Pope Francis Has A Very Stern Message For GOP Extremist And They’re Not Going To Like It

Greenville Gazette, September 29, 2015

On Sept. 24, Pope Francis gave his first address to the United States Congress. The speech, which pushed a message of peace, environmental responsibility and economic justice, did not go over well with House Republicans.

House Majority Leader John Boehner invited the Pope to speak, but the pontiff’s politically-charged address condemned many policies that the GOP promotes and called out the House for refusing to enact meaningful change in America and around the world.

The Bishop of Rome issued a particularly strong warning about the dangers of religious fundamentalism and extremism.

“Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and religion,” he said. “We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind.”

The Pope’s words floated awkwardly over the House chamber, which was filled with GOP politicians who are known for their dysfunctional obstructionism and extremism. Instead of trying to address the nation’s real problems, Republicans have wasted time attacking President Obama and fighting pointless culture wars. They have attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 54 times, threatened to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood and fought sensible gun-control policies that could save lives. Meanwhile, they plot to drag the country into yet another protracted, expensive and unwinnable foreign war.

The Pope seemed to be speaking directly to do-nothing Republicans when he said that leaders must avoid “simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil.” He also said that the “contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps.”

http://www.greenvillegazette.com/pope-francis-has-a-very-stern-message-for-gop-extremist-and-theyre-not-going-to-like-it/

Francis, Apostle of Politics and Pluralism

Blogs » Spiritual Politics by Mark Silk, religionnews.com,

On his first trip to the United States, Pope Francis communicated a vision of politics and pluralism that is rapidly becoming the signature social philosophy of his papacy.

In his address to Congress, Francis emphasized the importance of politics as a countervailing force to economic power (just as he had in his encyclical Laudato Si’):

If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Similarly, at the United Nations, he stressed that in a world “marked by our technical ability to overcome distances and frontiers and, apparently, to overcome all natural limits to the exercise of power,” the juridical and political capacity of the U.N. is “an essential response, inasmuch as technological power, in the hands of nationalistic or falsely universalist ideologies, is capable of perpetrating tremendous atrocities.”

Francis’ valorization of politics doubtless derives from his experience living under a repressive military regime in a continent where all too often repressive military regimes have exploited the populace for the benefit of domestic elites and foreign economic interests. It is important to recognize that his concern is not about the relative power of government vis-a-vis the private sector so much as about how humanity makes decisions.

The late economist Albert O. Hirschman differentiated political and economic decision-making in terms of “voice” and “exit.” Politics is all about people using their voices to persuade each other of the right way to proceed together. Economics is all about individuals using resources to abandon — exit — one product or situation and take up another. The conservative desire for privatization and deregulation, for market-based solutions to every problem, expresses the preference for exit over voice.

Francis is emphatically in favor of voice, and not just because, in democratic societies, it ensures that those with the fewest opportunities for exit can influence the choices that are made. It’s also because he believes that, in a world where unfettered economic and technological power makes for social and cultural uniformity, voice equals diversity.

“You should never be ashamed of your traditions,” he told immigrants in his speech at Independence Hall Saturday. “Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”

At Friday’s ecumenical prayer service at Ground Zero in Manhattan, he said, “It is a source of great hope that in this place of sorrow and remembrance I can join with leaders representing the many religious traditions which enrich the life of this great city.” At Independence Hall he shaped praise of religious liberty into an “imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.” And he made an unscheduled stop at St. Joseph’s University with his friend and compatriot Rabbi Abraham Skorka to bless a new sculpture showing figures representing synagogue and church communing with each other.

Voice means dialogue, and in Congress Francis described his own desire to engage in dialogue with the working poor, the old, the young, and with the assembled legislators who have turned talking past each other into way of life. Nor did he exempt his church from this imperative, condemning “inner circles” as a “perversion of faith,” heaping praise and thanks on the nuns his predecessor subjected to ecclesiastical scrutiny and censure, and telling bishops they must “seek out” and “accompany” those whose behavior is unacceptable rather than contenting themselves with “explaining” church teaching.

Francis’ vision has, like all visions, blind spots. He may underestimate the extent to which market forces can enhance diversity. His appreciation of the gifts that different groups bring to the table leaves advocates for women’s full equality in his church cold. And while he is the first pope to publicly acknowledge the malfeasance of bishops in covering up clerical sexual abuse, the poor and the immigrant seem to draw his empathy more easily than the victims of abusive priests.

But his embrace of politics as such represents a real advance in Catholic social teaching. And his appreciation of diversity as a good in itself, inside as well as outside the church, is not something we’re accustomed to hearing from popes. At a time when diversity has become a dirty word in many societies, and when democratic politics frequently seems incapable of meeting the challenges they face, Pope Francis offers a compelling advocacy of both. We are all in his debt.

- See more at: http://marksilk.religionnews.com/2015/09/28/francis-apostle-of-politics-and-pluralism/#sthash.cZaPlwY7.dpuf

 

 

Pope Francis – excerpts and links

Pope Francis addresses Joint Session of Congress – FULL SPEECH (C-SPAN)

Pope Francis Is Speaking Truth To Power. Let’s Answer His Call To Action by Rep. Keith Ellison, Co-chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus; U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th District, HuffingtonPost.com, September 23, 2015 This week the Pope, the world’s most influential religious leader, is speaking to the world’s most powerful legislature. The Pope’s message of helping the poor, healing the planet, and balancing the scales of justice is a timely call to action. People everywhere will hear the Pope speak their truth to the most powerful interests in the world.

Pope Francis Confronts Right-Wing Media Vitriol | BillMoyers.com, Facebook, September 26, 2015 If you don’t watch Fox News or listen to right-wing radio, you probably aren’t aware of the negative coverage the pope and his message are receiving this week. Media Matters for America compiled this video: How Right-Wing Media Are Welcoming Pope Francis To America 

Francis: When a Visitor Changes Your Home by Jim Wallis By Jim Wallis, Sojourners,09-25-2015 Excerpt: …“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics,” he said… Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Matt. 7:12).”… he spoke powerfully, in ways that transverse and transcend American political lines… He then asked for the prayers of all Americans, and the good wishes of non-believers, saying, “I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.”… In the past two days, I have heard the messages of the gospel that Sojourners has spread over four decades presented at the nation’s primary venues of power and lifted up as the country’s leading national media story…. In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said, “Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

Senator Bernie Sanders talks about Pope Francis, Facebook, September 24, 2015

A Francis Effect for a Broken System by Timothy Egan, New Yok Times, September 25, 2015….. The challenge is not to view his remarks as left or right, a yard gained or lost in a ceaseless struggle. For what is political, or even controversial, about asking people to be more openhearted, to see dignity in the forgotten and the passed over? At its core, the pope’s message was how to live a life and share a planet…“Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good.” It’s been a long time since this Congress did anything for the common good… Instead of being known for what it’s against, the church is showing what it’s for. What’s more, Francis has gone well beyond church concerns to reach for something universal.

Francis is challenging America’s political power brokers By Matthew Bell, PRI’s The World, September 24, 2015 By Matthew Bell, PRI’s The World, September 24, 2015 …Kings, presidents and prime ministers have addressed the full US Congress over the years. But until today, no Catholic pope had spoken before a joint session of the legislature…He said lawmakers must create just legislation to keep their people unified, but at the same time they have a higher purpose.”[Y]ou are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face,” Pope Francis said…The importance of dialogue was a major theme throughout the speech. And in that context, Francis talked about the scourge of armed conflict around the world…“In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade,” Francis said. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature,” he said.  As if to respond to some criticisms from the political right wing that paints this pope as hostile to capitalism and global free markets, Francis said, “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.” Francis went on to say that the common good includes caring for the earthThe pope denounced ideological extremism and fundamentalism as two things that are fueling so many acts of brutality and violence around the world. But he warned that the response to such religious-fueled hatred and killing must strike a balance between combatting violence on the one hand, and protecting religious, intellectual and individual freedom, on the other….Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.”… in speaking to the US Congress, with all the wealth and power its members represent, Francis is consciously wading into the worldly realm of politics. And he is presenting lawmakers with on the left and right with a challenge to rethink their views on some contentious issues.

In Search of the Francis Effect By Ross Douthat, New York Times, September 23, 2015 Now it’s time to pivot from primary politics to papal coverage, as Pope Francis prepares to take the Acela Corridor by storm. My colleague Laurie Goodstein has an overview of the state of American Catholicism …Two and a half years into his papacy, Francis is already much beloved…But … Francis … has yet to create a shift in the dynamics of attendance and participation…This combination — high papal approval ratings with no clear effect on the actual practice of the faith — might look superficially like vindication for some of Francis’s conservative doubters…But while I have sympathies with this anxiety, the reality is that judging a pope’s impact, for good or ill, based on two years of mass attendance is probably a fool’s game….So if there is or is going to be a Francis effect, any short term trend (again, positive or negative) is highly unlikely to capture its valence; what matters is what the people who find him inspiring (or disillusioning) are doing and how the places where he leaves fingerprints look ten or twenty or thirty years from now… Some parts of American Catholicism are conducting clearer Francis-blessed experiments than others, and if we’re going to see an “effect” from this fascinating pope in the long run, it will be found in those experiments and their eventual results.

Save the Pope’s Radical Prophetic Message from Media Trivialization By Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun, September 23, 2015 The recent national conference of the Religion Newswriters Association in Philadelphia focused on preparing the several hundred media attendees for how to cover the Pope’s visit to the U.S. this week. But in panel after panel, we were presented with leaders of the Catholic Church who were unsympathetic to the Pope’s message…The Pope, they insisted, has no politics—he’s above politics and only a humble servant of Jesus. Apparently the right-wingers in the Church hope that the media doesn’t know that Jesus himself was a revolutionary with a powerful call to challenge the way official Judaism at that time, represented by the priests of the Temple, had become assimilated to the values of the Roman occupiers of Judea rather than articulators of the prophetic message of the Torah to “love the stranger” and pursue justice and caring for all. Few Americans realize that the Pope’s recent encyclical on the environment is one of the most articulate and accessible presentations of why there is scant chance to avoid environmental disaster unless we radically transform our global economic and political order. The Pope insists that the worldview popularized by global capitalism is deeply misguided…An ethical standard must be introduced into the way we organize our economy. Technological products are not morally neutral, the Pope tells us, “for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions that may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.”…he probably also meant what we at our Network of Spiritual Progressives mean with similar points—that the Left has historically been so religio-phobic and unwilling to talk about love of the stranger…Recognizing the Pope’s prophetic role at this historical moment doesn’t mean that we can’t also urge him to rethink the Church’s stance on women, on homosexuals, on abortion, and on birth control. Yes, there are parts of what he supports that I think need to be changed…We don’t have to stop critiquing those aspects of the Church in order to embrace this Pope as one of the most significant prophetic spiritual progressives alive on the planet, a true brother and amazingly influential ally… So we at Tikkun magazine cheer on his important thinking on the environment, poverty and the need to overcome the dynamics of global capitalism and the culture it has promoted,  and do what we can to bring his radical message to the attention of a society whose media are already hearing a trivialization of the Pope’s message (with the exception of the NY Times and a very few other sources) as they try to transform him into the world’s latest momentary celebrity.

Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress – full text

BY pbs.org/newshour/ September 24, 2015 http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/full-text-of-pope-francis-remarks-to-congress/

Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress as prepared for delivery on Thursday and released by the Vatican press office:

(highlighting done by web site curator, Phyllis Stenerson)


Mr. Vice-President,
Mr. Speaker,
Honorable Members of Congress,
Dear Friends,

I am most grateful for your invitation to address this Joint Session of Congress in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. I would like to think that the reason for this is that I too am a son of this great continent, from which we have all received so much and toward which we share a common responsibility.

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always best based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

Today I would like not only to address you, but through you the entire people of the United States. Here, together with their representatives, I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and –one step at a time – to build a better life for their families. These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society. They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.

I would also like to enter into dialogue with the many elderly persons who are a storehouse of wisdom forged by experience, and who seek in many ways, especially through volunteer work, to share their stories and their insights. I know that many of them are retired, but still active; they keep working to build up this land. I also want to dialogue with all those young people who are working to realize their great and noble aspirations, who are not led astray by facile proposals, and who face difficult situations, often as a result of immaturity on the part of many adults. I wish to dialogue with all of you, and I would like to do so through the historical memory of your people.

My visit takes place at a time when men and women of good will are marking the anniversaries of several great Americans. The complexities of history and the reality of human weakness notwithstanding, these men and women, for all their many differences and limitations, were able by hard work and self-sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives – to build a better future. They shaped fundamental values which will endure forever in the spirit of the American people. A people with this spirit can live through many crises, tensions and conflicts, while always finding the resources to move forward, and to do so with dignity. These men and women offer us a way of seeing and interpreting reality. In honoring their memory, we are inspired, even amid conflicts, and in the here and now of each day, to draw upon our deepest cultural reserves.

I would like to mention four of these Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the guardian of liberty, who labored tirelessly that “this nation, under God, [might] have a new birth of freedom”. Building a future of freedom requires love of the common good and cooperation in a spirit of subsidiarity and solidarity.

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms.

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

Our response must instead be one of hope and healing, of peace and justice. We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

Here I think of the political history of the United States, where democracy is deeply rooted in the mind of the American people. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 4 July 1776).

If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom. We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners. I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants. Tragically, the rights of those who were here long before us were not always respected. For those peoples and their nations, from the heart of American democracy, I wish to reaffirm my highest esteem and appreciation. Those first contacts were often turbulent and violent, but it is difficult to judge the past by the criteria of the present.

Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our “neighbors” and everything around us. Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidiarity, in a constant effort to do our best. I am confident that we can do this.

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12).

This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. Recently my brother bishops here in the United States renewed their call for the abolition of the death penalty. Not only do I support them, but I also offer encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. “Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good” (Laudato Si’, 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to “enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (ibid., 3). “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all” (ibid., 14).

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” – Pope Francis

In Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps” (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

A century ago, at the beginning of the Great War, which Pope Benedict XV termed a “pointless slaughter”, another notable American was born: the Cistercian monk Thomas Merton. He remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. In his autobiography he wrote: “I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers”. Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.

From this perspective of dialogue, I would like to recognize the efforts made in recent months to help overcome historic differences linked to painful episodes of the past. It is my duty to build bridges and to help all men and women, in any way possible, to do the same. When countries which have been at odds resume the path of dialogue – a dialogue which may have been interrupted for the most legitimate of reasons – new opportunities open up for all. This has required, and requires, courage and daring, which is not the same as irresponsibility. A good political leader is one who, with the interests of all in mind, seizes the moment in a spirit of openness and pragmatism. A good political leader always opts to initiate processes rather than possessing spaces (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 222-223).

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

Three sons and a daughter of this land, four individuals and four dreams: Lincoln, liberty; Martin Luther King, liberty in plurality and non-exclusion; Dorothy Day, social justice and the rights of persons; and Thomas Merton, the capacity for dialogue and openness to God.

Four representatives of the American people.

I will end my visit to your country in Philadelphia, where I will take part in the World Meeting of Families. It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. Their problems are our problems. We cannot avoid them. We need to face them together, to talk about them and to seek effective solutions rather than getting bogged down in discussions. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

In these remarks I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land which has inspired so many people to dream.

God bless America!

Senator Bernie Sanders talks about Pope Francis

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont posted on Facebook, September 24, 2015

“If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.” – Pope Francis addressing Congress today, September 24, 2015

Brothers and Sisters: I am not a theologian, an expert on the Bible, or a Catholic. I am just a U.S. senator from the small state of Vermont.

But I am emailing you today to discuss Pope Francis in the hope that we can examine the very profound lessons that he is teaching people all over this world and some of the issues for which he is advocating.

Now, there are issues on which the pope and I disagree — like choice and marriage equality — but from the moment he was elected, Pope Francis immediately let it be known that he would be a different kind of pope, a different kind of religious leader. He forces us to address some of the major issues facing humanity: war, income and wealth inequality, poverty, unemployment, greed, the death penalty and other issues that too many prefer to ignore.

He is reaching out not just to the Catholic Church. He’s reaching out to people all over the world with an incredibly strong message of social justice talking about the grotesque levels of wealth and income inequality.

Pope Francis is looking in the eyes of the wealthiest people around the world who make billions of dollars, and he is saying we cannot continue to ignore the needs of the poor, the needs of the sick, the dispossessed, the elderly people who are living alone, the young people who can’t find jobs. He is saying that the accumulation of money, that the worship of money, is not what life should be about. We cannot turn our backs on our fellow human beings.

He is asking us to create a new society where the economy works for all, and not just the wealthy and the powerful. He is asking us to be the kind of people whose happiness and well-being comes from serving others and being part of a human community, not spending our lives accumulating more and more wealth and power while oppressing others. He is saying that as a planet and as a people we have got to do better.

That’s why I was so pleased that in his address to Congress today, Pope Francis spoke of Dorothy Day, who was a tireless advocate for the impoverished and working people in America. I think it was extraordinary that he cited her as one of the most important people in recent American history.

As the founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper, Dorothy Day organized workers to stand up against the wealthy and powerful. Pope Francis said of her today in Congress:

In these times when social concerns are so important, I cannot fail to mention the Servant of God Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement. Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.

How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! I know that you share my conviction that much more still needs to be done, and that in times of crisis and economic hardship a spirit of global solidarity must not be lost. At the same time I would encourage you to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

The fact that the pope singled out Dorothy Day — a fierce advocate in the fight for economic justice — as one of the leaders he admires most is quite remarkable. We are living in a nation which worships the acquisition of money and great wealth, but turns its back on those in need. We are admiring people with billions of dollars, while we ignore people who sleep out on the streets. That must end.

Dorothy Day fought this fight, and as Pope Francis says, we must continue it. We need to move toward an economy which works for all, and not just the few.

We have so much poverty in a land of plenty. Together, we can work to make our country more fair for everybody.

I am glad that you are with me in this fight.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

Francis: When a Visitor Changes Your Home by Jim Wallis

Excerpt – In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said,

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

By Jim Wallis, Sojourners, 09-25-2015

Stunning is the word that most comes to me after Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Washington, D.C. The country and the media was reveling in his presence, using language like “amazing,” “incredible,” and “wonderful” in response to this extraordinary moral leader who literally transformed our public discourse in the 48 hours he was in the nation’s capital. What these two extraordinary days mean going forward is the big question on all our hearts and minds.

At the formal welcoming ceremony on the South Lawn at the White House, a very traditional template was transformed by the “Vicar of Christ,” whose presence turned everyone’s language to one reference after another to those Christ called “the least of these” in the 25th chapter of Matthew. Never have I heard the most vulnerable being the most talked about in this city.

President Obama began the pope’s visit with these words, “What a beautiful day the Lord has made.”

Indeed. Then Pope Francis introduced himself to America as “a son of an immigrant family” who was “happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.”

Point made.

Later he went on to call us to “accepting the urgency. [I]t seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generations.”

Not clear to some political leaders — but clear to the Holy Father. The leader of the Roman Catholic Church — 1.2 billion global souls — called for the “care of our common home,” then lifted up the spirit of hope that defined his entire visit and was my favorite line of the week:

“For we know that things can change.”

In between the official events, Pope Francis seemed happiest when he was moving between ordinary people and encountering (one of his favorite words) the people of America, especially the children.

Yesterday, Sept. 24, Pope Francis delivered his own version of a State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress — one like no other in our nation’s history.

Yes, he spoke powerfully on a number of critical public issues, but he began by calling the political representatives of this country to their proper purpose and vocation as servant leaders.

“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics,” he said.

“A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called, and convened by those who elected you.”

The pope cautioned against polarization, and basically told them they should work together — a very radical call in Washington’s ideological and vitriolic divided politics.

Pope Francis’ largest and longest standing ovation from Congress came when he reminded the lawmakers of the Golden Rule — something I never would have imagined.

He spoke of “a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War,” and how “on this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones…”

The pope said we need to learn, “not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation … always humane, just, and fraternal. We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome. Let us remember the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ (Matt. 7:12).”

That’s when all the politicians stood up and clapped.

But the most stunning thing to me was when Pope Francis brought to our attention, in a joint session of the Congress, four examples of extraordinary figures from American history to illustrate his moral convictions about how to serve the common good. Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. were great choices but seemed less a surprise, but then he also named Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton; who — along with King — have regularly graced our covers and articles here at Sojourners. I really couldn’t believe it.

For the pope, each of these figures symbolizes a different American dream. In describing them, he said,

“President Abraham Lincoln — liberty; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — racial justice and inclusion; the founder of the Catholic Worker movement Dorothy Day — social justice and the priority of the poor; and Thomas Merton, the contemplative priest — the capacity for openness to God and a dialogue with others, even those of other faiths, with whom we need to build bridges.”

Neither Catholic mentioned — Dorothy Day, working with the poor everyday on the lower east side of Manhattan, or Thomas Merton, walking the hills of Kentucky and praying the daily cycle of prayers at Gethsemani Abbey — could likey have ever imagined being lifted up in the U. S. Congress.

When Pope Francis did speak about particular issues at the congressional podium, he spoke powerfully, in ways that transverse and transcend American political lines. He spoke in favor of abolishing the death penalty but also of protecting human life “at every stage of development.” He condemned the international arms trade as motivated “simply [by] money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” He spoke eloquently about the value of dialogue between hostile nations as an alternative to armed conflict. And throughout his remarks he lifted up the need to protect and provide justice for the poor, the immigrant, and the very planet.

After the speech to Congress, Pope Francis greeted the massive crowd waiting outside from the balcony of the Capitol building, using his native Spanish. “Buenos Días!,” he said to the diverse and beaming crowd.

He gave a blessing to the children praying, “Father of all, bless these. Bless each of them. Bless the families. Bless them all.”

He then asked for the prayers of all Americans, and the good wishes of non-believers, saying, “I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you to please send good wishes my way.”

Yet another gesture that makes so many Americans — Catholic, non-Catholic, and non-religious alike — so deeply attracted to this pope.

In the past two days, I have heard the messages of the gospel that Sojourners has spread over four decades presented at the nation’s primary venues of power and lifted up as the country’s leading national media story. Even some of our most beloved gospel heroes were raised before the nation as the Americans the nation needs most to be our examples.

Stunned is the feeling I still have, which is taking my breath away. Pope Francis has indeed changed the national conversation in America this week, pointing to those who also changed the conversation, and then calling us all to continue to do the same. How long this will last is not the deepest question. Rather, it’s whether Pope Francis’ words will fall on fertile or rocky soil as the gospel parable asks, and who will decide in their own lives and in nation-changing movements to now keep this conversation changing.

In a clear message and mandate to Congress, Pope Francis said,

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology, to devise intelligent ways of developing and limiting our power, and to put technology at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral.”

This is his clear message and mandate to all of us. We pray for the courage and perseverance to see that mission through. A stunning “Amen.”

Jim Wallis

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His book, The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided, the updated and revised paperback version of On God’s Side, is available now. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

- See more at: https://sojo.net/articles/francis-when-visitor-changes-your-home#sthash.sqPvLXl5.HLRfO7CQ.dpuf

https://sojo.net/articles/francis-when-visitor-changes-your-home

Jeb Bush’s Favorite Author Rejects Democracy, Says The Hyper-Rich Should Seize Power

by Ian Millhiser,

At the height of 2011’s debt ceiling crisis, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a candid explanation of why his party was willing to threaten permanent harm to the U.S. economy unless Congress agreed to change our founding document. “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check,” McConnell alleged. “We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’ve tried elections. Nothing has worked.”

The amendment McConnell and his fellow Republicans sought was misleadingly named the “Balanced Budget Amendment” — a name that was misleading not because it was inaccurate, but because it was incomplete. The amendment wouldn’t have simply forced a balanced budget at the federal level, it would have forced spending cuts that were so severe that they would have cost 15 million people their jobs and caused “the economy to shrink by about 17 percent instead of growing by an expected 2 percent,” according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. It was, in essence, an effort to permanently impose Tea Party economics on the nation, and to use a manufactured crisis to do so.

Few politicians are willing to admit what McConnell admitted when he confessed that elections have not “worked” to bring about the policy Republicans tried to impose on the nation in 2011. Elected officials, after all, only hold their jobs at the sufferance of the voters, and a politician who openly admits that they only believe in democracy insofar as it achieves their desired ends gives the middle finger to those voters and to the very process that allows those voters to have a say in how they are governed.

Charles Murray, an author who GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush recently named first when he was asked which books have had a big impact upon him, is not an elected official, so he is free to rail against democracy to his heart’s content. And that is exactly what he does in his new book, By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.

Pay no attention to the title. Government “by the people” is the last thing Murray cares to see. Murray admits that the kind of government he seeks, a libertarian fantasy where much of our nation’s regulatory and welfare state has been dismantled, is “beyond the reach of the electoral process and the legislative process.” He also thinks it beyond the branch of government that is appointed by elected officials. The Supreme Court, Murray claims, “destroyed” constitutional “limits on the federal government’s spending authority” when it upheld Social Security in 1937. Since then, the federal government has violated a “tacit compact” establishing that it would not “unilaterally impose a position on the moral disputes that divided America” (Murray traces the voiding of this compact to 1964, the year that Congress banned whites-only lunch counters).

King George’s Revenge

Murray is probably best known for co-authoring 1994’s The Bell Curve, a quasi-eugenic tract which argued that black people are genetically disposed to be less intelligent that white people. Yet, while The Bell Curvepractically spawned an entire field of scholarship devoted to debunking it,” Murray remains one of the most influential conservative thinkers in America today.

Dr. Murray’s pre-Bell Curve work shaped the welfare reforms enacted in the 1990s. Former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan cited Murray in 2014 to claim that there is a culture of laziness “in our inner cities in particular.” Last April, when Jeb Bush was asked what he liked to read, he replied “I like Charles Murray books to be honest with you, which means I’m a total nerd I guess.”

So when Murray speaks, powerful and influential men (and his acolytes are, almost invariably, men) listen, including men who shape our nation’s fiscal policy and men who could be president someday.

By The People, however, rejects outright the idea that Murray’s vision for a less generous and well-regulated society can be achieved through appeals to elected officials — or even through appeals to unelected judges. The government Murray seeks is “not going to happen by winning presidential elections and getting the right people appointed to the Supreme Court.” Rather, By The People, is a call for people sympathetic to Murray’s goals — and most importantly, for fantastically rich people sympathetic to those goals — to subvert the legitimate constitutional process entirely.

“The emergence of many billion-dollar-plus private fortunes over the last three decades,” Murray writes, “has enabled the private sector to take on ambitious national or even international tasks that formerly could be done only by nation-states.” Murray’s most ambitious proposal is a legal defense fund, which “could get started if just one wealthy American cared enough to contribute, say, a few hundred million dollars,” that would essentially give that wealthy American veto power over much of U.S. law.

Murray, in other words, would rather transfer much of our sovereign nation’s power to govern itself to a single privileged individual than continue to live under the government America’s voters have chosen. It’s possible that no American has done more to advance the cause of monarchy since Benedict Arnold.

Madison’s Ghost

One of the heroes of By The People is James Madison, or, at least, a somewhat ahistoric depiction of Madison favored by Murray. Madison, as Murray correctly notes, favored an interpretation of the Constitution that would have made much of the modern regulatory and welfare state impossible (other members of the founding generation, including George Washington, interpreted the Constitution much more expansively than Madison). Thus, Murray states in his introduction, “[i]f we could restore limited government as Madison understood it, all of our agendas would be largely fulfilled.” Murray even names his proposal for a billionaire-funded organization intended to thwart governance the “Madison Fund.”

In Murray’s narrative, Madison becomes a Lovecraftian deity — dead, but not entirely dead, and still capable of working ill in American society. In his house at Montpelier, dead James Madison waits dreaming.

The real James Madison would be shocked by this suggestion that his dead-but-dreaming tentacle could reach into the future and re-instigate long-settled battles over the Constitution. Needless to say, the view Murray attributes to Madison — the view that, among other things, would lead to Social Security being declared unconstitutional — did not prevail in American history. And Madison, unlike Murray, was reluctant to displace well-settled constitutional law. As a congressman, Madison opposed the creation of the First Bank of the United States on constitutional grounds. Yet, as president, Madison signed the law creating a Second Bank. He explained that the nation had accepted the First Bank, and he viewed this acceptance as “a construction put on the Constitution by the nation, which, having made it, had the supreme right to declare its meaning.”

Madison, it should also be noted, admitted late in life that his reading of the Constitution was not consistent with the document’s text. Nevertheless, he argued that “[t]o take [the Constitution’s words] in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.”

To his credit, Murray acknowledges that undoing the entire post-New Deal state is not a realistic goal. The Supreme Court, he laments, “never overturns a decision like Helvering,” the 1937 case upholding Social Security, “because such a ruling would not be obeyed and the Court’s legitimacy would be shattered.” Yet the limits Murray would impose on the federal government are simply breathtaking. All employment law, according to Murray, must be subject to the strictest level of constitutional scrutiny. So must all land use regulation, and all laws that fall into vague categories Murray describes as regulations that “prescribe best practice in a craft or profession” or that “prevent people from taking voluntary risks.”

If these limits were actually imposed on the federal government, the minimum wage, overtime laws, most environmental protections and financial reforms, many worker safety laws and even, potentially, anti-discrimination laws would all fall by the wayside.

The Koch Veto

To impose these limits on society, Murray claims that his Madison Fund can essentially harass the government into compliance. The federal government, Murray claims, cannot enforce the entirety of federal law “without voluntary public compliance.” Federal resources are limited, and only a small fraction of these limited resources have been directed towards enforcement. Thus, Murray argues, by simply refusing to comply with the law and contesting every enforcement action in court, regulated entities can effectively drain the government’s resources and prevent it from engaging in meaningful enforcement.

The Madison Fund would spearhead this campaign of harassment, defending “people who are technically guilty of violating regulations that should not exist, drawing out that litigation as long as possible, making enforcement of the regulations more expensive to the regulatory agency than they’re worth, and reimbursing fines that are levied.”

There are, of course, a number of practical obstacles to this plan. One, as Murray acknowledges, is the need to find enough people with “billion-dollar-plus private fortune[s]” who are willing to contribute to such a campaign. Another is the need to find lawyers willing to risk their law licenses in order to become pawns in Murray’s game. Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires attorneys to certify that they are not filing court documents “for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation.” The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Model Rules of Processional Conduct provide that a “lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous.” Admittedly, lawyers have more leeway in criminal cases, but the legal profession generally frowns upon attorneys who engage in the kind of legally meritless harassment Murray proposes.

Nevertheless, Murray’s proposal cannot be dismissed out of hand simply because it is built upon a foundation of frivolous litigation. The first Supreme Court case attacking Obamacare was widely derided as meritless — an ABA poll of legal experts found that 85 percent believed that the law would be upheld. And yet the justices came within a hair of repealing the entire law. The lawyers behind a more recent attack on the Affordable Care Act, King v. Burwell, make demonstrably false claims about the history of the law, and they rely upon a completely unworkable method of interpreting statutes. But that hasn’t stopped at least some members of the Supreme Court from taking this lawsuit seriously. Conservatives simply have more leeway to assert meritless legal arguments than they once did.

Bad Advice

By The People is, at its heart, a work of constitutional law. It assesses what Murray believes to be fundamental flaws in our constitutional democracy and proposes a course of action that bypasses the Constitution. Yet Murray is, by his own admission, not the least bit qualified to write such a book. “Not being a constitutional scholar myself,” he explains in a sidebar, “I have drawn my description of the key Supreme Court decisions and their historical context” from a rogue’s gallery of constitutional scholars who are very much on the outskirts of the field. They include Obamacare antagonist Randy Barnett; Richard Epstein, a law professor who wrote an entire book arguing against employment discrimination laws; and Michael Greve, a man who compared the Affordable Care Act to the Holocaust.

Constitutional law is a rich and diverse field, and it is obviously difficult for a lay person to sort out reliable constitutional scholars from cranks. Nevertheless, here’s a pro tip for Dr. Murray: if your constitutional advisers lead you to the conclusion that Social Security is unconstitutional, that’s a pretty good sign that you need better advisers.

So Murray has written a terrible book. It is at once credulous of fringe thinkers and contemptuous of American democracy. Yet he has also written a deeply revealing book about the nature of conservatism in the age of Obama. When President Ronald Reagan was in office, he spoke with the confidence of a man who believed that the American people were on his side. Reagan pledged to appoint judges who support “judicial restraint,” a testament to Reagan’s belief that he did not need the unelected judiciary to enact conservative policies, and his administration’s understanding of the Constitution was decidedly moderate when compared to the ideas of men such as Barnett, Epstein and Greve.

Since then, however, the Republican Party has lost Reagan’s self-confidence. Instead, they reflexively turn to the judiciary when they are unable to win battles on health care, immigration, the environment, or a myriad of other issues. Democracy, as McConnell said in 2011, no longer works to give conservatives what they want.

Yet this strategy has yielded only mixed success. The Supreme Court rendered a key prong of Obamacare optional, but they kept the bulk of the law in place. Religious objectors enjoy a right to opt-out of federal birth control rules, but the rules still bind most employers. A high-profile Supreme Court attack on the Environmental Protection Agency barely ended with a whimper. Republicans dominate the Supreme Court, but these justices do sometimes temper their Republicanism with obedience to the law and the Constitution.

By The People, by contrast, bypasses the law entirely. It abandons even the trappings of a legitimate constitutional process, and instead places government in the hands of billionaires loyal only to an anti-government agenda. It is, in many ways, the perfection of post-Obama conservatism, barely even bothering to pay lip service to the notion that the American people should be governed by the people they elect.

But By The People is also more than an unintentional indictment of conservatism, it’s also a warning for liberals. In a 1993 tribute to the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, future Justice Elena Kagan wrote about a case, Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., that came before the Court during her year clerking for the legendary civil rights advocate. The case involved whether an employment discrimination suit would fail because a lawyer’s secretary accidentally omitted the name of one of the plaintiffs from a court filing. Kagan and her fellow clerks pleaded with Marshall to say that this accident was not fatal, but Marshall refused, citing the essential role that obedience to legal rules play in protecting the least fortunate:

The Justice referred in our conversation to his own years of trying civil rights claims. All you could hope for, he remarked, was that a court didn’t rule against you for illegitimate reasons; you couldn’t hope, and you had no right to expect, that a court would bend the rules in your favor. Indeed, the Justice continued, it was the very existence of rules — along with the judiciary’s felt obligation to adhere to them — that best protected unpopular parties. Contrary to some conservative critiques, Justice Marshall believed devoutly — believed in a near-mystical sense — in the rule of law. He had no trouble writing the Torres opinion.

Men and women who seek to lift up the poor and the downtrodden, in other words, must rely on the law to do so. And this very enterprise depends on the law itself being afforded deference and legitimacy by officials who would rather disregard it. Meanwhile, men and women such as Murray, who wish to shield the already powerful from the forces of government, may do so either by making the law more favorable to the most fortunate or by tearing down the institution of law itself. In a state of nature, the strong man always eats first.

This is why liberalism is an inherently more challenging project than conservatism. Liberals must constantly fight a two-front war — supporting laws that extend opportunity broadly while simultaneously recognizing the legitimacy of many laws that undermine this goal. Charles Murray, meanwhile, can work within the edifices of government or he can simply decide to tear the entire edifice down.

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/05/26/3662560/jeb-bushs-favorite-author-publishes-318-page-rant-democracy/

 

Constitution of the United States of America

Constitution basics

Constitution 1. system of fundamental principles according to which a nation, state, or society is governed. 2. the written set of fundamental principles by which the United States is governed.

Basic governing principles
Popular Sovereignty A government created by and for the people.
Rule of Law A government guided by a set of laws, rather than by any individual or group entity.
Separation of Powers and a System of Checks and Balances A separation of powers and distribution of functions and responsibilities among three separate government branches, and a system of checks and balances to calibrate those powers.
Federalism A federalist system whereby governing power is shared between the national government and the individual state governments.
Judicial Review The establishment of the Supreme Court as the judicial branch’s authoritative institution, and the resulting power of judicial review.
Individual Rights Protection of individual rights and liberties against government encroachment.

Much of this information is from the website of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA – the only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution and the story of we, the people. For more information go to http://www.constitutioncenter.org

Constitution Chronology

For more than a century after settling in the new world the colonists called themselves Englishmen and experienced relative freedom from control by the British crown. King George of England began making commands in the 1760′s that the colonists found intolerable and they rebelled.

    The First Continental Congress convened in September 1774. Fighting breaks out at Lexington and Concord in April 1775. The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in May 1775. Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense in January 1776. On July 4, 1776 Congress issued the Declaration of Independence. The Articles of Confederation, the first constitutional agreement among the 13 colonies, is ratified in March 1781. The British forces surrender at Yorktown in 1781. The Constitutional Convention begins in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787, delegates debate inclusion of the Bill of Rights on September 12, 1787 and on September 17, 1787 the final draft of the Constitution was accepted. The Federalist Papers promoting ratification of the Constitution appeared in newspapers beginning in November 1787 and on June 21, 1788 the Constitution took effect when ratified by the ninth state, New Hampshire. The Bill of Rights was adopted in September 1789.

Much of this information is from the website of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA – the only museum devoted to the U.S. Constitution and the story of we, the people. For more information go to http://www.constitutioncenter.org

Quotations about the Constitution and democracy

   It appears to me little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States…manners, circumstances, and prejudices, should unite in forming a system of national Government. George Washington

    If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation. Abigail Adams

    I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. James Madison

    It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brushfires in people’s minds. Samuel Adams

    Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech. Benjamin Franklin

    My country is the world, and my religion is to do good. Thomas Paine 

    Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. Thomas Jefferson

    Cultivate peace and harmony with all. George Washington

    Abuse of words has been the great instrument of sophistry and chicanery, of party, faction, and division of society. John Adams

    In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will. Alexander Hamilton

    I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country. Thomas Jefferson

    The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them…to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men. John Adams

The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society. Thomas Jefferson

    The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. James Madison

    A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to it’s true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt…if the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake. Thomas Jefferson

Organized labor = Economic justice

View as html http://p0.vresp.com/p2idtf 

Progressive Values e-letter - Labor Day  - September 7, 2015
Organized Labor = Economic Justice
including the weekend, overtime pay, 8-hour workday, minimum wage,
paid vacation, sick days, safety standards, child labor laws, health
benefits, retirement security, unemployment insurance...

America's Immoral Economy
The social contract has become entirely one-sided.  by Robert Reich - http://www.alternet.org/authors/robert-reich-0 ,
RobertReich.org, - http://robertreich.org/  Alternet.org - http://www.alternet.org/media/robert-reich-americas-immoral-economy?akid=13453.125622.XGgWRZ&rd=1&src=newsletter1042001&t=10 , September 6, 2015  An economy depends fundamentally on public
morality; some shared standards about what sorts of activities are
impermissible because they so fundamentally violate trust that they
threaten to undermine the social fabric.

It is ironic that at a time the Republican presidential candidates
and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality -
what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay
marriage - we are experiencing a far more significant crisis in
public morality.

We've witnessed over the last two decades in the United States a
steady decline in the willingness of people in leading positions in
the private sector - on Wall Street and in large corporations
especially - to maintain minimum standards of public morality. They
seek the highest profits and highest compensation for themselves
regardless of social consequences...read more - http://www.alternet.org/media/robert-reich-americas-immoral-economy?akid=13453.125622.XGgWRZ&rd=1&src=newsletter1042001&t=10

The Work We Value, The Intelligence We Ignore: Is the Work that Made
America Great Valued Any Longer?  - http://www.onbeing.org/blog/work-we-value-intelligence-we-ignore-work-made-america-great-valued-any-longer/2590 By Trent Gilliss, executive editor, On Being

- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-reyes/how-unions-improve-the-li_b_7640440.html How Unions Improve the Lives of Every Worker by Laura Reyes - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-reyes/ ,
Secretary-Treasurer, AFSCME, huffingtonpost.com Labor Day's Violent
Roots: The Hard-Won Fight for Your 3-Day Weekend - http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fww2.kqed.org%2Flowdown%2F2015%2F09%2F04%2Flabor-days-violent-roots-the-hard-won-fight-for-your-three-day-weekend%2F&h=8AQEOfzBt&s=1  By Matthew Green - http://ww2.kqed.org/lowdown/author/matthewgreen/
, ww2.kqed.org - http://ww2.kqed.org/lowdown/2015/09/04/labor-days-violent-roots-the-hard-won-fight-for-your-three-day-weekend/ , September 4, 2015

The Rebellious Spirit of the First Labor Day Is Spreading Anew - http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.truth-out.org%2Fopinion%2Fitem%2F32648-the-rebellious-spirit-of-the-first-labor-day-is-spreading-anew&h=0AQFUp7Yz&s=1  Jim Hightower, truth-out.org - http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/32648-the-rebellious-spirit-of-the-first-labor-day-is-spreading-anew  America's grassroots have come alive with organizing campaigns to
reverse the inequities and abuses being perpetuated by the
plutocratic powers. This Labor Day, let's take heart in this rising
rebelliousness, says Jim Hightower.

- https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stanley-Aronowitz/107621719267878 Stanley Aronowitz, an expert on organized labor, talks about the
problems facing many unions and how they might become a powerful
force once again. BillMoyers.com, Sept 5, 2015 "Occupy refused to be
programmatic, and it has virtually disappeared. But Occupy revived
the old tactics of civil disobedience and direct action. And by still
relying on elections and on contracts and grievance procedures rather
than engaging in direct action, unions are on the road to doom," he
says.
"I think the things that unions, and it's not just unions, but
progressives need to think about, is who really has the country in a
mess? And I think we've been very nervous about really, with red-hot
anger, naming who the bad guys are and then talking about it in terms
that resonate with people. Not abstractions about trillions of
dollars. But talking about this teeny group of people at the top that
are pillaging the country. And I think when we start to focus that
and then have ways that people can act that's not just about
rhetoric."  Stephen Lerner - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-Lerner/113415462073719 , Labor and Community Organizer, Is Labor A Lost Cause? Moyers &
Company - http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fbillmoyers.com%2Fepisode%2Fis-labor-a-lost-cause%2F&h=0AQE3Tk_D&s=1 , billmoyers.com  For more information about Economic Justice and
labor click here  - http://progressivevalues.org.s150046.gridserver.com/economicgo%20to%20www .

Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human
labor is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation. For
Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment.
Pope Francis
- http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fmobile.nytimes.com%2F2015%2F07%2F12%2Fworld%2Famericas%2Fin-fiery-speeches-francis-excoriates-global-capitalism.html%3Freferrer%26_r%3D0&h=yAQGdklOU&s=1 In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

There are folks out there who say, 'it doesn't impact me, I'm not a
Union guy, I'm not a teacher, I'm not a civil servant.' Let me tell
you how it does matter to you. Wages are going down in this country
for everybody. When you destroy unions there will be no standard at
all, nobody left to negotiate decent jobs for the middle class.
Senator Bernie Sanders

- http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thenation.com%2Farticle%2Ftop-ten-labor-day-songs%2F&h=tAQGcE925&s=1 Top Ten Labor Day Songs
By  - http://www.thenation.com/authors/peter-rothberg/
Peter Rothberg - https://twitter.com/@peterrothberg Twitter,  - http://www.thenation.com/article/top-ten-labor-day-songs/ The Nation, September 3, 2015   In honor of Labor Day, here's a stab
at the impossible task of naming the best songs ever written about
working people.

- http://www.upworthy.com/i-will-not-wish-anybody-a-happy-labor-day-until-these-6-things-are-figured-out-there-i-said-it?c=ufb1 The story of how Labor Day began (in cartoons and pictures)
By  - http://www.upworthy.com/brandon-weber Brandon
Weber, Upworthy.com, August 18, 2015

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What Happened to the Moral Center of American Capitalism?

by Robert Reich, Truthdig, Sep 7, 2015

An economy depends fundamentally on public morality; some shared standards about what sorts of activities are impermissible because they so fundamentally violate trust that they threaten to undermine the social fabric.

It is ironic that at a time the Republican presidential candidates and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality – what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay marriage – we are experiencing a far more significant crisis in public morality.

We’ve witnessed over the last two decades in the United States a steady decline in the willingness of people in leading positions in the private sector – on Wall Street and in large corporations especially – to maintain minimum standards of public morality. They seek the highest profits and highest compensation for themselves regardless of social consequences.

CEOs of large corporations now earn 300 times the wages of average workers. Wall Street moguls take home hundreds of millions, or more. Both groups have rigged the economic game to their benefit while pushing downward the wages of average working people.

By contrast, in the first three decades after World War II – partly because America went through that terrible war and, before that, the Great Depression – there was a sense in the business community and on Wall Street of some degree of accountability to the nation.

It wasn’t talked about as social responsibility, because it was assumed to be a bedrock of how people with great economic power should behave.

CEOs did not earn more than 40 times what the typical worker earned. Profitable firms did not lay off large numbers of workers. Consumers, workers, and the community were all considered stakeholders of almost equal entitlement. The marginal income tax on the highest income earners in the 1950s was 91%. Even the effective rate, after all deductions and tax credits, was still well above 50%.

Around about the late 1970s and early 1980s, all of this changed dramatically. The change began on Wall Street. Wall Street convinced the Reagan administration, and subsequent administrations and congresses, to repeal regulations that were put in place after the crash of 1929 – particularly during the Roosevelt administration – to prevent a repeat of the excesses of the 1920s.

As a result of that move towards deregulation, we saw a steady decline in standards – a race to the bottom – on Wall Street and then in executive suites. In the 1980s we had junk bond scandals combined with insider trading. In the 1990s we had the beginnings of a speculative binge culminating in the dotcom bubble. Sad to say, under the Clinton administration the Glass-Steagall Act – that had been part of the banking act of 1933, separating investment banking from commercial banking – was repealed.

In 2001 and 2002 we had Enron and the corporate looting scandals. Not only did this reveal the dark side of executive behaviour among some of the most admired companies in America – Enron had been listed among the nation’s most respected companies before that time – but also the complicity of Wall Street. Wall Street traders were actively involved in the Enron travesty. And then, of course, we had all of the excesses leading up to the crash of 2008.

Where has the moral center of American capitalism disappeared? Wall Street is back to its same old tricks. Greg Smith, a vice-president of Goldman Sachs, has accused the firm of putting profits before clients. Almost every other Wall Street firm is doing precisely the same thing and they’ve been doing it for years.

The Dodd-Frank bill was an attempt to rein in Wall Street, but Wall Street lobbyists have almost eviscerated that act and have been mercilessly attacking the regulations issued. Republicans have not even appropriated sufficient money to enforce the shards of the act that remain.

The Glass-Steagall Act must be resurrected. There has to be a limit on the size of big banks. The current big banks have to be broken up using anti-trust laws, as we broke up the oil cartels in the early years of the 20th century.

We’ve got to put limits on executive pay and have a much more progressive income tax so that people who are earning tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars a year are paying at a rate that they paid before 1981, which is at least 70% at the highest marginal level.

We also need to get big money out of politics.

These changes can’t come about unless we have campaign finance reform that provides public financing in general elections and a constitutional amendment that reverses the grotesque decision of the Supreme Court at the start of 2010, in a case called “Citizens United versus the Federal Election Commission.”

None of this is possible without an upsurge in the public at large – a movement that rescues our democracy and takes back our economy. One can’t be done without the other. Our economy and democracy are intertwined. Much the same challenge exists in Europe and Japan and elsewhere around the world, where systems profess to combine capitalism and democracy.

Massive inequality is incompatible with robust democracy. Today, in the United States, the top 1% is taking home more than 20% of total income and owns at least 38% of total wealth. The richest 400 people in America have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together.

As we’ve already seen in this Republican primary election, a handful of extraordinarily wealthy people can virtually control the election result – not entirely, but have a huge impact. That’s not a democracy. As the great American jurist and Supreme Court associate justice Louis Brandeis once said: “We can have huge wealth in the hands of a relatively few people or we can have a democracy. But we can’t have both.”

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/what_happened_to_the_moral_center_of_american_capitalism_20150907