Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Make Joy, not War!

 Wishing you all a merry Christmas season, and all the joys it brings.  Happy holidays and peace to all, including those who wanted a war so badly they made one up.

Will it spoil everything if I pass along this gentle reminder?  Christmas is a time of joy and good will for everyone; all ages, all regions, all religions.  Those scrooges who want to pretend there's a war going on over it, have, sadly, forgotten what it was like to be a child.

Their loss.

Hold tender these moments, so precious, so fleeting. And remember the children.

Always the children.

My highest hopes for a happy New Year,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Yes, it's about Guns, because Treating Guns like Favorite Toys is Killing Us

After every major gun-inflicted tragedy we're told by the pro-everything-that-shoots bunch that it's too soon to be talking about gun control.  We hear again that guns don't kill people, it's the people misusing the guns who kill people.  We hear that they could just as well be using knives or garrotes or box cutters or poison or 3,000 pound vehicles.

On Friday we awoke to another unspeakable mass murder, this time involving our precious children, and I have to believe it is, at last, sadly, the turning point we've been waiting for.  We'll be having the conversation we should have kept going before, and this time something will get done.  We will not stop until we get control over our fascination with owning military-type weapons.

On Friday, December 14, 2012 a 20-year-old man killed his mother, took guns from her collection, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and deliberately shot it up, killing six adults and 20 children, most of them First Graders.

He took three guns into that school and methodically shot and killed 20 (yes, twenty) small children. He used weapons more suited to combat than to hunting or self-defense and he was able to do that because in the United States of America private citizens are allowed--even encouraged--to own combat weapons.

These are the types of guns he used:

Photo:  New York DailyNews

It's a solid fact that the United States--either through outright permission or through cowardice in the face of bullying opposition--has declared guns to be free agents, not subject to any but the most basic, toothless laws regarding safety or security or limitations.

How could that be?  It could be because so many people, including politicians who are supposed to be up on those things, want to believe that one single clause in our constitution--the grievously misunderstood Second Amendment--says so.
This one:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

There is nothing in the Second Amendment about an individual's right to keep guns.  Not unless that individual becomes a well-regulated state Militia of One.

There is nothing in the constitution that gives copyright rights to the National Rifle Association (NRA), allowing them to drop important words that tend to get in the way of their mad, skewed interpretation.  ("A well-regulated Militia" sticks in their craw,  undermining their entire premise, so it's out).

Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

We want to believe our constitution is not for sale, but, in fact, the NRA has found a way to own an entire amendment.  It's now impossible to think of the Second Amendment without making a connection to the National Rifle Association.  They use it to convince the gullible that the government is coming to take their guns and the only way to stop them is to invoke their "constitutionally guaranteed citizens' right to bear arms."

They've co-opted and corrupted a constitutional amendment and turned it against the very government that instituted it and implements it. (The original meaning, that is--having to do with giving the states the right to organize a militia--or, as we've come to know it, the National Guard).

The fact is, even if the Second Amendment were abolished, guns would not be banned in this country.  Gun ownership is a long-established right, almost universally accepted and woven so tightly into our fabric there's no danger of a Great Unraveling.  It won't happen.

Where we differ--often mightily--is in what kinds of guns should be legal for private citizens to own and how they should be regulated.  Whenever a fresh gun-induced tragedy strikes, the argument starts all over again.  Those on my side pick up the fight for smaller calibers and stricter gun control and the "assault weapons are guns, too" crowd digs in and buys more firepower, just to prove they can.  It's now a multi-billion dollar industry, and the NRA, thanks to the politicians they own (along with--let's not forget--the Second Amendment), will go on daring us to try and do something about it.  They have no fear, and why should they?  They've never lost a battle yet.

I say let's take that dare.  Right now.  Today.  While the memory of 20 little first graders and the six adults who died trying to protect them is still so raw it's making our hearts bleed.

In voices as loud as those gunshot booms resonating throughout the halls of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, we can demand the end to the sales of military weapons and the ammunition that goes with them.  We can force the licensing of firearms, demand oversight at gun shows, and find a way to follow the paper trail for every gun owned in this country.

We don't need to ban all guns in order to get the assault weapons craze under control.  The collectors want those big guns because they want them and they think that's reason enough to make it a right to own them.  It's not.

The NRA has been pretty silent the last few days.  In fact, they're downright invisible. They took down their Facebook page and they're not answering their Twitter-phone.   If they're regrouping, trying to come up with some good reason why assault weapons shouldn't be banned, I can save them some trouble:  There is no good reason.

Wanting to own one because its big and bad and exciting is not a good reason.  Wanting to own one because you think the government is going rogue and you might need it to protect yourself and those around you is insanity.

Tom Toles, the Washington Post

In case you missed the latest craziness coming out of my state, Michigan, I'm ashamed to report that on the day before the mass shooting in Newtown, our legislature passed a bill allowing guns in classrooms.
The legislation is the largest rewrite of Michigan’s concealed weapon law since lawmakers made hard-to-obtain permits much easier for adults to receive beginning July 2001. Applications exploded. There were 351,599 permit holders as of Dec. 1, one for every 20 adults.
Most of the attention on the new bill has focused on provisions allowing hidden handguns in places where they are now forbidden, such as schools, university dorms and classrooms, and sporting stadiums.
The time for talking is over.  Now we act.  We get it done.

(Cross-posted at dagblog)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I don't need to know their names

It's Saturday, the day after what will forever be known as the Sandy Hook School murders.  Yesterday Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old man, broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and shot to death six adults and 20 small children.

We're all in shock and looking for answers.  We're crying, grieving, mourning, and we want answers.  We want gun control that actually controls guns.  We want people not to blame the guns but the shooter.  We want to know the names of the victims, and, as I write this, all news stations are on alert, awaiting a press conference where those names will finally be announced.

We decided long ago that when we know the names of the dead we make a connection; we see them as human beings and not as statistics.  When George W. Bush, in an atmosphere where so many people were against his wars, decided that it was too political to show our war dead arriving home in body bags, we were furious.

When President Obama finally opened it up, publicizing the names and showing us proof that the flag-draped coffins were back on our soil, we saw it as our chance to honor the dead in a way that actually meant something. 

I want to know the names of our military dead. There is something to be said for giving them public identities in order to recognize that they gave their lives in the service of our country.  They gave their lives for us.

But when I heard this morning that they were going to release the names of the children later today, I cried. I don't want to know their names today.  I don't need to know their names today.  I don't want their names associated with yesterday's horror.  Not now.

The emotions are still so raw it could be my own shock,  my own grief, my own thoughts as a parent and about kids in general, but if the lives of those kids can't be given back to the families, the least we can do as supporters, it seems to me, is to take a moment to remember them, not as victims of a gruesome murder but as wonderful, vivacious, funny, wacky little creatures who gave those around them, every day, a reason to love them.

I don't need to know their names in order to honor their existence and to mourn with the mourners.  I can picture them as children in every school, in ever community, in every home.  I see them in the eyes of every child who trots off to school thinking the worst that could happen to them is to fail a test or make their best friend mad at them.  I know who they are.

I don't want this first day without them to be laden with gun control arguments or off-the-wall, fact-free analyses about what happened and why, only later to to be capped with funeral dirge music as the names of the children are read off, as their sweet pictures roll on and off the screen, raw reminders that their deaths were the outcome of an unspeakable act of madness.  Not today.

Please.  Not today.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Puppy Training for Politicians. Or, How we got RTW in Michigan

So it has happened.  Remember the other day when I wrote that Michigan had become a Right-to-Work state? It's not that I'm prescient or anything, announcing a done deal on Saturday when it didn't actually become law until yesterday (Tuesday), when Govnerd Ricky signed the two "Hasta la Vista, Union" bills hustled through the Republican-led legislature in a dazzling demonstration of warp speed.  No, it's just that I've come to know those guys.  No amount of talking, cajoling, coercing or begging was going to change the course of that bloody action, no matter what. Not from us, anyway.

Know why?  Because it wasn't them, it was them:

The ubiquitous Koch brothers, heirs-apparent to the throne once America says "Okay, OKAY! I give up!"
  Nobody wants to believe the obvious--that these two rather dorky brothers are up to their eyeballs in evil wherever it lurks these days--but there it is.  If money really talks, when it belongs to the Brothers Koch it says, "Stick'em up and don't turn around.  I've got a friggin' humungous bunch of greenbacks and I know how to use them!"

Evidence abounds that those cunning Kochs look on American unions as icky Red maggots and have finally figured out a way to bust the guts out of them.  They do it by joining up with other gajillionaires (like Dick deVos, notorious member of the Michigan hoi polloi, given to hating the masses), by funding Tea Party think tanks such as Michigan's own Mackinac Center for (cough, cough, privatizing) Public Policy, and by buying legislators, congresspeople, and even governors for the Republicans.

It's a marvel to watch. If I weren't always on edge, scouting out good locations to run to, I might be standing in awe, pondering how, in a matter of mere months, two seemingly puny persons came out of nowhere to become our first and only potentates. (Eat your hearts out, Grover and Newt.  It is what it is. And it is money.)

But enough about them.  Or not.  How about that ALEC? (The American Legislative Exchange (cough, cough, exchange for what?) Council)  From the Center for Media and Democracy's special report on ALEC's funding and spending:
Almost 98% of ALEC's funding comes from corporations like Exxon Mobil, corporate "foundations" like the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, or trade associations like the pharmaceutical industry's PhRMA and sources other than "legislative dues." Those funds help subsidize legislators' trips to ALEC meetings, where they are wined, dined, and handed "model" legislation to make law in their state. Through ALEC, corporations vote on "model" legislation with politicians behind closed doors.
 Sometimes what goes on behind closed doors gets out here in what we still laughingly call the "public."  It turns out the wording of those hallowed right-to-work bills bringing so much entertainment to Michigan Republican lawmakers were word-for-word the creations of the Koch-fueled ALEC bunch.

Both HB 4003, which affects public sector unions, and HB 4054 / SB 116 affecting private sector unions, undermine collective bargaining by allowing workers to opt-out of paying the costs of union representation. As the Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director Lisa Graves reported today, the move is calculated political payback attacking unions for supporting Democrats. Wages are lower for both union and non-union workers in Right to Work states, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The legislation is straight out of the Koch-funded ALEC playbook. Compare the language in HB 4003 and HB 4054 with the ALEC "model" Right to Work Act:

Stunning, isn't it?  But--are you still with me?--here comes the fun part.  A 2010 article from The Mackinac Center's news service, CAPCON, called "Politician Puppy Training, What the Tea Parties can Learn from the Dogs" has surfaced.  I'm not kidding.  And neither are they.  I thought they were. I thought they were making a funny, Onion-style.  But, no.

Almost everyone loves puppies, at least until they start making messes on the carpet.  With every puppy comes the responsibility of training it to become “man's best friend.” The same can be said about legislators.  While they are, of course, not dogs, they do need to be trained in order to be turned in to a voter's best friend. While most go to Lansing or Washington to do the right thing, many will end up making messes that result in less liberty.

Training legislators, as with training puppies, must be done with care and common sense. An external system of rewards and punishments is used to guide the puppy toward doing the right thing.
There’s a lesson in this for tea party groups who seek to communicate their concerns to politicians. You don’t need to explain the principles or speak their language to get your point across. Indeed, this is often the last thing that will work. 
But, wait. . .
Like the trained puppy, your lawmakers will follow the training that has been driven into them beforehand. Trying to teach these at the last minute is ineffective.  Representative democracy, like puppy training, means you teach the big idea well in advance and then trust the politician or the puppy to do the right thing with the specific details when the big moment arrives.

Counter-intuitively, this means that you can often make the biggest difference well after the vote is over. Afterward, you can find out what your lawmaker knew at the time, and judge whether they made the right decision or not. If they barked smartly and did their business outside where it belongs, a tea party group can send a big important message by effusively praising them for it. But if they chewed your slippers, they should face swift consequences.
With this past experience in mind, a politician will learn what is expected of them the NEXT time an important vote comes up. Whether the issue is taxes, spending, regulations or what not, a message has been sent to the politician regarding the type of conduct is acceptable – and what is not. Either way, they learn that praise or punishment from a tea party is a real consequence of their future actions.
...We try and give you the information that the politician had at the time of the vote, so you can make a fair decision about whether that vote reflected the metaphorical distinction between your puppy going on the rug or barking at the door.

And that’s when it is most effective for you to decide whether to scratch behind their ears or smack them on the nose. Either way, they’ll remember the next time.
There's more, and, as hilarious as this is, remember, this wild primer on housebreaking is a legitimate plan. There are lessons to be learned here, and if we don't pay attention, we'll go on losing until all is lost 

In a chilling article in New York Magazine called "In Michigan, the Republican Will to Power", Jonathan Chait writes: 
Last year, the Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing activist group, explained, “We fight these battles on taxes and regulation but really what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.” Republicans understand full well that Michigan leans Democratic, and the GOP has total power at the moment, so its best use of that power is to crush one of the largest bastions of support for the opposing party.

In the coming days we need to keep talking about the impact right-to-work has on our nation's workers. We need to stress the need for the strong organized workplace oversight only labor unions can provide.

We need to explain and offset the thundering opposition to a prosperous working class.  We need to expose the lies.  Our voices will be drowned out by those who have a vested interest in keeping the RTW momentum going, but we're not puppies and they're not our trainers.  They'll have no real power over us unless we give it to them by lying down and rolling over.

(Addendum:  More from Harold Meyerson at WaPo and Chris Savage at Eclectablog)

(Addendum II:  Selected for Mike's Blog Round-up at Crooks and Liars.  Thank you!)

(And, of course, cross-posted at dagblog)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"Right to Work" comes to Michigan, the State the Unions Built

Last week Michigan's Republican-majority legislature, with no committee meetings, no floor debate, in a rush to get this done before January when their control lessens, voted to add my beautiful state to a growing number of states--23 of them so far--that have been downgraded to what some have been led to believe is an assurance of a "Right-to-Work".

Anyone coming from another country would think, reading that, that it could only be a good thing.  Everybody should have the right to work, after all, and what kind of crazy country needs to legislate that?
But, as usual, the proponents have chosen a reasonable-sounding misnomer in order to cover the cruelty behind their crass actions.

What it really means is that everybody in my state will, in fact, have the right to work (as does everyone of working age on the planet), but any other right--even those that others before them have fought long and hard for--equitable wages, benefits, pensions, work-place safety, grievance representation--will be left outside the door.  Those rights will no longer be rights unless the employer says they are.

State Right-to-Work laws (known as "right-to-work-for-less laws" in our circles) give approval to open shops, where union participation and the collection of union dues is voluntary, not compulsory--a simple step geared to defund and thus defang union activity.

To workers who have been convinced that the company will take care of them, who see progress in not having to pay union dues, who encourage Right-to-Work laws because it's not fair that union members make more money than they do, what is happening in Michigan and the 23 other states is a liberation of sorts.  To others (like me) it's more like tumbling downhill after years of working our way up the mountain.

The people proposing Michigan's move to Right-to-Work understand that money is power--and why wouldn't they?  Millions of Big Money dollars went into the campaign to make this happen. There's a reason these people hate unions.  Unions attempt to give a portion of power to the working class by way of equitable wages and fairness in the workplace.  All of that, of course, costs employers more money, which, if you follow their logic, is a really mean thing for their ungrateful worker-bees to try to do.

The truth is, few businesses are one-person operations.  Employers need employees, and employees have a right to expect to be paid well for their efforts.  The truth is, wages and benefits have stagnated in this country since the 1970s, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who would argue that it coincided with the drastic drop in union activity.

The truth is, workers need representation and the ability to collectively bargain for wages, benefits and workplace rights.

The truth is, we are stronger as a country when workplaces are seen as a shared venture, with everyone profiting.  (Sometimes, it's true, the ones at the top have to be dragged into that argument, but the end result is always the same:  When everybody profits, the country profits.)

So let's look at what others are saying about this:

Media Matters looks at the myths the Wall Street Journal is pushing about Right-to-Work.

Chris Savage at Eclectablog, the go-to blog for understanding Michigan political shenanigans, guest-posts about RTW on the AFL-CIO website

Stephen Henderson,  Detroit Free Press Editorial Page editor, says, "Do the Math". it never works.

Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) speaks out against the RTW bill, calling it "the freedom to freeload"   (FYI: Grand Rapids is the grand bastion of conservatism in our state.  We like it when Dems are represented there.)

Union activist Jamie Sanderson, from Georgetown, SC, looks at Michigan's RTW battle through other eyes.

Andy Kroll at Mother Jones weighs in, calling it a "Scott Walker showdown", after the Wisconsin governor's efforts to kill public unions in that state.

And finally, Kenneth Quinnell over at the AFL-CIO blog exposes the Koch Brothers connection with the flurry of the "right to work for less" laws in Michigan and other Republican-led states. 

This battle isn't over.   

I know.  We say that all the time. Well, here it is again.

As long as there are people left to fight, battles are never over, and this one, the battle for worker rights in Michigan, the birthplace of the modern union movement, is a landmark battle worth fighting.  Big money is prepared to fight us to the end.  They want to win.  They think they will win.  But they've underestimated us before, and the truth is, it didn't hurt them in the least when workers won.

We didn't become a great country by caving to big interests.  We became a great country by working together to build a strong and expanding middle class.  And we did it because we recognized the value and worth of laborers.

And when we didn't any longer, the truth is, our great country declined.

(Cross-posted at dagblog)

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Monday and Grover Norquist still hasn't been Elected

In the years between Nixon and Newt Gingrich, the [Republican] party migrated southward down the Twisting Trail of Rhetoric and sneered at the idea of public service and became the Scourge of Liberalism, the Great Crusade Against the Sixties, the Death Star of Government, a gang of pirates that diverted and fascinated the media by their sheer chutzpah, such as the misty-eyed flag-waving of Ronald Reagan who, while George McGovern flew bombers in World War II, took a pass and made training films in Long Beach.

The Nixon moderate vanished like the passenger pigeon, purged by a legion of angry white men who rose to power on pure punk politics.  "Bipartisanship is another term of date rape," says Grover Norquist, the Sid Vicious of the GOP.  "I don't want to abolish government.  I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

(From We're not in Lake Woebegon anymore -- Garrison Keillor, 2004 -- an adapted excerpt from "Homegrown Democrat.")

When that piece was written eight years ago Grover Norquist, a private citizen who has never held public office, and has never served as a cabinet or staff member to any elected public official, had, since the tight-ass days of Reagan the Great, been entrenched as the go-to guy for educating elected Republicans on the mandatoriness of No New Taxes.

So last week in the Here and Now, teetering as we are on the edge of that Fiscal Cliff,  it was all Grover all the time again, and more than a few of us resumed the old familiar scratching of heads over how this can keep happening.

As Claire McKaskill so deliciously brought it into the real world last week, "I feel almost sorry for John Boehner. There is incredible pressure on him from a base of his party that is unreasonable about this. And he’s got to decide, is his speakership more important or is the country more important. And in some ways, he has got to deal with this base of the Republican Party who Grover Norquist represents, and, you know, everybody’s elevated Grover-- I mean, I met him for the first time this morning. Nice to meet him. But, you know, who is he? Why is he this guy that is--has--has captured so much attention in this?"

Well, exactly.  Haven't we all been asking that same question?  Who is this guy anyway?  Even a good read of his bio doesn't really explain why the Republican electeds have to go so often to this guy for support and sustenance.  Can't they figure these things out for themselves?  There's something more than a little creepy about him--besides being Newt Gingrich's first base coach during the government shutdown of the 90s, it's no secret Grover worked with Ollie North during the Iran-Contra mess and has had his name (and his emails) linked with the likes of Jack Abramoff.  In the words of Lynn Cheney (who had to gall to say this about John Kerry) "He's not a nice man."

Steve Kornacki over at Salon suggested Norquist is just a figurehead and really doesn't speak for the party on tax issues.  He's a handy vehicle for the electeds who really, really want what Grover tells them they're absolutely required to want. But when 95% of the House Republicans and all but one of the 2012 presidential candidates have signed Grover's own baby, the unauthorized "Taxpayer Protection Pledge", and when Grover is in the news and making appearances on all the news shows last week (except MSNBC and Current, of course--they only just talked about him), he is the figurehead in charge.  (Yes, I know it's unprecedented, but so is the idea of a Grover Norquist.  In a representative democracy, anyway.)

But last week Ezra Klein said Grover is winning.  He puts it this way:
You might think that Grover Norquist would be in hiding right now. Republicans are parading before the cameras, one after the other, to proclaim their intention of breaking his anti-tax pledge. And yet Norquist is everywhere. He’s doing television shows and talking with reporters. Wednesday, he was the headline guest at Politico’s Playbook Breakfast.

Amidst the liberal glee over the demise of Norquist’s anti-tax pledge, it’s worth being clear about something: Norquist is winning. Big time. It’s this moment, the death of his pledge’s mostly unblemished record, that he’s been working toward all these years.
Don’t take Norquist’s pledge at face value. It’s an absurdity. From a budgetary standpoint, it’s an obscenity. And everyone — Norquist included, because he is very, very smart — knew it would eventually fall. It’s how it falls that matters. And right now, it’s falling exactly according to plan.
 Alrighty then.  Whatever.

I've been trying to think of a person who might ever have been the Democratic version of a Grover Norquist and I'm coming up blank.  (If any of you can think of one, now would be a good time to share it.  Anybody?) 

I can think of someone on the outside the Democrats should be listening to.  Not that I want to see any of our electeds signing pledges--that would be crazy--but if ever the Democratic leaders needed someone to be giving them some Big Picture, outside-the-Beltway clarification to what needs to be done, it's right now, right this minute.  And I believe Robert Reich is just the guy to do it.

If there's one problem with my current hero, however, it's that he's too polite.  He's a hard-fact guy who engages in wishful thinking instead of talking about bathtub drownings or the commitments of Peter King's wife.  (Woo hoo, Peter! I've never liked you, for obvious reasons, but good answer!  "My wife would knock off Grover Norquist's head.")

But back to our guy.  It's true--no histrionics with Professor Reich--but man, can he relate:
What worries me most about the tactical maneuvers over the "fiscal cliff" and "grand bargain" is that official Washington seems to be losing sight of the larger picture: We still have a huge number of unemployed, and many of those who have jobs continue to lose ground. If we were a sane society, we'd raise taxes on the rich in order to afford a first-rate system of public education for all our people, starting with early-childhood and extending through four-year college or technical; we'd borrow at historically-low rates (the yield on the ten-year Treasury is still below 1.4 percent) to put millions to work upgrading our crumbling infrastructure; and we'd turn our extraordinarily inefficient and costly healthcare system -- the single biggest driver of future budget deficits -- into a single-payer system focused on prevention and on healthy outcomes. Instead, we're locked into a game of chicken over the budget deficit, and preparing to cut public investments and safety nets.

 And the best part of Robert Reich?  Besides the fact that he gets it and knows how we should deal with it?  He served under Presidents Ford and Carter and was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton.  He actually served in our government and understands how it's supposed to operate. Someone like Robert Reich should be our go-to guy, but even if he isn't, at least we can't be accused of looking to someone like Grover Norquist to lead us.

That's something, anyway.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Will Michigan be the first to privatize public education?

Ever since Rick Snyder soft-talked his way into the governorship in Michigan, throwing the doors wide open for his biggest donors, the Mackinac Center, ALEC and the Koch Brothers (All for One and One for All against the Rest of Us), I've grown used to reading the craziest stuff imaginable about my beautiful state.

I mean, it's been special.

That bunch almost got away with the wholesale takeover of entire communities, using the ruse of a revised, blatantly unconstitutional Emergency Manager law, but--many, many thanks to the voters (and, of course, to the efforts of Chris Savage at Eclectablog and his direct line to the great Rachel Maddow)--it looks like at least this one attack on our democracy may be defeated.  And at the polls, yet.  Woo Hoo! (Okay, it's not over yet.  They're fighting it, because, you know, screw the constitution.)

But, true to form, Snyder, the Republican majority legislature, and the Tyrannical Triad (All for One and One for All. . .) have already turned their misguided attentions to the other Big Thing on their agenda:  public education.  They want it gone.  For good.  Not just relegated to second banana in favor of schools-for-nothing-but-profit, but out of there.

They're meeting today to discuss the pros and pros of doing away with our educational system, and it's not likely any of us who are horrified at the thought of privatizing our venerable, free, fair system of ensuring an adequate education for every breathing kid in America will have any impact, no matter what we say or do. 

The superintendent of Bloomfield Hills Schools, Rob Glass, grew alarmed enough at this latest assault to send a letter home to the parents, advising them of the proposed takeover attempt.  Bloomfield Hills houses a fair share of one-to-ten-percenters and is the home town of one Mitt Romney.  Cranbrook Academy, the tony private prep school where Mitt and Anne Romney met as students, is in Bloomfield Hills.  But the school superintendent is, thankfully, a public school advocate--a hero for all children--who may just have put his job on the line by exposing the upcoming actions of the governor and his cohorts. 

Read his entire letter to the parents here.  He says, in part (my highlights):
I’ve never considered myself a conspiracy theorist—until now. This package of bills is the latest in a yearlong barrage of ideologically-driven bills designed to weaken and defund locally-controlled public education, handing scarce taxpayer dollars over to for-profit entities operating under a different set of rules. I believe this is fundamentally wrong. State School Superintendent Mike Flanagan and State Board of Education President John Austin and others have also expressed various concerns, as has the Detroit Free Press.
We embrace change, innovation and personalization.We’re passionate about providing choices and options for students. We compete strongly in the educational marketplace. We must never stop improving. This is not a laissez faire plea to defend the status quo. This is about making sure this tidal wave of untested legislation does not sweep away the valued programs our local community has proudly built into its cherished school system.

Chris Savage at Eclectablog, who cadged quotes (he readily admits) from Brainwrap at Daily Kos, who also published Rob Glass's letter, has more on this. Click here, please, and give it the attention it deserves.  Even if you're not from Michigan.  This is a battle we'll all have to fight before it's over.

 Hard core privateers from the far right have taken over the Republican party and Michigan is Ground Zero for their operations. They won't let up until they've taken it all.  Hundreds of thousands of voters across our beautiful state hit the Republican button and cast their votes for them.  They won and are cruising along on what they see as a mandate because their voters either didn't know or didn't care.  Either excuse is irresponsible and reprehensible.

Trying to do away with public education is nothing new.  It's been going on since public education became the right thing to do in a democracy, but this is the first time in my memory that an end to all that looks possible.

I didn't vote for greedy private interests but my grandchildren and their grandchildren and every other kid depending on free public education will have to pay the price, all because those who did vote for them gave no more thought to it than they would a vote for an "American Idol".  That's not just crazy, it's insane.

Addendum:  Please click onto and sign this petition: (Stop the Takeover of Education in Michigan)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Luke, It's Not That They're Too Damned Old, It's That You're Too Damned Young.

 So, Luke, remember your dad, Tim Russert?  Let's say he's sitting in a press room where House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is taking questions after announcing that she's staying put and is really excited about the next term, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Let's say he notices that she isn't alone up there on that podium; he sees there are maybe a dozen women who hold seats in the House of Representatives.  They're standing behind her.

Your dad has a chance to ask her a question, because he is, after all, Tim Russert.  (And you are his son, which seems to be the only reason you are that close to that podium, getting ready to ask your own important question. Let's try and remember that as we spend a few minutes talking here.  It'll go down much easier if you know where I'm coming from.)

 Your dad, Tim, knows that almost nothing got done in the House for the four years Barack Obama held office, thanks to a Republican pledge to stop him in his tracks before he can ever get close to--horror of horrors--re-election.  Nancy Pelosi is now the House minority leader.  Two years ago, she was the House majority leader.  She is going into at least another two years in the minority, and she's doing it willingly. 

Your dad's question would almost surely center on what she thinks the Democrats can accomplish, given the stubborn intransigence of the opposition.  After the President's solid win, in which more than half of the voters spoke on his behalf, will it be easier now to work with the Republicans? 

I'm guessing that, or something close to it, would be his question.  What I KNOW he wouldn't be asking is this question.  Your question:

"Mrs. Pelosi ... some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having younger leadership. It hurts the party in the long term. What's your response?"

Oh, my.  Luke.  Luke, Luke, Luke.  You didn't.

You did.

 The shit has already hit the fan big time, as you know, so there's no use in my telling you what a dumb--really dumb--question that turned out to be.  Did you notice the women behind her?  They were laughing at you.  Then they were yelling at you.  Then they were laughing at you.  It was not your finest moment.

But you persisted.  Even in the face of the laughing, the catcalls, after Ms. Pelosi suggested you wouldn't ask the same question of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, you went on:
"No, excuse me," you said. "You, Mr. Hoyer, Mr. Clyburn, you're all over 70. Is your decision to stay on prohibiting younger members from moving forward?" 

I didn't know until this all came about that Nancy Pelosi is 72 years old.  From my vantage point--three years her senior--that doesn't seem old, but to you, still so wet behind your ears, it must seem ancient.

I understand that could be a problem since you are so young and inexperienced, but, honey, I'm here to tell you that your question screams "amateur".  You never, ever suggest to a woman she might be too old to do a job that men as old or older are doing or have done.  Especially a woman as smart and as vibrant as Ms. Pelosi.  Did you see any signs of incapacity up there?

So, come on, would you ask McConnell that same question?  No, you wouldn't, and you know it. Because Mitch would first terrify you with his burning eyes and then he would eat your head.

But even after all the fuss, you had to go on pretending you were right.  Later on, you tweeted this"While Pelosi laughed off my Q as age-ist, many House Ds will privately gripe it hurts caucus that all 3 leaders are 70+."

Right now, Luke, there are 28 Senators who are over 70 years old and 53 members in the House. An even larger percentage are in their 60s, which, of course, then hopefully leads to their 70s.  Who's griping again?  Can you name names?

You screwed up and it isn't the first time.  You're known in rapidly growing circles as the poster child for nepotism.

Luke and Tim Russert

You're not ready for this, and everybody but you and your keepers knows it.  You got this job because of your last name and that's not good enough.  You're not good enough.  You're still there because the people who look the other way in order to keep you on the payroll loved and admired your dad.

He wouldn't have wanted this.

Do the right thing now, Luke.  Find another line of work.  You're only 27.  There's something out there that you'll be good at.  This isn't it.

(Cross-posted at Dagblog and Open Salon)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

We All Won Last Night

President Obama won a second term last night and it wasn't even a squeaker.  The Senate and the House stayed pretty much the same, but Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Tammy Duckworth are going to Washington.

Joe Walsh, Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin will wander off into an oblivion they so richly deserve.  

Karl Rove was seen on Fox howling foul over Ohio with such naked grief his election night companions could only look on, astonished. 

Donald Trump threw such an incomprehensible hissy fit on Twitter you just had to know the little guy was not happy.

Mitt Romney won't be Grand CEO of the United States of America and the incorrigible members of the top one percent may finally have lost the keys to the candy store.

Mitch McConnell, after four long years of egregious intransigence, got no satisfaction.  He did not make Barack Obama a one-term president.

And Joe Biden is ours for four more years.

Barack Obama transcended an unprecedented barrage of hatred and constant attempts at humiliation and now has another chance to help us out of the mess we're in.  We can and will move forward, but it'll take a massive effort on both the president's part and on our own.

We can do this.

And we will.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day, 2012. It's Up to Us Now

I'm up and already nervous about what this election night will bring.  I want the Democrats to win everything.  I want the Republicans to lose in numbers large enough to show them the error of their ways.  I'm so biased that way there's no pretending otherwise.  I know it won't happen, but if I were wishing upon a star it's what I would be wishing for.

I'm an old-style liberal--a dreamer, an optimist, a pie-in-the-sky Pollyanna.  There aren't many of us left, mainly because that kind of nonsense has been knocked out of the more sensible of us.  With me, it's still there, and at this late stage  I have a feeling it's here to stay.

Suffragette Demonstration 1910

 Everybody wants what's best for this country.  We want it healthy, wealthy and wise.  We want the pursuit of happiness to lead somewhere. None of us thinks we're at that point, but at the same time none of us can agree on the direction it will take to get us there.

We tend to want to simplify our problems, laying blame wherever it might easily fit, but in our hearts we know the society we've established for ourselves is so magnificently complicated what we truly understand wouldn't fill a droplet in the middle of our vast oceans.

In addition, fully half of us thinks the other half is nuts.  I'm not such a dreamer that I actually think no matter who wins the presidency, tomorrow is the day we'll all magically come together.   We won't.  Odds are, we never will.  It's not only not likely, it's not even normal.  We thrive on individualism.  It's our one claim to fame.  Or so we would like to believe.

Ben Sargent

 I want my side to win, but I want every vote to count.  I want the people of voting age to do their civic duties and get out there and let their voices be heard.  I'm heartened by sights of long lines snaking around buildings, even while I'm furious that people have to be made to stand in long lines for hours in order to vote.

I won't be going to the polls today.  I've already voted, but now that the big day has dawned I'm sorry I jumped the gun.  I miss not climbing the steps of our township hall and filling out my papers and kibitzing with the poll workers.  I want to stand at the table and do my thing behind red, white and blue striped curtains.  I want to stand at that funny little machine and watch as my ballot gets sucked into it, ready to be counted.  I love that.

 Because I believe our vote is our right.  It is our privilege. It is our duty.  Anyone who doesn't believe that voting makes a difference hasn't looked around.  Every one of our government leaders got there because they were voted into office.  Think about that.


(Cross-posted, as usual, at Dagblog.  Election Night live-streaming.  Come and join us!)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why is this man Romney even close?

Okay, I'm breathing again--raggedly, to be honest, but I'm seeing clearly and whatever fun writing I was so longing for last week will just have to wait.  Mitt Romney is closing in on the home stretch and I can't stand it.  What can I say that will change that?  We all know there is nothing I can say that will change anything this monumental and incomprehensible.  But I repeat: I can't stand it.

In any other true-life scenario, a man like Mitt Romney -- a confirmed liar, a clueless anti-populist, a shameless waffler -- would be laughed out of the political arena, never to be taken seriously again.  Considering the climate we live in, dire and dangerous to all but a few lucky souls, there shouldn't have been a moment when a man like Mitt Romney (or his running mate, the even more egregious Paul Ryan) would have been seen as anybody's choice to lead us out of this mess.

But a map of red states vs. blue states tells the tale:  The campaign against Obama and the Democrats has been hugely successful; the obfuscation and near-obliteration of the Romney/Ryan misdeeds equally so.

It's a billionaires' election to win or lose, and Romney is their puppet.  It clearly doesn't matter what he says or does.  They run the show, and they've managed the impossible -- they've convinced enough voters that Barack Obama is their enemy; someone to fear, a man who only pretends to be a True American while attempting to hide his nefarious dark side.

It's the New Century--maybe the strangest we've ever seen--and we live with the voters we have.  They call themselves "the values voters", without ever fully understanding that "values" means much more than anti-abortion or religious freedom or balanced budgets or the color of our president's skin.   It means a clear-eyed look at which servants of the people can best move us away from vulture capitalism and back into whatever concept of democratic freedoms and obligations work best for our society.

As of a few days ago, more voters believed Romney can do more for the economy than Obama has or will.   Why?  Because Romney was a businessman and apparently knows more about how business runs.

This is the same Romney who bought and sold companies, making millions off of the acquisitions with no thought to what it did to the communities that were disrupted by the actions of his group.

This is the same Romney who fought to keep his tax returns from going public, who hides his money in numerous off-shore accounts, who thrives because "ruthless" is legal and the name of the game.

This is the same Romney who saw FEMA as one of those Fed entities best relegated to the states or better yet, private enterprise, using the word "immoral" to effectively brand it obsolete.  Astonishing.  (Now his handlers say he didn't mean it that way.  Apparently that's good enough for even those Romney voters who live in areas battered by Hurricane Sandy.  He's still running neck and neck with President Obama.  Really.)

This is what the potential future president had to say:
"Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction," Romney said at a debate last June. "And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that's even better."

Asked by moderator John King of CNN whether that would include disaster relief, Romney said: "We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids."
So, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, because they finally realized that sounded really, really awful, his handlers had Romney issuing what looks like a reversal but is actually code for, "Okay, we'll keep the idea of FEMA because you people just don't get it, but the bulk of the money is still going to go to state and local governments, because even though I want to be the biggie in Big Government, Big Government is a bad, bad thing."

Here's Romney's written statement from Wednesday, when the storm was still stormin':
 "I believe that FEMA plays a key role in working with states and localities to prepare for and respond to natural disasters. As president, I will ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission, while directing maximum resources to the first responders who work tirelessly to help those in need, because states and localities are in the best position to get aid to the individuals and communities affected by natural disasters."
 No mention of what FEMA's mission will be under FEMA-haters Romney and Ryan, but it's not hard to imagine.  Centralized emergency relief apparently goes against every fiber of their beings, and no thing and no body is going to change that.

Well, okay, all that, but what drives me to this today is what has been keeping me awake, fuming.

It's this:  
Romney's phony food drive.  Photo: Stephen Crowley/ NYT
In the immediate aftermath of a raging, deadly storm, the presidential wannabee participated in a crass, phony, political opportunity dressed as "disaster relief", designed for no other reason than to make him look good in certain swing states.  (The Red Cross, downers that they are, said early on, "Don't send supplies, send money."  Spoilsports.)

 So, heedless of real needs, Romney's pack set up a hasty relief station and then went to WalMart to buy the appropriate props to make it look like they were actually concerned with the citizens of the storm.  They spent $5,000 on emergency supplies like diapers, toilet paper and canned goods to hand out to long lines of Romney voters who could then hand them back to Romney in front of the cameras. (Stunning, isn't it, that those Romney voters didn't think to donate their own emergency supplies?  But then, in order to be a Romney voter, one would have to be as clueless as he is.)

In the meantime, President Obama is all over the place taking care of business, surveying the damage, assuring everybody that our government will do what it's supposed to do.  It will take care of what needs taking care of.  FEMA is working at its efficient best.  Mayors and governors in the affected states are effusive in their praise of FEMA and the actions of the president. (Note to Chris Christie:  Ever thought of joining the Democrats?  The Republicans won't even speak your name anymore. And they have long memories.)

Christie and Obama with Hurricane Sandy survivors
This is what true leadership looks like.  This is what big government does best.  This is who we're supposed to be.  This is what we need to fight to keep.  And yet as I write this, Mitt Romney--undeserving to the nth degree and then some--has a real chance at winning the presidency.

So that's it.  I can barely breathe, not because of the pneumonia, but because of what I just wrote.  The very thought of my country going the way of Romney/Ryan after all they've done to try and hurt us makes me crazy.

All I can do is yell.

I can't stand it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

On Writing Free and Brave

I had a bout with bronchial pneumonia this week, which left me breathless enough to now be able to cross "ambulance ride" off of my bucket list.  I spent two days in the hospital and, while I feel almost human again, a strange thing has happened.  When I sit down to write, I'm finding that the last thing I want to write about is the current political situation.

How could that be?  Eleven days before the election and this political junky can't think of a thing to write about concerning the upcoming presidential election.  It's not that I don't care.  You know I care.  It's that I think I've probably said all I can ever say about it.  (Don't hold me to this; I'm on antibiotics and steroids and tomorrow is another day.)

I realized, as I lay in my moveable bed reading and watching old movies, that I had become so immersed in that Obama/Romney thing I almost forgot what it was to just relax and enjoy something of the world I used to know before the year 2001, when suddenly the nation's fault line erupted into a full-blown earthquake.

I had my Kindle Fire with me, but instead of logging onto the web, I read portions of books I had ordered but hadn't gotten around to reading:  The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graham (Funny and a comfort), and The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty (Never can get enough of Eudora.)

It strikes me that these books, each in their own way, are studies in bravery. (But then all writing for publication is rooted in bravery.  As anyone knows who's tried it, It's not for wimps.)

Kenneth Graham's stories in Wind in the Willows were based on stories he made up to calm his own son, Alastair, a sickly child prone to tantrums who eventually committed suicide at age 20. (The reckless, thoughtless Toad was said to be patterned after Alastair.)  Graham had dreams of the university life but couldn't come up with the money for it, even though it was clear he was smart and capable.  He ended up taking a boring, meaningless job in a bank, writing his imaginative stories after hours.  When he was forced to retire for health reasons he moved his family to the countryside where he was able to write full time.  His stories seem lighthearted and full of clever fun, as if the cares of the world had never entered his realm.  And we know that was not so. 

Eudora Welty grew up a sheltered, adored child with no fears, no worries, in an idyllic southern town.  She could have stayed in Jackson (MS) and been a true southern belle, but she was born Eudora; smart, clever and wickedly funny.  She would have withered on the magnolia vine had she stayed--which, of course, was out of the question.

She went to Wisconsin for her BA and then on to Columbia for graduate studies.  While she was in New York, she wrote a letter to the editor at the New Yorker, asking for a job.  She was 23 years old. The letter is pure Eudora, and since nobody yet knew who Eudora Welty was, they whiffed her off.

(H/T to Krista at Linkedin for steering me to it:)

March 15, 1933
I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.
I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930-31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia’s School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A. (’29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world. For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, santa claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.
As to what I might do for you — I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse’s pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works — quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.
Since I have bought an India print, and a large number of phonograph records from a Mr. Nussbaum who picks them up, and a Cezanne Bathers one inch long (that shows you I read e. e. cummings I hope), I am anxious to have an apartment, not to mention a small portable phonograph. How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning — a little paragraph each night, if you can’t hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end. I have studied flower painting.
There is no telling where I may apply, if you turn me down; I realize this will not phase you, but consider my other alternative: the U of N.C. offers for $12.00 to let me dance in Vachel Lindsay’s Congo. I congo on. I rest my case, repeating that I am a hard worker.
Truly yours,
Eudora Welty

(Sounds like something I would do--not nearly as well but with the same results.)  But there is bravery in that letter--even in the misuse of "phase", without thought to correction.  She could have followed the orders of the day and presented herself in a more formal manner, much like everyone else, letting her writing speak for itself, but everything she wrote she wrote as Eudora.  This is who she was.

Every writer needs to be who he or she is.  I've been writing almost exclusively as a political blogger for nearly four years now, and at times I get pretty passionate about it--obsessed, even.  But that stay-a-bed with other reading sources opened my eyes to the world I eventually want to get back to.

I'm writing a book. It has nothing to do with politics and I'm having great fun with it, but it has taken a back seat because of the election.  I want desperately to give it my full attention and get it done, but at the same time, I love my blog and the places it takes me.  I'm trying to do both, and now I think I can.

What changed?  I couldn't breathe and I was scared.  Now I can and I'm not afraid anymore.  It did something.  It told me to get going.  To be free and brave.  Because life has never been known to wait.

The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancour. He was now in just the frame of mind that the tactful Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him.
He saw clearly how plain and simple — how narrow, even — it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.

Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Graham

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hey, Liberals: Now is the Time to Panic

WARNING:  Cheers for Obama here, at least until Tuesday, November 6.  Don't come looking for relief from Obama luv.  You won't find it on these pages. I'm getting ready to panic and, if past history is any indication, it's not going to be pretty.

Romney/Ryan have a chance to win this thing.  That revelation is so shocking we should be calling for a congressional investigation into how right wing billionaires and clueless teapartiers were able to pull that off. (Right. . .that'll happen)

There's no way someone like Mitt Romney (businessman to the core, anti-government advocate today but not yesterday, job destroyer and giddy out-sourcer, liar, liar, liar) could actually be considered American presidential material.

There's no way someone like Paul Ryan (Old Testament advocate of female-body ownership by non-females, mathematics-deficient "policy wonk", fair-to-middlin' mountain-climber and marathon-runner, liar, liar, liar) can be taken seriously for that all-important second slot.

There are many who want to blame one person--Barack Obama--for what's been happening, but you won't find them here.  I don't want them here.  I want people who know a right wing ambush when they see one and are willing to work their asses off to defeat the real enemy--the Republicans.

There are no saints among politicians but there are plenty of sinners.  If Academy Awards were given for vicious, humanity-chewing, dishonest performances, the Republicans would win, hands down.  They're out to destroy us and half the country thinks it's nothing more than a stinkin' horror movie. (Nothing to fear, it's only pretend. Get your popcorn here.)

But some of us don't, thank God:

  • My Michigan pal Flowerchild has had enough, too.  She brings some badasses to dagblog to help us understand.
  • Reagan's money guy, David Stockman, slices and dices Romney's claim as job creator.

I'll remind us once again that Mitt Romney wants to be president of the United States and there's a strong chance he could become one.  He has no use for us.  He admits he has no use for us. We don't want a president who has no use for  us.  We've fallen pretty low but not so low we would give away our vote to a man who has made it that clear that we are not worthy of his attention.

There is no reason on earth that a man like Mitt Romney should be considered for the highest job in the land. We can stop it.  We can work to get out the vote, we can continue pulling up facts that prove Romney, Ryan, and the Republicans don't deserve this chance, and we can declare a moratorium on bashing Democrats, other liberals, and Obama (especially Obama) until after November 6.

We have seen the enemy and it isn't us.

(Addendum, 10/18:  This is big:  Daniel Ellsberg, no admirer of Obama, to say the least, calls for an Obama win.  Because, contrary to the opinion of some on the Left, the Republicans are much, much worse,)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Comes to the U.P

At the easternmost edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where I live, the land is low.  In the deep south it would be called the low country.  Here it's called the cedar swamp.  Where there isn't swamp there is rock, where thin sheaths of earth allow only the shallow-rooted trees to thrive--the quaking aspen, white birch and the Michigan cottonwood known as Balm-of-Gilead.  The weed trees.

Cedar and birch
As beautiful as these trees are in the fall, it's the maple and oak that thrill us with their gaudy, exuberant colors.  It's the views from lofty heights of miles of patchwork quilt, the breathtaking drives through golden tunnels, the blue and gold of our Great Lakes, that draw millions of tourists each year to northern Michigan and across the Mackinac Bridge into the upper peninsula.

There are small areas here in the eastern edge of the peninsula that are high enough and have built up enough forest humus to support the hardwoods that give us the most color, but to truly appreciate the spectacle, one has to go west.  Which is what we did last week.

Maple stand in Eastern U.P

Grand Island and Munising Bay
Munising Falls
Lower Tahquamenon Falls

 But back at home or nearer to it, fall means clear air and a golden light and new discoveries every day.  A few weeks ago we were driving the back roads near Rudyard when we came upon a field full of sand hill cranes.  It's  been a few years since we've seen them gathering, and it's about time for their migration.  Michigan is one of many flyways as they move from the far north to the places where they winter.

A family of cranes has nested across the bay, within sight with binoculars, but this is the first year we've seen them on our shore.

Yesterday as we walked our circular mile, we kept hearing the cranes but couldn't see them.  Finally, as we came to a clearing, I looked up and saw them by the dozens high in the sky.   They're leaving now and I'm not ready to say goodbye.

Sand Hill Cranes heading South
In our part of the country, fall is not just a season, it's an event.  We never take it for granted, and we never miss a chance to revel in it. And, of course, I never miss a chance to photograph it.  We live near several nature preserves and walk their trails often, but in fall their free access is a glorious gift.

Young trees in fall
A carpet of leaves
The tamaracks are the last to turn.  They signal the end of the fall colors; when they're done it's all over.  Tamarack needles fall off, leaving the branches bare, and a stand of winter tamaracks looks like dead trees in a dismal swamp.  Then, in spring, their needles come back mint green, then turn forest green, and they're back to looking like conifers again.

Tamaracks in fall
Northern Michigan is pretty special any time of the year, but in the fall it rises to spectacular.  I love that about my state.

(Photos are the property of Ramona's Voices.  Please ask permission before using.)