Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That's what I like: tolerance!

Two dispatches from the world of the religious.

First, from our open-minded ally in Israel:

The Netanyahu government's Ministry of Immigrant Absorption is sponsoring advertisements in at least five American communities that warn Israeli expatriates that they will lose their identities if they don't return home.

Supporters of Israel love to talk about how Israel is the best, most tolerant country in the Middle East, but as we've noted here before, the government of Israel, or at least the current incumbents, are as oppressive and narrow-minded as anyone else in the Middle East. Watch the videos. Even if you don't speak Hebrew, you'll get the idea.

Of course, we expect better in the good old USA, right?

One eastern Kentucky community is divided after a Pike County church voted Sunday not to allow interracial couples to be members or participate in church services. According to members of the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, not everyone is in agreement with yesterday's vote. Melvin Thompson, who actually submitted the proposal to the church, defended his position, and says he doesn't feel this will affect the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church at all. "I do not believe in interracial marriages, and I do not believe this will give our church a black eye at all.

Apparently it's a small church, and there was opposition, but it's still hard to get around how scummy people can be in the name of god, huh?

Or, as my brother Dan points out, religion can be such a comfort.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Farewell to Barney Frank

I first heard of Barney Frank when I was a relatively new Legal Services lawyer back in 1981. It was the first year of Reagan's presidency, and also the first year Reagan tried to implement his war on the poor by killing off the Legal Services Corporation. We heard that the appropriation for Legal Services was going to be taken up, so a few of us went to watch the debate on the floor of the house on C-SPAN, which was also brand new at the time.

Although Frank was a new congressman (it was his first term), he was the floor manager for the Legal Services appropriation. I was completely impressed. He was pretty much everything you see when you see him today: smart, prepared, funny, and completely unwilling to back down from a fight.

We won the funding debate, and even in a year when Reagan was getting Congress, under Tip O'Neill, to give him just about everything he wanted, he never succeeded in destroying legal services for the poor.

In the last thirty years Frank has always been a strong voice for working people and those exploited by the powerful, big money interests that have come to increasingly dominate our government.

What has made him so popular, though, is not just his unapologetic liberalism, but also the pugnacious and witty way he disemboweled the other side.

Other people will have their favorite Frank moments, but I'll just close with this one:


Monday, November 21, 2011

Big win for D.C. Democrats

What's in the news tonight?

From the Post: Leaders of ‘supercommittee’ concede defeat

From the Times: Panel Fails to Reach Deal on Plan for Deficit Reduction

From WCAX: Reaction to committee's failure to cut deficit

The truth of it, as pointed out by both Bernie Sanders and Howard Dean, is that this is a win for the Democrats.

First, they finally, FINALLY! stood up for something.

Second, what they stood up for is both good policy and good politics. As Bernie said, “What is amazing is in a time of strong political division in America on this issue the American people are united,” Sanders said on MSNBC. “Every single poll that I have seen says that the American people understand that when the richest people are becoming richer, and their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, they’ve got to pay more taxes to help us with deficit reduction.”

Finally, for those who are concerned about the deficit and the national debt, the failure to reach a deal cuts spending by more than any deal would have, and takes more out of the military budget than we ever would have seen.

We have a promise from President Obama to veto any legislation that would sidestep or avoid the automatic sequestration, and he's also promised to block any attempt to extend the Bush tax cuts again.

Whether he will actually do it is anyone's guess, but for now I see this as a win for the good guys.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The University of California needs to hear from you

You may have seen this video of brutal treatment inflicted on peaceful demonstrators by the University of California campus police.

Fortunately, there is a way to respond.

The University of California has a system to report and correct behavior that is counter to the values of the university.

Welcome to the University of California's systemwide intolerance report form.

The University of California's Principles of Community are grounded in our mission of instruction, research and public service. We value diversity, affirm the inherent dignity of every person and uphold communities of justice. We strive for a campus and a world free of discrimination, intolerance and hate. We are equally committed to freedom of expression, critical inquiry, civil dialogue and mutual respect.

If you experience or observe behavior that is inconsistent with our Principles of Community, please report it.

If you know of any instances of intolerant or violent behavior on campus you might want to report it using their handy online form.

My description of what I witnessed:

On November 18, 2011, a large group of armed men menaced and attacked a group of unarmed students sitting in the Quad. The mob were carrying firearms and other lethal weapons. Without provocation the mob discharged chemical weapons at a number of unarmed students, although the students had made no threat of violence and posed no danger to any person.

Based on the clothing and insignia worn by the mob, it is possible they were members of the campus police force.

The bias involved was apparently the desire of the armed mob to suppress unpopular political opinions on campus.

The university promises me that they will investigate my report and get right back to me:

Thank you for reporting your concern. The information you provided will be treated with sensitivity and addressed as appropriate. If you provided your contact information, we may contact you directly. If not, please check back on your report in 2 weeks to see if we have any questions or follow-up information for you.

Your Report Key: 2577753955

If you are aware of any incidents of bias, intolerance, or violence on one of the campuses of the University of California perhaps you would like to let the university know about it. After all, if they aren't aware of the problem they can't fix it, right?

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Thursday, November 10, 2011


Stupid people have attached mystical significance to the fact that all the digits in tomorrow's date, in a certain form of notation, are ones. 11/11/11. I'm not sure exactly what they think is going to happen, or what they think it means, but it's just another example of people thinking they can deduce meaning from meaningless and arbitrary coincidences.

We'll have a good solid twenty-four hours to test out their theories, but we can also seek some inferential guidance from previous dates 11/11/1.

For instance, what about just a hundred years ago?

According to Yahoo Answers:

A record cold snap hits the United States Midwest; many cities break record highs and lows on the same day (see The 11/11/11 cold wave).

The Upton Machine Company, now Whirlpool Corporation, was founded in St Joseph, MI.

An enormous fire strikes Visoko, Bosnia, burning over 450 houses and other objects. The upper city area is completely burned, as well as all the houses down the main street alongside Beledija.

Or we can go back another hundred years. On 11/11/(18)11 I couldn't find many significant or earthshattering event, although it was the date of birth of Confederate general, Ben McCulloch (no relation).

Or, if you want a really significant sequence of ones, what about November 11, 1111?

According to the English version of Yahoo Answers:

The Synod of Rathbreasail marked the transition of the Irish church from a monastic to a diocesan structure
Henry V is crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Paschal II
Baldwin VII becomes Count of Flanders

In other words, nothing much.

My predictions for 11/11/11? It's going to be the 42nd birthday of a good friend of mine, and it happens that she was born on the exact same day I started growing my beard. We can expect that around the world about 360,000 people will be born and another 151,000 will die, but there's a good chance you won't have heard of any of them.

So meet me back here tomorrow night, and let's see what momentous events we met.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Developments across the country

No elections in Vermont today, but there are a couple of important ones elsewhere.

In Ohio, voters have overwhelmingly voted to throw out the anti-union law that right-wing governor John Kasich pushed through the legislature this year. You may recall that this is the race that Mitt Romney got his fingers burned in recently because of jumping into the fight without clearly picking a side. Another profile in courage for the Mittster, but more importantly, the voters of Ohio have come out to support the rights of public sector workers.

In Mississippi voters have rejected a constitutional amendment that would have counted zygotes and embryos as complete human beings from the moment of conception, immediately outlawing all abortions and some forms of birth control, while at the same time forcing pregnant women to pay double admission to the movies and allowing them to drive in the car pool lane. This was considered a risk to pass, particularly since both gubernatorial candidates supported it.

In Maine the voters have approved a proposal for same-day voter registration, even though the Republicans used scare tactics against it, including ads claiming that the measure was supported by "the gays".

And on a more personal note, in the town I grew up in, voters in Glen Rock, New Jersey stayed true to a pattern established back in 1896, rejecting a Democratic candidate with new ideas for mayor in favor of the Republican establishment. The candidate was my brother Mark, running for the same office that our father ran unsuccessfully for forty-five years ago. Consistency isn't always a good thing, but the family tradition of working for Democratic ideals remains strong. Congratulations on the effort, Mark!

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Looking like the real thing

Is Scott Brown afraid of Elizabeth Warren? He should be.

Sure, we know all about Scott Brown. He defeated perhaps the weakest candidate for U.S. Senate since Jack McMullen, who ran for Senator from Vermont from his vacation home and lost the Republican primary to Fred Tuttle, a man with such a thick Vermont accent that they needed to run subtitles even when he appeared on the radio, but Brown was the beneficiary of an even worse candidate. That was, of course, Martha "What do you expect me to do, stand outside Fenway Park and ask people to vote for me?" Coakley.

Scott Brown has all the qualifications for Senate--he's posed naked in a magazine and he owns a pickup truck--but he may find Warren a bit more of a challenge.

At the beginning it was tempting to see her as merely an academic, or, as the latest dirty word in the Republicans' vocabulary, a technocrat. She is showing us, though, that she has the goods to get out there and campaign.

Exhibit A is the video of her talking about the nature of wealth and success in this country. It was great reading the transcript, but it's phenomenal when you see it.

Then we also saw pictures of her recent volunteer rally. Very impressive that she was able to motivate such a big crowd of volunteers.

Finally, just last night, she had to contend with a deranged heckler from the Tea Party who called her a "socialist whore".

Her response:

“I actually felt sorry for the guy. I really genuinely did,” Warren later told the Huffington Post. “He’s been out of work now for a year and a half. And bless his heart, I mean, he thought somehow it would help to come here and yell names.”

She also added: “I’m not angry with him, but he didn’t come up with the idea that his biggest problem was Occupy Wall Street. There’s someone else pre-packaging that poison — and that’s who makes me angry.”

As I say, she can handle herself, and I think she's a problem for Naked Scott.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

This seems kind of big

We've already seen the board of Ben & Jerry's come out in support of the Occupy movement, but that's pretty much to be expected, since they're all a bunch of communist hippies anyway.

I've never seen anything political come from the management of Men's Wearhouse, but today is different. In their Facebook page today, here's what they said:
We closed our store near Oakland City Hall today, for one day, to express the company's concern for the issue of wealth disparity in our country. The issue affects our employees and customers across the political spectrum.
Could it be that concerns for wealth disparity and the engineered unfairness of the national economy are going mainstream?

"You're gonna like our politics. I guarantee it."

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