- Created on 22 April 2013
The United States Senate’s failure to pass common sense gun safety measures – the Manchin-Toomey Amendment to expand background checks to keep guns away from underage or dangerous people, and amendments to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines designed only to kill as many human beings as possible — is a moral failure of great magnitude. Once again, the safety of children has been sacrificed by political leaders in service to the gun lobby. As Americans do we value guns more than the lives of children? Do we really want to continue to have political leaders who kowtow to the threats and money and half-truths of the gun lobby and who think their political jobs are more important than the right of children to live and learn and grow up in safety?
The fight to protect children, not guns is not over because:
Ninety percent of Americans want a universal background check. This includes 94 percent of North Dakota voters, 89 percent of Indiana voters, 89 percent of New Hampshire voters, 84 percent of Arkansas voters, and 79 percent of Montana voters—all states where at least one senator went against the will of their constituents and of the American people. Getting 90 percent of Americans to agree on anything is extremely difficult.
No one elected the National Rifle Association to be in charge of our children’s and our nation’s safety. We have elected federal, state, and local governments, a national defense department, and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to perform this crucial function. The NRA represents less than 10 percent of gun owners and is a minority view. Their stance against universal background checks defies not only 90 percent of all Americans, but 88 percent of those with a gun in the household and 74 percent of the NRA’s own membership. The NRA claims up to 5 million members but there are many more Americans who are not NRA members. We must lift our voices and use our votes to protect children over guns.
Lies and misinformation must not rule the day in a democratic society. The NRA claimed that the Manchin-Toomey Amendment would prevent people from transferring guns to relatives and lead to a gun registry. Neither is true. As co-sponsor Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), an “A” rated NRA member, said: “That is simply a lie . . . You can loan your hunting rifle to your buddy without any new restrictions . . . You can give or sell a gun to your brother or your sister, your cousin, your uncle, your co-worker without a background check. You can post a gun for sale on the cork bulletin board at your workplace or on your church bulletin board without a background check.”
Senator Manchin also said, “[Anybody] that has read that bill that would think that would allow or entice the government to begin a registry is misleading and lying.” The NRA may have won the first round by spreading lies and confusion, but they must not and will not win in the end. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “However difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because ‘truth crushed to earth will rise again.’ How long? Not long, because ‘no lie can live forever.’”
Our children have a right to grow up in a caring and decent society that protects their right to live and learn in safety. That right must take precedence over anyone’s right to own assault weapons or high capacity magazines that have nothing to do with self-defense or hunting and have no place in the hands of non-military and non-law enforcement personnel. Without these weapons of war applied to our children, how many would be alive today? How many Newtown or Aurora or Columbine victims would have survived?
There have been 166,562 children and teens who have died since 1965 from guns on American soil, while 52,280 U.S. soldiers were killed in action in the Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq wars combined. On average during that period, 3,470 children and teens were killed by guns every year – 174 classrooms of 20 children. This is intolerable in a decent and democratic society. When will the number of children killed by guns in our country be sufficient for enough of our Congressional leaders to pass common sense gun safety laws to protect them as Connecticut, New York, Colorado, and Maryland have recently done?
I hope that everyone who believes in protecting our children’s right to live and grow up will become as vocal and passionate and organized as those who seek more and more dangerous weapons of death in a nation already saturated with more than 300 million guns. We must stop this relentless war against our children and dethrone the NRA whose reign obstructs what 90 percent of Americans want.
I woke up the morning after the Senate votes thinking about Sojourner Truth, one of my role models, a brilliant and indomitable slave woman who could neither read nor write but who was passionate about ending unjust slavery and second-class treatment of women. At the end of one of her antislavery talks in Ohio, a man came up to her and said, “Old woman, do you think that your talk about slavery does any good? Do you suppose people care what you say? Why, I don’t care anymore for your talk than I do for the bite of a flea.” “Perhaps not,” she answered, “but, the Lord willing, I’ll keep you scratching.”
Some of our Senators have just told us that they don’t care what 90 percent of us want and have closed their ears to the pleas of those who have lost their children and family members to gun violence. But we must be determined and persistent fleas until we move them either to change their minds or kick them out of office. I hope enough of us will bite them, bite them, and bite them until they do care about the children whose lives have been cut short and those at risk of the same fate. Enough fleas biting strategically can make the biggest dog uncomfortable. And if they flick some of us off but even more of us keep coming back and biting with our calls, emails, visits, nonviolent direct action protests, and votes (the most important nonviolent protest)—we’ll win.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
- Created on 19 April 2013
It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared. -The late National Urban League and civil rights leader, Whitney M. Young, Jr.
Last week, during the National Urban League’s 10th annual Legislative Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., we released the 37th edition of the "State of Black America, Redeem the Dream: Jobs Rebuild America." This year’s report commemorates the racial milestones that have occurred in the 50 years since the height of the civil rights movement and shines a sobering light on the unfinished business of achieving full equality and empowerment for every citizen.
One of the most encouraging signs in the report is the progress African Americans have made in fulfilling Whitney Young’s vision of preparing ourselves for real and hoped for opportunities through education.
Since 1963, the high school completion gap has closed by 57 percentage points. There are more than triple the number of Blacks enrolled in college. And for every college graduate in 1963, there are now five.
Anti-poverty measures have also improved our living standard since 1963. The percentage of Blacks living in poverty has declined by 23 points. And the percentage of Blacks who own their homes has grown by 14 points.
But these numbers don’t tell the full story. While Black America has achieved double-digit gains in educational attainment, employment, and wealth over the past 50 years, we still have made only single-digit gains against Whites. With an Equality Index of 71.7 percent, African Americans enjoy less than three-fourths of the well-being and economic status of White Americans. Similarly, Hispanic Americans, with an index of 75.4 percent, are experiencing only three-quarters of the full opportunity America has to offer.
For example, in the past 50 years, the Black-White income gap has only closed by 7 points (now at 60 percent). The unemployment rate gap has only closed by 6 points (now at 52 percent). And with March unemployment figures showing African American joblessness now at 13.3 percent and Hispanic unemployment at 9.2 percent, compared to an overall rate of 7.6 percent, we still see a tale of two Americas that continues to break down along the color line.
But rather than bemoan these problems, the National Urban League is using these findings to sharpen our focus on meaningful solutions. Earlier this year, we launched a ground-breaking endeavor Jobs Rebuild America, a $70 million series of public/private investments to create pathways to jobs and put urban America back to work.
But Washington must also be part of the solution. During our visit to Capitol Hill this week, we reiterated our support of the Urban Jobs Act and the Project Ready STEM Act, a bill sponsored by Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge. We also support the stated goal in the president’s 2014 budget released last week: to invest in the things needed to grow our economy and create jobs while reducing the deficit in a way that does not unfairly impact the most vulnerable communities.
Again, while much progress has been made over the past 50 years, The State of Black America remains a tale of two Americas. The National Urban League has put some real solutions on the table. Its time for Washington to put them to work.
To obtain a copy of the "State of Black America" visit www.nul.org.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.
- Created on 18 April 2013
How many more people have to die before our increasingly useless Congress does the bare minimum to assure its constituents “we do occasionally give a smidgen of a damn about y’all"?
We can all reset our clocks now and begin the count following the defeat of the bipartisan compromise (eh) known as the Manchin-Toomey amendment. The vote on the...
- Created on 19 April 2013
Yes, indeed, and it is documented that the growth of natural gas production is creating jobs, expanding manufacturing at a rate that was inconceivable a few years ago. The reason for all of this is fracking. The formal name is hydraulic fracturing. It is a process for extracting natural gas from underground rock formations (shales). It’s clean and safe despite the contrary claims of environmental extremists.
Fracking was invented by Floyd Farris in 1947. His tools were drilling instruments, water and sand. The popularity and production of the use was rather slow until 1997 when energy engineers devised certain chemicals to mix with the water. It was then that the process became more cost effective. Now it is estimated that more than 60 percent of all oil and gas wells in the world are being fracked. Of late, engineers in Canada are introducing a waterless form of fracking. U.S. companies have not yet utilized the process. They are so happy with the current utilization.
Happy they should be. Through fracking our nation has become the number one producer of natural gas in the world. The estimates of our reserves keep being increased as new shales are being discovered all the time. We have the cheapest priced natural gas as a result of our great supplies. In fact, we are now exporting natural gas to other nations. Japan, for instance, has a natural gas price that is four times that of the U. S. Consequently, Japan is our number one market for exporting. In addition, many nations of Europe and elsewhere are good customers of our energy companies. These are new found dollars and job creations. Our liquefied natural gas (LNG) import facilities have now been refitted for exporting. This is great.
Right now, our natural gas energy industry is responsible for more than 3 million jobs. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that one million more jobs will be created by the middle of the next decade. They also report: Dow Chemical plans to build a new ethylene unit on the Gulf Coast by 2017. Formosa Plastics plans to spend 1.5 billion dollars on an ethylene plant and downstream assets in Texas by 2015. Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. announced a feasibility study to be completed this year on the merits of constructing an ethane cracker and ethylene derivatives facilities at a current site on the Gulf Coast. Bayer Corporation is reported to be discussing opportunities with chemical companies to build an ethane cracker at current sites in the middle of the Marcellus shale basin (Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland). Westlake Chemical will expand ethylene capacity in Louisiana by the end of 2012 and again in 2014. Shell Oil is building a petrochemical refinery in the Appalachians. Nucor is building a $750 million direct-reduced iron facility in Louisiana near the Haynesville Shale. This is all a result of the low cost of natural gas.
Some states may miss out on all this growth. New York and Maryland officials are trying to limit fracking in their states. That is fine with Pennsylvania and other neighboring states who are witnessing an economic boom within their borders. Pennsylvania has received more than $400 million in impact fees alone during the first two years of exploration of its portion of the Marcellus shale. There is no justification to limit or stop fracking. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been trying to find a reason but so far there is nothing to point a finger at.
In fact, Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s nominee for the Secretary of Energy, has just told Congress, “A stunning increase in production of domestic natural gas in recent years was nothing less than a revolution that has led to reduced emissions of carbon dioxide. The natural gas boom also has led to a dramatic expansion of manufacturing and job creation …brought about by widespread use of fracking and it must continue.”
Shale gas now accounts for 30 percent of total gas consumption compared with just 1 percent in 2000. Again, we have gone from being the world’s largest gas importer to being self-sufficient and a major exporter. Natural gas vehicles use a technique known as Compressed Natural Gas that has an affordable price of $1.95 per gallon. It is just amazing.
All of this growth will give local, state and the federal governments billions of new dollars via payroll, corporate and property taxes. New restaurants, hotels, homes, schools etc. will be built to accommodate the new workers and their families. God has truly blessed us.
So now, let’s build the Keystone Pipeline and start doing more oil exploration on federal lands and off shore.
- Created on 18 April 2013
Two years ago, President Obama instituted a policy towards Africa that most Americans are totally unaware of. The policy sent shock waves throughout the continent of Africa that are still reverberating to this day.
This policy was a direct affront to African sovereignty and very few voices in America stood up for African countries and their sovereignty. Yet, America doesn’t have the guts to replicate this policy in any other part of the world except Africa.
I have been travelling back and forth to Africa for decades and have learned that the only way to understand foreign policy is by travelling. Yes, I have a B.S. in accounting from Oral Roberts University and a M.A. in International Business from George Mason University, but my understanding of foreign policy came only with travel.
One must understand that foreign policy often times is not logical or even consistent. There can be two countries with similar issues, but we have different policies towards them based on our own national interests. Our policy towards Africa vis-a-vis the Middle East is a case in point.
On December 6, 2011, Obama had Hillary Clinton give a pro-homosexual rights speech. The speech took place in Geneva at the United Nation’s Human Rights Day conference. In that speech, Clinton said “gay rights are human rights.” Clinton basically codified homosexual rights as an official part of our foreign policy. Obama is the first president in U.S. history to make such a linkage.
In another unprecedented move, the Obama administration went on to direct U.S. government agencies to consider gay rights when making aid and asylum decisions. In October of 2011, USAID – the U.S. government agency providing economic and humanitarian assistance around the world – announced that it “strongly encourages” businesses contracted with USAID to go beyond non-discrimination protections, to prohibit job bias for LGBT employees and other workers.
Then British Prime Minister, David Cameron was even more direct, stating that the “UK would reduce some aid to countries that refuse to recognize gay rights.”
These not so subtle threats by both Clinton and Cameron were directed specifically at Africa. Culturally, Africa is one of the most conservative regions anywhere in the world and it absolutely do not support homosexual rights.
This is one area where I am very proud of Africa. It is not easy to stand up to super powers such as the U.S. and the U.K., but this issue goes to the core of Africa’s moral fiber and they refused to be bullied. Ghana, Uganda and Zimbabwe are just three of many of the African countries that took a very public stand against the imperial powers of the U.S. and the U.K.
Ugandan presidential adviser, John Nagenda told the BBC, “that fellow [Cameron] said the same thing. Now this woman [Clinton] is interfering. If the Americans think they can tell us what do, they can go to hell.” Touché!
The Obama administration has tried to lecture Africa countries because of their opposition to homosexuality, but will not say a word about the human rights violations going on in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Egypt just to name a few. The Middle East in particular is one of the most repressive regions of the world when it comes to women and homosexual rights. So, why lecture Africa while remaining silent on the Middle East? The answer is obvious: Because the Middle East is deemed to be more important to our national security interests than Africa,(though that balance is slowly changing.
As I stated, foreign policy is not always logical or consistent.
I find it amazing that the homosexual community wants us to change our views on homosexuality, but they are unwilling to change their views on heterosexuality. So, they believe in equality only when it is a one-way street.
It is no coincidence that Obama had Clinton give that speech 11months before the 2012 elections. It was a purely political and cynical move.
How can we continue lecture other countries about something that we’re unwilling to do in the U.S.? I am a fervent believer in conditionality when it comes to foreign affairs; but to interfere with the sovereign moral affairs of a country is a dangerous precedent.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.