Friday, January 17, 2014

Short Takes

Syria — Secretary of State Kerry seeks to assure parties as peace talks near.

Thailand — 22 protestors injured in bomb blast.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to leave office by the end of the year.

David Wildstein, N.J. bridge scandal figure, will sing in exchange for immunity.

R.I.P. Russell Johnson, 89, the professor of Gilligan’s Island; Dave Madden, 83, of The Partridge Family.

Coffee to go — Korean community in New York City to consider boycotting McDonald’s.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Thursday, January 24, 2013

No Swearing Aloud

The State of Arizona, that bastion of liberty and justice for all who look like Americans, is now contemplating requiring loyalty oaths from all students in high school.

Beginning in the 2013‑2014 school year, In addition to fulfilling the course of study and assessment requirements prescribed in this chapter, before a pupil is allowed to graduate from a public high school in this state, the principal or head teacher of the school shall verify in writing that the pupil has recited the following oath:

I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.

Aside from the fact that it is comically absurd to require people to “take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion” — if you’re forced to do it, you’re not doing anything “freely” — it makes a mockery of the idea of individual liberty:  It’s a free country as long as you are forced to proclaim your loyalty to it.  (By the way, they cribbed that oath from the Constitution; it’s basically the same one that senators, congresspeople, and the vice president take when they assume office.  Someone should sue for copyright infringement.)

Also, there are a lot of people who have issues with taking oaths, period, either for religious reasons or for the simple fact that taking an oath assumes you’re not already telling the truth the rest of the time.  Twelve years ago I was teaching at a private school here in Miami.  I had a homeroom where we gathered first thing every morning for announcements over the closed circuit TV and then the pledge of allegiance.   Being an orthodox Quaker — attending unprogrammed meeting for worship and adhering to the principles of peace, truth, simplicity, and equality — I don’t take oaths, and therefore I don’t recite the pledge.  I don’t make a big deal out of it; when people stand for it, I stand because I don’t want to draw attention to my non-participation.

Someone apparently took offense at my standing silently without putting my hand over my heart. The headmaster called me into the office and wanted to know if I had a problem with reciting the pledge.  I explained that as a Quaker, I don’t do pledges or oaths; in court I affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, etc.  He said that I needed to be a role model for my students.  I replied politely that doing something for show when it was clearly not something I believed in would be a lousy thing for a role model to do.  This did not sit well with him, but he couldn’t do anything about it, so he smirked and let me go back to my class.  It’s one of the many reasons I am glad I’m no longer teaching there.

This loyalty oath reminds me of the old Red Scare days of the 1950′s when everyone had to proclaim their Yankee Doodle dandiness or else be suspected of being a commie.  Where it not for the fact that a lot of people lost their jobs and had their future tarnished by such absurd paranoia, it would be like something out of a Marx Brothers movie.  Haven’t the people who make the laws in Arizona got better things to do?

HT to Misty.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Short Takes

Pakistan test fires a nuclear capable missile.

Egyptians stage massive protests against Morsi.

Polls show Netanyahu with a big lead in Israel’s election.

President Obama launches his campaign for his solution to the fiscal “cliff.”

Judge orders tobacco companies to tell the world they lied about the dangers of smoking.

Hugo Chavez is going to Cuba for more cancer treatment.

R.I.P. Marvin Miller, union leader in baseball.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Short Takes

The Tigers clinched the AL Central division title by beating the Royals.  Onward!

The U.S. is abandoning hopes for peace deal with the Taliban.

The Al-Qaeda in North Africa threat is the focus of secret talks.

Senate leaders say they are trying to avoid the cliff.

Iran is facing currency issues.

A little late … A judge has ruled that arrests at the 2004 GOP convention were illegal.

Tropical Update:  Nadine is still alive, but now a TS.  The next disturbance will follow her path.

The Washington Nationals backed into their first-ever division win.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Short Takes

Allied bombs struck ground forces in Libya.

Bombs also hit Tripoli, but the U.S. claims that Qaddafi isn’t the target.

President Obama is getting a taste of life in Brazil; touts it as a model of democracy.

Voters in Egypt have approved constitutional changes.

The run-off elections in Haiti are described as “smooth” in spite of some delays and irregularities.

Protesters supporting Pvt. Bradley Manning were arrested at Quantico, Virginia.

Oil prices go up after air strikes on Libya.

AT&T is buying T-Mobile for a lot of money.

Spring training: The Tigers beat the Nationals.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Short Takes

The battle for Libya continues with Qaddafi’s forces hitting back.

There are military options being considered for Libya by the U.S.

The protests continue in Madison.

Arkansas got rattled by a 4.7 earthquake.

President Obama would back an easing of the healthcare law’s mandate requirements for states.

Early voting is underway in the recall election of Miami’s mayor.

R.I.P. Duke Snider, a star of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Spring Training: The Tigers beat the Yankees.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Any Plans This Weekend?

You could always show your solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin.

On Saturday, February 26, at noon local time, we are organizing rallies in front of every statehouse and in every major city to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. We demand an end to the attacks on worker’s rights and public services across the country. We demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And we demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.

We are all Wisconsin. We are all Americans.

It looks like they’re doing it here in Miami at Bayfront Park. I have to work, but if you go, wear sunscreen, be nice, and for the love of Dog, spell your sign correctly.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The State of the Unions

The demonstrations in Madison, Wisconsin, have brought the question of public-sector employees being covered by unions to the forefront: should people who work on behalf of the taxpayer have the right to organize?

The Republicans have taken the view that all unions are greedy, corrupt, and intimidating to management, which translates into the fact that unions are usually supporters of the Democrats. The GOP talking heads are prone to say that the most powerful group in the country is the teachers’ unions, which, according to them, has the public education system in every state by the throat and is holding everyone, including the children, hostage. That’s a nice bit of hyperbole, but if that was really true, than why is it that teachers are among some of the lowest paid union workers in the country — in Wisconsin, a teacher’s salary is below the median income for the state — and in some states, including Florida, it is illegal for them to strike? If that’s a demonstration of the unions’ power, they’re doing a lousy job of wielding it. Now imagine what they would be like without it. That’s exactly what the Republican governor in Wisconsin would like.

The mythology of how easy a teacher has it — they only work nine months out of the year and only work six hours a day — has long since been disproved, but you still hear it among those who don’t know what teachers do. In many states the school year has been lengthened to ten months; several years ago in Miami, school ended the first week of June and began again the last week in July. During the summer recess, many teachers must take classes to maintain their certification or earn a supplemental degree to keep their job. Those courses are not free and the school district does not pay them for them, neither do they help pay off the student loans the teachers incurred while earning the minimum degrees that the state requires to get the job in the first place. During the school year, most teachers report to work several hours before the first bell, remain in the classroom long after the last student has left, and quite often must return to the school in the evening or on weekends for events and additional coaching or club duties. Then they take work home with them. On the job they have more than their share of duties, and for which they give up some pretty basic things most people in another workplace take for granted, such as going to the bathroom whenever they please, or getting a cup of coffee. Taking an hour for lunch or leaving a little early to go to the dentist is unheard of. Try enforcing those workplace rules at Goldman Sachs.

No one goes into the teaching profession to make a fortune; they do it to make a difference. A lot of people in the public sector work as hard as teachers do, and a lot of them put their lives and well-being on the line for a median salary and a pension that does not include a golden parachute. They don’t ask for six-figure incomes, but the least they can expect is to be represented and protected by organizing and have the right to the same bargaining rules as the guy who installs the seats in a Chevy. And in a time when people on Wall Street are making huge bonuses for crunching numbers on a computer, now is not the time to be calling the people on the front lines of education and public well-being greedy.

PS: Ezra Klein has a good post on how you can’t separate public and private unions.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What Racism?

David Brooks just happened to jog through the tea party in Washington last weekend and saw that there wasn’t a race riot going on where teabaggers and attendees at the Black Family Reunion Celebration happened to converge.

Because sociology is more important than fitness, I stopped to watch the interaction. These two groups were from opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum. They’d both been energized by eloquent speakers. Yet I couldn’t discern any tension between them. It was just different groups of people milling about like at any park or sports arena.

And yet we live in a nation in which some people see every conflict through the prism of race. So over the past few days, many people, from Jimmy Carter on down, have argued that the hostility to President Obama is driven by racism. Some have argued that tea party slogans like “I Want My Country Back” are code words for white supremacy. Others say incivility on Capitol Hill is magnified by Obama’s dark skin.

Well, I don’t have a machine for peering into the souls of Obama’s critics, so I can’t measure how much racism is in there. But my impression is that race is largely beside the point. There are other, equally important strains in American history that are far more germane to the current conflicts.

Therefore he’s sure that there is no racism involved in any of the anti-Obama demonstrations or outpouring of sentiment on cable TV or talk radio. Well, I’m glad he cleared that up. Now he can jog on with a clear conscience that white entitlement and patriarchy have nothing to do with it.

It is just as foolish for Mr. Brooks to dismiss links to racism behind the demonstrations and anger as it is to see racism behind every sign. But to say that it doesn’t exist and hasn’t played a role in some of the over-the-top attacks recently is an attempt to prove a negative. What’s especially ironic is that Mr. Brooks doesn’t help himself by saying that historically, populist protests are by nature “ill-mannered [...] whether they were led by Huey Long, Father Coughlin or anybody else.” Yeah, citing a noted anti-Semite like Father Coughlin doesn’t really help. And neither does the problematic assumption that all the people at the Black Family Reunion are supporters of President Obama just because they’re African-American.

For someone who shows as much an interest in history as he does, hearing Mr. Brooks pronounce that “It’s not about race” is to ignore the four hundred years of history of race relations in this country (especially since Mr. Brooks was jogging through a city that was once as segregated as any Alabama bus depot in 1955), and to find an equivalency between these protests and those that we saw during the Bush administration is fatuous. There are extremists on both sides of the aisle, but try as he might, Mr. Brooks cannot cite any case where a Democratic member stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and called into question Mr. Bush’s birth certificate, or any governor of a state that raised the prospect of secession because they objected to the implementation of Medicare Part D or the warrantless wiretapping of citizens of their state.

And the knee-jerk reaction against those who suggest that there is a racist element in some of the attacks — Obama as a witch doctor or “Barack the Magic Negro” come to mind — tells me that those folks are awfully quick deny it without even examining what was said and who said it. Anybody who took an introductory class in psychology — or proctored a middle school study hall — knows a guilty conscience when they see it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Short Takes

A version of cap-and-trade passed the House.

Iranian leaders threaten the protester with the death penalty.

Don’t give them any ideas; China, Cuba, and Burma block videos of the demonstrations in Tehran.

Indefinite detention? I thought we were done with that.

Sanford won’t resign because King David — the one from the bible — didn’t quit over his affair with Bathsheba. (In the bible, though, David had Bathsheba’s husband killed….)

Part-Time Job: Florida AG Bill McCollum and Republican candidate for governor has spent an average of 22 hours a week on the job over the last couple of months.

Good Career Move?
— In death, Michael Jackson is more popular than ever.

Eight is too much; Tigers lose to Houston and their winning streak ends at seven.

Saturday Morning Video: Captain Spalding, the African explorer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Short Takes

Deadly — Seven people have died in the protests in Iran over the election.

Meanwhile, there are signs of fraud in the election, but no hard evidence.

Not Cheap — Health care reform will cost money.

“Vigorous enforcement” will be used to confront North Korean ships thought to be shipping nuclear weapons.

Marriage equality becomes more likely in D.C.

California’s budget woes worsen. (Isn’t this how they got rid of Gray Davis?)

Broward County schools lay off nearly 400 teachers.

The “Cuban Five” lose their appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Tigers were idle last night; head to St. Louis next.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Short Takes

- Attacks on Gaza continue amid rising tensions. Steve Benen:

One of the many things that makes the Israeli/Palestinian conflict so utterly dispiriting is that it’s impossible to think of anything good coming of any of this. Worse than that, it’s hard to imagine that even the people involved think anything good will come of it.

- Almost 1 in 10 Floridians is on food stamps.

In the last two years, the number of Floridians on food stamps has increased more than 40 percent to 1.7 million. That increase is the highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And it’s the second-largest jump in the state’s history, surpassed only during the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, said an analyst at the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington-based think tank.”

- Unsafe at Work: OSHA under the Bush administration has caved to industry pressure in the enforcement of workplace safety regulations.

- Peter Yarrow is Not Happy: The composer of “Puff, the Magic Dragon” speaks out on the RNC’s parody of his song and the distribution of it by Chip Saltsman, who is running to be the next chair of the RNC.

- Virginity Pledges Don’t Work. No kidding. Did anyone really think that a pinky-swear to Jesus and a piece of jewelry would calm the raging hormones of two sixteen-year-olds necking in the back of their family minivan behind the Tastee-Freez on a hot night in July? What’s worse is that they don’t use condoms because as everyone knows, rubbers make the Baby Jesus cry. Actually, not using rubbers makes the baby, period.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Fragile Peace Movement

It sounds like a blast from the past.

Here in Florida, outrage at the war often manifests itself in small, fragile, highly personal ways. And sometimes it’s a lonely business.

A Unitarian preacher in Fort Myers spends his evenings marching and dodging pro-war insults; in Ocala, a former foreign-service officer sits home writing letters to newspapers against the war and protests on a busy highway; a former Iraq War soldier and conscientious objector in Sarasota meditates and marches to take away the pain of an unsettled world; a mother and daughter in Tampa whose son and brother once served in Iraq organize monthly protests; a sophomore at a small Miami university, new to activism, battles frustration as he tries to mobilize other students.

Though fewer than the hundreds of thousands who organized four decades ago during the mired conflict of Vietnam, today’s peace advocates also are no longer content merely to worry about, pray for and support the young men and women whose lives now have been thrust into danger.

Other comparisons with Vietnam are inevitable. In that war and this one, the public was at first largely supportive, then grew weary as more and more money was spent, and more and more soldiers came home in boxes. In both cases, protesters campaigned against a government they felt was uncompromising in its stance.

But the contrasts are also stark.

The number of U.S. casualties in Iraq so far is less than 10 percent of those in Vietnam, which over 17 years topped out at 58,000.

Vietnam protesters, angered by the war and the draft, were a highly energized, highly dramatic group whose leaders took on rock-star qualities and whose demonstrations, often on college campuses, became the cause du jour. They burned draft cards, occupied public spaces, and, led by firebrand Abbie Hoffman, once unsuccessfully tried to levitate the Pentagon through psychic energy. The era’s most tragic standoff was four days of demonstrations at Kent State University in 1970 that included the burning of an ROTC building and the shooting deaths of four students.

There are a couple of other differences that I’ve noticed between the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era and today. For one thing, there is no draft so that young men, regardless of their feelings about the military in general or the war in specific, were not being called up to serve involuntarily. That has removed the immediacy and the sometimes randomness of the question for some people about whether or not this is a just cause for which to go to war.

In a larger sense, though, the protests against the war in Vietnam were more passionate and widespread not just because of the higher number of deaths but because for the first time in our history, many Americans did not believe that the war we were fighting in Asia was worth our blood and treasure, and there was an overriding feeling that our own government had lied about the circumstances that got us into the war and exaggerated the threat to our own national interest to get us into the war. The outrage that many people felt about this was fresh in 1964, especially since we had, less than twenty years before, fought and won what was seen as a “good” war against Fascism. We felt as if we could not trust our own government to tell us the truth. And while skepticism about the government is inbred in the American psyche, to realize that it had happened on such a massive scale and at such a great cost resulted in the outrage that gave us the peace movement and the dissent that polarized the nation and led to the downfall of a president.

Today, more’s the pity, we acknowledge this deception and shrug it off as just one more awful truth about the people we’ve chosen to lead us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Sippy Cup Update

NTodd brings us up to date on the Sippy Cup Revolt.

I want to say a few more things about this, particularly because I’ve seen plenty of comments saying essentially, “golly, I saw the videos, she was a brat and the TSA was right to humiliate and harass her.” I’m a frequent traveler and certainly get annoyed by people who still are shocked by the security restrictions even after all the news coverage and checkpoint signs and audio announcements blaring instructions about shoes, laptops, toiletries, etc. Still, not everybody flies a lot and who in their right mind would think that a sippy cup full of water would cause a major dustup?

Oddly, the TSA video only shows the EXIT, meaning what people are seeing came AFTER Emmerson had already was challenged about the water and had offered to drink the Dangerous Water contained in the Sippy Cup of Doom. Anywayz, everywhere I’ve been when some offending substance has been found–I’ve forgotten water bottles buried in my laptop case a few times–TSA offers to let you drink it or pitch it. So really there’s no reason to escort the woman and her freaking child (clearly upset in the videos they did share) out of security.

Whether she spilled the water out of nerves as she claims, or dumped it deliberately–which it does, in fact, appear to be the case since she shook the cup and then moved to go back through the exit (that’s a big nono)–is quite frankly irrelevant. She should not have been put in that position by TSA, and her infraction did not warrant calling over a bike cop and every other goddamned agent in the vicinity to watch her frantically clean up the spill as her child is wandering off.

All this does is illustrate the heights of insanity in our so-called security policy and just what lengths TSA will go to so we’ll feel threatened by their Mighty Authority.

I will say that my encounters with TSA personnel have always been polite and professional, but then, I’ve never had to deal with a toddler squirming in my arms.

And I can’t help but think that it’s emblematic of the Big Government mindset that the front line in their fevered-up GWOT has to be manned by people who are paid a low wage and have to face any number of people who are being herded through a process that many find unsettling and intimidating — which may be the point. The authorities have done nothing to make the process less intimidating, as if the sight of a phalanx of people in uniform reciting orders and looking at x-ray monitors would deter a terrorist.

So far no one has been able to prove that any of the horrific plans the whack-jobs had in mind when they boarded the planes with their deadly jars of Dippity-Do had any basis in scientific or logistic reality. Yet we dutifully jump through the hoops because, gosh, just like the air-raid wardens told my dad in Minneapolis in 1943, you can never tell when a Jap dive bomber might drop a load on the Foshay Tower because he didn’t close his blackout curtains all the way.

And I also can’t help but think that this whole attitude about dealing with perceived threats from shoes and hair gel bottles isn’t just some ploy to remind the population that we really are at war, which comes in handy around, oh, say, election time.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Common Sense

One of the things I can’t wait for when this administration leaves office is the slight chance that whoever follows will do something to remove the climate of fear and intimidation that has been enabled and encouraged by their exploitation of terror as a means of control over the average citizen. To wit: the story of the mommy and her son’s sippy cup going through TSA screening at National Airport in Washington, D.C.

If you travel enough, you’ve seen it all — and possibly some of the awful things that can happen while traveling will have actually happened to you. But nothing I’ve read about or experienced comes close to what Monica Emmerson experienced while at Reagan National Airport on June 11th while traveling with her 19-month-old toddler. This isn’t one of those Catch-22 bureaucratic snafus; this isn’t about rules being applied to the letter. This story is mostly about what can happen simply because the authorities in charge decide that they’re going to exercise their authority because they can, regardless of whether it’s legal or right or makes any sense at all.

NTodd, who travels a lot and who tipped me off to this story, suggests that we all join the movement started by Dirk Gently, patterned after Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant to arm every traveler with a sippy cup:

Want to make a statement about the absurdity of Airport Security, but don’t really want to be detained and arrested for looking crosswise at some power-mad TSA agent? Why not join the Great Sippy Cup Anti-Massacre Movement.

It’s simple. Buy a sippy cup. Leave it in its packaging so it is totally harmless and beyond suspicion. Every time you take a commercial flight, carry the cup through security and on to the plane. That’s it.

Image One person carrying a sippy cup. One person. No one will even notice.

Image two people. Two people walking through security with pre-packaged sippy cups. They won’t think it’s gay – they won’t stop either one of them.

Imagine – just image – fifty people. Fifty people in a row carrying sippy cups, putting them through the x-ray machine and boarding their planes. They might just think it’s a movement. And that’s what it is.

The Great Sippy Cup Anti-Massacre Movement. It only costs about $1.79 (the price of a cup) to join. And, feel free to copy the Sippy Cup Movement logo onto your own blogs and websites. We can make our voices heard in safe, no uncertain terms. What have you got to lose?

As we used to say back in the day, “Right On!”