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Random acts of kindness

Internet, sometimes I really love you:

Scott Widak and his family recently received the greatest gift anyone in their situation could receive — a viral act of encouragement and kindness from complete strangers.


Widak, 47, has Down syndrome and is terminally ill with liver disease. After frequently checking in and out of the hospital, Widak is now at home with his 85-year-old mother, who’s helping with his in-home hospice care.


To cope with such a challenging situation, Widak’s nephew, Sean O’Connor, turned to the Reddit community to see if anyone would be interested in sending a letter to his uncle.


“One of my uncle’s favorite things to do is open mail, and I thought that if he got a lot of mail it would cheer him up,” says O’Connor.


Within three hours, the post received more than 1,300 comments, most of which expressed interest in sending mail. O’Connor then included a link to a news article about Widak and his art, along with two photos of him and his mother, a P.O. box address and a few things he’s interested in, like Johnny Cash.


Due to the amount of personal information, Reddit removed the post four hours later — which was apparently enough time for most of the commenters to copy the address.


Following the post, Widak received hundreds of letters from all over the world, including the United States, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and Mexico. According to O’Connor, there is still mail coming in.


In addition to beautifully written letters, Reddit users have sent custom artwork, art supplies, DVDs and personal keepsakes that they wanted to pass on to Widak.


Sony Music Entertainment sent him 15 CDs/DVDs, which were mostly by Johnny Cash.


“The mail that’s arrived has all been extremely positive and thoughtful,” says O’Connor. “My family and I are amazed at how so many strangers could come together for a random act of kindness.”

Blaming you

A bunch of rich white guys held a fiscal summit and guess who they blamed? Rich Eskow:

Today a bunch of rich white guys held a “Fiscal Summit” and agreed that:

1. Despite the fact that unemployment is causing untold suffering for millions of people, it’s not very important.

2. Despite the fact that wage stagnation is destroying the middle class, that’s not important either.

3. Despite the fact that we need the social safety net more than ever after what they’ve done to the economy, it’s expendable.

4. Despite the fact that our government can borrow money at record low rates and use it to put people to work, thereby ending the recession and jumpstarting the economy, that option’s not even worth discussing.

5. Despite the fact that these men all possess great power, wealth, and/or influence, everything that’s wrong with the economy is your fault.

6. Since it’s all your fault, you better get ready to pay up.
Oh, and one other thing:

7. They’re all very smart and very brave. It’s too bad the rest of you people are such jerks.

Any questions? Let’s hope not, because they’re all busy men and it’s great golfing weather this week in DC.
(Sure it’s hot, but the weather calls for refreshing bouts of rain.Those are the perfect moments for cooling off under a rain-soaked cabana or golf cart umbrella. Precious moments, meant for breathing in the smell of wet grass as waiters marinated in Maryland raindrops refresh your gin and tonic. Mr. President? Mr. Speaker? Last one to the clubhouse is a rotten egg!)

The Summiteers convened in a nation wracked by unemployment and filled with crumbling schools and bridges. There they concluded that our most urgent problem is … government deficits. That’s like preaching about water conservation when your house in on fire.

Throwdown

Now this is one of the most interesting strategies I’ve seen in a long time, and it makes perfect sense. After all, the filibuster is nothing but an informal arrangement, not something codified into law. This would make for a more representative body – and no, I don’t care that it would still apply if the Republicans take control of the Senate:

The nonpartisan nonprofit Common Cause sued the U.S. Senate on Monday, challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rules that require routine 60-vote thresholds for bills and nominations that often have majority support.


Several House Democrats and three undocumented students who would be aided by the so-called DREAM Act also joined the suit.


The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes at a time of increased partisan gridlock in the Senate and amid complaints the filibuster is being abused by minority Republicans.


From 1981 to 2006, both parties used the filibuster when they were in the minority. During that period, the majority party in each Congress filed fewer than 90 cloture motions to overcome a filibuster by the minority.


But since Democrats seized power in fall 2006, Republicans have turned to the filibuster far more frequently. The majority has averaged about 140 cloture motions in both the 110th and 111th Congress. And Democrats are on
pace to repeat that feat again this Congress.


In early 2011, an effort by junior Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to water down the filibuster failed in the face of opposition from more senior lawmakers. Part of the reason it’s been so difficult to overhaul the filibuster is because it requires two-thirds of senators – or 67 votes – to make any changes to Senate rules.


“They are putting the Senate in a straitjacket,” said Stephen Spaulding, staff counsel for Common Cause. “They cannot adopt their own rules, and that’s an issue we think the courts should settle.”

Real…

Or reelection Kabuki?

The Justice Department has initiated a criminal probe into the $2 billion trading loss at JPMorgan Chase, a law enforcement representative familiar with the situation said Tuesday.


The inquiry is at a very early stage, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is private.


Many details about the loss at JPMorgan are murky, so it is unclear what laws, if any, may have been violated. But the attention from federal officials indicates that regulatory pressure is rising on JPMorgan, and its chief executive Jamie Dimon, to explain what exactly led to the bank’s multi-billion dollar misstep. That, in turn, has rekindled questions about whether government regulators are equipped to monitor banks making risky, complex trades.

While the Republican Congressional caucus seems to have figured out that being perceived as anti-gay is a loser for them, the extremists with which the Republicans have filled the ranks of their state houses continue to act like the anti-gay bigots they are. Consider this vote against an openly-gay prosecutor in the wacky state of Virginia:

Virginia’s Republican-controlled House rejected the judicial nomination of a gay Richmond prosecutor early Tuesday morning, plunging the critical swing state into the middle of the national debate about the civil rights of gay Americans.

The prosecutor, Tracy Thorne-Begland, a former fighter pilot and Navy officer, failed to garner the majority of the 100-member House of Delegates that was required to secure the judgeship. Lawmakers in the House of Delegates voted 33 to 31 to support him, with 10 abstentions.

The vote, which took place after 1 a.m., after a number of delegates had already gone home, took lawmakers by surprise. Mr. Thorne-Begland’s candidacy had broad bipartisan support from the Courts of Justice Committee, which is charged with vetting judicial appointments, and many lawmakers assumed his appointment would be approved. Indeed, seven Republicans voted in favor of his candidacy.

But Mr. Thorne-Begland, 45, ultimately failed to draw the votes after lobbying from both the Family Foundation, a powerful conservative group that opposed his candidacy, and conservative lawmakers, who argued that his past indicated that he would press an activist agenda from the bench.

The rejection comes as the country is in the midst of a roiling debate over same-sex marriage that has placed the civil rights of gays and lesbians in the national spotlight. Last week, President Obama said he supported same-sex couples’ right to marry, a position that set off a frenzy of political soul-searching as Republicans and Democrats staked out their own positions. States, meanwhile, have been passing legislation banning same-sex marriage, most recently North Carolina last week. Others, including New York and Maryland, have passed laws legalizing it.

Mr. Thorne-Begland disclosed his sexual orientation as a naval officer nearly 20 years ago during an appearance on ABC’s “Nightline,” in a challenge to the military’s ban on service by homosexuals. He was discharged honorably from the Navy after the disclosure, reinstated by a federal court, and then discharged again under the subsequent “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He also served on the board of Equality Virginia, a gay rights nonprofit group.

“The only conclusions I can come to is that he was not supported because he was gay,” said Delegate Charniele Herring, a Democrat who voted for him.

But conservatives, including Delegate Bob Marshall, a Republican from Prince William County, argued that those aspects of his biography meant that he would not be able to be impartial, and might even engage in activism, if he became a judge. Mr. Marshall, together with several fellow Republicans from his county, a number of them former military men, led the charge against Mr. Thorne-Begland on Tuesday morning.

Would not be able to be “impartial,” and might even engage in “activism.” If only he were active in the Federalist Society, or his partner was a lobbyist for the Tea Party, no one would say a peep. (You know, like Tony Scalia, Clarence Thomas or Sam Alito?) I just can’t remember any prominent Republicans expressing any concern about impartiality, or judicial activism from this gang but since we’re now in Bizarro World, it’s very possible that I blinked, and missed it.

What becomes of the brokenhearted

Jimmy Ruffin:

Gee whiz

Carla Thomas:

Hello stranger

Barbara Lewis:

Virtually Speaking tonight

Virtually Speaking Live 6pm pacific 9pm eastern
Avedon Carol and Vast Left talk about “Left-side Obama criticism in the wake of his same-sex marriage statements;”

Vastleft’s chance encounter with Elizabeth Warren;  ‘Public-Private Partnerships’ and the London “drought”
Follow @VastLeft @Avedon_says Listen Live and later on BTR

Tom Morello

My hero Tom Morello will be on Moyers this weekend:

Songs of social protest — music and the quest for justice — have long been intertwined, and the troubadours of troubling times — Guthrie, Seeger, Baez, Dylan, and Springsteen among them — have become famous for their dedication to both. Now we can add a name to the ranks of those who lift their voices for social and economic justice: Tom Morello.


Morello, who will be Bill’s guest on Moyers & Company this weekend (check local listings), is the Harvard-educated guitarist who dabbled in politics, then chose rock music to make a difference. He played guitar for the popular band he co-founded — Rage Against the Machine — and then for Audioslave. Rolling Stone chose his album “World Wide Rebel Songs” as one of the best of 2011, and named him one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.


As likely to be spotted at a grass-roots rally as he would at a concert hall, Morello was in Madison, Wisconsin last year, braving bitter winter weather to sing on the steps on the state capitol in support of public service workers. Morello defended their collective bargaining rights against Republican Governor Scott Walker.


He was in New York City at the May Day demonstrations, an honorary commander of a battalion of musicians they called the “Occupy Guitarmy.” That same night, Harry Belafonte presented Morello with the Officers’ Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation, honoring his “advocacy for and support of working people across the world.”

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