President Obama in Cuba

President Obama’s decision to visit to Cuba and his call to end the U.S. embargo bring me joy. It’s time to “normalize” relationships between our two countries.

But what does normalizing mean between the capitalist super power and tiny island socialist republic 90 miles from the Florida coast? A return to normal or a new kind of normal?

The President’s speech this morning is disappointing. I couldn’t help thinking of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States when he poked the President in the eye in a speech aimed at the American people. This morning Barack Obama did the same in Havana.

The President says he knows the history. He may. But the history he knows is different from the one the Cubans know. When he talks about opening up Cuba, opening up Cuban markets so that Cubans can buy goods and have 21st century jobs, he ignores the reason for the Cuban revolution. The Batista regime was a U.S. puppet. Havana and Veradero Beach were playgrounds for North American capitalists, elites, and businessmen who gambled in the casinos and vacationed on the white sands few Cubans – except for the table-servers, maids, bartenders – ever got to touch.

Cuba was not a democracy under Batista and his predecessors. It was a dictatorship – AND its economy was free-market capitalism with egregious disparities of income and wealth. The majority of Cubans were as poor as the masses in other Latin American banana republics.

An article in The Independent provides the history of the challenges and successes of the post-revolution Cuban government’s literacy campaign and Cuba’s highly praised universal education system.

Will normalizing relations return Cuba to the pre-socialist inequalities that caused the revolution in 1959?  Will it mean a return to “normal” – in which the superpower calls the shots while the little brother watches our president embarrass him from center stage?

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 22, 2016

 

 

 

 

Pernicious Predatory Political Practices

An 85 year-old friend calls with a bit of panic in his voice. “I think I’ve gotten myself into something in Washington,” he said. He’s getting mailings that look he’s part of a lawsuit.

We meet for coffee to look over the mailings. He shows me the piece that worries him. It’s a law suit. It strikes him as very official. [See the return address in the top envelope below: Congressman Trey Goudy and my friend’s name  v. President Barack Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Homeland Security Secretary Johnson]. It has a case number: 584-9760 US.

Trey Goudy

Trey Goudy (R-SC) is Chair of the Congressional Committee on Benghazi, the one who was criticized by the next-in-line to be Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), because the committee was driven by a partisan political agenda. The letter speaks with urgency and asks for money to prosecute the case.

Next He pulls from his satchel a long tube from The National Campaign to Guarantee Social Security “warning” him of cuts to his Social Security benefits and possible elimination of Social Security. Only near the end of the three page letter does the campaign identify liberals as the enemies of Social Security. The letter solicits a sum of $200 before March 10 when the National Campaign to Guarantee Social Security’s creditors expect them to pay past bills.

National Campaign - SS

Most of the mailings have the same return address:  1600 Diagonal Road, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA, the offices of the Federation of Responsible Citizens.

A search of the Federation of Responsible Citizens and other mail solicitors that target seniors led us to this podcast and article aired by Minnesota Pubic Radio in Dec., 2013.

http://www.mprnews.org/story/2013/01/03/news/mediscare-fundraising-mailers

My friend and I consulted with the MN Attorney General’s Office. We were told to tear up any such mailings. “Just throw them away. You’ll see this slow down or stop after the election.” But what about the millions of seniors who at one time made a small contribution to some such mailing, believing it was in their best interest to do so? Is there a lawsuit out there to stop this pernicious predatory political practice? Someone please say yes.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 26, 2016

President to Appoint first Muslim to Supreme Court

[An exclusive cutting edge “edgy” report on a wacky world from Views from the Edge]

Washington, D.C., Feb. 16, 2016

On the heels of The Onion’s announcement that President Obama is preparing “a short list of gay, transsexual abortion doctors” to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia (The Onion, Feb. 15), an anonymous source from the Office of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) notified Views from the Edge of President Obama’s secret plan to appoint Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to become the first Muslim to sit on the nation’s highest court.

Mr. Ellison, an African American civil rights leader and criminal defense attorney, is the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress. Mr. Ellison quickly rose to leadership positions in the Congressional Black Caucus. He is one of only two members of Congress to support Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Presidency. President Obama, according to the source, will make the appointment during the Congressional recess at a Black Lives Matter event at a time and location yet to be determined.

When Views from the Edge asked Senator Cruz’s Office to confirm the story, Senator Cruz, a Republic candidate for President, took the call himself, calling Obama a liar who has done great harm to this country and re-affirming his position that the Senate will block any nomination made by America’s secret Muslim President. “Congress will never recess before a new president is inaugurated in 2017,” said the Senator. “I look forward to making that appointment. I have a short-list ready to go.”

Asked whether the alleged nomination of Mr. Ellison would be worse than the appointment of someone from the President’s shortlist of gay, transsexual abortion doctors revealed by The Onion, Senator Cruz took the opportunity to denounce Donald Trump as a non-Republican, closeted liberal suspected of a longtime friendship with a New York liberal Presbyterian obstetrician with well-known tendencies, and declared that Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia on the Court would be no better, and perhaps worse, than Mr. Obama’s.

When pressed for the names on his list of potential nominees, Mr. Cruz said it would be inappropriate at this time except to say it includes a committed Christian university president serving in Lynchburg, VA and a radio talk-show host he was in no rush to name.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 16, 2016.

Dueling Presidents: Obama and Falwell

President Obama speaks from the Oval Office during prime time, seeking to calm a jittery nation following terrorist attacks abroad and in California. I questioned the wisdom of devoting so much of a speech on national security to domestic relations with our own Muslim neighbors …until this morning I watched Jerry Falwell, Jr., President of Liberty University, urging his students to apply for conceal-and-carry permits so that they could “end those Muslims.”

http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/74836735/us-college-president-tells-students-to-carry-guns-to-end-those-muslims

The media describe Liberty University as “a leading evangelical Christian college” in Virginia. It’s not. It’s a poor excuse for a university or college, a right-wing fundamentalist school led by the son of Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, an arch-conservative fundamentalist religious-political movement to take back the country from liberals… you know…people like Jimmy Carter.

Three days after telling his students to buy guns and on the eve of President Obama’s Sunday evening address to the nation, Falwell tweeted that his reference to “those Muslims” was meant only for those Muslims who commit acts of terror. But Jerry, Jr. is not stupid. The deafening applause from the Liberty auditorium was still ringing in his ears.

President Obama and President Falwell both know we are shivering. Only the non-preacher President represented the spirit and ancient counsel of Baruch: “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God” [Baruch 5:1-9; 2nd Century BCE].

We can freeze ourselves to death wearing living in the garment of sorrow, affliction, and fear. Or we can take it off to put on the warm garment of beauty – the glory of God shining in mutual consolation, hope, and steadfast determination to live in peace with our neighbors.

If you can imagine Jesus telling his students (disciples) to apply for conceal-and-carry permits, pack some heat, and put an end to anyone, you’re making that Jesus up. You don’t get to make Jesus up in your own image.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’  But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that. And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don’t know God are nice to their friends. So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Jesus, Sermon on the Mount, Gospel According to Matthew 5:43-48, NCB.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Presbyterian minister, would-be disciple of Jesus, Chaska, MN, Dec. 7, 2015

 

President Obama – 10 Hours Ago

I’m heading to Paris today to join nearly 200 countries for a global conference on climate change. It’s an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our oldest ally, just two weeks removed from the barbaric attacks there, and reaffirm our commitment to protect our people and our way of life from terrorist threats. It’s also an opportunity for the world to stand as one and show that we will not be deterred from building a better future for our children.

What makes this gathering different is that more than 180 nations have already submitted plans to reduce the harmful emissions that help cause climate change. And America’s leadership is helping to drive this progress. In fact, our businesses and workers have shown that it’s possible to make progress towards a low-carbon future while creating new jobs and growing the economy. Our economic output is at all-time highs, but our greenhouse gas emissions are down towards 20-year lows.
So what we’re trying to do in Paris is put in place a long-term framework for further emissions reductions – targets set by each nation, but transparent enough to be verified by other nations. And we’ll work to mobilize support to help the most vulnerable countries expand clean energy and adapt to the effects of climate change we can no longer avoid.
I’m optimistic about what we can achieve – because I’ve already seen America take incredible strides these past seven years. And with that – I’ll see you in Paris.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Nov. 29, 2015. Makes me proud of my President today.

President Obama’s Letter to the NYT

President Obama’s Letter to the Editor of The New York Times today responds to a thoughtful NYT article by Jim Rutenberg on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Click HERE for a link to the NYT’s coverage of the President’s letter and the article that inspired it.

Views from the Edge posted the following comment on the NYT website:

Arguments that the key provision of the Voting Rights Act are no longer necessary are what the President says they are. State decisions to remove the Confederate flag demonstrate greater sensitivity to the continuing presence of white supremacist assumptions than is apparent in the U.S. Supreme Court and among the Republican caucus in the U.S. Congress. The President persistently keeps before the American people the historic aspiration “in Order to form a more perfect Union” and, in so doing, does the nation a great service. This president is balanced, historicaly-informed, philosophical, articulate, and personally grounded. After years of swallowing his tong in hopes of reaching bi-partisan solutions, President Obama is making use of his last years in office in ways that will place him among the greats of American history.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, August 12, 2015.

Roosters in the Republican Barnyard

Roosters crowing

Roosters crowing

The cocks are crowing again.

Former failed Republican Presidential aspirant Rudy Giuliani started it by saying he isn’t sure President Obama loves America. He quickly tried to backtrack, explaining he wasn’t questioning Mr. Obama’s patriotism.

My, oh my!

No sooner had the old rooster crowed than that nasty old press asked the young roosters who are strutting and crowing to rule the Republican barnyard to chime in on Giuliani’s cock-a-doodle-do. Scott Walker, who was at the dinner where Giuliani made his statement, refused to comment on Giuliani’s statement one way or the other.

Days later while the issue was still live, a reporter again asked Walker to comment.

Leaning on the strategy that the best defense is a good offense, Walker blamed the press for making too much of statements like Giuliani’s. But it wasn’t the press who said that Mr. Obama wasn’t a native-born American citizen, or that he’s a secret Muslim, or that he hates America. It was members of Walker’s party who said those things. The press asked Mr. Walker if he thought the President was a Christian. In light of the history of character assassination leveled at the President, posing the question “Is President Obama a Christian?” to a young Rooster strutting around the barnyard with his eye on the Oval Office doesn’t seem like a fowl question.

Walker cried fowl. He replied that such questions are why people hate the press. People are tired of the media asking questions the American people don’t care about. Hmmm. Like whether a professing Christian President who quotes the New Testament in his speeches is a secret Muslim? The press card is very much like the race card. You only pull it out when you have no real defense.

In “The Insiders: Why would anyone think Obama doesn’t love America? Plenty of reasons,” a follow-up to the Giuliani story by Ed Rogers in The Washington Post argues that “Obama’s policies, declarations and overall conduct in office make some think he is dissatisfied with America and its self-image.”

Love and satisfaction are two different things. Can one love a country, a person, a group, a party, and be dissatisfied? If the answer is no, say good-bye to Martin Luther King, Jr. Say good-bye to Edward R. Murrow and Daniel Schorr. Say good-bye to the biblical prophet Amos whose tongue was sharper than Al Sharpton’s not because he hated his country but because he genuinely loved it.

The cocks are crowing in the barnyard. “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Roosters and the betrayal of truth have a long history. Whenever a rooster struts and crows, listen carefully.

The President’s Speech

President Obama rang the bell last night in his speech on immigration. The President is a Constitutional lawyer. He is also a man of faith, a thoughtful Christian who interprets the Bible the way Abraham Lincoln did, and, like Lincoln before him, the President preached to a divided nation from the White House.

He used the bully pulpit to stop the bullying.

“Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.”

This morning Speaker of the House John Boehner, who for the past year-and-a-half has personally blocked a vote in the House on the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill, filed a lawsuit, alleging the President has exceeded his authority. Mr. Boehner and others also threaten impeachment.

Very few of us understand the Constitutional separation of powers well enough to assess knowledgeably whether the President has or has not exceeded his executive authority, but given similar actions by every recent President, both Democrat and Republican, the Las Vegas odds-makers would surely lay heavy odds in favor of the Constitutional lawyer in the White House.

Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and secular humanist leaders have led the fight for immigration reform for many years. They have commended the President’s actions and have renewed the call for Congress to pass bipartisan reform.

Because they’re not bomb-throwing religious extremists, there likely will be little media coverage of these religious leaders support for the President’s speech and actions. Like Mr. Obama, their faith, and the faith of the people and congregations they represent, are thoughtful and fairly quiet in demeanor. They don’t make headlines. But once in a while, one of gets to preach from the White House.

In the habit of some preachers who invite response from the pews following prayers or a sermon, “Let all the people say ‘Amen!’