Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Happy Fourth of July


MARY LOUISE KELLY,

And I'm Mary Louise Kelly with a document from a deeply divided time. It was a time when Americans turned against each other.

STEVE INSKEEP,

A man in Philadelphia declared the rich, the poor, the high professor and the profane seem all infected with a grievous disorder, so the love of our neighbors seems banished. The love of self and opinions so far prevails.

KELLY: If the language seems old-fashioned it's because the time was 1776. The United States was early in its Revolutionary War. Even those who opposed British rule disagreed on what to do.

INSKEEP: And it was in this atmosphere that a few dozen men - the Continental Congress - drafted the document which John Adams called a declaration of independency. Its principles have guided the country ever since.

KELLY: Not all people were then held as equal, yet this document declared them so.

INSKEEP: American colonists were not entirely free to speak their minds. Indeed, their denunciation of British rule was considered treason punishable by death. Yet they signed the paper insisting on their freedom of speech, which Ben Franklin had once called a principal pillar of a free government.

KELLY: On this Independence Day, their words are read by our colleagues, NPR journalists.
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The Declaration Of Independence

Steve Inskeep


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Rachel Martin


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. --

David Greene


That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Julie McCarthy


Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;

Sam Sanders


and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

Don Gonyea


But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —

Deborah Amos


Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Joe Palca


The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

Audie Cornish


He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

Shankar Vedantam


He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro


He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

Sylvia Poggioli


He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

Frank Langfitt


He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Cheryl Corley


He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

Nina Totenberg


He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.  He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.  He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

Michel Martin


He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

Elizabeth Blair


He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton


For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:  For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

Mary Louise Kelly


For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:  For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

Mara Liasson


For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences  For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

Linda Wertheimer


For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:  For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

Sonari Glinton


He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

Jackie Northam


He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

Gene Demby


He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

Ari Shapiro


He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.  In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.

Eyder Peralta


A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.  Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.

Susan Stamberg


We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence.

Scott Horsley


They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

Cokie Roberts


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;

David Greene


that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;

Rachel Martin


and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances,establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

Steve Inskeep


And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Mary Louise Kelly


Two-hundred forty (two) years ago today, church bells rang out over Philadelphia as the Continental Congress adopted this draft of the Declaration of Independence.
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Music - (SOUNDBITE OF ERIC WEINBERG'S "DAWN AT YORKTOWN")

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Republicans, WTF is wrong with you?

I have struggled with what to say about this. The last time I felt like this, was after Donald Trump defended Nazis in the wake of the incidents in Charlottesville, VA. I honestly thought that was the bottom of the very deep, dark, dank hole that we, as a nation had fallen into. It seems, I was wrong.

The United States of America is now a nation that takes innocent children away from their parents, because their parents have come to this country illegally.

We, meaning all of us, are ripping children from their families and imprisoning them. In cages. I say We, because in the United States of America, We, the people, ARE the government.

Donald Trump and those who support him claim we HAVE to do this, because it is the law, “a democrat law” as Donald Trump likes to tweet. This is a lie. There is no law that requires immigrant families to be separated. When parents are charged with a crime, the law provides for the government, if need be, to take custody of their children. The decision to charge everyone crossing the border with illegal entry — and the decision to charge asylum seekers in criminal court rather than waiting to see if they qualify for asylum — are decisions the Trump administration has made.
 

Others have sought to defend this Trump policy by pointing to the laws that give extra protections to families, unaccompanied children, and asylum seekers. Saying these legal protections are “loopholes” and a “Democratic law”. This too, is a lie. The immigration law addressing unaccompanied children was passed overwhelmingly in 2008 and signed by George W. Bush.   When Donald Trump or any Republican says there is a law that requires us to take children from their parents and put them in dog kennels in an abandoned Walmart in Texas, they are lying. 

There is no law, there never was a law. No member of congress, Democrat, Republican, or Independent has ever introduced, sponsored, co-sponsored or voted on any bill that said, that the children of illegal immigrants must be taken away from their parents. No such law exists.


Donald Trump didn’t decide to do this to secure the border, or to stop some phantom threat from “MS-13” (the vast majority of whom are Americans already here, and not immigrants trying to get in). Donald Trump decided to do this, because it hurts people. Specifically, people who are not white, and hurting those people makes his base happy.

A very clear segment of Donald Trump’s supporters, love the idea of punishing brown people for trying to come to America, They cheered as Attorney General Jeff Sessions gleefully described it as “a powerful deterrent.“ Somewhere in the bowels of the Trump Administration somebody actually thought. Hey! I know! Let’s take their kids! That will show ‘em!

Not only did someone in the Trump White House think up such a thing, but they turned those thoughts into words, and actually then proposed such a thing, and it is Donald Trump who decided to do it.

Our immigration system in this country is a mess. Some of you have asked us, doesn’t it bother me or my husband to see people coming here illegally, while we are stuck in the very expensive limbo of his green card process. A process which prevents us at present, from even being together? Aren’t we outraged, as people who are obeying the law, to know others have just jumped the queue and are sneaking in?

No, and here is why...

I have always believed, as a descendant of immigrants who came to this country 111 years ago, that the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty was not just an invitation, but was an exhortation. A call to all who want a better life, a freer life. A life where your opportunities, your rights to live, worship, speak and pursue your own happiness, are greater than in any other nation on earth. It was and is, a call to come here.

I have never believed that we are a nation that kidnaps and cages children. I have never believed that we are a nation that sees our rights and opportunities as solely the prerogative of just a few. I have never believed that we are a nation that terrorizes children, for no other reason than it polls well with one party’s political base.

I have never, ever imagined this is who we are. But apparently there are people who can, and have.

Yes, we need a secure border. Yes, illegal immigration is a violation of the law. But this... the taking of children, this isn’t law enforcement. This is a grotesque, unforgivable and unimaginable violation of human rights. The likes of which we have not seen since the days when we rounded up whole families of innocent Americans and put them in camps, for the crime of... being Asian. 

This is not being done to enforce the law. You can enforce immigration laws without breaking up families. This is being done by Donald Trump, in our name,  not to protect you and me, but simply to be cruel to people his base likes to hate.

I don’t care anymore to what extent the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. We will likely never know how that collusion impacted the 2016 election. But frankly, it doesn’t matter at this point. Donald John Trump is a rancid stain on the fabric of America that must be removed either by impeachment or by his own forced resignation. Treason, money laundering, Russian hookers, adultery, fraud, corruption, even open love for, and active support of, brutal dictators; doesn’t matter anymore. It all pales by comparison next to this. There is nothing positive Donald Trump could ever do as President, that can negate the horror of this.

If you support Donald Trump. If feel this is who we should be, then you are completely un-American. If you, like many in the Trump base, feel good about what our country is doing, then you are a sick, twisted and heartless creature, who is simply revelling in the pain of people you dislike.

If you honestly think taking someone’s child away, is a really great way to punish them, just for trying come to this country. Then there is something seriously wrong with you.

Your bigotry and malice towards others has corrupted your basic humanity.

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Annual Pride Debate...

Well it's finally June... so we all know what that means...

As the rainbow flags go up on Market Street in San Francisco , the annual debate over the merits of LGBT Pride celebrations re-surfaces like a perennial weed that just won't stay down. It's a debate that rages both inside and outside the broader LGBTQ community. While inside the community,  the question always gets asked ; does some of the imagery of Pride celebrations hurt the cause of equal rights? In addition, in the wake of significant legal victories for LGBT rights, especially around Marriage Equality; Some are asking do we even need pride celebrations anymore?   

While critics and opponents of  equality love to point to that same imagery as evidence of Gay folks wanting "special rights", and then pull out their favorite chestnut, of asking why are Gay Pride Celebrations acceptable but Straight Pride celebrations are not?

Sigh.... Really? It's like asking why isn't there a "White History Month". I get tired of trying to explain to people who really do know better,  just how stupid they sound whey they try to make these types of arguments. But fine, since clearly there is some "genuine" confusion out there as to the reason for LGBT Pride celebrations , allow me to clarify.

  • The number of states in the USA where you can be fired  for  being  Straight = 0
  • The number of states in the USA where you can be fired for being Gay = 29
  • Number of countries that will execute you for being Straight = 0
  • Number of countries that will execute you for being Gay = 10
Growing up, how many books, songs, television programs, and movies did you see that featured straight couples meeting, falling in love and living happily ever after?

Pretty much all of them. Ask someone who is Gay how many positive images in popular culture they had growing up that affirmed who they are? The answer is, none, or at best few, if any at all.

Gay characters in movies and television were either creepy villains or camp comic relief. If you doubt that, you really should check out the groundbreaking HBO documentary, "The Celluloid Closet". It shows clearly the disparity in popular culture where messages about sexual orientation were concerned.

Then there is the area of religion. The number of straight kids who have been told they are going to hell simply for being heterosexual = 0. The number of LGBT kids who have been told that they are going hell simply for being homosexual = too many to even try to count.

In the light of LGBT rights victories in the U.S. over the past few years, it is easy to laugh at the various American Talabangelicals who shrieked hysterically how the US Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex marriage back in 2015, would result in nothing less than some sort of Gay, Nazi... apocalypse. But for a young person struggling with issues of identity and self acceptance,  these toxic messages of hatred and bigotry could cut right through you .


To my Straight friends, I have to ask, how many times have "respected" public figures, politicians, pundits and clergy gone on national television demanding that everyone be given the chance to VOTE on your civil rights?  How often has someone told you that not being able to discriminate against you was somehow an attack on them?  When was the last time you heard a member of the Supreme Court saying that simply by being allowed to exist, you were "an attack" on the moral fiber of America?

Anyone?? Yeah...I didn't think so... I have a flash of the obvious for you, every month is "Straight Pride Month."  There is a word for someone who truly feels that equal rights for people they don't like is somehow an attack on them. That word is "Bigot".

Saying LGBT people are human too, isn't an attack on straight people. Those people who really think it is, are, quite simply, bigots. People who say LGBT Pride celebrations need to be stopped, are in fact, the exact reason they all started in the first place.

Are pride celebrations good or bad for the cause of equality? The answer is both. With visibility comes closer examination. Anti-gay bigots love to show images of drag queens, leather daddies and nearly naked porn stars dancing on parade floats, and scream "See! it's not about equal rights! They just want to recruit your kids into THIS!!"

They never show the families, advocacy groups, welcoming and inclusive religious denominations, and workplace affinity groups who participate in Pride parades. After all, that wouldn't fit their desired narrative.

Media outlets are complicit in this, by the way.  CNN loves to show the drag queens  and semi-naked boys in their coverage, but when straight allies like the CEO of  the largest health care company in the United States rides  on a float  in the San Francisco Pride  parade every year, along with hundreds of his LGBT employees,  you'd think the guy was invisible.

Likewise, critics of  the concept of LGBT Pride , never talk about the rates of divorce, unplanned pregnancy, child abuse and neglect and domestic violence in Straight relationships.  You never see  folks like Tony Perkins, head of the certified Hate-Group, the "Family Research Council" on Fox News talking about Mardi Gras, or "Girls Gone Wild" on Spring Break.

That would be admitting something of an inconvenient truth.  It's much easier to just point at a group of shirtless men on a flatbed truck or women on motorcycles and say that they are the real threat to families.

I have always said that Pride celebrations are not really for the people who attend them. Instead they are for the people who cannot attend them. Growing up as a Gay kid in a small town in South Central Wisconsin, there were times when I was convinced I was the only gay person on Earth. The constant message from popular culture, religion, family and peer groups was "boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married (or not) and have kids and live happily ever after". There was no happily ever after for someone who felt what I was feeling.

Then, for one weekend in June, I would turn on the TV News and see thousands of people just like me, in places like New York, San Francisco and Chicago saying "No, that's not true, you are not alone, and there is a big wide world out here beyond Sun Prairie Wisconsin. So hang in there .... we're here and we're waiting for you!"



Now more than thirty years later, I watch coverage like this,  and it seems so endearingly cheesy. Yet at the time, it was a lifeline to people like me, living with the fear and isolation of being "in the closet".

Pride Celebrations are the original  "It Gets Better Project". 

My straight friends never needed to be told that being straight was okay, and that they were okay because nobody ever told them they weren't. Pride isn't about celebrating being Gay, it's about publicly showing that being LGBT is just as much a part of the the human experience as being straight is. I for one would love to see the day when Pride is obsolete. When that scared closeted gay kid, in some small town doesn't need to be told that he or she is fine just the way they are.

But until that day comes, I will be adding my voice to that joyous mob in places like Market Street in San Francisco, Oxford Street in London,  Halsted Street in Chicago, and Fifth Avenue in New York City, Hillcrest in San Diego, Montrose in Houston, and so many more.  If for no other reason to let that one scared  kid know, it really does get better. There is a world where  "boy meets boy" and "girl meets girl", where they fall in love and (f they want to) get married, and yes, even live happily ever after...

Happy Pride Everyone.



Friday, May 25, 2018

Happy Towel Day 2018!

The name of this rather modest internet effort (blog) has from its beginnings been "Funny Odd Thing...Life."  A reference to late great British writer, Douglas Adams.

 So it is in  that ongoing spirit of gratitude and homage  that we pause from politics, LGBT rights, and all other whatnot  to wish everyone a  Happy Towel Day 2018

Towel Day is celebrated every year on 25 May as a tribute to the Adams by his fans. Towels, as some of you may well know,  play an important role in Adams'   The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,


While  best known for his Hitchhiker's  books  Adams, aside from being a brilliant comedy writer,  was truly of the great thinkers of our age. and had a passion for humanity.  So on this Towel Day we remember Douglas, and in this age of  the insane reality show that seems to be our world in 2018 , recall his best bit of advice.   Printed in the large and now famously friendly letters on the cover of the "Guide"...

DON'T PANIC!

On February 8th, 2018,  Elon Musk's company SpaceX launched their  rocket Falcon Heavy rocket with a surprise - the payload was Musk's own Tesla roadster.  Seated in the front seat  was  dummy astronaut, and David Bowie's "StarMan" playing ona loop.  But there  emblazoned on the dashboard  was "DON'T PANIC" as a tribute to Douglas Adams. Now flying through space for all time. 

Life, The Universe and Douglas Adams, is a film by Joel Greengrass and Rick Mueller, and explores the details of Adams' life in a warm, funny, loving way.  Telling of his life, his work, his famous problems with deadlines, and his passion for technology, humanity and  world (and universe) around him.

The film offers a  realistic look at a real live human being from the points of view of those who knew him best. Interviews with Adams' early teachers and comedy partners and friends.


The commemoration was first held May 25th, 2001, two weeks after Adams' death on  May 11th.  

Monday, May 21, 2018

I get it now... It's hard to admit a mistake.

I think I have it figured out...

Like many people I have wondered how any American with any sort of conscience or common sense could still be defending Donald Trump Yet all you need do is surf over to fox news dot com and scroll through  the comment threads to find Trump Supporters who are desperate to talk about ANYthing but the core issues surrounding this President. 

President Trump said multiple times that he "had no deals with anyone in Russia".  That was a LIE he did.    President Trump said no one in his campaign ever met with Russians or people connected to Russia, That was also a LIE, there were multiple contacts on multiple levels.    The President says the Special Council investigation is run by Democrats, that is also a LIE Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein are both Republicans.
and... and... and... 

But Ok , I get it. They can't ever face those facts because it means admitting they got conned.  Like the little old lady who gives her bank details to the "Nigerian Prince" who emailed her for help, They fell for the scam hook  line and sinker. 
  • They voted to drain the swamp. President Trump filled it instead. 
  • They voted for America First, and President Trump has instead lost  Billions of dollars in Trade (specifically agricultural trade) to China and Russia. 
  • They voted for a POTUS who said  he'd  be too busy working to play Golf, and instead they got one who is too busy golfing to actually work. 
 So yeah, I can see why they feel so defensive.

Hey! I feel their pain! I voted for Barack Obama. TWICE, thinking I was getting passionate progressive, and instead I got a moderate corporate centrist who squandered his majority and mandate trying to appease people who were never going to work with him, even on things they had thought of, (like the Health Insurance Individual mandate - which was a GOP idea.)

The Republican Party was once a beacon of rational and inspired patriotism. Now it is addicted to crazy. And like most addicts the hardest thing is admitting you have problem. So I get it, Trump voters log online, rail and rant about the "libs" and "Fake News" but we all know the real issue is, they cannot bring themselves to admit they were duped.

 But admitting you made a mistake is the first step to fixing it.