Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Nancy Pelosi Stands Up To Theocratic Error And Hate

First Published on 1/27/2015 in DelawareLiberal by ProgressivePopulist


Theological error from none other than Nancy Pelosi's highly credentialed (by his organization) Canon Law expert in the Diocese of San Francisco.

“This has been the consistent teaching of the Church from the very beginning, a teaching already discernible in the natural moral law, and so a teaching from which no Catholic can dissent in good conscience,” he said.

These are the words of Nancy Pelosi's Archbishop in San Francisco.  His name is Salvatore Cordileone who not long ago partnered with the Mormon Church in opposing marriage equality in the California Prop. 8 fight.  He was responding to a press inquiry directed to him in the aftermath of an interview by Rep. Pelosi where she avoided taking a position on whether an unborn fetus of 20 weeks was a human being.  The interview took place on January 22 in conjunction with current Republican legislation further undermining the law of the land per Roe v. Wade and the right of women to choose.

Pitted against a conservative canon  law theologian, she avoided answering because as a professed Catholic and mother of five children and a lawmaker, she well understood the history of her Church as ambiguous and historically contradictory on this question.   The same is true of the Church's position overall on abortion.

Canonical penalties for abortion changed over the centuries.  Women (yes, only the women) convicted of abortion in the early Church were subject to exile.  Then, later "Women who commit abortion before the fetus has life shall do penance for one year or for the three forty day periods or for forty days, according to the nature of the offense;...."

Later, women were excluded from communion for life; then, amended to exclusion from communion for ten years.

The penalty for murder, in contrast, was the ultimate punishment....excommunication.

Never dealt with by the Church or the good Archbishop is the biological fact that 50% of all pregnancies result in spontaneous abortions.  That is, either the Catholic God allowing the forces of nature they believe he created prevail, or actual direct causal action by their Creator to initiate the abortion.  Archbishop, how do you square the laws of nature with your view of "natural moral law"?

These issues never have been ruled on with so called infallibility; theologians have disagreed for centuries on both when human life is present in a fetus and whether abortion of any type is "murder."  And she speaks as a lawmaker for both Catholic and believers of other faiths, or no faith in her elected position.

But, clearly she has a more informed grasp of her Church's erratic history on these issues than this highly trained theologian, who was assigned by a discredited Pope to straighten out those rebellious San Franciscans on liberalism, homosexuality and gay marriage a couple of years back.

Catholics, including authoritative theologians such as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and several Popes including Innocent II and  Gregory XIV have indeed dissented on these questions.   Salvatore, indeed your Church has not been "consistent" from the very beginning as you incorrectly cite history.

Further, Salvatore, your position was not written into centuries of your Canon Law until about 100 years ago.  But, also written into Canon Law of all these centuries is the Law of Primacy of Conscience.  The Vatican even today has acknowledged that is does not know when the fetus becomes a person.  Thus, your Law makes these matters a moral choice by the "faithful" empowered by this Law in defining legitimate laws and norms.

Nancy Pelosi and millions of other American Catholics properly exercise their right to their own conscience and moral choice on these matters.  You, sir,  have distorted your appointed role as teacher and shepherd of your flock  into that of a bully.

Thank you leader Pelosi for not being intimidated by the bully and for taking the time and effort to understand your Church's history and their Law on matters impacting women and families worldwide, irrespective of whether they submit to his authority or prefer to have their choices governed with their own conscience.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Proof: Republicans Are Incapable Of Governing

 First Published in DelawareLiberal on January 22, 2015 by ProgressivePopulist


Barely starting their majority rule  in this new Congress, the Republicans, not satisfied with a visionless, utterly barren domestic policy are now usurping the Constitutional powers of the Executive branch in foreign affairs/policy.

Their sabotaging of the very difficult Iranian nuclear negotiations secured by a very competent Democratic Executive administration is beyond stupid.  There is simply nothing for the nation to lose in seeing through these negotiations to whatever conclusion is reached.  Yet Boehner and McConnell are determined to undermine this effort.  Is there some noble purpose behind their blundering effort to undermine the talks?

No.  Rather, this is an attempt to avert any possible credit for a Democratic Administration in securing yet another diplomatic success in averting a potential war.  Nothing high minded here.

This sabotage not being satisfying enough, now they are usurping Presidential prerogatives in foreign affairs by extending an invitation to Netanyahu to address Congress two weeks before his own very hotly contested election with the expressed purpose of displaying the very contentious disagreement between our country and and much of Israel on the Iranian nuclear power issue.  This of course in an opportunity in both campaign fund raising for Bibi in the U.S.A. and a chance to further dampen his tenuous relationship with our President Obama.  Some noble purpose here?  Nope.  Pure partisan politics and the chance to create a Constitutional crisis.

All of this in the wake of a clear Democratic Party success for America in mostly shutting down two catastrophic Republican wars.  These wars which had a major role in the Republican financial collapse of our economy President Obama has had to invest most of his Presidency in fixing.

Governing is about averting and correcting crises.  Not creating them.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reflections On My Civil Rights Awakening

First Published in this blog in August, 2013. 

The events in Washington D.C. this week inspire me to share my story about racial justice awareness in my life of just past three quarters of a century.  My intent is to create reflection on what MLK called "the beloved community" and how each of us can work to make it a reality.  With the current political environment it is apparent that it is still largely a vision, not a reality.

My earliest encounter with race issues goes back to YMCA camp when I was in elementary school.  There were no African American kids in my northern California school in the late 40's/early 50's, though the community was decidedly liberal by reputation.  Black kids lived a few miles away in a mixed public housing project on the route to San Francisco.  My only encounter with them was when a few of them would launch raids at our baseball field, hiding in a nearby gully and emerging for a good fight after our practices and games.  it was kind of scary.  We'd high tail it home to avoid their attacks, armed with fists and rhetoric.

YMCA camp was mostly populated by city kids, many being black or Asian and a few of us Anglos from nearby suburban enclaves.  I was paired with a Black kid on a camping expedition to share a double sleeping bag.  I didn't know it was a big deal until a few white campers expressed amazement  that I was chosen for this event by a counselor.  I don't remember whether I volunteered or just picked.  But, I clearly remember that he was a really great kid and I had lots of fun and felt no discomfort.  It was a really positive experience that gave me a life lesson.

Fast forward to high school in the 50's on the east coast and college in northern California.  Both environments were nearly all Anglo; overwhelmingly Anglo.  But as soon as I entered the military, things changed dramatically.  As a young officer training at a post in Baltimore I had a number of black classmates.  Soon after arrival there I became friendly with two white guys from Notre Dame's ROTC program; one from New Jersey and another from Chicago.  I guess we were drawn together by our Catholic university backgrounds.  We observed the large African American population in Baltimore.  We were joined by an affable African American guy in our training class for drinking sessions at the Officer's Club on Friday nights and the often drunken encounters with marines who wanted to duke it out with us.  So, the New Jersey guy came up with a brilliant idea.  We'd keep on our uniforms on Friday nights and the four of us would go to nearby segregated clubs and bars and try to integrate them.  The uniforms were our calling cards, pretty hard for the bouncers to argue with us as we cajoled  our way in with our black buddy.  This became a regular Friday routine and it worked.  We never failed and while the receptions were often cool at these establishments, we formed a phalanx around our buddy and were served.

Fast forward to post military life in Washington DC.  My now deceased wife and I lived in the northern Virginia suburbs, both working in DC.  There we had our first two children.  We were both liberals and were very aware of the racial stirrings around us and throughout the country, especially the south.  We were married in 1960 and as we socialized with Anglo friends in the suburban apartment complexes, we shared concerns about the racial slurs neither of us had grown up with.  Racism was a part of everyday life there, even among educated Anglos.  Though my wife's childhood neighborhood in Baltimore began to become integrated while we dated, her parents never expressed being threatened or anxiety about this change.   Today, on returning to that area, it has transformed from a mostly German heritage area with German restaurants and bakeries to almost completely African American.  It remains a tidy and well kept suburban village.

So, in 1963, soon to be transferred to a southern Virginia town,  as Washington D.C.area residents, we quite naturally attended the March on Washington and were in awe of the massive gathering.  Only years later did we fully appreciate the historic significance of MLK's speech and the impact this stirring event would have on our country. But as a face in the crowd I can attest that just being in the company of such a massive gathering of American souls felt good and created for me a sense of solidarity with a movement for economic and racial justice which stayed with me for life; a pretty long life at that.  I experienced the same feeling of solidarity 40 something years later at both Obama inaugurations.

The next major life event which fueled my passion for racial justice was following our move to Roanoke, Virginia.  Still a practicing Catholic, I became involved with the Knights of Columbus in that city.  I was recruited by a casual friend there to join him in a move to vote in the first African American member of that local body.  Our major fringe benefit of membership was a private bar in their meeting hall in a dry southern county.   My friend must have read me as a liberal and so he and I plotted our nomination of a distinguished black physician and pitch to the group consisting of mostly locals comprising the membership. ironically, few of our fellow Anglo Knights had the education our Black physician friend had attained.  My friend was a very effective communicator, evidenced by his ownership of a local radio station.  The net net result was a vote by the membership of professed Catholic defenders of the faith, using, a secret ballot technique involving, believe it or not, black and white marbles to cast our votes.  So, those supporting the physicians acceptance into membership would be secretly unidentified.  We thought under those circumstances that the doctor would be a shoe in among this group of Christians.  It was not to be.  He lost by a substantial majority of cast black ball votes.

I left the Knights of Columbus, Roanoke, shortly thereafter, though I toted my Knights sword around the country with our many future relocations, gathering dust in many closets.

The next major life experience which changed my life and solidified my search for racial justice was when my wife and I were recruited by our parish priest in our new home, Austin, Minnesota to take under our wings an African American couple who had also moved into this area from Ohio.  They would become the first black people to belong to this parish.  Once again, I guess the good padre read us correctly as liberals.  We entertained the young couple, who had a child about the age of our kids. Austin was about 98% white.  We then networked them with other friends, mostly "townies" and introduced them around at the coffee's held after mass.  It worked well and they soon were warmly embraced by this faith community.

Not long after this very positive experience, MLK was assassinated and major cities began to erupt.  My clients with my work at Hormel were major vending and catering companies in major cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., L.A. and Chicago.  Their warehouses and headquarters were mostly in industrial districts adjacent to largely African American neighborhoods.  These areas were in flames for weeks after our loss of MLK.  Being young and both very self assured and curious, I began to hang out in these community's bars in the evenings after working with my clients on road trips.  What I learned and encountered with a few beers with locals was an eye opener.  I was greeted with great curiosity as often the only white guy in the establishment but often fellow patrons opened up to me.  What I learned from these encounters was that while those I met were enraged at the loss of a great and inspiring leader, they were still hopeful for change and felt there were enough white people of good will out there to accept them as fellow human beings and provide a chance for their realization of the American Dream.  They were not in despair as I expected them to be nor as unhopeful  as I felt then.  They inspired me and infused me with the desire to engage my kids with their kids to further the movement toward justice and MLK's beloved community. 

Soon thereafter came a move to Houston, Texas.  This gave me opportunities I never imagined would be opened up for me.  There my wife and I became involved with a group which sponsored weekend "salt and pepper" parties; gatherings of adults, often with our kids.  We were Black, Hispanic  and Anglo young professionals outraged with a local school board resisting integration of our public schools and acceptance of the law of the land.  We had deliberately chosen a neighborhood which was a part of a large urban, multi-ethnic city, not the more popular suburban all white school districts embracing white flight.

These salt and pepper parties soon led to the creation of a political movement of mostly middle class white liberal, Hispanic and Black parents.  About 1,000 strong.   We organized over about a year, raised money and recruited a multi-ethinic slate of candidates to run against the intransigent, conservative school board resisting court ordered integration.  My own wife during this period ran for the State Board of Education against a very popular incumbent Republican after whom a nearby Stadium was named.  She wound up earning 44 % of  the vote, running, believe it or not, on a pro-busing platform.  But, our Houston school district slate won, taking a majority on the board and beginning the process of integrating the school district which my four children were privileged to attend.  In a few short years our candidates created some of the first magnet schools in the nation as well as gifted and talented programs later emulated by school districts all over the nation.  Our initiatives to assist Hispanic immigrant children were models also matched elsewhere.  We ultimately lost board control to backlash conservatives but it was too late for them to stop the momentum our brave board members initiated. But, best intentions were not rewarded.  Over the subsequent years the Houston schools became overwhelmingly minority populated as Anglos departed for distant suburban districts in white flight.

I also was given further awakening by association with a brilliant organizer of the liberal Democrats in Texas, Billie Carr who formed the Harris County Democrats, a shadow party to the conservative dominated Democratic Party of Harris County.  Their purpose was the ouster of the segregationist conservatives who had set the Party agenda for a hundred years.  That agenda: exclusion of Blacks and Hispanics.  I studied under Billie for several years and learned grassroots organizing at its best.  This included not only being mentored by Billie, but also Jamerson Berry, a long time Democratic Precinct Judge in the black Sunnyside community in south Houston.  Jamerson taught me techniques of block walking and black voter registration as well as counter poll watching of harassing Republicans in black voting precincts which served me for decades thereafter.  The result of this organizing mentoring?  We were able to purge the Texas Democratic Party of the Wallace faction in the early 70's and gain control of the party apparatus, paving the way for Black and Hispanic Democratic leaders and rank and file to take their political fortunes into their own hands.  Leaders like Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leeland and Craig Washington became Party visionaries and inspired me to support Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns and become a Jackson delegate.

As the years progressed, the mentoring of black Texas Democratic leaders led me to create and lead  action committees within my county Party organization to counter the voter suppression activities of the Tea Party and the Republican party. With the work of thousands of volunteers in Harris County we succeeded in securing the nomination and subsequent election of our first black President in Harris county in both 2008 and 2012, where, excepting Jimmy Carter's successful campaign, Republican's dominated our county for years.  I was privileged also to direct the communications of the successful campaign of the first African American county-wide judge in our large urban county which up to that time Republicans had dominated.

My message for my readers?  note that all along the way on this journey, I was inspired and mentored by persons who empowered and prepared me for the work ahead in seeking still unachieved racial justice.  A camp counselor, fellow liberal Army officers, MLK's Dream speech,  a Parish priest, a liberal Knight of Columbus, Black bar fellow patrons, fellow young education activists, Democratic Party activists, to name a few.   If one is open to such a task, Samaritans are out there to give you the tools to do the work toward the unending task of working toward the beloved community.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tom Hayden's California Way For 2016

Published first in DelawareLiberal on 1/17/2015 by Progressive Populist

I listen to this guy a lot and suggest you do too.  He's smart and by no means schooled only in anti-war politics.  An author, student of gang life in L.A., a former State Senator and respected seer in the progressive world. California and Jerry Brown might have shown us the way forward for a progressive Democratic 2016  victory in Tom Hayden's considered view.

Tom's latest thinking is that even by blowing off what he calls the nostalgia for the New South and coal, Democrats can win 318 electoral votes in 2016 with a progressive platform, even without Florida if Jeb is their candidate. The minimum required to get the necessary 271 electoral college votes includes a Blue west that also wins Colorado and New Mexico, strong work in Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio and the entire northeast from Virgina north.

The priority positions for both California and the nation according to Hayden include climate action via clean energy initiatives and opposition to Keystone, measures to reverse the continued erosion of income equity and diplomacy as our primary national security thrust for a war fatigued nation.   Immigration reform, continued improvement toward universal healthcare and counter measures to voter suppression and Citizens United  become highly  important secondary issues in Tom Hayden's opinion.

He emphasizes the need for clarity without ambivalence, particularly on the implications of these priorities for Main street over the wishes of wall street.

His strategy ideas reflect the success Governor Jerry Brown enjoys with a 60% margin of victory.  Brown unequivocally ran on higher taxes from the wealthy in California while showing an  equally strong commitment to restraint on government growth and rebuilding the California economy by supporting clean energy policies and  its business development.

Yet he successfully  emphasized his commitment to restoring California's leadership in public and university education through increasing financial support for public schools K through 12 serving those most in need and working on college/technical school affordability and student debt reduction or elimination.  California used to offer tuition free education for its best and brightest, a policy totally tanked by Ronald Reagan.

Governor Moonbeam disappeared long ago and what you have in Brown is no classical progressive; he is a very complex mixed bag of policies.  I can attest to that having known him at Santa Clara University in our undergraduate years.

Yes, Democrats in Delaware can learn from Brown and the California turnaround.  Yes, they're really big and we're really small but our histories in environmentalism are parallel and the clean energy business development message seems to make sense for us.  So do clean air and water.

Just maybe the Delaware Dems  can be inspired to actually refresh itself and introduce its policies and message to Delawarians from its current status of sullen silence on about anything except the message from its legislative leadership that it is silencing about the only Delaware voice advocating remedial financing for high needs public schools.

Rep. Kowalko's position is very similar to that of Governor Brown in the California public school crisis turnaround.  The Speaker's derision of progress in education is not heartening news for Democrats in Delaware, let alone those wondering how Democratic policy differs from the party of  the few.

And for sure, the DNC should take notice of the Democratic party and its leadership in California as model for its own barren messaging program.  Debbie Wasserman Schultz's message that all is now well with the American economy is completely tone deaf and devoid of understanding of the systemic hurt still felt by the barely middle class and below, the life blood of her Party's voters.  She needs to go as do the rest of the Wall street pimps and sell outs diminishing our chances for success in leading America out of this funk with fresh thinking and restorative policies.

Let's renew here like Jerry Brown is doing in California.  It might turn around the erosion of Democratic power in Delaware.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Republicans Reintroduce The Medieval Era To America

First Published in DelawareLiberal on January 2, 2015 by ProgressivePopulist

As their first initiative in 2015, the RNC has banned all remnants of the Enlightenment and declared the USA a collection of feudal fiefs.  Let's review the similarities of the middle ages to our contemporary America.

At the top, we have our version of the Lords of the Medieval period back in the 5th to 15th centuries.  They are the Corporations and 1% who own the lions share of all property.  They earned their status by accumulating assets.  All other social groups work for their benefit in the Manor.  Today's equivalent to the Manors are our States, which under the Republican plan are a loose neo-confederation.

Next in pecking order are the Barons, Bishops, Vassals and Knights......today's version being elected officials, sponsored by the Lords.  They do the Lords' bidding in the public and private spheres.  The Bishops, today's mega churches and diocese, have a special place in society; all the necessary protections, but without having the pay homage to the Lords, or in today's vernacular, taxes.  They are tax exempt.  Their job is to protect the Lords by declaring their value to the social order.

A special category of the modern Knights, or warriors tasked to protect the Lords are in today's structure, the defense contractors.  Like their predecessor Knights, their reward for service are property and assets.  A key task in today's world is manor or homeland security and preemptive attacks on threatening hordes of barbarians.  Additionally, internal dissidents are dealt with by militarized police forces reporting to the Barons and Vassals.

Do the similarities between gated communities and moats ring some bells with you ?   How about the torture techniques of the middle ages and today's waterboarding?  Drone attacks and swat teams and village scorching?

Also serving the Barons and Vassals are a few skilled working class, known as our middle class.  They provide technical and specialized expertise needed by them as well as the Lords.  Their reward for service is  limited amounts of property and assets, including small amounts of capital loans to expand their services.

The Lords, Barons and Vassals oversee the work and production of the serfs and peasants.  These are mostly unskilled persons who are compensated on a very limited scale to barely sustain their families and whose work is considered easily replaceable should they prove uncooperative or unproductive in their service.  They comprise the vast majority or  about 80% of the population of the manors or states.

This group is dominated by persons of color and ethnic heritage considered of lesser quality of personhood.  As a result, though granted minimal rights of citizenship, those rights are being restricted and suppressed for fear that they might challenge the existing social order.

To maintain this  social order, Republicans today emphasize limiting public services to the serfs and peasants, including both education and health care, for fear that strengthening their intellectual, mental and physical well-being could result in insurrection and revolution against the rule of the Lords, Barons and Vassals.

This system served a few very well for about 1,000 years.  Seemed to work for them, so why fix what ain't broke?