Friday, August 22, 2014

170.8 - Outrage of the Week: Barack Obama and war powers

Outrage of the Week: Barack Obama and war powers

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

There is a great deal of news coming out of Iraq but I'm not, at least not this week, going to spend any significant time talking about it, partly because it's one of those situations such that whatever I say could be obsolete by the time you hear it.

But I am going to address one narrow point and it is the Outrage of the Week.

On August 7, Barack Obama authorized US airstrikes on ISIS military targets. The purpose, we were told, was to support Kurdish forces trying to hold off ISIS and to protect Yazidi refugees trapped in the mountains in northern Iraq, refugees that ISIS regards as "devil worshippers" worthy of death. There were 14 strikes in the first four days.

Meanwhile, the Amazing Mr. O has authorized the deployment of 130 additional military advisers to northern Iraq, bringing the total number of US advisers in Iraq to over 400. Secretary of War Chuck Hagel insists "This is not a combat boots on the ground kind of operation," but considering these additional "advisers" include Marines and special operations forces, the difference between "combat troops" and "advisers" may be much more semantic than real.

As columnist Doyle McManus at the LA Times wrote,
[e]ven without American boots on the ground, Obama has entered the United States in its fourth Iraq war. It won't be over quickly. As the president said, this is going to be a long-term project.
And boots on the ground may be in the future: The Wall Street Journal reports that the military is weighing a mission in Iraq to rescue the thousands of Yazidi refugees, a move that would risk putting American forces in a direct confrontation with ISIS fighters.

The paper says the proposal is still under development and hasn't been approved by Obama, adding the military calls it just one of "many" options. Perhaps so, but that still means it's an option.

Okay, that's the news, or at least the part of it involving US military forces.

So here's the question: In all of that, in all the coverage, in all the discussions of sorties and plans being weighed and "no combat troops" press releases, in all of that was there any discussion, any word about, the authority to do any of this?

Where is Obama's authority to start dropping bombs in Iraq? Where is his authority to undertake military missions? Where would be his authority to send us ground troops into Iraq for any reason, humanitarian or otherwise? Where is his authority to get us into our fourth Iraq war?

Note that this has nothing to do with whether you think what he's doing is a good idea or not. It has nothing to do with whether you think a rescue mission for the Yazidis is a good or a bad idea. It has to do with his implicit claims of constitutional authority to send the US military anywhere he wants, any time he wants, on any mission he wants, seemingly in any numbers he wants, without needing any approval from Congress.

And not only is he claiming that power, we have a Congress and a media that apparently are content to let him have it. And that is to me and should be to you, frightening. I have to ask yet again: Mr. President, just who the hell do you think you are? Because what you are doing Is. An. Outrage.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.13wmaz.com/story/news/local/robins-air-force-base/2014/08/12/iraq-airstrikes-effects-limited/13941133/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazidi
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/12/advisers-sent-northern-iraq-help-plan-refugee-evacuation/13970545/
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mcmanus-iraq-20140813-column.html
http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-weighs-international-rescue-mission-for-yazidi-refugees-1407881639

170.7 - RIP: Robin Williams

RIP: Robin Williams

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

Just a brief RIP, not because you need to be informed but just because I wanted to mention it.

Robin Williams has died, an apparent suicide. He was 63.

I'm not going to say anything about his life or his career because there is more than enough of that available all over the media that will tell you more and in much more detail than I could possibly cover.

I will say that I first became aware of him, as a lot of other folks did, in the sitcom "Mork and Mindy." I remember giving my wife my one-sentence review of the show: "The show is stupid but he's terrific." I also recall thinking later that Pam Dawber was under-appreciated in the role of keeping him in check and the plot moving - plus keeping a straight face when he started ad-libbing. She didn't always succeed at that part.

And one little bit of trivia which you may not know: His opening monologue in "Good Morning, Vietnam" was entirely ad-libbed and in fact he did it several times until he was satisfied.

There were of course the stupid reactions, such as Rush Limburger saying Williams committed suicide because of his "leftist world view" because "leftists are never happy" and one article that was supposed to be serious, telling people to avoid "triggers for depression," most of which were things like "financial worries," "losing a job," losing someone in you life," "being under stress," and "being sick" - like those situations were conscious choices you made which could be avoided simply by deciding to do so: "Oh, I don't want to get depressed over money troubles, so I've decided to be rich." Or "I don't want the stress of illness, that might make me depressed. So I've decided to never get sick."

Depression is easy to misunderstand. Because everybody gets depressed, everybody gets blue from time to time - but that's just not the same as true depression, clinical depression. You've undoubtedly heard the expression about being "so low you have to reach up to touch bottom." You need to know there are worse places, places where there is no bottom and you feel you will sink forever. The damning thing about depression is that unlike other conditions where you can at least, if nothing else, imagine yourself getting better, you can conceive of getting better, with depression that's not true: You don't see an end, you feel you will never get better, it will never be better. It becomes a constant battle to keep on going.

Robin Williams fought that battle for years. He fought it with booze, he fought it with drugs, he fought it with therapy, he fought it with comedy. But ultimately, it was a battle that he lost. And as a result, we have lost as well.

RIP, Robin Williams.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/11/robin-williams-dead-dies_n_5670050.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/12/moments-we-feel-in-love-with-robin-williams_n_5670305.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/12/rush-limbaugh-robin-williams_n_5673626.html

170.6 - Guns: but this is

Guns: but this is

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

A couple more things related to the issue of guns.

One is that there was a bit of good news in that on Tuesday, August 12, US District Judge Catherine Blake ruled that Maryland's gun control law is constitutional.

The law, called the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, was passed in reaction to the massacre of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. It is one of the strictest in the country, including banning 45 assault weapons and limiting gun magazines to no more than 10 rounds.

The law makes it illegal to manufacture, possess, sell, offer to sell, transfer, purchase, or receive any type of assault firearm. Punishment for breaking that law can be three years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

The gun nuts, of course, argued that this was a terrible, horrible, awful intrusion on their sacred 2nd Amendment rights, but the state successfully countered that that law focused on firearms used in mass shootings and so helped to protect the public.

And in fact, that good news may be less surprising than we think: Although it seems we hear a near-constant drumbeat of this restriction being you'll pardon the expression shot down and that one being overturned and the NRA getting this and gaining that, that may be more rhetoric and media fog than reality.

First, recall that District of Columbia v. Heller was the 2008 Supreme Court decision that for the first time in US history found that the 2nd Amendment included an individual right to a gun unconnected to militia service. In his new book called The Second Amendment, A Biography, Michael Waldman, who is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, argues that even since Heller, courts have upheld nearly all gun rules, finding that yes, individuals have a right to a gun, but society has the right to protect itself, too. So, as Waldman advises, we have to keep on keepin' on and not give up: the gun nuts didn't.

Which indirectly raises something else I want to mention, just because.

Something that always strikes me funny is when the guns nuts decry any legislation putting any restrictions on their toys as violating the rights of "law-abiding gun owners." If your state, as Maryland did, passes a ban on some type of assault rifle and you keep one - you are not law-abiding! A change in a law cannot violate the rights of "law-abiding gun owners" because the very term "law-abiding" is defined by what the law is. It's not defined by some special quality of your personality ("I'm law-abiding") but by what the law is and whether or not you follow it. So please, no more "law-abiding" crap - being law-abiding is the very least we can expect of you.

And one last thing, just as an observation: Rep. Thomas Marino of Pennsylvania has in the past received an "A" rating from the NRA. A few weeks ago, one of his staffers, Ryan Shucard, was arrested for trying to carry a pistol into the Cannon House Office Building, one of the buildings holding offices for members of the House. Because while the NRA flunkies in Congress are happy to see guns everywhere, happy to see them in stores, schools, parks, trains and buses, love to have people packing heat everywhere they go, they are equally delighted for it to be a felony to try to carry a gun into the place where they work.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/12/us-usa-guncontrol-maryland-idUSKBN0GC1U620140812
http://www.chron.com/news/us/article/Federal-judge-upholds-Maryland-gun-control-law-5684255.php
http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/live_at_politics/2014/07/michael_waldman_discusses_his_new_book_the_second_amendment_a_biography.html
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/capitol-hill-staffer-charged-felony-carrying-gun
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/ryan-shucard-tom-marino-press-secretary-arrested-109100.html

170.5 - Guns: this is not about guns

Guns: this is not about guns

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

A brief story about guns which isn't about guns.

Earlier this month, residents of Aurora, Colorado, scene of 2012's deadly rampage by James Holmes, called 911 because they were concerned about a young man walking around with a shotgun.

Police approached the person, who turned out to be 18-year-old Steve Lohner. When asked why he’s carrying a shotgun, he says it's "for the defense of myself and those around me." (Superhero fantasize much?)

He says he's 18, the minimum legal age for owning a gun in Colorado, but when asked to produce ID to prove his age, he refuses and argues with the cops, insisting he doesn't have to because he has done nothing wrong. He also refuses to hand over the gun - which, by the way, was loaded.

The end result was that Lohner, who says he’s on a mission to make people more comfortable about guns, is cited on a misdemeanor obstruction charge for refusing to show his identification.

Several days later, a shopper in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, called 911 to report a man with a gun in the store.

The police approached 22-year-old John Crawford in an aisle in the toy section. He was holding a gun - a toy one. Police claim it was a BB rifle. They demanded he "drop the weapon." He responded "It's not real" - so they shot him to death.

In both cases you had someone calling 911 about a young man with a gun. The similarities end there.

In the first, you had someone with a loaded shotgun; in the second, you had someone with an unloaded BB gun.

In the first, you had someone who argued with the cops, refused to show ID, refused to yield up the weapon; in the second, you had someone who had no chance to argue, was never asked for ID, and was given perhaps a couple of seconds to give up the gun or else.

In the first, you had someone who walked away with what amounts to not much more than a traffic ticket and still holding the gun; in the second you had a man bleeding to death on the floor.

And there was one other difference. This is Steve Lohner:










This is John Crawford:











And if you are in any way surprised by that - you shouldn't be.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/03/teen-totes-shotgun-through-town-still-shaken-by-mass-murder-because-2nd-amendment/
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/08/cops-gun-down-ohio-man-holding-toy-rifle-in-walmart-like-he-was-not-even-human/

170.4 - Clown Award: Coca-Cola

Clown Award: Coca-Cola

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

Now for the Clown Award, given weekly for an act of meritorious stupidity. This week, the winner of the Big Red Nose is the Coca-Cola company.

To understand why you need some background. There is real controversy over the choice of Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup, described, quite reasonably, as the world's largest sporting event.

Even if you go beyond the allegations of corruption and bribery in the selection process, there are the facts surrounding the medieval conditions in which the migrant workers who are building the stadiums are forced to live.

For one thing, they are paid about L6 (about $10) per day - when they get paid, that is: Some of them have not been paid in more than a year. They are squeezed seven to a room, sleeping on thin, dirty mattresses on the floor and on bunk beds, in breach of Qatar's own labor standards. They live in constant fear of arrest and imprisonment - and some have been arrested and imprisoned - because they have no paperwork ever since the contractor on the project, Lee Trading and Contracting, collapsed. They are, that is, "undocumented workers." As a result, some are now being exploited to the point of being paid as little as 50p - about 83 cents - an hour.

The work is dangerous enough and the conditions bad enough that it has been estimated that 4,000 workers will die before a single ball is kicked.

The workers can't even leave: Even if one of them somehow had the money to go, they can't leave the country without the permission of the government and their employer.

Enter Coca-Cola, which is one of the major international corporate sponsors of the World Cup. Noting that for these workers, a phone call home can cost as much as 91 cents a minute while also saying the average income for these workers is about $6 a day, the company put together this supposedly feel-good commercial called "Hello Happiness," featuring workers using a Coke-designed phone booth where one Coke plastic bottle cap pays for a 3-minute international phone call.

The tagline to the commercial is "Happiness is a Coca-Cola and a phone call home." There is of course no mention of how much you have to pay to get the bottle of Coke to get the cap or of how much more soda the company expects to sell as a result of this.

But beyond that, set against a backdrop of corruption, bribery, exploitation, death, and what amounts to modern slavery, the executives and ad managers of the Coca-Cola corporation have decided that all people really need is a bottle of Coke and a phone call and everything is fine. Which is either inhumanly callous or - and you have to hope this is the reason because it's the better alternative - an example of missing the point on a truly galactic scale.

In either event, Coca-Cola: You are a clown.

Sources cited in links:
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/heat-rises-corruption-allegations-qatar-world-cup-bid/story?id=24514478
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jul/28/qatar-world-cup-migrants-not-paid-building-office
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/plight-of-qatar-world-cup-workers-to-be-highlighted-at-cork-festival-1.1879699
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/29/1317559/-Coca-Cola-makes-feel-good-commercial-about-modern-slavery
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlA9tXYxD8g

170.3 - Hero Award: commuters in Perth, Australia

Hero Award: commuters in Perth, Australia

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

Next up, we have one of our occasional features, the Hero Award, given as the occasion arises to people who just do the right thing on a matter big or small.

This time, the Award goes to a whole bunch of people: commuters in Perth, Australia.

One of my lasting memories of the first time I went to the UK was riding the underground and hearing the announcement at every stop to "mind the gap," the space between the car and the platform.

Well, last week, a man in Perth, Australia got reminded of the importance of that warming. He was boarding a subway train near the end of rush hour and as he stood by the door, his foot slipped and his leg got trapped between the car and the platform.

A passenger getting on behind him immediately called out to station personnel, who alerted the driver so the train wouldn't move and possibly take his leg off.

So what happened next? Scores of passengers, together with staff at the station, got together and managed to tilt the car enough for the man to free his leg.

It was pure people-power.

The other thing that got me was that when they got him out, there were a couple of people who applauded and several grins, but nobody was puffing their chest or high-fiving everyone in sight - it was like "this guy is stuck, let's get him out, okay, we got him out, cool, let's get on with our day." They didn't make some huge thing out of it.

Which is a second reason why you morning commuters at Stirling Underground station in Perth, Australia, you are heroes.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-06/man-freed-after-leg-trapped-in-gap-on-perth-train-station/5652486

170.2 - Not Good News: Marriage justice finally loses one

Not Good News: Marriage justice finally loses one

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

On the other hand, we have some not good news on this front.

After United States v. Windsor, the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, advocates of marriage justice saw a string of more than two dozen victories in state and federal courts.

But now we've lost one.

It came in a state court, in Tennessee, where Judge Russell Simmons upheld Tennessee's ban on recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. He insisted that "neither the federal government nor another state should be allowed to dictate to Tennessee what has traditionally been a state’s responsibility." Which is the argument generally adopted by the minorities in the cases so far, although I'm still unclear on what basis they argue that a state's authority overrides that of the federal constitution; "tradition" just won't cut it.

Still, legal analysts say a single state court decision is unlikely to affect the federal court rulings, where the victory string remains unbroken.

So far.

All along, advocates for marriage equality have been bracing themselves for an inevitable loss, figuring it had to come sooner or later. And it looks like "sooner or later" might be on its way: Based on analysis of oral arguments, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, may be ready to break the string: Two of the three-judge panel sounded skeptical about the idea that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. One of them even declared that "I’d have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process," echoing the anti-constitutional and quite bluntly un-American argument that is always used to oppose civil rights suits: You do not actually have rights; what you have is the approval of the majority.

Still, even a loss in the Sixth Circuit could prove to be a benefit because having different circuit courts reach different decisions could speed up the time when the Supreme Court would take up the issue in order to resolve the conflict.

Then, of course, it gets tricky. There are four solid reactionary votes against marriage justice on that bench, there are four reliable votes in support of it - and there is Anthony Kennedy. He authored the Windsor decision, in which he seemed to only reluctantly come to the conclusion that a "traditional state role" of dealing with marriage had to fall to the rights of same-sex couples. Faced with the issue not of federal benefits for same-sex couples, which was the issue in Windsor, but the issue of same-sex marriage itself, who's to say he wouldn't look for a way to punt and say it should be left to the states.

On the other hand, in Kennedy's time on the Supreme Court, there have been three landmark civil rights cases that helped to advance LGBT rights: Romer v. Evans in 1996, which struck down a Colorado constitutional amendment that had banned laws protecting gay men and lesbians; Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, which struck down sodomy laws that effectively made gay sex a crime; and the Windsor decision. Kennedy authored all three.

As MSNBC reporter Adam Serwer asked, "In some sense, it’s his life’s work. What are the chances that when he has the opportunity, he’s not going to want to finish it?"

So even there, there is a fair amount of hope.

Sources cited in links:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/tennessee-judge-ends-gay-marriage-winning-streak
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/same-sex-marriage-advocates-could-lose-one?google_editors_picks=true
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/us/surprising-friend-of-gay-rights-in-a-high-place.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

170.1 - Good News: marriage justice advances

Good News: marriage justice advances

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

Let's start with some good news, yes?

In 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court decision which struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriages as unconstitutional. The court found that the state "has failed to advance a compelling state interest justifying its definition of marriage as between only a man and a woman."

Writing for the majority, Judge Henry Floyd said that personal opposition to same-sex marriage is not a legitimate legal basis for banning it. "Inertia and apprehension," he wrote, and I love that line, "Inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws. The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual's life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society."

The jurisdiction of the 4th Circuit Court includes three other states besides Virginia with similar bans: North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

In reaction to that decision, in one of those states, North Carolina, the state attorney general declared he would no longer defend his state's ban in court, arguing that with the 4th Circuit decision, an appeal of North Carolina's law, which is essentially the same as Virginia's, would "almost certainly" fail.

To add to the good news, on August 13 the court refused to stay the effect of the order pending a possible appeal to the Supreme Court. Same-sex marriages could begin in Virginia as soon as this week.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/28/virginia-gay-marriage_n_5627524.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/28/north-carolina-gay-marriage_n_5628129.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/13/virginia-gay-marriage_n_5675326.html

Left Side of the Aisle #170




Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of August 14-20, 2014

FORGIVE THE LATENESS OF THIS; THERE WERE SOME TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

This week:

Good News: marriage justice advances
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/28/virginia-gay-marriage_n_5627524.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/28/north-carolina-gay-marriage_n_5628129.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/13/virginia-gay-marriage_n_5675326.html

Not Good News: Marriage justice finally loses one
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/tennessee-judge-ends-gay-marriage-winning-streak
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/same-sex-marriage-advocates-could-lose-one?google_editors_picks=true
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/02/us/surprising-friend-of-gay-rights-in-a-high-place.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Hero Award: commuters in Perth, Australia
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-06/man-freed-after-leg-trapped-in-gap-on-perth-train-station/5652486

Clown Award: Coca-Cola
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/heat-rises-corruption-allegations-qatar-world-cup-bid/story?id=24514478
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jul/28/qatar-world-cup-migrants-not-paid-building-office
http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/plight-of-qatar-world-cup-workers-to-be-highlighted-at-cork-festival-1.1879699
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/29/1317559/-Coca-Cola-makes-feel-good-commercial-about-modern-slavery
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlA9tXYxD8g

Guns: this is not about guns
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/03/teen-totes-shotgun-through-town-still-shaken-by-mass-murder-because-2nd-amendment/
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/08/cops-gun-down-ohio-man-holding-toy-rifle-in-walmart-like-he-was-not-even-human/

Guns: but this is
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/12/us-usa-guncontrol-maryland-idUSKBN0GC1U620140812
http://www.chron.com/news/us/article/Federal-judge-upholds-Maryland-gun-control-law-5684255.php
http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/live_at_politics/2014/07/michael_waldman_discusses_his_new_book_the_second_amendment_a_biography.html
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/capitol-hill-staffer-charged-felony-carrying-gun
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/ryan-shucard-tom-marino-press-secretary-arrested-109100.html

RIP: Robin Williams
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/11/robin-williams-dead-dies_n_5670050.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/12/moments-we-feel-in-love-with-robin-williams_n_5670305.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/12/rush-limbaugh-robin-williams_n_5673626.html

Outrage of the Week: Barack Obama and war powers
http://www.13wmaz.com/story/news/local/robins-air-force-base/2014/08/12/iraq-airstrikes-effects-limited/13941133/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazidi
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/12/advisers-sent-northern-iraq-help-plan-refugee-evacuation/13970545/
http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mcmanus-iraq-20140813-column.html
http://online.wsj.com/articles/u-s-weighs-international-rescue-mission-for-yazidi-refugees-1407881639

Saturday, August 09, 2014

169.5 - Nonviolence and Me, Part 5

Nonviolence and Me, Part 5

[This week's show was one long discussion of my commitment to nonviolence. For ease of reading, I have broken it into five parts, this being the fifth.]


I can understand the lure of violence. I can. With violence, more than with nonviolence, you can feel that you're doing something. You can see a result of an action. For an example, we need look no further than Israel and the Palestinians. I'm quite sure that every time Hamas or some other militant group fires a rocket into southern Israel, it feels like they are striking a blow against the oppressor - even though after decades of violence against Israelis they are no closer to justice or a homeland of their own.

Israelis, for their part, no doubt feel that the incursions in the West Bank and the slaughter in Gaza are landing telling blows against the "threat" - even though after decades of violence against Palestinians they are no closer to security or peace.

Violence has clearly failed for both antagonists, yet neither seems willing or even able to realize it.

So it’s simply not true that there’s "no choice," even less that the only choice is between murderous violence and passivity. There is a choice: the choice of seeking to preserve life rather than destroy it, to think in terms of "we" rather than "us versus them," to control conflict rather than to "cry havoc," to, in short, struggle to achieve just ends while minimizing the suffering of opponents rather than maximizing the suffering of "enemies." That is the choice of nonviolence and nonviolent action. It is nonviolence, not violence, which eschews hate and fear and thereby offers our best - ultimately, our only - hope for long-term peace and justice.

Most, I fully realize, including most of you watching, find that hopelessly romantic. I find it eminently practical. Not only because, as Edmund Burke said, "a conscientious man should be cautious in how he deals in blood," but because, as a Life magazine editorial put it in the issue of August 20, 1945,
our sole safeguard against the very real danger of a reversion to barbarism is the kind of morality which compels the individual conscience, be the group right or wrong...There is no other way.
There is no other way.

169.4 - Nonviolence and Me, Part 4

Nonviolence and Me, Part 4

[This week's show was one long discussion of my commitment to nonviolence. For ease of reading, I have broken it into five parts, this being the fourth.]


Consider these quotes:
Those who organized this provocation deliberately desired a further aggravation of the international situation by striving to smear us, sow hostility towards us, and cast aspersions on our peace-loving policies.
Something said by, who, I don't know, maybe the rebels in Ukraine? Or maybe about those rebels? Neither. It’s from a TASS wire service dispatch, September 3, 1983. It’s about the US.
...to save the freedom of the world, to save liberty, to save the honor of women and children, everyone who loves freedom and honor, everyone who puts principle before ease and life itself before mere living, is banded in a great crusade - we cannot deny it - to kill Muslims, to kill them not for the sake of killing but to save the world...to kill them lest the civilization of the world itself be killed.
Other than being blunter than most, is this truly different from many sentiments expressed during our so-called War on Terror? But in the original version, "Muslims" was "Germans," and the quote is from a sermon preached by the Bishop of London during World War I.
We concur in considering [them] ...as totally without morality, insolent beyond bearing, inflated with vanity and ambition aiming at the exclusive domination of the world, lost in corruption, of deep-rooted hatred toward us, hostile to liberty wherever it endeavors to show its head, and the eternal disturber of the peace of the world.
The style may be stilted, but I'd defy anyone to tell me any fundamental difference between these sentiments and those directed against Hamas to justify the attack on Gaza - or, for that matter, any different from those directed against Jews by any number of anti-Semites across the ages. But the year was 1815, the speaker was President Thomas Jefferson, and the "them" in question was Great Britain.

It's always the same. Every time, the same arguments are trotted out. "They" are evil, immoral, corrupt, cruel; "they" can’t be trusted; "they" understand only force; "they" don’t respect human life the way we do; it’s sad, but "they" have given us no choice; blah, blah, and more blah, as we go about convincing ourselves that "they" are "other," are fundamentally different, and when we kill them - except we don't, do we, no, instead we "secure targets" and "achieve objectives" and "deny the enemy resources" - and when we kill them we imagine that there are none left behind to mourn, for the "other" has no wife or husband, no sons or daughters, no sisters or brothers, no parents, no aunts or uncles or grandparents or cousins or friends or neighbors or colleagues or co-workers, they are merely an instrumentality of the enemy, denied their humanity so they may be denied their life, because "they" are "other" and so not really "alive," not like "we" are.

It has been charged that nonviolence gives "fear and hatred an opportunity to triumph." Well, I say that with murderous violence, fear and hatred always triumph. I say that might does not make right. I say that the ends do not justify the means - which, no matter how many colors are cast on it, is still the primer under the entire argument - but they are affected by them.

I say that humanity cannot be conveniently divided into our friends, the victimized innocents, and our foes, the venal infidels. That war solves no problems except as it replaces them with new ones; that mass murder does not bring any peace except that of the graveyard; that hatreds do not produce love; that a river of blood, no matter how thick, deep, wide, or red, does not, cannot, will not mark the path to justice. Because justice must be justice for "them" as well as for "us," for "enemy" the same as for "friend," or it's not justice at all but mere favoritism.

Ultimately, I agree with Gandhi's statement that "the only thing worse than violence is cowardly refusal to act in the face of injustice. But nonviolent action is always superior to violent action."

Contrary to the underlying, unspoken conviction of those who, despite their claims to the contrary, do endorse mass violence, pacifism does not mean passivity and nonviolence does not mean non-action; they do not involve, as I was once accused of advocating, allowing ourselves to "get butchered" in order to "be morally superior."

Let me be clear: I believe we are responsible for that which we approve, and that applies to me as much as to others; perhaps more so because I make the choice so consciously. I know the course I've chosen carries risks, that nonviolent action isn't "safe," that it may (and for some in some circumstances surely would) involve risking one's life, and that the greatest risk is that of failure, of seeing injustice ascendant.

But every one of those risks applies equally strongly to violent action, which carries the added risks, risks so often realized they're less risks than a process, of destroying that which you say you'd save and of becoming that which you say you oppose.

Nonviolent action is not without risk, not without pain, not without suffering, and aggressive nonviolent techniques - such as economic sanctions - can put such pain and suffering on others, including innocents.

No, there are no ironclad guarantees of success, and yes, there would be losses as well as victories. But all of that - all of that, despite any romanticized notions to the contrary - is equally true of violence.

169.3 - Nonviolence and Me, Part 3

Nonviolence and Me, Part 3

[This week's show was one long discussion of my commitment to nonviolence. For ease of reading, I have broken it into five parts, this being the third.]


In fact, when do those looking to excuse the bloodshed for which they're responsible (or of which they tacitly or expressly approve) describe pacifism and nonviolence in terms other than "doctrinaire" or "knee-jerk" or other equally dismissive adjectives? When is the refusal to commit mass murder not brushed off as "hopelessly idealistic," always with the required sighs of regret, by those who imagine that both revolution and self-defense are marked by how many you kill rather than by how many you change - except, that is, for those times when a commitment to nonviolence is denounced as a tool of the ruling class?

And no, I need no lectures on the destructiveness of institutional violence, nor do I need to be reminded that it's easy for those of us not suffering under the yoke of an oppressor to urge the oppressed to foreswear murderous violence, especially when it is equally easy for us to embrace such violence as "necessary" or "liberating" when we do not have to live with blood and gore and shredded limbs and the shrieks of the wounded, writhing in pain, and the wails of the widows and the orphans and the cries of the parents holding their dead children while sitting among the smoking ruins of what had been their homes and fields.

That is the painful reality hidden behind that "necessity" of violence, a reality of tens - of hundreds - of millions around the world, past and present, abused by military power of one sort or another, almost if not always in the name of some supposed “higher purpose.” A reality of the real effect of real violence on real people.

As I said before, wars of one sort or another are now going on in who knows how many places, and in every one of them you can be damn sure that no one on any side has picked up a gun or dropped a bomb or fired a rocket or laid a mine or set a booby-trap without claiming to be on the side of the angels; no one has blown someone’s head off or burned a village to the ground or tortured a prisoner without claiming it’s in pursuit of “justice” or “freedom” or “self-defense” or the “glory of God” (or "Jesus" or “Allah” or whoever).

That’s the reality. Not musings about how you'd "prefer" nonviolence or about "self-defense" or, horribly, the "creative" aspects of violence. The reality, rather, of death, destruction, and despair in which everyone claims that they are the wounded innocents.

169.2 - Nonviolence and Me, Part 2

Nonviolence and Me, Part 2

[This week's show was one long discussion of my commitment to nonviolence. For ease of reading, I have broken it into five parts, this being the second.]


Being me, I had to see if I could intellectually justify my emotional reaction. So I read pamphlets on pacifism and nonviolence. I read books on pacifism and nonviolence. I read scientific articles on the psychology of violence, both individual violence and group violence. I read histories of nonviolent campaigns around the world, including both successful and unsuccessful ones. I read essays on the philosophy of government.

That is, being me, I had to see if I could make a logical case for deep morality, a logical case for conscience. It didn't have to be an airtight case, it didn't have to be of a sort that would convince everyone or even anyone else: Conscience is an intensely personal thing; recently on the show I called conscience "the most human of human rights."

But for me, for myself, my conviction about organized violence had to be based on something more than an emotional reaction, it had to be conscience rooted in something beyond itself. Again, it didn't have to be absolute proof but for me conscience had to have some logical foundation or at least logical support to stand on. You had to be able to make some kind of case.

Ultimately, I decided couldn't justify the full extent of emotional reaction, an extent that said I would never raise my hand against anyone no matter what, but I could justify the baseline conviction that large-scale organized violence cannot be right. Ever.

A big reason for that is that there are alternatives. There is extensive literature on the use of nonviolence, of nonviolent action, to achieve justice. Gandhi was just a small, even a tiny, part of that history. In fact, he credited Henry David Thoreau as one of his influences; one story says he had read Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience so many times that he had it memorized.

That essay, called "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience," was Thoreau's explanation of why he refused to pay a tax levy intended to help pay for the war with Mexico in 1848. These are my favorite lines from that essay, which I think present the core of the argument:
If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth ... but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.
This idea, this concept, of using nonviolent action, nonviolent resistance, as a means for working for justice, is not only ancient, it goes up to and includes nonviolent national defense - that is, defending the nation without an army.

But of course if you say this to anybody, if you argue that nonviolence is both a moral and a logical imperative, especially if you say it to politically-oriented or involved people, and especially when the issue at hand is a matter of justice or people resisting oppression (which is usually when it comes up), you will get the standard pushback of how "that would be nice but it won't work" or "nonviolence only works when everyone is ready to agree," often enough (in an odd twist on Godwin's law) including some reference to the supposedly self-evident absurdity of using nonviolence against Hitler.

And then after all that these same people will say how they'd prefer nonviolence, it's just, "y'know, it's naive, and y'know, I'm not glorifying violence you understand, of course not" and so forth and so on.

Well, of course such people are glorifying violence. They are glorifying violence as a - indeed, as the only reliable - means of self-defense and achieving justice. Indeed, the political philosopher Franz Fanon openly glorified violence itself, declaring not only that it was the only way for the colonized peoples of the world to be liberated but that it itself, that the very act of violence, was liberating.

The argument, stripped to its essence, is that nonviolence, well, yeah, it might work sometimes - but violence always does. Nonviolence can fail, but violence never does; just hasn't succeeded yet. The argument allows for no option under which violence fails, even less for one where violence fails but nonviolence succeeds. Even when the conflict goes on, as some in world have, for decades, in some - in too many - minds, including if not especially among those not directly affected, the thought "violence has failed" never seems to arise.

169.1 - Nonviolence and Me, Part 1

Nonviolence and Me, Part 1

[This week's show was one long discussion of my commitment to nonviolence. For ease of reading, I have broken it into five parts, this being the first.]

I have from time to time talked about my convictions - and here I don't mean judgments or opinions about issues, but about the baseline convictions that drive and inform those judgments. I think that everyone who does the kind of thing I do, who analyzes and comments on events, should do that so that people who see or read them can put what they say in a context.

I've talked about how I'm a green, a leftist, a radical, a democratic socialist and such. But there is something I haven't talked about much if at all that also is a moral conviction that informs my opinions and analyses: I am also a pacifist.

Which usually is something you say on TV when you want to lose viewers. But I hope you'll bear with me as I talk about that today.

This is why I bring it up now: I mentioned in the last show I did how I sometimes feel, as I put it although perhaps not originally, "the world is too much with me" and for a time - usually a short time - I'm just overwhelmed with an emotional awareness of the enormity of suffering in world: the hunger, poverty, oppression, exploitation, the homelessness, and how much of it is driven by war.

What got me started this time was news about fighting in Libya, where since the fall of Qaddafi the fighting has never really stopped. And I thought about the fact that I knew that at that moment there were wars of one sort of another going on in Libya, South Sudan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Somalia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and who knows how many more places - with some of those wars having gone on for decades, some of them with death tolls in the hundreds of thousands or even the millions.

Which in turn got me to remembering watching on TV the violence in the streets outside the Chicago Democratic convention in 1968 as police attacked antiwar protesters in what was later labeled "a police riot" by an investigating commission.

Watching that - I was young, a teenager, still at home, politically a good liberal who was finding it increasingly hard to maintain his patriotic support for the Vietnam war, or maybe by that time I had already turned against it, I'm not sure - anyway, the thing is, watching the events that night, events that were origination of the chant "the whole world watching," was my first exposure to actual violence. Not just kids fighting, not just schoolyard tussles, not the staged pretend violence of movies or TV, but actual violence. I still have a memory, an image of a cop with his club raised and his arm outstretched, chasing a long-haired kid down street, trying to catch him to beat him up.

Watching that, I had a visceral, gut reaction - I wrote later that "a reality of which I was somehow already aware was clubbed into eyes until I had to admit to it." I went to work the next day full of righteous liberal indignation only to discover a chorus from my co-workers of "the only thing the cops did wrong was not beat those punks harder."

I was so upset, I left work, I just walked out and walked home. I had there experienced violence for the second time - this was an emotional, a verbal violence, but still it was violence - and it changed me. Or, more likely, it just brought out what was already there. I don't know and it really doesn't matter.

I became in that moment what I later called an "emotional pacifist." That is, emotional in the sense that this was not the result of logical argument or thinking it through or whatever. It was a response of pure conscience: the utter clarity of "this cannot be right." That violence, particularly organized violence, is wrong. Period.

Left Side of the Aisle #169




Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of August 7-13, 2014

This week:

Nonviolence as part of my worldview
http://www.transcendentalists.com/civil_disobedience.htm
http://warprayer.org/

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Va-ca-TION! Va-ca-TION!

I mentioned on the show but neglected to mention here that I am taking a week off. "Left Side of the Aisle," my half-hour cable access (and YouTube) show has now appeared 168 times in 168 weeks and so a week off doesn't seem like too much to ask.

But to tide you over until next week, following are a few short notes on items that could have made the cut for this week's show had I done one.

~~~

First off, on the Good News front, two quick related bits, extra quick because I know I'll bring them up when I come back from vacation:

- On July 28, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals became the second appellate-level court to strike down a ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, upholding a lower-court decision to that end. The state involved here is Virginia.

- On the same day and in response to that ruling, the Attorney General of North Carolina said he would no longer defend his state's ban in same-sex marriage on the grounds that, since North Carolina is also in the 4th Circuit, the appeal of a district court ruling throwing out the ban would "almost certainly" fail.

~~~

Next up, the Clown Award.

- A likely recipient was Kentucky State Sen. Brandon Smith, who insisted that "I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here." (Give him a break, though: He only missed by some 76 degrees Celsius or 141 degrees Fahrenheit.)

He then responded to criticism - actually, well-deserved mockery - by calling the quote (which is on tape) "bogus" and claiming he meant to say something entirely different from what he said so get off his back, already - even though what he claims to meant to say is as dumb as what he actually did say.

- On the other hand, because it was both more recent and less-noted than that, I might have gone with Rand Paul, who make a speech to an unsurprisingly-thin crowd at a gathering of the National Urban League in which he said that TPers like him are minorities targeted for discrimination because of the "shade of their ideology."

 ~~~

I had two strong contenders for Outrage of the Week:

- One involved a woman, Debra Harrell, who was arrested for "child abandonment" because she let her nine-year-old child play in a well-populated public park while Harrell went to her job at McDonald's.

It could have been worse: McDonald's fired her - but later claimed it was a "misunderstanding" and she is back to work full time.

People in comments recalled their own related memories; mine is this one: At the age of about seven, I and my nine-year-old brother would walk a mile to the bus, take the bus into town, get a train to another town, and then walk a mile to our grandmother's house, where our parents would pick us up at the end of the day.

Yeah, yeah, I know, "times are different, look at this horrible story, you can't be too careful, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." But are times really that different? Is the danger not only really greater but SO much greater that we have to live in this state of perpetual terror? And yes, dammit, you can be "too careful."

- The other was learning that a third of US states enable money lenders, landlords, and the like to make an end run around the bans on debtors' prisons in the US by allowing people who claim other people owe them money to go to court to demand payment, so that if the debtor doesn't pay, they get sent to jail - but not for owing money, oh no, we don't do that sort of thing, but for violating a court order.

~~~

Finally, we have an Update to something discussed previously, in this case something that could be filed under Wish I'd Thought of That:

- The Satanic Church has struck a blow against the utter inanity of the Hobby Lobby decision, providing letters for women to use to declare that their religious beliefs exempt them from having to listed to the anti-abortion claptrap that a number of states require doctors to recite to women seeking the procedure.

Personally, I suspect that if this ever gets to SCOTUS, the foul five will declare this does not fall within the bounds of religious freedom, marking Hobby Lobby as what we knew it was all along: not just inane but religious bigotry that favors one sort of religious belief - conservative Christianity (including conservative Catholicism) - over others.

~~~

Sources cited in links:

Good News
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/28/virginia-gay-marriage_n_5627524.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/28/north-carolina-gay-marriage_n_5628129.html

Clown Award
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/03/1311565/-Missouri-Republican-Climate-change-unproven-because-temperature-on-Mars-is-exactly-as-it-is-here
http://www.space.com/17816-earth-temperature.html
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/14/1313909/-Kentucky-Republican-angrily-doubles-down-on-his-Mars-conspiracy-theory
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/26/1316848/-What-not-to-say-to-black-people-when-you-are-Rand-Paul
http://www.barefootandprogressive.com/2014/07/at-the-urban-league-rand-paul-says-hes-a-minority-because-of-the-shade-of-his-ideology-video.html

Outrage of the Week
http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/07/15/3460227/mom-jailed-daughter-park/
http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2014/07/22/3462704/debra-harrell-fired/
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/22/1315659/-Debtor-s-Prison-A-New-Reality

Update
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/28/1317272/-Well-well-Satanists-to-use-Hobby-Lobby-to-block-pro-life-propaganda

Saturday, July 26, 2014

168.9 - Clown Award: House GOPpers on Washington, DC laws

Clown Award: House GOPpers on Washington, DC laws

I just have time for the Clown Award, given weekly for meritorious stupidity.

The big red nose this week goes to the Republican members of the House of Representatives. Thkere were some Democrats involved, but 90% involved were GOPpers, so they get the award.

Despite a 2008 Supreme Court decision striking down its ban on owning handguns, Washington, DC, still has some of the toughest gun control laws around. Residents must register handguns every three years, complete a safety course, and be fingerprinted and photographed.

Meanwhile, in March, the city decriminalized possession of less than one ounce of pot, replacing criminal penalties for simple possession with a $25 fine.

Last week, the GOP-controlled House approved a spending bill that would undo both of those laws.

Bear in mind that Congress has the final say over the District's local laws and budget. So what this means is that if the House GOPpers get their way and this survives the rest of the budget process, it will be a crime in Washington, DC, to have a joint in your jeans - but entirely legal to walk the streets with a loaded .45.

What more can be said? Each and every one of them: clowns.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.aol.com/article/2014/07/16/house-gop-to-dc-guns-ok-pot-dangerous/20932428/

168.8 - Middle East and Gaza: Israel does not want peace

Middle East and Gaza: Israel does not want peace

The are times, moments, occasions, periods, when I have trouble dealing with things. Not things, things. Not the me, the my life stuff, the get up, go to work, do errands, read a book, chill out, walk the dogs stuff. The whole world stuff.

Sometimes, the awareness penetrates the cynicism, the emotion penetrates the intellectualizing, the reality penetrates the analysis, the whole penetrates the parts. I have an expression for such times: I say "the world is too much with me."

I don't know if I came with that phrase on my own or if I heard it somewhere, since it can be found in a sonnet by William Wordsworth that dates from about 1802:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours; ...
So maybe I came across it somewhere. Or maybe I made it up for myself. I have no idea and it doesn't matter. What is means for me is those moments when I am too aware of the sheer enormity of pain and suffering in world and how small and pointless any effort you - I - came make in the face of it appears to be. It's not good place to be because if it persists too long it can be debilitating.

I was finding the world too much with me recently. What brought it on was noticing a news story about two rival Libyan militias were fighting for control of the Tripoli airport and another about a battle between the Libyan army and Islamist forces in Benghazi. And it reminded me that fighting in Libya has never really ended since the fall of Qaddafi.

So there is near anarchy in parts of Libya. There is civil war in Ukraine, there is civil war in Iraq, there is civil war in Syria - and of course there is butchery in Gaza. And it was too much. I wanted to hide. I still do.

But I can't, at least not yet - because there is something I have to say:

Israel does not want peace.

I don't know how else to say it except that bluntly and directly. Israel prefers the status quo; Israel prefers having Hamas as an excuse to avoid a final settlement; it prefers the occasional Hamas rocket, very few of which actually do any harm, to having no rockets at all; it prefers to drive the people of Gaza into the arms of Hamas to doing anything that would undermine Hamas's popularity - such as lifting the blockade of Gaza, which has turned it into the world's largest-ever outdoor prison.

Why? Because real peace would mean a real Palestinian state and that would require the hard right of Israel to give up it's dreams of a "greater Israel," a nation standing astride the Middle East with the power and reach of King David in all his glory in the most grandiose of tellings of the tales. It would mean treating Palestinians as equals and as regarding themselves as one among equals - and for too many among the Israeli right, the politically powerful Israeli right, the politically powerful religiously-conservative Israeli right, that just can't be allowed.

But Israel can't do this, it can't maintain this, without the active support of the United States, which is now paying for about 25% of Israel's annual military budget. So we have to be flooded with Israeli propaganda, propaganda which depends for its success on Americans knowing little about Gaza, an ignorance driven in turn by the heavy pro-Israel bias of the US news media, a bias so extreme that on July 21 MSNBC contributor Rula Jebreal accused her own network of being "disgustingly biased," saying that the network might have on a Palestinian “maybe for 30 seconds, and then you have twenty-five minutes for Bibi Netanyahu, and half an hour for Naftali Bennett."

(Benjamin, nicknamed "Bibi," Netanyahu is the prime minister of Israel; Bennett is minister of the economy.)

As if to prove her point, Jebreal later said on Twitter that her upcoming TV appearances had been canceled.

You want an example of how that ignorance works? How many times in the past several days have you heard it said that Israel blames the hundreds of civilian deaths, including over 150 children, the thousands of civilian casualties, its attack on Gaza has caused on Hamas, on claims of Hamas using civilians as "human shields?" How many times have you heard it claimed that Israel is doing everything it can to not hit civilians?

Indeed, on Monday, Netanyahu said that the Palestinians "are responsible for all the civilian deaths," because, he said, "they don't care ... [they want to] pile up the bodies."

Here's where the ignorance comes in: The population of Gaza is about 1.8 million. The area of Gaza is about 140 square miles. That's about 12,900 people per square mile.

The population density of the city of Boston: 12,900 people per square mile.

Gaza is as densely populated as the city of Boston. And remember, the people of Gaza can't leave: They are blocked in on one side by the Egyptians and on the other by the Israelis.

Okay, so you tell me: Where are those civilians supposed to go? Where is it they can go where they will not be targeted by Israeli bombs?

Consider this leaflet, which the Israelis dropped over Gaza. The other thing here is that it's easy to forget - because damn well the US media never mentions it and the Israelis will consciously avoid mentioning it - is that Hamas is not just a military organization: It is the elected civil leadership of Gaza. It's the schools, the police force, the fire protection, it has day-care centers, hospitals. So where do those people go to not be near anything "Hamas?"

Israel knows this. It knows those people have nowhere to go. The Israeli government knows - it cannot not know - that its attacks will indiscriminately kill civilians. It knows - and it doesn't care. We know it doesn't care because it keeps doing it, keeps doing what it knows will kill large numbers of civilians and then lies about whose fault it is. It knows - and it doesn't care. What it cares about is that we do not know.

We have to be aware. We have to learn. We have to know. And one thing we do have to know - now - is that it is time, it is long past time, for a complete end to all US military assistance, aid, and sales to Israel. Not one plane, not one gun, not one bullet, not one dollar. Not until Israel formally, overtly, and specifically recognizes the Palestinians' right to an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza and reaches an actual agreement to that end and I do mean formally and specifically: none of the "maybe sure someday kinda in some form yup sort of" doubletalk that has been the Israeli government's pattern for years - a pattern, we now know, which is nothing short of a lie:

At a press conference on July 11, Netanyahu made it explicitly clear that he would never agree to a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank. Quoting him,
there cannot be a situation, under any agreement, in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.
At that same press conference, he also said, in the combination of inflamed self-importance and paranoia that increasingly marks Israeli government policy, that he sees Israel as standing almost alone on the frontlines against Islamic radicalism, while the rest of the as-yet free world does its best not to notice.

Well, okay: If the leadership of Israel likes to see their nation as standing alone, maybe we should allow it to do just that. Until there is an actual settlement including an independent Palestinian state - which any real settlement will have to include - not one US penny should go to the Israeli military. We may not be able to stay the hangman's noose, but we can at least stop paying for the rope.

Sources cited in links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Is_Too_Much_with_Us
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/test-393840245
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/07/22/Deadly-clashes-between-Libyan-army-and-Islamists-strike-Benghazi-.html
http://www.npr.org/2014/07/22/333892178/violence-flares-in-libya-leaving-main-airport-in-ruins
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/18/some-of-israel-s-top-defenders-say-it-s-time-to-end-u-s-aid.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/21/rula-jebreal-msnbc-palestinians-airtime_n_5606673.html
http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/23/world/meast/human-shields-mideast-controversy/
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/middle-east-unrest/netanyahu-says-hamas-wants-pile-bodies-sympathy-n161236
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-22/israel-declares-soldier-hamas-says-holds-in-gaza-missing.html
http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/boston-population/
http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/07/21/333537714/in-crowded-gaza-civilians-have-few-places-to-flee
http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2014/07/14/did_netanyahu_just_say_what_he_really_thinks_about_a_two_state_solution.html
http://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-finally-speaks-his-mind/

168.7 - Outrage of the Week: Suit against discrimination fails even though Court admits there was discrimination

Outrage of the Week: Suit against discrimination fails even though Court admits there was discrimination

A couple of decades ago, activists learned that class action suits were an effective way to pursue justice through the courts: People who could not afford to mount a legal challenge to a wrong on their own could join with others in a similar situation and so have the means to take on corporations and government agencies.

So, of course, in more recent times it has become harder and harder for people to pursue such suits: The requirements for being certified, that is, recognized, as a "class" by the courts have gotten stricter and stricter; even small differences in the individual circumstances of the members of the asserted class can get result in certification being denied with the result to suit can't go forward.

Specifically in the area of civil rights suits, not only is it harder to get certified as a class, it has also been made harder to prove you have been wronged even if everyone knows you have been.

Which brings us to the Outrage of the Week.

On July 18, the state Supreme Court of Iowa, in a 7-0 vote, rejected a class-action lawsuit that alleged the executive branch of state government discriminated against black job applicants.

The court upheld a lower court decision to dismiss the case, finding that the class of 5,000 black employees and job applicants failed to prove they suffered systemic discrimination because they did not show that specific hiring practices disadvantaged them.

At the same time, all seven justices recognized the reality of implicit bias, in which individuals subconsciously favor whites over blacks.

The main opinion, written by Justice Brent Appel and joined by three others, said that overt racism has been replaced by unconscious discrimination as the “headwinds faced by African Americans in the employment marketplace.”

A separate concurring opinion from Justice Thomas Waterman and two others, agreed the case should be dismissed even though
there undoubtedly was subjectivity and - as the plaintiffs credibly demonstrated - implicit bias in multiple state hiring decisions.
In fact, Waterman noted that even the original trial judge said "it appears African Americans on the whole were disadvantaged in getting job interviews from some agencies."

This is where it gets outrageous: The plaintiffs' case was based on statistical evidence that blacks received fewer interviews and jobs than whites at state agencies plus a growing body of social science research affirming the concept of implicit bias. Their lawyer, Tom Newkirk, noted data, including some from state consultants and experts, which suggested that blacks were generally disadvantaged.

That sort of statistical evidence of bias used to be enough to prove your case. It's not any more and hasn't been for a while. Instead, as the justices noted in their ruling, current state and federal law require that plaintiffs be able to point to and prove specific hiring practices were discriminatory.

But of course in the case of implicit bias, there is no such specific hiring practice because the discrimination rests within the unconscious mind of the interviewer or hiring agent.

Newkirk said he knew the appeal was a long shot, but considered the ruling “tremendously positive” because "the recognition of implicit bias is huge," paving the way for suture lawsuits.

Frankly, I think that's just trying to put a good face on it because I don't see how that's true. As current federal law stands, unless your employer puts out a memo saying something like "we don't hire us no coloreds," you really don't have a case for claiming bias.

And that is an outrage.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/justices-reject-iowa-class-action-bias-case/2014/07/18/1bcf0cf4-0e84-11e4-b0dd-edc009ac1f9d_story.html

168.6 - Factoid of the Week: F-35 fighter

Factoid of the Week: F-35 fighter

Okay, this is something that may or may not become a regular feature. Pretty soon I may have so many regular features I won't have time for anything else. But here it is: It's the Factoid of the Week.

The subject is the program to create a fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, which is 7 years behind schedule and a couple of weeks ago was grounded just before two air shows that were supposed to be the jet's coming out party.

Here's the factoid: The entire cost of the program over the projected life of the jets is now $400 billion. That amount could have provided a $600,000 home to each and every one of the estimated 600,000 homeless people in the US.

Or, if you prefer another way to look at it, a single year's cost of the program, about $49 billion, could have covered the entire yearly cost of the National School Lunch Program, which feeds roughly 31 million students every year, eliminate the cuts made in the Food Stamp program, pay our share of UN's 16 peacekeeping missions around the world, and pay the entire amount sought by the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs to address humanitarian crises around the world, including the millions of refugees and internally displaced people in war zones - and we'd still have a few billion left over for dessert.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/11/military-jet-spending_n_5575045.html?cps=gravity
http://thehill.com/policy/defense/budget-appropriations/211520-f-35s-air-show-debut-in-jeopardy
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-16/us-approve-limited-flights-for-f-35-joint-strike-fighter/5599896
http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/07/09/3458101/f35-boondoggle-fail/
http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/operations/current.shtml

168.5 - RIP: Johnny Winter, James Garner

RIP: Johnny Winter, James Garner

We have two RIPS this week as more bits of my younger years slip away.

Legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter died of natural causes at his hotel room in Zurich on July 17. He was 70.

He made his national debut at Woodstock and spent the next 45 years as a proselytizer for the blues. He was on tour when he died.

He was noted for the speed and intensity of his playing and his fans among fellow guitarists included Carlos Santana, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Bloomfield, and Jimi Hendrix.

So RIP, Johnny Winter

The other, well, I suppose it's possible you may not have heard of Johnny Winter but you do know this guy.

James Garner died July 19 at the age of 86. He died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles.

Garner was probably best known to most people for his two big TV roles - in the late '50s as Bret Maverick and in the late '70s as Jim Rockford - but he also made over 50 movies, including 1985's "Murphy's Romance," which got him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

And I suppose it says something that an appreciation of Garner at People.com said "While their grandparents remember him from Maverick and their parents remember him from Rockford, to Millennials, Garner will always be Duke, the elderly version of Ryan Gosling's character in The Notebook," a movie from 2004, 47 years after Maverick hit the small screen.

RIP, James Garner. I think you earned it.


Sources cited in links:
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music/johnny-winter-dead-70-blues-guitarist-struck-chord-rock-fans-article-1.1870928
http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/legal-and-management/6164928/johnny-winter-blues-torchbearer-an-appreciation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Garner
http://www.people.com/article/james-garner-best-roles

168.4 - Unintentional Humor: NSA concerned about privacy

Unintentional Humor: NSA concerned about privacy

Pierre Beaumarchais, who was among other thing a French playwright, is credited with the saying “I hasten to laugh at everything, for fear of being obliged to weep.”

Here's an example of what he meant:

Journalist Matthew Keys submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Security Agency, the NSA, for emails sent by Edward Snowden from his NSA account in the months before he became a whistleblower.

Snowden insists that before decided to leak the documents that revealed the NSA's massive spying apparatus, he repeatedly he raised concerns internally about the legality of the program.

In May, the NSA, after having initially denied that Snowden had raised any questions with anyone about surveillance programs, released one single email from Snowden, in which he inquired about the relative power of executive orders and laws. The agency then claimed that this time, that really, really was all it had from Snowden related to the mass surveillance.

Edward Snowden
For his part, Snowden called that a “clearly tailored and incomplete leak.”

So Matthew Keys filed his FOIA request to try to see who was right.

The NSA, of course, said no, claiming exemptions under the FOIA.

Here's why it gets funny. Among the excuses the NSA offered - remember, now the NSA has already released one email from Snowden, one it used to buttress its case against him - among the excuses the NSA offered was the claim that revealing any other emails "would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

Yes, you heard that right: The NSA is now deeply concerned about personal privacy.

Remember to laugh so you don't cry.

Sources cited in links:
http://izquotes.com/quote/14039
http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/07/14/nsa-releasing-edward-snowden-emails-would-violate-his-privacy
http://thedesk.matthewkeys.net/2014/07/nsa-says-snowden-emails-exempt-from-public-disclosure/

168.3 - Hero Award: Salem, MA, Mayor Kimberly Driscoll

Hero Award: Salem, MA, Mayor Kimberly Driscoll

From there we can slide over easily into one of our occasional features, the hero award, given as the occasion arises to someone who just does the right thing.

On July 1, Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College in Salem, MA, signed a letter sent to President Barack Obama by several religious colleges, demanding an exemption from federal regulations that outlaw antigay discrimination.

In response, Salem Mayor Kimberly Driscoll terminated Gordon College’s contract to operate the city’s Old Town Hall. In a letter to Lindsay posted on the city's website, Driscoll made it clear that the college's demand to be allowed to discriminate was the reason for the termination, writing that
"I am truly disappointed in the stance you have taken, which plainly discriminates against the rights of LGBT individuals, both on and off campus. These actions fly in the face of the City of Salem’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance, which prohibits our municipality from contracting with entities that maintain discriminatory practices."
Kimberly Driscoll, given that law it may have seemed like an easy call, but I don't care: You're still a hero.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2014/07/09/salem-kills-contract-with-gordon-college-over-school-stance-against-antigay-regulations/0hqb8efQqei1IO4gvCTz4I/story.html?p1=Must_Reads_hp

168.2 - Good News: same-sex marriage advances in CO, OK, and FL

Good News: same-sex marriage advances in CO, OK, and FL

On another good news front, an area where there has been a fair amount of good news of late, same-sex marriage has come to Colorado, at least in principle. In this case it involves state courts, not federal courts. Earlier this month a state judge for Adams County determined that a 2006 Colorado constitutional amendment forbidding same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of equal protection and due process. The ruling, as is common, was put on hold pending appeal.

However, the next day a federal judge refused to stop Boulder County from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, which it has been doing since June 25. In response, Denver started issuing licenses to same-sex couples.

Unfortunately, the State Supreme Court ordered the clerks to stop issuing such licenses on the grounds that while the appeals are going on the ban is still technically in effect. Which is why I said equality has come "in principle" - the initials rulings are there but the process must be played out. And remember, these are all stays. They are not defeats.

Meanwhile, diagonally across the country, last week, Luis Garcia, Chief Circuit Judge of Monroe County, FL, ordered the county clerk’s office to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That decision, too, was put on hold due to the state attorney general announcing an intention to appeal, but supporters of marriage justice called it "the beginning of the end" of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

There are two other cases challenging the state's ban; one would only affect Miami-Dade county but the other, in federal district court, would apply to the whole state. Decisions on either or both of those could come any time.

Finally, remember when I said that when the 10th Circuit court of appeals upheld a lower court decision striking down Utah's ban on same-sex marriage that it probably also spelled doom for Oklahoma's ban, because an appeal of a decision overturning that one was on appeal to the same 10th circuit? Bingo: Last week, the appeals court upheld the lower-court decision, continuing the unbroken string of pro-marriage justice decisions across the country.

Sources cited in links:
http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2014/07/09/colo-marriage-ban-ruled-unconstitutional
http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2014/07/10/breaking-denver-now-issuing-same-sex-marriage-licenses
http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/tenth-circuit-declares-oklahomas-gay-marriage-ban-unconstitutional
http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/17/4240865/keys-judge-gay-couples-can-marry.html
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2014-07-15/news/os-gay-marriage-florida-roundup-20140715_1_florida-family-policy-council-gay-marriage-3-judges
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/court-rules-gay-marriage-oklahoma-case-24618411
 
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