Monday, June 30, 2014

The Supreme Court decision on contraception: Al Queda, Al Shebab, and ISIS must be joyfully shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

The crazy right-wing U.S. Supreme Court
has handed business owners who side with 
terrorists like this guy a precious gift
So the Supreme Court “Hobby Lobby” decision, allows family-owned corporations to decide that they can override the United States healthcare law on supplying insurance coverage for contraceptives – on the basis of personal religious belief.

They must be getting ready to set off fireworks in the fanatic world of terrorist extremism. 

Think of it. If a corporate owner can refuse to cover some kinds of contraceptives for his employees because he is morally opposed to them, other corporate owners can fire women for refusing to come to work veiled because the owners are morally opposed to unveiled women. 

Or the owners can fire women employees if they weren’t driven to work by a family member. 

Or the corporate owner can fire people who do not fast during Ramadan. Or – who knows? – perhaps even behead Christians in their employ for apostasy. 

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Thomas, Kennedy, Stevens and Roberts and Scalia have handed the world’s worst terrorists the greatest gift America could give them – a justification and a license for their violent behavior in the name of religion.

Nice work, Alito et al. What’s next? A justification for burning witches at the stake?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The New York Crank would like to award Arizona schools superintendent John Huppenthal a free hat.

Wear it, John. You earned it.
Hey John, it’s a free country. People can say what they think. But that doesn’t mean that if their thinking is sub-Neanderthal they should be in charge of a state’s school system.
When you call poor people “lazy pigs,” I begin to question your intellectual curiosity about why poor people are poor. Or your compassion for kids who come to school hungry. Or go to bed hungry.
When you compare Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood to Adolf Hitler, I begin to question your ability to reason, or to compare like things and unlike things. For example, John, an apple doesn't look like or taste like an asparagus. And offering women birth control bears no resemblance to rounding up eight million people in the dead of night, transporting them to concentration camps, or gassing them to death.
But I have to question even your long range political intelligence when you write stuff like this: "We all need to stomp out balkanization. No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers…This is America, speak English.”
Did I mention, John, that in school systems that turn out educated people, students usually know to capitalize a proper noun like "Spanish" by the third grade?

You get an F in Education. Go put on your funny hat and sit in the corner, John.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Antioch College gets its groove back, while the town around it grows more delightfully quirky

The Antioch College campus a few minutes before
sunset. Is Antioch College golden again? I think yes.
Here’s some Ohio real estate news that brings joy to my cranky New York heart. 

A wealthy local land owner is building a $4.5 million, 28-room hotel in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The hotel will be near the center of this country town, population under 4,000. And several beds-and-breakfasts and a motel are already doing business here.

No, it’s not folly. It’s an indicator that somebody with money and business savvy is confident that the local college is about to start generating a lot of visitor traffic for the town.

The college is Antioch, once left for dead by the university of the same name that the college spawned. In fact, Antioch College was twice pronounced dead right here and here on this blog. I was wrong. My God, was I wrong!

Angry alumni save the day

College alumni and some of its faculty, enraged by past mismanagement , wrested Antioch College from the control of Antioch University and restarted its academic engines. New trustees installed a new president, Mark Roosevelt, a descendant of the rough-riding 26th President of the United States.

Antioch College’s President Roosevelt has been having a rough ride of his own, but he seems to be effectively leading the charge to restoration. I visited the campus last week. While a few buildings are closed thanks to the university’s neglect, and some have been torn down, its original Victorian spires and more than a couple of modern and renovated structures still stand. And they, as well as the lawns and foliage, look a damn sight spiffier than they did the last time I visited the campus, in 1986.

One of the worst things that happened when Antioch University attempted patricide of Antioch College was that with the college closed and its former faculty dismissed and dispersed, Antioch College lost its accreditation. And yet the college is recovering even from this stab in the heart.

Fast track progress toward re-accreditation

At a dinner for alumni who came back to the college to help fix up the college’s theater building, paint walls, build bicycle racks and do other manual labor in support of their alma mater, President Roosevelt made an announcement last week: After an arduous process, the college was expecting to gain“candidate status” for reaccreditation, which will give it and its students access to the federal grants and loans that every institution of higher learning needs to survive.

I had left town before the next announcement was made, but the Yellow Springs News is reporting that last Saturday the college was granted its candidacy – and put on an accelerated path toward full accreditation.

I chatted with several students while I was on campus, and managed to secure a copy of their student newspaper. The kids were sharp, upbeat, and charming. Their newspaper is a better one than I put out when I was its editor. Little wonder. Since Antioch has been, until now, granting its risk-taking students full tuition (a situation which may end for most new applicants) it was able to skim the cream. Great students in turn attract great faculty, and vice-versa. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, those are certainly good things for Antioch College’s future.

The town is  magnet for foodies and fun lovers

Meanwhile, the town of Yellow Springs is revving up for the prosperity that comes with a soon-to-be-thriving college. I counted at least five restaurants during my downtown strolls and managed to eat at two of them, despite the college’s attempt to feed its alumni volunteers each night. I was especially taken with The Winds Cafe, where I enjoyed a dinner worthy of an upmarket New York restaurant (with prices nearly to match.)

And the night I breezed into town, a bit late thanks to United Airlines, a place called HaHa Pizza stayed open a half hour beyond closing time to let me eat. Moreover, they fed me one hell of a healthy pizza, thanks to an option for a whole wheat crust. And I enjoyed the atmosphere provided by the spacious interior and well-spaced booths and tables.

Moreover, while Amazon may be killing off bookstores around America, you’d never know it in Yellow Springs. Its downtown boasts three shops that sell books.

The town does a strong “local tourist” business – with people driving from places like Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio to gape a bit at the counterculture types who were attracted to live in town by the progressive college. Visitors poke through offbeat shops ( pictures of some of the storefronts below) and use the state bicycle path which goes through both Yellow Springs and the edge of the college campus.

But the college needs business
and engineering departments

I have wishes for the college that aren’t likely to be fulfilled anytime soon. I wish, for example, that the college would establish a business major among its offerings. Antioch's work-study plan might create an opportunity for career-launching co-op jobs at institutions like Goldman Sachs and KKR. Hey, a hedge fund billionaire or three on the alumni roster could go a long way toward enriching Antioch’s thin endowment.

A fellow alum expressed a similar wish for the restoration of the once-pretty-good engineering department. It’s the engineers, he pointed out, who have won as many victories for humanity – with creations ranging from bridges to computers – as artists, authors and political activists. Moreover, many engineers become financially enriched by their pursuits, and might be tempted to share their good fortunes with the college.

I buttonholed President Roosevelt on the beautiful campus one night and told him about my wish for a business department. His reaction? He, uh, listened patiently. Well, he has other matters on his mind right now, but I do hope the alums will push him for broader course offerings, including business and engineering, in the years to come.

Meanwhile, the college stands, grows and shines, like a butterfly shimmying out of its chrysalis. Toward sunset, when the light is just right, the old red brick and copper turrets of the college’s 19th Century main building catch the sun and turn a honey gold, glowing against the sky. I’ll take that as a good omen.

Meanwhile, here's some of what you'll see while window shopping in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Farewell. I’m going to a far, far better (and a whole lot quirkier) place. But only for a week.

This photograph was stolen from the Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce via the web.
I’ve written about the wonderfully eccentric and usually delightful town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, more than a few times during the life of this blog. You can read some samples here, and here, and also here.

Please note that in one of these posts, several years ago, I declared that  Antioch College was dead. I blamed this on the machinations of the evil university by the same name that the college spawned, a university that attempted academic patricide.  For a while, the university appeared to have succeeded.

Now Antioch is risen from its own ashes. It has escaped the thrall of the evil university and is an independent college again. It appears to be flourishing,while coming closer to what everybody hopes will be the accreditation it lost when the  university closed it. The college is building a new faculty and attracting first rate students, thanks in part to a temporary tuition-free program that led the cream of the crop to apply. 

My week in Yellow Springs will be mostly devoted to trying to do some good for Antioch College, but I do hope to spend my free time in downtown Yellow Springs, sampling its restaurants, introducing myself to its newspaper staff (many of whom weren’t born yet when the Yellow Springs News job printed the college newspaper I edited) and see what has changed since I got my education in those parts back in the mid-Twentieth Century.

I won’t be taking a computer with me and I don’t do smart phones. Therefore I don't tweet, twitter, or text. But maybe, with any luck, I’ll be able to put up another blog post about Yellow Springs some time the week of June 16th, when I get back.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Suddenly, the NRA goes all politically correct on us. And don’t you ever – ever! – dare call a mass murderer who kills people with a firearm a “shooter.”

If an  NRA spokesman has his way,  
there will be a press gag on calling a 
shooter a shooter
The NRA can’t control the fact that, with unrelenting regularity in this country, somebody who thinks he has a grievance picks up a gun and blows away innocent women, men and children. So the NRA is trying to do the next best thing.
They want to make sure you don’t know that the shooter was a shooter. Maybe he slaughtered all those elementary school children…or wiped out a bunch of kids on or near a college campus…or offed a guy in a neighboring movie seat and put a bullet hole through the man’s wife’s hand…with a series of deft karate chops.
In a video on an NRA website, the, uh, commentator Dom Raso complains that those ‘biased” news media keep referring to people who shoot other people with firearms as “shooters.” Think how outrageous that is! Imagine calling a spade a spade! That, he says, is propaganda.
You don’t believe me? Go watch this person yourself.
He claims that calling a shooter a shooter exposes the “inaccuracy” of the media. Innacurate? How? Well, he says, calling them “shooters” makes us think of the “tool” they used rather than the nature of their crime, which was murder. “Evil is the problem. The tool is irrelevant,” he declares
Y’see, shooting somebody dead is just incidental. The “inaccurate” press ought to call those tool-wielding folks “murders,” he insists.
Well, then, if we can’t refer to the murderers’ tools, we’ll have to start rewriting history. Because, really, if a gun-wielding thug’s weaponry is subject to a cloak of anonymity, the same should apply to any murderer’s methods.
So the Boston Strangler? Sorry folks. He’s now “The Boston Murderer.” 
“Jack the Ripper?” I’m afraid that gets a bit to graphic about what he did to women’s bodies with his knife, taking our minds away from the crime. So he’s “Jack the Murderer,” from now on, too. 
Lizzie Borden, who took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks? Sorry, she’s no longer the “Axe murderer, Lizzie Borden.” She’s now merely the garden-variety “Lizzie the Murderer.”
The accused marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? He's now demoted to an accused marathon murderer.

What’s really getting murdered in Raso’s commentary is common sense.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Doing the White House Waffle

This diagram portrays the strategic direction
of theWhite House on key issues of importance
 to Democrats
More and more, I am disappointed with President Obama.
He started out like a house on fire. He was going to give us affordable health care with a public option. He was going to provide a solution to the immigration problem that didn’t involve breaking up families. He was going to restore prosperity with economic stability. He was….g-g-g-g-gagggg!
Yes, we have affordable healthcare. But at the point where the Democrats still had clout in Congress and the Senate, and the President was in a position to twist arms, he instead pulled his own leg. He convinced himself that if only he gave in to Republicans here and there, not to mention there and here…well, things would work out more smoothly. Hah!
That they worked out at all is a miracle. But we have no public option. This country would have been best off with Medicare for All. Instead we have what we have. Yes, it’s a darn sight better than we used to have. If somebody cuts off all five of my fingers and the doctor sews three back on, I’m better off than I was. But not good enough.
Immigration? The Obama presidency has deported more undocumented immigrants than any other president in history – Republican or Democrat As to a solution…well, don’t hold your breath.
The financial crisis? The President was right to save the banks. He was wrong not to save each of them into fifty different corporations, each chartered to do business in only one state. Now the banks are slowly resuming their old tricks again.
Afghanistan? We were going to be out by 2014. Now we’ll be more or less out, except where we aren’t out. But in 2015 we’ll  be even more more-or-less out. Except that we still won't be out.
Wasn't is Bear Bryant who said nice guys  finish last? But that doesn't apply to guys who can’t figure out whether to be nice, or not nice. They finish going around in circles.
Aren’t the Republicans and the Tea Party to blame? They sure as hell are. But so is the sheriff, on Pennsylvania Avenue, who instead of busting all those crazy outlaws, ambled out in the street and said, “Boys, in lieu of distrupting your lives by tossing you all in the pokey, suppose I sing a chorus of Kum-ba- ya and call it a day?”
In the end, what could have been a great administration is likely to go down as just so-so. That would be worthy of a great big “So what?” from anyone who isn’t Barack Obama except for one thing. 
We are now a nation of might-have-beens.