most fun and compelling conversationalists ever.
I stumbled upon her website the other night and was so impressed – it had just been redesigned – that I filled out the “Contact Me” form and scheduled a phone call. We had that call today. When we hung up after just over an hour, I noticed that I had taken no fewer than 19 pages of notes. She monopolized the call, throwing out book suggestions and the names of people I need to Google and things I need to think about, slogans and catch phrases interspersed with descriptions of her life and background. She shared tidbits about her friends and family, compliments and kind words about me, lessons she had learned and decisions she had made about her business, and enough humorous anecdotes to keep me chuckling long after the call ended. We promised to stay in contact – we might work together if we can figure out how – and even exchanged a few follow-up text messages.
And this is what occurred to me: I’m in a rut. I do my work and focus on my family and worry about money and fret about the Oval Office Occupant Who Will Never Be My President and lament the tragedies taking place around the world (including the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England three nights ago and the drunk driver who drove on the sidewalk for three blocks in New York’s Times Square on May 18, plowing into pedestrians and killing a young woman). I bitch and moan about a jerk with whom I work. I whine about the normal teenage things that my kids do. I spend just enough time in Facebook to be disgusted by at least five posts each day. I concentrate on gun violence, police brutality, climate change, racism, war, death, corruption, the ugliness of politics and all the other bad sh*t going down at the local, state and national levels. I think about all the things I wish I could change and should have done differently and hope don’t happen. But that’s really it.
I don’t take classes or go to lunch with friends. Anita and I talk about going for walks at night like we used to but we’ve both been too tired to launch this plan. I haven’t resumed my Portuguese lessons and I seldom read books like I used to. I don’t play with my puppies or engage with my son and daughters. I can’t remember the last time I went to a concert, an amusement park, even a movie. I’ve denied myself stimulation and somewhere along the line I’ve gotten old.
And then I talked to this potential colleague today. It was a great call. It made me smile and ponder and wonder and remember. I pledged to check into some things and figure out others. I promised to come up with reasons to talk again and write together. And I backed away from my desk feeling better about who I am and what I can do.
My wife and kids deserve a fresher, more positive, more energetic and balanced Patrick. Anita’s been struggling and coping and tolerating the Old Me for far too long. I’ve denied myself excitement and possibility and an expanded mind and more living in my life. And I’ve denied the people closest to me blue skies and singing birds as well.
I bet I’m not the only one either.
If I can get all this enlightenment from a single phone call, imagine what I could glean from an all-day conference…
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Jack Kennedy was in the White House when I was born in March of 1962. He wouldn’t pass the Texas Book Depository and meet his gruesome end until November of the following year. I don’t remember it, of course, but I do remember my mother crying when Martin Luther King was shot in April of 1968, and again when JFK’s brother Bobby was murdered two months later.
I remember staying away inside during the Detroit riot in late July of 1967, worried that a stray bullet would take me out, even though we lived 16 miles north in Royal Oak and were in no danger.
I remember when Mary Tyler Moore threw her knit hat in the air every Saturday night in the early 1970s and when Nixon flashed the ‘V for Victory” sign on his way out of Washington.
I remember when Saturday Night Live was funny and disco was all the rage.
I remember when America’s air traffic controllers went on strike and Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.
I remember when Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ and ‘Billie Jean’ were all over the radio and people tried to name each artist singing “We Are the World.”
I remember when Lloyd Benson told Dan Quayle that he was no Jack Kennedy and Mike Dukakis looked like a toddler in a tank.
Thank goodness I still have my memory. Kind of.
It’s been 21 years since I sat on Dolley Madison’s couch in the White House, eating jumbo shrimp while the Leader of the Free World – who I later figured out was cavorting with an intern named Monica during this time period – chatted with other guests a few feet away. (I was one of hundreds of environmental professionals from across the country invited to Washington for the Clinton Administration’s big announcement about protecting the Everglades.)
It’s been 26 years since I witnessed the birth of my first child in a crowded room at Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital (and years since we talked) and 27 since I lost my job in the governor’s office due to an unpredictable electorate.
It’s been 37 years since I closed my locker and left Seaholm High School in Birmingham, Michigan for the last time.
It’s been 47 years since Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon and 400,000 hippies partied at Max Yasgur’s farm in the Catskills.
Unfortunately, it’s been just over four years since I last posted a piece on this topic – with almost the same exact title – here at What’s the Diehl? See what I mean about “kind of” having my memory?
When I call my now-77-year-old Mom – which I don’t do nearly as much as I should – our conversations consist primarily of health reports: what’s wrong with her ankle and knees, what the doctors think is causing my dad’s headaches, who’s sick and who’s dead. The older I get, the more I have to report when it’s my turn to talk. Mom frequently tells me that “growing old’s not for sissies.” I don’t have the heart to remind her that she’s expressed this a hundred times.
My kids listen to music that’s all about genitals and intercourse by artists – and I use the term loosely – I’ve never heard of like Lil Uzi Vert, Kodak Black, Kendrick Lamar and Lil Yachty. I’ve tried to introduce them to real talent like Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Billie Holiday, Maria Callas and Luciano Pavarotti but they’re not interested. They think Earth, Wind & Fire are three of the four elements of life and Fleetwood Mac is an old car. The Carpenters? People who build dressers. The Mamas & the Papas? The audience at school recitals. Chicago? A city in Illinois. Duke Ellington? Princess Di’s brother. Bob Marley? The dude in “A Christmas Carol.”
Most of the time, the young people with whom I work have no idea who or what I’m talking about. My references to Kent State, Woodstock, Watergate, Eugene McCarthy, the My Lai Massacre, Gloria Steinem and Abbie Hoffman are met with blank stares. They don’t know the difference between the Manson Family and the Partridge Family because they’ve never heard of either. When I mention Willie Wonka, they think of Depp, not Wilder. When I refer to Iran/Contra, O.J. and Nicole, Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, they smile and respectfully change the subject.
These co-workers greet customers with “Hey, buddy” or “Morning, dude.” When I say, “Good morning, sir,” they snicker and roll their eyes. (You realize you’re getting old when Millenials say, “Thank you, sir” to you.)
You realize you’re getting old when your medicine cabinet – another term that perplexes the youngins – contains Viagra, Metamucil and Kaopectate.
You realize you’re getting old when going to bed at 9:00 p.m. is something you do regularly, not just when you’re sick.
You realize you’re getting old when your 15-year-old suggests you put your peace necklace inside your shirt and your kids tell you to wait in the car when you pick them up at school.
You realize you’re getting old when you mention that you have teenagers and the person you’re talking to replies, “Oh, you waited later in life to have kids.”
You realize you’re getting old when coloring your hair is a necessity to compete in today’s world, not a vain affectation, and perusing your latest issue of AARP Magazine is part of your routine, not a scene in a high school play.
You realize you’re getting old when your co-workers cite Clinton as the president when they were born – and you had already been married, become a father and spent time in jail by the time he was inaugurated.
You realize you’re getting old when you mention that you’re thinking of getting a tattoo or a motorcycle and the person you’re talking to asks, “At your age? Why?”
You realize you’re getting old when your wife suggests you accompany her to the gym and you think, “At my age? Why?”
You realize you’re getting old when you drive through a college campus in the springtime and think the girls should put more clothes on.
You realize you’re getting old when you can remember sneaking into drive-ins in the trunk of a car and when Corvairs and Capris, Datsuns and Pintos, Mavericks and Yugos and Gremlins and Pacers could be spotted on roads and in driveways.
Long gone are the days when Ricardo Montalbán spoke of “fine Corinthian leather” and Clara Peller asked “Where’s the beef?,” when Mikey liked Life cereal and Slinkeys were fun for a girl and a boy, when a bunch of people stood on a hill and sang about teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony and an Indian guy shed a tear because of trash in a river.
Gone are the days when my youthful looks and potential helped me land a job, when my resume was impressive and not excessive, when I still had a fire in my belly – not just a big belly – and the urge to change the world and not just my finances.
Gone are the days when cigarettes were cool, people said “please” and “thank you” and Space Invaders and Pacman were the video games of the day.
Gone are the days when cursive writing was taught in school and politics was thought to be a noble profession.
Gone are the days when phones had curly cords and only winners earned medals and trophies.
Gone are the good ol’ days.
I know I’m supposed to be thankful that I’ve lived this long because it’s a privilege denied to many. I know I’m not the only one who wonders who the gray-haired old guy with wrinkles is who stares back at me in the mirror every morning. I know I should be grateful that I’m still on this side of the grass and don’t need diapers or dentures. I know some people are older than me and they’re fine with their oldness. But I’ve never felt this old before and I don’t like it. I don’t like worrying about my health, my retirement and the garbage to which my kids sing along. I don’t like feeling like an irrelevant prude, like someone whose time has come and gone. And I don’t like feeling like a sissy.
Note: Some readers might have expected a political post in light of all that’s happening in America right now. Let’s just say it’s currently easier for me to write about my own impending death than that of my country.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’ve been thinking about six million Jews a lot lately.
I never really understood how anybody could allow so many of their fellow human beings to be harassed, persecuted, maimed and slaughtered. I always thought the Holocaust must have been a peculiar anomaly, a glitch in time and space, where evil was allowed to take hold and flourish in a jarring and devastating but non-repeatable way. Surely the signs wouldn’t be ignored again, excesses would be curbed, offenses would be checked, and people with bad intent wouldn’t be able to advance their schemes and machinations like they did 75 years ago. Never again, I thought.
But look what’s happening:
People are being detained and harassed at airports by border patrol agents and prevented from returning to their homes here in America.
Sick individuals who don’t have papers are being forcibly yanked out of hospitals and deported.
Prominent, mainstream media outlets like CNN and the New York Times are being banned from White House briefings while Breitbart News, an unscrupulous far-right website that makes Fox News look stolid, is welcomed.
Muslims are being verbally and physically assaulted all over the place.
“Foreign-looking” people are being shot and killed.
Our intelligence agencies have confirmed that the Russian Federation may have tipped the scales of our presidential election to give the advantage to Vladimir Putin’s orange boyfriend.
Environmental regulations are being rolled back and funding for the arts eliminated.
Lies are being presented as facts by those who owe us the truth.
Click here to read, “The Complete List of All 99 False Things Donald Trump has said as President” and click here to read a piece put together by NPR last month entitled, “The America Donald Trump is Inheriting, By the Numbers.”
I ran across the following on a friend’s Facebook page, written by Peter Daou:
Today was a grave inflection point for our democracy. The White House froze out major news orgs for a reason: They can.
With Congressional Republicans ceding ALL oversight power, the Trump White House can run roughshod over our Constitutional rights.
With no one enforcing rules, the rule of law is a hollow shell. With free rein to claim power, unscrupulous people will seize it ALL.
Steve Bannon made clear that the louder the #resistance, the more he and Trump see it as validation of their radical course of action.
In the past week, we've seen the "militarizing" of the immigration issue, IDs checked on domestic flights, and the FBI pressured.
These are all signs that the overarching question, "Can it happen here?" has already been answered. Loud and clear. It can. And it is.
A HUGE misconception among people who have enjoyed democracy their entire lives: When freedom is curtailed, life grinds to a halt. WRONG.
I lived in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. Carnage. Artillery barrages. Kidnappings. Snipers everywhere. Curfews. BUT LIFE WENT ON.
We'd emerge from our bunkers, survey the overnight damage, then go shopping. Humans are resilient. We adapt to just about anything.
As Constitutional rights dissolve in America, malls will be open, movies will be crowded, traffic jams will happen, trains will run.
As our freedoms are taken away, we'll still have sports games, summer barbecues, schools, etc. Life will seem normal on the surface.
But rights that are stripped away will not be returned so easily. America will resemble America. But it will no longer BE America.
People who don't see what's happening will scoff at those who do as "alarmists." They won't realize the damage until it affects them.
Understand that we're already on a slippery slope, and a very steep one. This can go downhill very fast. I'm just stating the obvious.
Our task as patriotic citizens: Speak out in defense of our freedoms. Donate to groups like the ACLU. Call your reps. AND STAY PEACEFUL.
Lots of folks smarter than yours truly are warning about how we’re heading back into darkness again. (I blogged about Trump’s similarities with Adolph Hitler last July.)
But what about now? Every day there’s a new revelation, a chilling comparison, a bald-faced lie, an attack on the press, science or sanity. Now is the time to act again, isn’t it? Now's my chance. Our chance.
I really don’t have the time. I don't have the money. Leading fights is a young person’s game. I’m too old. Too out of shape. Somebody else can stop the slide. Somebody else will step up. Someone who doesn’t have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can hoist the signs. Someone with better knees can march in the streets. I’ve got a family to think about now, right?
First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
~ German Pastor Martin Niemöller
Peter Daou is a prominent political blogger, strategist, pundit, activist and musician. He grew up in Lebanon and moved to the Big Apple in the 1980s. Follow him at @peterdaou.
Thestar.com, NPR.org, nytimes.com, Cosmopolitan.com.
Friday, January 20, 2017
|Courtesy Getty Images|
It’s hard to want Donald Trump to succeed, to wish that his incredible boasts and unfulfillable promises become real, to admit that his misguided, snowed supporters were right. It’s hard to have faith that our protests and marches will matter, our letters and petitions will be considered, that Trump’s pledge to serve all Americans will prove true. And it’s hard to take pride in the much-lauded peaceful transition of power that will send President Obama back to Chicago today and usher in Trump and Pence as leaders of what was indeed once the greatest country on Earth but is now about as respectable as when Dubya looked under White House chairs for weapons of mass destruction.
|Michelle and Melania|
First, the attempt at revising history. Barack Obama did not ignore the average Joe, turn away from the hardship faced by so many Americans, and dine on caviar and filet mignon while the middle class became poor and the country crumbled. It is not because desperate voters felt voiceless and invisible that the little rich kid from Manhattan, with his gilded penthouse and propensity to fire people on a whim, was able to dispatch his Republican rivals, capture the nomination and win the election. Obama did not preside over the collapse of our economy, an overpowering influx of Mexican rapists, the decimation of our once-mighty military or the emergence of radical Islamic terrorists as the biggest threat to baseball and apple pie since Khrushchev. Those are bald-faced lies that Trump and his surrogates spread with the significant assistance of our whorish media, who felt it journalistic and newsworthy to report every burp and belch emanating from the Wizard of Trump Tower. I submit that the lazy Fourth Estate deserves the blame for helping to advance the candidacy of this short-sighted idiot with a checkbook and cashmere overcoat, a supermodel wife whose eyes look funny and disagreeable offspring who resemble Barbie, Beavis and Butthead. They made him and now they’re trying to assign responsibility for this mess on his predecessor, who’s not perfect by any means but is completely blameless for this particular tragedy. They refused to tout Obama’s many achievements while elevating Trump’s status from brash neophyte to serious contender in a game most find abhorrent but the media insist on covering like a Kardashian.
I told myself I would join the boycott of all things Trump today but I just couldn’t stay away from the television at noon. The new president’s inaugural speech – which was as well-written as a schoolkid’s forged note to his teacher – was full of the same kind of tripe he spewed at his campaign rallies:
"We will bring back our dreams."
"When our hearts are open to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice."
"No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America."
"Our country will thrive and prosper again."
"The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action."
"Children in the urban sprawl of Detroit fill their hearts with the same dreams."
"You will never be ignored again."
"Your voice, hope and dreams will define our American destiny."
"Your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way."
"We will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And yes, we will make America great again."
Somehow, 62,846, 550 numbskulls did – including 53 percent of white women who presumably have no problem with their pussies being grabbed by rich assholes. I’ve added this to my list of Things I’ll Never Understand, right above “Why Is Gilbert Gottfried Famous?” and just below “Why Isn’t Everyone a Dog Person?”
There’s also, of course, the now-infamous recording of him boasting about grabbing women by the pussy; his five military deferments; his history of stiffing vendors and contractors, his endorsement by the KKK; his efforts to discredit specific journalists and the intelligence community...and now, his ridiculous nominees for key cabinet posts who give new meaning to “unqualified stooge being rewarded for his/her friendship, large campaign contributions or both.”
Someday, if my children are fortunate enough to survive Trump’s presidency and still have breathable air and access to the internet, they’ll be able to read blog posts that lament the Orange Joker’s rise to power, including mine. They’ll know that I wasn’t party to the takeover of our country by a disingenuous fraud who spouted vapid platitudes to con susceptible yokels into misusing their votes and clouding our collective fate. At least they won’t be able to pin this disappointment on me.
I didn’t always fawn over President Obama – search “What’s the Diehl?” and you’ll find plenty of whiney, critical posts – but I see, in retrospect, how fortunate we were that he was the guy with the nuclear codes and the key to the Oval Office. As I’ve posted in Facebook, if we ever needed a non-automotive example of the truth of Joni Mitchell’s famous refrain, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone,” we need look no further than our 44th President. (I’m not using “...of the United States of America” because we’re clearly not united). Barack Obama was a man of class, commitment, strength and talent, a rare and remarkable individual who endured immense pressure and obstruction and emerged as perhaps the most accomplished politician ever to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We all agree, I’m sure, that he and Michelle Obama will be deeply, utterly, sorely missed. I’m not sure how many of us will toss and turn tonight over their departure like I will.
Perhaps knowing that there are 65,519,461 other Americans who didn’t want Trump and his grinning, repellent spawn to surround Chief Justice John Roberts as he administered the Oath of Office today will help. I’m going to try to take solace in this even as my eyes tear up and my heart breaks.
P.P.S. I was glued to the television but only saw one person of color, Justice Clarence Thomas, at this national event and I'm told he's not even really black.
Source: Cook Political Report.