Banned books/unbanned video games


If Hamlet was alive today would he say, ‘Something is rotten in the state of America?’

The Los Angeles Times published a list today, “The 15 most banned books in America this school year.” (Since many readers may not be able to access the link to the Times’ story, I’ve also included a PDF at the end of this post.):

Here’s the list (statistics from PEN America):

  • 1. “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe.(2019 – 56 bans/150 challenges)
  • 2. “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. (2020 – 38 bans/86 challenges)
  • 3. “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. (1970– 32 bans/73 challenges)
  • 4. “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez. (2015 – 31 bans/50 challenges)
  • 5. “Flamer” by Mike Curato. (2020 –25 bans/62 challenges)
  • 6. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. (2017 –24 bans)
  • 7. “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins. (2004 – 24 bans/48 challenges)
  • 8. “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison. (2018 – 23 bans/54 challenges)
  • 9. “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins. (2009 – 21 bans)
  • 10. “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson. (2014 – 21 bans/48 challenges)
  • 11. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. (2007 – 21 bans/52 challenges)
  • 12. “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. (2007 – 20 bans)
  • 13. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews. (2012 – 20 bans/48 challenges)
  • 14. “Sold” by Patricia McCormick. (2006 – 18 bans)
  • 15. “Melissa” by Alex Gino. (2015 – 18 bans)

As you’ll see if you read the complete article, the themes covered by these books include, LGBTQ+ issues, race, child abuse, interracial relationships, suicide prevention, drug addition and sexual slavery. Several of the books were literary award winners; many were best sellers; some have been made into films.

To put both these bans and the current state of American culture and politics into perspective, the American Library Association. reports that in 2022 a record 1,269 demands were made to restrict or ban books and other materials in schools and libraries — up from 156 demands in 2020.

As I read the Times article, it struck me that while conservative zealots are banning books, ensuring that American students won’t learn about the real world, about real American history, about real people who might be their fellow-students, their friends, their neighbors, even their family members – these same ideologues have been noticeably silent about another phenomenon, dare I say crisis, that is affecting…more precisely…corrupting their children’s minds: Violent video games!

Here is a list of the “The 20 Most Popular Video Games Right Now” published by I’ve summarized the list below, including each game’s type/theme. If you have the stomach for it, the full description of each of these 20 best sellers can be found in the link in this paragraph.

  • 20. Super Smash Bros – Beat-em-up/Cross-over fighting.
  • 19. The Elder Scrolls V – Action role-playing/destroying an enemy.
  • 18. Call of Duty: Black Ops II – First-person shooters, with lots of shooting, explosions, death and graphic content.
  • 17. Spider-Man – Action/adventure in which Spider-Man takes out his enemy.
  • 16. The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild – Another action/adventure take out the enemy game.
  • 15. Super Mario Odyssey – A a “platform” game with the goal to take out an enemy.
  • 14. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII – See #18 above. (Note, this is the fifth version of the “Call of Duty” franchise even though it’s labeled IIII. It also is obviously teaching students how not to learn Roman numerals. But who, besides the NFL, cares about that mis-education?)
  • 13. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – First person shooter.
  • 12. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – Battle it out to the last man standing.
  • 11. League of Legends – Battle arena “game” with the objective to destroy your opponents.
  • 10. Roblox – Creation platform system, that allows users to create their own games.
  • 9. Rocket League – Vehicular soccer video game. 
  • 8. Overwatch – Team-based multiplayer first-person shooter.
  • 7. Red Dead Redemption II – Shoot ’em up with the objective of trying not to be killed by rival gang members and government officials.
  • 6. Super Smash Bros: Ultimate – See #19 above.
  • 5. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege – Tactical shooter game.
  • 4. Grand Theft Auto V – Action-adventure video game that allows you to play as a criminal, committing heists and evading government and police officials.
  • 3. Fortnite – Online shooter survival game.
  • 2. Minecraft – “Sandbox” building block game.
  • 1. Call of Duty: Warzone (Modern Warfare) – See #’s 14 and 18 above.

There you have it. The 20 most popular video games, 17 of which involve guns, killing or overall mayhem, one that glorifies grand theft, leaving two, “Roblox” and “Minecraft” that might have some redeeming value.

Where is the outrage? Where are the calls for bans. Who are the parents who let their children buy and play these games while mindlessly banning books about the real world? Oh right, they’re in the garage or the family room cleaning their assault rifles while watching Fox “News!”

By the way, the if the descriptions of these games is not bad enough, here’s a sample of some game graphics:

Let me close today’s diatribe with this story, just in from the Florida newsroom courtesy of The Washington Post (This is an excerpt – full story PDF attached).

Teacher investigated for Disney movie says politics drove her to resign

Jenna Barbee said she wanted to give students a “brain break” during standardized testing earlier this month by showing them a movie. Barbee, a fifth-grade teacher at Winding Waters K-8 school in Brooksville, Fla., chose Disney’s “Strange World” because the film about journeying to a mysterious underground land related to recent science lessons about the environment.

But “Strange World” is also Disney’s first movie featuring an openly gay character, a fact that led a school board member to report Barbee to state officials, the teacher told the Hernando County School Board at its May 9 meeting. The Florida Department of Education is now investigating whether Barbee broke the state’s law forbidding public school teachers from talking about gender and sexual orientation with students, she said in a TikTok video, which has been viewed more than 5 million times in three days.

“This is the public education system, where students from all backgrounds, cultures and religions are welcomed and should be celebrated and represented. I am not and never would indoctrinate anyone to follow my beliefs,” she said at the start of the 6½-minute video. “I will, however, always be a safe person to come to that spreads the message of kindness, positivity and compassion for everyone.”

I ask you, readers, friends, opponents, do you agree that there’s something wrong with all this. Paraphrasing Shakespeare, is there really “something rotten in the state of America?” Are we, as Seinfeld might say, not just in, but fully vested in, “Bizarro World?

Here’s the PDF of the Times article, “The 15 most banned books in America this school year:”

Congressman George Santos indicted on multiple counts

Commentary/News with a Twist

Seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of lying to the House of Representatives on financial forms.

But the real question: Who posted his $500,000 bail? Read on to find out.

The Washington Post reported:

Rep. George Santos, the freshman Republican congressman whose myriad falsehoods became both a scandal and a national punchline, was charged with a host of financial crimes in court papers unsealed Wednesday, including defrauding his donors, using their money for his personal benefit and wrongly claiming unemployment benefits.

Santos, 34, surrendered to federal authorities in the morning at the Alfonse M. D’Amato Federal Courthouse in this hamlet on Long Island. The freshman congressman, who announced his reelection bid last month, was arraigned before a magistrate judge, told to relinquish his passport and ordered released on $500,000 bond.

His lawyer, Joe Murray, told reporters after the proceeding that he wants to meet with prosecutors and “share what we’ve learned and what we have. We have information that I think they would be interested to see.” [Gee, I wonder what they learned and who should be worried? Or did Santos hire a ‘kindred spirit’…another pathological liar…as his attorney?]

Appearing before a scrum of reporters and cameras outside the courthouse, Santos dismissed the investigation of his activities as…[wait for it, wait for it]…“a witch hunt.”

“I am going to fight my battle, I am going to deliver,” he said. “I am going to take care of clearing my name, and I look forward to doing that.”

Santos faces seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of lying to the House of Representatives on financial forms. Wire fraud, the most serious charge, carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. If Santos is found guilty of multiple counts, a judge would decide whether he should serve his sentences concurrently or consecutively.

Some of the details in the nearly 20-page indictment — about Santos’s dealings with would-be donors and false statements on his ethics disclosures — had been revealed in earlier reporting. But the alleged unemployment fraud is new.

According to prosecutors, Santos falsely claimed to have been unemployed in summer 2020 when he applied for benefits through the New York State Department of Labor. He continued to falsely certify his unemployment through the following spring, prosecutors alleged, and received more than $24,000 in benefits funded by the U.S. Treasury Department as part of expanded social programs introduced by Congress in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Santos was ineligible for the benefits, according to the indictment, which states that he was employed as a regional director for a Florida investment firm during that period. The firm goes unnamed in the indictment, but its details match those of a company called Harbor City Capital, which was forced to shut down in 2021 after the Securities and Exchange Commission called it a “classic Ponzi scheme.”

“Taken together, the allegations in the indictment charge Santos with relying on repeated dishonesty and deception to ascend to the halls of Congress and enrich himself,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in a statement. “He used political contributions to line his pockets, unlawfully applied for unemployment benefits that should have gone to New Yorkers who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and lied to the House of Representatives.”

But who posted Santos’ bail?

Of course the big question requiring disclosure is, who posted the $500,000 cash bond that allowed Santos to be released?

Sources from the Santos team have hinted that three individuals posted the bond. Based on that “hint,” speculation immediately focussed on three GOP colleagues, given that the Republican House caucus desperately needs Santos’ vote to help maintain its slim majority. The three most mentioned contributors? House speaker Kevin McCarthy; McCarthy’s boss and hostage holder, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga); and Republican National Committee chairwoman (and Romney family black sheep) Ronna Romney McDaniel.

While there was some talk that Clarence Thomas’ sugar daddy, Harlan Crow, might have been a contributor, Crow associates have suggested that he’s only interested in spending his fortune on packing SCOTUS with Crow-favorable justices.

But if not these, then who?

In an exhaustive investigation, Around the Block has uncovered the real source of the Santos largesse.

George Soros!

A Soros confidant, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Around the Block:

“Frankly, Mr. Soros has been very hurt by the fact that every time a liberal or progressive or left of center investigation occurs, the story is prefaced with allegations that the prosecution is, “George Soros-funded” or “Soros-backed.” He’s even been given the epithet, “Puppet-Master Soros.” From Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Donald Trump to yesterday’s accusation that the jury that ruled in favor of E. Jean Carroll over Donald Trump in her sexual harassment/defamation law suit was funded by Soros, Mr. Soros has determined that he needed to do something to “level the playing field.” And, he thought, what better way to do that than posting bail for a mieskeit* like George Santos.

*(Mieskeit is a Yiddish term for someone who is ugly, but it can also mean a despicable, repulsive individual)

“After all,” our source continued, “despite all his lies, Santos did claim Jewish heritage. Mr. Soros felt that if there’s even a germ of truth to this claim, the least he could do is to assist a possible co-religionist in trouble.”

“There is one more thing, however,” suggested the Soros confidant. “Mr. Soros is frankly sick and tired of news anchors and talking heads, when speaking about ‘George Santos,’ often refer to this deviant as ‘George Soros.’ In making this rather small contribution…I mean what is $500,000 to George Soros anyway…it might serve as a way to put a stop to this heinous confusion.”

“Lucy, you got some ‘splaining’ to do.


Actually, ‘Around the Block,’ you’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do

Some of the feedback I’ve received regarding my two most recent posts, Oysters can change sex multiple times during their lives and Around the Block goes back to a time when Dianne & Lindsey were sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”, suggests that a little Around the Block history is necessary.

So, before I post my next Around the Block, I thought it might be useful to provide readers with some background.

When I first began writing Around the Block in 2012, several hosting iterations ago, (yes old-timers, its been over 10 years), my posts were mostly devoted to straight political commentary. Remember, 2012 was a presidential election year and, with Mitt Romney the GOP candidate running against President Obama, there was a lot to write about. After a while, particularly as I was a devotee to the New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz and his “Not the News” columns, I decided to go beyond straight commentary and post occasional satirical stories, dubbed “News with a Twist.” Posts identified as “News with a Twist” were fun to write but perhaps what was even more fun was the reader reaction; many readers wondered, what was real and what was “twisted?” It got to the point that I even considered color-coding the text: black for real; red for “twisted.”

When I moved to the current hosting iteration of Around the Block, the new format provided me with the opportunity to include a statement that would explain what Around the Block was all about:

Around the Block is my little corner of the web for commentary, information, satire and more. In this space I cover politics, sports, current events, people…basically things that move me enough that I believe my point of view can be part of the general discussion. My posts will sometimes be sub-headed with a descriptor (“News,” “Commentary,” “Looking Back”…). Satire, however, will always be sub-headed “News with a Twist,” in recognition of the fact what may be parody to me can be credulous to others.

In the run-up to the 2016 election, Trump’s shenanigans and the inaneness of his GOP primary opponents provided ample material for “News with a Twist” posts. In fact, although I haven’t done an exhaustive examination, my guess is that at least 50% of my stories in 2015-2016 were satirical.

And then Donald Trump became POTUS.

And then satire…funny…wasn’t funny any more. In my mind, satirists at the time, like Borowitz and Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah and others were trying too hard to be funny and cynical at a time when the world was becoming, not only unfunny, but dark and evil. So, I began writing less “News with a Twist” and more straight commentary.

Having said that, the two posts I highlighted at the beginning of this story are, to a degree, “News with a Twist.” The post that will follow this one will be, similarly, satire…”News with a Twist.” While I don’t think it makes sense for me to code real versus satire by color, if you have any questions regarding veracity versus satire, post a comment, or email me at for clarification.

Thanks for your support. Thanks for your comments. And, thanks for promoting Around the Block to your friends and neighbors.

Around the Block goes back to a time when Dianne & Lindsey were sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”

Commentary/Flashback/News with a Twist

Back in 2020, a friend was struggling with how to deal with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s fawning praise of Senator Lindsey Graham. I helped him write a letter…two actually.

The image accompanying this story was taken at the conclusion of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett back in October 2020. Given the controversy over Senator Feinstein’s recent long absence from the Senate and the concern that she is not only suffering from shingles but also some cognitive loss, I was reminded of a story I wrote, one in which perhaps, in hindsight, suggested that Feinstein has been “losing it” for a while.

I know the statement, “losing it” is harsh. And despite the fact that Feinstein is scheduled to return to the Senate today to cast a vote after a 3-month absence, calls for her resignation, including my own in an April 29th post, Impeach Clarence Thomas and Remove Dianne Feinstein, are not sexist; they are not ageist. Her resignation is simply the right thing to do for the country, for California and for the Democratic Party.

(By the way, I’m joined in that sentiment by former secretary of labor Robert Reich in an essay, below, published today.)

So, back to October 2020 and…

Dianne & Lindsey sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!

Struggling on how to deal with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s fawning praise of Senator Lindsey Graham? Write a letter.

At the conclusion of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the ranking member, said to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the committee chairman, “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.” Feinstein then went on to hug Graham. Neither were wearing masks.

Feinstein’s actions upset many liberals and progressives across the country, but in particular Californians, constituents who have been voting for her as their senior senator since 1992. 

One of my best friends was one of those upset Californians. This friend wanted to write a letter to the Senator but because his first attempt was, according to his wife, too harsh, he asked if I could assist. 

Of course, I said yes. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I have long been a supporter of you, your ideals, your leadership and your service to our state, to our country and to your constituents. I have been proud, as a Californian and as a progressive, to have you represent our state for so many years.

But I must say your actions at the conclusion of the Senate Judiciary hearings on the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett left me not only disappointed, but frankly bewildered.

I will not go into the characterizations of your questions to Judge Barrett as “softball” ones as many in the media have characterized them. But I was appalled at your closing statement to Senator Lindsey Graham at the conclusion of the proceedings, keeping in mind that this entire charade was a blatant political power play to steal yet another Supreme Court seat…forgive me for saying this, but you must remember the Merrick Garland travesty in 2016.

How in good conscience could you actually say, given the hypocrisy of your Republican colleagues: “This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in?” 

And then how, to add insult to injury, could you go over to Senator Graham, perhaps the most duplicitous member of the Senate, and give him a hug? A hug, in the middle of a pandemic. And without a mask!

What were you thinking? Wouldn’t it have been appropriate, given the double standard of these hearings to begin with, to simply close your briefing book and just leave?

To say I was disappointed in your actions would be too mild. In reality, I am embarrassed by your actions and ashamed, yes ashamed, that you represent California the greatest, and most progressive state in the Union.


After a day went by with no response from my friend, I got concerned so I followed up, writing, 

“Since I didn’t hear back from you regarding my draft letter to Dianne Feinstein, I started to wonder why. After rereading the draft and reflecting on your wife’s original admonition that your own first attempt was “too harsh,” I decided to tone down the letter a bit to allow you to make your point, but in a friendlier, more collegial way. Let me know if this works:”

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I have long been a supporter of you, your ideals, your leadership and your service to your constituents. I have been proud, as a Californian, and as a progressive, to have you represent our state for so many years.

You showed all those traits as the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary at the confirmation hearings of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. But even more, you showed a sense of bipartisanship that is sorely missing in today’s politics.

I was particularly heartened to see that, unlike most of your Democratic colleagues on the committee, you questioned Judge Barrett, who is a particularly attractive nominee, some might even say the most attractive individual ever to be considered for the Supreme Court, in a caring, dare I say “grandmotherly” way. I thought that was called for given how unfairly and condescendingly she was treated by the other Democrats on your committee, particularly that “monster,” Kamala Harris!

At the end of the hearings your comment to committee chairman Lindsey Graham was particularly heartwarming:

“This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in.” 

In these divided and fraught times, how often do we hear the ranking member of a committee, the opposition, if you will, make such a loving complement. It was particularly poignant given how nice a man Senator Graham appears to be. He truly is an individual who takes a position on issues and never wavers. I’m sure you are proud to be counted as one his friends.

I must tell you however, that there is one thing that was a little troubling to me. I was a little, just a little, concerned about the maskless hug you and Senator Graham entered into before you and the senator left the hearing room holding hands. I know that even in this pandemic, when over 215,000 Americans have lost their lives, and when most scientists and medical experts have gone on record saying that the “wearing of masks is the single most effective tool we have in our arsenal to combat the spread of the virus,” the optics of the hug could have been taken the wrong way; that you and the Senator were being “unsympathetic” to the suffering the nation has been through due to the coronavirus. While I know the old saying “friendship knows no bounds” is one that you have always abided by, there might have been a better way to signal your fondness for Senator Graham. Perhaps rather than a hug, an elbow bump or, even better, an “air-kiss” at a distance of six feet would have been more appropriate.

Senator Feinstein, thanks for listening. And let me apologize for my harsh words at the end. You are are truly a national treasure and I sincerely hope that you will continue to represent the great state and the wonderful people of California for as long as you desire.

Yours truly and XOXOXOXO,

P.S. – Enclosed is a check for $10,000 to be used for your reelection campaign in 2024. Yes, I know you’ll be 91 years old but, as we of the tribe often say, “Zay gezunt!”

I’ll let you know which letter my friend ultimately sent.

Oysters can change sex multiple times during their lives.

Commentary/News with a Twist/Satire

DeSantis to issue executive order removing oysters from all Florida restaurant menus and market fish counters. posted a story this morning called, “Oysters can change sex multiple times during their lives.” According to Interestingfacts:

Although born male, oysters have the impressive ability to switch their sex, seemingly at will. Every season, females can release up to 100 million eggs, and the amount of sperm released is so high it’s essentially incalculable. Once the egg and sperm are released, the oysters rely on pure chance for fertilization to take place, as the egg and sperm meet in the open water. Because any resulting larvae are extremely vulnerable to predators, oysters have evolutionarily compensated by being one of the most virile and sexually flexible species in the world — meaning that their ability to change sex likely evolved as a matter of survival. Scientists theorize that water temperature could play a role in triggering whatever causes an oyster to change its sex, but many aspects of the process remain a mystery.

Said Florida state representative John Paul Temple, who represents The Villages in the Florida assembly, “As soon as I saw this story I called the governor’s office. Since the legislative session just ended, I demanded that the governor issue an executive order banning oysters from all Florida restaurants and markets until the next legislative session when we can pass a law permanently banning this evil creature.”

Temple’s office reported that soon after his call to the governor, he received a message from Florida’s education commissioner, Manny Diaz, saying, “I’m appalled by this news. Although most school children are not fond of oysters, the fact that these sea monsters are multi-sexual is appalling. Imagine the trauma of a young child passing the seafood counter of Publix and having to observe an oyster. I mean, what if some of those oysters are going through sex reassignment in front of the child? Deplorable! I’ve met with the governor and have added my voice to your demand.”

Diaz added, “Due to the blatant and graphic sexual nature of the story, the Education Department has ordered that all internet service providers block any further posts until the site takes down this post and issues a retraction and apology for promulgating these kinds of facts. This story is not about interesting facts; it promulgates and glorifies illicit, illegal behavior.”

Prior to his current role, Diaz served in the Florida legislature for 10 years where, among other things, he sponsored the individual freedom bill which bans school lessons that make students feel uncomfortable, targeting critical race theory, while also pushing for the parental rights in education bill that prohibits classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade in public schools. (Since expanded to 12th grade.)

DeSantis’ office confirmed that the governor is planning on issuing an executive order later today, issuing this statement:

“Prior to issuing the oyster order, the governor is also considering banning clams and mussels, oysters’ bivalve cousins. Although there is no evidence yet that they share oysters’ sexual perversion, when it comes to protecting our citizens, especially our youngsters, from transgender seafood, the governor would rather be safe than sorry.”

Contacted for comment, the Oyster Bar Association of South Florida said they are saddened by this impending executive order and will be organizing protests if the governor signs the order. Around the Block has also learned that the National Mignonette Sauce Advisory Board will be joining in the protest.

Another South Florida group, Ban Treif * from South Florida, is supporting the governor’s order saying, in part, “We are kvelling** that Governor DeSantis is planning on including clams and mussels in his order. We will be working with the governor’s staff to come up with spurious reasons for including lobsters, shrimp and scallops in a future ban.”

*(Treif is the Yiddish word for un-kosher food. Fish must have fins and removable scales to be considered kosher which excludes shellfish, catfish, eels, shark, and many others.)

**(Kvelling is the Yiddish word for happy and proud)

And the money keeps rolling in from Harlan Crow


For Clarence Thomas, every day reveals another gift. There’s only one way for this to end. Are you listening Chief Justice Roberts?

(Note: the image accompanying this story is from the Times’ Maureen Dowd’s column today, “Supremely Arrogant.” I don’t believe there can be a better image of the current status of the Supreme Court than this one. In her Op-Ed, Dowd not only takes on Thomas but his fellow conservative…and arrogant…colleagues, Justices Gorsuch and Alito. And, yes, Chief Justice Roberts as well.)

With apologies to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice who wrote the original song from “Evita:”

ProPublica’s ongoing exposé of billionaire Harlan Crow’s largesse to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas reveals a new “gift” almost daily. The latest? Crow paid for private school for a relative Thomas said he was raising “as a son.” Per ProPublica:

In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in the foothills of northern Georgia. The boy, Mark Martin, was far from home. For the previous decade, he had lived with the justice and his wife in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was 6 years old and had recently told an interviewer he was “raising him as a son.”

Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month. But Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for that month: the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow.

The payments extended beyond that month, according to Christopher Grimwood, a former administrator at the school. Crow paid Martin’s tuition the entire time he was a student there, which was about a year, Grimwood told ProPublica.

“Harlan picked up the tab,” said Grimwood, who got to know Crow and the Thomases and had access to school financial information through his work as an administrator.

In a dancing on the head of a pin defense of this latest unreported gift, the Times reported this statement from a Thomas “friend:”

In his statement, Mark Paoletta, Justice Thomas’s friend and a former official for the Trump administration, argued that the justice was not required to report the tuition. He pointed to part of a 1978 law that says judges must disclose gifts to dependent children, who are defined as “a son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter.” (emphasis mine) Mr. Paoletta stressed that by that measure, a great-nephew does not qualify.

“This malicious story shows nothing except for the fact that the Thomases and the Crows are kind, generous and loving people who tried to help this young man,” Mr. Paoletta wrote.

This, despite the fact that Thomas gained legal custody of Martin and became his legal guardian around January 1998, according to court records.

As Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush said, referring to the cascade of gifts over the years, “This is way outside the norm. This is way in excess of anything I’ve seen.”

Painter said that when he was at the White House, an official who’d taken what Thomas had would have been fired: “This amount of undisclosed gifts? You’d want to get them out of the government.”

The ProPublica reporting states that Justice Thomas vacationed with Crow on luxury trips “virtually every year” for over 20 years. Thomas has traveled via Crow’s private jet and spent weeks island-hopping in luxury on his private yacht. One nine-day yacht excursion in 2019 would have cost Thomas an estimated $500,000 out-of-pocket, but Crow footed the bill for that and many other trips. 

Other vacations Crow apparently financed for Justice Thomas include trips to Crow’s ranch in Texas, to an all-male retreat in California, and to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks.

But wasn’t there also a real estate deal as well? Funny that you mentioned it. Again, per ProPublica:

In 2014, one of Texas billionaire Harlan Crow’s companies purchased a string of properties on a quiet residential street in Savannah, Georgia. It wasn’t a marquee acquisition for the real estate magnate, just an old single-story home and two vacant lots down the road. What made it noteworthy were the people on the other side of the deal: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his relatives.

The transaction marks the first known instance of money flowing from the Republican megadonor to the Supreme Court justice. The Crow company bought the properties for $133,363 from three co-owners — Thomas, his mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother, according to a state tax document and a deed dated Oct. 15, 2014, filed at the Chatham County courthouse.

The purchase put Crow in an unusual position: He now owned the house where the justice’s elderly mother was living. Soon after the sale was completed, contractors began work on tens of thousands of dollars of improvements on the two-bedroom, one-bathroom home, which looks out onto a patch of orange trees. The renovations included a carport, a repaired roof and a new fence and gates, according to city permit records and blueprints.

A federal disclosure law passed after Watergate requires justices and other officials to disclose the details of most real estate sales over $1,000. Thomas never disclosed his sale of the Savannah properties. That appears to be a violation of the law, four ethics law experts told ProPublica.

The disclosure form Thomas filed for that year also had a space to report the identity of the buyer in any private transaction, such as a real estate deal. That space is blank.

What’s been Thomas’ response to all this?

“Early in my tenure at the court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the court, was not reportable,” Justice Thomas said. “I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”

Right, the Yale-educated Supreme Court Justice wasn’t aware enough of the law that he had to to seek “guidance” from “colleagues and others in the judiciary.”

If you believe that, I really do have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell to you!

Or, as Lisa Graves, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy opined, “He (Thomas) needs to name every person he spoke with who gave him such advice, and whether they’re in government or outside the government. Because I would be shocked if he actually told any official the specifics of what he was doing and that they said it was OK not to disclose it.”

In another statement of no wrong-doing, Thomas wrote, “Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends. As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips.” To which Crow told ProPublica that his gifts to Thomas were “no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends.”

Extended to “many other dear friends?” As Connecticut senator Chris Murphy tweeted, “It’s not like Harlan Crow is some apolitical pal of Thomas. He CONSTANTLY has cases before the court. He funds groups that argue for outcomes that benefit him. One group, CCI, filed 8 briefs before the Court. Thomas sided with Crow in all 8 cases.”

And “best friend” Ginni Thomas?

As reported by Bess Levin of Vanity Fair:

Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo arranged for the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work just over a decade ago, specifying that her name be left off billing paperwork, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. In January 2012, Leo instructed the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit group he advises and use that money to pay Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the documents show. The same year, the nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case.

Leo, a key figure in a network of nonprofits that has worked to support the nominations of conservative judges, told Conway that he wanted her to “give” Ginni Thomas “another $25K,” the documents show. He emphasized that the paperwork should have “No mention of Ginni, of course.”

The story led Levin to write, “It sure sounds like Clarence and Ginni Thomas are the most corrupt couple in Washington.”

I’ll close with another apology to Sir Andrew and Mr. Rice:

With another mass shooting, this time in Texas, there’s more outrage. But will the outrage lead to change?


You want to be even more outraged? Read how Texas’ governor reacted to the killings…while you’re taking a look at what’s happened on the gun violence front over the last three days.

This morning I was watching updated coverage of the latest American mass shooting, in Cleveland, Texas. You’ve probably read or heard about it. Five members of the same family were murdered, execution style, after they asked their neighbor, who was shooting his AR-15 rifle from his porch, if he would stop shooting as they had a baby in the house who was trying to sleep.

The suspect, who had been drinking, allegedly responded, “I’ll do what I want to in my front yard.”

A doorbell camera at the home of the victims at some point captured the suspect approaching the neighbor’s house with his rifle, San Jacinto County sheriff, Greg Capers, said.

Multiple people were shot around the residence, Capers said. Two female victims in a bedroom used their bodies to shield two young children who survived, he added.

“They were trying to take care of them babies and keep them babies alive,” Capers said of the victims.

Five members of the family were murdered, including a nine-year old child. According to Capers, the victims were shot above the neck at close range – “almost execution style.”

It is cruel and insensitive to the victims and their families to rank gun violence murders. They’re all horrific. But this particular mass murder was made even more appalling by a statement by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a statement that has sparked outrage by referring to the five victims of a deadly mass shooting as “illegal immigrants”.

CNN: “For nearly two days, Mr Abbott failed to address the act of senseless violence that shook residents of Cleveland, Texas. When he finally did, the first line of the statement read that Oropresa is a ‘top 10 fugitive who is in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants in a shooting.'” (Emphasis mine)

Oh, yeah, he got to the obligatory and empty “hearts and prayers,” in the second paragraph, but the damage was done.

Needless the say, the pushback was swift.

Actor George Takei wrote: “This is despicable. I would have thought bringing up the immigration status of the innocent victims of this senseless violence would be beneath even you. But I was wrong.”

“You can just say ‘people.’ They were people,” Michael Kagan, the director of the University of Las Vegas Immigration Clinic tweeted.

“Five human beings lost their lives and Greg Abbott insists on labeling them ‘illegal immigrants,’” responded Julián Castro, the former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

“Would it be any different if they were all born in the USA??” another Twitter user wrote.

Of course, the governor and his staff today shifted the blame. issuing a statement that suggested unnamed “federal officials” provided mistaken information indicating that all five victims were in the country illegally. Since Abbott’s initial comment Sunday, evidence has surfaced that one of the victims was a permanent legal resident of the United States.

Yeah, he said it because, you know, the Feds, Biden’s people, made him say it.

What’s wrong with this man? Or rather, what’s right with this man?

But there was another part of the coverage I watched this morning that caught my attention, a visual of five different newspaper front-page headlines reporting on shootings in their cities or towns this past weekend. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a place to record the piece and it went by too quickly for me to get the names of the papers. So I did the next best thing – I went online to see if I could find the stories. I couldn’t. But what I found was shocking, data from an organization called The Gun Violence Archive, (from their site) “an online archive of gun violence incidents collected from over 7,500  law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily in an effort to provide near-real time data about the results of gun violence. GVA is an independent data collection and research group with no affiliation with any advocacy organization.”

The shocking data was the GVA’s compilation of gun violence from Friday, April 28, the day of Cleveland murders, through Sunday, April 30 – three days.

In that 72-hour period GVA reported 276 gun violence incidents resulting in a total of 108 deaths and 284 injuries. Now to be fair, although I’m not sure why I have to be fair when we talk of Americans being murdered by guns, “only” four might be considered, by definition, “mass shootings” (3+ deaths); an additional 10 of these shootings resulted in two deaths. In addition to the deaths, 38 of these shooting resulted in two or more injuries.

Some of these, I’m sure, were the result of things like gang violence (which I guess in our society don’t count) or unintentional shootings (like that’s OK). But bottom line they were all casualties.

Remember, all this carnage occurred in the last three days, the last 72 hours. Let me put the numbers in a little different perspective:

  • 276 incidents equates to 92 per day or 3.8 per hour;
  • 108 deaths equates to 36 per day or 1.5 per hour
  • 284 injuries equates to 95 per day or 3.9 per hour

If you’re interested, gun violence incidents occurred in 40 states, led by Illinois (26), followed by Ohio (16), California (15), Florida (14), Pennsylvania (14), Texas (13), North Carolina (12), Louisiana (10) and South Carolina (10). (For the complete list, click here):

Virtually every cable news show I watched today led with the Cleveland mass murder along the obligatory call for gun reform (I don’t watch Fox “News.) Most of the mainstream media is publishing editorials and op-eds condemning the violence and calling for governmental action. But the more that’s written, the more that’s said, the more that’s reported, the more I think all we’re doing is a lot of Seinfeld, “yada-yada-yada.” Seinfeld was a show about nothing; unless something drastically changes, all the reporting, all the opinions, all the anguish at the shootings, are about nothing.

Oh, before I go, I thought you’d be interested in another example of GOP insensitivity, this time from former South Carolina governor and presidential candidate, Nikki Haley (whom I wrote about the other day: Nikki Haley predicts Biden’s demise.

The day after the Cleveland mass shootings, Haley posted this tweet:

I say again, What’s wrong with these people? What’s right with these people?

Impeach Clarence Thomas and Remove Dianne Feinstein

Commentary from The Nation magazine

The controversies surrounding Clarence Thomas and Diane Feinstein are issues I’ve wanted to write about for quite some time. But, I thought, why should I write it when I couldn’t possibly do better than this editorial by D.D. Guttenplan, the editor of The Nation?

(Note: I’ve kept all the links from the original article for your further reading. Also, after The Nation’s editorial, I’ve added some commentary of my own.)

Although we commonly refer to justices on the federal bench as being appointed “for life,” Article III of the Constitution says rather that judges “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” Violations of this standard, the Constitution stipulates, are determined via impeachment by the House and trial by the Senate. A total of 15 federal judges have been impeached—on charges ranging from drunkenness and mental instability to bribery, perjury, and treason. Eight were removed from office, including Robert Archbald, who in 1910 took his wife on a trip to Europe paid for by Henry Cannon, an officer of railroad and coal companies that sometimes had business before the court.

Archbald’s wife testified that Cannon was her cousin and that the two families frequently enjoyed traveling together. The New York Times described Archbald’s testimony, in which he admitted accepting the gifts but denied any impropriety, as “strong in his defense.” But the Senate felt otherwise, and he was convicted.

The corrupt relationship between Clarence and Ginni Thomas and the Texas billionaire and right-wing donor Harlan Crow clearly exceeds the standards set by Archbald’s impeachment. As ProPublica’s stunning investigation has revealed, Crow—who not only picked up the tab for luxury travel by the Thomases but also bought the justice’s childhood home(where his mother still lives, rent-free)—was a member of the founding committee of the Club for Growth, a trustee of the American Enterprise Institute, and a donor to other right-wing groups that have all filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court. Thomas’s promise to amend his disclosure is as risible as a bank robber’s vow to give back the money.

Given his wife’s strenuous efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the fact that he was the court’s lone vote against the ruling that forced Donald Trump to turn over documents to the National Archives, Thomas has also easily met the standard used to remove Judge Halsted Ritter. In 1933, Ritter was accused of accepting kickbacks and of tax evasion but was convicted only of conduct sufficient “to bring his court into scandal and disrepute, to the prejudice of said court and public confidence in the Federal judiciary.”

The relevant question, it would seem, is not whether Thomas is plausibly guilty, but whether the Democrats have the political courage to do anything about it. That’s a test congressional Democrats have already failed once—and at a time when the party had sufficient control of the House to easily approve articles of impeachment.

Now, of course, the Democratic Caucus has a better excuse for inaction, since Republicans control the House and the Senate remains unlikely to convict. But there is good reason to proceed regardless. As Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently pointed out, Thomas’s corruption has reached “cartoonish” proportions. Her call for an independent investigation has been joined by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Hank Johnson.

But Democrats will have to do much more than that if they want to be seen as anything other than a party of impotent hand-wringers. They’ll have to seriously pursue impeachment, which requires just a bare majority and is far from out of reach given the divisions among House Republicans.

Even without control of the House, Democrats lead Senate committees with enough power to compel testimony and inform the public about the scale of the corruption. Normally, the Judiciary Committee would be first in line.

Diane Feinstein walks to a classified briefing at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 9, 2023, one of her last appearances at the Senate.

But Dianne Feinstein’s mental incapacity—an open scandal currently hidden behind references to a case of “shingles” from which she is expected to recover—has deprived the committee of the majority vote needed not only to investigate Thomas but also to confirm President Biden’s nominees to the federal bench. Again, Democrats seem more disposed to make excuses than to take action. That, too, is a scandal.

It may well suit the party’s corporate-friendly, Wall Street–funded leadership to posture about its commitment to working people while failing to act—not just on Thomas but on student loan relief, voting rights, and abortion access. But voters won’t be fooled forever by politicians who don’t actually fight for them. If Democrats want to show they mean business, they could do a lot worse than cleaning house by removing Feinstein—and then impeaching Clarence Thomas.

Commentary from Ted Block

Full disclosure: I cheated. I did not reprint everything from The Nation’s story; I omitted the original sub-heading: We’ve booted Supreme Court justices for a lot less.

Why did I leave it out? Because it’s not true.

The opening paragraph includes this:

“A total of 15 federal judges have been impeached—on charges ranging from drunkenness and mental instability to bribery, perjury, and treason. Eight were removed from office…”

That excerpt is the editorial’s only reference to impeached and/or removed judges. Only one of those 15, Associate Justice Samuel Chase, was a sitting SCOTUS justice. He was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on March 12, 1804. The charges against him were “arbitrary and oppressive conduct of trials.” Chase was acquitted by the U.S. Senate on March 1, 1805.

So, if the “booting out” is referring to Chase, it’s somewhat disingenuous in that: a) he wasn’t “booted out; b) it happened 218 years ago; and c) in those intervening 218 years no other Supreme Court justice was booted out. (Or at least, I couldn’t find one.)

And, if the booting out references concern state Supreme Court justices, that’s simply not relevant; state justices and judges, “supreme” or not, are not part of the federal judiciary and, importantly, most state Supreme Courts have term and/or mandatory retirement limits. They are, unlike SCOTUS, not lifetime appointments.

In my mind, a more appropriate, in fact the most applicable subhead would have been:

Clarence Thomas: Emulate Abe Fortas and do the right thing – resign.

Abe who?

Abe Fortas, a lawyer and close personal friend of President Lyndon B. Johnson was nominated by Johnson as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1965. He was confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote ( oh my, how things have changed). Then, in 1968, Johnson nominated Fortas to replace Earl Warren as Chief Justice. That confirmation hearing did not go as smoothly.

Antisemitism likely played a role in the confirmation battle, during which Mississippi Democratic senator and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, James Eastland, reportedly said, “After [Thurgood] Marshall, I could not go back to Mississippi if a Jewish chief justice swore in the next president.” Ultimately, Johnson withdraw Fortas’ name.

But that nomination and the antisemitism encountered by Fortas is not the story here.

Fortas remained an associate justice, but in 1969, a scandal arose (there had been other Fortas impropriety scandals before). Fortas had accepted a $20,000 (equivalent to $148,000 today) retainer from the family foundation of Wall Street financier Louis Wolfson, a friend and former client, in January 1966. In return for unspecified advice, it was to pay Fortas $20,000 a year for the rest of Fortas’s life (and then pay his widow for the rest of her life).

Wolfson was under investigation for securities violations at the time, and it was alleged that he expected that his arrangement with Fortas would help him stave off criminal charges or help him secure a presidential pardon. He asked Fortas to help him secure a pardon from Johnson, which Fortas claimed that he did not do. Although Fortas, unlike Clarence Thomas, recused himself from Wolfson’s case when it came before the Court, there was more to come.

In May 1969, Life magazine chronicled Fortas’s relations with Wolfson. The story’s revelations accelerated calls for Fortas to be impeached. Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice Hugo Black wanted Fortas to resign not only to avoid impeachment hearings, but in order to maintain the integrity of the Court. (Are you listening, Chief Justice Roberts?). Fortas ultimately decided resignation would be best for him and for his wife’s legal career, particularly after Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, threatened to prosecute him, and potentially investigate his wife for tax evasion. (Are you listening Merrick Garland??)

Abe Fortas resigned from the Court on May 14, 1969.

Wolfson was convicted of violating federal securities laws later that year and spent time in prison.

As of this writing, Clarence Thomas is still an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

And, Harlan Crow continues to collect Nazi memorabilia while maintaining his “Garden of Evil” containing  a collection of stone and bronze statues of fallen communist leaders.

Nikki Haley predicts Biden’s demise


Not demise as in the end of his presidency or his downfall. No, demise as in his death!

In an interview on Fox “News” yesterday (I guess she didn’t get the “news” that Fox “News” is not about “news”) Nikki Haley, the GOP’s one-third answer to Kamala Harris and diversity (one-third because Haley is only of Indian descent while Harris is Indian, Black and married to a Jew) said, “I think we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden, you really are counting on a President Harris because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely.” 

The former South Carolina governor and later, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, the GOP’s so-called intelligent, moderate Great Bxxxn (no, I’m not going to say it) hope, said what? She predicted, with apparent extreme confidence – “very clear” and “a matter of fact” – that Joseph R. Biden, the sitting president of the United States, will, in fact, die before January 20, 2029? Wow!

Her startling prediction got me thinking. You know Trump likes to attach humiliating nicknames to his political rivals: “Lyin’ Ted” (Cruz); “Liddle Marco” (Rubio); “Ron DeSanctimonious”* (DeSantis); “Crooked Hillary (Clinton) – a name he announced yesterday that he’s retiring, replacing it with “Crooked Joe” (Biden); among others. But for whatever the reasons, Trump has not endowed Haley with an epithetic nickname.

*(Wait, you really don’t believe that Trump actually knows what “sanctimonious” means?)

So, and you know I’d be the last one to want to assist Trump in anything, given Haley’s outrageous pronouncement, I had to come up with a Haley nickname; I simply couldn’t help myself:

“Nostradamus Nikki!”

Actually, I needn’t worry about assisting Trump. First, there’s no way he, or any of his supporters are reading my stuff. And second, even if he or one of his acolytes did see this, as with “sanctimonious,” they’d have no idea what it means.

Haley has also been advocating for “…mental competency tests … starting at 75 just to make sure that these people deciding our national security, deciding our economy policy, deciding what happens to our kids in schools. It matters.”

Interestingly, she seems only to advocate this testing for +75 year olds she’s running against (i.e., Biden and Trump). Not others, particularly members of Congress who are also involved in “our national security, deciding our economy policy, deciding what happens to our kids in schools.” Let’s see who comes immediately to mind? How about Iowa GOP senator Chuck Grassley who is 89! Or, because Around the Block is a 100% nonpartisan blog, California Democratic senator Diane Feinstein, also 89! (I know, even putting Diane Feinstein and 89 in the same sentence will label me to some as sexist and misogynistic …so deluge me with comments. Not only can I take it, I can tell you why putting Feinstein and 89 together is not only not sexist and misogynistic, but the right thing to do in order to start a discussion about duty, country and Congressional term limits! )

By the way, you know how to put 89 years old into perspective? Grassley and Feinstein were born in 1933.

What happened in 1933

1933 was the first year of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term. The country was in the middle of the Great Depression. “Grand Hotel” with Greta Garbo and John Barrymore won best picture (then called, “Outstanding Production”) and Walt Disney won a special award for the creation of Mickey Mouse (take that Ron DeSantis!). And, a German radical, Adolf Hitler, became Chancellor of Germany.

You know the expression, “I’m old enough to remember…” While I have a number of friends who, when it comes to the events of 1933, might be able to use that line. But, my goodness, it was a long time ago.

Now, of course almost nothing I just wrote would suggest that I’m head over heels for a second Biden term. I’m not. In fact, I’m old enough to remember that as Biden was contemplating entering the 2020 presidential race there was a suggestion that his plan was to serve one term, fix the mess that Trump had created, and then decline a second term, leaving it to his, still to be named, vice president.

From THE HILL, 12/11/19 :

Former Vice President Joe Biden has reportedly signaled that he would only serve one term in the White House if elected in 2020 as the top-tier Democratic candidate faces questions about his age.

Four people who regularly speak with the 77-year-old Biden told Politico that it is unlikely he would run for reelection in 2024, when he would be in his 80s.

“If Biden is elected,” an adviser to the campaign told the news outlet, “he’s going to be 82 years old in four years and he won’t be running for reelection.”

“He’s going into this thinking, ‘I want to find a running mate I can turn things over to after four years, but if that’s not possible or doesn’t happen then I’ll run for reelection.’ But he’s not going to publicly make a one-term pledge,” another adviser reportedly said.

So what happened?

The obvious conventional answer is that Kamala Harris’ vice presidency hasn’t been distinguished. (What VP has been distinguished besides Dick Cheney…and we all know how that worked out).

I, and many others back in 2019, thought a Biden-Harris ticket was ideal. Biden had the experience and Harris was an up-and-comer. She had outperformed all her Democratic senatorial colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, particularly during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. And, she had the right demos–youngish (55 at the time), a woman and a woman of color to boot.

I guess she did not turn out to be the “running mate I can turn things over to after four years,” resulting in “…if that’s not possible or doesn’t happen then I’ll run for reelection.

With all indications, at least right now, that Harris will again be on the ticket, it begs the question, will four more years provide the opportunity for her to distinguish herself? I, unlike “”Nostradamus Nikki!”, don’t know. But with much of the GOP clinging to the legally-challenged Trump, the rest alienating the country with their stances on abortion and other social issues and the alleged Trump beater, DeSantis, making a fool of himself with his “anti-woke” laws and his fight with Mickey Mouse, perhaps Biden’s age and Harris’ performance won’t count as much as we think and worry about.

One last thing about Haley. In an attempt to bash another potential GOP presidential rival, DeSantis, and his ongoing battle with Disney, Haley said this last week in an interview on Fox “News” (seeing a pattern with Haley here? And, she’s the supposed the smart one!) that South Carolina would “happily accept” Disney if they wanted to move operations.

To that, all I can say is, paraphrasing none other than Ms. Haley, “I think we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact” that Nikki Haley is no longer the governor of South Carolina so she has no say in “happily accepting Disney.” In fairness, she did go on to say that “…I’ll be happy to meet them in South Carolina and introduce them to the governor…” 

Of course her “happy” acceptance with no authority and her “happy” offer to introduce them to the governor, as if Disney needed her to make an introduction, might suggest some “delusions of Haley grandeur.”

And, I wonder if all those “happy” references were an awkward attempt to curry favor with Disney? After all, Walt Disney World is the self-proclaimed, “Happiest Place on Earth.”

More importantly, do you think based on her possible delusional statements, she would qualify for some kind of pre-75 mental competency test?

Just saying.

Celebrating 125 years of the Forward while watching as #StandUpToJewishHate combats antisemitism


A convergence I had to write about and, I hope, you will want to read…and forward.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the $25 million initiative, #StandUpToJewishHate, launched last month to battle antisemitism, using a blue square as its main feature.

Created by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism—founded by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in 2019—the blue square emoji is being introduced as a symbol of solidarity with the Jewish people as part of the #StandUpToJewishHate campaign.

The campaign “is designed to raise awareness for the fight against antisemitism, specifically among non-Jewish audiences, and to help all Americans understand that there is a role for each of us to play in combating a problem that is unfortunately all too prevalent in communities across the country today,” said Kraft.

The blue square is appearing on television shows, digital billboards and social-media sites. It is sized at 2.4% of the screen or other surfaces to symbolize Jews making up 2.4% of the population yet being victims of 55% of religiously motivated hate crimes.

Here’s one of the TV spots that introduced the campaign.

And here’s one of the campaign’s most powerful spots.

I couldn’t help thinking about this campaign when I received my daily email this morning from the Foward. Founded in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily, the Forward soon became a national paper, the most widely read Jewish newspaper anywhere. By the 1920s its circulation outstripped The New York Times. It chronicled the events that affected a population of immigrants eager to earn their place in American life, and published regional editions around the country before any other newspaper. The English Forward was launched as a weekly in 1990.

In today’s message, the Forward celebrated their 125th anniversary by publishing the article, Introducing the Forward 125: The American Jews who shaped our world.

“Some are household names: pop-culture icons and Nobel Prize winners, Supreme Court justices and superhero athletes. Others were obscure individuals caught up in events that shaped society: the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and the Tree of Life massacre, firefighters who perished on 9/11, writers and producers blacklisted by Hollywood.

“Their stories, and their impact, endure. The founders of Black Lives Matter and ACT UP. The creator of the first Yiddish cookbook in the U.S. and the inventor of modern jeans. Poets and publishers, actors and activists, rabbis and rabble-rousers, purveyors of kosher hot dogs and frozen bagels, Fanny Brice and the woman who played her on the big screen.”

As the article says, “Any such list, inevitably, leaves out a lot of fascinating and influential characters. We aimed to represent a wide range of endeavors: movies and music, religion and politics, philanthropy and finance, science and tech, and comedy — lots of comedy. We also tried to highlight women overlooked by history, people of color whose Jewish heritage may not be widely known, and warriors for justice whose legacies were far-reaching even if their names are forgotten.”

They even ask readers, “Let us know what you think of our list, or send the name and a brief description of someone you would have liked to see on it, to, subject line: Forward 125. We may publish a selection.

I know I have many additions. I’d be interested in yours.

I’ve attached a PDF of the article (it’s long) for you to download and read at your leisure.

(If the PDF doesn’t open when you click on “introducing-the-forward-125” or the “Download” button, let me know and I’ll try to get you the article another way. Or you might also try the link to the article…although you might have to subscribe to the Forward to open in. utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=saturdayedition_6672456

I’ve also included images from the story at the end of this post.

I hope, whether you’re Jewish or not, you agree how important the convergence of #StandUpToJewishHate and the Forward’s celebration of “The American Jews who shaped our world” is. As you read the article, as you think about who else might be on the list, as you lament the fact that virulent American antisemitism made it necessary to fund a campaign like #StandUpToJewishHate, consider this:

Where would America be without its Jewish people, its Jewish heritage, and the Jewish contribution to virtually every aspect of American life?