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DRONE WATCH: Activists Turned Away from Drone Convention

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is holding a convention this week in Las Vegas, with an expected 8,000 attendees, 500 exhibitors, and representatives from 40 countries. The Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith writes this morning that on Sunday, Franciscan Father Louis Vitale and CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin were informed their attendance was not desired as they were attempting to secure convention credentials. Smith explains:

“For Vitale, who served in the Air Force before joining the Franciscans, the advanced technology hasn't translated into cleaner combat. The much-touted precision of the drone aircraft has kept American military out of harm's way, but it hasn't eliminated the high price of civilian casualties in the war zones.

To many, this is part of the price paid to defeat a treacherous enemy and maintain our national security. To Vitale, Benjamin and their colleagues, it's too great a price. And then he asks, "What is the impact on the people, what is the impact on our own people?"

The priest believes the incidents of predator operators suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will be epidemic. His own experiences are anecdotal, he admits, but his conversations with British and U.S. military drone operators have been deeply troubling. Those onboard cameras not only spot suspected enemy targets, he notes, but they also reveal the damage wrought in unprecedented detail.”

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Syria: Medical Supplies Critically Low

From The Los Angeles Times:

Escalating violence in Syria has shut down pharmaceutical plants, piling another worry onto the woes facing the Syrian people: Severe shortages of medicine.

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday that growing clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and opposition fighters around the cities of Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo have damaged and closed many of the local plants that make the vast majority of medicines. The country produces most of its own pharmaceuticals.

Drugs to treat tuberculosis, hepatitis, diabetes and other maladies are urgently needed, along with chemical reagents to screen blood before it can be used for infusions for trauma and surgery patients, according to reports received by the United Nations agency.

Learn more here

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The Religious Left and Atheists: A Missed Partnership?

Writing for Salon, Adam Lee argues:

Despite their shared belief in God, the religious left actually has less in common with the religious right than it does with progressive, nonreligious Americans. But by choosing to play up the importance of religion and religious language, the liberal churches undermined their natural allies outside the pews, while strengthening those who insisted most loudly and most vehemently that society should be run according to the dictates of the Bible. This strategic blunder has guaranteed the relative isolation and diminished influence of the Christian left in the face of a rising tide of religious conservatism.

Read more here

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The Uncomfortable Questions Around Terrorism and Race

Conor Friedersdorf writes for The Atlantic:

Since 9/11, many Americans have conflated terrorism with Muslims; and having done so, they've tolerated or supported counterterrorism policies safe in the presumption that people unlike them would bear their brunt. (If Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD sent officers beyond the boundaries of New York City to secretly spy on evangelical Christian students or Israeli students or students who own handguns the national backlash would be swift, brutal, and decisive. The revelation of secret spying on Muslim American students was mostly defended or ignored.)     

In the name of counterterrorism, many Americans have given their assent to indefinite detention, the criminalization of gifts to certain charities, the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, and a sprawling, opaque homeland security bureaucracy; many have also advocated policies like torture or racial profiling that are not presently part of official anti-terror policy.

What if white Americans were as likely as Muslims to be victimized by those policies? What if the sprawling national security bureaucracy we've created starts directing attention not just to Muslims and their schools and charities, but to right-wing militias and left-wing environmental groups (or folks falsely accused of being in those groups because they seem like the sort who would be)?

Read more here

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Is Religion Damaging The GOP?

Over the weekend, Salon published an excerpt from Mike Lofgren's new book, The Party Is Over:

Having observed politics up close and personal for most of my adult lifetime, I have come to the conclusion that the rise of politicized religious fundamentalism may have been the key ingredient in the transformation of the Republican Party. Politicized religion provides a substrate of beliefs that rationalizes—at least in the minds of its followers—all three of the GOP’s main tenets: wealth worship, war worship, and the permanent culture war.

Religious cranks ceased to be a minor public nuisance in this country beginning in the 1970s and grew into a major element of the Republican rank and file. Pat Robertson’s strong showing in the 1988 Iowa presidential caucus signaled the gradual merger of politics and religion in the party. Unfortunately, at the time I mostly underestimated the implications of what I was seeing. It did strike me as oddly humorous that a fundamentalist staff member in my congressional office was going to take time off to convert the heathen in Greece, a country that had been overwhelmingly Christian for almost two thousand years. I recall another point, in the early 1990s, when a different fundamentalist GOP staffer said that dinosaur fossils were a hoax. As a mere legislative mechanic toiling away in what I held to be a civil rather than ecclesiastical calling, I did not yet see that ideological impulses far different from mine were poised to capture the party of Lincoln.

Read more of the excerpt here

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States Have Passed Fewer Immigration Laws in 2012

 

A recent study by The National Conference of State Legislatures shows that in 2012, states passed fewer immigration laws than previous years.

U.S. state legislatures passed fewer immigration measures this year because lawmakers' priorities shifted to balancing budgets and U.S. courts were weighing how much authority states have to enforce immigration laws, according to a study released on Monday.”

Read full story HERE.

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No 'Quick Fixes' For The Economy

Author and academic Jeffrey Sachs argues in a Huffington Post piece:

Investors are awaiting the miraculous delivery from crisis by the ECB and the Fed, but they are waiting in vain. The economic problems in the U.S. and Eurozone are mostly structural, not monetary. Unfortunately ideologues and politicians on both sides of the spectrum are interested in quick fixes rather than the real groundwork of economic progress.

Consider the new U.S. unemployment announcement. If you are a college graduate, there is no employment crisis. 72.7 percent of the college-educated population age-25 and over is working. The unemployment rate is 4.1 percent. Incomes are good.

If you have less than a high-school diploma, however, you are barely scrapping by. Only 40.4 percent of those without a high-school diploma have a job. Their unemployment rate is 12.7 percent. Incomes are too low to make ends meet.

There are two Americas: the college-educated crowd that may have taken a hit in their retirement accounts, but who are generally doing well. Then there are the rest, around 60 percent of the population, who are increasingly dropping out of the middle class. Nearly one-half of American households are now classified as low-income, within twice the poverty line.

Read more here

 

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Gerson: Romney Should Be Able to Share Faith

For The Washington Post, former presidential speechwriter, Mike Gerson, writes: 

In Tampa this month, Republicans will cheer themselves hoarse for a Mormon nominee. And a nation that carefully marks and celebrates every ethnic and religious first won’t take much notice. The Mormon church — for which visibility has often brought persecution — is unlikely to crow about the achievement. And Mitt Romney is probably getting advice to downplay his religion. That was the case in 2007, when Romney explained that he liked the idea of giving a speech on his faith, but “the political advisers tell me, ‘No, no, no, it’s not a good idea. It draws too much attention to that issue alone.’ ”

This cautiousness is understandable. In the typology of sociologists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, Mormons remain a rejected “out-group,” unlike accepted “in-groups” such as Catholics and Jews. Large majorities of Americans perceive Mormonism as “very different” from their own religious beliefs.

But in this case, the counsel of religious reticence is wrong. Romney should not be afraid to highlight his faith.

Read more of his column here

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Finding Common Ground on Climate Change

Fred Krupp writes in The Wall Street Journal:

One scorching summer doesn't confirm that climate change is real any more than a white Christmas proves it's a hoax. What matters is the trend—a decades-long march toward hotter and wilder weather. But with more than 26,000 heat records broken in the last 12 months and pervasive drought turning nearly half of all U.S. counties into federal disaster areas, many data-driven climate skeptics are reassessing the issue.

Respected Republican leaders like Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey have spoken out about the reality of climate change. Rupert Murdoch's recent tweet—"Climate change very slow but real. So far all cures worse than disease."—may reflect an emerging conservative view. Even Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, during public comments in June, conceded the reality of climate change while offering assurances that "there will be an engineering solution" and "we'll adapt."

Learn more here

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The Looming Election and Religious Minorities

Souad Mekhennet writes for The New York Times on the growing hostility toward religious minorities as election season approaches in the United States: 

Muslims in Western countries say they have gotten used to the fact that as elections get closer, politicians pump up the volume of accusations against them, whether they are Sunni, Shiite or of another sect. In some European nations, it was the debate over women wearing the veil that set off the attacks. Now in the United States, where pivotal elections are looming, accusations against Muslims have reached a new level. It seems to some that the days of McCarthyism are back.

Read more here

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