Good People Doing Good Things … Best Buddies and More

My first ‘good people’ of the day came to my attention thanks to my youngest reader, Benjamin, who emailed me with … “Namaste, Miss Jill! It’s me, Benjamin! We, Gem and me, found a good people for you! Gem read it to me and I told her, that’s a good people thingy for Miss Jill. Bye!”  Well, he was right, this is perfect for my “good people thingy” … thank you, Benjamin!  Don’t you just love it when a 5-year-old is already taking notice of the good people in this world?


Michell Girard is a hero, at least to one person, Chris Barrington.  Ms. Girard was Chris’ teacher many, many years ago, and she must have been an exceptional teacher, for when Chris was found wandering alone on a highway outside of Gatesville, Texas one day back in June, hers was the only name he could think of to give the Sheriff’s deputies.  You see, Chris is autistic and severely developmentally delayed, and functions at the level of a six-year-old child.

Chris had been living with his father, but his father was in the late stages of leukemia and was not able to get out of bed to care for Chris, so Chris struck out on his own.  When the deputies found him, he had been walking around for two days, and other than his father’s name, the only other one he could come up with was his teacher from way back when, Michell Girard.

When the Sheriff’s office contacted Ms. Girard, she asked …

“What happens if I don’t take him? Will he get in a group home?”

When told that no, he would be institutionalized, she responded …

“Not on my watch, he’s not!”

You’ve gotta love that lady!  And that is how Chris Barrington came to live with a woman he hadn’t seen in years.  Chris’ father died a short time later, on August 1st, and Ms. Girard has applied for permanent guardianship.

There are a lot of things in life that most of us take for granted but that Chris had never known … simple things like … a birthday party!  Says Ms. Girard …

“He’s never had a birthday present, a birthday party, he’s never had Christmas, Thanksgiving, nothing. So, this year is going to be full of firsts.”

But he had a party this year!birthday-cakeAnd that’s not all … he took his first boat ride!  Ms. Girard posted on Facebook to see if any of her friends knew of somebody with a boat who would be willing to take him for a ride … just around Lake Waco.  Enter Jimmy Bennett, owner of JMB Fishing …

“You know, there are so many things that kids want to do. They want to go to Disney. I have one that wants to go to Hawaii on a shark fishing trip. Chris is happy to come out on Lake Waco and ride around on a boat. That’s all he wants to do.”

Check out the video …

Ms. Girard definitely qualifies in my book as a ‘good people’ … and from the looks of it, Chris Barrington is embarking on a fun new chapter in his life!


As I was digging for more information about Michell Girard and Chris Barrington, I came across another story that led me to an organization …Lisa-RuthMeet best buddies Lisa Buchanan and Ruth Godding.  The two met 20 years ago, through an organization called Best Buddies International, a non-profit that is working to end “social, physical and economic isolation” among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

When they met, Lisa Buchanan was president of the Best Buddies chapter at Marymount University in Virginia.  Per Lisa …

“We hit it off right away. We started talking on the phone. We just did all the on-campus things through college, like Halloweenfest and Christmas parties. Then when I graduated I wasn’t technically in Best Buddies anymore, but I still kept in touch with Ruth.”

The two have spent many good times together.  Lisa is now a schoolteacher and the mother of 13-year-old twins, of whom Ruth says …

“They were very cute babies! I was very surprised they were twins. Wow! There were two babies! I wasn’t expecting that one.”

Godding-Buchanon.jpgBest Buddies International highlighted Ruth and Lisa’s story of enduring friendship this month. According to the organization’s founder, Anthony Shriver …

“Ruth and Lisa’s 20-year friendship is really what Best Buddies is all about. It’s truly a testament to the power of friendship and inclusion. Genuine one-to-one friendships like this change lives, and it’s why we’ve spent the last 30 years working to connect people who may not normally be friends and changing the way people think about individuals with special abilities — everyone should have a best buddy.”

Best Buddies’ Mission Statement:

Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

The IDD community that Best Buddies serves includes, but is not limited to, people with Down syndrome, autism, Fragile X, Williams syndrome, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury and other undiagnosed disabilities.

Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Our programs empower the special abilities of people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers, secure successful jobs, live independently, improve public speaking, self-advocacy and communication skills, and feel valued by society.

our-visionAnd they have had a global impact …

Best-Buddies-2Best-Buddies-3Best-Buddies-4

Take a look at their website  … I think you’ll agree that this organization also qualifies as a ‘good people’ and deserves a two thumbs-up!


Once again, good people just dropped into my lap and I didn’t have to look far.  Underneath all the noise and detritus in the news these days, there are these people, real people, making a difference in the lives of others.  Kind of restores a bit of faith in the world, doesn’t it?

Too Little, Too Late, But Still …

There have been some positive signs that perhaps this nation as a whole is sick and tired of the white supremacists and their rhetoric, sick and tired of seeing white people with notions of superiority thinking they have more ‘natural rights’ than others.  It’s far too little, too late, but still … it’s a start.


And it only took five years …

In 2014, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo choked an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, to death.  It was not the first, nor would it be the last case of a white cop killing an unarmed black man, but it was the case that brought the #BlackLivesMatter movement to the forefront of the public eye.  In almost every one of these cases, the police officers have gotten off scot-free, even kept their jobs.  On Monday, a New York City Commissioner James P. O’Neill made a decision that will, hopefully, set a new precedent, by firing Officer Pantaleo, and stripping him of his pension benefits.

Garner’s crime five years ago was that he was allegedly selling cigarettes outside a convenience store.  For this, he paid with his life.  It is my opinion that Officer Panteleo should have been tried and convicted.  The department had a rule against using the chokehold he used on Mr. Garner, and Garner said, “I can’t breathe”, but still Panteleo didn’t release his hold.  Blatant cruelty.  And yet, despite Mr. Garner’s death having been ruled a homicide, Panteleo was never charged.

As I said, this is a case of too little, too late.  Pateleo should be in prison, but instead he is in his lawyer’s office trying to force the NYPD to reinstate him, his benefits, and pay him back pay for time lost.  And, it took James O’Neill five years to decide to fire him.  When they say the “wheels of justice” turn slowly, they aren’t kidding!  Still, it is a small step in the right direction.


A slippery slope …

The 1st Amendment right to free speech is a slippery slope and has been the cause of much disagreement throughout time.  At what point does free speech cross the line and become punishable?  At what point should speech be silenced?  Some would answer “never”, but most reasonable people agree that there must be limits, but rarely agree to the terms of said ‘limits’.  In this age of social media, the question becomes even more relevant, for there are those who believe that hate speech is protected under the 1st Amendment, and spew their hate all over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for all the world to see.

Last week, social media outlets Facebook and Instagram suspended the accounts of James Orien Allsup, and Twitter had already suspended his account in late 2017.  James Orien Allsup is a white supremacist who marched with the other white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and whose hate speech can still be seen on YouTube.  There will be some, no doubt, who will cry “Foul!” at the move by Facebook and Instagram, but frankly, I support the move.

I am a staunch advocate for freedom of speech and freedom of the press.  However, in my book there is a line.  When you publicly threaten or incite violence, then you have shirked the responsibility that accompanies those rights.  I say the same about media outlets such as Fox and Breitbart that engage in conspiracy theories that have already led to violence and loss of life.  I applaud Facebook and Instagram, and would urge YouTube to remove this man from their platform as well.


The New York Times is doing an excellent series titled The 1619 Project:

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

I will be including some of their works in future posts, but I urge you to check it out for yourselves.  Racism, white supremacy, white nationalism … whatever name you give it … is ugly, and in this country, it is increasing at what I consider to be an alarming rate.  We need to tackle this subject, to take off the window dressing and show it for what it is … arrogant hate.  A friend sent me a meme recently that I think should be made into a poster and mailed to every member of any of the 1,000+ hate groups around the country! racism-for-dummies.jpg

♫ Moon River ♫

Some songs, I think, are simply timeless … or perhaps it is just that I am old and nostalgia has taken hold of my mind today.  I’ve been in a dark place of late … I see too much wrong in the world and realize that my small contributions toward righting the wrongs are pretty irrelevant.  So, tonight I went searching for a song that would take me back to another time … not necessarily a simpler or better time … just a different time.

This was used as Audrey Hepburn’s theme song in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Hepburn sings the song in the movie, and many have recorded this, including Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra, but the one that made the charts in 1961 was Jerry Butler’s version.  Butler’s version reached #11 in the U.S. and #14 in Canada, but it was South African singer Danny Williams’ version that topped the charts at #1 in the UK.  I listened to Danny Williams’ version and frankly, I liked it better than the rest!  I had never heard of him before, but his voice is as silk.

Henry Mancini wrote this song with lyricist Johnny Mercer. The original title was “Blue River,” but Mercer found out another songwriter was using that title.  Moon River is a real river in Savannah, Georgia, where Mercer grew up. His home overlooked the river and he had fond memories of the place. At the time, the river was known as The Back River, but was renamed Moon River in honor of the song, and Johnny Mercer’s home along the river became known as the Moon River House.  According to Mancini …

“I reckon I’ll have made around $100,000 on ‘Moon River’ within the next two years or so. It took me about 30 minutes to compose. It had to be in keeping with the character of Holly Golightly, the star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and I had to bear in mind the limitations of Audrey Hepburn’s voice. I worked the whole song round a simple guitar basis, although the guitar isn’t heard much during the number.”

Danny Williams originally refused to sing it, saying that Johnny Mercer’s lyrics were nonsensical. But he saw the film and was so moved by it that he relented. Williams died of cancer on 6th December 2005.

With so many good versions to choose from, I was torn.  So, I am giving you a choice tonight, between Jerry Butler’s, Andy Williams’, and Danny Williams’.  Listen to one, to all, or to none … let me know what you think.

Moon River

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossin’ you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after that same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the Bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me

Writer/s: Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Trumponomics 101

He’s cutting taxes … again.  No wait … he isn’t cutting taxes!  He’s reversing his trade tariffs.  No wait … he isn’t doing that, either!  Just what the hell is the fool in the Oval Office doing???  Nobody knows, for sure.

Economists have been predicting that the nation will see another recession before the end of 2020.  I am not an economist, but nonetheless put my two cents worth in and say I think it will come by the end of 2019, or at least a harbinger of a recession.  Trump has seemingly believed that his house of cards would stand at least through November 3rd, 2020 … election day.

Well, last week there were some warning signs.  First, Trump’s latest round of tariffs on imports from China sent retailers into a frenzy, with the holiday shopping season on the horizon, and so as the Dow headed south, Trump postponed those tariffs, and the next day all was well once again.  Then, the bond market flashed a warning signal, as the spread between the 2-year Treasury note and 10-year bond inverted for the first time in more than a decade.  That has historically presaged a recession, and so once again the market turned southward, losing about 3% last Thursday.

Trump to his base, the only people who believe a word he says, claimed that …

“Our Economy is very strong, despite the horrendous lack of vision by Jay Powell and the Fed. The Fed Rate, over a fairly short period of time, should be reduced by at least 100 basis points, with perhaps some quantitative easing as well. If that happened, our Economy would be even better, and the World Economy would be greatly and quickly enhanced-good for everyone!”

Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely if the “man” actually had a clue about what he is speaking?

He talks of further tax cuts.  Our national debt and budget deficits are both already at a historic high … and he wants to cut revenue even more???  Where the heck is the money going to come from to keep the government functioning, to pay Social Security checks and pay the military and pay for food stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, etc., etc., etc.???  How will the United States pay its loans?  Has the “man” no sense of how the economy works, how revenue vs expenses work, how a budget works?  Yeah, silly question, isn’t it?  He has no concept … he thinks you have to have an ID to buy groceries.

But it gets even better (where ‘better’ means ‘worse’ in the alternative universe).  Remember back in May 2016, when Trump was hot on the campaign trail and he made this statement …

“People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, and I mean, these people are crazy. This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, OK?”

Oh, my aching head!!!  Donnie, Donnie, Donnie … it is NOT that simple!  The money that is printed is expected to be backed up with real assets!  This is not an effing game of Monopoly but is real world economics!

Printing more money will only exacerbate the problem, yet that is precisely what Trump is proposing to offset the market downturn that he swears doesn’t exist.  Or rather, that he believes has been created by his enemy, “the media”.

“The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election. The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!”

print-moneyPeople … sigh … the incumbent does not know what he is doing.  He does not understand how global markets work.  He does not understand how the economy works.  He barely understands how to wipe his patootie.  To my republican friends:  I beg of you, please study this situation, try to understand what your “hero” is doing to not only this nation, but to the world.

Most presidents are not economists.  But then, most presidents hire economic advisors who ARE economists, who DO understand how the world of economics and high finance works, and more importantly, they actually LISTEN to those paid advisors.  Trump is convinced that his “gut” (and there is certainly enough of it) is smarter than all the advisors that WE THE PEOPLE are paying, and he listens to nobody.  Folks … there is a price to be paid for this folly.  We will all pay that price.  Think about it.

♫ Walk Don’t Run ♫

Tonight, as I was trolling around my usual haunts for material for Jolly Monday, I came across a list on Phil’s Phun of the top songs of the 1960s.  Immediately, I seized on at least 15 great ones that I hadn’t thought of in ages, such as Jimmy Jones’ Handy Man, Brenda Lee’s I’m Sorry, Greenfields by The Brothers Four, and much more that brought back memories galore.  But, when I came to #25 on the list … damn, but I’ve always loved this song!  It’s an instrumental, no words, but it needs none.

After hearing a Chet Atkins recording of Walk Don’t Run, the Tacoma-based instrumental rock band The Ventures released their version of the tune as a single in spring 1960 on Dolton Records. This version made the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #2 and was kept out of the #1 spot by It’s Now or Never by Elvis Presley.

This single, their first national release, vaulted the Ventures’ career. The song was recorded before the band officially had a drummer. The Ventures’ website lists the drummer on Walk, Don’t Run as Skip Moore. Skip was given the choice of $25 or 25% of the money the record would make for playing on the session. He took the $25.  Fool!

Lyrics???  It’s an instrumental …

Jolly Monday Awaits!!!

Good morning, friends!  It’s Monday again … yay.  Oh, no, of course I’m happy to see you!  This is often the highlight of my week … I’m just not quite ready to face another week just yet … I was enjoying the more laid-back-ed-ness of the weekend.  But, a new week it is, and that means we need to kick it off with some fun and funnies, right?  … … What’s that noise???  JOE … wake up … you’re snoring!!!  Go grab a cuppa coffee, for Pete’s sake!

Joe-Monday-coffeeSo, how was your weekend?  Mine was quiet with a capital Q!  Daughter Chris had four separate band performances on Saturday and two on Sunday, so she was largely either gone, or napping on the sofa, for she was marching outdoors in a wool kilt, wool socks, and the temps were in the 90s!  Needless to say, she was t-i-r-e-d!  So, Miss Goose and I did our own thing and few words were spoken, except for Saturday evening when we collaborated on a Chinese supper … she made the Chow Mein, I made the cream-cheese Rangoon, and we had Pandora frozen Eggrolls.  It was both fun and tasty!

Well, I know you all have places to go, people to see, and all that, so let’s get this show on the road and find some fun stuff to start the week off right.  Snacks over on the table … help yourself!

 

 

fruit-bowlcoffee-tea

Larrys-celery

Larry’s celery


Roomba with a ‘tude …

You know those self-driving little disc-shaped vacuums called ‘Roomba’?  I don’t have one because I can only imagine what it would do to the hearts of our poor little already traumatized fur babies.  Well, back in May, a young man named Michael Reeves, a techie sort of guy, decided to have some fun and do a bit of back-door programming on a Roomba.  What he did … he taught it to scream obscenities!  Now, maybe I’m getting interested in a Roomba after all!Roomba-1He took the modified Roomba to the Target store where he originally bought it for what he refers to as a bit of “market research” and turned it loose.

Roomba-3Roomba-4The store manager, however, failed to see the humour, and ultimately Michael concluded that the general public is not ready for his invention.Roomba-2

“It appears as though our invention is simply too far ahead of its time. The world isn’t ready for the Roomba that screams when it bumps into things and I’m okay with that.”


Oops!

Lindsey and Mark Lashley recently had a baby … well, Lindsey had it, Mark stood by and watched.  They named the baby Cason Knox (yes, really), and Mark’s mother got down to the business of letting everybody in the family know.  She must have thought the easiest way was to send a text message to everyone on her contact list, but one of those people had changed their phone number.  The old number for the cousin had been re-assigned, and a stranger named Dennis Williams received the text message.

Imagine his puzzlement, but nonetheless, he and his brother, Deorick, decided to pay a hospital visit to the new parents, and they even brought gifts!  This, folks, is something you don’t see everyday … just a random act of kindness that started as a wrong number!Dennis-Deorick


Little things …

It’s a little thing, and some might think it’s a waste of time, or not very important, but … I think it’s a sign of hope in more ways than one.

This tortoise, dubbed Helix, was born with a congenital deformity, whereby the bottom of his shell is twisted upside down. Its front half was perfectly normal there was no deformity in his face or front legs. He was able to properly eat, and he could scoot itself around using its front legs, though at times he struggled.

Enter Randy Betz, a medical sales consultant with a side business of … helping people hatch tortoises!  Who knew?  Betz said Helix was in danger of being euthanized, as he was unable to walk. Betz was inspired by a mini skateboard to come up with a unique solution.

“I took some glue, some superglue, and I glued it right on the back end of it.  Very heartwarming to see him as happy as he was able to move around.”

Take a look for yourself …


Lightning strikes again … and again … and again …

I found this picture over at Phil’s Phun, and I have no idea where this was or when, but isn’t this an amazing display of lightning?lightning


Funnies …

How about a few funnies?funny-1funny-2funny-3funny-4


And, I must stop here, but one last bit of fun … I cannot conclude Jolly Monday without a cute animal video!  I disappointed young Benjamin again on Saturday, and promised to make this extra special for him, so … let’s watch some baby polar bears take their first steps …


jollyAnd that wraps up yet another Jolly Monday, my friends!  Please … share those gorgeous smiles with everyone you see this week … we all could use a kindly smile, a touch on the shoulder, a hug.  Keep safe and have a wonderful week!  Love ‘n hugs from Filosofa and Jolly!

If You Give A Kid A Gun …

In this era of Trump, we’ve heard some pretty stupid things, but something I read just this morning takes the cake.  With the subject of gun control back in the headlines in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton a couple of weeks ago, the NRA is spewing their message once again about “a good guy with a gun”, etc.

Florida is one of the states considering a ban on assault weapons, so the NRA jumped into action, sending one of their leading lobbyists and former president of the NRA (1995-1998), Marion Hammer, to speak to a group of economists. marion-hammer.pngMs. Hammer’s first argument against the proposed amendment to ban assault weapons was that Florida Governor Rick Scott “solicited and offered significant financial incentives to gun manufacturers to come to Florida to bring more jobs”.  And now, the poor gun manufacturers may suffer a financial loss if assault weapons are banned.  They’ve got my deepest sympathy.  Hey!  I’ve got an idea … let’s send them “thoughts and prayers”, shall we?

But, Ms. Hammer’s second argument for why Florida should drop the ridiculous notion of saving lives by banning these guns that were intended only for use by the military, is even more ludicrous …

“How do you tell a 10-year-old little girl who got a Ruger 10/22 with a pink stock for her birthday that her rifle is an assault weapon and she has to turn it over to government or be arrested for felony possession?”

pink-assault-riflePick your jaws up off the ground now, take a deep breath.  Yes, she actually said that.  What sort of an idiot gives a 10-year-old child a damn assault rifle???  Anybody … ANYBODY who would give a child a gun of any sort, let alone an assault weapon, deserves to be drawn and quartered!!!

This is not the first time Ms. Hammer has come onto my radar.  About a year ago, I dedicated an entire post to her when she asserted her power to force the state to issue certain questionable gun licenses.  I was appalled that someone who doesn’t even hold a position in government had the sort of power she had, that she was able to browbeat and intimidate government officials to do her bidding.

Lest you think that most of the nation has better sense than to place firearms in the small arms of children, read this excerpt from an article in The Guardian last year …

A 2012 report by the Hunting Heritage Trust and the National Shooting Sports Foundation states: “It is important to consider more hunting and target shooting recruitment programs aimed at middle school level, or earlier.”

The report lays out a “Youth Hunter and Shooter Ambassador Program” strategy, in which kids are encouraged to influence their friends to get into guns. “Youth ambassadors and others should focus on getting newcomers to take a first step into target shooting through any means … The point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms.”

Young children looking to get into shooting have plenty of options when it comes to guns designed just for them. A 2014 article on NRA Family, an NRA-run website, profiles Marlin’s “new kid-friendly rifles”. The writer enthuses that Marlin’s “new XT line of .22 rifles … are not just sized for kids; they’re completely designed for kids”.pink-gunsAnother article on the NRA Family website suggests kids might also think about using Thompson/Center HotShot rifle, “a tiny gun intended for the very youngest shooters”. A company spokesman explains that gun targets “the six- to 12-year-old range”. These come in a variety of fun colour options.

Ms. Hammer was instrumental in the passage of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that allowed George Zimmerman to get off scot-free after murdering an unarmed young black man, Trayvon Martin.  And, while Governor Scott was happily giving tax incentives to companies like Colt and the Russian Kalashnikov (makers of the notorious AK-47), there was the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in 2016 that killed 49 people and wounded 53 more.  And then in 2018, the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died and 17 more were wounded.

gun-ad-kidOh yeah, folks, the answer is not only more guns, but let’s start ‘em off as soon as their old enough to hold one in their hand.  Right out of the cradle, so that by the time they are teenagers, they will already own an arsenal that includes at least 3 or 4 assault rifles and maybe even a grenade launcher or two, eh?

♫ Love | Song Around The World ♫

For a number of reasons, I have not had a song in my heart for several days.  That was likely to continue until … our friend Ellen, knowing of my frame of mind, sent me a song today with the message …

“I think that you need to take a few moments to listen to this song …”

Listen I did, smile I did, and this song I wish to share with you all today.

The song encompasses musicians from ’round the world, and the message is, quite simply, “We are all the same”.  It is in the same vein as We Are The World, and Coca Cola’s, I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing, a message of inclusion, of humanity … of love.

Among the musicians are …

Kim Churchill, Newcastle, Australia

Taimane, Waikiki, Hawaii

Tal Ben Ari “Tula”, Tel Aviv, Israel

Olodum, Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil

Sophia Scott, Boulder, Colorado, USA

William Barton, Mount Isa QLD, Australia

Mana Maoli Collective Youth, O‘ahu, Hawaii, USA

Jose Ikotela, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tushar Lall, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Glodi Dinga, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Rupak Dhamankar, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Vanraj Shastri,  Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Prasad Rahane,  Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Paco Soto,  Aguilas, Murcia, Spain

Love

Playing for Change

It’s been a long time coming, coming
Seeming like we all been running, running
Feeling like the wild west, gunning, gunning
Listen to our elders shunning, shunning
Flipping on the news, be talking, talking
All about the problems, shocking, shocking
We put on our headphones walking, walking
We put on our headphones
Where did we all go wrong?
Love, love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Where did we all, where did we all go wrong?
(Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love)
All I see is faces, color, color
All the other races, other, other
Why couldn’t you just be my brother, brother?
We don’t have to kill one another, kill one another
All around the world, we are one, we are one
All around the world, we are one
Where did we all go wrong?
Love, love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love
Where did we all, where did we all go wrong?
(Lo-lo-lo-love, love, love)
Yeah we got the same blood, blood
We got the same blood, blood
Will it be enough, ‘nough?
Will it be enough?
We got the same heartbeat
We’re living for the same dream
We got the same bloodstream
Where did we all go wrong?
Looooooooove….

21st Century … or Dark Ages???

“It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

— Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964

There has been considerable debate about whether Title VII extends protections against discrimination to the LGBT community, and at present, it varies by state and locality, despite the fact that the entire Civil Rights Act is a federal law.  At this time, only 21 states have outlawed discrimination against members of the LGBT community.  A bill, the Equality Act,  was introduced into the House of Representatives in March of this year by Representative David Cicilline. The bill has passed in the House and is now languishing in the Senate committee, but the odds of it becoming the law of the land seem slim at the moment, given the makeup of the current Senate, and the fact that Donald Trump spoke against it after right-wing religious organizations urged the White House to issue an opposition statement to the bill.

There are currently three cases on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court that will be heard on October 8th.  Briefly …

Zarda v Altitude Express:  Donald Zarda was fired from Altitude Express, where he worked as a skydiver. He informed a woman he was gay while they were strapped to each other because he thought it would make her feel more comfortable. She later informed his employer that she wasn’t happy with his sharing his being gay and he was subsequently fired. Zarda died in 2014 but his estate pursued the case.

Bostock v Clayton County:  Gerald Bostock, a child welfare services coordinator, was in a gay recreational softball league. He said his participation in the league and his sexual orientation became a problem with someone at work. Then he was fired for “conduct unbecoming of a county employee,” which he said was tied to his sexuality.

Harris Funeral Homes v EEOC:  Aimee Stephens, a trans woman, was fired from her job at a funeral parlor after she informed the funeral director she worked for that she was transgender. She had worked in funeral services for nearly 20 years and received positive feedback from her employer.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in all three cases on the same day, and according to Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, senior attorney at Lambda Legal, a civil rights organization focused on LGBTQ people …

“This is a momentous occasion. It is a pivotal moment and the public should be paying attention.  These cases will affect the ability of LGBTQ people to be full members of society and to contribute to society by entering the workplace and be free of discrimination.”

Meanwhile, the United States Justice Department under Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General William Barr sent a brief to the Supreme Court two days ago stating that they should find in favour of the employer in the Harris Funeral Homes case, arguing that …

“In 1964, the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex. It did not encompass transgender status. In the particular context of Title VII — legislation originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities — it was especially clear that the prohibition on discrimination because of ‘sex’ referred to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.”

Since when is it right and proper for the Department of Justice to tell the Supreme Court how to rule???  The Judiciary is an independent branch that is intended to be apolitical, not influenced by partisan politics.  However, the reality does not always match the intent.  Today, there are 5 justices who lean toward conservative opinions, 4 who are more liberal.  Chief Justice John Roberts is typically the more moderate of the conservative-leaning justices, often casting the deciding vote.  It is likely to come down to his single vote, and there are serious concerns, for he wrote a dissenting opinion in the 2014 case of Obergefell v Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage at the federal level.  And lately he has disappointed us a few times, such as his vote to give state lawmakers virtually unlimited authority to draw district lines (gerrymandering) once every 10 years, pick their voters and entrench their political power.

This is the 21st century, not the Dark Ages.  It is time we learn to accept people … ALL people … for who they are.  If the employers in these three cases are allowed to prevail, it will indeed be a dark day in the United States, and no doubt it will then be only a matter of time until we see cases coming before the court dealing with discrimination in housing, in education, in every aspect of life.  I’m convinced that it is only a matter of time until a case comes before the Supreme Court that challenges Obergefell v Hodges.  And then what?  If we strip the LGBT community of their rights, will we soon see cases attempting to strip African-Americans of their rights by challenging other aspects of the Civil Rights Act, or of the Voting Rights Act?

Keep your eyes on this one, folks, for how these three cases are decided will be the best indicator yet whether or not there is still “liberty and justice for all” in this nation.

Steve King — Riding Off Into The Sunset?

Well, it looks like U.S. Representative Steve King from Iowa may have finally crossed one line too many.  Maybe.  King is an unapologetic bigot in every sense of the word, and yet his district has re-elected him every two years since 2002!  Says something about the people in Iowa, doesn’t it?  A recap of some of his most egregious offenses …

  • He has a long history of white-nationalist affiliations. The Washington Post described King as the “Congressman most openly affiliated with white nationalism”. His racist comments resulted in him being stripped of all his committee assignments earlier this year.
  • In an interview with the New York Times, King questioned why “white nationalist,” among other terms, are deemed racist language.
  • On the House floor in July 2006, King suggested building a border wall along the country’s southern border and said the top of the fence could be electrified. “We do that with livestock all the time.”
  • In March 2008, King said terrorists would celebrate a Barack Obama presidency and that al Qaeda “would be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they would declare victory in this war on terror.”
  • While talking about “Dreamers” in a July 2013 interview for Newsmax TV, King claimed that for every young immigrant who becomes a school valedictorian there are “100 out there that, they weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

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This is but a sampling of his atrocious views … in fact, I awarded him my coveted Idiot of the Week award in March 2017 … check it out to read about more of his idiocy!  In short, he is against anyone who is not white, straight, Christian and preferably male.  But his latest seems to be, perhaps, the straw that broke the camel’s back, even in ultra-conservative Iowa.

King has long been a foe of women’s rights, particularly the right to choose to have an abortion.  On Wednesday, he was giving a speech at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa, when he attempted to justify his reason for refusing to support abortions even in cases of incest or rape …

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?  Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages taken place and whatever happened to culture after society? I know I can’t certify that I’m not a part of a product of that.  I’ve got 174 people who say they don’t want exceptions for rape and incest because they understand it is not the baby’s fault, to abort the baby, because of the sin of the father, and maybe sometimes the sin of the mother too. And so I refused to do that.”

Even the republicans were riled over that one … well, some of them anyway.  House Republican leaders broke from their August recess to publicly chastise him.  Liz Cheney, the party’s third highest-ranking member, tweeted that King’s comments were “appalling and bizarre … it’s time for him to go.”

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the minority whip, both said Mr. King’s comments underscored why he had been removed from his committees.  Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has said she will no longer support Mr. King. Even #MoscowMitch McConnell has said that King should resign!

King faces a republican contender in the primary, State Senator Randy Feenstra, and a number of republicans have said they will support any republican who is not Steve King!  If campaign donations are an early indicator, Feenstra stands a good chance, with $260,000 in donations as compared to King’s significantly lower $62,000.  And, even if King survives the primary race, he will face democrat J.D. Scholten who almost beat him in 2018, losing by only about 10,000 votes.  Perhaps the people of Iowa are tired of King’s perversion, his hateful rhetoric, his bigotry?  Let us hope so.