Friday, August 29, 1997

The Jewish gang problem in Alabama

A piece in today's NY Times on my favorite wacky governor Fob James led me to check the Alabama ACLU site, where I found the following:

Jewish Parents Sue Alabama School System For Persecuting Their Children

Thursday, August 14, 1997

MONTGOMERY, AL -- The Jewish parents of four public school students have sued an Alabama school system for violating their children's religious freedom, citing dozens of incidents when students, teachers and school officials persecuted their children for being Jews.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, which represents the family, argues that the Pike County School Board and administrators violated the constitutional right of the students to freely excercise their religion. In addition, the lawsuit says the district failed to stop the harassment, intimidation and threats to the students because of their religion and violated the constitutional prohibition against government endorsement of religion.

The lawsuit, filed August 4th in U. S. District Court for the Middle District in Alabama, was brought on behalf of the children of Sue and Wayne Willis of Pike County. Mr. and Mrs. Willis are Jewish and are raising their children in the Jewish faith.

The Willis children attend Pike County Elementary and Pike County High School. Over the last several years, the lawsuit says, their religious faith has been denigrated repeatedly by teachers, administrators and students. They have been denied the right to practice their faith while other students freely practice theirs. They have been denied the right to express their religious beliefs while repeatedly being forced to participate in overtly Christian assemblies and classroom activities.

The lawsuit further charges that the Willis children have also been the victims of religious bigotry and anti-Semitic hate crimes at the hands of other students. Faculty, adminstrators and school board members have done nothing to stop this persecution.

Mr. and Mrs. Willis have taken their concerns and complaints to all levels of school personnel and the school board during the last few years. Their efforts have been in vain. In response to a complaint from Mrs. Willis in April of this year, Superintendent John Key suggested that the continual harassment would end if the Willis family would convert to Christianity.

One teacher, in response to Mrs. Willis' plea, explained "If parents will not save souls, we have to."

The following are examples of the religious persecution suffered by the Willis children and the entanglement of the Pike County school system with religion. Included in the lawsuit are:

* The Willis children were forbidden to wear Star of David lapel pins. The teacher claimed the Star of David was a gang symbol. Other children in class were wearing crosses.
* The Willis children were forbidden to participate in physical education class while wearing their yarmulkes.
* Two of the Willis children have been physically assaulted by their classmates because of their religion. On one occasion one of the children was beaten by five or six other students.
* Swastikas have been drawn on their lockers, bookbags and jackets. Their yarmulkes, worn on High Holy Days, have been ripped off their heads and used to play "keep away."
* The children are constantly taunted with jeers such as "Jew boys" and "Jewish jokers." These verbal assaults are particularly venomous after blatantly Christian assemblies. Teachers and administrators have done nothing meaningful to stop these acts of cruelty and threats to physically safety, although they have repeatedly been made aware of them.
* The Willis children were ordered by teachers to bow their heads during Christian prayers, even though the teachers knew the children were Jewish. On at least one occasion a teacher physically forced one of the children to bow his head during the delivery of a prayer in an assembly. The prayer was explicitly Christian. The teacher knew the child was Jewish.
* A vice principal disciplined one Willis child for disrupting class by requring him to compose an essay on the subject "Why Jesus Loves Me."
* One Willis child was sent to wait in the hall during the distribution of Gideon bibles. Classmates called the child names as she left the room. A Gideon representative tried to force the child to take a copy of the Gideon bible and held a cross in front of her face when she explained she did not want one because she was Jewish. The child ran screaming back into the classroom, asking her teacher for help. The teacher did nothing.
* Religious, overtly Christian, classroom activities and assembly presentations are common in the Pike County system. Events like "Birth of Jesus" plays at assembly and "Happy Birthday Jesus" parties in classrooms make the Willis children feel like second-class citizens.
* One local minister, brought in to make a presentation at a school assembly, told the students that anyone who had not accepted Jesus as his or her Savior was doomed to hell. The Willis child in the audience left to jeers from her classmates. She suffered nightmares for weeks.

"These harmful and hateful acts are the product of a culture of religious bigotry which permeates the Pike County school system," said ACLU of Alabama cooperating attorney Pamela Sumners. "They have been perpetrated or tacitly endorsed by the very officials who are duty-bound to operate our schools in a manner which comports with the Constitution and morally bound to operate the schools so that all children are treated equally and with respect."

As Mrs. Willis explained in papers filed with the court, "Every day that I send my children to Pike County schools, I wonder if I am sending them into a war zone. Every day that I send my children to Pike County schools, I feel that the environment threatens every value that my husband and I have tried to teach them at home. I have asked school officials how I can teach my children to be tolerant human beings and not bigots when they are subjected to outright religious persecution and bigotry in school."

The Willis family asked the court to declare that school officials must recognize their right to freely exercise their religion and that school officials have a duty to protect students from harassment and threats based on religious animus. They have also asked the court to preliminarily and permanently enjoin the defendants from creating an establishment of religion.

The case is Paul Michael Herring v. Dr. John Key, Superintendent of Pike County Schools.

Copyright 1997, The American Civil Liberties Union

Sunday, August 24, 1997

Interesting series beginning today in the LA Times on the failure of laws to control assault weapons. The first one is a little long to send out (3K) but I'll keep it and the subsequent articles around for a week or so and send them out to anyone who missed them. It says that legislators (federal and California) failed to write legislation that would outlaw copycat weapons, so some weapons are sold after major changes like taking the bayonet off or changing the name. Right, changing the name of a gun can make it legal to sell. Also, they refused to ban the most popular weapons, figuring they had too large a constituency. Weapons manufactured before the laws went into effect are allowed to be sold, so the companies worked up a massive stockpile, and items like large-capacity gun clips are imported from other countries, so that no one can prove they weren't made before the law went into effect.

Also a story about the Mexican national who was released from Texas prison after 14 years on death row because the police pressured witnesses, found himself a national hero in Mexico, appeared in a soap opera...and crashed his car killing himself 4 months after he got out of prison. By the way, Rodney King is also back in jail; I think he tried to run his wife over. Some people should learn to stay away from the horseless carriage.

In 1946 Congress revoked an earlier promise by the government to pay Filipino soldiers the same benefits as American soldiers for fighting the Japanese, including the right to emigrate, GI benefits, etc. Congress said that they had been on inactive duty during the war. Half the inactive Filipinos became permanently inactive while inactively strolling through the jungles of Bataan or in inactive Japanese prisoner camps. Some of them are protesting daily in MacArthur Park in LA, which shows their bravery.

By the way, the definition of GI, my little challenge to y'all, provoked by the new Demi Moore vehicle, which by the way opened the same day I believe as the local DA in whatever hick state the Citadel is located in said that setting female recruits on fire wasn't illegal under the hazing laws. GI, as in GI Joe, is a World War II term standing for general issue. What I find fascinating is that a sarcastic, bitter term made it into general parlance without anyone seemingly knowing its origins. My Webster's gives definitions without saying what it stands for. The term is a parody of military bureaucrateze, as in "30 entrenching tools, general issue, for dirt, removal of". The idea is that generals would requisition 1,000 "general issue" soldiers, whom they would think of as generic units, and dispose of them just as offhandedly.

Friday, August 22, 1997

Here's a quote that should sell a million tickets: "Demi Moore gives the performance of her career." The horror, the horror. This is the movie for which she achieved the look Bruce has had for years. Evidently the most quotable line from this movie, which the LA & NY Times both allude to but are unable to quote, is "Suck my dick". So *that's* what she bought with the $12 million from her last movie.

By the way, if she's in the navy, why is the movie called GI Jane?

And here's our quiz of the day. Let's see who amongst you actually knows what G.I. stands for, without actually looking it up.

Monday, August 18, 1997

A new election law is passed for Hong Kong. 1/3 of the seats will represent geographical constituencies, the rest will be elected by "functional constituencies", business and professional bodies and committees of Beijing puppets. For these latter 2/3 seats, 2 million will be disenfranchised (relative to the 1995 elections), with a maximum of 200,000 voting. I think this is unique, a communist government narrowing the franchise and admitting in as many words that it is not based on the people. Also interesting, those 200,000 will be exclusively either millionaires or communists.

An old Israeli scandal is coming to the surface, although I haven't seen anything in any newspaper yet. It seems that in the late 1940s, Yemeni Jewish immigrants were told that their babies had died, and these babies were given to European Jews. 4 graves were just excavated and found to be empty.

Tuesday, August 12, 1997

Bring out your dead

We mourn today the passing of Roger L. Zeller, noted in the NYT as a "Bowling Ball Innovator" for "revolutionizing bowling ball colors."

I had clipped that for use in just such an e-mail as this one, speculating on what it would be like to be remembered for revolutionizing bowling ball colors. But then I heard of the death of the "I've fallen and I can't get up" woman. At least her family won't have to think too hard about what to put on the tombstone.

Speaking of celebrating the pathetic, Richard Holbrooke was on MacNeil-Lehrer today touting as a major breakthrough his Kissingeresque shuttle diplomacy resulting in agreement in Bosnia on the unification of area codes. No longer will they be divided on ethnic lines when making telephone calls.... Glooooory gloooooory Richard Hooooolbrooke! I have a dream.....

Monday, August 11, 1997

Bumper sticker: I'd rather be smashing imperialism. On a pretty snazzy car, I might add.

"Copland" opens this week. A movie with Robert de Niro and Sylvester Stallone in which *Stallone* gained 40 pounds for the role. I just hope he keeps the weight for Rambo IV.

I've heard tantalizing little hints for years about a colony of Germans, or perhaps a cult of Germans, or, to use the more traditional plural, a blitzkrieg of Germans, living in Chile since 1961, when its leader moved there ahead of child abuse charges related to the orphanage he ran. As is usual for cult leaders, sex with children is always a major doctrinal point, if not a sacrament. Anyway, they're currently under investigation for the disappearance of 112 Chileans. In the 1970s the secret police evidently turned political prisoners over to these Germans for interrogation. [Insert your own painfully obvious joke here]

Thursday, August 07, 1997

Happy birthday

To India and Pakistan, 50 years old. In a poll, 1/3 of Pakistanis want some sort of dictatorship and judging by past history won't have long to wait for it. One of India's provinces has as its governor the illiterate wife of a man just indicted for corruption. You don't hear that "world's largest democracy" line much anymore. And the two countries are still engaged in a border dispute over Siachen Glacier, with both sides shooting artillery at each other as they have done since 1984. Imagine a war in the Indian subcontinent in which most of the thousands of fatalities have been from frost-bite and altitude sickness.

Wednesday, August 06, 1997

Clinton as Reagan

Clinton says of the budget deal that "The sun is rising on America again." An appropriate misappropriation of Reagan's "morning in America" as he prepares to sign into law the Ronald Reagan Wet Dream Budget of 1997. He also said "I believe that together we have fulfilled the responsibility of our generation to take America into a new century." Of course we ain't there yet, but isn't it just like Billy Bob Bubba to take credit for the new century? Hey doughboy, it would actually have happened without you! Isn't there some cliche about the rooster thinking he causes the sun to rise?

The new oldest human being alive is another smoker. The woman who just died quit at 120, saying it was getting to be a habit.

Tuesday, August 05, 1997

So California failed to execute the possibly innocent guy, despite trying real hard. Next-governor Atty Gen Lungren called the 9th Circuit a "hyperactivist court". Notably, the 7-4 split was exactly along party lines. Notably also, the court's decision to cancel the execution was not based on possible innocence, which would have earned them instant reversal by a Supreme Court that couldn't care less about innocence, but on prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective counsel. But here's the important question: what happened to the last dinner? San Quentin was preparing for the execution until 6 pm, it made the dinner (Alaska King Crab, spareribs and a hot fudge sundae, one of the few sensible last dinners I've heard of) but didn't actually give it to him. I think it's the least he deserves for spending most of the day not knowing whether he was going to die that day, but who actually wound up eating this meal or did they just throw it away? Enquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, August 02, 1997

A reminder: the 8-year old Panchen Lama is still the world's youngest political prisoner.

Speaking of 8-year olds, one of those dormant Swiss bank accounts belongs to the daughter of the last King of the Sikhs, and may contain documents proving among other things that one of the crown diamonds was stolen from the Sikhs by trickery. Which wouldn't have been very hard, since the king lost his kingdom to the Brits by a treaty he was forced to sign when he was 8. He spent the rest of his life saying, "But I was only 8!"

The British do like to hold on to their grudges, don't they? They are currently ratifying an extradition treaty with Brazil evidently solely for the purpose of then demanding the return of Ronnie Biggs, who perpetrated the Great Train Robbery in 1963.

Friday, August 01, 1997

More crap snuck into the budget bill, which was not printed or put on the Internet before the Congress had to vote on it. A provision to make savings accounts for private schools tax-deductible. Like the voucher idea, but more regressive. There were a full two minutes of debate allotted to that one.

And a provision making the new cigarette taxes applicable towards the fines the tobacco companies are supposed to pay under the settlement.