Archive for April, 2018

NH Catholic Bishop’s “Sub Rosa” Campaign for Education Savings Account Legislation is Unseemly

April 30, 2018 Comments off

Bill Duncan, the Advancing New Hampshire blogger, wrote a post yesterday describing the efforts of the New Hampshire diocese to solicit parishioners support for SB 193, an education savings account bill under consideration in the NH legislature that would provide a means for parents opting into Catholic Schools to secure more funding for their “choice”. The post included an email from the Bishop to parishioners that included a sample letter they could send to their local legislator that included this verbiage:

As your constituent, I write to urge you to support SB 193, the bill to create Education Savings Accounts in New Hampshire. We should continue to support our local public schools, and we also should empower families to make the best decisions for their children. These are not mutually exclusive concepts. An ESA program would support families trying to find the right academic setting for their children but struggling to afford it.

As Mr. Duncan noted, there was no mention of the rationale for this desire to “..empower families to make the best decisions for their children”, which is clearly to transfer taxpayer funds from public education to religiously based education. This lack of explicit connection between the desire of the Catholic church leadership to seek more taxpayer funding is disingenuous at best.

At the end of his post, Mr. Duncan concluded with this:

There’s nothing wrong with the Bishop campaigning for SB 193, but legislators receiving those calls and emails should be clear about the source.

I did some quick Google research and was surprised to fund that even organizations that advocate a bright line between church and state acknowledge the laws on lobbying for legislation from the pulpit or from the Bishop are nebulous. But it seems to me that Biblical laws on honesty and helping the needy would come into play here. I found these 25 verses by entering “Bible Verses on Honesty”, the top one of which came from 2 Corinthians Chapter 8, verse 21:

For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.



Individualism and the Common Good are Not Incompatible

April 21, 2018 Comments off

In thinking about the policies advocated by today’s libertarian leadership of the GOP, it is difficult to see any effort being made to advocate for the common good. Indeed, many GOP members think that any philosophy whatsoever that calls for the “common good” is either naive or somehow automatically anti-capitalist. Several week ago Arthur Camins wrote an excellent blog post titled “If Not Now, When?” explaining how individualism and the common good can coexist. He opens with a definition of “the common good” and the GOP’s definition of “individualism”:

Without one another we are diminished. The more we have others around us, the stronger we can become. That is the idea of the common good.

It’s not a uniquely American idea, but it is one with which many of us identify.

Republicans in Congress have a different idea. It applies to guns, health care, retirement, and education.

Their value is a strain of individualism that stands in opposition to the common good.   Their strategies are: Promote fear and undermine public confidence in government as a vehicle to keep people safe. The goal is the further enrichment of the already privileged.

After establishing that the GOP’s definition of individualism is the opposite of “the common good”, he proceeds to offer examples of legislation proposed by the GOP that buttress his assertions, he asserts that the Democrats have been reluctant to appeal to the common good in their resistance to the direction the GOP has headed our country, mirroring arguments advanced on several occasions in this blog.

Centrist Democrats, acceding to conservative framing, have been loath to appeal to common good values, the obligation to pay taxes, or defend government as a common good institution. Too many­– in the Clinton years– accepted the premise that poverty is an individual failing and supported “Ending Welfare as we know it.” Too many–in the Obama years– accepted the Republican framing of the failure of democratically-governed public schools and supported individualistic solutions such as charter schools. Too many– before Bernie Sanders’s advocacy for Medicare for all– abdicated and supported the Affordable Care Act’s foundation in the private insurance market.

Camins then poses a question from Rabbi Hillel from hundreds of years ago:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” 

Camins concludes that the GOP today views everything through a zero-sum game lens, which means others can gain only if each person is asked to make a sacrifice– in effect to compromise their individuality. But Camins believes the issue of individualism can be reframed, and by doing so progressive wing of the Democratic party can rekindle the collaborative spirit that at one time defined our country. He concludes with this:

Progressives, need not shame individualism, but rather reframe it. That is, we become our best selves through others. We can only become our best selves when we are all safe, healthy, well-fed, and well-housed. We can only learn to be our best selves when we are educated with the benefits of diversity and equity. Hopeful, but hard.

If not now, when?

If not now, never. So, organize.

Hopefully, yesterday’s gathering was another step along the path toward restoring the common good.


Trump’s Pledge on Gun Free School Zones… Revisited

April 20, 2018 Comments off

As noted in earlier posts, I am on a vacation away from the internet and so I am re-publishing some posts on “guns in school” from years past… in part to keep the webpage “alive” in my absence, but, as is true in this case, to illustrate that BAD ideas prevailed in the 2016 election and are literally killing children. I hope there are many marching today…. 

“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools, and — you have to — and on military bases. My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day. There’s no more gun-free zones.”


The Trace, “…an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the United States” posted nine quotes yesterday that outline President-elect Trump’s stance on guns, one of which is featured above.

What is the basis for thinking that schools would be safe if guns were allowed? In 2012, Larry Pratt, the Executive Director of the Gun Owners of America had the answer following the Newtown CT shootings:

A gunman whose name we do not need to memorialize took advantage of our gun-control laws to slaughter 20 children and six adults in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

In addition to the gunman, blood is on the hands of members of Congress and the Connecticut legislators who voted to ban guns from all schools in Connecticut (and most other states). They are the ones who made it illegal to defend oneself with a gun in a school when that is the only effective way of resisting a gunman.

What a lethal, false security are the “gun-free zone” laws. Virtually all mass murders in the past 20 years have occurred in gun-free zones. The two people murdered several days earlier in a shopping center in Oregon were also killed in a gun-free zone.

Israel finally came to grips with this in the early 1970s and have decisively stopped these attacks after a busload of children was massacred by Muslim terrorists. When I was there in the late 1990s, if you saw a busload of students, you saw at least one young teacher with a machine gun protecting the groups of students.

The Israelis have decisively stopped these school-related attacks and proved they want to live. Do we?

During the decade of the Clinton ban on semiautomatic rifles (the so-called assault weapons) and high-capacity magazines, crime did not go down. Reinstating it would simply be another example of repeating the same failed policy and being surprised with the same failed result.

We must tell our elected officials that they are acting as the criminals’ friends as long as they continue to support legislation that protects only criminals, not decent people.

Oh, and we must also insist that these criminal-friendly elected officials not even try to blame gun owners and our “gun culture” for what a criminal did.

Had a few of us been available with guns at the Newtown school, most of the victims might still be alive.

This sentiment is echoed in President-elect Trump’s pronouncements about guns… but it is a sentiment, it is not rooted in logic. The analogy to the young teacher with a machine gun on the bus is, presumably, a “good-guy-with-a-gun” at the door… like the one at Columbine who was overpowered by two teenagers? Or is it a teacher in every classroom with a machine gun?

As one who worked in and broke up fights in a gang-plagued urban junior high school in the early 1970s, I cannot imagine allowing the high school-aged drop-out who congregated around the school every day to carry guns without being challenged by police. As a high school disciplinarian who held several tense conferences with angry parents I could not imagine sitting in those meetings with a concealed handgun to protect myself in the event an angry parent packing a gun might become upset with a decision I rendered…. and the thought of allowing gun toting spectators into a basketball game between arch rivals is chilling. As a School Superintendent who stood in front of hostile audiences because I recommended school closings, re-drawing of school boundaries, elimination of athletic programs, and the retention of controversial books in the curriculum I would not welcome an armed audience.

From my perspective, the gun right’s activists fear-based position on guns is further evidence that we are losing our bearings as a culture. Exhorting citizens to buy arms to protect themselves while exhorting other citizens to feel free to engage in hateful sexist, racist, and misogynistic speech seems like a recipe for disaster. Mr. Trump used hateful rhetoric to get elected and now wants to unify us. Giving everyone access to machine guns does not seem like a path to unity.

And here’s what I find depressing: if any of these ideas get introduced to the legislature by our newly elected NH Governor-elect Chris Sununu, I can testify against them. But if they are proposed in Congress, I will just have to watch helplessly from the sidelines as my two Senators and House representative get outvoted by their Republican and NRA-supported Democrats.

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