Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

My Photo

I enjoy writing!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Immigration families still separated: failed Trump policy

Echo letter to the editor published in The Northern Virginia Daily newspaper. 

Immigrant families separated at the border

Although Donald Trump's (evil) policy of separating innocent immigrant families at the border has since been abandoned – (Trump signed an executive order reversing this policy after international outcry demanded families be kept together) we haven’t been stressing the fact that hundreds of immigrant children are still separated from their families.

Trump's recent blunder remains in the public consciousness – we’ve seen immigration officials recently defend his actions – yet discourse around this issue seems to exist in the past tense. 

Words like “mishandled” and “botched,” or any phrases in the pluperfect–“had been…” – are particularly pernicious. 

Framing Trump's decisions, and the consequences of those decisions, in the past tense suggests that these events are likewise confined to the past. They are not: a resolution, for about 700 families, has yet to be reached. Families “hadn’t been”separated; they “have been” (present perfect) separated. Or, more accurately: they “are” separated. The ramifications of their forced separations continue to the present time and present tense.

In recognition of this ongoing issue, it is up to Americans to work to unite these innocent children and their families. 

Nonprofits, such as The Borgen Project, have made reunifying families a top priority. Moreover, we can call and pressure our congressional representatives – (in Maine, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Angus King) and in Virginia: Bob Goodlatte, Tom Garrett Jr., or Barbara Comstock in the House; Tim Kaine and Mark Warner in the Senate – and remind them that there are families not yet reunified, that the administration is “mishandling” (not “mishandled”) the situation, and it must be fixed. 

Once the families are united, then we can talk about this in the past tense.

William Wilcox, Front Royal

Labels: , , ,

Racism is evil - Charlottesville Strong

The rise and fall of the alt-right echo opinion by Jack Hunter published in the newspaper the Washington Examiner

Maine Writer ~ Public rally instructions 101: Raise awareness!  Charlottesville was a tragically modern version of the Civil War and the violence exposed the evil intentions of the "alt-right".

Alt-right evil definition at this link

The less than 40 or so assorted (IMO: evil) racists that showed up for Unite the Right 2 rally in Washington, D.C., on Sunday represented, in all likelihood, the swan song for a movement that appeared to be riding high two years ago, and was severely diminished after the awful spectacle in Charlottesville, Va., last year, and did little more than flail one last time in Washington DC, on Sunday. Who knew “the Right” had less than 50 people in it?

Thankfully, these cretins are done. But as we bid them adieu, let’s recall how this monstrosity happened in the first place.

Hunter described the "alt-right" and the hate group's rise

In May 2016, I took Breitbart provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to task for championing a new and often misunderstood movement called the “alt-right,” which he had recently dedicated 3,500 words to promoting in his essay “ An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” (MaineWriter:  Brietbart-barfcart)

Jack Hunter said the alt-right was an inherently racist movement with white nationalism at its core. Yiannopoulos got mad that I would dare suggest such a thing (to which I also responded).

Yiannopoulos — arguably the highest-profile alt-right advocate to date and gateway drug for so many young people who dabbled with it — wrote, glowingly, (and, IMO, dangerously!) along with Breitbart co-author Allum Bokhari, that, “the alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.”

Sounds exciting, right? I guess “taboo-defying” is one way to explain explicit racism in 2018.

While denying the alt-right was inherently racist, Yiannopoulos would also say things like, “The alt-right believe that some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved.” He also wrote, “The alt-right’s intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race.”

It’s not hard to connect those dots and figure out where they lead.

And who were the alt-right’s “intellectuals” according to Yiannopoulos? He listed Richard Spencer as one, who would later become famous for being a “nazi” who got punched in the face.

Yiannopoulos called Spencer a “renegade” long before anyone knew his name. Who doesn’t want to be a renegade? Yiannopoulos even joined him for karaoke while alt-right members gave Nazi salutes and was caught exchanging friendly emails with sites like the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, as revealed by BuzzFeed last year.

Yiannopoulos would eventually severely diminish himself last year after making controversial comments about pedophilia, but the damage in elevating the alt-right had already been done.

While most of the young people I encountered in my libertarian and conservative circles stayed away from this garbage, I would come across some at conferences and online who tried to convince me either that the alt-right wasn’t really racist, usually parroting Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric, or worse, that racism — or the allegedly more respectable “racialism” — wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

These types of conversations and thinking seem to explode online, where it was hard to go on social media without encountering it, or at least in the conservative bubble, though it was by no means confined to that bubble.

This phenomenon lasted, with some ebbs and flows, generally right up until the alt-right decided to hold its first real event in Charlottesville on August 11, 2017.

The alt-right’s fall

After well over a year of trolling people on Twitter, the mostly faceless alt-right had planned a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, to supposedly protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

One of the most memorable video clips of that event showed young, white men with Tiki torches and “fashy” haircuts, chanting, “ Jews will not replace us.” What Jews or replacing people had to do with Lee is anyone’s guess.

The Lee statue was merely an excuse, not a cause, for racists to gather and promote their venom.

Though intended to advance their movement, what Charlottesville actually accomplished was showing America and the world — many of who had still never heard the term “alt-right” or were still confused about what it actually was (thanks, Milo) — that it was just the same old KKK and neo-Nazis of yesteryear trying to repackage themselves.

After a sea of swastikas and Confederate flags flashed across their television and computer screens, combined with violence in the streets, including the killing of anti-racist protester Heather Heyer, the country looked on in horror.

How could this be happening in the modern-day United States? Was this even America anymore?

The trolls had emerged from behind their keyboards and no one liked what they saw.

Not only young people who had once flirted with this stuff, but older conservatives who might have once thought “alt-right” meant merely being against the Republican establishment, (I spoke to a number of older conservatives who made that mistake pre-Charlottesville, and though it might be controversial, I would even generally include former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon in this category) now knew unequivocally what “alt-right” meant and rejected it soundly.

It’s one thing to hear liberals call conservatives of any stripe “Nazi” and assume it’s the typical leftist tactic of calling anyone who disagrees with them racist. It’s quite another to see Nazi flags and "Sieg Heil" salutes flaunted openly in an American city.

Post-Charlottesville, that flurry of racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and homophobic online activity that for so long had sullied the Internet at a higher level than anyone would have ever anticipated, dissipated to a significant degree.

If being alt-right had seemed titillating or edgy months prior, being associated in any way, or certainly any supportive way, with what went down in Charlottesville became something closer to kryptonite, with a number of alt-righters even losing their jobs over their participation. Anti-racist online activists began to troll alt-righters instead of the other way around for a change.

What others had tried to obscure, Charlottesville had shown clearly: Being alt-right meant being racist, period.

The alt-right’s tombstone

A year ago, more than a thousand alt-right activists showed up in Charlottesville with Nazi and Confederate flags for a confrontation that would be the death knell of their movement.

On Sunday, less than 40 alt-right activists showed up in Washington, D.C., this time with only American flags, which were eventually taken from them by the police. In fact, organizer Jason Kessler pleading with the cops to please let him carry his flag might have been the only thing he actually protested the whole day.

It was pathetic.

For well more than two years, various racists had latched on to Trump, with the president sometimes helping their cause, however intentionally or unintentionally ( something Hillary Clinton did too). With the aid of promoters like Yiannopoulos, Spencer, and others, the alt-right was an unfortunate but substantial phenomenon the American Right had to contend with. For a time, both the Left and the alt-right were eager to portray this racist movement as the Right, for obvious reasons.

Alt-righters will no doubt continue to exaggerate their numbers and influence, and liberals will unquestionably try to say every right-leaning individual of any stripe is alt-right. While Yiannopoulos was last seen selling vitamin supplements on Alex Jones’ Infowars (and had quit promoting the alt-right altogether some time ago) and Spencer has been reduced to beggingfor legal fees, these and other figures will still be around in some fashion.

But they won’t matter like they once did, or at least appeared to. Whatever momentum the alt-right movement once had, real or imagined, simply doesn’t exist anymore. This has been true for months now, but Sunday was the finis.

A movement that once advertised itself as new and exciting imploded the moment it revealed itself to be the same old racism, both deplorable and stale. Can you imagine anything more 
hilarious and sad than a Unite the Right 3 next year? Don’t count on that happening.

Americans - patriotic Americans and those of us of all stripes- should be glad this unfortunate chapter in U.S. politics and history is over — especially conservatives. (IMO Jack Hunter is blocking a bit of reality here.  39% of Republicans continue to irresponsibly support Donald Trump. Those who continue to back this evil and illegally elected Trumpzi tyrant are, in all honesty, the alt-right in sheep's clothing. Racism is evil and the alt-right must be shown the reflection of their hideous intentions by revealing them for what they are - Nazis.)

Jack Hunter (@jackhunter74) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner 's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the former political editor of and co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, August 13, 2018

Who really made American great were the immigrants

An echo essay, by Ed Simon*, published in the History News Network newsletter. 

Walt Whitmam 1819-1892
*Ed Simon is the Editor-at-Large for “The Marginalia Review of Books,” a channel of the “Los Angeles Review of Books"

In 1883, Walt Whitman, America’s “Good Gray Poet,” was asked by the organizers of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s 333th anniversary celebration to read a poem in commemoration of the occasion. 

Whitman was the exemplary poet of the nation in its multitudinous diversity, and the perfect speaker to mark the establishment of the Spanish colony. 

Unfortunately, the invitation reached Whitman’s Camden, New Jersey home too late for the poet to schedule a reading for the event, but moved by the offer, he wrote a letter of thanks “To Messrs. Griffin, Martinez, Prince, and other Gentlemen at Santa Fé”which was subsequently reprinted in the New York Times.

Speaking of country which was first that of the Tanoan people, then part of Spain, then Mexico, and now the United States, Whitman understood that many of his fellow countrymen had an inordinately simplistic understanding of the nation’s historical precedents, seeing the Puritan, but not the Pueblo, the Cavalier, but not the Caballero. He writes: “We Americans have yet to really learn our own antecedents, and sort them, to unify them. They will be found ampler than has been supposed, and in widely different sources.” With a keen awareness of the glorious complexity which synthesized his beloved country, Whitman rejected the reductionisms of Anglophilia, arguing that too often “we tacitly abandon ourselves to the notion that our United States have been fashion’d from the British Islands only, and essentially form a second England only – which is a very great mistake.”

Whitman’s letter speaks with wisdom and empathy of a “composite American identity of the future.” 135 years later, and too many Americans make the same “great mistake” which Whitman warned of, as evidenced by a July 27th letter to the editor ironically published in the same newspaper which originally printed the poet’s missive.The author of that letter inaccurately claimed: “The 13 colonies were all based on a single, almost entirely British identity and history and one language.” It’s a contention that is irrefutably, completely, and utterly wrong in almost every conceivable way.

A rather abstract objection can be levied at that false claim, one which explains that English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish settlers were all quite different from each other in folkways, language, and religion; that colonists from the hills of Wales or the Scottish low lands had an entirely different set of preoccupations than educated settlers from London. An even more rarefied argument could be made that the word “British” isn’t particularly useful in the 17th and 18th centuries, having only gained use of the name with the Acts of Union between England and Scotland in 1707.

Prior to that, though there were instances of official use of the word “Britain,” the word was one with a mythological connotation, and its ultimate incorporation was consciously an act to forge a unified identity between groups with disparate backgrounds, ranging from the Celtic fringe of Cornwall to the stolidly Anglo-Saxon of East Anglia. If anything, the identity of being “British” was so self-consciously constructed, that there was chaffing against it on both sides of Hadrian’s former wall. A century before the ultimate Acts of Union, and Parliament bristled at King James I’s request to be made ruler of a unified statutory British crown and not just as separate sovereign of respectively both England and Scotland, with Sir Edwin Sandys remarking explicitly in 1604 that “we cannot make laws to bind Britannia.” Less time between that remark and the adoption of the name “Great Britain” than there is between that adoption and the American Revolution. If early America’s origins are “British,” that concept had a fairly short history.

But there is a far easier and more literal refutation of the claim that American origins are simply British, and that is that the the land which is currently encompassed by the United States was never just part of the English colonies, but had indeed been settled by the Spanish, the French, the Dutch, the Swedish, the Scottish (separate from the English), and potentially the Vikings. 

This, of course, is not to speak of the indigenous population going back ten millennia, at least. Historian Alan Taylor writes about how conventional misunderstandings of early American history “obscures the broad cultural and geographic range of colonial America” which included “Spanish heading north from Mexico, Russians coming eastward from Siberia…French probing the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.” Taylor summarized the state of early American studies today, where it is now common knowledge that “Colonial America was far more than a simple story of the English becoming Americans.”

Among the English themselves there were radically different cultural and religious identities, ranging from the Puritan New Englanders, Mid-Atlantic Non-Conformists, Appalachian Presbyterians, and Southern Anglicans. In the 17th century, English may have been the tongue of both the Puritan Richard Mather in Massachusetts and of the Catholic Cecil Calvert, 2nd Barron Baltimore in Maryland, but their identities were far from unified.

And for any rejoinder that we’re still discussing “British” colonies, such a myopic view as that presented by the letter writer can only be preserved if one conveniently ignores the dizzying degree of diversity assembled by both choice and force within those colonies. Historian Kevin Gannon provided such an admirable take down of the letter writer’s misinformed opinion when on Twitter he simply listed the ethnic and religious groups which defined the thirteen colonies, including the Haudenosaunee, Powhatan, Narragansett, Pequot, Cherokee, Dutch, Swedish, Moravians, Mennonites, Igbo, Yoruba, BaKongo, Mande, Wolof, Akan, Sephardim, Huguenots, Lenni Lenape, Abenaki, and Creeks, adding “We could do this for days, you know.”

The claim to a unitary British origin isn’t just profoundly ignorant, it does a disservice to what’s precisely so exceptional about America. Diversity is not just our strength, it’s been our strength since the beginning. Multiculturalism isn’t some new concept, it’s been the lived experience of America from our beginnings, and it’s been the true impetus of our actual identity. Scholar Daniel K. Richter writes that these new cultures “defied easy categorization as ‘American,’ ‘European,’ or ‘African.’ Instead, they partook of all three identities,” and invented a new identity in the process.

One can only claim that American origins are exclusively British if you ignore inconvenient facts such as that fully 20% of African slaves were Muslims, meaning that in some southern colonies Islam vied with Protestantism as the second biggest faith, or that in large swaths of colonial Pennsylvania you were more apt to hear German than English.

We hear a lot about “blood and soil” from the enemies of progress who seem newly ascendant, a lot of their braying and mythmaking pollutes our discourse once again. 

Worse, there is a lot of disturbing valorization of whiteness, a lot of rhetorical and virtual actual attacks on people of color. Important to point out what’s immoral about such views, but don’t forget to also point out what’s historically inaccurate about them.

In fact, there is no singular “blood” in our soil, for our soil has always belonged to the blood of women and men of all lands. 

As J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur – a Frenchman – remarked in his 1782 Letters from an American Farmer, he “could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations.”

We’d do well to add to that genealogy the much longer list of nations we’ve seen reflected in our own, for as de Crèvecœur writes, “Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men.” Forde Crèvecœur, and for us, America may have been British, but not singularly so. 

America's origins and our destiny were never only English – they’re universal. To deny that only serves to diminish the whole.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Letter about political evil ~ echo opinion from Maryland

In his last letter to Donald Trump, McGrew mentioned an elementary student who pictured herself as a superhero defeating, “The Evil Dr. Trump.”

McGrew writes to Trump, "I didn’t respond about you, as I never discuss politics with students. But today, I’m agreeing with her."

McGrew is a psychologist. He writes, "I don’t often view people in terms of good and evil but know you have many fervent supporters that do."

Wikipedia defines evil from a Christian worldview as, “any action, thought, or attitude that is contrary to the character or will of God.”  Donald Trump's countless moral failings, lack of compassion, sexism, racism, name-calling, and fear mongering all qualify here. Really, what would Jesus say?

In a November letter to Donald Trump, McGrew agreed with John McCain and George W. Bush, who castigated Trump's abandonment of shared American ideals in favor of nativism, bigotry and “outright fabrication”. These also clearly contradict the character of God.

"Today, a cacophony of Republicans, Democrats and foreign allies are skewering your kowtowing to evil strongmen worldwide. It’s hard not to believe that Putin doesn’t have you compromised."

In a wonderful book, “The Soul of America,” by Jon Meacham, references Lincoln’s first inaugural address about America’s, “battle for our better angels.”

Meacham offers optimism that hope will conquer the fear you promote and describes numerous times when America has “come through such darkness.”

"I was especially reminded of you in Meacham’s portrayal of the 1950s darkness of Sen. Joe McCarthy, ... a man who developed fear-based bluster and smeared opponents."

Just like Trump, the press depended on McCarthy for unfounded, dramatic story leads. Like Trump, McCarthy took the offensive when there were stories he didn’t like, singling out specific publications and journalists, often accusing them of fomenting Communism.

Meacham describes McCarthy as, “an opportunist, uncommitted to much beyond his own fame and influence.” He hid behind alleged “patriotism” in his attacks on innocent people. Sound like Trump?

President Truman stated, “the greatest asset the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy.” The journalist, Richard Rovere, described McCarthy as the “first American to ever to be actively hated and feared by foreigners in large numbers.” Pretty similar, huh?

What McGrew loved about Meacham’s book were his descriptions of flawed presidents, including Lincoln, Grant, both Roosevelts, Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Reagan, bravely appealing to the better angels of our nature.

Some presidents championed equality and justice for women, workers, blacks, the poor, and immigrants, while others challenged Klansmen, Jim Crow, John Birchers and communist baiters.

The moral character other presidents exhibited and the hope they conveyed in the face of fear that politicians like Joe McCarthy promoted, contributed to their (historic and) heroic growth as presidents.

Reagan’s 1989 speech about America as a, “shining city on a hill … a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places” starkly contrasts with Trump's self-serving, hate-filled, Gotham version of America First that confirms the devils of the "Trumpzi" cult in America’s nature.

Meacham encourages us to keep history in mind while countering Trump's undermining of the rule of law, the free press and America’s collective sense of hope.

How? By becoming politically engaged, resisting tribalism, respecting facts and deploying reason in becoming better informed.

McCarthy was exposed by the great journalist, Edward R. Murrow, who courageously stated, “We will not walk in fear of one another.” Murrow charged McCarthy with causing, “alarm and dismay” among our allies abroad and offering, “considerable comfort to our enemies.” So eerily familiar today.

Demagogues and fear mongers like Trump and McCarthy only survive when we let them. Today, our most moral politicians are forsaking you.

Hopefully, more Americans will do the same, follow Meacham’s advice, and we’ll reach the Trump presidency’s tipping point.

McCarthy eventually lost power, was publicly disgraced, and censured by the Senate.

I believe (and Maine Writer agrees), the Trump fate will be much worse and, consequently, when that happens, America's future will become much brighter.

Sincerely,  Mike McGrew

Labels: , , ,

More echo letters ~ Betsy DeVos ought to be ashamed

Letter to the editor (Chicago Tribune): 

Betsy DeVos dilemma ~ "Truth"!

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ought to be ashamed of herself for trying to push through a reversal of the Obama-era regulation that made it easier for students to erase debited loans in cases of fraud. These regulations were not only necessary, but purposely put in place to guard unsuspecting students from being taken advantage of by for-profit colleges. 

It's just one more concession DeVos and her administration has made to big-money investors who want to make sure they not only get their money back, but also make a huge profit off the backs of young people who can least afford it. It's deception at the highest level.

Is this being done on purpose? You bet. The Obama administration had this right, implementing rules that guarded students from being saddled with huge (and yes, Trump University), that use deceptive marketing and predatory recruitment in order to turn a profit.

As a long-time educator I recognized these scams for what they were when they came to life in late 1980s and early 1990s. Many students asked me about going to these types of schools, and after conversations, I realized these schools were just profit centers. The students’ degrees were essentially worthless and the prospect of a job in the students’ chosen fields dim at best.

Here's how this scam works. The school's counselor/salesperson would get a student to attend the college. The school would then load a student up with as much debt as possible because loans would be guaranteed by the U.S. government. In essence, it wouldn't matter if the student could pay back the loan or not because the taxpayers would always guarantee the loan. The college got its money no matter what … at least until the Obama administration shut down the scam. DeVos wants to reverse this protection.

DeVos also wants to kill the provision that barred colleges from requiring students to sign an agreement that would force them into arbitration in the event of a dispute. If a student can't afford to pay for college, how can he or she be expected to afford a lawyer for representation in mandatory arbitration? DeVos' proposal is also considering a higher burden of "clear and convincing" evidence of fraud for all students. Maybe the government should require these colleges to prove they weren't defrauding the students.

This should be a call to arms for all parents with kids currently in college and those with future college aspirations. Call or write your members of Congress and tell them that you will not be voting for them unless they kill this bad proposal in its tracks before it gains a foothold.

— Lee R. Talley, Tinley Park

California wildfires happen regardless of how much water is in plain sight

As I've scanned dozens of newspapers from around the US (and other countries too), among the best "letters to the editor", in my opinion, are published in the Tulsa World, an Oklahoma newspaper. Although Tulsa's citizens an sometimes stereotyped as being politically conservative, apparently, the brave editorial policy practiced by the Tulsa World staff has provided some of the best letters I have read during my cruising of dozens of other newspapers' opinion pages.

This "echo" letter, written by a reader in Bixby Oklahoma, describes the obvious.

Letter to the Editor: Trump's reaction to wildfires just stupid: from Lynn Bootes in Bixby OK

Donald Trump's recent comments on the wildfires in northern California were just plain stupid.

He could have expressed sympathy for those affected. He could have asked a few more questions from a Republican congressman. But no, he just has to confuse two entirely unrelated issues.

The Carr Fire and the Mendocino Fire are in rugged hill, chaparral and scrub oak land. The satellite photos show nearby full reservoirs — there is no shortage of water. The photos also show that the farming areas under irrigation are in a different region, the Central Valley, many miles to the east and south.

Californians argue a lot about how to allocate water; that is what they do. Central Valley farmers have a gripe about how much water ought to go to irrigate these flat fields versus let it go in the river to maintain fish and wildlife populations.

But even if the farmers had everything they wanted, fires would still happen in hill and mountain country.

What if Trump came to Tulsa and blamed water management at Keystone Dam and the Arkansas River for fires on the slopes and canyons of Colorado? What if he came and told us to solve things by logging the Cross Timber country? We wouldn't buy that.

It makes me wonder just how much chaos and ignorance in the White House we can survive.

Editor's Note: Donald Trump tweeted claims that the California wildfires are made worse by bad environmental laws that divert water to the Pacific Ocean. FEMA and California officials say there is no water shortage in fighting the fires. Fires are caused by hot, dry conditions, not water policy.

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Challenge to Roman Catholic clergy at Voice of the Faithful award

This commentary from 2012 is not dated.  It's like the remarks recorded by Father Patrick Bergquist are even more important and relevant in 2018, because this terrible abuse scandal is becoming more pervasive than anyone could have predicted. 

"My challenge then – really my plea to all my brother priests – is that we not shy away from this scandal – but instead choose to embrace it: taking on the shared guilt of our brothers – even as we dare to share in the sacrifice of Jesus. For this is our cross to bear – the cross we take up without fear or regret – without anger or resentment – but instead with great humility and even greater hope.”
Fr. Patrick Bergquist Accepts Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award

Fr. Patrick Bergquist accepts Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award
Fr. Patrick Bergquist accepts Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award.
Fr. Patrick Bergquist of Fairbanks, Alaska, accepted the Voice of the Faithful Priest of Integrity Award during the movement’s 10th Year Conference, Sept. 14-15, 2012, at the Marriott Copley Place Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts. 

Following are his acceptance remarks:

First and foremost, I sincerely want to thank Voice of the Faithful for continuing to be that consistent and prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness in which we – as church – now find ourselves.

“Ten years ago, when this sad and sordid story was breaking – and breaking yet again her in Boston – the ice up north in Alaska was really just beginning to crack. But when it did eventually break – it exposed a tale seemingly so tragic as to make even the good heavens above begin to wake and weep.

“To all my sisters and brothers who have been hurt and violated and abused at the hands of my brother priests – I am truly, truly sorry. And to all my sisters and brothers who have had to share in the bitter shame and disgrace of our church at the hands of my brother priests – I am heartily sorry. And to my sisters and brothers – most especially Native Alaskans – who have had their innocence, their language, their culture forcibly and cruelly ripped from their hearts and souls – I am deeply, deeply sorry.
“As a priest and poet of sorts, I must confess – that I live and write and work from a place of deep sorrow and pain. And yet, I can never forget this is also a place of even deeper hope. And though I fear – as I wrote in The Long Winter’s Night – that ours might just well be a winter’s night barely half spent – I nevertheless have decided to hope and pray and strive for spring: even if it is just the promise of that spring that waits beneath the weight of the winter’s snows.

“And as someone of faith, I refuse to believe it’s simply coincidence or happenstance that we’ve gathered here today on the Feast of the Triumphant of the Cross – or that the Scripture readings for Mass this weekend include both Isaiah’s Suffering Servant and Jesus’ own foretelling of His Cross; including the invitation that – ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny themselves – take up their cross, and follow me.’

“My challenge then – really my plea to all my brother priests – is that we not shy away from this scandal – but instead choose to embrace it: taking on the shared guilt of our brothers – even as we dare to share in the sacrifice of Jesus. For this is our cross to bear – the cross we take up without fear or regret – without anger or resentment – but instead with great humility and even greater hope.”

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 10, 2018

Opinion letter from Pennsylvania - Trump followers need an anecdote for ignorance

Trump is arrogant, making him dangerous

Echo letter to the editor published in The Intelligencer 

Mass hypnosis has infected Trumpzi supporters.  They only listen to their master's voice.
Obviously, they do not listen to (or hear) the lies and false information spewed forth by Trump from his Twitter account on a daily basis. The man is arrogant beyond words, making him very dangerous.

He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know! He rarely listens to his advisers, even on the subject of national security. Fortunately, some very capable people just keep doing their job in spite of him.

His own daughter broke with him on the disgraceful separation of families at the southern border. Many of those children — if not all — will be scarred for life from that inhumane policy.

Jeff Sessions should be ashamed for even considering such a barbaric plan as part of immigration reform. Deporting parents without their children, what kind of a human being does that?

Trump has insulted our strongest and longest allies around the world. He sent a tweet a few weeks ago regarding building his wall, stated he was willing to shutdown the government if he didn’t get his way and said the U.S. was the laughing stock of the world.

I beg to correct him. The U.S. is not the laughing stock of the world — Donald Trump is. I have long felt the world is just waiting him out and praying that 2020 will see him gone. We can only hope and vote.

His base should pay close attention to him over the next couple of years. They better open their eyes and ears and listen. He is a demagogue masquerading as our president. He would like to have the adoration — false as it is — that the people of North Korea afford their leader.

Of course, in North Korea, the people do that to Kim Jung Un because they know they will be killed or sent to a labor camp for life if they don’t. The same with Putin, he is former KGB. Did you ever read the biography of Alexander Solzhenitsyn describing his years in the Gulag? But Trump thinks Putin is somehow a great guy who always tells the truth.

I pray the Democrats can take over the House in 2018 and put up a very strong candidate in 2020. I also pray that every 18-year-old will register to vote and then go to the polls. The youth of this nation has very clear eyes and doesn’t see this administration through rose-colored glasses.

Odette Rossi, Doylestown Pennsylvania

MaineWriter - the anecdote for Trumpzi ignorance is in the voting booth

Labels: , , ,

Trump farm tariffs tank in Iowa ~ echo opinion

Trump's farm (unwanted!) bailout is not what Iowa farmers want: Editorial published in the newspaper, the Des Moines Register

See if this makes sense to you: Donald Trump starts a trade war with China. When American farmers complain, he decides to pay them off with $12 billion. Meanwhile, he continues to borrow money from China to keep the government running.
It’s just one of the absurdities sprinkled like soy nuts on top of the half-baked corn muffin of Trump’s scheme to reverse trade deficits while driving up the federal deficit and debt.
Here’s what we’re talking about at the Des Moines Register:

Trump thinks China is ripping off the United States by using protectionist trade practices that put American businesses at a disadvantage. So he unilaterally imposes tariffs on steel and aluminum and other foreign goods, launching a trade war of retaliatory tariffs, including on soybeans, pork and other agricultural goods, produced in Iowa.

Farmers, who stand to lose billions of dollars in exports, complain, so Trump proposes up to $12 billion in direct payments and other aid for agriculture. This isn’t tax money — it comes from fees paid on imports from places like, well, China. But it’s money going out while the federal budget is projected to run up a trillion-dollar deficit by 2020.

China remains the United States’ largest foreign lender, with about $1.2 trillion of our debt as of October 2017, according to Bloomberg News.

Japan and Brazil are next in line. Brazil, by the way, is a major competitor in the soybean export business, and it stands to gobble up market share from Iowa and other major exporters.

It isn’t any wonder that some prominent conservatives, including the Koch brothers, and budget hawks like Sen. Rand Paul are lambasting the move as “welfare” for farmers.

"Tariffs are taxes that punish American consumers and producers," Paul wrote on Twitter. "If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers — the answer is remove the tariffs."

Most of Iowa’s Republican congressional delegation seems to agree that the farm aid package is a Band-Aid that wouldn’t be necessary if Trump would just agree to refrain from the unnecessary limb amputation. But they are still willing to take the Band-Aid.

Sen. Joni Ernst put it this way: “In Iowa alone, more than 456,000 jobs are supported by global trade, and these new tariffs are threatening $977 million in state exports. While a trade mitigation package could boost farmer morale in the short term, this is ultimately a short-term fix. We need a longer-term strategy to ensure that farmers are able to sell their goods around the globe.”

Rep. David Young was more skeptical of the aid package, however. "What this really is, though, is the administration — the president — admitting that his trade policies are hurting Iowa farmers and producers, and all across the heartland for that matter," Young said in an interview with WHO-TV. "Farmers want markets, they want trade, and not necessarily this aid."
The timing of Trump’s aid package is highly suspicious. 

As the Register, the Washington Post and other media have reported, most soybean farmers are doing fine right now because most of their crop was sold in advance at higher prices than today’s market rate. That may not be the case with all other producers and manufacturers, but the real concern seems to be about what might happen if this trade war drags into next year.

The apparent goal of Trump’s farm giveaway and the way it is most likely to be effective is as a $12 billion mute button for the legitimate concerns of farmers, agribusinesses and officials in rural, GOP-friendly states. And right before the midterm elections, too. Does this plan make sense now?

This editorial is the opinion of the Des Moines Register’s editorial board: Carol Hunter, executive editor; Kathie Obradovich, opinion editor; Andie Dominick, editorial writer, and Richard Doak and Rox Laird, editorial board members.

Labels: , ,

Truth about Puerto Rico hurricane deaths caused by Maria

Wall Street Journal report 
(Natalie Andrews contributed to this article)

June 1 file photo, a child shines a light on hundreds of shoes at a memorial for those killed by Hurricane Maria, in front of the Puerto Rico Capitol in San Juan. Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP

"This tragic loss of life of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico is unconscionable. We must do more to both hold this administration accountable for a terrible response and help Puerto Rico recover, rebuild and thrive again."

Documents filed to Congress concede that number of fatalities from the Maria storm was far higher than official (Trump) count of 64

Puerto Rico's government acknowledged in a document filed to the US Congress on Wednesday, that the death toll from Hurricane Maria last year may have exceeded 1,400, though the official count stands at (a lie!) 64.
The administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has faced criticism that it severely undercounted the number of fatalities stemming from the storm. Numerous studies by academic researchers and media organizations have concluded the death toll likely approached or surpassed 1,000 and could have been far higher.

The administration’s acknowledgment, reported earlier by the New York Times, appears in a lengthy document posted online Thursday detailing its recovery and reconstruction plan to Congress, with a wish list of $139 billion worth of projects.

“Although the initial death count released by the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was 64, the toll appears to be higher,” the document reads. Based on death registries data released in June, “there were 1,427 more deaths in the four months after the hurricanes than normal (based on the previous four years).”

Documents report that the deaths “may or may not be attributable” to Hurricanes Maria and Irma, which struck the island weeks earlier.

“We always anticipated that this number would increase as more official studies were conducted,” said Héctor Pesquera, secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Safety, on Thursday. But the figure of 1,427 “is not the official number of deaths,” he said. “That number was not the result of an independent study—it is simple math.”

The document also cites various analyses that have questioned the official count. Those include a study released in May by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and other institutions that concluded the number of hurricane-related deaths likely ranged from about 800 to 8,500. 

A study released earlier this month by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio put the number of fatalities at 1,139.

Mr. Rosselló’s administration said it would update the official death toll after a study by George Washington University is completed later this summer. The government commissioned the study in December in the face of criticism about its handling of the fatality count.

The 531-page plan submitted to Congress, titled “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation,” covers a wide range of proposed reconstruction projects. 

It includes $33 billion for housing initiatives, $26 billion for energy projects and $15 billion for education.

Document filed to Congress concedes that number of fatalities from storm was far higher than official count of 64

“It is a comprehensive plan for a stronger Puerto Rico,” said Omar Marrero, executive director of the island’s Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office, in a news release accompanying the plan.

Democrats in Congress responded to the latest report on the hurricane death toll by calling for more aid for the islands, though lawmakers didn’t say if they would push for Mr. Rosselló’s request.

A Democratic aide said Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, would “carefully review” the plan.

“This tragic loss of life of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico is unconscionable,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Twitter. “We must do more to both hold this administration accountable for a terrible response and help Puerto Rico recover, rebuild and thrive again.”

Since Oct. 1, 2017, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has designated more than $13.7 billion for Puerto Rico. 

Congress is set to appropriate $7 billion to FEMA’s disaster relief fund for next year. Some of that money will go to Puerto Rico, but it is not intended to help with the long-term projects that Puerto Rico is requesting.

—Natalie Andrews contributed to this article.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Too close to call going into the 2018 election ~ Vote Blue

Too Close to Call Ohio 12 

Republicans should be in panic mode post the Ohio 12 special election.

Ohio’s special election to fill the seat of retiring Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi was too close to call on election night (when the results should have been pre-determined by Republican gerrymandering of the Ohio 12 Congressional district). 

Republican Troy Balderson’s lead was less than 1 percent ahead of his opponent, Democrat Danny O'Connor. Provisional and absentee ballots were still being counted the next morning.

The results in the election, like previous special elections this cycle in the Georgia 6th Congressional District and Pennsylvania’s 18th, signal that Democrats are energized and fielding quality candidates even in places that have not been competitive for them in recent election cycles.

The story of this special election has become familiar across the country: Democrats are angry, motivated and active even in districts that have traditionally been safely Republican. Meanwhile, Republicans continue to enjoy advantages in congressional elections.

These advantages are mainly due to gerrymandering, which has been easier for Republicans because their voters are spread out across suburban and rural areas in a way that lets Republicans control more space. Those advantages have given Balderson a slight lead, but Republicans across the country may be concerned after this election.
This was supposed to be easy

In the 2010 elections, Republicans won the Ohio governor’s race and control of the state legislature. They used that power to redraw congressional districts in their favor, rendering districts like the OH-12 largely un-competitive. 

MaineWriter ~ The way I see this, Donald Trump lost an 11 point margin in Ohio 12 (in less than two years).

That environment meant that Democrats faced significant barriers even with Tiberi’s retirement. And Republicans seemed to do all the right things to ensure they kept the seat. Balderson is a fine candidate. He has a resume as a reliable Republican state legislator and has played by the rules. He holds mainstream Republican positions and avoids extremist rhetoric.

Republican Balderson is not a Rick Saccone, the firebrand who lost to Conor Lamb in a Pennsylvania special election earlier this year. Nor is he a Roy Moore, the controversial Senate candidate who lost the special Alabama election after allegations of sexual assault and statutory rape came out.

The Republican Party, at both state and national levels, got heavily engaged in this special election. They spent a lot of money on the race, particularly in the last weeks of the campaign. 

Millions of dollars were spent on television ads, saturating the airwaves at a level usually reserved for presidential elections in the days leading up to the election.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence both held rallies in support of Balderson, and he received endorsements from Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Gov. John Kasich. 

The Ohio Republican Party was as active and united as they could be. the midterm environment?

The party not in control of the White House tends to do better in midterm elections, so it should come as no surprise that Democrats in Ohio were energized. One common explanation for this is that the difficulty of turning campaign promises into real results drives down enthusiasm among voters who become disappointed by their party’s struggles.

At the same time, enthusiasm rises among voters who see the governing party’s failures as confirmation of their own beliefs. This dynamic is, of course, exacerbated by President Trump’s historic unpopularity.

There are dozens of other House seats currently held by Republicans that will be at least as vulnerable as Ohio’s 12th Congressional District in November. 

Many things went right for Republicans in this special election: a strong candidate, lots of advertising, and strong party unity among key actors. They probably put forth their best possible effort – yet it is still too close to call.

Will Republicans be able to devote resources to all of those other races? If not, or if those resources aren’t enough, then Democrats could make strong gains this year.

Vote Blue 2018!

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Tribute to Virginia women

New Virginia Monument Will Pay Tribute to Hundreds of Historic Women ~ Article published in The Smithsonian by Brigit Katz
A plan for the Virginia women’s monument (Virginia Capitol Foundation via StudioEIS and the 1717 Design Group)
The monument features 12 bronze statues and a wall etched with 400 additional names of women who played an important role in shaping Virginia’s history ~ reference to article here

In May, a dozen actors gathered at a stark Brooklyn studio dressed in an eclectic range of women’s garb: a traditional Native American dress, a frilly white bonnet, a tattered apron, a luxurious purple gown. Photographers snapped away as the actors struck poses, giving first life to an innovative new monument that will be erected some 350 miles away in Richmond, Virginia.

Images of the actors are being used as models for 12 bronze statues of historic women, which will be arranged in a new plaza in Virginia’s Capitol Square. Some of the women that will be featured in the monument are well-known figures. Others have been largely forgotten. The women were active in different eras, lived in different parts of the state, and hailed from diverse backgrounds. But all of them made significant contributions to Virginia’s rich history.

Voices from the Garden,” as the monument is titled, has been in the works for a decade. In 2008, a group of women from Richmond met with then-Senator Walter Stosch to express their concerns about gaps in Virginia schools’ history curriculum. “They felt like young women and young men coming up through the school system did not know enough about people who had made a significant contribution to the commonwealth, particularly women,” says Susan Clarke Schaar, clerk of the Virginia Senate.

A monument that would stand tall in Capitol Square, the park that surrounds the State Capitol Building, seemed like a powerful way to pay tribute to the legacies of Virginia’s historic women. And so the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission was founded to put the plan into motion, and its members began soliciting design proposals. 

The winning design, created by the Brooklyn-based StudioEIS, features 12 bronze statues installed throughout an oval-shaped garden. A glass panel that surrounds the statues will be etched with the names of 400 additional women.

Recently, the commission announced that it had secured funding for four of the statues: Cockacoeske, a Pamunkey leader who negotiated with colonial officials to secure land and hunting rights for her people; Anne Burras Laydon, who was among the earliest English settlers of Jamestown; Virginia E. Randolph, the child of former slaves who became a respected educator; and the suffrage leader Adele Clark. The other eight monuments remain in various stages of fundraising, but Schaar says that the commission hopes to unveil all 12 in October of 2019.

While planning the new monument, the commission asked the public to suggest historic figures who might be featured in the design. To be considered, nominees had to have been deceased for at least ten years and made a significant contribution to Virginia or the nation as a whole. From hundreds of nominations, officials whittled the selection down to a final 12. (The original design imagined just 10 women depicted in sculpture form, but Schaar says they decided to expand that number once they realized their list couldn’t be narrowed down any further.)

“With the help of the library of Virginia, and women’s studies professors throughout the state, we looked at all of those people, we read their stories,” Schaar says.

The 12 women featured represent 400 years of Virginia history, and pay tribute to the state’s geographic and racial diversity. Others honored with a statue include Clementina Bird Rind, the pioneering editor of the Virginia Gazette, Maggie L. Walker, the first female bank president in the United States, and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a former slave who became a successful dressmaker, activist and the confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln.

Several prominent Virginians did not make it onto the commission’s final list, which sparked its share of controversy once the names were first announced. “[Someone] had a full-page ad taken out in the Richmond Times-Dispatch telling people to call me … on Thanksgiving morning and complain that we didn’t pick Pocahontas,” Schaar says.

Selecting only 12 women for the monument was “not easy,” Schaar says. The process came with the unenviable task of choosing between important figures like Martha Washington and Dolley Madison (officials ultimately went with Washington). “We knew we didn’t want [to include just the] people everyone could identify,” Schaar explains. “We wanted other people who are not quite as well known, but who did something significant that would entice people to learn more about other women.”

When the sculptures are finally erected, they will add new dimension to Capitol Square, which is dotted with tributes to prominent men—George Washington, Stonewall Jackson, Virginia governors William Smith and Harry Flood Byrd Sr., Edgar Allan Poe—but just one of a woman: Barbara Johns, a teenager who led her fellow African-American students in a walkout protest against school segregation in 1951.

The effect will be a powerful reminder at the seat of state government that women, too, played an important role in shaping Virginia—and continue to do so. 

To date, officials have chosen only 250 names for the glass panel that surrounds the sculpture garden. The remaining 150 names will be filled in over the years, as Virginia’s women continue to make their mark on history.

Labels: ,