A Smooth Comeback!


In response to Pastor Terry Jones’ International Burn a Koran day, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has decided to post the advertisement below in Jones’ city local newspapers.  MRFF is acting because of concern members of the US military have expressed about the impact Jones’ book burning will have on the lives of military personnel posted in Muslim countries.  It wasn’t but a few short years ago that any act considered endangering the lives of US servicemen was considered treasonous, but today racist elements in American society have managed to turn that notion on its head and instead say any act which doesn’t outrage Muslim sensitivities is appeasement, no matter how provocative the act may be or how it might endanger lives.  MRFF’s response is the kind that will defeat the likes of Jones and the rest of the pilers on who’ve got on board with this xenophobic, Islamophobic notion of either denying Muslims their citizenship rights or provoking them. ‘Attaboy’ to MRFF!

Florida Minister says he won’t back down-UPDATE


The minister in Florida who wants to have a burn the Quran day on September 11 says he won’t back down from doing it and I say good for him!  It is his constitutional right to burn copies of the Quran, the religious book of Muslims.  Let’s not forget we live in a country where  it is the right of any American to burn the US flag, and we all remember the turmoil  reaching that decision caused America. It is one of the “hazards” of living in a free society; protested speech against patriotic or religious symbols is not illegal. American Muslims more than any other group, should understand that,  and  should register their disagreement with the burning  of Qurans act,with thoughtful and or provocative editorials like this one ,  or planned  peaceful  protests like this,  for even though what Jones wants to do is legal it is morally reprehensible.  That’s as far as his opponents should take it, however.

It is this type of dissent  Muslims should expect from  those who oppose their building of a masjid near the site of the former WTC buildings; one may disagree with the building of the Cordoba House at Park 51, and may protest the  building going up there, however it is the right of the supporters of that project, codified by the legal authorities responsible, for the house to be built there and Cordoba House’s supporters should proceed with resolve to see it through  even during times of  intense opposition to it AND  the opponents should resign themselves to the inevitability of its completion .  What will then become a true battle of ideas a distinction between those who oppose book burning versus those who oppose a religious house of worship will be how the different groups express their opposition and accept the rule of law.  In other words, the behavior of the opposition will have more of an impact on the public debate about the presence of Islam in America than the action which spurs that opposition.   America will have to choose between those who promote racist, stereotypical, violent reaction to protected speech and religious freedom and those whose opposition is principled, respectful or thoughtful.

Given America’s past inclination to mob/racist rule the outcome is not so certain and definitely not in the near future.  One of the reasons why we must have this frank discussion about race in this country is because the racist template we’ve set for ourselves over the years  allows us to insert whatever group of the day we want to hate into  it and then hurl invective and discriminatory actions at them which we try to make into law to suppress them.  We still have not managed to steer clear of this disease because we haven’t really tried to cure it. Saddle up America, here we go again; we’re in for another  protracted campaign for the soul of this country.

UPDATE

Jones did back down and if anyone can understand the reasons why he did so, please explain them to me.  The man who claimed to have received messages from God  is unfathomable, sick, crazy in the head and one as intimately  familiar with him as his own daughter has come out and said so.  There’s even mention of  a mental disorder here as well. Why we, citizenship media as well as corporate media gave him so much of our time, bandwidth and news print is one of the mysteries of life.  A “pastor” with a minuscule congregation of about 50 managed to hold the entire world hostage with his delusions of grandeur and his fear injected venom which paralyzed a nation, diverted its attention from a more pressing national agenda than his personal dementia and left us, after his ‘never mind’ moment feeling used and abandoned from it all.  We deserve it….we put in way too much time feeding the ego of a man whose ego is as large as any other megalomaniac or larger, being called by a US Army general, the Secretary of Defense, the FBI, the NYC police chief and countless others who otherwise wouldn’t give you the time of day can be very gratifying, but what did all of that give us, the People?  It revealed for us that dark side of our collective nature that loves to be frightened and angered; it allowed the haters in our midst to feed us their daily ration of  hatred and loathing for “others” who are really “we”, “us”.  Someone wrote on their headline, ‘Florida Pastor Makes National Jackass of Himself’….and my answer would be no he didn’t.  He made jackasses out of us.

A Disturbing Trend


New York Has the Most Millionaires
Robert Frank

According to the new Metro Wealth Index, created by consulting firm Capgemini, the New York Metropolitan area had 650,000 high-net worth individuals, or people with $1 million or more in investible assets in 2009. That is 18.7% higher than in 2008.

Once again, the New York area topped the list of metro-area wealth centers. Its total was greater than the combined total of the next three runners up–Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

Of the top 10, Houston posted the the fastest growth, at 28.9%. But all enjoyed strong growth.

Here are the tallies of millionaires for the top 10, along with the percentage growth:

New York – 667,200, +18.7%

Los Angeles – 235,800, +13.3%

Chicago – 198,100, +15.1%

Washington, D.C. – 152,400 +19.3%

San Francisco – 138,300 +14.5%

Philadelphia – 104,100, +20.1%

Boston – 102,300, + 14.4%

Detroit – 89,100, +12.1%

Houston –- 88,200, +28.9%

San Jose — 86,500, +24.5%

What are the takeaways?

First, that the U.S. taxpayers’ bank bailouts certainly helped those on Wall Street (though why New York still has huge budget problems given the wealth surge in 2009 and much-publicized tax burden of the wealthy remains a mystery).

Second, that finance, technology and oil remain the main sources of wealth in the U.S.

Third, while New York, D.C., Houston and San Jose are now above 2007 levels, the rest are still below the 2007 heights.

Fourth, that 2010 may not be as rosy as 2009 when it comes to minting new millionaires or re-minting the old ones.
What patterns do you see in the numbers?

The seat of government, Washington, DC,  placed in the top five American cities with millionaires and that should say something about what government has done to its citizens.  In a city where the only business is government which then goes and has a steadily increasing number of millionaires from one year to the next but was virtually deadlocked and or engaged in acrimonious debate on increasing unemployment benefits for the country’s unemployed says something about what many people in government think is their role.  The war on terror has led to the enrichment of many private citizens whose wealth depends on a fearful government willing to empty out its coffers to fight or demonize people who either don’t exist, mean them no harm or are incapable of inflicting harm, at the expense of the majority of the American people.  In this case, the expression ‘follow the money’ has meaning!

Is it Shari’ah Law you should be afraid of or is it Christian Evangelism?


Islamophobic racists are all singing the dangers of Shari’ah law as something that will overtake the Nation and either make everyone Muslim or kill those who don’t convert.  From the looks of this article, their fears are misplaced; rather it is their own Christian-Judeo tradition which has enveloped the  US military they should be worried about.  Imagine, an American military force made up of Christians determining whether you meet the criteria for safety or punishment.  Think it won’t happen here?  Maybe it already is.

The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band’s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.Fort Eustis spokesman Rick Haverinen told The Associated Press he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation. At the Pentagon, Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said the military shouldn’t impose religious views on soldiers.

“If something like that were to have happened, it would be contrary to Army policy,” Collins said.

Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps.

“My whole issue was I don’t need to be preached at,” Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. “That’s not what I signed up for.”

Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.”

Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.

“Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down,” Smith said. “It seemed very much like a punishment.”

You can read more about the efforts of many in the military to make it Christian, thereby usurping the Constitution, here.

Ten signs the US is becoming a Third World country


This is a very compelling read that I hope you will take time to absorb.   I wanted to excerpt points I find particularly relevant to today’s debates

Declining civil rights: Everyday freedoms are often a casualty of a society in collapse.  As the anger of the populace mounts in response to declining economic conditions and political corruption, the government counters by increasing draconian measures that restrict the political rights and civil liberties of its citizens.

America is becoming a country like China, which has one of the lowest scores according to Freedom House.  In America, private discussions and movements are monitored, free speech is corralled, the freedom to assemble for protest is by government decree, and independent thought that questions the political system is increasingly looked upon with suspicion.  A final indicator is when the government insists upon secrecy for its own actions, while new laws and systems are created to put the individual under nearly constant surveillance.

Failing infrastructure: As 46 of 50 states are on the verge of bankruptcy, cities are going dark, asphalt roads are returning to the stone age, and nationwide budget cuts are leaving students without teachers, supplies, or a full-time education.  These are common features one will see as they travel through the poorest of Third World countries.

Controlling the media: A government-influenced media that censors information is a key component of Third World countries.  In some countries it is openly owned by the State.  In America, privately-owned major media is not as balanced or as diverse as it seems; the concentration of ownership has led to censorship when national and corporate interests have sometimes overlapped.  The persecution of high-profile investigative journalists such as WikiLeaks is set amid a backdrop of the proposed Internet censorship of bloggers who wish to remain anonymous.  The end of net neutrality creates a pay-to-play system that can lead to further corporate and government control of information and opinion.  Cybersecurity initiatives are the final nail in the coffin, as the entire free flow of information can be vetted in a China-style system of “identity management.”  On the street, the police state and media control have converged in the recent rise of arrests for those who videotape the police.  This is a huge blow to First Amendment rights and the role of photojournalists who wish to document public police behavior.

Destroying the hallowed ground myth


Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog does an awesome job of destroying the race baiting Islamophobes’ objections to the Cordoba House being built in close proximity to the 911 disaster because it somehow will upset the sensitivity of those who suffered loss there.  And while there really were never any legitimate  objections to this project to begin with, and each one that the opponents have raised has been seriously knocked down or derailed they keep popping up because there are some in America who want to ascribe any and all failure to the present administration or want to maintain an obstructionist agenda in order to win elections in November.

So here we go again……the hallowed ground scenario.  This is also what’s going up in and around the “sacred” ground of the World Trade Center complex, some would say the same distance from it as the Cordoba House.   The New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club on 59 Murray Street, where you can have all of your emotional needs met.  If you want to reflect on what happened at WTC on 911 the New York Dolls club is the place to go to do just that.  No doubt the likes of the one above will be glad to give you a hand, at a price of course, to come to grips with what took place on that awful day and hold the memories of loved and cherished ones who died on that day.  A titty bar, that’s what we call them down South, is more deserving of occupying that holiest of ground in the American psyche than an interfaith institution that wants to bridge gaps and promote brother/sisterhood among people.  That’s just what the country needs.

Hat tip to Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog

The New War of the Christian Crusaders


By David Rosen

The building of a Muslim community center in an abandoned building two blocks from the site of New York’s former World Trade Center has become the latest controversy in America’s long fought religious wars. The construction of the center, often referred to as a mosque, has become the latest rallying issue for the Christian right, Tea Party proponents and Republican operatives in their war to impose moralistic and corporatist values on America.

It is too early to know how the Muslim center issue will be resolved, but it is clear that the rantings of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Abe Foxman (of the Anti-Defamation League) and others have played an important role pushing a local issue into the center-stage of national politics. Since the horrendous attacks of 9/11, Muslims in general and American Muslims in particular have been the targets of an undeclared religious war promoted by Christian fundamentalists and self-serving Republicans. For some among these religious zealots, Islam is a threat to their belief that the U.S. is a white Protestant nation. Over the last four centuries, Quakers, Mormons, Catholics, Jews and many others have been targets of religious persecution, often the victims of imprisonments, hangings, lynchings and other acts of violence.

Rightwing ranters might well not know the history of religious intolerance in America, but they are surely aware that they are fueling a deep-seated rage among a certain scary segment of the Christian populous. This round in the ongoing religious culture wars has yet to explode into the ugly violence that took place in the aftermath of 9/11, and one can only hope that the current controversy will not lead to attacks on Muslims.

Sadly, like the attacks the followed 9/11, rightwing ranters like Palin and Gingrich will act “shocked” by the violence if it occurs and will claim innocence as to their roles fomenting it. With a knowing sneer, they will wash their hands of the blood they have caused and seek out other innocent victims.

In an excellent article on Tomdispatch, Stephen Salisbury details the current Manhattan Muslim center controversy and the spreading anti-Muslim hysteria being whipped up around the country over the opening of new local mosques. As Salisbury opines, “The angry ‘debate’ over whether the building should exist has a kind of glitch-in-the-Matrix feel to it, leaving in its wake an aura of something-very-bad-about-to-happen.” [tomdispatch.com, August 11, 2010]

Salisbury discusses the ongoing protests against mosques also taking place in New York’s Brooklyn and Staten Island as well as in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wisconsin. He connects these controversies to the headline-grabbing opportunist comments by Palin (in true Palin-speak, “peaceful Muslims” need to “refudiate” the center) and Gingrich (who calls on Saudi Arabia to open churches and synagogues).

He also draws attention to the pernicious role played by Rick Lazio, New York State Republican gubernatorial candidate, who assails the center as subverting the right of New Yorkers “to feel safe and be safe.” Because New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Attorney General (and likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Cuomo have come out in support of the Muslim center, it will like be a major issue in the November election.

Most importantly, Salisbury provides an invaluable overview of the anti-Muslim campaign that arose in the wake of 9/11, reminding readers just how alarmingly vicious good-old Christian love can be.

Part of the “glitch-in-the-Matrix feel” that Salisbury notes is the absence of a recognition that the current Muslin center controversy is part of a long history of religious intolerance in American.

In the days following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush, a born-again Christian, in a spontaneous and unscripted statement blurted out the unspoken truth that guided the U.S.’s initial military counter-attack campaign in Afghanistan: “This crusade,” he said, “this war on terrorism.” While Bush’s admission was later repudiated and disappeared from the public discourse, it define the unstated goal of the ultra-reactionary Christians who were his core-constituency and knew full well what he meant.

At the heart of Bush’s crusade agenda was an invocation of the “shock and awe” tradition that defined religious wars since the grand crusades of the Middle Ages and an acknowledgement that they needed to be applied in Afghanistan. The grand crusades waged by the Roman Church were against Muslims and Jews to capture and hold ancient Jerusalem and the Holy Lands, and to defeat Orthodox or Eastern Christianity. Many perished. Similar, crusaders were waged against Christian heretics, including early Protestants, and done so in the name of their absolutist god.

This tradition was brought over to the New World with the Pilgrims and other early British settlers. The worst and most sustained form of religious war in America has been waged against the Native people. For all the annual whitewashing that takes place at Thanksgiving Day parades, early Puritans fought the Pequot Indians in Eastern Connecticut until 1637 when the General Courts of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Colony launched a war of extermination against them. (Native people found that the Pilgrims stunk, literally; Europeans rarely bathed, believing it unhealthy, and seldom were naked, believing it immoral.) The white Christian race and religious crusade against Native North American people persisted for centuries.

Pilgrims also imposed religious intolerance on themselves. Early Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers were aligned with the Church of England and looked badly upon those who contested their orthodoxy. Those challenging Calvinist dogma were subject to banishment, whipping, branding, ear-lobbing and even hanging. Early leaders like Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were banished. Early Quaker settles in Plymouth were also banished and four were hung publicly.

Over the subsequent centuries, Americans have witnessed repeated bouts of religious intolerance. Not surprisingly, these episodes were often accompanied by the same shrill rhetoric we find shouted today by those opposing the Muslim center.

The Know Nothing movement grew out of the Second Great Awakening or the Great Revival of the 1830s and became the American Party that flourished during the late-’40s and early-’50s. It got its name when members where asked the party’s positions and simply said, “I know nothing.” It drew together Protestants who felt threatened by the rapid increase in European immigrants and, most especially, Catholics, flooding the cities. It felt that Catholics, as followers of the Pope, were not loyal Americans and were going to take over the country. It had strong support in the North that witnessed large-scale Irish immigration after 1848. The American Party captured the Massachusetts legislature in 1854 and, in 1856, backed Millard Fillmore for president, who secured nearly 1 million votes, a quarter of all votes cast.

The Ku Klux Klan was established in 1866 and, during Reconstruction, began a systematic campaign against freed African Americans. However, by the ’80s, it had lost its way as a racialist organization. It was revitalized in the wake of the Atlanta trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman who had been falsely charged and convicted of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old white Christian girl, in 1913. In 1915, after the Georgia governor commuted his sentence, Frank was forcibly removed from the state penitentiary where he was being held by a mob of white Christians and lynched. Subsequently, many of those who participated in Frank’s murder came together to re-launch the Klan.

In the late-’10s, the Klan aligned with nativists, eugenicists and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) to not only promote temperance but racialist and anti-immigrant policies. As WWI hysteria mounted, ASL’s New York representative, William Anderson, equated being pro-German with being anti-American: German beer, saloons and breweries were the unnamed enemy. He had a deep antipathy toward Catholics, accusing the Church of mounting an “assault on law and order,” of opposing Prohibition because it was promoted by Protestants and accusing it of engaging in “efforts to destroy [the Prohibition] victory and bring back the saloons.” Anti-Catholic antipathy contributed to the defeat of the country’s first Catholic nominee, Al Smith’s, in the 1928 presidential election.

Many other episodes of religious intolerance have taken place since the ’20s. However, John Kennedy’s 1960 presidential victory marked the moment in American history when anti-Catholic appeals in national election were no longer acceptable. Similarly, the growing acceptance among Christian evangelicals of the notion of the “last days” has lead to a weird embrace of Jews and Israel and may have contributed to a moderation in anti-Semitism.

In the days before 9/11, most informed people accepted Islam as a variant within the Abrahamic tradition. However, in the aftermath of the attacks, even this claim came under suspicion. Earlier this summer, Ron Ramsey, a Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee, claimed that Islam is a “cult” that did not deserve First Amendment protection: “You can even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life, or a cult — whatever you want to call it… .” Challenged by a diverse assortment of Tennesseans, including traditional conservatives, Ramsey has backed off this assertion.

If truth be told, the Manhattan Muslim center is both a real issue and a fictitious spectacle. It is real in the sense that its being built at the designated site on Park Place will be a victory for religious tolerance. America is undergoing a profound economic and cultural realignment. Traditional white society is giving way to a truly multi-cultural America; conventional Protestantism is giving way a significant increase in the Catholic populous (mostly Hispanics) and growing Muslim, Hindu and Sekh communities.

The Muslim center story, like that of Michelle Obama’s holiday in Spain, is a false issue, a spectacle promoting social deception. Since Obama’s victory, the Republican right has implemented a very effective wrecking-ball strategy, attempting to destroy every issue considered. Its guiding principle is simple: Obama and the Democrats can do no right. To realize this goal, it did anything and everything in its power to make sure as little as possible got through Congress, got honestly assessed in the media and got to help ordinary Americans. Sadly, the Christian Republican right is succeeding and the Obama leadership remains clueless.

A century-and-a-half ago white Protestants came to accept Irish immigrants as white. While hard to imagine today, early Irish immigrants, those who came to America in the wake of the 1848 famine, were seen by many traditional Protestants as “niggers,” not really different from African Americans. Faced with the inevitabilities of post-Civil War modernization, old-world Protestants changed. And with it, racism changed.

The challenge that faces today’s Anglo-American Protestant descendents, those who see Muslims as “niggers,” is whether then can change and accept America as a multi-cultural society.

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