The Question to ask is….

why was George Zimmerman able to get either a license to carry a handgun, or more accurately, a concealed carry permit when he had been charged several times for offenses that would make him unable to qualify legally for the permit?!?!   It appears he got out of a conviction on the battery charge against a law enforcement officer; ‘by entering a pretrial-diversion program, something common for first-time offenders’.  He had a domestic violence charge ONE month later  leveled against him and an injunction followed but there  is no word in  the press about the disposition of that case. Despite these two brushes with the law Zimmerman was able to get a permit to carry a handgun?!  Something is wrong with that picture.  Perhaps he has a good ole boy permit taken with a wink and nod.  Check out the requirements one has to pass before they can legally carry a handgun in the state of Florida.  It’s clear that Zimmerman was a felon after his domestic violence dispute occurring one month after his resisting arrest charge.  Therefore, on the  night he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman was a felon.

Conservatives always fall on the side of the right of citizens to legally own firearms.  Surprisingly, so does this progressive, who owns several of them himself.  Conservatives also say the laws we have on the books are enough and when it comes to firearm possession and crimes done with them, there’s no need for new ones and this progressive agrees with them especially regarding this case too.

So with regard to the death/murder of Martin the laws we have on the books are enough to charge Zimmerman with a capital offense, so let’s list them starting with the most severe to the least, shall we:

  1. capital murder-Zimmerman pursued Martin
  2. aggravated battery-a fight ensued which Zimmerman initiated
  3. aggravated assault-Zimmerman was carrying a firearm

There’s no need to charge him with a hate crime……there’s enough on his plate to put him away for the rest of his life.  What is troubling is the really lackadaisical police work of the Sanford Police Department that ignored evidence which pointed to Zimmerman’s guilt and exaggerated any piece of evidence which pointed to Martin’s responsibility in his own death.  There was nothing innocent about what Zimmerman did.  He preyed on and murdered Martin in cold blood, but with the complicit approval of the Sanford Police Department. It’s the latter that committed a hate crime….Zimmerman is simply a cold blooded murderer.

A tale of two faith based communities

American Atheists president David Silverman, left, wanted to erect billboards in a predominantly Muslim worshipping neighborhood and a Jewish neighborhood proclaiming his belief that there is no God and challenging the faiths of those two religions.  The response of the two faiths was dramatically different and the story is really in how they reacted.

Silverman wanted to put up a billboard written in Hebrew and English questioning Judaism in Williamsburg’s Hasidic community, a community in New York City that read, “You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice,” but liberal New York and it’s traditionally liberal Jewish community would have none of it.  Attempts by the people who put up billboards were blocked by the owner of the building upon which the offending billboard would have been placed and that was just fine with some of the residents of the predominantly Jewish community.  Silverman a “former” Jew himself said he was surprised and shocked at the reception his plans received in the neighborhood…..but it was feigned indignation at best.  He knew, as a Jew what others in that community already know, ‘The name of god is very holy (to us and) to the whole world’ as it is with any religion.  Yet Silverman’s in your face approach to freedom of speech was denied among the residents of the area and even among some politicians.

‘(t)he content of the message is conveyed in a disrespectful manner…This does not appear to be a genuine attempt to engage in a dialogue, but is here merely to insult the beliefs of this community,

said one NYC councilman, and he’s right, but freedom of expression is something we’ve been led to believe exists even if that speech is offensive to some.  Not so, say the residents of Williamsburg and members of the Hasidic community who’ve let others talk for them.  Ok, fine.

Silverman did put up a billboard in Paterson, NJ, a block away from the Islamic Center of Passaic County the largest place of worship for Muslims in that area.  The sign written in Arabic and English says:

but it seems to have angered more Christians than Muslims.  Even the writer of the article calls the billboard a “provocation” which is how the Christians in the community perceived it.  The fact that Silverman waited across the street from the mosque, not the nearest church,  to gauge Muslim reaction to his billboard further underscores that perception.  However, there was no noticeable outrage on the part of those who prayed at the  mosque and saw the billboard; rather their response seemed to emphasize that time honored right of freedom of expression.

“It’s a knock on the door,” Abdul Hamid, 40, said as he crouched to get his shoes after noon-time prayer at the Islamic Center of Passaic County. “If they want to come and have an open dialogue with us that’s great.”

Anes Labsiri, a 39-year-old plumber, said he was happy people can question religion in public.

“Some people might see it as a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing. I love that you have this freedom in this country,” said Labsiri…….

After prayer, the imam, Mohammad Qatanani, came outside to talk with Silverman, who was hanging around the neighborhood to watch for reactions to the sign.

The two discussed religion and tolerance; humanity and God.

“We have to accept everyone — we are all from dust and become dust,” Qatanani said. “Right?”

Silverman nodded his head, but added, “Well, yes, we’re all from raw matter.”

Silverman wants to be contrary and incendiary, no doubt, but he was not able to get the kind of reaction from Muslims that everyone has come to expect.  Perhaps maybe the reason is because it is a manufactured reaction that has no basis in reality, at least as far as the Muslim community in America is concerned.  In fact, Silverman’s billboards got the kind of reaction we’ve come to expect from Muslims from Jews and Christians whose outrage at his disrespect for their religious beliefs bordered on censorship and fury.  There has been no call yet, on the part of Muslim leaders, to stop Silverman from putting up his billboard, even  in his in-your-face confrontational manner in Muslim communities unlike other religious groups who  have actively opposed Silverman’s billboards. Is this an example of Muslims practicing good citizenship?  No doubt.  Is it an example of Christians and Jews practicing good citizenship?  No doubt. Two different responses to the same provocation.  Which one do you find admirable?


Iran and corporate media’s jaundice eye/ An UPDATE

There are forces at work that really want to see a war with Iran and  many of those forces are being encouraged by the duplicitous way main stream media has reported on the story of Iran and its perceived nuclear program. Dave Lindorff talked about that in his most recent pieceGoebbels Would Stand in Awe: The US Corporate News Media are Rank Propagandists on Iran.  Media never tires from war even though the rest of the country most likely has, so it appears they want to wake us from our war stupor to fight another

The sorry state of American journalism is on full display in the coverage by the corporate media of the ongoing crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear fuel program.

The leaders of both Israel and the U.S. have publicly threatened to attack Iran — Israel saying it could do so within weeks, President Obama warning that he would consider attacking Iran militarily if he were convinced that that nation was building an atomic bomb.

Not once, in reporting on these threats of aggressive war by Israel and/or the United States, has any major U.S. news organization, in print or on the air, included any reference to the U.N. Charter or to the fact that what is being contemplated is an invasion by Israel or the United States of a country that has not even been shown to be producing or planning to produce a nuclear weapon, much less to be in possession of one. Not once, in any of these daily reports on the Iran “crisis,” has any report by these news organizations — including National Public Radio — interviewed a source who could point out that what is being discussed is the most serious of all war crimes: the crime against peace (the same crime that led to the hanging, after World War II, of several military leaders in Japan and Germany).

The law itself is crystal clear. Under the UN Charter it is the ultimate war crime for a nation to initiate an aggressive war against another country that has not attacked it or that does not pose an “imminent threat” of attack. And given that even Israeli and US intelligence officials concede that Iran is not at this time making a bomb, and thus cannot hope to have a working one even a year from now were they to begin a crash program, there is simply no imminent threat.

Even when a perfect opportunity arrived for making this point — a public statement Feb. 27 by Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, at the United Nations, reminding UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon that an attack by Israel or the US on Iran would be “contrary to international law,” and urging Ban to address the issue — this trenchant and news-worthy warning was totally blacked out by the U.S. corporate news media.

There was no news report on Patriota’s warning in the Washington Post, the New York Times or other major newspapers. There was no mention of it on CNN or other major news stations either.

As far as most Americans go, the statement by the foreign minister of one of the world’s biggest nations, and a leader among the developing nations of the world, never happened.

Instead, the American news media have been running article after article, often on page one above the fold, or as the lead item on the hour, debating when Israel might attack Iran, whether the U.S. would come to Israel’s aid if it did attack, or if after it attacked, Iran retaliated by firing missiles at Israel, the US would join Israel. Even worse, the media have been running and airing stories quoting Pentagon sources and retired military personnel (often still on the Pentagon payroll) describing how an Israeli or a US attack on Iran would likely be conducted. All this without mentioning the criminality of it all.

It’s as though we were siting in Germany in 1938, reading articles in the local newspapers speculating about how Germany’s future attack on Poland would be conducted, or when and how the Blitzkrieg against the Low Countries would play out.

What we are getting is not news. It is propaganda. The Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, had he not killed himself to avoid capture and execution for war crimes by the Allies at the end of the war, would surely marvel at how his methods are being aped and refined by the media in one of his leading democratic enemies some seven decades after he put the German media in service to the Third Reich.

At least the Los Angeles Times belatedly, on March 5, ran an op-ed article by Yale Law professor Bruce Ackerman making the point that a US attack on Iran would be both a war crime and a violation of US law. As he explains, since the US is a signatory of the UN Charter–a treaty ratified by the Senate — its provisions banning aggressive wars have become, under Article II of the US Constitution, an integral part of US law.

Ackerman notes that in 1981, when Israel unilaterally bombed and destroyed the Osirik nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the US voted for a unanimous UN Security Council Resolution condemning that attack, and he quoted then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose country also voted for the resolution, as saying, “Armed attack in such circumstances cannot be justified. It represents a grave breach of international law.”

But why is such information as Ackerman’s only appearing on the L.A. Times opinion page?

Ackerman is an authority on international law at one of the pre-eminent law schools in the country. He should be getting quoted as an authority in news articles where attacking Iran is being discussed. What he says about the U.N. Charter and about a war of aggression being flat-out illegal is not an opinion. It is a fact. He and this important fact belong on the news pages.

Bad enough that he is being relegated by the editors of the Los Angeles Times to the opinion page ghetto, but he is being totally ignored by the editors of other major news organizations. He is too dangerous even for their opinion pages.

When this kind of thing happens, it is clear that what passes for mainstream journalism in the US is not really journalism at all. It is propaganda–in this case pro-Israel, pro-war propaganda. That’s why we see calls in the US media for Iran to submit to UN inspection of its entire nuclear program, while no similar demand is made of Israel, which has some 300 nuclear weapons, and which has never allowed in any inspectors.

There is no difference between the war-mongering coverage by the mainstream media with respect to Iran today and the war-mongering coverage we experienced in 1982-1983 in the run-up to another criminal war of aggression, the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq — another country that posed no imminent threat to the United States.

Fortunately Americans willing to make the effort do have other sources of news. They could read the alternative US media, like this publication or perhaps look abroad, say at the Irish News Beacon online, where Patriota’s statement was reported properly as significant news. Unfortunately, most Americans are content to passively receive their “news” as it is vetted, twisted and spoon-fed to them from the corporate propaganda machine, though. This may explain why polls show more than 50 percent of Americans to be in support of a campaign to bomb Iran, while only 19 percent of Israelis, who still have real newspapers and real journalists at least, want to do the same thing.

Here’s more reasoning that you won’t read in corporate media about Iran and the supposed nuclear threat

The assumption that a short war of limited strikes will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon is flawed. Damage to Iran’s nuclear program from such a strike would be modest, likely requiring more strikes in another few years or a longer-term presence on the ground.

James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, said an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would set back its nuclear program by one to two years. U.S. military action every few years is an unmanageable strategy.

Worse, attempts to stop Iran’s program militarily will bolster its resolve to pursue a nuclear deterrent. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said the military solution will make Iranians “absolutely committed to obtaining nuclear weapons.” He continued, “… they will just go deeper and more covert.”

but what such a strike WILL do is plunge the area into further turmoil for another decade while depleting US military manpower, America’s financial coffers and her reputation throughout the world because of our inability to say no to a recalcitrant ally bent on the destruction of all those who say “no” to her.


A Personal Musing

A country’s greatness is not measured by how much liberty it offers people, how well it enforces its laws or exports successfully its ideology; rather a great society or country is measured by how well it preserves human life for its citizens as well as for the rest of human kind. This preservation is not limited to any one group of people, or boundary, but rather for all.  That said, I recently heard about a close personal friend’s spouse whose entire body at a relatively young age……somewhere in their late fifties is ravaged with the scourge of cancer.

The very word “cancer” is an attention getter for me.  It plagued my mother to her own untimely death….as if death at any time is timely, although I think for her after the torment it put her through she certainly welcomed it, and it causes me a certain amount of angst, uneasiness because of how it completely wrecks the body and the soul as it runs its course through our veins.  It is a disease  like no other…it attacks, it seems at random anyone.  Sure there are some cancers that can be prevented or at least diminished because of how we choose to live…..lung cancer comes to mind.  Cigarette smoking is usually seen as a major risk factor for that kind of cancer and it’s said some manifestations of cervical cancer can be prevented by avoiding sexual contact with an HPV infected partner, but the other cancers that strike at random, pancreatic the cancer that killed Steve Jobs and the gender related cancers of breast and prostate have taken an enormous toll on humanity, the geniuses among us as well as our loved ones and we seem to be mere spectators in the game.

I for one am angry at “leaders” who seem all to inclined to wage war with humanity, one group or race or ethnicity or nationality against the other and not wage war against a far more common enemy like cancer.  If we look at all the hue and cry about HIV, which was deserved by the way, and how far human kind has come in prolonging the lives of those who are infected with the AIDS virus, offering them an excellent quality of life, indeed life almost in the way they knew before being infected, we should take pause and pat ourselves and those institutions responsible for this success on the back.  Perhaps you know of someone who died because they were HIV positive….my personal hero, Arthur Ashe was one of those and I wish he was around to see and benefit from what human kind has accomplished.  That is an example of what we can do….all of us in beating a disease, by finding the cure, treating the disease and offering a good quality of life while afflicted with it, and by changing those factors and lifestyles that are risk factors for the disease.

So where are our leaders who are challenging all of us, the entire international community, to do the same with cancer?  Why are they talking about infringing on the rights and the bodies of people and not talking about how we must cure sick bodies?!  Why is there such preoccupation with what people can’t do with their bodies and not an equally ardent desire to see that their bodies remain healthy and disease free, even if that means at the government’s expense?  Before man reached the moon, we were challenged by John Kennedy and given parameters toward that goal.  Thereafter ensued a competition between America and Russia…conducted without the bloodshed of territorial expansionism that exists between nation states for a common good…and it doesn’t matter who won.  Later on as we’ve seen, other countries joined in to expand space discovery and to cooperate in it.  That took courage and a national determination or will to see it to completion along with leadership that set forth the challenge and provided the environment for the country to respond.  Where is that leadership today?

This is not a political rant, however, it’s a personal one.  Leadership cannot help my friend’s spouse now….they lay dying in their home while their partner spends thousands of dollars each month for something that for now doesn’t exist, and my question is why doesn’t it?  A country like ours which has everything materially at its disposal cannot find a cure for a disease that plagues us on the microscopic level?  I laugh at the notion. Certainly it can, but it will take courage and leadership and a recognition that finding this cure is urgent and of paramount importance.  It may mean reducing war inspired rhetoric and forays into foreign lands, or at least removing such talk from the national discourse.  That seems like such an easy thing to do, but ask one of the presidential candidates if he is willing to do that and see how quickly he squirms.  Even medical cures are political footballs that get tossed around in an effort to avoid being dealt with.

I know we are better than this…..this country of immigrants which has gone on to do such great things for humanity, can find the cure for cancers if we make it a priority and that we must.  If we don’t and we allow thousands to die every year then we are losing our humanity, valuable human resource potential and will only descend further into the oblivion, a nation that had potential and greatness but lost it because we were too busy fighting one another and dreaming up ghosts to fight.  America is not being threatened, nor is its way of life at risk to any one ideology or group of people, but we are risking our humanity by plunging ourselves deeper into self annihilation with any talk other than what can benefit human health and potential.  Perhaps we should declare a moratorium on all political rhetoric but human health issues, with cancer being the first priority among them.  Meanwhile I hope your loved one can escape cancer; I pray for my friend’s spouse and for all others who are now battling this disease. One victory against  cancer is a victory for all of us.  I  hope we are around to celebrate that victory.

Stay healthy.

Passing away and a sign of the times

Media personality Andrew Breitbart gives a spe...

Image via Wikipedia

This post is not just about the death of Andrew Breitbart but it begins there.  No matter how he might be described someone will always take exception to what is written about him, such is the polarization that has taken place in 21st century America.  Rather this post is about just that polarity and how it has descended into an abyss that’s liable to destroy this country aided by those other foreign or enemies.

Breitbart made a name for himself touting Republican conservative causes in a way that has become typical of today’s GOP; mean spirited, slanderous, character assassination, guttural proclamations that neither reveal nor make clear but rather obfuscate and exacerbate.  He joined the chorus of those who want to pit one group of Americans against another for a political gain that benefited special interests but not the entire American fabric.  He took great delight in today’s in-your-face style of political confrontation when he was the one who confronted, but not very happy with that style of discourse when he was confronted.

When I heard of his passing, I thought about all these characteristics that made the man and despite them still could not take pleasure or “gloat” as it were in his death.  I reserve that only for those who commit atrocities on the order of mass murder live long lives and publicly relish their desecration of humanity until the second they die.  As far as I know Breitbart, albeit a grandstanding demagogue,  didn’t fit that mold so he escaped my condemnation, and I tweeted as much upon hearing the news of his death.

Juan Cole’s, Informed Comment, a suitable title for this particular story on Breitbart put things in perspective here where he neither deifies nor vilifies Breitbart but does accurately describe what it is he did in his relatively short life on the public stage.  I knew those things about him, that he was a con man a huckster, a liar and a cheat, but didn’t want to speak ill of him.  It is an American tradition not to speak badly about those who are dead.  One blogger, The Erstwhile Conservative  that I read regularly remarked he didn’t want to ‘become what it is he doesn’t like’,  and I understand that sentiment and agree.  However, I was smacked back down to reality when I read this article that Cole linked to in his post above where Breitbart remarked upon the death of Ted Kennedy that Kennedy was a villain, a duplicitous bastard, a prick mixed with other choice words for the Senator.  So much for speaking ill about the dead; such language was the trademark of Breitbart, it marked his tenor and in fact the modus operandi of people from the “Right”.

There is a ray of hope however in the news of Breitbart’s death and that comes from one of his victims, Shirley Sherrod, who was falsely maligned by Breitbart, the Obama Administration and many in America because of our habit of  pitting one group of people against another… vs. white, Jew vs. Gentile (and particularly Muslim Gentile), male vs female.  Sherrod, an African-American Department of Agriculture employee was featured in a video segment highlighted by Breitbart and  portrayed as a insensitive government bureaucrat who refused to do her job and help a white farmer.  The problem was that perception fueled by Breitbart’s edited video wasn’t even close to reality but it was only after Sherrod had been fired from her job and her reputation  in the national community maliciously sullied that the truth was known.  In today’s America, we shoot first and ask questions later, or we ‘kill them all and let God sort it out’…..we cliche ourselves into oblivion and in the process ruin lives of noble, decent people like Sherrod.  It was this victim of the deceased Breitbart’s way of doing things that restored my faith in humanity with two simple sentences about his death

The news of Mr. Breitbart’s death came as a surprise to me when I was informed of it this morning. My prayers go out to Mr. Breitbart’s family as they cope during this very difficult time.

Maybe it’s me, but that seems, coming from a real victim to be almost Christ like….Christian.  Sure, many have said the same thing, but very few if any of them were at the receiving end of Breitbart’s spear in the gut, his malicious assassination (character) that happened to Sherrod, yet while in the throes of her torment (she’s still pursuing a law suit against Breitbart) she was able to make a plea on behalf of his family and NOT speak ill of the dead father/husband/son.  That’s the American spirit we are sorely missing in today’s discourse.  Notice who’s leading the way in bringing it back America………..