Friday, December 13, 2013

A Moving flash mob tribute to Nelson Mandela

This might make you cry.  It's very moving,  It shouldn't be.  It should be crass commercialism, but it doesn't come off that way at all.  Sometimes even a corporation can act human.  Enjoy.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A poet for our times

Jack Hasling
Here's a light verse poet who deserves a hand, a laugh and some promotion.

Read this latest poem of his and then if you're interested in seeing more, check out his two books of poetry.   I'll put the books and ordering info at the end.


Once when I was lightly noting how perchance I might be voting
There appeared upon my sill a parrot with a crooked bill.
Ah, distinctly I remember elections early in November
Engaged was I in making choices
Hearing politician’s voices.

I couldn’t help but see that doom was casting shadows in my room
Democracy was almost lost —it must be saved at any cost.
I asked the parrot in despair, and wondered if he’d even care
He look around from side to side
“Socialism,” he replied.

But what about Obamacare? We’ll need it if it isn’t there
We surely know it’s more than fair that healthy people pay their share
The sick and lame just can’t abide, and preconditions won’t subside
The argument can’t be denied.
“Socialism,” he replied.

Food Stamp programs soon might end; still opponents will not bend.
They’re promising to never spend, while money overseas they send.
On faith the hungry have relied
While dealing with their fragile pride
“Socialism,” he replied.

Our roads and bridges need repair; our schools not funded anywhere
But somehow no one seems to care: Protect instead the billionaire.
And while we struggle with this schism
Looking through a shaded prism
Quoth the Parrot, “Socialism.”

My two books of verses are available on
If you don't like to buy on line, write to me at 
—Jack Hasling 


Also available at Leigh's Books 


A little book of light verse with important advice for grandchildren and other folks who think they don't need it.
Available now  
Leigh's Book Store
121 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

That 1912 eight grade exam
When I wrote about how hard the 1912 Bullitt County high school readiness exam was last week in the Daily Times, exactly zero people asked me if they could see the whole test and maybe challenge themselves to take it.
So good news, you can.  You can find it at this site. And to get the answers and an explanation of the answers, go to this link.
Go ahead and try it; it's fun.  By the way, look for the misspelled word in the spelling list. 
The issue I brought up in my column was about the Keystone high school graduation tests now being developed to test high school seniors and deny them diplomas if they don't pass.  This is supposed to get students to invest in their own learning and I hope it works.
Right now, 61 percent of those taking the beta version are failing the algebra portion.  My question is, what are educators going to be able to do to lower that number drastically and prepare students for their college math requirement, which holds many back from graduating. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Our canary in the coal mine?

This polar bear died of starvation because of a lack of Arctic ice on which it could hunt seals.  It was found last week in the Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic Circle 160 miles from its normal hunting grounds and it was healthy when it was last seen in March.
Maybe that is a short-term good thing for seals, unless they're starving too, but it does not forebode long-term well-being for the seven billion human beings on the planet.  Climate change is, well, changing the natural order.
The North Pole has melted, as has most of Greenland as well as glaciers and snow fields that provide clean drinking water for people all over the world.  One-third of the arable soil of Bangladesh, home to 150 million people, is contaminated by salt from seawater.
Any minute now the permafrost is going to melt just enough to release millions of pounds of methane gas into the atmosphere and that's going to accelerate the warming of the globe many times more intently than anything we've seen so far.  The big burp, some bloggers are calling it.
In our own country, we seem to be enduring a constant barrage of heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires and tornadoes, in and out of their normal seasons and of a size and scale never before experienced.   The entire Southwest may become too hot to be inhabitable within a couple of decades.  Hurricanes are accompanied by gigantic storm surges and major cities, like New York, Miami and New Orleans are in danger of drowning in rising sea waters.  
Whether or not climate change has been accelerated by human activity, and I think most of us know the answer to that, there is no denying it is happening, no looking away or screaming hoax.
It is long past time that we start doing what we can to ameliorate it and that means lots and lots of clean renewable energy and, just for starters, no Keystone pipeline. 
As Buffalo Springfield wrote/sang:
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear 
I think it's clear enough.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The prez tackles climate change

President Obama made a historic speech on climate change last Tuesday, historic not just for what he proposes, but also for detailing what his administration has already done.  The 21-page plan that accompanies it puts it altogether. The speech was largely ignored by the Mainstream Media, but if you're interested in the survival of the planet, here it is.  Climate change deniers can deny themselves right back to the Stone Age.  

Here's the video of his speech.
Here's the text.
Here's the graphic that explains it all.
Here's the 21-page plan.
Here's a report on Pennsylvania and the Northeast.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A judge has fun ... and so can we

"Sober as a judge" is more than a cliche. 
Judges by and large have to be serious folk, given to writing long, pedantic, meticulously researched and nuanced and, let's face it, deadly boring legal opinions.
But every once in a while one of them gets the chance to let loose and when they do, it's great fun. 
Judge Fred Biery of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas went to town on a ruling released April 29 denying a preliminary injunction to a strip club, 35 Bar and Grille LLC, in San Antonio, Texas, and well, the rest of this just writes itself.
The issue is whether a strip club is being denied its First Amendment rights by having to take out a license in order to allow its entertainers to appear topless.  The club was seeking a preliminary injunction against the city of San Antonio to prevent it from enforcing an ordinance to that effect.  Sit back and enjoy.
First, Judge Biery gave the title to his decision, which is unusual in itself: "The Case of the Itsy Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Bikini Top v.  the (More) Itsy Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Pastie."
The dispute over the ordinance, Judge Biery says, has "once again fallen into the court's lap."
The city of San Antonio wants exotic dancers employed by the plaintiffs to wear larger pieces of fabric to cover more of the female breast and "thus, the age-old question before the court, now with constitutional implications, is:  Does size matter?"
The judge then notes that the case arose out of an earlier decision known by some as the "Salom̩ order,"which derives from Salom̩'s dance of the seven veils in the palace of King Herod as noted in the Bible, Mark 6:16 Р28.
That dance, he observes in a footnote, resulted in "a fatal secondary effect for John the Baptist."
The plaintiffs "clothe themselves in the First Amendment seeking to provide cover against another alleged naked grab of constitutional power," the opinion says.
The city's enforcement of the ordinance would "strip [the club owners]of their profits," but the city asserts that businesses such as this contribute to reduce property values, violent crime, increase drug sales, prostitution and other sex crimes, and "therefore need to be girdled more tightly."
"Plaintiffs, and by extension their customers, seek an erection of a constitutional wall separating themselves from the regulatory power of city government," the judge says.
"While the court has not received amicus curiae ( friend of the court) briefs, the court has been blessed with volunteers known in South Texas as 'curious amigos' to be inspectors general to perform on-site visits at the locations in question," he says.
Here's where the judge really branches out from the issue at hand.  He observes that these curious amigos would have enjoyed far more the sight of "Miss Wiggles," an exotic artist "of physical self-expression even into her 80s" who died in October 2012 at the age of 90.
I'm not at all sure what Miss Wiggles has to do with this case but, what the hell.
"To bare, or not to bare, that is the question," Judge Biery says paraphrasing Shakespeare.
"The court doubts several square inches of fabric will staunch the flow of violence and other secondary effects emanating from these businesses," he says.
"Indeed, this case exposes the underbelly of America's Romanesque passion for entertainment, sex and money, sought to be covered with constitutional prophylaxis."  Really, judge!
"Alcohol, drugs, testosterone, guns and knives are more likely the causative agents than the female breast, proving once again that humans are a peculiar lot," the judge says alluding to a line from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
Then the judge delivers the coup de grace: "Should the parties choose to string this case out to trial on the merits, the court encourages reasonable discovery intercourse as they navigate the peaks and valleys of litigation, perhaps to reach a happy ending."  Ooh, naughty.
In denying the preliminary injunction, Judge Biery makes it clear that there is no First Amendment violation involved in a municipal ordinance that seeks to regulate strip clubs and that the club's pursuit of the case is virtually certain to end unhappily for it.
As an addendum, the judge notes that he has supplied an appendix with the entire history of the case "for those interested in a lengthy exposition, those who wish to appeal and those who suffer from insomnia."
Amen to that.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

6000 dead pigs ... in the drinking water

Say what you want about the Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  think what you want about government regulation, I'll bet we'll never have 6,000 diseased pig carcasses floating down the Delaware River.  If we do, time to move to Canada, en mass.  
For those of you who cannot access videos, CNN and Reuters and a bunch of Chinese bloggers reported that more than 6,000 diseased pig carcasses were dumped in the Huangpu River, which supplies the city of Shanghai, China with its drinking water, in the last few days.
What's even worse, Chinese officials insist that the dead pigs, which were removed, posed no health risk to residents.  What would have been worse, and apparently happens all the time, is that upstream farmers, who have lost 70,000 pigs since the beginning of the year, have been selling them to unscrupulous middlemen who put them into the food supply.  This is cheaper than burning or burying the carcasses as the law requires and according to news accounts, it's a law that is not much enforced.
Bloggers on Weibo, China's version of Facebook, dared Chinese officials to drink the water first.  "big leaders, please do go ahead and have the first drink," one quipped. 
Clean Air Act anyone?  Clean Water Act?  Food inspection? 

Friday, March 1, 2013

The saddest story ever

Kyle Thacker
These two young men are -- were -- Kyle (top) and Kody Thacker.  On Saturday, Feb. 23, Kody, 19, took his own life after accidentally shooting and killing his brother Kyle, 24, with a shotgun, according to a Lexington, Ky., TV station.   Here is the transcript of the Lex18 TV news story.
Apparently police are satisfied it was an accident and can take no further action, leaving their family to grieve and bury their dead.  All over some mindless tomfoolery with a shotgun in a situation where there was no threat, no home invasion and no need to protect a family member.
They are just two of the 2,392 people who have died from gun violence in this country since Newtown/Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012, according to a gun deaths chart being maintained on  On this chart you can see exactly how many were men, how many were women and how many were children.   If you click on each figure, it will tell you the victim's name, age and location.  Take a look.  That's an average of 18 Americans a day dying from gunshots.
David Waldman on Daily Kos has been running a different tally, of headlines involving gun deaths and injuries each week called GunFail.   Here's his latest one, number 7.  Waldman's list includes idiots who accidentally shoot themselves, dogs that accidently shoot their owners' guns and the like so it's a less depressing list. He's also including some pretty amusing photos and videos.

But it is still a sad roster of people who would be alive, who would not be in pain, who would not be maimed, disfigured, scarred for life, if there had not been a gun close at hand, in their hands or the hands of loved ones, at some supremely dumb moment.
Here's what I don't get:
Every time I hear a Second Amendment fanatic says, "We don't need more gun laws, we just need to enforce the ones we have," I have to wonder in a case like the Thackers, exactly how would greater enforcement of existing gun laws have prevented this tragedy? And how can any sane person conclude that it is safer for his or her family to have guns in the house than not?
Now we learn that certain technically inclined gun nuts are perfecting the manufacturing of the guts of assault weapons on 3D printers so that there will be no controlling of, or even knowing about, such guns because there will be no buying or selling of them, no registrations or background checks, no serial numbers, just the running of a printer in somebody's basement.
For the last 15 years Congresshas  prohibited federal government agencies from researching the causes and extent of gun violence for fear that would lead to -- gasp -- regulation.
The government does research on traffic accidents, on air crashes, on boating accidents, even on bicycle and skateboard accidents, all of which leads to better laws and regulations (like no texting while driving), better education and better designs to make all of these things safer.  Research on the health hazards of smoking led to profound changes in public opinion about tobacco and a drastic reduction in the number of smokers in the U.S.
But no, we can't research the health hazards of guns, because James Madison and few other founding fathers 214 years ago badly worded one sentence in the U.S. Constitution. 
What a bats__t crazy country.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My valentine to Sammy Franklin

Notice how none of these guys is black?

You know how when you are young and you’re busy with your education or your love affairs or your growing family, you never think much about or notice much about your parents or grandparents’ lives? 
You know how you never showed much interest in what they’d been through personally or the cataclysmic events they lived through, like the Great Depression and World War II, or thought about the friends they accumulated over the years?
I was thinking about that for just a moment tonight because a guy I used to know a little bit came to mind for the first time in years and I thought, “Wow, it’s a damned shame nobody but me remembers this guy.”
My grandparents, Camille and Rosalie Richards, came here from New Brunswick, Canada, in the 1920s and settled in New Haven, Conn.  My grandfather was a carpenter and iron worker who worked on many of the Yale University construction projects and on I-95, from the 1920s to the 1960s.
Even during the Great Depression he earned a living from construction work or running whiskey across the Canadian-American border or making bathtub gin.  My mother claimed she couldn't take a bath for seven years. 
And my grandmother ran a rooming house through all those years from the 1920s until (unbelievably) 1999, working hard cleaning rooms and changing sheets for single men who needed a place to live. They did have a woman tenant in their last years.
Camille (Ca-Mill) was a short man but strong as a bull.   Everyone called him “Frenchy.”  I used to hear stories about how he once fell three stories off a construction project and got up and walked away, or how when he bought his first (actually only) refrigerator, he picked it up at the store and carried it home, or about how he pulled his own teeth with a pair of pliers.
But it’s not him I am remembering at this moment, it’s his friend, Sammy Franklin.   My grandfather was a French-speaking Canadian and Sammy was a black American.  This is an important element of their story, but, I think, for them not the most important.
They worked shoulder to shoulder for years and remained fast friends even though my grandfather was a hard drinker and Sammy was a Seventh Day Adventist teetotaler.  
As my grandparents aged and became frail in the 1980s and 1990s, as they themselves entered their 80s and 90s, there were relatives who were close geographically but who did not extend a hand to help them.  
I lived in New Jersey and when my grandfather became bed-ridden and my grandmother, suffering from osteoporosis, began to experience more and more hospitalizations for broken bones, I was the one who went to them.
And, I noticed, each time I went, Sammy, who had risen high in the New Haven Housing Authority and then retired, was always there. 
Over the years, he repeatedly arranged for members of his church to provide home health care services for my grandparents at a pittance. 
Sammy made sure my grandparents had Meals on Wheels and every time one of them was hospitalized, Sammy was at his or her side.   Sammy came over to shave my grandfather and bathe him a few times a week for several years.  He shoveled snow and took out the trash. 
One time I asked my grandmother, why does Sammy help you so much?  And she said, “Well, you know he and your grandfather have been good friends for a long time and your grandfather helped him get into the union.”
Of course, my grandmother had no idea what an extraordinary statement that was. 
Throughout the 20th century up through the late 1960s, the construction unions were a closed shop.  If you were not related to someone in the unions and were not white, there was no hope for you.  If you were an able-bodied black man, maybe you could get a job pushing a broom and cleaning up the brick shards.
I don’t even know how my grandfather got into “the union,” which he must have done in the 1930s or 1940s, let alone how he got Sammy in (in perhaps the 1940s or 1950s), but if he did, that was a big, big favor.  
And if that was the case, Sammy repaid that favor a thousand times over, even when his own family’s problems were overwhelming, even when his own health was failing.
I remember one time walking down a hospital corridor to visit my grandmother in the 1990s and while I turned left when the corridor zigged left, Sammy kept walking straight, right into a wall, because he had glaucoma so bad he could not see a thing.
Sammy was one of the few people at my grandfather’s funeral.  My grandmother leaned over to me and said, “It’s a shame so few people have come, of all your grandfather’s co-workers.”
“Grandma,” I replied, “Papa was 93.  There’s nobody left to mourn him.”
Sammy was also at my grandmother’s funeral when she died a couple of years later at 95. 
Someone asked me tonight why I thought my grandparents helped Sammy and I said, “I don’t think it was altruism or nobility, especially. 
“I think they were from such a homogenous society, they never knew anyone with a different skin color so that it never occurred to them that they should treat someone differently because of their color.  They were just ignorant.  They didn’t know the concept of racism.  Or maybe it was because they were strangers and outsiders themselves because of their language and nationality.”
And why did Sammy love them and care for them so much?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was because they treated him as an equal.   
Or maybe he just loved everyone that much.  I do know this:  Sammy practiced the doctrine of Christianity as purely and wholeheartedly as anyone I have ever known.  Thinking about his faith is almost enough to make me convert.
And the thought occurs to me, Sammy may have done even more for my grandparents than I am aware of.   
My grandparents lived for nearly 80 years in a neighborhood of New Haven that went from Ukrainian and Polish for most of that time to black and Hispanic in the 1960s. 
In their last 30 years, they were virtually the only white people in a black neighborhood, and they were never bothered, taunted, ridiculed, attacked or treated with anything other than respect. 
Maybe Sammy had something to with that.  Maybe it was just their own character.  I’ll never know.  
But I do know this, it never occurred to them to move out of that neighborhood.  When they were in their 80s, HUD drove them out of their building and they did move across the street, taking their rooming house tenants with them.  It was their neighborhood and that was that.  French Canadians are nothing if not stubborn.
I’m ashamed to say I lost touch with Sammy after my grandparents died.  I think he must be dead now himself.  He doesn’t show up on Google, which is a darned shame.  If you don’t show up on Google these days, who are you?
I’m very grateful Sammy was there for my grandparents and they were there for him.
I suspect this is one of many millions of past and current American stories about individuals being kind to each other, standing by each other and looking straight at each other beyond the barriers of fear and hatred that, after all, are the very foundations of racism.
I hope that someday Sammy’s descendants may, in looking for information about him on the Internet, come across this little valentine of mine.

Monday, February 4, 2013

America the beautiful? Where?

Am I the only one who was appalled by these kids singing America the Beautiful at the Superbowl?
I'm sure they were invited in the purest of motives, to help us all heal from the horror of Sandy Hook-Newtown-12-14 slaughter, whatever you want to call it.
But by the same token, these poor kids mouthing the words to America the Beautiful when they have been through America the Horrific?  The hypocrisy of those who arranged this little love fest is overwhelming. Meanwhile, in rapid succession over the last few weeks we have had:
* A 15-year-old  who performed at the Inauguration and was killed less then two weeks later in Chicago.
*  A 22-year-old Latino who  made the mistake of pulling into the driveway of a suburban Atlanta man when his GPS steered him wrong and was shot and killed for his trouble (and the shooter held the victim's three teenage companions until police arrived and arrested the shooter).  None of the four in the car was armed.
* A guy in Phoenix who took a gun to a legal deposition and killed a lawyer and the man who was suing him. Nice way to settle a legal dispute.
* America's greatest sniper in the Iraq war and another veteran who were shot and killed on a rifle range by a third disturbed veteran.
(Really, if a trained sniper armed with whatever armament he had cannot defend himself, who can?  I'm not making light of this.  These were a couple of military heroes trying their best to help a fellow veteran, but this cannot be an advertisement for "We need to arm ourselves to protect ourselves from the mentally unstable.")
* Twenty-two Iraq and Afghanistan veterans a day --A DAY -- are committing suicide, nearly all of them with guns. 
* Our president had to prove that he has shot a gun at least once to campaign against gun violence.
* And, since 12/14, at least 1,600 Americans have been shot and killed.  See here and here.
These were people and now they are graves.
In the last week of January alone, 22 murder-suicides were committed in America leaving more than 40 people dead, husbands, wives, children. 
So who am I to talk about gun violence?
I have lost two brothers and a sister-in-law to gun violence.  On Labor Day, 2004, my brother Bo shot his estranged wife Rose and himself to death in front of his three youngest sons and a grandson.  They left behind 11 children.
That one-and-a-half-year old grandson, now eight, has been the victim of horrendous, ongoing mental and emotional problems, and he doesn't even understand the source of any of it.  And my nieces and nephews have been assaulted by unbelievable guilt and pain, as have I.  That pain does not end.
My brother Tom?  I am not even allowed to talk about him.  He was shot and killed in 2008 by a member of his wife's family.  The police have not found his body or been able to charge the perpetrator but they know what happened, if not why.
I cannot even bury Tom and I often imagine the terror he experienced in the moment, seconds, before he was killed.  Can you imagine someone you loved experiencing that?
Rose also experienced unfathomable terror.  She did not deserve to die that way.  And Bo?  He was one week into an anti-depressant regimen that may have given him the calm and fortitude to kill Rose and himself.  The drug he was taking has been blamed for many other suicides.
Do you imagine that this epidemic of gun violence is simply a class thing?  Black inner-city youths killing each other?  Think again.  My family is as white and Anglo-American and Middle Class as they come. 
So yeah, I think I have a little cred to talk about gun violence.
In both these cases and in many of the 32,000 or so homicides and suicides we experience every year, the intersection of rage or despair or mental instability and a handy gun results in deaths that simply would not have happened if the moment were allowed to pass and the gun had not been at hand.
And those of you who insist that we need semi-automatic weapons and 30-round magazines to protect us from a tyrannical government? 
"Tyrannical government" is code-speak in some circles for "the blacks are coming to get us."  But in either case, a popularly elected government gone mad or minority marauders, this is total fantasy and the worst kind of fear-mongering.  Even if you really had to protect yourselves from a real, honest-to-God "tyrannical government," you civilians would need a lot more armaments than you can ever stockpile. 
Our government has nuclear bombs,anti-ballistic missiles launched from submarines, hellfire missiles, drones, shoulder-launched rocket launchers, Apache helicopters, armored Humvees and I don't even know what else. Not to mention 12 years of warfare experience against small arms and roadside explosive devices.
And if you had to go up against a "tyrannical government," you would really be going up against your own sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands,wives, military, police and first responders.  You will not be wiping out some abstract enemy, you will be wiping out your friends, relatives and neighbors.
Who do you think would be coming for your guns?
Which isn't even a question.  As President Obama says, there is no legislation, no proposal, no intent to take any of your guns away from you. 
But, whatever we can achieve in gun control, otherwise known as "sensible gun laws," it's time.
It's time for all of us to change our attitudes against unfettered, unregulated gun ownership.
Oh yes, it is time.

Monday, January 28, 2013

They're doing it -- we can't let them

For those of you who are not paying attention, the Pennsylvania Republican-controlled legislature and governor are pursuing a new, perfectly constitutional, but profoundly undemocratic way  to suppress the vote and steal all future presidential elections from majority voters in the state.
It’s very simple really:  In 2010 the Legislature gerrymandered  the state’s congressional districts to make sure there were more Republican-controlled/safe districts that Democratic districts.  Here’s what the current districts look like:

                                             2010 Pa. Congressional Districts

So now there are five districts – all geographically tiny, urban and densely populated --where the voters are predominately Democratic and 13 where they are predominately Republican.   The Democratic districts are the 1st, 2nd and 13th (Brady, Fattah and Schwartz) in and around Philadelphia, the 14th (Pittsburgh) and the 17th (Harrisburg).  
Why did they do that?  because if they had left the districts alone after the 2000 redistricting, several -- like the 7th in Delaware County -- would have been highly competitive for Democratic candidates.  Indeed, the old 7th was represented for two terms by a very liberal Democrat, Joe Sestak.  The Republicans couldn't have that, so they added the most Democratic areas of the 7th District to Bob Brady's 1st District and shoved the borders of the 7th out into counties where the voter rolls are rural, conservative and Republican.
Then they tried unsuccessfully to suppress the urban, suburban and minority vote by making it harder for people to vote -- which backfired on them spectacularly in the 12012 election. 
Now, however, having carefully drawn and shrunk the number of districts so that widely scattered Republicans -- so thin on the ground they are spread over 15 counties in District 5 and 13 counties in District 10, for example -- can command the largest number of congressional districts, regardless of actual human population (cows, trees and deer not counted),  the Republicans are moving on to step two.

Voter Suppression Step Two

Step two is to enact legislation to change the way Pennsylvania allocates its 20 electoral votes from winner take all -- which reflects the overall popular vote in the state -- to the majority vote within each  congressional district -- plus two electoral votes for the top vote getter.   
In this configuration, President Obama, who got all 20 electoral votes in 2012, would have received 7 electoral votes and Mitt Romney would have gotten 13 in the last election.   If the other large swing states that are contemplating this move-- Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida -- had also changed their laws to apply to the 2012 election, Obama would have still won the popular vote by 4 percent and yet lost the election to Romney in electoral votes by a wide margin. 
Thus, the votes of white voters  in rural areas would count for far more than the votes of urban, minority, largely Democratic voters.  In fact, several pundits have calculated that the vote of an urban black or Latino voter would be worth about 3/5ths of that a rural white voter.  Hmm.  Where have we seen that figure before?

The Destruction of Democracy

 Since the rise of the extreme rightwing over the past four years, we have been witnessing the death of the Republican Party.  Unfortunately, it appears ready to pull down the whole nation as it goes. After a couple of election cycles where the presidential candidate chosen by a majority of the popular vote is rejected by the electoral college under the Republicans' plan that several things may happen: 

  1. The disaffection of voters for the entire political process will become complete.   
  2. The  electoral college may be abolished and the country may switch to a straight popular vote like other modern democracies (which would be a good thing).  
  3. Voters will revile and reject the Republic Party utterly and it will go the way of the Federalists and Whigs.
  4. The people will have to resort to violence and perhaps the kind of armed insurrection the right-wing  gun huggers have been pining for. 
  5. The Republican Party could take over the government by fiat, much like the Nazis did in the 1930s with the Reichstag Fire Decree and the Enabling Act.
Whether any or all of these things happen, it will be crystal clear to all Americans that the Republican Party is profoundly undemocratic, unpatriotic and hostile to the American people.
Lawrence Lewis at Daily Kos has the best explanation of this whole process I’ve seen so far.  Give it a read.

 They're Doing It

In the meantime, seven  Pennsylvania Assembly Republicans have introduced House bill 94 to enact the the electoral college vote allocation change, with the deceptively banal title “An Act Concerning Elections.”  It has been referred to the House Committee on State Government where it is to be hoped it dies a quiet death.
But those of us who believe in democracy and representative government cannot depend on our hopes alone.   Find your state legislators here.  Let them know how you feel about the hijacking of your presidential vote. 
Contact Gov. Tom Corbett’s Office.  Let him know that while his chnaces of winning re-election don’t look so hot right now, he will surely be committing political suicide if he signs this bill. 
Contact your local ACLU and League of Women Voters.  Ask your Democratic representatives what the hell they're doing to prevent this from happening.  Fight back now, before the damage is done.   

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Would you stay in line with this guy?

This is a man standing at a check-out counter in a J.C. Penney store in Ogden, Utah, last Wednesday toting not only this rifle, whatever it is, but also a Glock.  He's making a point: Utah is one of 43 states to have an open carry law allowing gun lovers can carry their toys wherever they want, church, restaurants, movie theaters, even into a mall store where mothers are shopping with children.
Other shoppers were supposed to take it on faith that this is one of the NRA's "good guys with guns" as opposed a homicidal maniac ready to start shooting if say, his credit card is rejected or someone says something to him about his weaponry. Or perhaps the police might have showed up thinking he was a potential mass murderer and then God knows what would have happened.
What do you think your reaction would be if he had shown up at the Granite Run Mall J.C. Penney?  What would have been your reaction if the guy was black, wearing a hoodie and toting exactly the same firepower?
My whole life I have felt like I live in two different countries.  There's the eastern and western seaboards, where I've lived my whole life and that vast fly-over middle of the country, the "heartland," the real America," etc. -- like Wyoming, where my father came from and never went back, and Kentucky where my stepfather came from, and made the mistake of going back.
My stepfather never had guns in the house although he was in the military.  He was a submarine sailor and they weren't armed because what were they going to do, shoot a hole in the submarine?
But after he retired he went home to Kentucky and acquired all of the necessary accouterments -- the pickup truck, the rifle rack and the coon dog.  He stopped short one day and threw the coon dog out of the back of the truck.  She was so badly injured her leg had to be amputated. 
Then he shot an unarmed neighbor in the foot and served eight months in the county jail at the age of 69.  The police, even in that rural part of western Kentucky, didn't buy his story that he was "defending his castle."
These two countries in my head are so different and yet not different enough.  Pennsylvanians are rushing to buy guns and get concealed carry permits, and from now on I will have to sit in a crowded movie theater even in the Walnut St. Theater's production of The Music Man and wonder how many people around me are carrying guns?  Which is the quickest way out?  
I don't want to have to pick out the good guys with guns from the bad guys with guns and I most assuredly do not want to be one of the good guys with guns. 
So yesterday, Gun Appreciation Day, hundreds gathered at statehouses around the country, mostly in the Midwest and South, carrying their legal firearms.  Fortunately nothing tragic happened but five people accidentally shot themselves or others at gun shows, again fortunately, none fatally. That's just the way it ids in Gunland.
I'm not going to urge you to boycott J.C. Penney because as commentators pointed out on the blogosphere yesterday, what this jerk did in Utah was perfectly legal, but I am going to urge you to say something to J.C. Penny either online or in person because national retail chains can make quite a stink about this sort of thing when it may cause them to lose other, saner shoppers.