Tag Archives: Arizona

7 Unexpected Things I Learned During My First Ramadan Dinner

Iftar Ramadan dinner TucsonBeing a product of Iowa, the corn state, I had never been to a Muslim Iftar dinner — the feast celebrated at the end of the of a month of fasting by Muslims worldwide — including Tucson.

To be sure, I’ve been to many Christmas Eves, Seders, Thanksgiving dinners, Fourth of July picnics and Easter sunrise services. But my first Iftar dinner was last Friday night, June 16 at the Sema Foundation in Tucson, where 150 faithful Turkish Muslims gathered in the community event.

The invitation said, “With love & gratitude, we request the pleasure of your company for our traditional Ramadan dinner. Let’s all celebrate friendship together.” My friends and I were honored to go.

Here are 7 unexpected things I learned during my Ramadan dinner.

1. It is a beautiful family event with mothers, fathers and little ones running around. It reminded me of my own family. The signs in the community hall said, “Welcome. Welcome.”

Unsure of where to sit, I decided not to barge into a table of women or all men talking. We saw three seats at a family table and immediately felt at home. I wore a clean white shirt out of respect and felt embarrassed that I had worn shorts.

How could Trump think to impose a travel ban on these wonderful people? Thank God for the Federal Courts that have stymied his evil plan.

I talked with Oğuz, a soft-spoken, stocky man visiting from Los Angeles. I followed his cues and did not touch the delicious spread of dates, hummus, pita bread, dolmades that were clearly tempting everyone. We all waited until the sun went down at 7:38 pm.

2. The meal begins with a sip of cold water. Oğuz said Iftar literally means “break-fast. Anyone from an Orthodox family (Russian Orthodox in my case) knows that healthy adults fast during spiritually significant times, including abstaining from drinking, eating, immoral acts and anger. Muslims also encourage other acts of worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity.

3. Fasting for a month makes people appreciate the richness of their daily lives, by denying themselves sweets, earthly pleasures, and even water. We know how precious water is in Arizona.

What insanity possesses the White House to ban these warm, spiritual, welcoming people?

Meanwhile, plates of delicious salad, potatoes, lamb, and rice were served by young women who had covered their heads. There were two beautiful calls to prayer, sung by men with trained, expressive voices.

4. Rather than build mosques which would upset some Tucsonans, the Muslim community blends in and shares their culture at festivals like Tucson Meet Yourself in October. Who hasn’t ordered a baklava with a strong Turkish coffee?

5. They do not build multi-million-dollar garish, marble clad, Trump Tower-like edifices. Islam is a major worldwide faith, not a cult. There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015 – roughly 24% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate.

Kurdish fighters from the People"s Protection Units (YPG) chat with members of US Special Forces.

Kurdish fighters confer with members of US Special Forces.

6. Oğuz explained that he is a Turkish Kurd, a people who are the fierce fighters working with American forces to wipe out ISIS terrorists. The Kurds have surrounded Raqqa, Syria, and are within two miles of the ISIS headquarters. Things would be going better but Syria’s dictator Assad is bombing them.

Oğuz’s mother is in Turkey, but he says he cannot visit her. Oğuz is part of a resistance movement against monstrous dictator Erdogan, who put his name on an arrest list. The tyrant has detained 150,000 teachers, journalists, police officers, judges, and civilians.

7. The Turkish people did not bargain for this and most informed Americans do not blame them for the takeover by a murderous dictator. This is just as the rest of the world does not blame the majority of ordinary Americans for the would-be dictator who occupies the White House. They understand.

Oğuz is supporting Democrat Steve Farley for Governor, who on June 5 kicked off his campaign to rebuild education in Arizona. As the elected Precinct Committeeman in #238, I too support Farley. Neither of us had name cards, so we wrote down our contact info on pieces of paper.

On the way out I talked with a man holding a tiny baby. I told him I was a senior citizen and looked forward to talking with my son in Chicago on Father’s Day. He said he was 35, was working hard to support his family and his 5-month old child.

I told the father that his son would carry him in his heart as he made his way through life, just as I hold my own father in my heart. My 33-year-old son is a productive citizen of Chicago, with his own apartment and a beautiful long-time girlfriend. I can’t wait to talk with him.

New York Times interactive map of General Election 2016 results

Just found an interesting, informative link to a New York Times map of how Donald Trump won this General Election 2016.  Here’s the link below.  You can click on the states or the listing of the states below to see the exact popular vote count for all the counties, plus percentage breakdowns and colorized maps (red to blue).

http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/president

I checked my home state of Hawaii and it’s totally blue, “much more Democratic”.

Arizona on the other hand, is considered “somewhat more Republican” and they had this analysis:

“Race Preview: Democrats believe they have a chance of winning Arizona’s 11 electoral votes for the first time since Bill Clinton carried the state in 1996, but polls show the race leaning in Mr. Trump’s favor. Mitt Romney won Arizona in 2012 by 9 percentage points.”

Trump won Arizona by 4.1 % according to the New York Times.  Arizona Secretary of State website is reporting more votes: http://results.arizona.vote/2016/General/n1591/Results-State.html, with Trump only winning by 3.95%, but provisional ballots are still being counted (as far as I know).

And the maps also show how Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party’s Jill Stein did overall, as well.

Note that the most Democratic place (not a state) is the District of Columbia, where the nation’s capital is, voting almost 93% for Hillary Clinton. They have a very Democratic past as well:

“Race Preview: The nation’s capital has awarded its three electoral votes to the Democratic candidate in every presidential election since it gained the right to vote for president in 1961. Barack Obama won District of Columbia in 2012 by 83.6 percentage points.”

 

 

Biggs is a Neanderthal

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

In directing public school districts to let students use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, President Obama’s administration recognized the need to provide top-down cover for a group of people that are routinely subjected to severe discrimination. They also recognized that assuring the civil rights (the right to receive equal treatment and ensure one’s ability to participate in civil life without discrimination or repression) of a minority couldn’t be left to the majority. That’s why Diane Douglas is wrong when she says “Every local community across Arizona is unique, and I know that the people who live in those communities should be making the decisions when it comes to this and many other education issues.” How well did “leaving it to communities” work for Black people in the deep South during the Jim Crow days?

Look, I get that many people are uneasy with the whole transgender issue. I managed Wingspan, (Arizona’s LGBT Community Center), for over a year and had more exposure than most to the transgender community. We had transgender people on staff (a couple of them were transitioning during the time I worked there) and we supported the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA.) If I am totally honest, I still struggle with totally embracing this community. But, I have great respect for what transgender people go through just to be themselves. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no one would put themselves through the ridicule, discrimination and pain of transitioning unless they felt they had no other option. My bottom line is that I accept transgender people and respect their right to live freely and safely as equal members of our society. Continue reading

Prop 123 deal was hard-fought

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

In a recent AZ Daily Star op-ed, former educator and school board member Jim Christ compared the Old Testament story of Esau trading his inheritance for a bowl of lentil soup as an example of a “beyond foolish” bargain, to Prop. 123. If Esau was starving and did not know where his next meal would come from, it might not have been such a foolish bargain.

Arizona ranks 50th in the nation on adjusted per pupil expenditure ($4,047 less than, or 31 percent below, the national average.) Even if Prop 123 passes, it won’t move us out of our current place in education funding, that’s how far behind we are. Our state also ranks 49th for median teacher’s salaries, so it should be no surprise that 49 percent of our teachers report frozen salaries as the top reason for leaving. We have a huge teacher shortage not because we don’t have enough certified teachers in the state, but because they can’t feed their families on a teacher’s salary. Continue reading

#YouPlusOne

Cross-posted from RestoreReason.com.

It appears the Arizona Legislature finally has a budget for the coming year . The $9.58B package includes Governor Ducey’s $8 million tax cut for businesses (due to double to $16 million in FY 2018), but does not restore the KidsCare health care program for 30,000 low-income children. Arizona is the only state in the nation that does not provide this program for its poorer children, even though it would cost the state and its taxpayers…wait for it…NOTHING! The deal also doesn’t restore the $116 million in cuts made last year to K-12 funding and it doesn’t delay the move to current year funding for our Districts, originally slated to cost them $31 million. What it does, is provide funding to mitigate the cuts: 1) associated with the move to current year funding; 2) approved last year to district-sponsored charter schools (saving these schools $1.1 million); and 3) to smaller charter schools (that would have cost them about $6.5 million.) Finally, it eliminates a change that determines how certain schools qualify for new construction (which would have cost them funding.)

The Arizona Republic reported that “lawmakers heaped praise on House Appropriations Committee Chairman Justin Olson, R-Mesa, for brokering and agreement” that reversed cuts to public schools. Don’t know about you, but I see a recurring theme here and don’t think it is worth any praise. Our Republican-controlled Legislature makes a bunch of cuts to programs important to the majority of Arizonans so they can provide tax breaks to their corporate buddies. When the people get wind of it and complain, they restore some of the cuts and claim they are heroes for their hard work to restore the funding. Here’s an idea…how’s about you just don’t cut these programs in the first place? How’s about you realize the investment in education is the way forward to a brighter future for Arizona? How’s about you show you care more about children than corporations? Continue reading

Toto, we ARE in Kansas!

Open revolt in the Kansas GOP is now plaguing Governor Sam Brownback in his attempt to slash personal income taxes. His reasoning for the cuts was that it would encourage business expansion and hiring (sound familiar Arizonans?) But five years in, his plan hasn’t produced the promised results but rather, has the state budget in a crisis so deep that many of the Republicans that originally backed the plan are now jumping ship.

Brownback and the Kansas Legislature’s (where three-fourths of the seats are held by Republicans) plan was to cut top personal income tax (surprise, surprise) by 29 percent and exempt more than 330,000 farmers and businesshh owners from income taxes. The predicted business expansion didn’t happen, and now the state is in trouble. Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said the Legislature still supports low income taxes, but they’d “prefer to see some real solutions coming from the Governor’s office.” What a concept!

What’s the chances Governor Ducey and Senator Biggs are paying attention to what’s happening in Kansas and…learning the right lesson from it? Uh yeah, that’s what I thought. It is obvious though that they are working from the same playbook in making cuts. Brownback’s most recent cuts have been to universities and public education (sound familiar?) And yes, just like in Arizona, Kansas has siphoned off big money from highway projects (over $750 million in just two years.)

Thus far, Brownback isn’t backing down and blames a slow global economy for his state’s troubles (guess the buck doesn’t stop on his desk.) An economist for the conservative Tax Foundation however, says those benefitting are pocketing the tax savings rather than using it to expand and create jobs. One former ally of Brownback who is now a critic said the continuing budget turmoil has been “just amateurish.”

I don’t know that I would characterize Arizona’s budget issues as amateurish, maybe self-serving instead. I’ve written before about the fallacy of trickle-down economics, there are plenty of examples that show it is a very flawed theory. Why do GOP lawmakers continue to go down that rabbit hole? Could it be that they are considering deep pockets more than the big picture for our state and all its citizens?

I’m currently reading the book “The Political Brain” in which author Drew Westen makes the point that the Democrats don’t have, and haven’t had, “a plan.” Think I prefer that to the Republican plan which seems to be to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. At least there’s a chance the Dems will get it right every now and then. The GOP’s plan is just literally the definition of insanity.