Tag Archives: ACLU

An unbelievably horrible bi-partisan bill shows just the power of the Israel lobby. A sensational “Bohemian Rhapsody” singalong by 65,000 people. And a translator story that made me laugh

It’s pretty rare for my blood to boil on a Sunday night, especially in the summer after yet another terrific weekend spent with friends and family.

But then again, it should be pretty rare for a piece of legislation this stupid, this mind-numbingly awful, to get bipartisan support. And hardly anyone has been paying attention to it.

Let me direct your attention today to a new proposed law called S.720, the Israel Anti- Boycott Act.

This law, sponsored by Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio, would actually impose civil and criminal penalties on American citizens for backing or joining any international boycott of Israel because of its settlement activities.

Let me say that again: You could legally be arrested, and charged with crimes, for supporting any international boycott of Israel. So let’s say I’m sitting here in my apartment in New York City, and I decide to sign a petition, or give a speech, or donate money, to a cause or group abroad that believes Israel should be boycotted.

Now I’ve broken the law. It would be a FELONY!

Get this, too: There are even penalties for simply inquiring about such a boycott. And they’re not messing around. The minimum civil penalty would be $250,000 and the maximum criminal penalty $1 million and 20 years in prison. Up to 20 years in prison for opposing the policies of a foreign government and doing something about it!

Forty-three Senators have already signed on as co-sponsors, including alleged free speech enthusiasts like Democrats Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, and Ron Wyden of Oregon. And on the other side, Mr. Popularity, Ted Cruz is a co-sponsor, as is Marco Rubio.

At first I thought this was something from The Onion. The idea that an American citizen could be arrested, and would be breaking the law, by daring to express support for an Israeli boycott, is absolutely despicable.

Free speech, anyone? First Amendment ring a bell there, Chuckie Schumer? Can you even imagine a law like this passing in our Congress in regards to any other nation in the world? Let’s say a lobbying group representing India, or Germany, or (heaven forbid) our “friends” in Saudi Arabia tried to get a bill like this passed. It would be D.O.A.

But destroying civil liberties is possible thanks to AIPAC, the incredibly-powerful Israel lobbying group in Washington, D.C. AIPAC has so many politicians in its pocket, I’d venture to say they’re the 2nd-most powerful organization in Washington, behind the NRA.

The ACLU has, thankfully, written a strong letter to Congress letting them now exactly what this bill would do, and how dangerous it is.

Read this from The Intercept about it; it’s especially chilling how many co-sponsors have no idea what they’ve signed on for, expressing that they’ll read it right away, and “look into it.”

What AIPAC wants, AIPAC gets.

This bill is an abomination. I know there are so many abominations going on in Congress these days, but don’t let this one slip by you. Call your Senator and your Congressman and tell them we still live in a free society, dammit.

**Next up today, this was so cool. At a punk rock festival in London on July 1, 65,000 fans eagerly awaited for headliner Green Day to show up. While waiting, the organizers played Queen’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the crowd.

And 65,000 people then belted it out, perfectly, even humming the guitar solo. So freaking amazing.

**So I don’t know if you will find this as funny as I did, but here goes. With the revelation last week that Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump had a secret meeting that was previously undisclosed (shocking! The Trump administration has been so transparent to this point!), and the added fact that only a Russian translator listened in, with no American ears present, made me remember a great old story my Dad re-told me this weekend.

My father was a teacher in the South Bronx in New York City in the 1960s and ’70s, not an easy time nor place to be a public school educator. One day, after months of dealing with a very disruptive and problematic 6th-grade Hispanic boy, and trying unsuccessfully to get his mother to come in for a conference, the school was finally able to get her to show up.

The mom spoke only Spanish, and for the first 2/3 of the meeting with the principal, my Dad, and other administrators, the only other Spanish-speaker in the room was the misbehaving student.

As my father and the others told the mom about all her son’s acting out in class, vandalizing school property, terrible attitude, etc., the mom sat there smiling and grinning, looking at her son admiringly. The faculty was puzzled.

Finally, a Spanish-speaking teacher arrived and suddenly solved the mystery. Instead of translating for his mother what was actually being said, the student said only that the teachers were so proud of her boy, he’s such an excellent student, we couldn’t be happier and more thrilled with him here!

In short order, the Spanish-speaking teacher set the mom straight.

Hey, you gotta give the kid credit for trying!

The 14-year-old under house arrest for a ridiculous reason. A quick rant about a new salesclerk trend. And funny/dirty news anchor banter

Two quick suggested readings about the government shutdown that I’m trying hard not to rant about in this space: 1, A terrific piece from James Fallows in the Atlantic about the media somehow equating the shutdown as a “failure of Washington on both sides,” and him calling them out on that bullshit. And 2, a great story from Anne Applebaum, a foreign correspondent at the Washington Post, about how this ridiculous shutdown looks to the rest of the world.

I get a lot of emails from the American Civil Liberties Union, since I donate to them every year and am on their mailing list.

Most of their emails, frankly, I ignore, because they’re about things I already know  and am equally distressed about.

But every once in a while they help bring to light stories like this, where the punishment goes so far over the line compared to the crime that’s sickening.

Kyle Thompson is a 14-year-old Michigan kid who loves football and video games. His school principal said if he had a school-full of Kyle Thompsons, he’d be very happy.

Last spring a teacher caught Kyle passing a note that said “hit list” on it; Thompson later explained that it was a list of people he wanted to hit at football practice, anyway, that’s not why he’s in the news now.

The teacher and students were apparently laughing about the note and the tug of war, but a short time later Thompson was pulled out of class, and then handcuffed by police. He was expelled from all Michigan public schools for a year, and sentenced to house arrest, for allegedly “assaulting” a teacher.

This model student who had ZERO history of any untoward activity, has been barred from schools for a year under a “zero tolerance” policy.

Sometimes, the lack of common sense among people in leadership positions is astonishing. Watch the video above to hear Kyle’s story.


**OK, just a quick pet peeve that I’ve developed lately. Have you noticed that whenever you want into a bank, a drugstore, or anyplace you’re making a transaction, the store employee calls the customers “guests?”
It happened again Wednesday when I was in Walgreens; while I waited on line the lady behind the counter said “Can I help the following guest please?”

When did we all become “guests?” Am I staying over at the store and having a meal, or taking a shower, or sleeping there for the night? Was I invited into Walgreens or Bank of America by invitation, and therefore I’m a guest?

I just think it’s weird. I’m the customer, you’re the store, and I’m not a “guest” in your store. So stop calling me a guest.
OK, end of my Seinfeld-ian rant.

**Finally today, the 9-year-old boy inside of me always finds these things funny, especially when news anchors say them and have no clue why everyone else is laughing…

Stauffer update, “The Reader,” torture and an African baseball player: A grab-bag post

Mets Padres Baseballthe-reader_l








Yes, I may have set the record for longest blog headline there. What do you want from me; I’ve got lots of things on my mind that I wanted to blog about today.

Let’s get right to it, dear readers of mine, for whom I am grateful (believe me, I realize there aren’t that many of you yet, so I appreciate all of you!)

  ***So if you’ve been reading me for the past month, you know two of my favorite athletes right now, and two really good guys you should root for, are San Diego Padres pitcher Tim Stauffer and basketball player/author Lance Allred.  Both are having outstanding months. Stauffer, despite getting no run support for the pathetic Padres, has continued to pitch terrifically for the Padres as he tries to establish himself as a big-leaguer. He’s got a 1-4 record, but a sparkling 2.90 ERA. He threw five innings of one-run ball against the Mets Sunday.

As for my main man Lance, the 6-foot-11 deaf Fundamentalist Mormon who I wrote about here, he just signed a contract to play for Napoli of the Italian League. That’s one of the better leagues in Europe, and plus, who wouldn’t want to hang out in Italy for nine months? Big props to Lance.

     ***You know sometimes when you hear so much abuot a movie and a performance and you build it up in your mind, and then you actually see it and you’re like, “Eh.” That’s kind of how I felt the other night after seeing “The Reader.” It was good, no doubt, but it wasn’t SO sensational. Kate Winslet was, of course, fantastic. She’s truly an amazing actress, and a beautiful woman, yet it seems like she’s so much less famous in America than she should be. I loved her in “Titanic” and everything I’ve seen her in since.

But the movie was just pretty good. I think Ralph Fiennes was wasted, since he had only four scenes or so. Without giving too much away, I just don’t feel like the director established why Fiennes’ character Michael was so deeply affected by his relationship with Winslet’s Hannah. I give it 2 1/2 stars, maybe three.

***So the American Civil Liberties Union takes a lot of crap from conservatives, because it’s an automatic applause line for them. Heaven forbid we have a strong organization in this country that’s actually looking out and making sure people’s rights aren’t violated. Because, you know, the Bush-Cheney folks NEVER did that.

Anyway, I love the ACLU, and I love even more that they put out this video to put pressure on Attorney General Eric Holder to hold hearings on our torturing of prisoners. It’s chilling to hear this stuff out loud, and to realize that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld didn’t care that it was going on.

Some of the famous folks in the video are Oliver Stone, actor Noah Emmerich, and actress Rosie Perez (who, apropos of nothing, my wife does a killer impression of):

 ******Rafael Nadal returns to the tennis court in singles Wednesday night for the first time in almost three months. I am annoyed it’s not on TV, but thankfully ESPN will be showing the quarters, semis and finals starting Friday. I have a feeling we’ll know VERY soon if Rafa is back to being himself. For the sake of my favorite sport, I really hope he is.

***Finally, saying a Gary Smith story in Sports Illustrated is terrific is kind of like saying water is wet. Just about every Gary Smith story in SI is brilliant. I swear, I read him some times and I feel like he and I aren’t even in the same profession.

If you’re not familiar with him, check out this piece on former New York City basketball star Richie Parker, my favorite Smith piece ever. He is SO fair and so balanced in his reporting, that at the end I found myself conflicted, when I never in a million years thought I’d be.

Anyway, he wrote another great story in last week’s issue about a kid named Gift who’s trying to the first-ever Major League Baseball player from Africa. Really fascinating stuff if you have a chance to read it; it’s not nearly as long as most of Smith’s usual stuff.

OK, done rambling for one day.