For what it’s worth, 06/02/16

We didn’t start the fire, until we did

The story in my local paper carries the headline:

Yeshivas fight back, claim county inspections ‘improper’, ‘draconian’

And no, this is not about the missplaced comma in the hed. This is about a bunch of religious wackos defending their right to endanger children. In my country. In my state. In my county.

Rockland County (NY) Executive Ed Day recently announced that “the state [has] given the county permission to inspect 53 private schools, mostly in Ramapo and Spring Valley, for fire and building code compliance.”

That’s good, right? When a school goes up in flames … or collapses due to faulty construction … that’s a bad thing, right? We try to make sure that doesn’t happen, right? Continue reading

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Worth reading, 07/11/13

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New York Sizzles (Gail Collins, New York Times)

Gail Collins is hands-down the finest columnist in America. If she’s not in the Times on Saturday or Sunday, then the day is off to a lousy start. Today she offers her take on Weiner and Spitzer, and it is essential reading.

Time after time, we hear a scandal-tarred politician vow to go away and make amends. Time after time, we envision a stint as a missionary or a hospital volunteer. Time after time, we are disappointed.

Consider the example of former Congressman Steve Driehaus of Cincinnati, a person who, I should point out immediately, did not do anything wrong whatsoever except lose a race for re-election in 2010. He then packed up his family and went off to join the Peace Corps in Swaziland. “He’s working with folks with H.I.V./AIDS. He loves it,” reported his sister, Denise.

In this week’s TV tour, Spitzer failed to address the question of why he was not in Swaziland. He said on “Morning Joe” that during his five years in exile, “I’ve tried to do things that matter in a small, quiet way.” This seemed like a strange way to describe multiple stints hosting political talk shows.

People, it doesn’t get any better than that.

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Pat Robertson: I’m Not ‘Anti-Gay’ Because Gays Are Just Straight People Who’ve Forsaken God (Mediaite)

“I am very pleased that we have many, many, many homosexuals watching this program and many of them are looking for love and acceptance and help,” the minister began. “And I’m glad to report that we have thousands of these people who are saying, ‘Yes, we want to follow Jesus, we’re not happy with the lifestyle we’re in, and we want to have a better way.’ I think it’s wonderful that that’s happening.”

“We’re not anti-gay or anything,” he asserted, before explaining his belief that homosexuality has existed throughout time amongst those who have “forsaken” God. “It’s not something that is natural and when people reunite with the Lord, the Lord will get their priorities the way it is supposed to be,” he added.

Robertson concluded by arguing that those who are “into this homosexual thing” are typically victims of sexual abuse as children who, later in life think, “Well, I must be gay.”

“They aren’t,” he insisted. “They are heterosexual and they just need to come out of that.”

Good ol’ Uncle Pat. The rev’s an eyeroll a minute. Let’s harken back to the good ol’ days, right after September 11, when good ol’ Jerry Falwell said:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say: “You helped this happen.”

And good ol’ Uncle Pat chimed in,

“Well, I totally concur.”

OK . . . I totally don’t.

Go away, Pat. Your meter expired a long time ago.

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Beyond the Courtroom (Charles Blow, New York Times)

Whatever happens in the George Zimmerman trial, it has produced a valuable and profound dialogue in America about some important issues surrounding race and justice, fear and aggression, and legal guilt and moral culpability.

That conversation is about people’s right to feel suspicion and fear and whether those feelings need be justified to be real. It is about the degree to which suspicions and fears are culturally constructed, or at least culturally influenced, are innate or are born of personal experience.

More specifically, it is about how race, age and gender might influence our threat responses, and whether that is acceptable. For instance, as a thought experiment, reverse the race and ethnicities of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman and see if that has any effect on your view of the night’s events. Now, go one step further and imagine that the teenager who was shot through the heart was not male but female and ask yourself again: does it have any effect on how you view the facts of this case?

Are we acculturated to grant some citizens the right to feel fear while systematically denying that right to others?

This is a terrific piece. As the George Zimmerman trial heads to the jury, I’m convinced that Zimmerman is not guilty of murder, because I don’t think he intended to kill Trayvon Martin. I also think it’s at least plausible that once Zimmerman encountered Trayvon — and make no mistake about it, it’s Zimmerman’s fault that the encounter took place — then he realized that the kid was able to hurt him or even kill him, and so he shot him.

In Florida, that’s standing your ground.

So I don’t think Zimmerman will be convicted — but I nonetheless think this is all his fault. What’s more, if Trayvon wasn’t black and wasn’t wearing a hoodie, we’re not even having this conversation. Zimmerman saw a black kid in a hoodie and everything fell apart from there.

So Zimmerman is not a murderer; he’s just a racist cop-wannabe with a concealed gun who decided that the black kid in the hoodie did not belong in his neighborhood. But I do believe he didn’t get out of his car intending to kill Trayvon.

Someday, Zimmerman will go out on a deep-sea fishing boat, and he’ll fall overboard, and all the others on the boat will hear a splash, and they’ll look up and say, “Hey, look, Zimmy fell overboard.” And then they’ll open up a cooler and have a few beers and figure justice has been done.

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Photographer captures incredible image of massive waterspout towering over Tampa Bay (Imaging Resource)

Pick a word. Any word . . . Omigod. Wow. Whoa. Yikes.

This thing is for real and I am in awe. I may even have to start rethinking that whole Big Bad Invisible Voodoo Guy in the Sky thing. (Shamelessly plugging my own post.)

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Bob McDonnell is unfit for office (Ruth Marcus, Washington Post)

There are two swift routes to political downfall. One is sex. The other is money. The first is humiliating but survivable. The second tends to be terminal, even criminal.

Today’s topic is the second, in the form of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and the now mountainous evidence that — whether he technically complied with Virginia’s Swiss cheese disclosure laws or not in accepting thousands of dollars in gifts from a wealthy businessman — he has no business continuing in office.

We in the metropolitan New York area are so fascinated by the adventures of Anthony and Eliot that we’ve been blissfully unaware of what’s been going on in Virginia, where Governor Bob is ducking from incoming.

That has to stop, because this is fascinating.

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A Free Miracle Food! (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times)

MOPTI, Mali — Can you name a miracle food that is universally available, free and can save children’s lives and maybe even make them smarter?

That’s not a trick question. There really is such a substance, now routinely squandered, that global health experts believe could save more than 800,000 lives annually. While you’re puzzling over the answer, let me tell you how I just saw it save a life here in West Africa.

I don’t think Mr. Kristof will mind much if I give away the ending without a spoiler alert. The free miracle food is breast milk.

And if you read nothing else today, read this.

Kristof returned from a several-month book leave last week, and he was sorely missed. Excellent column.

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Latest Businessweek Cover is Worth a Peek (Fishbowl)

Ummmmm . . . Now I’m wondering whom Bloomberg will be voting for. Weiner? Spitzer?

And what would the public reaction be if the New York Post did this?

Really, BusinessWeek? REALLY???

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Toshi Seeger, wife of folk legend Pete Seeger, dies (Lohud, via Poughkeepsie Journal)

Memo to obit writers: There are some things you MUST include in an obituary, especially when it concerns someone local.

That thing would be the deceased’s age.

Toshi Seeger was 91. I had to look that up elsewhere because the obit’s writer AND the editor failed to include it in the obit.

Pretty bad, Lohud.

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Justin Bieber Talks With Bill Clinton After Vulgar Video Surfaces, Calls Former President “Great Guy” (Gossip Cop)

So The Beebs apparently is feeling totally regretful about peeing into a restaurant’s mop bucket and screaming “F*** you, Bill Clinton!” at a picture of the 42nd president and spraying it with a kitchen bottle, because he went on Twitter last night and so humbly wrote . . .

“@billclinton thanks for taking the time to talk Mr. President. Your words meant alot. #greatguy,” the singer tweeted on Wednesday night.

Great guy.

I hope Bill sat down with Hillary and Chelsea at dinner last night and asked . . .

Either of you ever heard of this guy?

I dare you to match my score

Fourth of July Quiz (Gail Collins, New York Times)

The year is now half over, people! So it’s time to see how closely you’ve been following all the political news of 2013 so far. No cheating!
I don’t know if I should be proud or embarrassed, but — honest to god — I got 11 out of 11.
Take the quiz. And post your score. I DARE you to match me.
And no cheating!

Must read

Wendy and the boys (Gail Collins, New York Times)

The Texas filibuster rules are suitable for a place that regards steer wrestling and bronco busting as the official state sport. We made a big fuss when Rand Paul stayed on his feet for 13 hours in the U.S. Senate to filibuster over drones. But that was a walk in the park compared with what [State Sen. Wendy] Davis went through. Paul got help from his friends, who orated while he rested his voice. And U.S. senators can speak about anything when they filibuster. (Paul read from Alice in Wonderland.) Davis was supposed to stick to her subject.

The crowd was reasonably quiet until Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled that Davis had to sit down because she had gone off topic by referencing a state law requiring that women who want abortions must show up a day earlier for an ultrasound.

A wonderful read today by Gail Collins. Of course. Don’t miss this.

Must read 06/16/13

Gail Collins’ column, The Other Side of the Story, in Saturday’s New York Times is on the essential reading list. If you’re not concerned about the possible effects of data mining, just read about Brandon Mayfield. It’s a chilling story, and worth remembering. Bookmark this one and reread it every now and then.

An AP story on FOXNews.com has a Methodist minister opposing license plates that feature an “iconic image of a young Apache warrior shooting an arrow skyward [that is] depicted in Allen Houser’s “Sacred Rain Arrow” statue [and] was a clear choice of a public that looked at more than 40 designs that featured Native American art, cowboy images and western and wildlife themes.”

Tourism officials hailed the license plate as a traveling billboard for Oklahoma, and the image was deemed the best license plate in the nation in 2009 by the American License Plate Collectors Association.

But a Methodist minister claims the plate is an affront to his Christian beliefs, and a federal appeals court ruled last week that the minister’s case can proceed.

“I think it’s important to understand that whether it was a Native American symbol or a symbol of any other faith, the issue would be the same,” said Keith Cressman, pastor at the St. Marks United Methodist Church in Bethany.

It pains me to say this, but the minister is right. If the image depicts a prayer, it does not belong on a license plate.

And finally, Mo Elleithee offers this on Salon: To my daughter on Father’s Day: Sorry I used to be a sexist. 

I never had a daughter, but I like to think I’d be writing this to her if I had.