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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Birthright to American Citizenship

George Will's Washington Post column on immigration published on March 28, 2010 sincerely irritated me. I sent him an e-mail to complain. In my opinion, his commentary raised the hideous specter of ethnic purist elitism as the criteria for being an American citizen. He may also be challenging my citizenship.

Will raised questions about applying birthright as a qualifier for American citizenship. In other words, by an interpretation of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment to US Constitution, children born in the US to illegal immigrants are American citizens. Will calls for a reconsideration of this privilege by looking at the intention of the amendment's language.

http://townhall.com/columnists/GeorgeWill/2010/03/28/a_birthright__maybe_not

Will says birthright citizenship might be a misinterpretation of the 14th amendment to the US Constitution which reads: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." Will writes, "From these words has flowed the practice of conferring citizenship on children born here to illegal immigrants." He says "...ratifiers (of the US Constitution 14th amendment) could not have intended birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants because in 1868 there were and never had been any illegal immigrants because no law ever had restricted immigration".

But Will raises a hypothetical situation because we don't know what the ratifiers were thinking. Surely, ratifiers knew what they meant when they wrote the amendment. It means what it says it means.

All of my grandparents were immigrants. They raised children in America before becoming American citizens. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if my Ukrainian grandparents ever became citizens, but they must have done something to legalize their residency during their American journey. My Italian grandparents could hardly wait to become citizens. They protected their citizenship paperwork to prove their legality. As a result of my grandparents being immigrants, my parents were born to illegal immigrants. My mother was born in Monesson Pennsylvania prior to my grandparents becoming naturalized. My father was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in 1908, which made him an American citizen by birth as well.

I believe Will is calling into question my citizenship. If his twisted logic takes hold, he could be saying my grandparents should not have called their children American citizens. Carrying this logic forward could infer that I should not be an American citizen.

George Will is loosing his conservative mind! By raising the specter of ethnic purism as a requirement for citizenship, he may even be calling into question his own citizenship. This is dangerous thinking and totally abhorrent to my understanding of citizenship. Being an American citizen is an honor because my immigrant grandparents worked their fingers to the bone to insure their children had citizenship status. Citizenship is not a birthright but an honor my grandparents worked hard for. God help us if we become a nation of entitled citizens! It will lead us to becoming a nation of DNA specimens - where did your DNA originate?

Will owes me and my grandparents an apology for his sickening attention getting column written to stir up more mistrust about the intentions of hard working illegal immigrants. Immigration reform is one thing. Cultural elitism has no place in this debate. Constitutional purists should writhe at changing the intention of the Constitution to fit their own liking. If conservatives like Will want to tinker with the US Constitution, then I vote to word-smith the right to bear arms protected in the 2nd Amendment as well.

Anti-immigration fanatics should first examine their own genealogies before arbitrarily questioning the interpretation of the Constitution's 14th amendment.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Roman Catholic Priests and the Eastern Rite - Time for Change

My father was a Ukrainian Eastern Rite Catholic. This means, his tradition is recognized by Rome under the umbrella of the Vatican. Eastern Rite Catholics are under the Roman Catholic Church, not the Orthodox Church.

The Ukrainian (Russian) Eastern Rite reunited with the Roman Church in about 1595.

Eastern Rite priests are given permission to marry and raise a family, prior to being ordained. In other words, Eastern Rite Catholic priests are usually married and Rome says it's okay.

My father said the Eastern Rite is older than the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. I'm not a theologian or a religious historian, but I believe my father was correct because Roman Catholic priests say my personal tradition is Eastern Rite due to the precedence of the older tradition. In other words, I'm not Roman Catholic. In fact, I'm an Eastern Rite Catholic, although I practice the former.

My point is, if the Eastern Rite has a historic precedence over the Roman Rite, then why aren't Roman Catholic priests allowed to be married?

Which leads to the point of this blog. Eastern Rite Catholic priests do not appear to be stained by the current sexual abuse incidents now eroding the foundation of Roman Catholicism. The egregious conduct of some Roman Catholic clergy whose criminal behavior was ignored by church administration is threatening to undermine the Vatican's universal religious mission and good social teachings to help the poor.

I have not heard about the sexual abuse behavior infecting Eastern Rite married clergy.

My lay person cure for the criminal sexual abuse cancer eating away at the Vatican are as follows:

1. Call for the resignation of all bishops who are implicated in the sexual abuse cover up.

2. Change the celibacy rule for Roman Catholic priests to be consistent with those of the Easter Rite ordination to the clergy.

3. Focus on the spiritual development of the faithful by inspiring prayer, reflection, forgiveness and benevolent social policy - following the lead of the religious orders of nuns around the world who seem to "get" this.

There is hope to overcome this scandal if the Roman Rite is prepared to undergo a renewal and return to the spiritual roots of its success. Excoriate the sexual abusive behavior by ripping off the celibacy condition as a requirement for ordination to the Roman Catholic clergy.

Certain religious orders may still choose to continue the celibacy tradition. This tradition, selected by a few, should not preclude all men who want to become priests from taking the Sacrament of Marriage. Precedence for this policy is established among widowers, as well as those ordained converts from other Christian religious traditions, like the Episcopal Church, for example.

Most of all, whatever Rite of the Christian faith we celebrate, let's join together in prayer by calling for an improvement in the universal human condition. In my lay person's understanding of faith, we are precariously off course right now and headed to a schism caused by the cover up of this scandal.

Clergy celibacy is a man made rule. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said: "A man has free choice to the extent that he is rational".

Our beloved faith must get back to what's humanly rational.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Majority Rules - Republicans and Health Care Reform

I watched the US House of Representatives vote to pass historic health care reform while working on a laptop computer. On Sunday night around 10 PM, on March 20th, while voting began, I was inside Maine's historic capitol building with a group of vigilant advocates. We were keeping ourselves awake while monitoring a Maine legislative Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs who were working on votes for the state's budget.

Democrats were easily differentiated from the Republicans in our antechamber of lobbyists. All (I mean all) the Democrats were mesmerized by our laptop computers while watching the health care reform vote on C-Span on the Internet. Republicans, on the other hand, were in the upper room attending a caucus. They clearly snubbed us Democrats by not joining with our colleagues during the history making vote.

Today, President Obama signed the Health Care reform bill into law. One would think the sky was going to cave in as Republicans whined and carried on about this landmark legislation. Although it's raining in Maine today, I expect the sun to shine tomorrow. Gloom and doomsday predictions by the Republicans are saber rattling rhetoric aimed to scare America's right wing tea party advocates into mobilizing for support of repealing this important legislation.

Respect for "majority rule" doesn't seem to hold with Republicans who now vow to repeal the reforms. They conveniently use the law to their advantage but discard the fundamentals of a majority in a democracy. Republicans often carry the US Constitution around in their pocket like a prayer book, but appear to turn on the basic tenet of a democratic government. Although the vote was not bi-partisan, it was a majority vote margin. Health Care Reform is now the law of the USA.

Truth be told, Republicans want nothing better than to stir up trouble for all social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and now health care reform. Those who support progressive social policy must diligently protect the last century's social reforms. We must protect every American's right to a life secured by an earned retirement accompanied by access to quality and affordable health care, regardless of a person's ability to pay. It's the right thing to do. Republicans who argue about doing the right thing should explain otherwise. They can't. Rather, they invent meaningless slogans like "Socialized Medicine!" Listen up, Socialism is not medicine. It's like saying Democracy is oceanography.

Now that majority rules on health care reform, we Democrats are required to protect what our predecessors fought for and, thus far, achieved. We now carry the torch for supporting social reforms to care for our fellow Americans, regardless of their political persuasion. Let's act like a responsible majority and rule with enlightened compassion. Let's also pray for good guidance during these politically charged times.

Thank you to all Democrats who voted for Health Care Reform - finally!

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Centennial Celebrations and Death Valley Days

Of all the worthy Centennial Celebrations to write about, this particular blog is a critical comment on the 100th anniversary of the late television host of the old "Death Valley Days" shows.

There are certainly worthy Centennials going on this year. In 2010, the care giving nurses of the world are celebrating the Centennial Anniversary of the death of our professional founder Florence Nightingale. There's a Centennial Celebration going on with Catholic Charities throughout the United States. Millions of people are cared for by Catholic Charities agencies in the US and around the world. Nightingale and Catholic Charities should be honored in the US media this year.

But, instead, a Centennial commemoration is being promoted on national TV about the host of the old television show titled "Death Valley Days". This particular Centennial is sponsored by General Electric because the host of "Death Valley Days", as you have figured out by now, was the late President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), who was an actor when the GE theater shows were taped for television. Regan hosted "Death Valley Days" and GE Theater during his television years prior to entering politics to become governor of California. During the 1950s, Reagan traveled the nation as GE's goodwill ambassador.

Nancy Reagan is quoted in a press release about the General Electric tribute to her late husband. "The opportunity to represent GE back in the 1950s, and the encouragement he received from the employees he met along the way, really launched Ronnie's career in public service," Mrs. Reagan said. GE's gift includes lots of money. $10 million in cash will accompany advertising and promotion to support the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration. A Presidential museum refurbishing will open on the eve of Regan's 100th birthday. Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911.

Reagan's Centennial celebration probably has nothing to do with politics. Shun the thought! Or NOT? Nostalgia about the late president can stir up thoughts of Happy Days, when Morning in America seemed only one more tax cut away from making us all supply side millionaires. Americans are still paying our way out of the debt created by the Regan economic revolution. Today's tax hawks should look back to Regan, the icon of conservatism, for digging the deficit hole when his administration drove the country $1.2 trillion into an economic abyss. Reagan was a mediocre actor, but he set the stage for today's insurmountable deficits.

In my opinion, President Reagan was a terrific host for "Death Valley Days". He introduced each show with the ambiance of an aging cowboy who wanted to tell you a good story. His entire Presidential mystique was wrapped up in his ability to communicate one good old story after another. He was a professional actor who never won an Oscar for his talent. Nonetheless, he made history on June 12, 1987, when he ordered President Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!" in Berlin, Germany, during a speech he gave at the Brandenburg Gate.

Reagan's much quoted speech sounded more like a re-run of the electrifying "Ich bin ein Berliner" or "I am a Berliner" speech which sparked the world when President John F. Kennedy professed his support for a free Germany during a June 26, 1963 speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin. Reagan simply acted out a 24 year old re-run of the Kennedy speech, in my opinion.

Let's pretend General Electric is running nostalgic "Death Valley Days" footage of President Regan for patriotic reasons. Hopefully, this Reagan Centennial campaign is not a jump start for the 2012 presidential election. Let's say the GE campaign is not a back door way to keep President Regan alive, six years after he died.

I've always believed the Republicans would vote for Ronald Reagan today if there was a way to prove he had the after life sightings of Elvis Presley. Thank You God for giving President Reagan the grace to die with dignity with Alzheimer's Disease. Dozens of people among his family and friends could verify his slow decline and demise. Otherwise, it is possible "The Gipper" President could be rolled in front of television cameras again, to host a sequel to "Death Valley Days".

It's nice to know GE wants to give money to the President Ronald Reagan museum. Thank you GE for this corporate generosity. Please, however, let the "Death Valley Days" host rest in political peace.

Centennial celebrations should focus people on how to improve our frail human condition. Florence Nightingale's life should be exhumed this year. All the people cared for by Catholic Charities agencies could hold hands around the world. I prefer to focus on purposeful Centennial celebrations, rather than be media fed a suspiciously political cause for a "Death Valley Days" actor.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Maine's Team of Rivals - Governor 2011

Many Maine advocacy groups are taking time to carefully interview the state's new governor. Only one out of the herd of about 27 talented people will be elected to lead Maine beginning in 2011. Yes indeed, at least 27 people were running when I last checked. They are a formidable team of rivals. Their political parties are Republicans, Democrats, Green Independents and Independents. There's a menu selection of names running in each political party.

Participating on nine interviews was one of the best jobs I've ever been assigned. Although I admit to entering these interviews with some preconceived ideas about who the candidates were, I was deligtfully surprised by the outcomes in the nine meetings I attended. I was fortuante to interview exceptionally talented, qualified and dedicated people who sincerely want to build a better Maine. Their diverse talents came together when they discussed how to fix Maine's struggling economy. They want to do whatever it takes to improve it.

Of course, supporters of individual candidates will take issue with my sweeping generalization about the credentials of those I interviewed. My response is for critics to interview the candidates I've interviewed so we can compare notes. I'll wager it will be as difficult as sapping Maple in July to collect negatives about Maine's team of gubernatorial rivals.

Whew! A rival team of decent and qualified people running for the governor of Maine, the most economically needy state in New England. Maine badly needs visionary leadership to attract people with 21st century skill sets to the state. Jobs in technology and science are badly needed if young people are going to claim Maine as their home. Maine is a beautiful place to live but, unfortunately, too few high paying jobs are available to make living here worthwhile. Lost manufacturing jobs have not been equally replaced by new or innovative industries. I met a young man in Northern Maine several months ago who said he could not name even one new business coming into the city of Caribou in the past year, 2009. Ouch!

I'm not an economist nor a political science major, but I have a good sense about when change needs to happen. Maine has a good team of guvernatorial candidates among the 9 who I interviewed. But, which one can lead as a change agent?

New ideas for economic growth are badly needed here.

Hopefully, my interviews introduced me to Maine's next leader. I suggest the new governor hire all those who ran in the primary election of 2010, because this team of rivals will undoubtedly put Maine economically back together again.

Readers, no doubt, want to know which candidates I interviewed. In alphabetical order they were: Beardsley, Cutler, Jacobson, LePage, Mills, Otten, Poliquin, Richardson and Rowe.

Each is a formidable candidate who has the will to win and lead change. It's a good idea for Maine people to carefully engage in an interview process of their own making to meet this team of qualified rivals.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Republican Baby Boomers

Today's Maine weather was unseasonably warm. Our Topsham neighbors came out of hibernation to clean up the yard's winter kill. Enjoying a walk on paved roads absent ice patches is a rare March event in Maine.

My Republican neighbor stopped her yard raking to chat. Our conversation led to a discussion about retirement. At 64, she still needs to work to pay for health care insurance.

"Next year", I told her, "you will know how wonderful it is to have a government run health care plan. Medicare will cover you!"

She cringed, but said, "I hope Medicare is still around to cover me."

The rhetorical point of this blog is to ask: What is it about health care reform the Republicans simply don't get? My Republican neighbor has been paying for health care Medicare insurance throughout her working life. She doesn't know this is an earned entitlement.

Medicare is a quality government run health care plan. Providers complain about Medicare because, they claim, it doesn't pay them enough. What's enough? Margins are made based upon efficiency. If a physician or hospital is efficient, providing quality care while demonstrating clearly positive outcomes, the payments made over time will exceed the expense of providing the treatment. Medicare rates are one source of provider payments. Other sources in the payer mix are Managed Care, private insurance, Medicaid and private pay. Medicare beneficiaries are, by far, the largest users of the health care system. Aging baby boomers will continue to improve the efficiencies needed to generate Mediare margins to health care providers.

Meanwhile, the Medicare consumer has complete freedom to choose who they want for their provider.

Obviously, more Republicans need to turn 65 before the value of health care reform kicks in.

Senator John McCain, of course, has used a government run health care plan since he was born because his father was retired military. As a survivor of cancerous melanoma, Senator McCain shouldn't have any complaints about the government run health care he has received from being a retired Navy officer and a United States Senator.

Health insurance companies have spent many-many millions (some say a billion) dollars to defeat reform. What would have happened to Social Security or Medicare if powerful lobby groups were around in the 1930s or the 1960s?

My Republican neighbor might never be able to retire if Social Security in the 1930s and Medicare legislation in the 1960s had been put through the same devious media campaigns that health care reform is exposed to.

Powerful and well funded special interest groups have manipulated people into believing there is something sinister about providing quality and affordable health care coverage to everyone.

What's the solution? Aging.

When every Republican is over 65 years old - as they all march toward this inevitable developmental age - they will become consumers of a single payer government run health care program. Moreover, they will love it because the alternative is working until they die.

My neighbor said she dreads turning 65. What is her alternative?

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