Thursday, July 30, 2015

Theodore Bikel, R.I.P.

Theodore Bikel, Austrian-born folk singer, actor,
and human rights activist, passed away recently
at the age of 91.

Best known for playing Tevye in the Broadway
production of "Fiddler On The Roof", and a veteran
of many other theatrical productions as well as
film and television, Bikel was also an outspoken,
indefatigable human rights activist who had protested
at the Soviet and South African embassies in the days
that the Soviet Union and Apartheid existed, getting
arrested at both places.

Your appreciative Peasant had the opportunity to hear
Bikel fifteen years ago when he was on the lecture
circuit, and found him to be all that he was made out
to be, and more besides. Warm, genuine, caring, witty,
and even handy with a song (he sang a couple of
Hebrew hymns), Bikel captivated the entire audience
that evening! My only regret is that I didn't get to meet
him and tell him directly how much I enjoyed his lecture,
his theatrical work, his singing, and his efforts to improve
the human condition for all, especially for those whose
conditions were made intolerable and unbearable by tyrants,
be they fascist, communist, or any other terrible
variety of freedom-squelching ideology.  Bikel played
no favorites but for his preference for humanity, for
human beings to live free and thrive. He was also a strong
opponent of capital punishment, be it for political
opponents of a corrupt government or for those guilty
of violent, non-political crimes. Bikel, no softie on crime,
believed in sentencing which could be amended or
reversed in the event of new evidence coming to light
proving the innocence of, or at least the doubt of the guilt,
of the accused.

Theodore Bikel was as much at home singing with his
fellow folk singer friends which included the Clancy
Brothers and Tommy Makem, Odetta, and many other
of his contemporaries as he was protesting the
unjust treatment of someone somewhere in the world.
Bikel was a great soul with a great voice and a great
presence. He shall be greatly missed.

Rest in Peace, Theo.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Testament of Faith in South Carolina

Your sorrowful Peasant is reflecting today on the
fatal shooting of nine members of a historic black
church in Charleston, South Carolina. It has been
on my mind for quite some time, and I pray for the
church, its members --- the slain and the living,
the city, and the state often.

As you, my very aware readers know, a 21-year-old
white racist wanted to start a race war, and he felt
the best way to do it was to plan and execute an attack
on a prominent black church, Emanuel AME Church.
Armed with a .45-caliber handgun and an evil agenda,
this evil individual walked into this church, took part
in a Bible study meeting with some of the congregants
(to blend in, and not raise any suspicion), and at its
conclusion opened fire, killing six women and three
men. One of the victims was the pastor of the church,
as well as also being a state legislator.

But the murderous slime didn't get the result that he
had hoped for. Quite the contrary. Instead of inciting
even a fistfight. let alone a war, the congregants of
this church --- those that were witness to the shocking
event, and the others who soon learned of it --- came
together in prayer and forgave the shooter. They did as
their heavenly Father bade them to do in the face of
injustice, of maltreatment, of evil, and forgave the
hateful malefactor his hideous crime.

It's not that they thought it was okay for the killer to do
what he did. It's not that they didn't want justice to be
served. It's not that they were being weak and wimpy.
They actually showed incredible strength, the strength
of their faith in their practice of it under the most
harrowing circumstances, that which try our souls and
test our mettle. They forgave a fiend for the slaughter of
their friends, their relations, their fellow congregants.
They did what Christianity teaches us to do, one of the
hardest --- if not the hardest --- things a practitioner of
the faith will ever be called upon to do. And it's not
a thing that many people, regardless of their faith, can
ever do, your humble Peasant included. I still have
trouble forgiving people in my past who have wronged
me in some way or another, including an abusive father.
Your awed Peasant salutes and commends these aggrieved
congregants of the church!

And the people of Charleston, and the state of South Carolina,
came together to pray for and show solidarity and moral
support with these hearty folks --- black, white, young,
old, conservative, liberal, moderate, any and all categories
of people all stood with the members of this church.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, a staunch conservative
Republican (sorry lefties, here goes one of your treasured
narratives!), gave a statement of heartfelt sympathy and moral
support. Out of this terrible tragedy, a beautiful union of many
making an outpouring of love and solidarity. The triumph of
love and care over racism and divisiveness. The triumph of the
human spirit over the forces of darkness.

It all makes your moved Peasant proud to be a Christian and
an American.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

When a Liberal Company Cheats a Little Guy or Gal

From the realm of pop music comes a morality tale
which says a lot about the values of liberals in big
business. Pop sensation Taylor Swift won a big battle
with Apple Music over whether she (and ultimately
rising artists) will be paid by the division of the
computer/software company that gave us the iMac
the iPad, and the iPhone, for music they recorded for
Apple's new streaming service which they are letting
people sample with a free trial period. Problem was,
for Swift and some other artists, Apple Music wanted
to mitigate the costs of this by not paying Swift and
the rest who created the music during the free trial

Well, this didn't sit well with Swift. Not being paid
for her music which a company with a market
capitalization of $729 billion was, in her mind, both
an insult and a ripoff. She wrote an open letter to Apple
on Tumblr, one of the many social media sties online,
saying that she "finds it to be shocking, disappointing,
and completely unlike this historically progressive and
generous company." Please note, Apple is progressive
not only in terms of its renown innovation in communi-
cation technology but in its politics; Steve Jobs, the late
founder of Apple, supported President Obama with both
endorsement and campaign contributions. The firm still
supports left-wing candidates and causes. And here
Apple was trying to stiff musicians and singers, most
of them just on the way up, at least one having reached
prominence --- Taylor Swift.

Swift called for Apple to change its policy, stating "We
don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide
you with our music for no compensation." A valid point.
She further threatened to withhold from Apple Muisc her
chart-storming album "1989" --- no idle threat, for she
earlier did similar by withholding her entire catalog of
songs from Spotify, another music-streaming service,
also over compensation disagreements. Apple quickly
turned around, announcing that they would after all pay
Swift, and the other affected artists, for the music used
in the free trial period for the new streaming service.

A classic case of a "little gal" standing up to a huge,
money-laden corporation taking unfair advantage,
and winning. And the corporation controlled by
liberals, the self-proclaimed champions of said
"little gals and guys". A bit like the film "Norma
Rae", with a "little gal" winning a great battle
against a big employer in which many others like
her benefit. And this film was quite popular with
the left-of-center set!

Irony sure is delicious, isn't it?


Thursday, July 9, 2015

The NSA Gets Taken to the Woodshed

A federal appeals court recently ruled that a
National Security Agency (NSA) program that
collects telephone records on millions of Americans
is illegal. The Second U.S. Court of Appeals issued
a 97-page ruling to this effect, and rightfully so.

Although the judges on the appellate court didn't
address the constitutional ramifications of the NSA
program re: privacy rights, they did find the PATRIOT
act language used to justify such mass data collecting
was not meant for doing that.

"The statutes to which the government points have never
been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the
breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here ...
The sheer volume of information sought is staggering."
opined the judges. And they are spot on! The controversial
program gathers metadata; the number called, the time and
duration of the call, but not the content of the conversation
(your skeptical Peasant is not at all sure of the veracity of
this last point!) --- the idea being to look for possible
contacts among terror suspects. But with the millions of
calls so monitored, the NSA has been getting information
on many calls not made nor received by such suspects,
nor having anything remotely to do with terrorism.
And with the harassment of Tea Party groups and other
conservative organizations by the IRS, who's to say that
other governmental agencies have not joined in the
unconstitutional persecution of political activists,
individuals or groups, who dare to exercise their
First Amendment rights to speak out in dissent of the
current administration and/or any other part of the
country's government? Or that of Christians and their
churches who disagree with Obama over gay marriage
or abortion? Or any other citizens, individually or in
groups who have views which the Obama regime does
not approve of?

The judges undercut the main legal basis the government
has long cited for its records collection en masse. Lawyers
for the government have claimed that they are allowed to
collect extensive records because --- while such data aren't
necessarily connected to any terror suspects --- they all are
"inherently relevant to terrorism probes" and that "law
enforcement may need to search said records to find
connections between suspects". This, my grand readers, is
how totalitarianism takes root. Fabricate a reason to spy on
the citizenry in order to get "evidence" of treasonous or
seditious activity, then persecute, prosecute, and punish
the so-called offenders. It seems to your curious Peasant
that the Obamunists in government are more than a little

The court's ruling was in response to an American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit, in which it agreed that the
data collection should be ended because it violates privacy
rights. A lower court judge ruled in favor of the NSA and
its program, stating that it is in fact constitutional, and the
ACLU promptly appealed, leading to the May 7 decision.
This is one of the very few times that your faithful Peasant
is in agreement with the ACLU, and I want to commend them
for the actions that they have taken in opposing the NSA's
broad-scoped snooping activities. They can do something
good and helpful on occasion after all.

The phone data roundup program began in 2001, at the start of
the George W. Bush administration. Five years later Bush
placed it under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Court, which approved and re-approved it in
secret meetings. That figures! And the saddest thing of it is that
this began under a Republican president. All the more reason
to end this terrible assault on out privacy, and to hold both
parties' feet to the fire to make them never to do this to us

This episode illustrates the disrespect, the disdain, and the contempt
that both the Democrats and the Republicans have for we, the
citizens of our country. Also, the PATRIOT act should be scrapped,
and new national security legislation should be created that would
preserve our protections under the Fourth Amendment while
providing steps for the protection of our country.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Thoughts on the Fourth

Your favorite Peasant wishes you, my grand and
wonderful readers, a wonderful, happy, and safe
Fourth of July, Independence Day, and while
enjoying your cookouts, your visits to the beach
or to a nearby park, or to the homes of friends and
family, and wonderful fireworks shows, give a
thought and a prayer to our great country and
the people down through the years who made both
this day and our country possible. Let us be thankful
for our freedom and our free time to enjoy, among
so many wonderful things that we Americans enjoy,
on this our great nation's birthday!

God bless you all, and God bless America!