Shortchanging the American people

A recent article in The Nation, appearing not long after the horrible killings in San Bernardino, contained some interesting facts and observations about mass shootings and access to guns. But they were negated by its headline, “America Is Fine With Mass Shootings—as Long as They’re Not Perpetrated by Muslims,” which is then repeated almost word for word in the final paragraph.

But one has to ask, where’s the evidence for such a claim?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio reported that 68,000 children are now enrolled in the city’s pre-K program. No small thing for children and their families. And hats off to the Mayor who initiated the program following his election. Which all goes to prove: elections matter.

The Bad: Ted Cruz’s pledge, giving new life to the infamous words of segregationist George Wallace, to oppose legal status for immigrants, “today, tomorrow, forever.”

The Ugly: It’s a tie: Trump, Cruz, and Carson. In the recent Republican Party presidential debate, Trump said the families of terrorists should be killed; Cruz called for carpet bombing, and Carson came up with “boots the ground.” Is it that they have short memories? After all, what they advocate has been tried before with disastrous results. Or is it just pandering, knowing that recent terrorist attacks have caused a heightened sense of public insecurity and fear? Or do the Republican Party candidates believe that there are no limits to U.S. power, thanks to the U.S. military machine? My answer: They do have short memories; they are demagogues; and they are convinced that military power can preserve and expand U.S. global supremacy. What do you think?

Paris and beyond

Not surprisingly, the climate agreement signed by 195 countries in Paris last weekend triggered much commentary on its merit or lack thereof. But before I get to that, a few words about what the agreement says. First, the positives.

* The goal is to bring down the rise of global temperatures to zero by mid-century.

* A target temperature rise of no more than 2º C or 3.5º F was established.

A beautiful song and a modest proposal

While writing a commentary on the recently concluded climate change talks in Paris this morning, I heard a beautiful musical presentation of “Down by the Salley Gardens.” on WQXR, New York City’s classical music station. (The “Salley Gardens” was on the banks of the river at Ballysadare near Sligo County, Ireland, where the people cultivated trees to provide roof thatching materials.) The piece is based on a poem by the same name, written by the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats.

Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

The verse was subsequently set to music by others. And in listening to it this morning while at the same time writing a commentary on Paris and the climate crisis, two thoughts came to mind. One is that in a just and non-violent world every child should be surrounded and enriched by beauty in its myriad of forms. Or to paraphrase and take liberty with the poem of the great poet and visionary William Blake, every child should be “born to sweet delight.”

The other is that if we aren’t quite up to doing that, can we make a minimum commitment to do everything we can to make the world habitable and sustainable for this generation of children and those to come.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: Skilled auto workers at the Volkswagon plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee voted for union representation – United Automobile Workers Union (UAW). Small step for sure, but one that hopefully will lead to other bigger steps to organize auto workers and workers generally in South. Won’t be easy, but hard to imagine reshaping the political, economic, and cultural landscape of the South, or the country for that matter, without a much, much larger labor movement – not necessarily preceding, but rather embedded in and a decisive part of a broader process of political-social transformation.

The Bad (even though by any measure it fits into the ugly category): The comments of Justice (a misnomer) Anthony Scalia. In a hearing of the Supreme Court on the University of Texas’s admissions policy designed to promote a diverse student body, he said that minority students with inferior academic credentials may be better off at “a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”

“I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” Scalia added.

Which prompted this pointed remark by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) on the Senate floor to say that the only difference between Scalia and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is that “Scalia has a robe and a lifetime appointment.”

The Ugly: Trump’s proposal to bar Muslims from entering U.S. in the aftermath of the terrorist killings in San Bernardino, California. The organizing principle of his campaign is to exploit people’s fears, and, I’m afraid, with some success.

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