Religious folks who bring guns and flags to demonstrate their hatred

Some of the hundreds of protesters arriving at a Phoenix mosque on Friday evening to demonstrate their first amendment protections carried firearms, American flags and shouted expletives.

As the protesters arrived, they were met by hundreds of members of various religious and community groups, who had already gathered along the sidewalk opposite the entrance to the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix.

“I think this is the real story, not the bigotry,” said community center president Usama Shami, of those who offered support. “They’re standing against bigotry.”

Phoenix police had blocked off most streets in the residential area near the center, where the protest, its two sides separated by a two-way street lined with officers in riot gear, lasted nearly four hours…

“I understand the fears and I understand the hostility,” said pastor Bob Hake of the nearby Orangewood Nazarene Church, on Friday. “I think there’s a better way to resolve those fears than intimidation and weapons and fear.”

The hatred organizer, Jon Ritzheimer wore a bulletproof vest underneath a black T-shirt bearing the phrase “fuck Islam”…Hake said, Ritzheimer had chosen the wrong weapons when he encouraged his protesters to bring firearms on the event’s Facebook page.

This is not a battlefield, this a neighborhood,” Hake said.

Yes, there also were the kind of Christians and non-Christians I wouldn’t mind as next-door neighbors. They came to stand up in opposition to bigotry.

The War with Radical Islam – Viewpoint by Jeffrey Sachs

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was not speaking metaphorically when he said that France is at war with radical Islam. There is, indeed, a full-fledged war underway, and the heinous terrorist attacks in Paris were part of it. Yet, like most wars, this one is about more than religion, fanaticism, and ideology. It is also about geopolitics, and its ultimate solution lies in geopolitics as well.

Crimes like those in Paris, New York, London, and Madrid – attacks on countless cafes, malls, buses, trains, and nightclubs – affront our most basic human values, because they involve the deliberate murder of innocents and seek to spread fear throughout society. We are wont to declare them the work of lunatics and sociopaths, and we feel repulsed by the very idea that they may have an explanation beyond the insanity of their perpetrators.

Yet, in most cases, terrorism is not rooted in insanity. It is more often an act of war, albeit war by the weak rather than by organized states and their armies. Islamist terrorism is a reflection, indeed an extension, of today’s wars in the Middle East. And with the meddling of outside powers, those wars are becoming a single regional war – one that is continually morphing, expanding, and becoming increasingly violent.

From the jihadist perspective – the one that American or French Muslims, for example, may pick up in training camps in Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen – daily life is ultra-violent. Death is pervasive, coming as often as not from the bombs, drones, and troops of the United States, France, and other Western powers. And the victims are often the innocent “collateral damage” of Western strikes that hit homes, weddings, funerals, and community meetings.

We in the West hate to acknowledge – and most refuse to believe – that our leaders have been flagrantly wasteful of Muslim lives for a century now, in countless wars and military encounters instigated by overwhelming Western power. What is the message to Muslims of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003? More than 100,000 Iraqi civilians – a very conservative estimate – died in a war that was based on utterly false pretenses. The US has never apologized, much less even recognized the civilian slaughter.

RTFA – for there is beaucoup sense and understanding of history. Regular readers of my personal blog often are aware of this level of content on the Web. Many aren’t. Many are wandering by for the very first time.

Understand that Project Syndicate is a review of science and society, economics and events, how they are interrelated, and attempts to direct a positive end. It is part and parcel of a number of men and women who very often are published in the Economist, a conservative journal [at least in my mind] published in the UK, global in scope.

In the time when American conservatism was concerned with science instead of the King James Bible, when American liberalism was dedicated to standing up for folks who work for a living, both of these magazines and what they offer would be considered a valuable resource. Nowadays, in a nation consumed with hatred and fear, led by fools and cowards, governed by creatures designed equally by Madison Avenue and Wall Street – those standards have evaporated.

The Web – more than anywhere else – still offers an opportunity for sane discussion, progressive change. The alternative pressed by useless two-party politics, I’m afraid, remains a cul-de-sac crammed full of rhetoric and little else.

Again, please read the article. Jeff Sachs is worth discovering for many of you. He’s walked away from a couple of rewarding potential careers to dedicate his intellect and understanding to the betterment of life for our unremarkable species. He’s turned out to be damned good at it. Worth listening to.

Here’s his conclusion:

It is time for the West to allow the Arab world to govern itself and to choose its path without Western military interference. And there are heartening reasons to believe that a self-governing Arab Middle East would wisely choose to become a peaceful global crossroads and a partner in science, culture, and development.

The Arab world has played that beneficent role in the past, and it can do so again. The region is filled with talented people, and the overwhelming majority in the region want to get on with their lives in peace, educate and raise their children in health and safety, and participate in global society. Their objectives – prosperity and human security – are our own.

China holds a Memorial Day for the victims of the Nanjing Massacre


Click for the story

If there is anything I truly hate it is war.

I’ve experienced some small participation in wars. I have had dear friends more directly affected over longer periods. Now gone. One who survived the Warsaw Ghetto uprising – made it through the sewers of Warsaw, through the countryside eventually to the Soviet Union. After healing physically, she went back to Poland to fight in the underground against the Germans.

I asked her once why she kept her Polish name from the Underground instead of returning to her Jewish family name. She told me that all of that life died with her husband and her daughters in a German death camp. Who she became after that was a different person.

My closest friend most of my life was the most decorated soldier in WW2 from our home state in New England. He was awarded every medal except the Congressional Medal of Honor and he was nominated for that. Surviving injuries at the Battle of the Bulge he was severely wounded at the liberation of the Buchenwald Death Camp – and had sixteen months in a veterans’ hospital to reflect upon how he got there.

They’re both gone, now. Someone like me has to remember.

It doesn’t matter where or when my thoughts are stirred to recall. I’ve written about Nanjing before; but, tonight I happened to switch over to CCTV America just as the ceremonies at the Memorial Site in Nanjing were wrapping up.

I sat and watched the last half-hour of the live telecast. I cried some for 300,000 civilians slaughtered by Japanese soldiers over a few weeks starting on December 13, 1937. I won’t forget Nanjing. China won’t forget Nanjing.

Pope welcomes Atheists in his Christmas call of peace

Pope Francis used the first Christmas address of his papacy on Wednesday to make a broad call for global peace and an end to violence in Syria and parts of Africa, urging atheists and followers of other religions to join together in this common cause…

“True peace is not a balance of opposing forces,” Francis said. “It is not a lovely facade which conceals conflicts and divisions. Peace calls for daily commitment…”

Francis has regularly attracted huge crowds in Vatican City, and almost overnight he has emerged as a major figure on the global stage, surprising many Catholics with his nonjudgmental tone on issues like homosexuality and divorce, and his focus on the plight of the world’s poor. He has also been unpredictable, telephoning ordinary people who have written him letters, embracing a badly disfigured man at St. Peter’s and making unannounced visits in Rome.

He proved unpredictable again on Wednesday, when he went off script to include atheists in his call for peace, rare for a Catholic leader.

“I invite even nonbelievers to desire peace,” he said. “Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace…”

A bit disingenuous. I find more often that atheists and particularly those who’ve moved on to studies in science, humanist philosophy, secular views on progress – generally not only support efforts for peace; but, work at it.

Francis broadened his peace message to call for an end to violence in Syria, as well as in the Central African Republic, where Christians and Muslims have clashed in a country that he described as “often forgotten and overlooked.” He cited the rising tensions and violence in South Sudan, calling for “social harmony,” and he asked for a “favorable outcome” to peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He also renewed his focus on the plight of migrants, some the victims of human trafficking, others fleeing war and poverty to try to reach Europe.

Francis called attention to victims of natural disasters, especially Philippine typhoon victims, while renewing his call to protect the environment, which he said was “frequently exploited by human greed and rapacity.”

Maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical; but, I still recall the too-brief reign of Pope John, the peoples’ Pope. His epistle for Pacem en Terris sparked much of the participation of priests, nuns and their parishioners in peace movements, the civil rights movement, opposition to the scumbags who have always profited from exploitation.

It’s been more than a couple of decades since I could wake up in a jail cell after confronting economic thugs like the Koch Brothers and their private blue-clad army – and found I was sharing a cell with a priest. Cripes, I haven’t had a deep discussion behind bars about that Essene rebel named Jesus since 1965.

The Pope needn’t be concerned about inviting atheists into the battle for peace. We’re waiting for his own brothers and sisters to rejoin the struggle on the same scale as a half-century ago.

Pope Francis politely says trickle-down economics is a lie

Pope Francis condemned trickle-down economics and the world of inequality and exclusion it fosters in the first apostolic exhortation of his papacy:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.”

Many of the pontiff’s criticisms of trickle-down economics are true of the American experience. The policies that began with Ronald Reagan have not benefited middle and working class Americans, while deregulation spawned a reckless financial system that nearly destroyed the financial industry in a historic recession — a recession in which the most affluent have rebounded from far more easily than other Americans. Three decades of high-income tax cuts have proven equally ineffective. The Bush tax cuts aided the wealthy but did not reach the middle and lower classes as promised, resulting instead in “the worst wage and salary growth and total compensation growth of any postwar economic expansion.” In short, the wealth never trickled down…

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A yoga time-out with the summer solstice in Times Square

New York’s Times Square, one of the world’s busiest crossroads, has come to a standstill to allow yoga enthusiasts to mark the summer solstice.

The Manhattan square became a sea of yogis exercising in time on their mats, beneath the billboards.

Tim Tompkins, co-founder of event, said part of its appeal was finding stillness and calm amid the city rush on the longest day of the year.

Into its 11th year, the event has grown from three people to more than 15,000.

They can only fit 600 at a time into Times Square so the rest are at other locales, different times.

Free yoga classes began at 07:30 local time and were due to continue until sunset.

The oldest of the teachers in the square was 94, the AFP news agency reported.

Bravo. For all the right reasons…fitness, calming, relaxation, health.

Of course the nutball brigade in the Republican Party will call this further proof of NYC as a center of Satanism.

Karl Rove says ideological purity isn’t the best measure for GOP – he’d stick with lies!

Struggling to resuscitate the beleaguered GOP’s fortunes and finances in a solidly blue state, California Republicans received blunt advice this weekend from Republican strategist Karl Rove: “Get off your ass…”

…Rove said Republicans have grown too “comfortable talking to each other,” and they have failed to grow the party beyond its core of older white voters. Nearly 70 percent of the nation’s two fastest-growing demographics – Latinos and Asian Americans – supported Democrats in 2012.

What Rove wants – and the Tea Party bubbas reject – is coming up with more and better lies. Not only the usual agitprop of fairy dust economics; but, plain and simple denial of racism and bigotry should be sufficient – he thinks – to fool American voters.

There is soul-searching going on in every corner of the convention, which drew more than 1,000 party activists. The party confronts historically low voter registration in California – just 29 percent of state voters are registered Republicans, compared with nearly 44 percent who are Democrats. An additional 1 in 5 California voters now registers with no party preference – a growing number that threatens to turn the GOP into a minor party. Republicans hold no major statewide offices in California and are the minority party in both chambers of the state Legislature. From this position of weakness, the state GOP is also saddled with a debt that incoming chair Jim Brulte said could be as high as $800,000…

Jerrie Libby, a party delegate from Sutter County and a Tea Party organizer, watched Rove’s address wearing a red Tea Party T-shirt, which she called “a silent protest” against Rove’s efforts to back establishment candidates over grassroots favorites…

“I want to tell him, ‘Karl, we are all conservatives. Stop bashing us,’ ” said Libby, a retired teacher and almond farmer. “We are eating our own in this party…”

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We remember absent friends


REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

I remember my dearest friend – gone, now, a number of years – who was the most decorated soldier from our home state in World War 2.

Returning home, he had sixteen months or so in hospital to reflect on war. And when both political parties asked him to run for office after he got back on his feet – he told them he only required one plank in his platform. Corporations would be limited to no profits from their support of any war.

They withdrew the request.

What Tom Friedman means by Pro-Life – and why

Hard-line conservatives have gone to new extremes lately in opposing abortion. Last week, Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, declared during a debate that he was against abortion even in the event of rape because after much thought he “came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” That came on the heels of the Tea Party-backed Republican Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois saying after a recent debate that he opposed abortion even in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would not survive without an abortion. “Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime, for any reason,” Walsh said. That came in the wake of the Senate hopeful in Missouri, Representative Todd Akin, remarking that pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape” is rare because “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.”

These were not slips of the tongue. These are the authentic voices of an ever-more-assertive far-right Republican base that is intent on using uncompromising positions on abortion to not only unseat more centrist Republicans — Mourdock defeated the moderate Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana in the primary — but to overturn the mainstream consensus in America on this issue. That consensus says that those who choose to oppose abortion in their own lives for reasons of faith or philosophy should be respected, but those women who want to make a different personal choice over what happens with their own bodies should be respected, and have the legal protection to do so, as well.

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