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Tell Us Your Stories Of Suffering From The Speaking Of Non-English Languages

Yesterday, after declaring that “The United States’ culturally diverse population is what makes our nation great, and what helps us move forward together as a society is the ability to communicate to one another,” Senator James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma, introduced the English Unity Act, S. 678. The bill would require the federal government of the United States to use English only in all its communications and activities.

So, for example, if a person not speaking English were on trial in federal court, that person would be forced to hire an interpreter themselves, or have no idea what was happening. If the defendant was too poor to hire an interpreter, tough.

Another provision of Inhofe’s proposed law would require anyone seeking to become a citizen of the United States to be able to read and understand the laws passed by the U.S. Congress as they are written in English. As a member of the U.S. Congress, Inhofe ought to realize that many English speakers can’t understand the language of the laws passed by Congress.

Consider this single sentence in another proposed law introduced to the Senate by Inhofe just a few weeks ago:

us congress red“Liability Protection for Volunteer Pilot Nonprofit
Organizations That Fly for Public Benefit and to Pilots and Staff of
Such Nonprofit Organizations.–Section 4 of the Volunteer Protection
Act of 1997 (42 U.S.C. 14503) is amended–
(1) in subsection (a)(4)–
(A) by redesignating subparagraphs (A) and (B) as
clauses (i) and (ii), respectively;
(B) by striking “the harm” and inserting “(A)
except in the case of subparagraph (B), the harm”;
(C) in subparagraph (A)(ii), as redesignated by
this paragraph, by striking the period at the end and
inserting “; and”; and
(D) by adding at the end the following:
“(B) the volunteer–
“(i) was operating an aircraft in
furtherance of the purpose of a volunteer pilot
nonprofit organization that flies for public
benefit; and
“(ii) was properly licensed and insured
for the operation of such aircraft.”; and
(2) in subsection (c)–
(A) by striking “Nothing in this section” and
inserting the following:
“(1) In general.–Except as provided in paragraph (2),
nothing in this section”; and
(B) by adding at the end the following:
“(2) Exception.–A volunteer pilot nonprofit organization
that flies for public benefit, the staff, mission coordinators,
officers, and directors (whether volunteer or otherwise) of
that nonprofit organization, and a referring agency of that
nonprofit organization shall not be liable for harm caused to
any person by a volunteer of the nonprofit organization while
the volunteer–
“(A) is operating an aircraft in furtherance of
the purpose of the nonprofit organization;
“(B) is properly licensed for the operation of the
aircraft; and
“(C) has certified to the nonprofit organization
that the volunteer has insurance covering the
volunteer’s operation of the aircraft.”.”

Should anyone who can’t understand this be kicked out of the country?

Senator Inhofe’s legislation seeks to create linguistic unity in the United States where it has never existed. Immigrants have always spoken non-English languages, and in parts of the United States, languages other than English are native, not just something spoken by immigrants.

When Inhofe speaks of the ability to communicate to one another, he’s speaking of it in terms of an unequal, top-down imposition of only one kind of speech by the federal government. That’s not the only way we could move forward together as a nation. We could learn to speak with one another by accepting that linguistic diversity exists in our country and coming up with ways to deal with that effectively, rather than attempting to end it.

What I want to know is where the great suffering caused by linguistic diversity in our country is. I don’t see it. I don’t see the urgent need that justifies Inhofe’s attempt to provide first class government service to people who speak English, and incomprehensible second class service to Americans who do not.

Help me understand. Share your stories. How have you, yourself, suffered by having people speak languages other than English? Can anyone provide me with a story of such great harm?

The Ent Is Near

We interrupt contentious debate about the serious issues of the day to bring you this pun: The ent is near.

the net is near

Arctic Sea Ice Begins Melt With Remarkably Low Surface Area

Perhaps now that the cold of winter has broken and the final days before spring are seeing a thaw here in the northern United States, it’s an appropriate time to mention that the surface area of sea water in the Arctic covered by ice is the lowest that has ever been seen at this date, more than two standard deviations below the average extent measured during the years 1981 to 2010, and much lower than the surface area of Arctic sea ice on this date in the 2011-2012 cycle, which holds record for the lowest surface area of sea ice in the Arctic ever recorded.

arctic sea ice march 2015

Prayer Hasn’t Worked so well for States Legislatively Obsessed with Prayer

So far this year, legislators in the following U.S. states have introduced bills using government power to promote prayer:

  • Arizona
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

According to U.S. Census data for 2013 (the most recent year for which data is available), these states have:

  • a lower share of the population with at least a high school education,
  • a higher percentage of the population with a disability,
  • a lower percentage of internet access in the home,
  • a lower rate of labor force participation,
  • a lower share of their population that earns at least $200,000 a year,
  • a lower median household income,
  • a higher share of residents receiving food stamps,
  • and a higher share of residents living below the poverty level,

when compared to states that haven’t tried to legislate prayer this year.

I’m not suggesting that an obsession with prayer has supernaturally made these states worse; there are lots of reasons why a state’s prayer obsession might be associated with that state’s failure relative to others.  Rather, I think it’s interesting how strongly this pattern stands at odds with the declaration by the fundamentalists behind these measures that prayer and religious observance will lift a people up in a state of exaltation and favor.  It’s just not happening.  If there’s a Lord up there picking winners, He’s siding with the heathens who don’t bother making a public display of their religion in their state legislatures.

Fake Voter Rally In Michigan Shows How US Elections Have Gone All Kinds Of Wrong

In September last year, a voter rally was held in Michigan, a grassroots demonstration that people in that state supported the Republican campaign of Terri Lynn Land enough to go to the trouble of putting together a well-orchestrated event. Today, we’re learning that, although the event was well-orchestrated, it wasn’t at all what it appeared to be.

For one thing, the rally wasn’t actually a grassroots demonstration. It was a theatrical event that was created and paid for by wealthy political insiders.

For another thing, the rally wasn’t the creation of Michigan voters. The money and the organization for the event came from out of state.

In a filing with the FEC yesterday, a Super PAC from Texas called Vote 2 Reduce Debt admitted that it provided the money to create that supposed “voter rally” for Terri Lynn Land. It used that money to hire Red State Productions, a political fixing firm that boasts of creating fake “grassroots” productions, “from one event in one state, to a coordinated national effort”.

red state productionsGiven its name, you might conclude that, even if it isn’t from Michigan, at least Red State Productions is creating jobs in a red state – a Republican-dominated part of the country. In such a conclusion, however, you would be wrong. Red State Productions isn’t based in a red state at all. Its offices are at 1629 K Street, NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20006.

So, a Washington DC firm was hired to create a fake grassroots rally in Michigan using money from a Super PAC from Texas… but where did that Super PAC get its money from? Its money comes from people at companies like Great Western Drilling and Summit Petroleum. Most of the money, however, came from Ken Davis, a wealthy Texas capitalist with companies that services for Big Oil. Ken Davis is also the treasurer of Vote 2 Reduce Debt.

What makes Ken Davis so keen on the idea of reducing debt, and what are his debt-reducing plans? In the 1980’s, Ken Davis was hauled into court by banks to whom he owed over $300,000,000.00, but was refusing to pay. He had gained most of his wealth not from cost-cutting measures to avoid debt, but as an inheritance from his father.

How’s that for fiscal responsibility?

You may be wondering why I’m reporting on this fake voter rally created by funny money now, in March of 2015, when it took place in September of 2014. I’m doing because, although the law requires organizations making independent expenditures of money in order to influence federal elections to report their activities to the FEC within 24 hours, so that voters can try to pay attention to who is trying to use their financial wealth to twist our democracy, Ken Davis and Vote 2 Reduce Debt did not comply with that law. They didn’t submit their 24-hour report to the FEC until yesterday.

At the time that Vote 2 Reduce Debt obscured its spending on the fake voter rally for Terri Lynn Land, the organization was already under investigation from the FEC for covering up information about its influence-peddling activities, an “inquiry concerning missing itemization information, description of purpose for expenditures and memo entries to disclose ultimate vendors”. Ken Davis had written a letter to the FEC promising not to withhold any more information on the activities of Vote 2 Reduce Debt from the American people. Apparently, Davis was holding his fingers crossed behind his back when he made that promise.

Apple Watch = 6G iPod Nano, Minus Function, Plus $275

The Apple Watch = 6G iPod Nano - Function + $275.  Am I wrong?

A company whose name rhymes with “Schmapple” would like you to forget that the much less-expensive iPod nano worked as a watch by itself years ago.  You have to own another Apple product, costing another few hundred dollars, before you have the privilege of spending another $350 on the Apple Watch.

Marketing genius wins over consumer credulity and status seeking.  Am I wrong?

What Makes These The Five Racial Groups?

The school district that my children attends asks parents to classify their children as belonging to “the following five racial groups”:

“AMERICAN INDIAN OR ALASKA NATIVE: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North America and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition. e.g. Cherokee, Mohawk, Inuit.

ASIAN: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Island, Thailand, and Vietnam.

NATIVE HAWAIIAN OR OTHER PACIFIC ISLANDER: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

BLACK: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

WHITE: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, North Africa, or the Middle East.”

5 racial groups for school

This scheme of races brings many questions to my mind. Just a few of them are:

1. How are students with ancestry from Australia or South America supposed to be classified?

2. How come only “American Indian or Alaska Native” peoples must maintain cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition? Why don’t “White” students have to prove tribal affiliation or community recognition to have their whiteness accepted?

3. Which “The Philippine Island” are they talking about? There are many of them.

4. Why are people from “the Middle East” called “White” and not “Asian”?

5. Which African ethnic and cultural groups are “White”, and which ones are “Black”, and how can we tell the difference?

Heads Up: Section 215 of the Patriot Act (Warrantless Seizure) Expires June 1, 2015

Before she ran for the U.S. Senate, civil liberties advocate Shenna Bellows sounded the alarm on the USA PATRIOT Act’s Section 215:

“The USA PATRIOT Act created new powers. It says that the government can now conduct what are called ‘sneak and peek’ searches, that they can go into your home, conduct a search of your property, and not tell you, if it was ‘connected’ or ‘relevant’ to terrorism. USA PATRIOT Act Section 215 is what we call the ‘library records provision’ because under Section 215, government agencies could access any business records or any tangible thing without a particularized warrant, without a court’s finding of probable cause, just by saying it was ‘relevant’ to a terrorism investigation.”

The general authorization for searches under Section 215 stands in direct opposition to the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which declares that We The People are to be free of searches and seizures of our homes, our belongings and our records unless the government issues a warrant declaring probable cause, describing the particular place to be searched, and identifying the material to be seized.  Section 215 powers of the USA PATRIOT Act require no warrant and are not specific to any place or material.  The unconstitutional Section 215 powers have been vastly abused, serving as a foundation for the massive NSA surveillance program under which huge numbers of Americans’ call records, e-mail records and text message records have been swept up and declared government property without permission, without probable cause, without particularity, without a warrant.  Even the Republican member of Congress who wrote the provision has declared his outrage at government abuse of powers under Section 215.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is trying its darndest to put out the word that Section 215 is expiring on June 1, 2015.  Why do we need to know about this in advance?  Because the friends of warrantless surveillance are going to do their darndest to pass an extension of Section 215 with minimal public attention and therefore minimal fuss.  You and I can make this impossible through one simple act: spreading the word.

Spread the word.

Atheists Under Assault

In Egypt, 22 year-old Sherif Gaber has been convicted for creating a page on Facebook discussing atheism. The student was arrested after his home was surrounded by four military vehicles, and has been sentenced to one year in prison. While awaiting trial, Gaber was subjected to torture, including electrocution.

Also in Eqypt, 23 year-old engineering student Karim al-Banna has been convicted and sentenced to three years in prison for declaring himself an atheist on Facebook. He will to return to court on Monday for an appeal of his case.

In Bangladesh, US citizen Avijit Roy was hacked to death by an angry crowd as punishment for his openly-atheist identity appearing in public at a book signing.

Here in the United States, the assaults against atheists are mostly legal, rather than physically violent. The City Hall in Warren, Michigan has denied equal access to atheists after Christians were granted an official local government “prayer station” at which to promote their religion. In Nashville, atheists aren’t being allowed even to post a billboard.

What can atheists do in the wake of these kinds of incidents? Hunker down, endure it, and continue to speak up for equal rights. Here in the USA, people emerging from religion into atheism can call the phone number 1-84-I-DOUBT-IT, where people are waiting to listen, and talk sympathetically according to the following guidelines:

Don’t argue or debate
Don’t command or persuade
Don’t criticize or preach
Don’t threaten, blame or criticize
Don’t display negative emotions
Don’t make assumptions about callers
Don’t interrupt
Don’t make any promises
Don’t multitask (wait, what were you saying?)
Don’t assert your own worldviews, beliefs or stories into the caller’s situation

Bill Shuster Gets Tough on Amtrak Food Concessions, Goes Woolly on the F-35

Republican Representative Bill Shuster is pulling out all the stops in congressional bill H.R. 749 to get Amtrak to cut, cut, cut its budget for paying the workers on its trains so that the federal government can stop paying $80 million a year to support Amtrak’s on-train food sales.

While we’re on the subject of transportation, the same Bill Shuster voted against budget cuts of $585 million a year to be realized by ending the practice of hiring two gigantic military hardware corporations to make two absolutely identical versions of the same engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — an attack airplane that, years and years after its $160-million-per-plane, $1.5-trillion-overall funding, still hasn’t been approved for use because it just doesn’t work.

Bill Shuster: railing against peanuts, protecting the elephant.

Jeb Bush Proposes Presidential Election To Be Held In 2016

jeb bush shrugJeb Bush, speaking today before a meeting of representatives from big agribusiness, proposed a new idea for politics in the USA. “The first thing you do is change presidents!” he told the corporate crowd.

So, let’s get this straight. Jeb Bush thinks that, the next time around, we should elect someone President other than Barack Obama.

I think there are some people already working on that project, Jeb. Back in the first half of the last century, they passed a constitutional amendment for term limits and everything.

Jeb Bush was speaking in support of a big government program that seeks to break up families, separating children from their parents when the children are American citizens and their parents aren’t.

Bush’s coaches might want to explain to him that the combination of ignorance and cruelty doesn’t make for good publicity.