Posted in Essays, The Faith Community with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2014 by thomassobottke

Holy Nature Spot One






The very last injunction, the very last words uttered by Jesus Christ before his promised return was “Love one another.” Allah is above all merciful and compassionate and does not look kindly on those, who themselves, are not. Yaweh may have acted with mighty power to protect and permit the people of Israel to prosper in the Promised Land, but as their holy scriptures demonstrate historically; the human agency of their governments have always strayed from what their prophets demanded of them on behalf of their God.

More startling still is the realization that all three peoples of the Book worship as monotheists one, all powerful, all encompassing, and eternal Supreme Being. That Supreme Being may be revealed to these three peoples in different aspects, at different times, but with a common purpose. That purpose is to acknowledge and act in concert with God’s injunctions (fear of God/submission to God or Allah). Logically, we cannot have three gods who all have these core characteristics. The fact that the God spoken of here is linked by the holy books of all three faiths gives but little escape to those intent on fear, ignorance, hate, violence, sectarianism, and feigned ignorance of that God. None of them can be lifting up their god against the others, since factually the scriptures linking all three faiths have a common origin.

Even those great faiths of the East that include multiple godheads all work toward a common plane of existence that bears a striking resemblance to the holy walk of the great monotheistic faiths.

Humanists without religious faith often place love, compassion, mercy, and cooperation among all of humanity very close to their souls. The best humanistic philosophy recognizes plainly that human beings are mortal, and cannot then be the ultimate arbiters of their place in the cosmos. That cosmic perspective tells us that if nothing else, the cosmic accident of the big bang, time, and space are not our doing at all. How can anybody place themselves ahead of either God or creation confirmed through science, or both?

The love power is a form of soft power with the greatest ability to influence, and most particularly, to undermine hard, military, sectarian, hate-filled, earthly, hegemonic power.

Were the Israelis to place their greatest efforts into looking first as God would upon the Palestinians, and acting as God most wants to do through us, they would have to give Palestinians, as themselves, autonomy, dignity, respect, love, and their full cooperation and kindness, even in the face of evil that is determined to counter such behavior with maddening intensity.

No human being is required to sit idly by while their children or family are killed by evil, however employed. But this too is not either love power or ethical behavior if it is anything that strikes out or strikes back in anger.

Love power makes shooting down passenger planes in Ukraine, killing or imprisoning the ethnic Russians there, or the killing in the name of statehood in the Middle East or just plain power there in any way morally ethical. Wars by definition are immoral acts by depraved groups of humans.

Religious faiths manifestly prohibit in their walk with, or to God, or as an expression of the greatest of human instincts that are of a higher moral purpose, the sort of equally manifest evils of human agency without reflection, humility, repentance, and true faith. The ultimate direction of human behavior cannot be anything but love, compassion, mercy, kindness. These things can NEVER comport with war and hatred.

Killing or harming others must be restricted to the direct intervention of a mother to protect a child in the face of a danger or human agency setting out to destroy or cut short that life. That sort of violence is not retributive; it is not vengeful, but simply actual in the present moment of the danger to our fellow human beings, and family members.

Want to undermine Hamas? Respond to Palestinians in love and peace, and watch Hamas crumble into nothing. The first instinct of humans with free will is to reach for the tools of killing and the means to hate first. What if there was a great paradigm shift to its polar opposite? Evil, however seemingly powerful, has never been able, and never will be able to ultimately stand against both faith-driven and the humanist perspectives employing love, kindness, compassion, and mercy to every single living thing on this Earth.

Want to make Putin and his egotistic leadership of Russia disintegrate? Act otherwise, and make this plain somehow to the Russian people. The very basis for his popularity and influence will be no more. If we react with hate, and traditional military threatening power we only feed the beast

Send the message to this bully that he is not worth the powder, but that if he insists on killing innocents we will in defense, rise to stop him. But more important still, we will not strike back at his people in his homeland to do it.

Love power is the ultimate weapon we can employ to undermine the traditional powers employed by human agency since the beginning of recorded history. The great moral teacher Gandhi has shown us how the weak, the oppressed, the weary, and the hopeless can defeat a great enemy every time. How long could Israel stand against a great love and peace Intifada thrust at them by the Palestinians? How even could the United States stand against such love power?

What would happen if either the Palestinians or Israelis went to a soft power love strategy as their primary means of dealing with their neighbors? Even if some paid the ultimate price to give full witness to this undermining, and peaceful means of defeating evil, it would not be long until the rest of humanity might wake up to something as yet unborn to us. That love power shift, must be our common destiny if this humanity is to survive at all.

Thomas Martin Saturday
For Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”

Worst Since World War II? Hardly. Obama faces Unique Political Environment in a Fractured, Dangerous, and Unresponsive World by Thomas Martin Satruday

Posted in Essays, Foreign Policy, National Affairs with tags , , , , , , , on July 15, 2014 by thomassobottke


Historians looking back on the Presidency of Barack Obama will be forced to take full account of the absolutely unique political environment he’s had to contend with. A Ph.D. in American History led me to ponder the thesis that Obama is the worst president since World War II. Just being a professional historian doesn’t make any of us right. But we do have a good deal of context for such an evaluation that few Americans have. In that respect our judgments are more sound and grounded on the historical record.

We know much about all our presidents, whatever our politics, and so too we grasp more fully anything that is unprecedented. Lincoln faced everything Obama did. Until Union victory, and his martyred death, he was thought a decent man but not at all effective doing anything. The 1864 butchery on the battlefield was such that Lincoln himself wrote he did not think he would be re-elected as late as the end of August that year.

He was thoroughly despised by a vast majority of Americans North and South, until Union victory and his martyred death intervened in 1865. Without it, he’d be somewhere close to James Buchanan, but worse, since he in that place, would have failed to preserve the Union, with no emancipation for blacks, and being simply among those most responsible for so much killing.

That kind of unique environment now, is centered on the very serious challenges to Obama’s very legitimacy to simply hold the office he’s been elected to twice in strict accord with our Constitution, and republican democracy.

Presidents since World War II, have all faced strong censure by political opponents. But the men who held the office were respected for the office they held. That’s not been true with Barack Obama. And evaluating his legacy of achievement is complicated by unprecedented legislative political obstruction, racial animus, and the hyper-polarization so central to the last five years, and no doubt for a number of years to come.

History does not favor strict partisanship when writing it to explain and enlarge our understanding of our collective past as a people. But all of us in this field have to look at the reality of that past, and try to tell the story of the significant currents of change and those things which most characterized an era that we find in document based primary research.

So here is what I would take as my starting point. This political polarization, legislative obstruction, and the discomfort among many Americans with a black man in the White House have acted and shaped the Obama presidency the most. And nearly all of this is coming from Republican conservatives via something that did not exist in so organized a fashion within that political party prior to the Obama presidency; The Tea Party.

The split within the Republican Party, its move decidedly to the right of where it had been, and the battle lines between a great deal of social change pushed by Democrats, recognizing the movement of the great majority of Americans to the left on social issues have been large factors too.

This is that unique political environment I started with. The following grading out of President Obama is based on where we are at present, and the certainty that this will change somewhat in the generation that follows in ways we cannot predict.

Foreign Policy: Grade C+
President Obama made two very difficult decisions on two wars that were both going badly, and that he opposed and did not start. They show courage, and the recognition it was not in our foreign policy interest to stay as imperial masters in Iraq, and Afghanistan any longer. The previous administration made huge mistakes in this region that Obama inherited, and that only now both political scientists and diplomatic historians are beginning to see have no easy answers.

The President already has two related achievements, getting Osama bin Laden, and capturing the key mastermind behind the Benghazi terrorist attack, and bringing him to face American justice. The Bergdahl controversy bears too little information, and it is too much in the present to evaluate at all. And the prevention of another 911 style terrorist incident is a quiet achievement as so much of it exists in the shadow world of the FBI, CIA, and the ubiquitous NSA.

His Libyan mission was superbly successful in helping Libyans remove a dictator that was moving to kill a significant number of citizens, not potentially in the future, but actually in the present. Skillfully bringing in the international community and having few American casualties demonstrated both action and wise restraint.

Congress reined him in on Syria. The emerging cold reality is that there are so many factions in this war that few if any are subject to our control. Truthfully, those people are hostile to us, as the rise of ISIS has shown contemporaneously. Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement are exchanging body blows. But our work diplomatically had in fact done something significant: Assad’s chemical weapons stocks have been removed and destroyed amid all this chaos; quite an achievement.

Nation building in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and both Iraq and Afghanistan all foundered on the failed attempts to put the square peg of American style democracy into the round hole of the Sunni- Shia split across the region, and a clan based tribalism too weak to build any consensus. That covers both the last two presidencies.

The president gets poor marks for being able to fashion a coherent foreign policy that our presidents must communicate for that to be fully effective. We know he wants to end, and has largely ended, the Neo-conservative foreign policy of the Bush-Cheney years. He ended waterboarding and rendition torture overseas. Congress has not given him the necessary authority via obstruction to close Guantanamo. Obama got a distinct dose of reality, in taking on the national security state in a very dangerous world.

Historians will no doubt suggest that Obama too heavily relied on Drone strikes around the world, and raised serious moral and humanitarian issues in the process. Noteworthy here is that a majority of Americans of all political stripes share this view.

Note the unrest, violence, and intractable problems both in what we did in the Middle East, and that nasty realization we may be just coming to, that while we can militarily be dominant in the traditional big power manner via threat and wars, our moral or soft power, and standing as a beacon of democracy trusted worldwide has been perhaps fatally compromised by the previous occupant of the office.

My historical assessment here is that as we learned in Vietnam, that even a superpower has distinct limits in the influence it can exert in a world where leaders, such as Vladimir Putin, can do things we just don’t have the resource leverage at the point of his incursions to counter in Eastern Europe. Iran is not yet resolved. Only still another war, this one very certainly to require the balance of our armed forces for years, and the killing of millions of Iranians and far too many thousands of Americans is patently and distinctly counterproductive.

Other nation states, however small and seemingly vulnerable, have a great deal of leverage our leaders have failed to see since Vietnam. We don’t run the world. It hits back and surprises the best of us. Billions of humans have the potential to become independent historical actors.

China and especially North Korea have followed intractable foreign policies requiring us to make our peace with them as we can, or go to World War Three Obama’s pivot to the Pacific has met with some success, especially with our ally Japan. The world circus of our decade makes any major paradigm shift in policy there hard to sell. There are just too many distractions competing with it.

How any presidential administration could limit the incredible number of conflicts in our world and fully secure our national security simply is an impossibility for the foreseeable future. This is on the way to being the hardest lesson in a generation, demonstrating the effective limits of our influence on events worldwide.

The Economy: Grade A-
The American economy was shattered in the burst of the mortgage bubble speculation of the period from the end of the Clinton years, to just as Obama took office. He used a good deal of his political capital to enlarge emergency measures from the Fed to stabilize the banks and the markets. The huge stimulus package stopped the bleeding, and created a lot of jobs to pull us out of ever greater job loss in just the first six to eight months. The auto industry bail out, while distasteful to most Americans, actually did a lot of good. An industry was saved.

There have been 56 months of job growth, GDP is up, the stock market is the highest it’s even been.

President Obama then brought to Congress a ten bill package to improve infrastructure, improve education and research, to help create more jobs and make us more competitive. Startling is the fact that he offered ten measures that in various forms had been championed the year or two before by the opposing party. He carefully avoided a lot of expansion in the welfare state.

Obstruction in a Congress just taken over by a Republican majority permitted them to vote down everything and complain about the President’s lack of success doing these things. This is an example of where obstruction seriously impedes a president’s success. Obama has skillfully used the “bully pulpit” to argue for middle class Americans hit hard by the economic meltdown just as Bush left office, and in a period of marked income inequality, where wages have been stagnant or dropping for thirty years.

Cooperation with Congress to Legislate and Enforce Newly Passed Legislation: Grade C+

President Obama will have historians saying he lost a lot of opportunity to work with Republicans those golden first two years of his presidency. It was not political hostility, or arrogance, but a professorial and detached involvement with the hard work with both houses of Congress successful legislation requires. He sat there and waited for the Congress to act. Would more prodding and close involvement in the legislative process given him more legislative success? My best assessment right now would be his relationship with John Boehner has been a disaster and yes, for a few measures that were needed. The rest, just total obstruction from Republicans at a level we’ve never seen in our history until now. That is both an unprecedented and absolutely unique environment under which Obama has struggled to operate. President’s, whatever we may think of their policy objectives, have little legislative authority beyond the veto, and executive orders within the existing budget.

Pulling him up from complete failure is the documented historical fact that key Republican leaders met in Washington D.C. on the very day he was inaugurated to both undermine the Obama presidency, and block nearly everything he might try to do. Since then, this has been the least productive legislative Congress in our nation’s entire history. While a few bills have been obstructed by Democrats in the Senate, the level of obstruction in the newly formed Republican dominated Congress since January of 2011 has done little or nothing to address the nation’s clearly identified problems, no matter what party or policies were supported in the House. The common observation that the obstruction and almost criminal inaction has left a full third of our Federal government fully dysfunctional is accurate.. The government shutdown of a year ago had nothing to do with Obama.

The ongoing intra-party feuding between Establishment and Tea Party Republicans has bordered on madness, to say nothing about being on the edge of treasonous.. That level of self-inflicted dysfunction must be laid in future at the very doorstep of Republican members of Congress, in the Boehner led House of Representatives. Historians will treat them about as harshly as you can

Obama has the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, Obamacare just now emerging as a huge success story after a horrible roll out, are significant achievements. Obamacare is the most significant piece of legislation in this decade, and perhaps of this generation.

As his two terms continued, the Republicans in the House cannot even get a Transportation Bill that never was the least bit controversial done. Immigration Reform got distinctly bi-partisan support in the Senate, where the legislation was the product of real contributions from all parties. In the House, the Speaker has not called it up for a vote, though vote counters in that body say a minority of Republicans with nearly universal Democratic backing would pass it today.

How can a president be effective, when the Congress refuses to meet its most basic responsibilities? As a historian, this would provide some great research material for a book on Obama, or this decade in our history. There is no equivalency in the offense committed here. It’s substantially with the Republicans, and the fact of it supersedes any competent historian’s ability to shape the story, or spin it somehow to fit a given scholar’s predilections as to what is best. This just is.

Obama’s principled and strong stand for the middle class, saving the safety net, and pushing raising of the minimum wage over a glacial level of activity in the legislative, and distinctly not the executive, has to lead any competent chronicler of the past to give the President high marks for creative executive actions all done within the Constitution, save one on recess appointments done when Congress was decided to be in session, with a ruling of the Supreme Court that drew the line there. The lengthening historical record shows Obama doing by executive order, limited law making we’ve seen since the beginning, all the way back to George Washington providing some of the needed action.

Civil Rights and Social Change: Grade B+
Obama’s rhetorical and moral positions for protecting women’s access to healthcare, particular reproductive healthcare, and his welcome and courageous announcement he was now openly supporting the LGBT community, ending don’t ask, don’t tell in the military, are of distinct importance to the evaluation of what will certainly be a successful president. He’s known just when to move with the American public here, demonstrating a deft set of pivots at just the right moments, mobilizing public support at a key time for what is now seen already, as what a vast majority of Americans in both parties support has been a distinct success.

His advocacy of protecting voting rights in America, as they are under the most determined attack since 1964 and 1965, when they were enacted, has been and will be revelatory of where this man’s moral compass has taken him.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s strong action in preserving perhaps the most important human element in preserving our democracy has yet to bear fruit, but he’s taken the right course at the behest of the President.

The environment and intense polarization is especially notable here. Republican core constituencies have been left behind by the vast majority of Americans of all colors, getting younger and more influential in moving this nation away from old positions, with declining support that puts Obama distinctly on the right side of history. Race relations are a key part of the disgust for this black man, with both a white Caucasian Anglo-Saxon and Kenyan black African ancestral background.

The historical record shows he is a native born American as the Constitution requires: end of debate.

Fundamentally, we are looking at a successful presidency. One of a number of common yardsticks is his winning two terms as opposed to one term in office.

Based on this and so much more analysis to date, Barack Obama is NOT the worst president since World War II. That thesis lacks the support to be accepted as valid. These assertions just don’t align with what we already know and are likely to see, as the sample size of five years plus is large enough to make a more than educated and even an informed judgment.

Where I am in evaluating presidents since World War II, minus a set ideology, produces this assessment, as this liberal progressive historian will now demonstrate party and ideology little affect the rankings. We all have our favorites and least favorite failures and these may vary somewhat among historians.

Here are the rankings from the top to the bottom as reflected by where I am now in evaluating Post World War II presidents.

1) Dwight David Eisenhower
2) Harry S. Truman
3) William Jefferson Clinton
4) Ronald Wilson Reagan
5) John F. Kennedy
6) Lyndon Baines Johnson
7) Barack Hussein Obama
8) George Herbert Walker Bush (Poppy Bush)
9) Gerald R. Ford
10) James Earl Carter
11) Richard Millhouse Nixon
12) George W. Bush (The Younger)

To recover some hope here for the lowly rated, neither Nixon, nor the second Bush are the worst presidents ever. Those honors go to James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding. The recent Bush presidency is above those two, with Nixon just above that.

Subject to Change over Time: (Stay Tuned)
Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”

Governor Walker’s State Health Plan a Failure: Public Interest Groups Highlight Need for Medicaid Expansion in Wisconsin

Posted in Community and Citizen Action, National Affairs, Race with tags , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2014 by thomassobottke


The Black Health Coalition and Citizens United, along with other public interest groups held a press conference in Milwaukee today to highlight Walker’s already failed health care strategy, as contrasted with the distinct advantages in accepting Obamacare Medicaid Expansion here. Milwaukee County and four other Wisconsin counties already will give their voters an opportunity to weigh in on Medicaid Expansion and Badgercare Expansion in Wisconsin.

20 more counties in the state are considering putting the same referendum on their county ballots this fall. “This gives voters in these counties a chance to send a strong message to their politicians about how they feel about Walker’s decision on Medicaid and Badgercare,” said Robert Craig of Wisconsin Citizens United.

Speakers at the press conference from groups as diverse as those combatting diabetes in the State, supporting pro-active healthcare for women to have better outcomes with breast cancer, and a representative of the American College of Associated Physicians all argued for the Governor’s acceptance of Medicaid Expansion under the Health Care Affordability Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Scott Walker and the Republican majority in the State Legislature have chosen not to accept the money and continue to pursue a State solution crafted by Walker.

Both the Black Health Coalition and Citizens United are non-profit organizations, Craig added, and they only desire the legislature and Governor to do right by those citizens who qualify for aid under Obamacare along with a more sensibly modified Badgercare coverage.

Struggles for Justice notes just two mind blowing dollars and cents facts even the most Obama hating, Tea Party loving, or indifferent Wisconsin citizen ought to pay attention to.

Governor Scott Walker passed a tax bill that gave the average Wisconsin resident taxpayer a much appreciated $110 to $120 tax cut this past year. Yet, by making an affirmative decision NOT to accept Medicaid money under the Health Care Affordability Act, the average taxpayer is paying an average of $250.00 more each year for their private healthcare coverage. In effect, those same people are $130.00 behind the curve AFTER the tax cut provided by Walker and the Wisconsin State Legislature.

With the Medicaid Expansion money, Walker could give all his constituents that benefit on the private insurance market in Wisconsin, yet he hasn’t done that, and to this date has shown no inclination to do it. With more Medicaid money, health insurance premiums under private health plans will drop, and the higher health insurance premium cost largely disappears altogether. There is no ideology here, just the naked self-interest of our State’s taxpayers.

Second, without the Medicaid Expansion money from the Federal Government, that would pick up the cost of all of it to start, and in out years always pays more than the lion’s share of the cost, it makes little sense to continue to refuse the money. It’s the law, and the Federal Government is bound by Obamacare to provide it if a State asks for it. Wisconsin has said NO.

An additional $271 million dollar budget deficit under Walker’s present plan will force the Legislature to either cut another $271 million from an already squeaky tight and inadequate State biennial budget, or to saddle the most tax sensitive, and largely white conservative constituents of Walker, and by extension every Wisconsin taxpayer, to come up with the shortfall.

Why the hell, we say, would even the most mean-spirited, conservative, Obamacare hating voters reject that? It makes no sense at all when viewed from their economic self-interest, or anybody’s self-interest.

We all should remember that Wisconsin has always had a net deficit when it comes to Federal tax money going to Washington, and Federal largesse coming back to Wisconsin. We don’t have any really significant military bases, or beyond the minimum Federal courthouses and Federal agencies present here. As bad as poverty is among the impoverished here, we just don’t get our money’s worth; our share of the Federal Government’s aid we all already have paid for.

For example, Rick Perry’s Texas Miracle is really grounded upon the more than $22 billion Texas gets for its State coffers each and every year through the Federal Government. What if Wisconsin as a smaller per-capita size state got its share of all this? What would say $2 Billion more dollars to spend here do for the biennial State budget, and tax rates? It would be the Wisconsin Miracle.

Alas, our State’s financial and fiscal, or put simply economic profile, does not allow for that. But Medicaid Expansion is something to make up some of what the Federal Government owes us.

NOW THE HUMAN SIDE OF THE EQUATION: To appease the States’ economically compromised citizens and their advocates Walker has extended Badgercare to 82,000 more people. He is to be applauded for that. But wait, to pay for it he is keeping another 77,000 people cut off from State aid, who are living just over the poverty level as single individuals, and making them ineligible for both Medicaid and Badgercare.

These people have no hope of getting significant health insurance on the private market either. People are falling through wide crevices already present in the Governor’s affirmative decision NOT to take the Obamacare Medicaid money that is already ours to take. This is as one speaker said “just insane.” Struggles for Justice couldn’t have put it any better.

Having dozens of Wisconsin Counties hold referenda on the Medicaid Expansion money, and its impact on Badgercare, will send a strong message to all our State’s politicians that a different course from that of the Governor is badly needed.

And it IS badly needed. Tens of thousands and perhaps as many as a hundred thousand Wisconsin residents are receiving badly inadequate health care, leading to equally bad health outcomes. This too, costs the State and our Wisconsin hospitals more money, making it very hard to serve the public, to remain viable in the marketplace, and in the end, increasing rather than decreasing the cost of healthcare in Wisconsin.

We thank the Black Health Coalition and Citizens United, along with so many other groups promoting better healthcare for all our citizens, for what they said at the Black Health Coalition’s jointly held press conference at 3020 Vliet Street today, in Milwaukee.

Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless: Protecting the Vulnerable”


Posted in Essays, The Faith Community with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by thomassobottke


When Raul Labrador prefaces his opinion on the continuing immigration crisis at the border with “it may sound harsh,” we know that what is coming is so. When on CBS’s Face the Nation, Senator Lindsay Graham said “We have to send them back, because if you don’t you’re going to incentivize people throughout that part of the world to keep sending their children here,” it fails to take into account the strong incentives that already exist in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador due to violence initiated by drug cartels fighting over who gets to control large shipments of drugs bound for the United States. It fails to understand that young boys are being trafficked for profit by gangs, and it fails to see that young girls face dangers as they mature from being violated by these same gang members, and drug cartel operatives. This is to say nothing of the generic violence ongoing and uncontrolled in these places.

The news media has failed us even more by framing the immigration crisis as political posturing for partisan gain, instead of focusing on the human element. Is it most important to find out if Obama created this rush to our borders? When little children need water, food, and shelter from abuse, is the answer to blame Republicans for not passing immigration reform or to consider humanely treating them?

Should 52,000 dogs come across the border en masse without a home, lacking food and water, and needing medical care, animal shelters and humane societies across the nation would rightly spring into action. What Obama did or thought, or blaming Republicans for the mess would be pure folly and anyone would see it. Why is it then so hard to afford human beings who come the same way the humane attitude we reserve for the canine community?

What the present crisis at the border is are desperate people seeking protection from violence and abuse where they have lived, and some hope for a future for their children free from those things. Elemental human compassion has gone missing from the so called “debate” on immigration policy. It’s not how fast we can deport people at the border that is the core question here. What it is has everything to do with how we treat such a vulnerable group of persons who’ve crossed our borders illegally, while they are in our care, and our responsibility.

Central to the response we ought to be focused on is both empathy and compassion. The two are so closely linked that it is impossible to exercise compassion without the presence of the former. Empathy is our ability to place ourselves in the position of the very children and mothers who have come, and who face such an uncertain and dangerous future that they would have risked so much just to get to us.

Our response to this empathic concern is not to turn them away, but to exercise a newly informed compassion, just as we might care for a sick bird in spring. Are not little human ones just as valuable and deserving?

Psychotherapist Richard Hanhardt, Executive Director of the Sacred Bond Center, writes this about compassion: “when you have become a compassionate person, you will be sought out by these people and you will be able to help them. Love will be born.”

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use.” Those who rush to judge, to exact retributive, as opposed to restorative justice, ought to consider using that muscle. Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu once noted in an interview that there was some sort of streak of vengeance among Americans in relation to the death penalty he found troubling. On his emphasis on forgiveness he said in that same interview, “This has to do with our world view as Africans. I can be human only in relationships. Our greatest good is communal harmony. Revenge and anger subvert this.”

The moral and theological guidance to Christians is best stated by Jesus the Christ in what he says of the place of children in relation to God. Jesus brought forward a little child who was physically with them. The scriptural WWJD moment is when Jesus tells believers, “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven, who even welcomes this child in my name welcomes me.” By the most direct inference whoever does not refuses him. Clearer still in this command is the next passage, “if any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones, who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck, and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Ouch! Is this clear enough?

The Judaic tradition, and for that matter the same injunctions Christians follow along with Jews in the Old Testament has this command from God or Yaweh: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The Islamic faith makes concern for others very central. Allah, the one God, is in daily prayer said to be uppermost both compassionate and merciful. The clear injunction could not be clearer for Muslims, meaning one who submits to the will of Allah. They must act in accord with this one supreme and only God. Buddha taught compassion and understanding as the way to nirvana, that highest state of being, and the very definition of wisdom.

Hindus making their way through what may be a multiple of lifetimes know full well they will not advance in that cycle of birth, death, and rebirth to achieve that highest level of being, or Moksha, if they invite bad karma by their misdeeds. Even a minority sect within Hinduism, the Janists, amid their self- denial, often employ brooms to wipe aside the smallest insect lest they step upon them, to respect life and the moral path they are on.

Agnostics and Atheists in relation to faith traditions are most often humanists, valuing both the sanctity of individuals and communities. They yet have strong ethical and moral belief systems that comport very closely with all the major faith traditions. It would seem that those who most want some sort of legal retribution on these children, coming to us with their mothers, but most often alone, frightened, and in need, hold these positions from fear, anger, and ignorance.

The United Nations has strong positions on how refugees from violence and oppression who may seek asylum are to be treated. The broad base of humanity must condemn this xenophobic response on the part of many Americans, who fearful of strangers, and seeing only the perception of a grave threat, obstruct the needed humanitarian response.

Let’s hope the Ted Cruz’s, Raul Labradors, and Lindsay Grahams of this world find the elemental empathy and compassion that has gone missing in their rhetoric and policy. If not, a lot of little children who have no skin in the game of partisan politics in the United States are going to be critically harmed. When fear, hate, and ignorance brought forward for mere partisan political gain trumps the obvious moral and compassionate human response, our nation and its people are in danger of losing our way, and denying what is so central to whom we claim to be.

Richard Handhardt, MS, MBA, BCSLC, “The Birth of Compassion: The Path to Finding Love,” Nature’s Pathways, July 2014, 40.
Interview, Marc Ian Barasch, “Desmond Tutu on Compassion,” Psychology Today, 1 March 2005,
Matthew 18:4-6, New Revised Standard Version, NRSV.
Leviticus 19:33-4, NRSV. Here “foreigner” can be easily substituted for alien.


Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2014 by thomassobottke


Giddy with the prospect of painting words
on a blank white canvas,
I see wheat undulating to the rhythms of a summer breeze,
lyrical and uninterrupted,

only to find humanity reaching out for critical mass
to take it to the apocalypse.

Wave oceans all in blues and greens and white froth,
crash against defenseless little children at the border
a scintillating dreadfulness,

fluffy white clouds
in a sun filled blue sky
so alien,
so unforgivingly beautiful,
bearing their dreams away

receding like the misty province of ghosts.

I feel that warm breeze slide up my bare arm,
smile at the comfort of her touch,
such ease
from the unfeeling grotesque
love unconditional,

for religious extremists murdering the faithful
praying handcuffed on the ground,
flinching only at sound of automatic rifle’s staccato daggers
in the public square.

The Lord brings us hurricane winds so often
filled with trepidation,
at such evil uncontrolled,
we know we must have troubled our own house.

ISIS and Osiris flow down the Nile like the Black Death,
I wonder at the spectacle viewed from the heights,
Ayn Rand applauding the autonomy of the individual

leaving little room to breathe in communal compassion,
even to weep for lost children,
impending tongues cut from billions of throats.

Yes, it has been our lovely day out,
celebrating the great holiday beach adventure
blissfully unaware,

of the thing that slithers in sublime silence,
swishing through the cool grass,
regal elegance,
preceding the fall of peoples and nations.

–July 2014


Posted in Community and Citizen Action, Foreign Policy, National Affairs, The Faith Community with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2014 by thomassobottke

Water One

STRUGGLES FOR JUSTICE EDITORIAL: The decision to cut off Detroit city water users by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) has left tens of thousands of residents who cannot pay their bills without clean, sanitary water services.

To be sure the City’s $90 million in unpaid bills needs to be turned around by Kevyn Orr, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s Emergency Manager. The DWSD has begun aggressively collecting money owed to it from those who can pay but who are not. Its efforts are commendably having some 60% (their numbers) of those in arrears pay off what they owe when confronted with a water shutoff.

But what if a resident or family just doesn’t have the money, and has not had the money for some time? This is something that the water department and emergency manager could allow for if only they wanted to. But they don’t. No allowance is made whatsoever for conditions in a city where 38% of Detroit residents live in poverty and where 83% of all residents are black. No consideration that water shut offs will and do affect children, the elderly, and disabled.

Bill Nowling, spokesman for Orr said, “No other major city in America has let accounts go delinquent for so long.” He went on to say, “These are difficult decisions . . . We have to run the system so it runs for everybody; when we don’t collect the bills, it doesn’t run well. We have a plan in place for lower-income people, or people who have trouble paying their bills to get on a payment plan, so I don’t think you can say we’re callous about the plight of lower-income residents.”

This statement is nonsensical. It does not allow for residents who have no payment to put on a payment plan. The 1970’s historic near total annihilation of the American auto industry that supported a fiscally healthy and first world quality of life for Detroit changed everything. Most white residents of Detroit did a huge white flight number two decades ago, and left the city’s tax base in a shambles. And Michigan Governor Rick Snyder deprived Detroiters of democratic self- government with a view to selling off much of the city to large global corporations, and where black residents hit hardest have no options and no place to go.

Those who can’t pay lose access to safe, clean drinking water, based on a dollars and sense decision that lacks any consideration for a compassionate humanity. There are practical concerns too. Much of old Detroit has been compared to a war zone, and a Third World nation environment. Those characterizations are not far off from the truth. But it is not the city’s left high and dry poor who are responsible for their own plight.

The United Nations has been appealed to by a local water rights group, and is now responding. In July 2010, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution on clean water standards. In much of the Third World lack of clean water and proper sanitation is a major feeder of cholera. The United States has not seen major cholera epidemics since the early part of the Twentieth Century. Detroit could be a good candidate for one quite soon.

Worldwide, over 800 million people are denied access to clean, safe, drinking water. That includes the sanitary measures needed by proper sewerage systems to ensure disease is not spread by such conditions.

The 2010 UN resolution included specific language identifying access to clean water and sanitation as recognizing “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.”

The UN advocate for such rights, UN Water and Sanitation Expert Reporter Catarina de Albuquerque has affirmatively gone to work on this problem in the United States. She has the authority to approach governments of member states to press them for solutions that meet both the human right to water, and the public health dangers concerned when human beings have no access to it.

De Albuquerque will report back to the General Assembly, the “Reporter” in her job title. That body could draft a resolution condemning the United States for violating previous human rights treaties the U.S. has been a signatory to.

Already inner city churches are finding people lining up to take their water just to survive. Many have small children. This truly is a United Nations human rights issue.

For the United States, will we continue to oppose the 2010 resolution? Will access to clean water be something more and more of us have no right to expect as citizens of the United States? Already, drought conditions that have for well over a decade made California a dried up flaming fire zone, seeing water auctioned to the highest bidder. Prices are skyrocketing.

Struggles for Justice is deeply concerned that water will increasingly become a for-profit commodity, where the poor and racially and socially ostracized will have their basic human rights violated, with tragic consequences.

The Supreme Court’s dramatic shift to enlarging the rights of corporate business at the expense of biological human beings as we have thought of them since our species began to proliferate on Earth, and growing income inequality, will make it easier for the nation’s rulers, (not representatives) for that is what they increasingly are, to simply discount the needs of the less fortunate.

For Christians in America, here is what Jesus said about this. It is not a bunch of UN black helicopters or any threat to our nation’s sovereignty (for that matter neither is the UN on this):

“I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink . . . Truly I tell you, just as you did for the least of these you did it to me.” -Matthew 25: 35; 40

The moral imperative here is that acting for, and showing humanitarian concern for others, is something no one can turn away from. Safe drinking water and proper sanitation are among the most elemental of them.

And Christian theology, with Jesus the Christ scripturally modeling for believers how they ought to behave conflates water, both practical and necessary to life both in this world and the next as elemental to the faith.

Struggles for Justice cries out for something both here at home, and abroad, to get these conditions so necessary for life and health to every one of us.



Posted in Community and Citizen Action, Essays, Gender, National Affairs, The Faith Community, The State of Labor with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2014 by thomassobottke


The Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case places greater importance upon what employers, in their capacity as employers, believe about religion and contraception, over what employees as individuals think and believe about the very same issue.

Here corporate entities with five or fewer owners do not lose their individual rights as biological human beings to obtain contraception, nor are they as biological human beings required to personally support contraceptive benefits in health insurance or contraceptive birth control as individual human beings in any way whatsoever.

Female employees of these businesses are now required to subscribe to what their employers both as corporate entity, and biological human beings demand, without a corresponding means of influencing this situation that bears any relation to equality before the law.

This flies in the face of logic, reason, and most of all the equality before the law guaranteed biological human beings by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the First Amendment to the Constitution.

This distinction I make between corporate human beings and those that are biological forms of individual human life is a necessary one due to the Court’s making corporations people in the Citizens United case that is law.

Normal, biological humans understandably have a hard time figuring out why a business organization should be equal to them at all. How can they compete with organizations with bucket loads of money, power, and influence over all three branches of government that all but the top one percent enjoy?

Does the Supreme Court’s majority decision written by Justice Samuel Alito distinguish who shall receive the full blessings of liberty and who shall not? Apparently so.

Not lost also, is the fact that the five member court majority are all men. Three of the four justices dissenting were women. This was not just a conservative vs. liberal court clash. It was also one where the sensibilities of American women of all political affiliations were not consulted.

Note that dozens of scientifically researched polls and studies have concluded that nearly 99 percent of women, even including Catholic women, and Republican women depend on contraception.

The court acted here to prevent women from the folly of their sexual irresponsibility both Alito and conservatives said today. Contraception and outright abortion are now on the same playing field. Your contraceptive rights as a woman are now equally insecure with your right to an abortion. How comfortable are you? Is the threat to either comfortable? Is it right? We think not.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s blistering dissent got to the heart of the matter:

“The reason why is hardly obscure. Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. The distinction between a community made up of believers in the same religion and one embracing persons of diverse beliefs, clear as it is, constantly escapes the Court’s attention. One can only wonder why the Court shuts this key difference from sight.”

The decision applied only to closely held corporations, or those with five or fewer owners. But a distinct precedent now exists for further challenges to employee rights and beliefs held individually by all other corporations or small businesses.

The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision has already classified corporations as individual citizens of the United States of America. If you feel comfortable vying for the protection of your rights when measured against how corporations desire you feel, think, and the access you have to legal remedies, how confident are you that you’ll come out equally with them before our courts?

What has been happening here since the Roberts court was initiated is the shrinking of the public space. That is, the common or civic good we all share with the myriad ways in which government at all levels provide services to us as individual, biological human beings. The Robert’s court conservative, 5-4 majority fundamentally distrusts and opposes the public sphere whether expressed in public parks, universities, public schools, or anything of communitarian value to the entire polity as a whole.

By contrast, the Robert’s majority specifically defends individual private prejudices, and the private sector, and its prejudices and presumptions over all else.

What the public sector can do for individuals who though full, law abiding citizens, do not have the means to in Ayn Randian fashion provide for themselves no matter what government, nor business, nor other individuals may do is problematic to the further continuation of our democracy as we’ve known it.

It has been a very long time since any American truly and honestly relied solely upon themselves as individuals, whatever they profess or believe true. Somewhere, every single human being in America has needed and will need the public sector or the public space to advance their interests and concerns or to equally enjoy the blessings of liberty promised us in the Constitution.

Folks, the plain fact, the bald truth is, that everyone, not just the wealthiest one percent of us as humans, or corporate businesses need government at all levels. Without the public space and or public sector benefitting us all in equal measure, any sort of democracy or republic worthy of the name is an mpossibility.

Perhaps that is what the Scalia originalist approach supported by the conservative Roberts majority has been aiming at the whole time. That doctrine held robustly by Justice Scalia simply declares that only what the original founders of the United States and those who brought the Constitution into being in 1789, thought, believed, expressed, can guide our courts.

On that basis, slavery, votes for women, labor unions, women’s reproductive rights and anything that in evolutionary fashion changed about the application of our laws and justice since the founders be damned.

We aren’t permitted to know anything or express anything the founders did not.

Worst of all, is that vulnerable members of our society are most exposed to these immoral and unwise Supreme Court decisions. This is to say nothing about what women feel and think. This court makes women legal non-entities.

If you are poor, racially of color, not popular with the white majority, you’re in deep trouble. Those people don’t need to be told that. They feel it, they see it, they are harmed by it, and they know it intellectually.

The only true originalism is how this court interprets the Constitution of the United States. It makes the Warren activist court look like legal sea slugs.

Struggles for Justice has stood and will stand in future for the vulnerable, for the voiceless, for the legally disenfranchised. It is the morally and legally right course to take, and we make no apologies for our liberalism, compassion, empathy, and moral sensibilities. Minority rights must be upheld as robustly as those of the majority.

Yes rich, conservative, evangelical, individualist Americans stand equal to those who are not. But they do NOT STAND BEFORE THE LAW as our SUPERIORS.

No one ought to stand above the rest of us. Most of all, women are NOT second-class citizens.

They do not stand above “the least of these,” spoken of by Jesus of Nazareth, The Christ. With whom did he stand during his all too brief ministry to humanity?

We invite conservatives to hate us, to despise us, and denounce us. For it legitimizes the stands we have taken, and will take. We glory in the struggle. We at Struggles for Justice welcome their hatred, but are sad for it when expressed for what it says of their souls.

But we do NOT hold to things as we do in hate, fear, ignorance, or violence of any kind. We do make it according to the great moral teachers of all faiths as they have always made it.

Every human being deserves an EQUAL place in the United States. Every human being’s humanity must be lifted up over selfishness, power, hatred, ignorance and greed.

Those of you opposed, consider the gauntlet laid upon this field of battle!

Thomas Martin Saturday
for Struggles for Justice
“Speaking for the Voiceless, Protecting the Vulnerable”


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