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Saturday, December 20, 2014 / PROGRESSIVE JOURNALISM FOR POSITIVE ACTION
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Maria Faini and Dave Pogue
NOC Featured Blogger
Published: Thursday 11 July 2013

In a recent piece titled “Belief Is the Least Part of Faith,” Dr. Luhrmann of Stanford University discusses her research on various Christian groups in the United States, and claims that the role of “belief” in religious life is “greatly overstated.” Citing studies on the social benefits of congregating, Luhrmann explains that, for most religious individuals, an actual belief in the truth of God and Jesus is less significant than the communal benefits of belonging to Christian organizations. Luhrmann’s article is striking in its discussion of the practical rather than traditional. Similar ideas have emerged among other Christian leaders as well. Most recently, Pope Francis made what became controversial remarks about the nature of salvation. During a homily in the chapel of the Domus Santa Marta, he claimed: “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ... Even the atheists. ... And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter. ... 'But I don't believe, Father, I am an atheist!' But do good: We will meet one another there.” The Pope also

Published: Wednesday 30 January 2013

The NRA owes Sam Harris a debt of gratitude. In his short piece Riddle of the Gun, Mr. Harris makes a more compelling defense of civilian gun ownership and critique of popular gun control measures than the NRA has been able to muster in the 140+ years of its existence. While recently the NRA has been preoccupied with spewing inflammatory rhetoric and taking cheap shots at President Obama, Sam Harris has put together a reasoned argument that all but the most closed-minded of liberal political thinkers will find difficult to dismiss. Harris reaches a varied audience because he forces his readers to set aside moral judgments on the inherent value of guns in public life and, instead, discusses in detail the plausibility of political suggestions on both sides of the gun control debate. Acknowledging that a world without the necessity of guns would be most desirable, Harris goes on to explain that the reality of a world without guns today (or a world where only law enforcement officers have guns) would not be a great place to live. In such a world, people would be helpless against other aggressive people with the advantages of youth, physical strength, and/or sheer numbers. Harris claims that we can call 911, but if a person breaks into our home with the intent to harm us, we cannot reasonably expect police or other protectors to arrive in time to stop violence. Harris also points out that most of the gun control measures being discussed by U.S. lawmakers in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre are mere symbolic gestures which will have little effect on our nation’s problem with gun ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012

Every December, radio stations across the country play Christmas songs.  In recent years, a song titled “Christmas Shoes” found its way into the rotation.  It tells the story of an impoverished child ("His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe") standing in line at a store trying to scrape together enough change to buy a pair of shoes for his mother, who is going to die soon from a terminal illness.  The boy doesn't have enough money, so the narrator, moved by the boy’s plight, pays for the shoes.  Bidding a grateful farewell, the boy rushes to give the shoes to his mother before she passes away, and the narrator muses that God sent the boy to remind him of what Christmas is all about. The song is hardly controversial. Most people with a conscience would have helped such a boy.  Yet when it comes to larger commitments to helping the less fortunate, such as ensuring their access to health care, the controversy of the song’s scenario is clear. The real tragedy of the song, assuming that it is set in contemporary America, is that the boy’s mother probably didn’t have to die an untimely death.   For instance, if we had universal health care, the boy’s mother would have been able to afford yearly doctor visits and preventative screenings that might have caught her illness at an early stage and likely saved her life.  Instead, under our current system, the uninsured have no access to health care until things are so bad that they have to go to the emergency room, which in many cases is too late.  Nearly everyone agrees ...

Published: Wednesday 21 November 2012
“Put simply, valuing public education is about wanting the best education possible to be accessible to as many people as possible.”

A video depicting a young boy plunging into dark water, his mouth gaping and arms flailing, his body surrounded by bubbles and what sounds like muffled screams, has been released as part of the newly formed “Too Small To Fail” campaign. As the boy struggles, text appears over the image stating “Can't watch one child in danger? You do it every day. Stop watching.” “Too Small To Fail” is a social media campaign in response to the looming “fiscal cliff.” Sponsored by the Center for the Next Generation, the campaign focuses on raising awareness about the issues most affecting children in the United States--issues such as health care and socio-economic status. The cause’s primary focus is a debate likely to be shunned from budget discourse: the necessity of adequately funded public education. With the fiscal cliff approaching, debates about revenue are growing even more heated. Obama’s request to raise revenue by letting the Bush tax cuts for the highest tax bracket expire is meeting vehement resistance. Republicans accuse Democrats of stifling competition and engaging in “class warfare.” They assert that the wealthy are already being “taxed to death” and that any tax increase, no matter how small, will have devastating effects on the economy.   The reality, however, is that, relative to history, the top marginal income tax rate is very low. Indeed, from 1936 to 1981, the income tax rate on the top tax bracket never dropped below 70%. Today, the rate is half that (35%), and, with the exception of the five-year period between 1988 and 1992, is the lowest it’s been since 1931. Thus, the assertion that the wealthy are facing an abnormally high income tax burden is nonsense. The claim that a modest tax increase will hurt the economy ...

ABOUT Maria Faini and Dave Pogue
Maria Faini is a PhD student and instructor at the University of California, Berkeley. Dave Pogue is an attorney in Charleston, West Virginia.
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