Archive for Issues

Nuclear and the Democrats

Today I received a very disturbing letter from a group called Public Citizen, whose mission includes keeping an eye on campaign finance reform, which was dealt a huge blow by the Supreme Court last year. It is a call for action, and I wanted to pass it on. If nuclear energy is progressive, then I am not a progressive. -DD

From Public Citizen (March 23, 2011): “Just days before the Japanese earthquake, nuclear power company Duke Energy extended a $10 million loan to Obama’s re-election convention committee. Tell President Obama to reject the $10 million loan from Duke Energy. Public Citizen is firmly opposed to politicians accepting huge sums of money from corporations. President Obama accepting a line of credit from Duke Energy — a company that operates three nuclear plants and is negotiating with federal officials on subsidies to build a fourth — while formulating his response to the crisis in Japan and reviewing our own energy policy presents the potential for a disheartening and disastrous conflict of interests. Furthermore, accepting this loan would seriously undermine the administration’s efforts to clean up electoral politics, which have included the Democratic National Convention banning direct corporate contributions for the first time ever. Send President Obama an email urging him to reject corporate loans to his re-election committee.”

Links to related articles:

From the National Center for Public Policy Research (March 17, 2011):Duke Energy to Bail Out the Democratic National Convention by Committing $10 Million Loan Guarantee

From All Gov (March 18, 2011):Duke Energy Gives Democratic National Convention $10 Million Line of Credit

From the National Legal and Policy Center (March 16, 2011):Duke Energy CEO Rogers Plays Politics With Shareholder Money; $10M Credit Line for Democrats


A Letter from Thich Nhat Hanh

This message was posted on Thich Nhat Hanh’s Facebook page and shared with me by a favorite yoga teacher. I found it very moving and worth sharing here.

Dear friends in Japan,
As we contemplate the great number of people who have died in this tragedy, we may feel very strongly that we ourselves, in some part or manner, also have died.
The pain of one part of humankind is the pain of the whole of humankind. And the human species and the planet Earth are one body. What happens to one part of the body happens to the whole body.
An event such as this reminds us of the impermanent nature of our lives. It helps us remember that what’s most important is to love each other, to be there for each other, and to treasure each moment we have that we are alive. This is the best that we can do for those who have died: we can live in such a way that they continue, beautifully, in us.
Here in France and at our practice centers all over the world, our brothers and sisters will continue to chant for you, sending you the energy of peace, healing and protection. Our prayers are with you.


The Madman and The Black Monk

by Dana Davison

Lately, I’ve got madness on the mind. I suspect this is a result of the brutal winter and diving back into the Russian literature. They go so well together. I’ve been finding that a lot of people are thinking about some of the eternal questions that arise from feeling mad. A good fairy angel gave me a wonderful seat last week for Gogol’s Diary of a Madman at the BAM Harvey Theater. It’s my favorite Brooklyn theater, all crumbling in its splendor. The stage had been transformed into an attic room, with red brick walls and a slanting tin roof. Rain was falling onto the skylight and dripping into buckets on the stained floors. In the back, a little bed with a trunk at the foot of it, and in the middle a desk lit by candle. Poprishchin’s room. The adaptation made him a bit more British than Russian, but the Australian Geoffery Rush gave a magnificent performance. I watched him slowly losing his mind.

Afterward, I went up to the psychiatry ward at Lenox Hill Hospital to visit a friend there, who seemed to me no different than her usual loony self. But still it seems everyone is feeling a bit crazy these days. Maybe because of the current scary state of the world, but maybe it’s something smaller, something old; age-old questions, in any case. While this may not fall directly under Ethical Realism, I’m posting here my response to reading the Chekhov story called The Black Monk, with a link below to the story itself… a pleasant diversion, and a gentle contrast to Madman.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Though not a typical Chekhov story, The Black Monk (1894) embraces the major themes of the times in which it was written: nature, the supernatural and psychology.

Nature comes into play with the beautiful descriptions of the garden, the explanation of using smoke to combat the frost and the articles written by Igor Semenich. It is the decorative part of the story, exhibiting desire and aesthetics. Nature becomes human, providing different views to the world. The Black Monk himself is a mystical mythic creature. Born of a legend, perhaps of Kovrin’s own imagination, a thousand-year-old ghost. Some critics put the story in the genre of the fantastic, but it seems more easily categorized as magical realism today, as the story contains elements of both the usual and unusual. However, even that might be a stretch and perhaps moot, as Chekhov himself did not subscribe to one genre but sought to conquer general problems in his stories. Because he was a doctor and medicine was such a big part of his life (“Medicine is my wife, and literature my mistress.”), it seems more likely that the psychological aspects drive the story as a study of mental illness.

All three of the main characters live with their own double personalities. Igor Semenich says he wants Kovrin as his son-in-law, but then worries when it comes to pass. His ego shows in his attitude toward his garden and his daughter. Tanya worries about Kovrin, and alternates between pride and jealousy. For her, marriage is an illusion and not a happy one. The way she and her father relate to each other also illustrates dysfunction. The states of mind of Igor Semenich and Kovrin run parallel and in the end they share the same destiny. Everyone seems to be looking out for themselves and blind to the needs of others. But truth has different perspectives, and not everyone sees things in the same way.

It is the figure of Kovrin who best exemplifies the central theme of the story. Through this main character, Chekhov raises questions that are eternally relevant, such as: What makes a person happy? How does one live an interesting life not muddled with mediocrity and remain sane? How to find the way and know your place in the world? What is and is not important? What does it mean to heal a person? Is it better to live with joyful illusions? What is the meaning of life and death? These questions are not answered in the story but examined without judgment, in my opinion, so the reader can draw his or her own conclusions.

Kovrin feels he does not know anything but his studies. When he arrives at Borissovka, he is still studying all night. Already his mental state is altered. He thinks about how much he has accomplished so far in life, but he wonders about the purpose. He comes to think that the practical things are for nothing. His encounters with the Black Monk make him feel important and happy, and others notice how interesting he is. When he is cured of his visions, he feels completely ordinary and depressed. The most meaningful passage regarding the psychology appears in part five, where Kovrin converses with the Black Monk on connections between immortality, enjoyment and knowledge, sanity, health and normalcy. It ends with the Black Monk slowly vanishing.

“The hallucination is over,” said Kovrin; and he laughed. “It’s a pity.” It is.

The Black Monk by Anton Chekhov (translated by Constance Garnett)


Maryhouse: An East Village Gem

By Dana Davison

Among the new luxury condominiums, fancy cafes and boutique clothing stores in the East Village, an old redbrick building caters to a different crowd.

Maryhouse offers its services to homeless women. Established in 1976 on East Third Street by journalist and activist Dorothy Day, it is one of more than 180 “houses of hospitality” founded as part of the Catholic Worker movement across the country. It provides food, clothing, showers, telephone and a place of warmth, through the efforts of volunteers.

Volunteering isn’t just for the holidays here. It’s a way of life. Most of the volunteers live at the house, consciously practicing poverty to better understand those they serve. There are currently 28 residents at Maryhouse, ranging in age from two to 92, coming from privileged homes and from the streets, and including a family of refugees from the Congo. Resident volunteers share the same roof with guests in need of shelter. They work together as a community, performing a wide variety of little works of mercy.

“The only thing predictable about the day-to-day here is the unpredictability,” says resident volunteer Lindsay Hagerman, a 27-year-old Dallas native.

She says a given day could include visiting a hospital or nursing home, doing house repairs, organizing donations, hanging out with a visitor or housemate, attending a demonstration, writing letters, praying, attending Mass, accompanying someone in an ambulance, or preparing the newspaper for mailing.

The Catholic Worker newspaper started the movement of the same name in 1933 when Day’s friend Peter Maurin convinced her to co-publish a paper aimed at the social teachings of the church and advocating for the poor and nonviolence. It remains an integral part of the Catholic Worker community to this day, with 20,000 subscribers.

“We take turns writing the articles, and we print the address labels and do all the preparations for mailing it right here, with no paid staff members, and no subscription price,” says Felton Davis, 59, who came to Maryhouse in 1988 from an upper-middle class upbringing where nothing was wanting. “It’s been very instructive for me to live among the poor and try to be a useful person,” he says.

As part of their work, Catholic Worker volunteers regularly attend peace demonstrations, sometimes landing in jail for it. Davis was arrested in 2002 outside the United Nations during a campaign against preparations for the Iraq war, and again for a war protest at the Intrepid on Good Friday this year, where he and others were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking the entrance to the military museum.

Hagerman also participated in the Intrepid demonstration. She says being a volunteer at Maryhouse is different in a lot of ways from other types of volunteering. “I view the Catholic Worker philosophy as revolutionary,” she says, “and our work at the house – however seemingly mundane or small, often because of how mundane and small – as profoundly religious and political.”

Dorothy Day referred to herself as a Catholic anarchist, and she called her philosophy “personalism,” describing it as taking personal responsibility for someone in need.

Some of the volunteers at Maryhouse handle the responsibility by covering specific shifts at the house, cooking and cleaning, answering the phone and door. Other residents help out even if they are not on shift. Hagerman says the way work gets defined is one of the most radical things about the Catholic Worker; it calls into question when a person is working and what work is valuable, as well as how productivity and results are measured and whether those measurements are necessarily important. “Much of our work is outside shifts,” she says.

For Davis, this work also includes helping the homeless women with social services and keeping in touch with political prisoners and death row inmates through letter-writing campaigns. “What it boils down to is that we are supposed to be doing for others what we would have others doing for us if we were the outcast and the downtrodden,” he says. “It’s that simple, though making that happen within a community context is not easy.”

Maryhouse is run more like a big family than an institution, Davis says. The building formerly housed the Third Street Music School, so the auditorium provides a space for meetings and speakers and storing the newspapers. On the main floor, there is also an office and computer room with a dot-matrix printer and the little chapel room for vespers, which is the only space in the building where people are not allowed to sleep. The kitchen, dining room and clothing room are downstairs, where most of the socializing takes place.

Throughout the house, the walls are covered with posters and photographs of Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa and Gandhi, and with messages of tolerance and spreading peace. “In the midst of the apparent chaos here,” Davis says, “there is order and purpose and surprisingly enough, a lot of love.”

The boarding rooms are upstairs, where there is also a library. And that’s where preparations for Christmas are made each year, which include wrapping presents and making as many gift bags as possible. The holidays often bring visiting volunteers, and Davis appreciates the energy brought by the visitors, who he says aren’t as bogged down with the daily grind of life at the house and often lighten up the atmosphere.

The day after Thanksgiving, the clothing room, which usually opens only on Tuesday, was made available for the holiday.

“It’s my Black Friday here today,” says one of the women who came for lunch. Dee finds a pretty blue and white kimono and brings it into the kitchen to try on in the pantry. She asks Kaori Teramura, a visiting volunteer from upstate, to help show her how to put it on correctly. Teramura obliges, and then makes an impromptu obi from a flower-print smock and ties that around her waist, giving Dee the full effect of a proper Japanese lady. They grin in delight and bow to one another.

Click here for Maryhouse slideshow (music by DC Valentine)

The volunteers are collecting coats for women and men in need for the winter. Donations can be dropped at Maryhouse, which is located at 55 East Third Street between First and Second Avenues. Or call (212) 777-9617 for more information.


In the Name of Peace

By Dana Davison

Different factions refer to it as the Islamic Community Center, Cordoba Center, Ground Zero Mosque, Muslim Center or the Old Burlington Coat Factory. Each of these names might reveal a particular stance on the project officially known as Park51.

However, the debate surrounding this controversial building proposal centers not on the name but on the location. And while extreme opinions on both sides of this polarizing issue tend to garner the most attention, two women—both non-Muslim and deeply affected by September 11th—offer more nuanced and unexpected opposing views. Their beliefs put them each at odds with their peers, but they find common ground with each other on what stirred the controversy and agree on a possible solution.

Abigail Carter lost her husband in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. She supports Park51. “I feel that any group, no matter their faith, has the freedom to exist in this country,” she says. Carter was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Toronto. She and her husband, Arron Dack, lived in London, Brussels and Boston before settling in Montclair, NJ. After her husband’s death, Carter started writing as a way to make sense of it all. She now lives in Seattle, and has contributed to Self magazine and published a book called The Alchemy of Loss.

“The mosque is not technically at Ground Zero, but even if it were, as long as it is legal in respect to city ordinances, it should not matter where it is built,” she says. “I do not hold all of Islam accountable for my husband’s death, just as I do not hold all Christians accountable for the Oklahoma bombing or all Germans accountable for the Holocaust. To me, a mosque at Ground Zero shows the zealots responsible for terrorist acts and the rest of the world what freedom and tolerance look like, and shows that we are not conquered by their acts but able to rise above them and grow stronger.”

Genevieve describes herself as an average New York lady. She has lived in the city for 25 years, working as a freelance writer and editor, and she watched the collapsed towers from her Chelsea apartment rooftop. She opposes Park51, much to the surprise of her fellow liberal friends. Because of angry reactions and a general worry of repercussions, she prefers to use a pseudonym. “I think it is inappropriate to build such a center, no matter how noble its intentions, on the site where such a huge, terrible crime was committed in the name of Islam,” she says, “even though the vast majority of Muslims find that day as abominable as anyone else.”

She points out that the old Burlington Coat factory was damaged on September 11th by part of one of the planes that flew into the towers. “That, to me, makes the location very fairly part of Ground Zero,” Genevieve says. “Opposing a location is not religious intolerance. Religious tolerance is abundantly established in this country, and the more I heard opposition to the site almost uniformly labeled bigotry, the more I felt that something very scary was happening. Calling someone bigoted is an effective way of putting a stop to a healthy discussion of anything. I do not see how building the center in another Manhattan location would ultimately hurt anyone who would want to use it.”

Carter and Genevieve have never met, but they each are taking an unusual position within their respective worlds, and both express an awareness of the other side. Carter worries about getting flack from other families affected by 9/11 who oppose it, but she says so far no one has dared to take on a widow. “I sense that the opposition is based in fear,” Carter says. “It is a fear I understand.” Genevieve is concerned that people realize there are valid reasons to oppose it, but she says, “There are also a variety of equally ugly reasons.”

From their two unique vantage points, the women concur that the media intensified the divisions. “The media fanned the flames of this issue and then the politicians jumped on board and used it to whatever advantage they could,” Carter says. “The media often plays Chicken Little with their alarmism.” Genevieve thinks most of the mainstream media labels any opposition to the project as intolerance. She points to the coverage of Florida pastor Terry Jones. “The pastor may have acted in a tasteless way,” she says, “but media outlets effectively poured gasoline on a spark and turned it into a bonfire.”

Discord about the project extends into the Muslim community, and the developers are trying to set the record straight.

For their part, prominent Muslims are divided on the project for various reasons. Journalist, author and commentator Fareed Zakaria supports Park51 on secular grounds, and Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, opposes it as insensitive. In a recent Wall Street Journal column, Muslim scholar Irshad Manji posed questions like “Will the swimming pool be segregated? May women lead congregational prayers any day of the week? What will be taught about homosexuals? Agnostics? Atheists? Apostasy? Where does one sign up for advance tickets to Salman Rushdie’s lecture?”

The Park51 website does not address these specific questions, but the developers are making their case for the center as a place of tolerance, stating in the Vision section: “Our goals are pluralism, service, arts and culture, health and healing.” And in the Mission section, the center strives to: “Encourage dialogue, harmony and respect amongst all people, regardless of race, faith, gender or cultural background.”

Although Genevieve believes the location could be easily moved out of respect since the developers still need a lot more money to make the center a reality, she also supports a proposed compromise to keep the Park51 address. Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel publicly suggested that Imam Faisal Rauf bring Muslims, Christians and Jews together to raise the money, and run it as a Center of Islam, Christianity and Judaism, united.

It may be idealistic, but then that is a quality these two women share in their agreement on a solution to end the tensions and promote healing for everyone involved. Says Carter, “I love it! What a message that would send to the world!”


On Park51

I’m posting this email from a reader with the idea of initiating some discussion from both sides, not of the extreme but of the in-between. –HD

Dear Hope Dascher,

In watching this whole brouhaha about the Islamic Center down near Ground Zero, what strikes me about it is the way so much of the media seems determined to portray supporters for the Center as morally superior and those opposed to it as hateful and/or bigoted. There doesn’t seem to be any room for all the many ideas in between those two extremes. Recently Imam Faisal Rauf, of the proposed Center, said something that bothered me in an interview on CBS “This Week.” He said that while he hasn’t closed the door on moving the project, he fears that moving it will cause a big uproar in the Muslim world. He said:

“My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people — our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens — under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism.”

If that is his main concern about whether or not to move the location of the Center, it would mean that we’re held hostage to building it there out of fear that people elsewhere might be offended and therefore might cause us harm. I find that very depressing. I find hearing the word “hatred” used so easily and copiously by people in favor of the location also very depressing. Because while there’s plenty of hatred to be found in the world, I think most people who oppose the location are not doing it out of hatred at all. On the news, we see truly hateful people featured on one side, people insisting that opposing it equals religious intolerance on the other, and absolutely nothing in between. I’ve read some articles recently by Muslims on the subject, which I think are worth reading, one by Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU, in which she states that both sides have it wrong.

A Muslim Reformer on the Mosque

Another one is by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, in which he offers compelling reasons from a Muslim point of view for why the location is a mistake.

Muslim Scholar: Don’t Build Islamic Center

I wonder why so many writers on “The Left” (And I consider myself an essentially left-wing thinker) want to write off any opposition as bigotry, which is a kind of bigotry in itself. I can’t imagine that anyone wanting to use the Islamic Center and all the altruistic amenities it proposes would be made to feel terrible if it were built, for example, on an empty lot I’ve passed for years on East 13th Street. By contrast, I have heard many family members of Sept. 11th victims saying it would cause them pain to have it built there, and I don’t see how allowing for that by compromising on the location is in any way indicative of the U.S. being intolerant to religious freedom. Being opposed to the building of  “a mosque” on any site would indeed be intolerance in action, but the majority of New Yorkers, according to polls, just feel that it would be preferable to not build it there. What bothers me most is the relentless campaign from the left to brand any opposition as hatred. It makes me so sad, and to me the hatred feels palpable almost, but it’s coming from “my” side.

These are some of my thoughts. I thought you might like to post the enclosed links for your Ethical Realist readers.

– Genevieve


It Is What You Make It

Nine months flew by since my last entry here, and all I can say is the more things Change, the more they stay the same. Since then, Obama fever dropped down to just above normal, as even some of the more faithful got to reason and critical thinking, and started asking tough questions of our new president based on his actions since taking office, as he’d wanted us to do. Encouraged by this, I guess I got lazy. In any case, I admittedly began tuning out politics again in favor of other, more enjoyable pursuits.

A few weeks ago, however, I was shaken back into it by the remarkable observations of a couple of usually like-minded individuals, both giving me the same line. I’d been so out of the loop I couldn’t argue but instead stared back blankly. On separate occasions, both starting with a conversation about the Nobel Peace Prize, I mentioned the irony of Obama accepting an award for peace right before going into a War Council meeting, where he would discuss sending even more troops than the tens of thousands he’s already committed to Afghanistan. I offered no further opinion, purposefully steering clear of that. The reactions were the same, to the effect of: Well, maybe we really do need to maintain this presence in Afghanistan and maybe sending more troops really is necessary.

Really? I thought a great reason to admire Obama was that he voted against the war in Iraq and would not escalate the situation in Afghanistan. But the thing that struck me only later and made me want to write about it is this: What would these same people be saying if it were George W. Bush approving a surge and considering additional troops? The fact is they would be outraged. And this double standard is the thing that drives me crazy, the tunnel vision that apparently is still very much alive out there, the unspoken imperative that we must treat this president with kid gloves, that criticizing him is somehow unpatriotic or politically incorrect, or it makes you a big downer. Even some people who agree that Afghanistan is a quagmire will still become visibly upset or despondent at any suggestion that Obama has not yet managed to live up to those high expectations they themselves set for him. I get it. But it points out one big flaw of the left if we are not asking the exact same questions we would of Bush or any other candidate or sitting president.

So Afghanistan remains a major focus of discussion, as does unemployment, which reached new heights last month. “The nation’s unemployment rate hit 10.2 percent in October, reflecting the economic pain of the 16 million jobless Americans, as well as the strain felt by the 138 million others who are working harder to earn their paychecks… The economy lost 190,000 jobs in October, the 22nd consecutive monthly decline and the longest losing streak on record dating back 70 years.” [Source: Nation’s Unemployment Rate at 10.2% in October by Tom Abate, San Francisco Chronicle]

The health care reform bill that passed the House, which remains a mystery to most of us really, has replaced the Stimulus Package as a hot topic. The public does have access online to H.R.3962, but who can make sense of it all or know how it would manifest? [See: Affordable Health Care for America Act (Introduced in House)] I’m relying on my own sources to inform me on this bill and they are divided. The Nader camp calls it a bailout for the insurance companies, Credo and CodePink will give the okay only with some public option, and the Patients Action Network supports it in conjunction with another bill on Medicare reform. I suspect doing something is better than doing nothing, but I also fear that whatever watered down final version we might end up with won’t help many of us either.

Here are a few relevant newsy tidbits I’ve found in my most recent political researching session…

On Afghanistan
Bill Moyers Essay: Restoring Accountability for Washington’s Wars

On Unemployment
Obama’s to Fix by Charles M. Blow, New York Times

On Healthcare
Dennis Kucinich Explains Why He Voted No On Affordable Health Care for America Act

Bill Maher Explains the Healthcare Crisis

Also Of Interest
Obama One Year Later: The Audacity of Winning vs. The Timidity of Governing by Arianna Huffington

Obama’s Critical Moment Approaches by Camille Paglia

Hopefully another nine months won’t go by before my next entry, and certainly I’ll continue signing petitions and speaking up on issues that are important to me and encourage others to be as involved as possible, but I’m waiting for the Ethical Realist party to emerge, some alternative that puts humanity first. Until then, I focus on the little things…

– Hope Dascher

Comments (1)

Since Inauguration Day

These last few weeks since the inauguration, in the news and on the streets, I’ve heard and read mostly about three things: job losses, the stimulus package and drone attacks on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

People are getting very nervous. From talking to friends, I know that if you are retirement age, you’ve probably lost a good bit of your savings, if you have a mortgage, you might be worried about losing your job and your home, and if you’re looking for work, you are largely out of luck. Fortunately for me, I don’t fall into any of these categories. I’m also not someone who lives beyond my means. After experiencing life in Kiev, Ukraine for the first half of the 90s, I make it a point to live with little. So I’m perturbed not only by the corporate financial fat cats but by the overzealous spending habits of fellow Americans for which I will now have to pay. At this point even my own meager existence is in jeopardy. My freelance publishing jobs were cut recently in hours, and in one case, the company cut my pay by 37.5% in the middle of a project. When I protested and said, “…but you’ve already agreed to the price,” they told me I could either take their new terms or they’d find someone else to finish the job.

“Employers slashed another 598,000 jobs off of U.S. payrolls in January, taking the unemployment rate up to 7.6%, according to the latest government reading on the nation’s battered labor market. The latest job loss is the worst since December 1974, and brings job losses to 1.8 million in just the last three months, or half of the 3.6 million jobs that have been lost since the beginning of 2008.”
Source: Job Loss: Worst in 34 Years by Chris Isidore

The ever-fluctuating 780-920 billion dollar stimulus package is beyond my comprehension. It seems to me that borrowing money we don’t have is what got us into this mess. Of course we need to do something, and we’re going to have to spend money to do anything, but for this to work, we also are going to have to change the way we think about credit. We need to create jobs fast, turn the failing auto factories and large numbers of unemployed workers to mass transit projects, build new railways, repair roads, bridges and tunnels, manufacture wind farm and solar equipment, get small cooperative farms going again. We need universal health care. The stimulus package needs to aim at all of this first and foremost, and I hope the final version will do that.

Because I can’t possibly make much sense of the bill itself, here is what a few of the organizations I support on certain issues are saying about the economic stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

“America needs a stimulus package that addresses our dire needs without wasting money on provisions that won’t create jobs or promote long-term economic growth… consider these five suggestions: Get rid of a $2 billion provision for “clean coal” plants. Invest in infrastructure, not tax cuts. Reinstate the Medicaid Family Planning State Option. Include meaningful bankruptcy reform. Don’t give Verizon $1.6 billion in tax cuts without generating a single new job.”

League of Conservation Voters
“Before the banks burned and before the housing crisis caught fire, it was soaring gas prices that sparked this economic wildfire. President Obama’s economic recovery package seizes the opportunity to put out today’s flames and prevent future flare-ups by putting millions of Americans to work to end our crippling addiction to oil. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will be the largest investment in clean energy and energy efficiency in our country’s history.”

“The feds’ monthly report was even worse than expected: 598,000 jobs cut in January. And, yet, Senate leaders have still not given permission for a vote on a Stimulus Bill amendment that would keep illegal foreign workers from getting jobs created by the massive taxpayer effort. How many Americans have to lose their jobs before they are given priority over illegal aliens and the outlaw companies that hire them?”

It may not be politically correct, but I believe we need to put tougher restrictions on immigration now for several reasons. We must not be inhumane to people who come, but we need to take care of business here, protect our citizens and jobs, wildlife and natural resources and our borders, and become more self-sufficient as a nation. We need to end foreign occupations; we need those soldiers here hopefully for rebuilding, for natural disasters and for potential civil unrest due to lack of work. Look at what’s happening in Iceland, Europe and Russia.

Our new president, who rightfully bragged about how he voted against the war in Iraq during the campaign, now seems to be carrying on the same aggressive policies of the last administration using some of the same old hawkish defense heads. Since he took office a few short weeks ago, he’s already ordered drone attacks; he’s already dropped bombs and killed civilians. Again, I turn you to my resources on the subject.

New York Times “Obama’s War – Fearing Another Quagmire in Afghanistan”
“Can President Obama succeed in that long-lamented “graveyard of empires” — a place that has crushed foreign occupiers for more than 2,000 years?”

Democracy Now “Obama Continues Bush Policy of Deadly Air Strikes in Pakistan”
“In Pakistan, outrage continues to mount over a US military attack approved by President Obama. Last Friday, unmanned US Predator drones fired missiles at houses in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, killing as many as twenty-two people, including at least three children.”

Bill Moyers “Is a Military Strategy the Best Option in Afghanistan?”
“In the wake of the recent American missile attacks in Pakistan, this week’s JOURNAL explored U.S. bombing policies and how they affect U.S. objectives in Afghanistan and the region. Bill Moyers asked historian Marilyn B. Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey about the effectiveness of targeting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants when the casualties include civilians.”

From what I can tell, our best bet is to stop missile strikes and pull out of that region, except for some elite special ground forces with very specific targets, and continue to provide whatever humanitarian aid we are able.

– Hope Dascher

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Tolerance, Equality and Unity

With Rick Warren appointed to give the invocation at Barack Obama’s inauguration, suddenly the gay community takes notice. I’ve been astonished by a number of gays and gay-friendlies I know, who voted for Obama completely unaware that he is against gay marriage.

It’s not surprising to me that an evangelical pastor, who opposes gay rights, will help usher him into office. It’s not a purely political choice either, which people who’ve been listening to him all along will recognize. Obama is the only one of the major party candidates who cited religion as the reason he opposes gay marriage, even though his own UCC church officially supports it. Even Sarah Palin didn’t do that as far as I know. In fact, she talked candidly about her gay best friend, surely realizing that it would rile her conservative supporters.

Obama’s surrounding himself with people who disagree with him is a fine and noble idea, and I’ve supported some of his selections that other groups have opposed. Rewarding a person who has been intolerant of a group he proclaims to support, however, does merit some mulling over. What will this achieve, really? Some of his supporters propose that the choice might be out of a loyalty to Warren, or to appease fundamentalist Christians. But these don’t sound like legitimate reasons, and they don’t seem like things Obama would support either.

This is also not to say that Warren himself hasn’t done some good work, or that his role is anything more than symbolic, but there are plenty of open-minded clergymen who would be tolerant of opposition and support anti-discrimination policies too, for example, the former minister of Riverside Church in New York, Dr. Rev. James Forbes. I asked a friend who was making the argument for the “team of rivals” if it would have been okay with her had he chosen Rev. Jeremiah Wright instead. She gasped and said, “No, point taken.”

Gay marriage has not been an issue that is more important to me than universal healthcare, the economy, the wars, or the destruction of the environment. Marriage itself has never been a main concern of mine, and equal rights under the law are more important to me than religious ceremonies, which could still be practiced with civil unions. But with the passage of Proposition 8, revoking the California Supreme Court’s decision to allow gay marriage, it moved significantly higher up on my priority list.

What solidified the change in my thinking was a friend in Holland, where same-sex marriage is legal since 2001. I asked her what it was like living in a country where it’s legal, and she said, “Now that we have it, I think it’s important that people have that option, more than I did before we had it. It changes people’s perception of gay relationships, gay people’s and straight people’s perception and it feels as if this change in perception has happened in an almost gentle way (not everywhere and by everyone) in comparison to some of the hard fights that had to be fought to get to this point. To me, that’s beautiful and an important step, more than I could have anticipated.”

That’s reason enough for me to stand up for it, to offer legitimacy to everyone in this country not only in actuality but in perception as well. Some things are not okay, and it’s important to point those things out. Obama seems to be asking for that as well. Separate but equal is not okay, and only through true equality can we hope to achieve real unity.

– Hope Dascher

Related Stories:

Obama’s Choice Of Warren Is Very Disappointing By Rep. Barney Frank
“Religious leaders obviously have every right to speak out in opposition to anti-discrimination measures, even in the degrading terms that Rev. Warren has used…”

Disappointed by Rick Warren By Joan Walsh
“I am not theoretically opposed to Obama choosing an antiabortion gay-rights critic; I’m opposed to Warren himself. He’s a poster boy for kinder, gentler 21st century bigotry…”

Hopefuls Differ as They Reject Gay Marriage By Patrick Healy
“The difference, Mr. Obama has told them, is religion.”

United Church of Christ Backs Same-Sex Marriage By Shaila Dewan
“The United Church of Christ became the first mainline Christian denomination to support same-sex marriage officially …”

Obama on Warren by Ben Smith
“Obama makes the case for including people he disagrees with in the inauguration… ‘I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans, it’s something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency…’”

How the hell did Rick Warren get inauguration tickets? By Mike Madden
“…Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign. ‘[Warren’s] job there is to kind of represent the spiritual totality of our nation. When that sort of person is put there, it definitely makes our community stop and think…'”

Justin Bond Is Living
“…it seems we need to be fighting for two things.
1) The repeal of tax-exempt status for any organization that uses that status to disrupt our democracy…
2) The word “Marriage” should be stripped from all civil codes and laws…”

Freedom or Power? by Andrew Sullivan
“The key point about marriage rights for gays, after all, is that they do not affect or change marriage rights for straights. No one’s rights are removed.”

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