A Birthday Gift for the Dalai Lama – Global Compassion Education

The Dalai Lama’s 80th Birthday Wish Is That We All Live #WithCompassion
.

While I love his wish, I say let’s take it a step further: let’s give His Holiness the Dalai Lama the gift of global compassion education by mainstreaming compassion training in schools, communities and businesses around the world. From my experience, we are much closer to realizing this dream than we may think.

In 2008, I had the incredible privilege of being one of many organizers of a 5-day, large-scale event in Seattle called Seeds of Compassion which featured the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and spiritual leaders from many faith traditions. As 50,000 enthusiastic attendees sat attentively in a packed Seahawks football stadium, the Dalai Lama spoke extensively about the importance of compassion in creating a more peaceful world.

Many of us heard the call to compassionate action that day and so I followed up with the Dalai Lama the next day while I was moderating a discussion. I asked him, “Your Holiness, we have orchestrated a five-day compassion event with 150,000 attendees and millions more who are watching online eager to hear these messages. What is the most important thing we can do to keep this global compassion movement going?” He replied without hesitation, “Compassion education. We must grow compassion education.” Without even thinking how, I promised that we would indeed grow and expand compassion education.

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Photo credit: Matt Freedman | Seeds of Compassion

Education starts with full appreciation of what the word means. Compassion, as I have come to understand it, has four interrelated elements:

  1. Mindful recognition that suffering is occurring;
  2. Sympathetic concern related to being emotionally moved by the suffering, aka “I feel your pain“;
  3. Having the wish or intention to see that suffering relieved; and
  4. A responsiveness or willingness to help relieve the suffering, even if the gesture is as simple as saying silently, May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you find peace and joy. Even that, I have come to learn, is an act of compassion.

So how can we mainstream compassion education?

Here, another Tibetan man comes into play: Thupten Jinpa, the principal English translator for the Dalai Lama since 1985, was also on the stage in Seattle that day. He has since created a Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program in partnership with Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE)
. I didn’t hesitate to take the 8-week mindfulness course and in keeping with my commitment, I became certified to teach it, thereby contributing in my own way to expanding compassion education.

As I have immersed myself in this work, I have come to see there is a much larger compassion movement emerging around the world, made up of researchers, neuroscientists, professors, psychologists, contemplative scholars, religious leaders, activists, philanthropists, meditators and service-oriented individuals. They have all been quietly contributing to a solid foundation for compassion education.

Seeing this larger compassion movement taking shape, I was inspired to work with CCARE
, The Shift Network
, The Charter for Compassion
and other organizations to create a free online Global Compassion Summit
– July 7-9. Anyone can participate and all recordings will be available afterwards – also for free. The intention is to showcase and accelerate the growing field of compassion and create a vision of what is possible: global compassion education, the ideal gift for the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday.

The Global Compassion Summit
will feature more than a dozen experts all bringing their experience and unique perspective to this growing field. Among them are:

  • Karen Armstrong, a religious historian, collaborated with major world religious leaders to create a universal and secular expression of the Golden Rule, aptly called The Charter for Compassion
    . As a result of The Charter, more than 200 compassionate cities have emerged around the world, from Kentucky to Pakistan
  • Congressman Tim Ryan, a pacesetting politician, will illustrate how mindfulness and compassion are changing politics, helping the most at-risk schools and saving the lives of our country’s war veterans.
  • Kristin Neff, Ph.D., will share how raising an autistic son helped her become an expert researcher and teacher of self-compassion
    , a skill that is essential, but harder for us self-critical westerners to embrace.
  • Dr. James Doty, a neurosurgeon, will explain how we are hard-wired for compassion and how with effort, anyone can increase their capacity for compassion. He will also share his personal story of a woman in a magic shop who showed an act of kindness that turned his life around when he was a young boy.
  • Darshita Gillies, a millennial from Mumbai was born into the lowest 1% class of India, and who through education raised herself to the top 1%. She will highlight how she is working to expand compassion in business to benefit 100% of the planet.
  • Matthieu Ricard, a French Buddhist monk, will discuss how compassion can change not only us, but also the world — if we are willing to make a paradigm shift from a consumptive, self-centered way of thinking to a more selfless, altruistic way of behaving.

Through the process of producing this summit, I can now envision what is possible if we fully embrace the value of compassion to heal our planet. I can imagine a world where compassion education is mainstreamed into our schools, communities, hospitals and places of business. I see a world where altruism is the next sustainable trend. I see a world where in the face of the inevitable suffering, compassion becomes our most automatic response. And I see a world now where those choices are being made and reinforced across all genders, ethnic groups and nationalities.

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Photo credit: Matthew A. Felton | Seeds of Compassion

Happy Birthday to his Holiness the Dalai Lama! Please accept our Global Compassion Summit
offering as symbol of our ongoing commitment to compassion education and a gift of gratitude from those who you continually inspire around the world. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you find peace and joy. Namaste.

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Egyptian soccer player criticizes Sisi in reflection of mounting discontent

By James M. Dorsey

Criticism this week by soccer player Ahmed al-Merghani of general-turned-president Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s hard-handed repression of dissent and failure to defeat a mushrooming insurgency in the Sinai peninsula signals mounting discontent in Egypt.

Mr. Al-Merghani’s comments on his Facebook page are indicative because they suggested the degree to which Mr. Al Sisi’s cult-like popularity has diminished barely two years after he toppled elected president Mohammed Morsi in a military coup and a year after the former general was voted into office.

Soccer frequently serves as a barometer of political trends in the Middle East and North Africa. US intelligence officials have said that they routinely attended soccer matches in the region to glean clues as to where a country is headed.

One official predicted developments in Egypt when he told Quartz in 2013 that autocratic regimes frequently cover up burgeoning dissent by blaming it on hooliganism.

Addressing Mr. Al Sisi, Mr. Al-Marghani said: “You told the people come out and let me to fight terrorism. The people filled the streets even though (fighting terrorism) should’ve been your job in the first place. Ever since then everyone is dying, civilians, soldiers and policemen and where are you? All we ever get from you is words.”

The player described Mr. Al Sisi as a “failure” and asked “Is a state of mourning not going to be declared for them and the television soaps cancelled? Or are they not as important as the state prosecutor?”

Mr. Al Merghani’s remarks came days after jihadist insurgents took their fight to a new level with coordinated attacks in the Sinai in which at least 30 Egyptian soldiers were killed; the assassination of prosecutor general Hisham Barakat, the most senior official to have been killed in Egypt in a quarter of a century; and a police operation against a gathering of leaders of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood members who allegedly were abused and executed.

Mr. Al Merghani was fired for his comments by Wadi Degla, the only privately owned club in Egypt’s premier league.

The significance of Mr. Al-Merghani’s comments reminiscent of political expressions of retired star Mohammed Aboutreika, is that they broke with a tradition in which Egyptian players often saw the country’s strongman as a father figure and refrained from associating themselves with any form of dissent.

Authorities earlier this year froze Mr. Aboutreika’s assets in a travel agency that was suspected of having had links to the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was declared a terrorist organization immediately after Mr. Al Sisi’s ascent to power. Mr. Aboutreika has long been believed to have Islamist sympathies.

A groundswell of support for Mr. Aboutreika emerged on social media immediately after the asset freeze. A number of soccer players, in another rare brake with players’ reluctance to endanger their status, were among those who expressed solidarity with the former player.

Mr. Al Merghani’s comments further reflected Mr. Al Sisi’s inability, unlike his predecessors, to employ soccer as a tool to cement his popularity and divert attention from popular grievances. Mr. Al-Sisi’s failure to do so is closely linked to the deteriorating security situation in Egypt.

Concern that soccer stadia like in the waning years of President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a 2011 popular revolt in which militant fans played a key role, would become venues of protest persuaded Mr. Al-Sisi to keep stadia closed to the public during matches. A Cairo court last month banned militant soccer fan groups as terrorist organizations.

Mr. Al-Sisi’s one attempt to reopen stadia in February was immediately shelved after 20 fans were killed by security forces at a stadium in Cairo during the first match for which a limited number of tickets were made available.

In a reflection of Mr. Al-Sisi’s refusal to hold accountable police and security forces notorious for their brutality and introduce security sector reform, authorities charged 16 fans with having provoked the second worst incident in Egyptian sporting history in cohorts with the Brotherhood.

Relatives of some of the defendants and their lawyers charged that at least some of the fans had confessed as a result of torture. After five days’ of searching, Mahmoud Hemdan said he found his 21-year old brother Ashraf and teenage nephew Ali “beaten and tortured” at a Cairo police station.

“Ashraf is innocent. He told me he was beaten and tortured with electric shocks to private parts of his body,” Mr. Hemdan told Agence France Presse.

Ali’s mother, Nagat, said she was shocked when she saw her 14-year-old son Ali in jail. “I couldn’t hug him — his body was covered in bruises and marks from electric shocks,” she said.

Yasser Othman, another defendant, told a judge in a video posted online that he was “hung from my arms and given electric shocks several times. They even threatened to rape my wife.”

Mounir Mokhtar, a lawyer for some of the 13 defendants in custody asserted that “all were tortured to extract confessions.” Police have denied using torture. Some of the confessions, including that of Ashraf Hemdan, were broadcast on Egyptian television.

Mr. Al Merghani’s criticism of Mr. Al Sisi’s failure to restore stability to Egypt reflects growing frustration among politicized youth, many of whom are soccer fans who played a key role in protests on university campuses and in popular neighbourhoods since the former general seized power.

Amnesty International, in a recently published report entitled ‘Generation Jail: Egypt’s youth go from protest to prison,’ said “a generation of young Egyptian activists that came to the fore around the ousting of repressive ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011 is today languishing behind bars.” It said that the “mass protests have given way to mass arrests, as 2011’s ‘Generation Protest’ has become 2015’s ‘Generation Jail.’”

Militant soccer fans have warned that the Sisi regime’s repression is radicalizing youth who feel they no longer have anything to lose. A host of shadowy, hitherto unknown groups have emerged in recent months claiming responsibility for acts of political violence.

“This is a new generation. It’s a generation that can’t be controlled. They don’t read. They believe in action and experience. They have balls. When the opportunity arises they will do something bigger than we ever did,” said a founder of one of Egypt’s foremost militant fan groups or ultras.
Added another original ultra: “Things will eventually burst. When and where nobody knows. But the writing is on the wall.”

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies as Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-director of the Institute of Fan Culture of the University of Würzburg and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
, and a forthcoming book with the same title.

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'Nai' Or 'Oxi'? What Greece's Landmark Vote May Trigger

LONDON (AP) — On his 10-year trip home, the Greek hero Odysseus at one point had to steer his ship and crew down a narrow stretch of water menaced on opposite sides by two sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis.

The Greek people are in similar dire straits as they prepare to vote on a future in which they face two painful prospects: the slow grind of years more of austerity cuts or the country’s potentially catastrophic exit from the euro. The question is whether their vote on Sunday can help them escape either. “Yes” to more budget cuts in exchange for a financial aid package for the country? Or reject it in the hope it will not lead the country out of the euro?

The referendum question makes no reference to Greece’s future in the currency union. It is on a set of proposals that European creditors say they have withdrawn following the failure to forge a deal with Greece before an end-June deadline.

For the radical left-led Greek government, the proposals were unacceptable. It’s urging a “no” vote and says that will have no impact on Greece’s euro status.

Proponents of a “yes” vote, including a parade of former prime ministers and the main opposition party, say backing the government will jeopardize Greece’s place in the euro. Instead, they argue that by voting “yes” Greece would get a new deal quickly to shore up the economy.

In fact, what might happen in each case is unclear. Analysts in the world’s biggest investment banks are putting percentage probabilities to outcomes, such as Greece’s exit from the euro, but no one knows for sure.

Here’s a look at the events that each vote might trigger.

___

IF THE PEOPLE SAY ‘NAI’

A “yes” vote backing the reform proposals creditors had made would likely see Greece turn immediately to talks on a new rescue package. Whether that leads to a swift deal that might allow Greece to reopen its banks and restore a semblance of normality to the life of citizens and tourists is another question.

Much would likely depend on what happens on the political front.

The government has said it will respect the verdict.

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has said he’ll resign in the event of a “yes” vote and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has hinted as much. If the government does not collapse, it could try to build a new coalition with other parties, Varoufakis hinted.

It’s not clear, however, if that would involve new elections. That would take time and without financial assistance, Greece would surely go bankrupt.

Greece is no longer in a bailout program since its previous package expired Tuesday. So it would have to negotiate a new one with its creditors that involves more money for the government and the banks and new economic measures.

That is unlikely to be agreed on overnight, meaning the harsh controls on money withdrawals and transfers may remain in place for longer than anticipated. The Greek government had to put those limits when a run on the banks started last weekend and the European Central Bank refused to increase the emergency credit it allows the banks to draw on.

Varoufakis says banks will reopen Tuesday whatever the referendum’s outcome. That’s unlikely to happen unless the ECB agrees to increase the credit to Greek banks. And the ECB would be under huge pressure not to do so until Greece has a new, comprehensive financial rescue package.

An additional difficulty is that Greece’s creditors are singing from different hymn sheets. The International Monetary Fund has said it will not get involved in a third bailout unless it includes substantive debt relief for Greece. The Europeans, on the other hand, have ruled out debt relief until Greece makes its reforms.

“A new agreement will likely take time and the ultimate outcome may require even greater fiscal and structural commitments than the existing proposal,” said George Saravelos, a strategist at Deutsche Bank. “The extent to which there is a sufficient political shift in Greece to allow this to materialize remains the key source of uncertainty.”

___

IF THEY SAY ‘OXI’

Despite the Greek government’s assertion that a “no” vote will not lead to a euro exit, most people agree it would open up more uncertain outcomes, especially if the ECB calls time on the life-support measures to Greece’s banks.

A number of European politicians, including Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the top eurozone official, have said a “no” vote would jeopardize Greece’s place in the euro.

Others, such as the leaders of France and Italy, appear to be holding the door ajar for further talks. Even Wolfgang Schaeuble, the tough-talking German finance minister, has said the country could stay in the euro in the event of a “no” vote.

But investors are likely to be worried in case of a “no” vote amid fears it increases the chance of a Greek exit from the euro, or Grexit. Markets will open first in Asia.

The word ‘Grexit’ has dominated the past months of negotiations on Greece. But the country will not return to the drachma as soon as Monday. Rather, the risk increases the longer there is a deadlock in talks. Without a deal and without money, Greece will default on more of its debt repayments and will not be able to afford the day-to-day spending on salaries and pensions. The banks will run dry, even with the cash withdrawal limits.

In such a case, printing a new currency may be the only option available, which almost everyone thinks will be a short-term disaster for the Greek economy.

“A ‘no’ will result in Grexit with an uncertain future and high costs to Greek society, at least initially,” said Guntram Wolff, director of think-tank Bruegel.

Odysseus got through his ordeal, but Scylla the monster ate six of his men — not a great thought for Greeks seeking to navigate the straits of bankruptcy and national pride.

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Weekend Roundup

This week, while the U.S. celebrates its independence, the world watches a modern Greek tragedy unfold as Greece votes on austere bailout terms
imposed by the country’s creditors. However the vote goes, one thing is clear: The austerity that came with the two previous bailouts has utterly broken the Greek economy
. GDP has gone down nearly 30 percent. A quarter of the country is unemployed, including half of its young people. Pensions have been slashed. The health budget has been cut by 40 percent. Suicides are up 36 percent since 2008. The Troika has authored a new Greek myth — that you can cut your way to growth. And now they’re back, demanding more of what’s already shattered the economy. The question is will they shatter the spirit of the Greek people? Just as we value our independence, so do the Greeks, who, after all, invented democracy. No matter the outcome of the vote, feeling some measure of control will help keep Greece’s spirit alive.

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Mitt Romney Hosts A Sleepover With Marco Rubio And Chris Christie

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney will be hosting two rival Republican presidential contenders at a holiday sleepover Friday evening.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will both be staying over at Romney’s property in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, an aide to Romney confirmed. The aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of what the aide called the private nature of the event, said the former governor and his wife opened their home to the Christie and Rubio families after hearing they would be in town for the holiday weekend. Both candidates are scheduled to march in Wolfeboro’s Fourth of July parade.

Christie, who formally jumped into the race this week, told reporters in New Hampshire Friday that he was grateful for the invitation.

“I suspect there might be a little politics discussed tonight with Mitt and Ann, but me and Mary Pat, and Andrew and Sarah are really happy that Mitt and Ann invited us to stay with them tonight,” he said, according to video posted by NJ.com.

A Rubio spokesman declined to comment.

Romney had considered another run for president in 2016, but announced in January that he’d decided against it. His endorsement is now coveted.

The Washington Post reported Friday night that Romney would meet next week with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another GOP contender, at the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Christie was a top surrogate for Romney’s 2012 campaign and was considered a potential vice presidential contender. But he continues to receive heat in some Republican circles for leaving the trail and embracing President Barack Obama after New Jersey was hit by Superstorm Sandy just before the election.

Christie’s campaign also announced some of its top staffers Friday.

The campaign will be managed by Ken McKay, who formerly worked for the Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association.

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Obama Plans Broader Use Of Clemency To Free Nonviolent Drug Offenders

WASHINGTON — Sometime in the next few weeks, aides expect President Obama to issue orders freeing dozens of federal prisoners locked up on nonviolent drug offenses. With the stroke of his pen, he will probably commute more sentences at one time than any president has in nearly half a century.

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Crock Pot Cheesy Potatoes are Total Carb Comfort

Crock pot cheesy potatoes
are a classic dish for potlucks and holidays, made even easier by cooking them in the slow cooker. More room in the oven for more great food!

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Crock pot cheesy potatoes. Where do I even begin? I swear these have a piece of my heart. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. Am I the only one that grew up eating these at practically every holiday gathering? Maybe it’s a Michigan thing, but cheesy potatoes are a must at holidays – especially Easter
and Christmas
.

On Thanksgiving
you have good ol’ stuffing (dressing?) but every other holiday necessitates CHEESY POTATOES. Do I even need to mention that they’d be perfect for Mother’s Day
?! – dads, kids, whoever – make these for the moms in your life. She’ll love you forever.

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Plus they totally work for brunch just as well as for dinner. I always eat the leftovers for breakfast the next day. Who doesn’t like them? Creamy, cheesy, gooey, potatoes. Comfort food to the max.

Because of their prevalence at family gatherings, they instantly bring back memories for me. Memories of family dinners with the extended family. Tables pulled together in basements with folding chairs around them. Moms, dads, siblings, ousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Everyone together. Sharing a meal, sharing cheesy potatoes. I’m hard pressed to think of anything that is better than that. Throw in some ham, a vegetable, some soft dinner rolls, and a family-favorite dessert, and all that’s left to add is laughter and love.

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Okay, that sounded really cheesy.

Ha. Cheesy. Like these potatoes.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention the best part! These wonderful things are made in the slow cooker! That’s right – throw it together in five minutes before church and what do ya know? They’re ready when you get home. (Just like this awesome slow cooker stuffing recipe
!) Frees up that valuable oven space AND keeps them warm for serving. Pretty much an ideal situation if you ask me. Just add that laughter and love, ya know?

Looking for some more great dishes to round out your Mother’s Day meal? Try citrus salad with mint, honey, and lime
, chocolate crepes with peanut butter marshmallow filling
(!!!!!), or baked eggs in tomatoes
.

Get the Crock Pot Cheesy Potatoes Recipe
on Food Fanatic!

About Rachel

Rachel freely admits she could eat popcorn every day on her blog Rachel Cooks
. Given her love of snacks
, we decided she’d be a perfect addition as a Snack Fanatic.

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11 Religious Americans Who Fought For Freedom

 

 The Fourth of July commemorates the United States gaining its independence from Britain, but the Revolutionary War did not win freedom for all Americans. The 10 activists and religious leaders below are just a handful of people throughout American history who spent their lives working to extend freedom to all. The liberty to worship, vote, love and pursue happiness are rights that had to be fought for and won — and we are by no means done with the struggle. 

As we celebrate the Fourth of July this year, we honor the fearless individuals who turned to faith to advocate for freedom for all people. 

 

Roger Williams

Although born in England in 1603, Roger Williams lived almost his entire adult life in the American colonies. A deeply spiritual man who started the first Baptist church
 in America in 1638, he founded the colony of Providence Plantation on the premise of religious freedom, envisioning it as a refuge for religious minorities.

Williams may have been partly inspired by his close relationship with New England Native Americans
, having learned the Algonquin language and engaged in trade with the Narragansett and the Wampanoag tribes. A staunch advocate for Native American land rights, Williams believed that there were no inherent differences between Native Americans and Englishmen, and that all should be respected and treated as equals. 

Richard Allen

Richard Allen was born a slave
 in Philadelphia in 1760. He became a Christian at the age of 17 after hearing a white Methodist minister preach against slavery. The experience was so powerful that he later wrote
, “My dungeon shook, my chains flew off, and glory to God, I cried. My soul was filled.” He purchased his freedom for $2,000 and started preaching to white and black congregants in South Carolina, New York, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. He became an assistant minister
 at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania. It was a racially mixed congregation, but discrimination still persisted. As more black converts were drawn to the church by Allen’s preaching, the white ministers and parishioners of the church began to act with hostility toward them — at one point pulling praying members off their knees in the middle of a service.

With the help of other leaders in the community, Allen raised the funds needed to purchase a plot of land so that black Methodists could worship freely. That congregation, now known as Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, became the mother church of the first independent black denomination in America.

Lucretia Mott

 It is hard to imagine there was a time in American history when women were not free to vote, and couldn’t even do what they wished with their own property. Lucretia Mott, born in 1793, was among the brave Americans who fought for women’s rights
, drawing from her Quaker faith to argue that all people are created equal in the eyes of God. Mott was one of five women who organized the landmark Seneca Falls Convention
 in 1848, which drew roughly 300 people to address the need for women’s civil rights.

In addition to her role in the women’s rights movement, Mott spent much of her life fighting for abolition, and in 1833 organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society with roughly 30 other women. Mott did not live long enough to see women win the right to vote in America, and she was already in her 70s when slavery ended
 in this country. But her efforts set a precedent for religiously inspired civil rights activism that would resonate for generations to come.

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth is best known for being one of the most prominent 19th century leaders fighting against slavery and fighting for women’s rights and human rights. She fought for freedom for all people because she herself was born a slave
 and did not experience freedom until she was 30 years old. Truth was a deeply spiritual person, having experienced a vision of Jesus
 that inspired her to become a preacher. In her iconic “Ain’t I A Woman” speech at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, Truth used her faith to argue for women’s equality, saying:


“That little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”

Sitting Bull

 Sitting Bull, also known as Tatanka-Iyotanka, was a Hunkpapa Lakota chief and a holy man who bravely fought to preserve his people’s way of life, despite facing hostility
 from the United States government. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 officially prevented whites from settling the Black Hills of Dakota Territory, which many Native American tribes considered sacred. But the treaty was set aside after gold was discovered in the area. Fortune seekers began rushing in, and the government attempted to purchase the land. When the tribes refused to give up their sacred space, the government demanded that all Lakota in the area resettle into reservations.

True to his name, Sitting Bull wouldn’t budge. Instead, he called neighboring tribes to his camp and led them in a sun dance ritual dedicated to the Great Spirit. It was during this ritual that he saw a vision
 predicting that he would triumph over the white soldiers. Sitting Bull went on to wipe out Gen. George Custer’s troops during the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. It would take several more years before the chief surrendered to the U.S. Even then, he did so begrudgingly, saying, “I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle.”

Dalip Singh Saund

 Dalip Singh Saund was the first South Asian American
 elected to Congress. Born in 1899
 to a Sikh Indian family, Saund came to America in 1920
 to study at the University of California. He reportedly removed his turban soon afterwards, but stayed deeply connected to his religion. In his autobiography
, he wrote, “My religion teaches me that love and service to fellow men are the road to earthly bliss and spiritual salvation.”

For years, he was frustrated by the fact that his ethnicity barred him from becoming an American citizen. He organized a coalition to fight against this rule, which eventually led to the Luce-Celler Act of 1946 and opened citizenship up to immigrants of South Asian descent. In 1949, Saund become a citizen himself. Soon after, he was elected as a local judge. He went on to serve three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

 Human rights activism was deeply embedded in the life, history and spiritual philosophy of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Born in Warsaw, Poland
 in 1907, Heschel lived through the rise of the Nazis and narrowly escaped the horrors of the Holocaust by fleeing to London in 1939 and later arriving in New York City. By the time he entered the Civil Rights movement, Heschel had already established himself as a professor of ethics and Jewish mysticism
 and had what his daughter, Susanna Heschel, called “a heightened sensitivity to  the suffering of all people.”

After marching alongside Martin Luther King Jr.
 at the 1965 Selma march, Heschel famously remarked: “Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.” Fighting for the rights of all people — as he did in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements — was a key component of Heschel’s faith. As his daughter Susanna wrote
: “He said [the Selma march] reminded him of the message of the  prophets, whose primary concern was social injustice, and of his Hasidic forebears, for whom compassion for the suffering of other people defined a religious person.”

Yuri Kochiyama

 Yuri Kochiyama was a visionary whose activism crossed racial boundaries. Born in 1921
, Kochiyama lived a typical suburban American life, excelling in high school and becoming a Sunday school teacher at a California church. Her political awakening came during World War II, when she was sent to an internment camp with her family. Kochiyama spent the rest of her life fighting for the rights of poor blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans. She campaigned against the Vietnam War and advocated for the rights of prison inmates.

Activist Deepa Iyer wrote
 that Kochiyama’s “life and legacy is a reminder to Asian Americans and to all those who believe in social justice, of a basic value: To show up whenever and wherever injustice occurs and to engage in acts of resistance and solidarity.”

 Malcolm X

 

 Born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1925, Malcolm X emerged as a prominent leader of the Nation of Islam, promoting black nationalism and challenging racial integration as the goal of the Civil Rights movement. He broke from the Nation of Islam
 in 1964 but remained committed to religious life as a vehicle for human rights activism. While on the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, he wrote a letter
 remarking on the “spirit of true brotherhood” he had witnessed.

“There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world,” he wrote. “They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.”

 Malcolm had a deep compassion for humanity that carried him around the country preaching equality, his daughter Ilyasah Shabazz wrote
. He was just 39 years old when he was assassinated
 in 1965.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 Civil rights leader and preacher Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream — not only that black Americans would be granted full equality but that all people, regardless of race, religion or creed, would have the right to life and liberty. King is perhaps best known for promoting nonviolence
 and peaceful resistance as avenues for human rights activism, frequently putting his own life on the line by demonstrating, organizing and speaking out against bigotry and discrimination.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” King famously said in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
 “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

In 1964 at just 35 years old, King became the youngest person at the time to win the Nobel Peace Prize
. In his acceptance speech, he championed “unarmed truth and unconditional love” as the ultimate victors in history. King was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39.

Rev. Mineo Katagiri

Rev. Mineo Katagiri was a United Church of Christ minister who fought for minority rights. He was born in Hawaii
 to parents of Japanese ancestry, and experienced discrimination during World War II.  After moving to Seattle in 1959, he acted as an advocate and defender of the city’s gay community
. He later founded the Asian Coalition for Equality
, which brought Asian Americans together to campaign against intolerance and joined with African Americans who were also seeking equality.

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Top-Ranking Mormon Leader Boyd K. Packer Dies At 90

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mormon leader Boyd K. Packer, president of the faith’s highest governing body, has died. He was 90.

Packer died Friday afternoon at his home in Salt Lake City from natural causes, church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement. He was next in line to become president of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Packer was known for being a staunch advocate for a conservative form of Mormonism, making him an idol for like-minded, devout Latter-day Saints but also a target of frequent criticism from gay rights groups and more liberal Mormons.

He had been a member of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles since 1970. The group is modeled after Jesus Christ’s apostles and serves under the church president and his two counselors.

He is the second member of quorum to die in recent months. L. Tom Perry died on May 30 from cancer.

Quorum member Russell M. Nelson, 90, now becomes the leader who would take Mormon President Thomas S. Monson’s place because he is now the most tenured of the group. Monson is 87 years old, and church officials have said he’s feeling the effects of his age.

Replacements for Packer and Perry will be chosen sometime in the coming months by Monson, considered the religion’s prophet. Members of the faith believe those decisions are guided by inspiration from God. Some past quorum members have been moved up from another governing body, the Quorum of the Seventy, while others have come from leadership posts at church-run universities.

When Packer was chosen for the group, he was already working for the church.

Packer was born Sept. 10, 1924 in Brigham City, Utah, and was a bomber pilot during World War II. He earned an undergraduate degree from Utah State University and a master’s in educational administration from Brigham Young University.

During his 45 years as a member of the quorum, Packer became known as a fearless defender of the gospel and master teacher of church principles, the church said in a news release.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement that Packer was “unwavering in his devotion to his faith and the principles by which he lived his life.” Herbert added that Packer’s “strength and love were felt by church members throughout the world.”

Fellow church leaders called him a true apostle for the religion.

“From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet, he represented the savior of the world,” said quorum member M. Russell Ballard in a news release.

Packer spent most of his adult life working for the church and earned a reputation of being a tenacious advocate for his orthodox views on Mormonism, said Patrick Mason, chairman of the religion department and professor of Mormon studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. Some called him a bulldog, but Packer preferred the biblical analogy of “watchman on the tower,” Mason said.

He was known for having a major influence within the church hierarchy and bureaucracy, having mentored at least one if not two generations of church leaders and bureaucrats, Mason said.

Packer is remembered for giving a speech in 1993 in which he warned that the religion faced the greatest threat from three groups: feminists, homosexuals and intellectuals.

In 2010, he denounced homosexual attraction as unnatural and immoral. His hostility toward homosexuality made him a target in recent years of gay rights advocates, said Armand Mauss, a Mormon scholar and retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University.

In 2013, a Utah gay-rights organization started a petition to protest the naming of a new Weber State University center after Packer.

Mauss said Packer will be remembered “for an unyielding resistance to the secular, social world, especially as that world evolved during his lifetime.”

The church credits Packer with being a key driver of the religion’s growth into a worldwide religion that now counts 15 million members around the globe.

He painted as a hobby, with birds being one of his favorite subjects. Packer was married to his wife, Donna, for more than 70 years. They had 10 children.

In one of his last speeches, during a church conference in April, Packer spoke about the joy of romance and love and the importance of a man and woman and their children being sealed in a Mormon temple for eternity. Packer acknowledged marriage is a challenge and offered the key ingredients to successful marriages: “a cookie and a kiss.”

Funeral services have not yet been scheduled.

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Friday Talking Points — Always Twirling For Freedom!

It’s officially a holiday since tomorrow’s the nation’s birthday and all, but since this column took a vacation last week, we thought we’d better get a new column out today. After all, it’s been an eventful two weeks!

Right after we published our last column, the Confederate battle flag debate erupted in a major way. Leading the charge against the flag on the Republican side was none other than Mitt Romney, whose opinion gave a lot of other Republicans cover to do the right thing. First up to the plate
was South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who called on her legislature to toss out the law which mandates flying the flag on the statehouse grounds. Next up was the governor of Alabama, who (since his state didn’t have such an absurd law) was able to just take the Confederate flags down from his statehouse by executive order. Mississippi hasn’t budged yet, and (as I wrote earlier
) is the worst of the lot since it’s the only state left that still incorporates the battle flag into their official state flag, but maybe eventually they’ll get on this bandwagon too.

Of course, through the whole debate, Democrats were pretty much all against the flag. While Republicans struggle with the South’s past, Democrats moved on decades ago, for the most part. Personally, though, we’re amazed the debate happened and are amazed at this symbol of racism finally being retired from official use — only about 150 years after it should have been. At the end of the week, President Obama gave a moving eulogy for one of those killed by the racist domestic terrorist in Charleston, which was notable for his stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Obama (and the country) got two very big pieces of good news from the Supreme Court last week, which upheld the plain intent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) and declared marriage equality throughout the whole of this great land. What was notable in both cases were the bitter, bitter dissents
from the conservative justices. These dissents
will provide lots of heaping doses of schadenfreude for progressives for years to come, that’s our guess. Especially head-scratching was Justice Scalia opining on the difference between free love and marriage, which concluded with: “Ask the nearest hippie.” We’re not entirely sure, but this may have been the first time the highest court in the land has deferred judgment on legal matters to hippies, so that’s an odd sort of milestone.

The conservatives on the court weren’t the only ones being very sad about the two major opinions, of course. The conservative universe pretty much freaked out
over both of them, in a frenzy of who could denounce the court in the whiniest terms possible.

There were a few other Supreme Court decisions of note, one dealing with citizens’ movements to end gerrymandering (gerrymandering lost, the people won
), and one on a Spider-Man toy where Elena Kagen had her own fun
writing the opinion. Again, a historic precedent may have been set, since Kagen actually quoted a comic book (“[I]n this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility”). She also cracked a joke or two elsewhere in the text: “The parties set no end date for royalties, apparently contemplating that they would continue for as long as kids want to imitate Spider-Man (by doing whatever a spider can).” Points for style, Justice Kagan!

It’s not just on the court, even Senator Al Franken is confident enough to actually make a joke or two
once again to a national audience. Franken has been fighting to not appear as “just a comedian” ever since he ran for his office, so it’s good to see him comfortable enough with the level of support from his constituents to occasionally return to his comedic roots. We certainly would encourage him to do more of this, as he’s one of the sharpest wits ever to trod the halls of the Capitol.

Over in the freakshow that is the Republican presidential race, Bobby Jindal threw his hat in the ring with a bizarre video made with a camera hidden in a tree which shows his own children not exactly enthused with the idea of Dad running. Team Jindal (or a super PAC supporting him) then decided it’d be a good idea to get Twitter to “AskBobby” about stuff. This, predictably
, led to all kinds of fun. Our favorite response: “@BobbyJindal #AskBobby I’m gay, an atheist & an immigrant. How would you work to punish me, while ignoring separation of church and state?” Heh.

Chris Christie joined the ranks of the Republican wannabes, because somebody apparently told him he’s actually got a chance of becoming president. Over on the Democratic side, Jim Webb apparently got the same advice.

Ted Cruz annoyed a lot of people when he couldn’t accurately remember quotes from his favorite episodes of The Simpsons, but then he atoned for this sin by cutting a hilarious video
where he “auditions” for the show. His Ned Flanders was arguably the closest to sounding right, but his “Kang and Kodos” quip stole the show (which we’re saving for the talking points section).

Rand Paul has been touted as somehow “reaching out” to minorities — which is notable indeed for any Republican candidate — but every so often he shows how truly tone-deaf he is on issues of race. This week, Paul felt it was a valuable use of his time to hold an hour-long meeting with Cliven Bundy
, the gun-loving (and lawbreaking) rancher who was a rising star on Fox News right up to the point where he uttered a whole bunch of the most vile racist garbage imaginable (his basic position: blacks had it better under slavery). Way to reach out to minorities, Rand!

But when it comes down to the freakiest of the freaky in the whole Republican field, Donald Trump is very hard to top. Trump not only is running for president, he’s apparently on a mission to singlehandedly destroy his own Trump brand, forevermore. So far, he’s been doing a bang-up job! Now, Trump is no shrinking violet when it comes to stating his racist opinions, as the Washington Post helpfully documented
. It’s not like he suddenly woke up last week and decided that he didn’t like Mexicans or anything. But because of his new prominence as a presidential candidate, people (and corporations) were now forced to notice Trump’s ravings. His beauty contest got dumped from Univision, then NBC told The Donald “You’re fired!” from his own The Apprentice shows, and by week’s end stores were dumping Trump menswear and mattresses as fast as they possibly could. Trump mattresses? Really? Dang, some people will buy anything with a famous person’s name on it, won’t they?

All this attention created a mini-surge for Trump, who is now polling second among Republican candidates not only in Iowa and New Hampshire, but also nationwide. The other Republican candidates are, understandably, horrified
by this development, because it means they’re not going to be able to get away with just ignoring the ignorance coming out of Trump’s mouth. Democrats, also understandably, are delighted
to paint the entire Republican Party as marching in lockstep with Trump (since so many Republican candidates are so scared of refuting Trump, fearing a voter backlash).

And it’s only July! We’ve got a whole lot more track for this crazy train to run down before we’re done, folks….

Let’s see, what else has been happening in the world of politics? Recreational marijuana is now legal
in Oregon (although they’ve still got to get their regulatory act together to create a full legal marketplace for weed). This just in: the sky did not fall. In fact, the sky is also still intact over Washington, Colorado, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. Chicken Little was wrong again!

And finally, does your state have a monument to the Ten Commandments on the grounds of your statehouse? Well, maybe you can get a statue of Baphomet placed beside it! The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled this week
that their state’s Ten Commandments monument had to go, as it is clearly a governmental endorsement of religion. This stopped the secondary effort by the Satanic Temple to erect their own statue
. As a spokesman put it:

The entire point of our effort was to offer a monument that would complement and contrast the Ten Commandments, reaffirming that we live in a nation that respects plurality, a nation that refuses to allow a single viewpoint to co-opt the power and authority of government institutions. Given the Court’s ruling, [The Satanic Temple] no longer has any interest in pursuing placement of the Baphomet monument on Oklahoma’s Capitol grounds.

The statue, naturally, has a “public-friendly design,” which might become “an object of play for young children.” But they went ahead and cast the statue and all, so now they’re looking for another suitable place to put it. You know, right next to a Ten Commandments monument in some other state. As the spokesman put it: “Arkansas is looking rather appealing.” If you’d like to see it grace your statehouse instead, now is the time to act! After all, if one religious monument is allowed, then constitutionally all religious monuments should be allowed.

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

We have two awards to hand out in the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week category. We feel justified in handing the award out twice, because it has been two weeks since our last column.

The first goes to President Barack Obama, since he (and his legacy
) have had an amazing couple of weeks. There was his eulogy (and singing) at the funeral last week. There were the two big Supreme Court victories. There was the whole Confederate flag debate. And Obama won a big victory on trade from Congress.

All that should have been enough to qualify for a MIDOTW award right there. But that list still isn’t complete. Obama also personally announced
(in a Huffington Post column) a long-awaited decision on overtime pay
, which will better the lives of an estimated five million workers. Obama will raise the bar for mandatory overtime pay from the low $20,000s to over $50,000. Anyone making less than this will now automatically be entitled to overtime pay for more than 40 hours of work a week — whether they’re called a “manager” or not. Either they’ll get more free time or more money in their paycheck for the hard work they put in.

The White House has been teasing this change since January, it bears noting. In fact, just a little over a month ago, we gave him a Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award for stalling the announcement for so long (back in FTP [348]
). Now, politically, maybe they were holding this rule change back for a moment when it would do Obama the most good — like, perhaps, just after he’s annoyed the Labor folks with a free-trade congressional victory? But whatever the timing and however long the wait, the change will be a monumental one for a whole lot of workers, and — crucially — Obama doesn’t need to get it through Congress, which means it’ll actually happen next year.

This week also saw the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba and a promise by America and Cuba to exchange ambassadors and set up embassies. This is an enormous political achievement for Obama, and will be a big part of his legacy, even if it was kind of overwhelmed with all the other news Obama was making these last few weeks.

There were even minor news items to cheer about as well. The Department of the Interior announced it will not be taking any bid from the Washington [Racist Football Team Name] to redo Robert F. Kennedy stadium, until they change their name
. Bully for them!

And in news which will have far-reaching impacts, the Obama administration announced they’re scrapping a special review
that all scientific marijuana research has had to go through before being approved. No other drug — not even LSD or heroin or cocaine or crystal meth — had to get a “Public Health Service” stamp of approval, but cannabis did. The only reason for this review was political — essentially, to deny all studies of marijuana that didn’t begin and end with the preconceived notion: “marijuana is bad… ‘mmmkay?”

The White House released a downright stunning statement (compared to the entire history of the federal government and marijuana research):

Drug czar spokesman Mario Moreno Zepeda said, “The Obama Administration has actively supported scientific research on whether marijuana or its components can be safe and effective medicine. Eliminating the Public Health Service review should help facilitate additional research to advance our understanding of both the adverse effects and potential therapeutic uses for marijuana or its components.”

Common sense seems to be breaking out all over the place!

In any case, add up all the events of the past two weeks and it’s easy to see why President Obama deserves a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week. Not surprisingly, his poll numbers are up as well. In the Real Clear Politics daily average, his job approval rating hit 46.5 percent — the highest it has been in over two years.

But we’ve also got another MIDOTW award to hand out, because Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is out there burning up the hustings. Now, some of this was kind of inevitable. The die-hard Elizabeth Warren supporters were eventually going to have to give up hope and attach themselves to another (actual) candidate. Plus, the longer Joe Biden goes without announcing, the smaller the chances he’ll actually make a run for it. Even so, though, Bernie is rising noticeably in the polls. He hasn’t polled better than Hillary Clinton yet, but he’s coming within reach in New Hampshire and he’s not too far out of reach in Iowa. None of the other Democrats running has even managed to break out of the single digits, so the race at this point is shaping up as a “Clinton v. Sanders” bout.

How long will it be, we wonder, before Hillary takes notice? Bernie has been drawing record crowds — including the biggest campaign rally yet
of any presidential candidate from either party, when Sanders got a capacity crowd of 10,000 in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sooner or later, the media is going to have to quit their snarky attitude towards Sanders and start taking his policy agenda items seriously. So is Hillary Clinton, for that matter. Because it’s pretty obvious more and more voters are doing just that. The overwhelming consensus from all of them: “Bernie’s the real deal.”

For his Madison rally alone Bernie deserves his own Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Looks like the Sanders campaign will soon be scouting out bigger and bigger arenas for him to speak in!

[Congratulate President Barack Obama on the White House contact page
, and Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page
, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.
]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

It’s hard to get too excited about any of the disappointing Democrats this week. We’ve got (Dis-)Honorable Mention awards for both New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for engaging in a public spat that basically boiled down to: “You can’t get anything done in Albany!” “No, you can’t get anything done in Albany!” Sigh.

But we also have two Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week awards to hand out. The first goes to an old story in California, one which we recounted way back in FTP [297]
. State senator Leland Yee just pled guilty this week to gun-running, extortion, and accepting bribes while in office. Back then, we gave the MDDOTW award to the California state senate Democrats, who were dragging their feet on kicking out not just Lee but two other senators charged with serious crimes. But we went back and looked, and we hadn’t actually given Yee himself an award, so we’re kind of retroactively awarding it this week.

The second award is more timely, since it goes to newly-announced presidential candidate Jim Webb. Now, Webb used to be the senator from Virginia. And he had a long career in the military. Even so, when he jumped into the Confederate battle flag debate, the result
was the wishy-washiest statement from any candidate to date — and we include the Republicans in that. Here is what Webb had to say, on his Facebook page:

This is an emotional time and we all need to think through these issues with a care that recognizes the need for change but also respects the complicated history of the Civil War. The Confederate Battle Flag has wrongly been used for racist and other purposes in recent decades. It should not be used in any way as a political symbol that divides us.

But we should also remember that honorable Americans fought on both sides in the Civil War, including slave holders in the Union Army from states such as Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware, and that many non-slave holders fought for the South. It was in recognition of the character of soldiers on both sides that the federal government authorized the construction of the Confederate Memorial 100 years ago, on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

This is a time for us to come together, and to recognize once more that our complex multicultural society is founded on the principle of mutual respect.

Is Webb for official governmental recognition of the Confederate battle flag? It’s impossible to tell, at least from this statement. Is he for it flying over statehouses? Hard to say, really. Does he personally approve of the flag or not? Who knows… maybe, and then again maybe not.

Running for president means showing leadership. Webb’s flag response shows none. At best, it’s a ham-handed “can’t we all just get along,” but at worst Webb is supporting those who are supporting the flag’s continued use by state governments. This is nothing more than a politician talking out of both sides of his mouth, folks. He obviously wants to have it both ways, which at this point is pretty indefensible (or should be, for a Democratic presidential candidate).

Webb has no excuse, really. He won his Senate race against George “Macaca” Allen
(remember him?), a man who wore a Confederate flag pin for his high school senior photo and also had Confederate flag plates on his car in high school — in California, for Pete’s sake (not exactly the Deep South). Allen’s first statewide race (for Virginia governor) featured a television ad with the flag prominently displayed. He opposed a state holiday for Martin Luther King Jr., unless it was merged with a holiday to honor Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. While serving in the Senate himself (before Webb ran against him), Allen played the role of a Confederate officer in a movie. So it’s not like Jim Webb is any stranger to the Confederate battle flag being smack dab in the middle of a political race.

For his mealy-mouthed response to the issue, and for showing not a scintilla of leadership, Jim Webb has more than earned his Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Leland Yee is now a private citizen, and it is our policy not to provide contact information for anyone out of public office. While Jim Webb is a candidate running for president, he is also currently a private citizen, and our editorial policy also forbids linking to campaign websites, sorry.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 352 (7/3/15)

OK, since it’s a holiday weekend already (meaning few people will likely read this far), we’re going to get silly with the last four talking points. Normally we save one silly item for the last, but today we’re just overwhelmed with silliness. The first three are serious and important issues for Democrats to speak out about, but from number four onwards, it’s just a holiday lark.

Have a happy Fourth of July everyone, and don’t burn your fingers on the grill (or, later, lighting fireworks). Happy birthday, America!

 

1
   Five million paychecks

This is a big deal, despite getting kind of buried in all the other news that’s been happening. So point it out!

“Next year, when the new rule goes into effect, an estimated five million middle-class workers will get a break. Instead of their employers demanding they essentially work many hours for free — what has been called ‘wage theft’ — everyone making up to $50,000 will be eligible for mandatory time-and-a-half overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week. There’s a reason the Labor movement got the 40-hour workweek standard enacted, and that reason is to leave workers enough free time to spend with their own families. If they are required to work more, they should be justly compensated for giving up that free time. When the old standard was set, back in the 1970s, it covered over half of America’s workers. But because the limit had not been changed in so long, it only now covers a tiny fraction of workers — those making about $11 an hour or less. President Obama’s new standard will cover at least 40 percent of all workers. This is good news for America, and great news for those five million families. If an employer wants a worker to put in a 60-hour workweek, then they should have to pay overtime. It’s really that simple.”

 

2
   Civil rights don’t end at the altar

What with the good news on the marriage equality front, many are assuming the battle is over. It’s not.

“I call on all Democratic candidates for president — indeed, I call on all Democrats — to boldly stand up for adding the words ‘sexual orientation’ to federal civil rights laws. Any federal laws which have a list of ‘race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender’ should be changed to also include ‘sexual orientation.’ In far too many states, civil rights for gay people — beyond the right to marriage — simply do not exist. You can be fired in half of America’s states for being gay. You can legally be discriminated against for housing. It’s perfectly legal to do so, by state law. Now that we have achieved marriage equality, it is time to provide iron-clad civil rights guarantees to all gay Americans in every state. The best and fastest way to do so is to add ‘sexual orientation’ to all federal civil rights laws. It is the right thing to do, and I want to hear each and every presidential candidate make a firm promise to put this item near the top of their agenda. While celebrating the Supreme Court victory, it is important to remember that civil rights do not end at the altar.”

 

3
   Bernie’s actually pretty mainstream

The press are finally being forced to notice Bernie. But they’ve got a long way to go, obviously.

“You know, I have to laugh whenever I see media stories about Bernie Sanders out on the campaign trail. And no, that doesn’t mean I’m laughing at the lame jokes lazy journalists make about his hair or his rumpled suits. I’m laughing instead at the idiocy of the inside-the-Beltway attitude that Bernie is somehow ‘extreme.’ When you go down the list of policies Bernie’s running on, you find that almost all his issues poll overwhelmingly well
with the public at large. Mandatory vacation time for workers? Mandatory sick leave? Taking on Wall Street? Free college tuition? A $15 minimum wage? All poll with big majorities — sometimes in the 60-to-80 percent range. How can issues that are popular with 60 or 70 percent of the public be seen as ‘extreme’ in any way? There’s a word for such issues, and it’s not ‘extreme’ it is in fact ‘mainstream.’ Bernie’s pulling in the biggest crowds of anyone — that’s anyone, Democrat or Republican — running for president. There are several reasons why this is the case, and the inside-the-Beltway journalists need to wake up and discover Bernie’s mainstream agenda for what it truly is.”

 

4
   A divine sense of humor

Just to remind everyone, this is where the silliness begins. The following was a reaction from Paul Begala
(Clinton consultant from way back) on the news that Donald Trump is doing so well. Best Trump reaction we’ve seen yet!

I am a person of faith — and The Donald’s entry into this race can only be attributed to the fact that the good Lord is a Democrat with a sense of humor.

 

5
   Twirling, always twirling

Ted Cruz, as noted earlier, put out a funny video
this week. It would be an act of downright political malpractice if no Republican running against him ever uses this in an attack ad. Context: Cruz is actually quoting Kodos and Kang, the aliens from The Simpsons, from the “Treehouse of Horror” episode where they throw the Clinton/Dole presidential election. Even so, the funniest part (and the reason other Republicans should really use the clip) is that Cruz actually does perform a twirl, while reciting the quote:

“Forwards, not backwards! Upwards not downwards! And always twirling, twirling for freedom!”

 

6
   Kumbaya moment, with dip

This one is too funny.

“I see that President Obama and Jeb Bush actually strongly agree on one thing. Yes, it is comforting to know that even political rivals from across the aisle can join together in standing up for all that is good and right in the world. While Democrats and Republicans, and Bush and Obama in particular, can disagree about practically everything under the sun, it’s good to know that both Jeb and Barack draw the line
at the bizarre notion of putting peas in guacamole.”

 

7
   Won’t you please come to Chicago

And, finally, this one is personal.

“Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent in the marriage equality case, told us all to, quote, ‘ask the nearest hippie’ what they think about marriage. Well, I can think of no better weekend for Scalia to do just that, and I invite him to travel to Chicago and mingle with the crowds at the final Grateful Dead shows ever. There will be roughly 60,000 hippies in one place, so Scalia shouldn’t have any problem finding the ‘nearest’ one. From a relevant song (from another band of the era), I quote: ‘Somehow people must be free/I hope the day comes soon/Won’t you please come to Chicago/Show your face.’ C’mon, Antonin — if you want to talk to some hippies, this is your best chance!”

 

Chris Weigant blogs at:
ChrisWeigant.com

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