Social Justice

2014 Mark Twain Award

I just learned that Jay Leno will receive the 2014 Mark Twain Award for American humor. I have usually been pleased with the Mark Twain Award recipients, feeling that most came close to living up to the standard the Award Committee identified when describing Mark Twain himself:

As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly.

Although Leno is “funny” in the innocuous way comics were prior to Pryor (the first recipient of the Mark Twain Award in 1998), it is difficult to think of him as a “fearless observer of society” with an “uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly”.

Of all the Mark Twain Award recipients, there is really only one, in my humble opinion, that epitomizes the Mark Twain standard and that is the only one to receive to award posthumously, George Carlin. The clip below is just one of many that show Carlin to be much more than a comic in the Leno sense.

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Butch Otter Flailing at Winmills

ToonOtterIPCWhen it comes to human rights, Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter’s moral compass is nonexistent.  He will do or say whatever is politically expedient at the time. Case in point, his stance towards gay rights. For Otter, there is no morality beyond what is good for business- i.e. profit.

Last Tuesday Otter made his annual appearance at the Idaho Press Club and, when asked about recent protests at the Idaho Legislature advocating the addition of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, and concerns from Human Rights advocates about a bill working its way through the legislature that would give people who refused to hire or serve members of the LTGB community, Otter said that he hadn’t heard any complaints from business, as if that somehow answered the question. As long as his wealthy donors don’t complain, Otter is fine with any sort of discrimination. Otter would undoubtedly be fine with slavery as long as it didn’t hurt business.

Gov. Butch Otter said Tuesday he’s seen no evidence that the Legislature’s opposition to extending civil rights protections to gays, called “Add the Words” by supporters, is damaging business recruitment. Nor has he heard business complaints about House Bill 427, which would add legal protections for people who refuse to hire or serve gays based on their religious beliefs.

“I can’t point to one company that I’ve visited with that said, ‘If you don’t do this,’ or even suggested that was a problem,” Otter told the Idaho Press Club. “I don’t know that companies look to the political. They don’t say, ‘Geez, you’re a really red state, that’s why I’m coming here.’

Otter is facing primary opposition from tea party challenger, Russ Fulcher, so pandering to the farthest right wing of the Idaho Republican party has just begun.

Otter’s political stance has always been that he is a born and bred Idahoan who knows and represents “Idaho values”. Recently, at a function in Craigmont, Idaho, Otter tried to make political points by claiming that U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill is out of touch with Idaho values.

Dan Popkey, of the Idaho Statesman, wrote an excellent article destroying Otter’s alligations by substantiating that Judge Winmill’s Record Speaks for Itself.

I have known Butch Otter since high school and I can promise you that his “values”, as well as accomplishments, are in sharp contrast with those of Judge Winmill.

4 Little Words

idaho 4 words For three hours Monday, a group of forty three Civil Rights activists in black T-shirts, with “Add the 4 Words Idaho” stenciled in white, stood outside the three entrances to the Idaho Senate.

In the finest tradition of civil disobedience, they silently protested Idaho lawmakers’ refusal to hold a hearing or even print a bill barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The protesters, who began arriving at 8 a.m., want to amend the Idaho Human Rights Act by adding the four words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. The act currently bans discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of race, religion, disability and other factors, but not on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The “Add the 4 Words” bill has been proposed for each of the last eight legislative sessions. It has never gotten a full committee hearing. Earlier this session, bill sponsors Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb and Rep. Grant Burgoyne, both Boise Democrats, announced that were told that they won’t get a hearing this year either.

“Add the Words” isn’t the only controversial issue sidelined because Republicans fear tough primaries.   According to Dan Popkey in the Idaho Statesman,

Not being considered in 2014 are fiscally prudent highway investments and Medicaid expansion — which would provide health care for 100,000 low-income Idahoans and save local and state taxpayers hundreds of millions — because GOP lawmakers have decided they need to pass a budget and get home to campaign.

The Republican Legislators pretended that they were the victims. The protestors had sullied the dignity of the legislature, and the Republican leaders responded much like they did to the “Occupy Boise” protestors during the last legislative session. In what sounded like a veiled threat, Republican Majority Leader Bart Davis said, “Today, it hurt their cause”.

All the protesters were arrested and issued misdemeanor trespass citations. Fortunately, the protestors have plenty of allies including at least a dozen Boise attorneys who have promised to defend them free of charge.

Video here:  Lawyers Donate Their Time To Defend Add The Words Protestors

The State of the Union

SOTU

The take away for me was the call for a $9.00 minimum wage.

We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages.  But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year.  Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line.  That’s wrong.  That’s why, since the last time this Congress raised the minimum wage, nineteen states have chosen to bump theirs even higher.

Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.  This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families.  It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead.  For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.  In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher.  So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.

The Color of Conscience

BillWassmuth

“To ignore hate groups, even though they usually include relatively small numbers of people, is to miscalculate the impact that they can have on a community” – Bill Wassmuth

As I reported earlier this month, the Ayran Nation and other survivalist crazies are moving back into Northern Idaho. It is easy to forget the struggle undertaken by a few social activists to root out hate groups in Idaho during the 1980’s. Hero’s like the late Bill Wassmuth (pictured above) devoted their lives to eliminating racial bigotry in Idaho but, as the years go by, it is easy to forget their stories. And, once we forget, we become complacent.

Fortunately, Idaho Public Television produced a documentary, The Color of Conscience, that tells the story of that time, highlighting the courage displayed by those unwilling to back down against hate in their communities.

The Color of Conscience is an hour-long Idaho Public Television documentary that looks at the development of the modern human rights movement in Idaho. It features the story of a small group of concerned citizens who fought against the Aryan Nations, ultimately bankrupting the neo-Nazi supremacist group in north Idaho. The program also examines some of the current human rights issues in Idaho, such as gay rights, immigrant rights, and hate crimes.

Boise’s  First Congregational United Church of Christ is hosting a free screening of the documentary featuring local public television producer, Marcia Franklin. Franklin will be present to answer questions about making the documentary. The free showing is provided as part of the Church’s celebration of human rights in the local community, in particular the recent passing of Boise’s anti-discrimination ordinance. The screening is at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12 at the church, 2201 Woodlawn Avenue in Boise.

If you are not in the area or, for whatever reason, cannot attend the screening, you can watch the documentary here.