ANN DAVIDOW FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Protecting the second amendment at all costs is nothing to make a lawmaker's chest swell with pride. As the president said after the Senate refused to pass an expanded background checks amendment for gun purchasers it was in fact "a pretty shameful day for Washington." Staring vacantly into the eyes of parents who lost a child at Sandy Hook or watching Gabby Giffords struggle to walk and speak is not a victory for freedom-loving patriots, it is a stain on our national character.
People tend to be outraged at what they see as acts of terrorism but withhold judgment when some crazed gunman shoots an abortion provider or states angrily that he's ready to defend his gun rights to his last breath - - or that his gun will have to be plucked from "his cold dead hands." Those who ask for the enactment of sensible gun laws are accused of just not understanding the "gun culture" that exists in parts of the country. But applying the word culture to the word gun is a dysfunction in the making and that's what we've been about in the lexicon of misnomers we have developed.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
But the insightful Juan Cole puts into perspective that most followers of Islam are peaceful people. The Jihadists and their networks compose a small percentage of believers in the Islamic faith.
Perhaps it is a little too early to start comparing the death tolls caused by different religious faiths in the last 100 years, but Cole takes a stab at it -- and this is what he finds. In the 20th Century, of the estimated (and this is hardly a firm figure, understated if anything) 120 million people who were killed in wars and war-like acts (terrorism is war, generally upon civilians, by a non nation-state) only a small fraction of that figure was the result of Muslim killings. Cole offers a chart that visually displays the dramatic lopsided accountability of Christian nations: mostly those located in Europe plus the US and Canada.
Many Americans will react with dismay that Cole is setting the record straight. But it is vital to point out that he condemns terrorism and war for empire of any sort. He is simply pointing out that to think that Christianity and Christian nations are more virtuous and less blood thirsty than followers of Islam is statistically incorrect. As Cole concludes in his commentary on relative blood lust in the name of a divine force or nationhood,
Terrorism is a tactic of extremists within each religion, and within secular religions of Marxism or nationalism. No religion, including Islam, preaches indiscriminate violence against innocents.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
While Jay-Z & Beyonce’s recent trip to Cuba to celebrate the couple’s fifth anniversary stirred up significant controversy, a new song by a Christian rapper, relatively unknown to the general public, is ruffling feathers in the conservative Christian evangelical community, especially amongst a gaggle of religious gurus known as “Prosperity Preachers.”
Christian rapper Shai Linne, according to Charisma News, “recently released a song [which peaked at #7 on iTunes’ Hip Hop/Rap charts] calling out prosperity gospel teachers by name.”
The 12 pastors named are -- Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Fred Price, Kenneth Copland, Robert Tilton, Eddie Long, Juanita Bynum and Paul Crouch – and each name is followed by the song’s refrain, “is a false teacher!”
Jay-Z and Beyonce have come under unremitting criticism from a number of long-time anti-Cuban Republican scolds, with Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart leading the pack.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of U.S. visitors to Cuba last year were Cuban Americans (476,000 out of 580,000) , and regardless of the fact that Cuban Americans are a major source of funds for the Cuban government (sending nearly $2.3 billion to Cuba in 2011), “Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen said the music superstars were guilty of funding ‘the machinery of oppression that brutally represses the Cuban people’ because they went to Cuba with the permission of the Department of Treasury, which regulates the travel of Americans to Cuba,” DeWayne Wickham wrote in a recent USA Today column.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In its metro section, The New York Times (NYT) revealed the growing yawning gap between the wealthy barons of the Big Apple and nearly half of the city's citizens, who are barely surviving.
The rise in New York City’s poverty rate as a result of the recession has apparently eased, but not before pushing nearly half of the city’s population into the ranks of the poor or near-poor in 2011, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg administration.
That year, according to the city’s measure, about 46 percent of New Yorkers were making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold, a benchmark used to describe people who are not officially poor but who still struggle to get by. That represents a rise of more than three percentage points since 2009, when the nation’s recession officially ended.
Now, as the US has slowly climbed out of an economic collapse caused by the financial manipulations of a large segment of the one percent, the wealthy are increasing their control of US assets. Meanwhile, the safety net for those in need is cut in the name of austerity. That is why the NYT reports:
“Coinciding with the end of the slump in the job market is the end of the recession-related expansion of the safety net,” Dr. Levitan [director of poverty research for the Center for Economic Opportunity and author of the study] wrote, which could reduce food stamp benefits on top of cutbacks in unemployment insurance, tax credits and the payroll tax rate.
And the future is not bright for the New Yorkers who are the modern version of the Dickensian poor who walked like shadows amidst the rich who controlled the assets of the Britain at that dark time of the dawn of the industrial revolution:
More New Yorkers were poor in 2011 — 19.3 percent by the federal rate and 21.3 percent by the city’s standard — compared with 16.8 and 19.8 percent in 2007, before the recession. Still, while the city’s measure is the highest since it was first calculated in 2005, the official rate is lower in New York than in many other major cities.
While the center’s annual report, to be released this week, suggested that a better job market may have reversed the rising poverty in 2012, its outlook for this year and beyond was more problematic.
Of course, this doesn't include the working class or middle class who are just making it in the costly city of New York.
WALTER BRASCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Note from the Author: This is a special Earth Day edition of my weekly social issues column, Wanderings. The information is from my latest book, Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the nature and consequences of high-pressure horizontal hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. Even if you are not a Pennsylvanian or living in the recent boom in the Marcellus Shale, fracking is destroying the health of people, livestock, pets, and wild animals; it is impacting the environment and ecological diversity. It is going on across the country, and is about to expand into the urban and agricultural areas of central California. If you don't want your wine, lettuce, or hundreds of other fruits and vegetables to be methane-tinged or to hold traces of radioactive and toxic waste, you might wish to oppose the development of fracking in California.
Pennsylvania: You Are Fracked
The history of energy exploration, mining, and delivery is best understood in a range from benevolent exploitation to worker and public oppression. A company comes into an area, leases or buys land in rural and agricultural areas for mineral rights, increases employment, usually during a depressed economy, strips the land of its resources, creates health problems for its workers and those in the immediate area, and then leaves.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Too many Americans are unaware of the extreme disparities that have been caused by the unregulated profit incentive of capitalism. Our winner-take-all system is flailing away at once-healthy parts of society, leaving them like withered limbs on a trembling body, even as the relative few who benefit promote the illusion of opportunity and prosperity for all. Concerned citizens armed with facts are not fooled. Instead, the more they learn the angrier they get. And as in revolutions of the past, discontent leads to change.
MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Harry Reid: Let the Minority Rule
As Michael Collins writes about the failed legislative proposal to broaden background checks on gun buyers, you can put the blame at the feet of Harry Reid and other Dems who refused to break the back of frivolous filibusters at the beginning of this congressional session:
As majority leader, Reid set the rules of the Senate prior to this term, as he did prior to the last term. He deliberately allowed the super majority requirement prior to any meaningful vote to stand and, as a result, preserved the threat of a filibuster. Harry Reid bears the responsibility for the lack of a vote and passage of this legislation. The 46 senators who voted with Reid against allowing a vote are almost all Republicans. They were joined by the normal cast of atavistic Democrats including Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana who also chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
(Reid's office indicated that he voted no for procedural reasons that would allow him to bring the legislation up again later, but as long as the filibuster threat exists on any law the GOP wants to sink it will not matter.) As Collins adds, "Two other parts of the gun control passage fell after the background check fiasco. Bans on assault weapons and high capacity magazines are finished."
Although the reporting on the amendment was confusing due to the threat of a filibuster issue, the gun state Idaho Statesman got it right:
Gun control advocates suffered a huge setback Wednesday as the Senate defeated a delicately crafted compromise strengthening background checks for gun buyers.
The 54-46 vote was six short of the 60 needed. While the vote can be reconsidered, the tally was a bitter reminder that even the most gentle of gun control measures faces a nearly impossible path winning congressional approval.
So because the Democrats were too wimpy to require a simple majority vote on most legislation, 60 is once again the new 50. Given that small Republican states have equal senate representation to big Democratic states, this makes passage of many bills that the majority of the US population supports often impossible to achieve. It's minority rule, and the Dems keep backing down on changing the filibuster rules.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
“She had a great sense of humor and freckles and red hair that brought her right to her Irish roots.”
She was “a dream daughter.”
I have a daughter, so maybe that’s why these words cut so deep.
This was a dad’s description of a young woman, Krystle Campbell, who was one of the three people killed in the Monday bombings at the Boston Marathon, with well over a hundred wounded, some critically. The bomb went off in the final stretch of the race — which had been dedicated to the victims of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., four months earlier.
My God. Now another wound has opened in the social fabric. Another enormous question tears at our hearts. Once again we ask: Why?
Even if the police solve the riddle and catch the killers — and we learn the particulars of their agenda or their insanity — we will hardly be any closer to an answer. Beyond the question of why did they do it, a more insidious question lurks. Why does so little change in response to the violence that occurs both in shocking randomness in “safe” communities around the country and as an everyday fact of life in our poor and devastated neighborhoods?
As so many people have said in the last few days: Life is precious. No one ever qualifies that statement. Every life is a unique, invaluable, irreplaceable manifestation of human potential. Yet why is our awareness of this basic truth so fleeting? Why do we make grief hierarchical — some deaths matter more than others — and thereby diminish it immeasurably?