Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Governor Granholm: earn my vote!

Governor Jennifer Granholm has a chance to earn this non-supporter's vote. I have never been her biggest fan, but she can win me (and probably tens of thousands like me) by removing Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from office.

In May, the Detroit City Council, asked the Governor to exercise her constitutional power to remove Hizzonner from office. I do not claim to understand how the Governor can do this, but it is pretty well agreed that she can (assuming due process is afforded.)

Kilpatrick should have never been re-elected. In a democracy, people sometimes make awful choices, and Kilpatrick showed plenty of character flaws and poor decision making in his first term. His recent criminal trouble, arising from a wrongful termination civil suit that cost the people of Detroit nearly $9,000,000, is well documented.

Kwame has added to that trouble by shoving a Sheriff's deputy off his sister's porch -- he says he "gently escorted" the officer -- who was on the property to serve subpoena on another individual. How can the head of a major metropolitan police force lead it with any credibility when he shows his utter contempt for the law and law enforcement insofar as it applies to him and his family? Check out the story for yourselves. He made some horribly racist comments as well to the officers.

Kilpatrick is a thug. He's a bigot. He's harming the city. The good people of Detroit deserve better.

In a move that would take massive political intestinal fortitude, Governor Granholm could relieve the people of Detroit of this man. She would have to ax one of her own, a Democrat. She would risk alienating tens of thousands of people in the City of Detroit, even those who don't care for Kilpatrick. But, the right thing to do is to do the right thing (an old friend of mine used to say.)

Kwame is not fit for office. The Governor would earn the respect of many detractors in the state if she did the right thing. I know that I would vote for her next time around if she pulled the trigger on Kilpatrick, even if I do not agree with her on the bulk of the other issues. Character and courage in politics should be rewarded.

EDIT: In my exuberance over the possibility that Governor Granholm could and might actually remove Mayor Kilpatrick from office, it completely escaped my mind that Mrs. Granholm cannot "earn my vote," at least not for Governor, as she is subject to term limits. This is her second and final term. However, her political life presumably does not end when she leaves Lansing. I expect she'll turn up elsewhere, perhaps running for elected office, perhaps seeking an appointment.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Bad things happen to good people."

It's true that "bad things happen to good people." But a local criminal defense firm that advertises on the radio has stretched the intended meaning of this statement to absurd lengths.

This firm -- I can't remember the name -- kicks off its radio spots with one of its attorneys making this rather obvious statement. From there, he talks about how the firm "aggressively" represents its clients in criminal matters like drunk driving, drug offenses, and other felony and misdemeanor matters.

I'm all for aggressive, effective criminal defense. Everyone is entitled to competent representation and, if it gets to that point, a fair trial. But please spare me the nauseating talk that someone who finds himself in criminal trouble has had something bad happen to him.

If you have had six cocktails and driven home from the bar, that did not happen to you. You made a choice to drink and drive. If you broke into someone's home, you didn't just find yourself there, with their TV in your arms. You made a choice to violate someone else's rights.

I would be less bothered by this if the ad said, "Sometimes good people make awful decisions. If that is you, we're here to help..."

Perhaps I'm sensitive about this today because there was recently a "home invasion" in our neighborhood. I'm sure our neighbors feel angry and violated. I know I would. Hopefully the police will catch the kid that did it and he will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Luckily, there is a general description of the burglar.

If they catch the twerp, I know what will happen. Sadly, he'll be remorseful after he has been charged, tell the court what a great kid he's been all his life and say how sorry he is to the family. I believe in second chances, but I won't believe this kid if it plays out that way. You know better not to go into someone's home to steal things. If you don't, there is no amount of "sorry" that will change you.

He might hire the law firm on the radio and be told how him invading our neighbor's home was a "bad thing that happened to him." Pitiful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If Batman and The Joker had a kid

This guy

plus this guy


this guy

I'm just sayin'...

Holy hype, Batman!

The summer of 1989 was great. I had just graduated from high school and was headed off to college. I had my first real girlfriend. That didn’t work out so well, but I learned quite a few lessons about “love.” I had a good job, earned a (small) college scholarship, spent my last summer at home with friends and saw The Who in concert at the Pontiac Silverdome. It was something of a coming-of-age time for me. My mind, this week, has raced back to that summer because of all the Batman hype. That summer saw the release of Tim Burton’s Batman starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger, the original movie version about the “Dark Knight.”

Batman was everywhere that year. T-shirts, action figures, soundtracks (two of them, one by Prince, the other by Danny Elfman), posters, “happy meals” and other Batman stuff filled stores and fast food joints. One of my classmates – I won’t mention his name since I don’t know the statute of limitations on vandalism – painted the bat logo on yellow traffic signs all over town. Batmania hit us full force.

The movie was great. We hoped it would be better (read: darker, more serious) than the campy 60's TV show starring Adam West, and our wish was granted. That Batman film, I remember, was supposedly modeled after the “Dark Knight” storyline that had just been put out by DC Comics a few years earlier. While it was flawed in certain ways, the 1989 re-telling of the story had an edge that we had never seen with comic books-turned-tv-shows-or-movies. It only took two movies for Joel Schumacher to wash away the grittiness that Burton had given to Batman.

Enter Chris Nolan. With Batman Begins, the “Dark Knight” version of Batman was resurrected. The Dark Knight, its sequel, released last Friday, has shattered opening weekend box office records. The death of Heath Ledger, who played the Joker, might have something to do with that. But, make no mistake, this movie got hype like no movie has since Batman in 1989 because it is a great film. There has, perhaps, never been a more mesmerizing on-screen villain than Ledger’s Joker. The story, the acting, the cinematography – everything about the film is really top-notch. Don’t take my word for it; see it for yourself.

This isn’t a movie review, though. This is about the hype and the excitement the movie has generated. Batman is everywhere! The old Batman videos are flying off video store shelves (pun intended.) Movie critics and fans alike are talking about the film, even suggesting it might (or should) win an Oscar. Can you imagine a movie based on a comic book getting serious recognition from the bores that vote on the Oscars? Well, it seems like, in the least, the Academy (don’t you love how the members refer to it as “the Academy” [said with nasally, snobby voice]?) is going to have to seriously consider awarding Heath Ledger an Oscar in one of the actor categories.

Internet message boards are flooded with discussions about the comic book and almost
universally positive movie reviews. Kids are begging their parents to take them to see the movie. Parents are getting babysitters so they can catch it a second time within the first week. Batmania has grabbed hold of the country. Everyone seems to have been bitten.

I have always preferred Spider-man to Batman, although Batman was a close second. Spiderman 3, though, certainly didn’t live up to the hype it generated. Part of me is bummed that my childhood hero let a guy in a black cape dethrone him. But, hey, if the best comic book movie ever made happens to be about “the bat,” so be it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I want to be here

Last summer, during our stay with my uncle in Traverse City, we took an afternoon trip out to one of my favorite places on the planet, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. As always, it was lovely.

The boiling-hot sand made my daughter and I want to take a dip in nice, cool, refreshing water, so we drove north when we left the park. More or less by accident, we found ourselves in Glen Haven, Michigan, a tiny town right on Lake Michigan, just south of the Manitou Islands.

I had heard of Glen Haven but had never been there. It's west of Glen Arbor, which is well-known vacation destination right down the road. Glen Haven is a town with a stop light, a boat museum, a restaurant and a few other small businesses. The beach is long, stretching out for miles in both directions. The water is crystal clear, the bottom lined with stones that glisten in the summer sunlight. It was like heaven to bathe in the water that hot day.

I'm not one for taking too many vacations. Glen Haven is at least five hours drive from my house; thus, gas prices and time are deterrents to visiting. Still, I'm tempted to wake everyone up Saturday morning, put them in the van and start driving. I want to be there before summer ends.

I didn't take this photo. But that's what it looks like. What a gorgeous place. We Michiganders take our Great Lakes for granted.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Air Hockey Stanley Cup (and lessons in patience and kindness)

I just happened to stop at a Salvation Army Thrift Store on the way home from a surprise trip to court -- which is a story in and of itself -- and had to pass a large, old air hockey table to get into the store. $19.99 is what the "Must Sell!" tag said was the price. The table, similar to the picture but larger and on legs, was in pretty darn good shape.

Normally I don't buy big items like that at Salvation Army (or anywhere for that matter.) But one payment of $19.99 and that game could be mine? Sold! Well, sort of.

I did some browsing but on my way out, I walked right over to the air hockey table just as a lady in her 60's was approaching it from the parking lot. We both arrived at the table at the same time. A sign taped to it says "It works!" but she wanted proof. Knowing she was thinking of buying my table, I was ready to pull the ca$h out and load it in the van. The lady was really sweet, asking me questions about where to get a puck -- someone had stolen original pucks -- and would it be easy to find one. I was tempted to tell her, "Yeah, they're almost impossible to find. You'll probably have to get lucky and find a used pick on e-bay or craigslist." I knew that would poison the purchase for her. But the "better angels of my nature" convinced me I should be truthful and just pray she didn't want to bother with such a burdensome purchase. "I think you can get pucks for these at Target or sporting goods stores," I replied.

We both went to the counter, her wanting to have someone test the table, me hoping she would get distracted by some nice jewelry or a blouse. A kind volunteer gladly plugged in the table and I went out to take a closer look, thinking the lady would be right behind me. While I was feeling the air pulse through the holes and running my hand over the table top, she was in the store trying to purchase my air hockey table. I was bummed out but not angry.

I could have said, "Hey, lady, I was here first!" but that confrontation isn't in my nature. When I told the volunteers I was satisfied and ready to buy the table at that moment, they asked her what she was doing. "I just put that on my charge card. But, tell you what, since it's you (meaning me) that wants it, you can have it." She seemed genuinely happy to do that for me and I was genuinely happy to accept. It was my air hockey table after all. I thanked her several times and she went on her way in the store.

The cynic in me figured that she just didn't want to be bothered with finding parts and getting this thing home. It is a huge table and needs two men to carry or even lift it. I found that out the hard way. Some assembly and dis-assembly was necessary, plus I had to go to a few stores before I found a puck. This was a several hour project today for me, so I feel good having spared her the trouble. Joking aside, I am thankful for her kind gesture.

It's in the garage now. I put Pledge on the playing surface and felt on the bottom of the paddles. Game on! The kiddo and I played for nearly an hour tonight. She's new(er) to the game but eventually she'll be able to destroy me. A playoff for some kind of trophy, a mini Stanley Cup perhaps, would be perfectly fitting. Since Red Wing Chris Osgood lives about a mile away and we have four paddles, I'll see if "Ozzie" wants to be on my team and the kiddo can have one of her neighborhood friends on hers. I think that's fair.

$19.99 (plus tax, gas and the cost of a few pucks and some felt) was a pretty good price to pay to be reminded that there are selfless people out there like the lady at Salvo. Better yet, I get hours of enjoyment with my daughter, another activity during which we can talk, laugh, bond and make memories. I don't think I could have made a better use of that money than that.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Fat Eyes" and Preparation H ®

Did you know that Preparation H®, "The Relief Expert," not only relieves the pain and inflammation associated with hemorrhoids, but you can also use it to reduce swelling on other tissue?

I recently learned that it is a great cure for puffiness under the eyes. I'm probably vainer than I should be for a guy, but, when I'm tired I get really heavy, dark bags under my eyes and they make me look old. Preparation H ®, can you help me?

A friend of ours pointed out that bags under the eyes is caused by fatty tissue, not water. When our group of friends (church home group) heard that, my new nickname became "Fat Eyes." Man, I love that new nickname! I think I'll have it put on a shirt.

We all agreed that I could try Preparation H ® for my "fat eyes," but maybe I should avoid double-dipping from the same tube purchased for standard Preparation H ® use.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Long walk down the hallway

It was in April when Grandma was told her cancer had returned, moved from her colon into the liver. She only had months to live. Mom and Gram came by my office to tell me on the way back from the hospital. I cried in the parking lot. That was the beginning a three month goodbye.

That Sunday in church, she stood up and told the entire congregation the diagnosis and said she was “ready to go home,” meaning Heaven. She wanted to see her mother, father, brothers, sisters – all those dear to her that had gone on before. Gram knew she would miss us or, more accurately, us miss her, and that made her want to hang on just a bit longer. My mother, who lost my Pop just the year before, was her best friend. Gram didn’t want Mom to suffer another loss so soon, but she was tired from years of horrible pain in her knees -- bone on bone -- and declining health.

I was at her house just about every night after work. Kindly, sweetly, lovingly, she left her home to me, the first grandchild, a fact which, nine years later makes me simultaneously immensely proud and tremendously guilty. What had I done to deserve that? She laid it out for me but, still, I know I hadn’t earned it. Those next few months I spent time with her and cleaning her home and yard. It would be dishonest to say that I wasn’t doing those things for myself. Everyone
knew I would be moving in after she was gone. But I did want her to see and enjoy a clean yard and spruced up home. Was that understood by her or others?

For the first month or so, the decline seemed gradual. Gram could eat and get around the house with help. It changed suddenly one night. That night, which I hadn’t thought of in nine years, came storming back to memory tonight while watching Grey’s Anatomy. I know that sounds ridiculous, but something in that show opened the floodgates. Regardless of what brought it to mind, I was transported back to that evening. Gram was tired and wanted to go to bed. Luckily my mom and I were both there to move her from the living room to her bed.

That night, Gram could not get up out of her chair. She was almost completely dead weight. Mom and I snapped at each other, gritted teeth, and accused each other of botching the mission. The frustration in the air could almost be tasted. It took us nearly an hour to get Gram from the chair in her living room to her bed. Mom and I were exhausted, physically and emotionally. I don’t think either of us expected to have to endure that when we went over that night. I knew nothing of physically caring for or helping someone. The frustration of our ineptitude and sadness
of the impending loss set us at each other’s throats. Gram wasn’t happy with any of this either. Three scared and angry people battled the limitations of a dying body to amble down a small hallway.

Hospice soon took over the care, with Mom, a nurse, helping as much as possible. At least for me, that made things much easier. Gram was in a hospital bed in her living room which provided the minor blessing of not having to move her throughout the house. She couldn’t eat much, but she was with us mentally until the last few days.

Months before she was diagnosed, I had planned a trip with friends. At that time, I had a small sail boat I had just bought and planned to sail that entire long weekend. Knowing she was near the end, I took the trip. I never really believed she would be gone before I returned. I guessed she had another week. She passed the day before I was supposed to return.

Gram died quietly, peacefully (I am told) on July 11, 1998. She missed our August wedding. She died on my cousin’s, her second grandchild’s, 19th birthday.

Regret really doesn’t do a whole lot of good. You cannot go back and change the past. But, if I could, there are a few things I would have done differently before and after Gram passed. So many things, in fact, could have and should have been done differently. I know I’m making more of my (perceived) failings than I should. But, I hope I honored her in the way I handled her death, moved into/took over her home and property, and cared for her in the time before she died. She had a generous, giving spirit. Did I honor that by being generous to others? No.

That hour long walk from the living room to the bedroom; I’ll never forget it...or her.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Kid Part II: Doin' Time

11:10 p.m. We had just settled in to watch movies after a long day of chores, family walks and goat care. Earlier, my mom took our daughter and the goat to her home for the evening. The phone would not stop ringing. “This is Mom. We just got back from the movies and the goat is gone! He must’ve gotten out of the cage!” Wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard in the background. “OK, I’ll be over there in about 15 minutes.” I scrambled for a flashlight and dowsed myself with bug spray, knowing that I’ll be looking for the kid in wooded areas in the dead of night.

On the road, my cell phone rings 3 times before I realize I’m being called. My daughter said, “Daddy, the goat is at the police station! Grammy’s neighbor took him there tonight. Meet us up there.” Click.

I arrived before my mom and daughter. Two friendly police officers stood behind the “Complaint Desk.” “Um, excuse me officers, but I was told that our goat was here.” Big grins spread across both their faces simultaneously. “Come on back.” After going through a series of doors, I ended up behind the “Complaint Desk” and saw the kid underneath it, standing on top of a Dell PC. She jumped off the computer and made a half-hearted attempt to nibble at the wires. The huge officer, a very tall, well built blonde/blue guy with no neck, went about his business. The smaller, slightly pudgy officer handed me a grocery bag and said, “I just got back from the store. I bought some canned milk and a baby bottle. We figured the goat would be here all night.” He had also grabbed little packets of honey, apparently to mix in the milk. He wouldn’t take money for it.

After I pulled the goat out of a tangle of wires under the “Complaint Desk,” my mom and daughter arrived. We apologized for the inconvenience and thanked the officers for taking care of her. “Hey wait, look at this,” the shorter officer said, opening his cell phone. On the screen was a picture of the kid next to the police K-9, a large German Shepherd. We all laughed together. As we were stepping away from the “Complaint Desk,” we could hear the short officer telling someone – probably his wife or kids – “Yeah, the homeowners just came here to get the goat...”

When I dropped the kid off at the farm yesterday, I talked to the farmer. He was “impressed” that we had a goat the entire holiday weekend. I didn’t tell him that his goat did a three hour stretch at the local police station.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ringo!

Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr, was born this day in 1940 at 9 Madryn Street, Dingle, Liverpool, England.

The last to join the Beatles, Ringo might have been the most loveable. Though he is often thought of as the weak link in the group, Ringo was (and is) a fantastic drummer, and without him there would have been no Fab Four.

He's touring now with his All-Starr Band and will be in my neck of the woods (Windsor, Ontario, Canada) this Friday. I'm tempted to go catch his show.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The most important day in pop music history -- July 6, 1957

I was going to write my own stylized account of this most important event, which took place 51 years ago today. But, the story is quite familiar to most music fans.

At the Woolton Parish Church garden fete, a 16 year old beery-breathed John Lennon, fronting a little skiffle band called the Quarrymen -- mates from his school and neighborhood -- performed Be-Bop-A-Lula, Come and Go With Me and a few other numbers of the day to crowd that had no idea that it was seeing an historical moment. After the Quarrymen left the stage, a friend of John, Ivan Vaughn, introduced him to another local lad, 15 year old James Paul McCartney. Paul amazed John by showing him how to play Twenty Flight Rock. Within a few weeks, Paul was a member of the Quarrymen and George Harrison followed months later.

Had Ivan Vaughn not invited Paul to the garden fete and introduced him to John...

It just seemed wrong to let this day pass without mentioning this milestone occasion on its anniversary.

The Kid

This is her second summer in day camp at a nearby working farm – glorified petting zoo, really. For an animal lover like her, Real Life Farms is a magical place. Every day of the week that she is there, she has returned home with an animal as the farm lets kids “sign out” various critters overnight: bunnies; goats; kittens and ducks. Wednesday evening she came home with her second goat in two summers, a little white and tan kid with an adorable face and dangling, shriveled umbilical cord. Because of the holiday weekend, an overnight visit has turned into a five day all-expense-paid stay at Chateau Hodee.

At first, the little one insisted the kid was a lamb, Lily the Lamb, specifically. But, she’s definitely a goat and has the nubs of horns. Her private bits look female. We’re not sure if the kid is a boy or girl. We go back and forth calling it “he” and “she” or “Lily” and “Dudley.” Either way, s/he is awfully cute.

I strenuously object to new animals in the home – even visitors – because our little animal lover wants them around the house and has the best of intentions, but does not do all the work necessary to care for any of them. A dog, cat, hermit crab and fire belly toad all need daily care and that falls to me. I end up being the saddest one when these little animals pass on to Pet Heaven.

The kid is no different. I’ve bottle fed her, held her on my lap until she feel asleep (for an hour or so), cleaned up her diarrhea – we haven’t quite nailed down her diet – walked her around the neighborhood, taken her to see fireworks, bathed her (see: diarrhea), hosed out her disgusting cage (a beat up airline pet taxi), petted here, chased her around the yard or house to make sure she didn’t eat anything harmful and otherwise raised her like my own child. If I did all this with
my own kid, the offspring, I’d be a shoe-in for Father of the Year.

While we were watching fireworks, me reclined on our outside lounger, she climbed me like a mountain and stood perched, vigilant on my shoulder. Her tail wiggled like Sabrina’s nose (from
Bewitched) before the warm spray trickled over my collarbone and chest. What can you do about
that beside laugh?

She has screamed and cried, keeping us all tense at times. It is hard to know how to please a goat, but the bleating is something one desperately wants to end once it starts. If you have ever heard it, you’ll understand. Like our dog and cat, when she wants attention she comes over to me and puts her front...hooves...on my knees and looks up at me with expecting eyes. Holding her soothes her immediately most of the time. If she wants her bottle, she bleats until she gets it.

Eating for her is like a contact sport; she hits the bottle or the hand – presumably priming the udders – and sucks the milk and/or water out with a fiery. Foam gathers around the corners of her mouth. Pee soon follows, sometimes within seconds.

[That’s all just the mundane stuff. Stay tuned for Part II, which is a very funny story about a little predicament the kid got us in last night.]

Tomorrow morning I have to return her to the farm before heading to work. I suppose we could just keep the kid another day until our human kid next returns to the farm, but it’s too much work. I will be sad to leave her. In five days, I’ve managed to get myself attached to the little menace. If we had a fenced-in yard – maybe Invisible Fence works on goats, too! – I’d be tempted to just let her stay until she became ours by default. Why even entertain such a crazy idea? She’s a frickin’ goat! Being the sap that I am, I’ll probably have a lump in my throat when I carry her back to the barn.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Look who's turning 232!

In honor of our great nation's birthday, I thought it fitting to re-read the document that started it all. It is here, in its original spelling, for your reading pleasure. I don't believe there has ever been a document that better sets forth the reasons for establishing anything or taking any course of action than the Declaration of Independence.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goodbye to an old friend -- Tiger Stadium

Some of the best memories of my life were made in Tiger Stadium. I saw game 3 of the 1984 World Series. I'll never forget sitting on my uncle's shoulders after Mark Fidrych pitched a gem of a game in 1976, and came out of the dugout to a standing ovation. So many hours were spent there watching exciting baseball, bonding with loving friends and family (and sometimes even complete strangers.) Win or lose, I never had a bad day in that park.

In 2000, Comerica Park -- what a sterile, boring name -- replaced old Tiger Stadium as the home for the Detroit Tigers. Comerica Park is a beautiful modern building that has little charm and none of the intimacy of the old stadium. It has good sight lines and plenty of room for people's bigger butts. It's a great place to see the game but not necessarily feel or experience it. At Tiger Stadium, you felt like you were right there, almost part of the action. The crowd noise could be deafening. Comerica Park is an aesthetic experience, Tiger Stadium a visceral one.

The old girl has sat empty for the better part of a decade. Plans to convert Tiger Stadium to other uses have all fallen through. She stands on "the corner" rusting and decaying. Like a kind master does with an old sick dog, the City of Detroit is finally putting her down. Demolition started yesterday. What will take her place -- probably just another vacant lot in the city -- is still unknown.

As sad as that is, I will not miss her. I said goodbye to the old stadium a few weeks before she closed for good in 1999. As I walked down the ramp from the upper deck for the last time, I ran my hands along her walls and rails. A lump in my throat nearly choked me. A tear or two welled in my eyes. I'm a sentimental fool and that old building meant a lot to me.

But she's gone. There's no life in her anymore; she's like an ailing old friend kept alive by tubes and machines. It's time to pull the plug. It's time to let her go. I would rather remember her as she was than watch her slowly collapse into a pile of rubble at Michigan and Trumbull.

It looks as if demolition might be halted; she may be granted a brief reprieve. But, I've already let go. Those of you that loved her should let her go, too. Tiger Stadium will never again be what it was, regardless of whether she is spared the wrecking ball. So, I will move on with fond memories.

WASP ain't a four letter word

WASP: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. I don’t think I’ve ever once heard that term used in a non-derogatory way. WASPs are supposed to be power-hungry, intolerant, uptight bigots. In the least, they are felt to be the dreaded overlords of the less fortunate in society.

Besides “fat” people, WASPs are the last group in American society about which it is still acceptable to make stereotypical or negative remarks. When I was in college WASPs – white Christians more generally – were to blame for all the suffering of non-WASPs in our society, no the world. Of course, it never dawned on the critics that the institutions through which all the venom could be spewed and disseminated were created by WASPs.

While in college, for reasons that I cannot now succinctly explain, I tried to embrace other cultures, explore “diversity,” but I, ultimately, felt betrayed by them. This turned me back inward and, for years, I explored my Irish and Scottish heritages, virtually ignoring that I’m really a WASP. Recently, though, it has been impossible to ignore what I really am.

My ancestors came to America from England in 1632 on one of the early pilgrim ships. The first ancestor to arrive established one of America’s great east coast families. Tens of thousands of my cousins are still in New England and all over the United States. I share common ancestors with President Taft and Nelson Rockefeller, as well as many other great American men and women.

These folks did not come to America like kings. My ancestors, like many early WASP immigrants, were religious separatists and came here precisely because they were outside Britain’s power structures. Nothing was handed to them and nothing was expected to be given them by anyone else. They came, established strong social, governmental and religious institutions and prospered.

Most of us WASPs are not part of the social elite. It would be completely dishonest to suggest that being white in America does not have its advantages; yet, most of us WASPs were not born into privilege. My grandparents were factory workers. Their parents and grandparents were farmers, tradesmen or small-town merchants. They were faithful Protestants of various stripes; pious, responsible and hardworking.

Like the history of every nation, ours includes very ugly episodes of all kinds of inhumanity to man. Slavery in America was, no doubt, a WASP institution but we hardly invented it. Every (major) civilization known to man has known some form of slavery. Slavery was practiced all over the world for thousands of years. In England and America, though, WASP morality ultimately tore down that horrible institution.

America, to me, is like a grand, garish palace. It’s big, bold, beautiful, sometimes extremely tacky, sometimes ugly, but impossible to ignore. That palace – the good and the bad – was built by her inhabitants: Afro-Americans; Latinos; Irish; Germans; Chinese; Jews; French; Arabs; Scots; Dutch; Italians, etc. The glory and the blame belong to all of us. Her foundation, though, was laid by WASPs. The institutions of government, our system of economics, all that keep her from complete collapse, were created by WASPs. Whatever mistakes we’ve made over the centuries – and there have been many – should be measured against the things we’ve done right.

White supremacy makes no sense to me. But I am proud of my English heritage. I am proud to be a WASP.