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In Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery

Today is the United Nations’ International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade:

In commemoration of the memory of the victims, the General Assembly, in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be observed annually. The resolution called for the establishment of an outreach programme to mobilize educational institutions, civil society and other organizations to inculcate in future generations the “causes, consequences and lessons of the Transatlantic slave trade, and to communicate the dangers of racism and prejudice”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote:

By studying slavery, we help to guard against humanity’s most vile impulses. By examining the prevailing assumptions and beliefs that allowed the practice to flourish, we raise awareness about the continued dangers of racism and hatred. And by honouring slavery’s victims — as we do with this International Day, with a permanent memorial that will be established at the UN Headquarters complex in New York, and with the observance of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent — we restore some measure of dignity to those who had been so mercilessly stripped of it.

March 25, 2011 Posted by | History | , | Comments Off

Celebrating the King James Bible?

The 400th anniversary of the King James Bible will be celebrated next year in Britain. As Giles Fraser warns, the KJB is:

…an attempt by the Church of England to control the religious and cultural agenda. A team of academics was established in 1604 to translate the Bible in such a way that it bolstered the authority of the established church. James I gave the specific instruction that the translation must toe the official line on the importance of bishops. The Greek word ekklesia was to be translated as “church”, rather than “congregation” or “assembly” – the translators thus giving the impression that the Bible proposes a top-down form of ecclesiastical authority. James insisted no notes were to be made in the margins of the text; it was in this dangerous commentary that the previous, more radical Geneva Bible had dared to question the divine right of kings.

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Cultural, History | , | Comments Off

Reality denial as a major U.S. industry

Reality denial as a major industry, pretending to be news and thoughtful commentary.

In a remarkable story, Steven Thomma of McClatchy Newspapers writes:

Reaching for an example of how bad socialism can be, former House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said recently that the people who settled Jamestown, Va., in 1607 were socialists and that their ideology doomed them.

“Jamestown colony, when it was first founded as a socialist venture, dang near failed with everybody dead and dying in the snow,” he said in a speech March 15 at the National Press Club.

It was a good, strong story, helping Armey, a former economics professor, illustrate the dangers of socialism, the same ideology that he and other conservatives say is at the core of Obama’s agenda.

It was not, however, true.

The Jamestown settlement was a capitalist venture financed by the Virginia Company of London — a joint stock corporation — to make a profit. The colony nearly foundered owing to a harsh winter, brackish water and lack of food, but reinforcements enabled it to survive. It was never socialistic. In fact, in 1619, Jamestown planters imported the first African slaves to the 13 colonies that later formed the United States.

Please read the entire piece, which covers a long list of similarly eye-popping cases, here.

April 4, 2010 Posted by | History | Comments Off

Minority young children become the majority [not extinct]

Straightforward demographics trump shrill cries that “Black Children Are An Endangered Species.” Black, brown, red and yellow children are apparently the majority of their age group now, just as current minority groups are projected to become the summary majority in 2042.

Minority children have been moving toward majority status for some time, not toward extinction. In 2009, 48 percent of the children born in the United States were members of minority groups. And growth continued so that, according to projections from the latest U.S. Census data by researchers at the University of New Hampshire (UNH), the tipping point passed.

Kenneth Johnson, UNH professor of sociology and senior demographer at the UNH Carsey Institute, and Daniel Lichter, Ferris Family Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, said [.pdf] in a paper published Wednesday in the Journal Population and Development Review:

We do not need to rely on Census projections or wait until 2042 to observe the putative demographic implications of growing racial and ethnic diversity in American society. Our research documents the demographic forces that have placed today’s young people in the vanguard of America’s new racial and ethnic diversity. The seeds of diversity are being sown today by immigration and high fertility, which are revealed in growing racial and ethnic diversity among America’s children and youth. In many parts of the United States, the future is now.

Why? Most women of childbearing age are members of minority groups:

A key reason for the growing child diversity is the changing mix of women in their prime child-bearing years (20-39 years old). From 1990 to 2008, the number of non-Hispanic white women in prime child-bearing years decreased 19 percent while the number of minority women increased 40 percent. In 1990, 63 percent of all births were to non-Hispanic white women; in 2008, 52 percent were to non-Hispanic white women.

It is irresponsible to artificially elevate racial tensions in any context, but it is especially so in times of demographic transition when there is already tension over the costs of transition. The demographers speak directly to the most immediate concern when they write [.pdf]:

It has been more than 25 years since Samuel Preston (1984) argued that America’s declining fertility rates, increasing longevity, and consequent aging of the population have had the effect of shifting the nation’s resources from the young to the old. The social and economic realities of children had deteriorated while the circumstances of the elderly had improved. Our results raise an additional demographic complication for children (Hernandez 1993). That is, will America’s older, largely white population—through the ballot box and collective self-interest—support young people who are now much different culturally from themselves and their own children? Will they vote, for example, to raise taxes for schools that serve young people of ethnic backgrounds different from theirs? Preston (1984: 448) worried that “Americans have never had any strong sense of collective responsibility for other people’s children, only private responsibility for their own.” This may be especially true if “other people’s children” are largely minority, disproportionately poor, and live in separate communities. In fact, Poterba (1997) found that the presence of large fractions of elderly residents in a jurisdiction was associated with significantly lower per-child educational spending, especially if the elderly and children were of different races.

For the sake of the young who are alive, and for the sake of those yet to be born, this is a time to build more bridges.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | History, Politics | , , , , | 5 Comments

In honor of a man and an unfinished task

Today as we have since 1986 we honor the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luthern King Jr.

In 1969, on the day before his assassination he said:

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | History | | Comments Off

Israel reqests Vatican wartime archives on Pius XII be opened

Open the Vatican’s WWII archives so that questions about the WW II papacy of Pius XII can be answered and Catholic/Jewish tension reduced, was Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom’s request to Pope Benedict on Sunday.

This shortly after the pope’s visit to the main Jewish synagogue in Rome, Italy, where by way of welcome the president of Rome’s Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, told him “the silence of Pius XII before the Shoah [Holocaust], still hurts because something should have been done.

“Maybe it would not have stopped the death trains, but it would have sent a signal, a word of extreme comfort, of human solidarity, towards those brothers of ours transported to the ovens of Auschwitz,” Pacifici said.

The pope replied that the Vatican helped Jews and “provided assistance, often in a hidden and discreet way.” He also asked forgiveness for the church’s contribution to anti-Semitism and urged Jews and Christians “to come together to strengthen the bonds which unite us and to continue to travel together along the path of reconciliation and fraternity.”

Israel’s answer, then, is something like “Good. Prove it.” And a review of Reuter’s timeline of Vatican-Jewish relations shows how the rising Catholic/Jewish tension of the Joseph Ratzinger papacy led to Israel’s request and provoked some (notably Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, president of Italy’s rabbinical assembly) to boycott the pope’s visit to the Rome synagogue. They were aware that the pope had been unilaterally invited, but would not accept his “clarification” of the decision to recognize the “heroic virtues” of Pius XII.

Tension over the matter can also be seen in B’nai B’rith Europe’s online petition opposing beatification of Pius XII.

The issue also provoked a request in 2005 by Jewish leaders to open the Vatican’s WW II archives when Pope Benedict visited the Cologne synagogue.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi last month tried to excuse keeping the archives closed:

In this specific case it is comprehensible that there should be a request to have open access to all possibilities of research on the documents. Yet for the complete opening of the archives– as has been said on a number of occasions in the past– it is necessary to organize and catalog an enormous mass of documentation, something which still requires a number of years’ work.

Six and a half decades after the close of the period in question?

One need not be Jewish to wonder why the archives would not be opened now when it is clear that there is not only no resolution like well-verified truth, but also no likely resolution to this matter but a public review of those archival materials.

January 18, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, History, Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

Religious Freedom Day

January 16 is Religious Freedom Day, commemorating the Virginia General Assembly’s adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s landmark Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom on January 16, 1786. In his proclamation | [.pdf] this year, President Barack Obama writes:

The Virginia Statute was more than a law. It was a statement of principle, declaring freedom of religion as the natural right of all humanity — not a privilege for any government to give or take away. Penned by Thomas Jefferson and championed in the Virginia legislature by James Madison, it barred compulsory support of any church and ensured the freedom of all people to profess their faith openly, without fear of persecution. Five years later, the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights followed the Virginia Statute’s model, stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”.

This is a good time to review both the frequently misstated history of religious freedom in the United States, and the frequently misdescribed current law: Religious Expression in American Life: A Joint Statement of Current Law.

The struggle to variously redefine the former and rewrite the latter is ongoing.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Education, History, Law | | 1 Comment

Puerto Rican blogger grieves Haiti’s loss

Global Voices, a globe-spanning blog community that was born at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has created a resource-rich Haiti Earthquake 2010 aggregation.

There a Puerto Rican blogger writes of Haiti’s regional significance:

I have an old debt with Haiti. We all have. Haiti is the first womb, the place where the Caribbean was born, it’s the Africa from within, the unnamable pain, the scar. It was the first country in America where a black person dared think of himself as free, to think of himself as a leader of the people (Toussaint L’ouverture).

Haiti has paid heavily for this impertinence.

They are still paying.

The Old Empire that harbored a revolution (Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité) for the West has not forgiven them. Even they have not forgiven themselves, like those who have made a parody of the initial dreams of liberty, fraternity and equality (Henry Christophe, Duvalier, Aristide). And now this. Haiti under rubbles.

What sort of ancestral crime we have not finished paying for?

Why does the earth hate us so much (Le Damnées de la Terre, always, les damnées de la terre)?

How do we get up now?

Because the Caribbean cannot walk without Haiti.

It stumbles, it hits the dust.

It cannot keep on dreaming the dream that gave birth to it. It cannot keep on trying (egalité, fraternité, liberté) to make it a reality.

Haiti is falling again. And we are also falling.

We cannot keep on walking.

Not without Haiti.

Without Haiti we all fall.

There is so much more. Please visit and explore.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | History, WWW | , | Comments Off

What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? The Do Right Foundation is nothing of the sort, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports:

The Institute for Historical Review, the Holocaust-denying hate group created in 1978 by anti-Semitic patriarch Willis Carto, has had few better friends over the past decade than a Las Vegas resident named James Edward McCrink. A foundation created and controlled by McCrink gave the institute at least $10,000 a year from 2001 through 2007 — $137,000 altogether, according to the foundation’s annual reports to the Internal Revenue Service.

There’s more.

December 6, 2009 Posted by | History, Politics | , | 1 Comment

Who’s Foxy Loxy in this story?

The sky isn’t falling but you might want to keep a close eye on the wall of separation between church and state.

When news broke about a proposed Christian prison in Oklahoma, the leading proponent told the Tulsa World, “If Chicken Little doesn’t come to town, we’ll be open in 16 months.”

Bill Robinson, the founder of Corrections Concepts Inc., was referencing the childhood fable where a chicken that gets hit on the head with an acorn causes something of a panic by claiming that the sky is falling.

In this case, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which issued a warning about the prison, knows the difference between a nut and the atmosphere.

November 20, 2009 Posted by | Churches, History | , , , , , | Comments Off

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