I am not a Roman Catholic, although I know many who are.

I wasn’t prepared for what Pope Francis had to say, nor how he chose to convey his message.

I am quite pleased to have observed and listened to most of the things Pope Francis subscribes to. No doubt that the Roman Catholic Church in America has lost a great deal of its luster over the past couple of decades for a variety of reasons.

I think if the American R.C. church (and many other religious institutions) can find a way to embrace some of the values this Pope advocates for; our country could come closer to healing.

Related to this observation, the John Boehner thing came as a bit of a surprise, and for a few moments, I was pleased.

Now that some of the background has been exposed, it seems that Boehner has tried very hard to create an environment where civil discussion and debate was at least possible.

It also seems clear that there is a vociferous contingent of ultra-conservative elected officials in D.C. who share a common thread: ‘Take no prisoners: it’s our way or the highway. We don’t negotiate or compromise, ever.’

I guess I knew before the Boehner announcement on 9/25 that there were at least a few elected characters in our Congress who are mean, rigid, callous and intractable.

I just never would have guessed that there were enough of these bigots and curmudgeons to create an environment toxic enough to drive John Boehner back to Ohio, for good.

I guess the Koch Brothers (and some others) are gaining some real traction from their ‘investments’.

Goes to show: You don’t personally need to wear the white hood if you can write enough checks to mobilize an army of fringe fundamentalists who are willing to align with your doctrine.

There are dozens – hundreds – of examples throughout history which support this theory, perhaps the most frightening of which is the rise of Nazism under the leadership of Adolph Hitler.

Perhaps the spirit of Pope Francis will engage and mobilize enough folks who seem to perpetually sit on the sidelines hoping that – magically or mysteriously – the right things will happen.

History tells us that the right things will only happen when people of good will mobilize in a positive way to stop the fringe fundamentalists from taking control of our economy, government and society.

Bowing to extraordinary pressure from both the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish blocs, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo has put his weight behind an ‘education Tax Credit’ proposal that is just plain wrong.

No matter how you slice this, it is not just wrong, it is also unconstitutional.

Our federal and state constitutions mandate certain services be provided to all residents and citizens, services which include public education.

Sometimes, economists view the shifting a tax burden required to provide sufficient funding to ensure provision of adequate and acceptable services from one taxing entity to another in order to create the illusion of a tax cut or a public cost savings as a “Zero Sum Game.”

This proposed tax credit program is certainly NOT a zero sum game.

The sole beneficiaries of this proposed tax credit charade will be those families – and their allies and supporters – who elect to eschew the free and publicly supported education system which is intended and expected to provide all children in New York State the opportunity for a “sound basic education,” defined as a meaningful high school education that prepares students for competitive employment and civic participation .

When Rhode Island adopted an education tax credit program a few years back, it resulted in a windfall for the state’s two Jewish day schools. Between them, their students received some $400,000 in scholarship money in the program’s first year.

In Florida, tax credit legislation has resulted in nearly $10 million annually for scholarships for Jewish day schools and yeshiva students.

Now New York, which has some 150,000 Jewish day school and yeshiva students — more than all the other states combined — has a chance of getting an education tax credit program that could deliver millions of dollars annually to Jewish day school families.

Another primary beneficiary of this proposed tax credit program will be supporters of private Catholic schools which have been plagued with declining enrollment and decreased core funding from the Church for several decades.

Offering a small number of self-selecting individuals the option to designate (Read:  Divert) up to 75% of their NY State Tax Liability to fund private religious schools is just plain wrong.

Charles Lewis has had a long and distinguished career as an investigative reporter for a number of credible and main-stream print, broadcast, video and internet sources.

Charles Lewis’s book, 935 Lies will be released this week.  In his book, Lewis provides some interesting and provocative commentary on why facts, logic and reason are often missing in the rush to war.

His book inspired me to think, “Come on, Rep. Darryl Issa and Rep. John Boehner:  Let’s get the House Select Committee to investigate the real Root Causes of how and why the U.S. is embroiled in a religious war in the Middle East.”

We can pretend that the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was the premier event of our 21st Century, and is singularly the responsibility of Hillary Clinton, with additional culpability on President Barack Obama.

Or, we might want to take a serious look at what occurred in Washington following the atrocities of September 11, 2001, and the incredible subterfuge which was created by President George W. Bush and his team which led to our military intervention into Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush, Cheney and Company willfully brought the U.S. into religious wars in the Middle East which have been seething since 3,100 B.C.

No matter what we do as a nation, we will never be able to enable peace, harmony and tranquility in a region fraught with the residual effects of multiple centuries of social, religious and cultural nuances which defy explanation to those who are from outside.

Much like Marie Antoinette from 18th Century France, Bush and Cheney were ignorant, audacious and fully disconnected from the realities of the real world of everyday people when they foolishly launched their invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.  They deliberately and willfully misled the Congress and the American people to create a real world replication of the 1998 movie “Wag the Dog”.

Now, some 13 years later, a majority of Republican elected officials in Congress are fixated on a variety of meaningless and inconsequential issues, i.e. “What else about Benghazi is the Obama administration still hiding from the American people?”

The American people really ought to be demanding that Congress get to work to ensure that our nation is fully prepared to prosper in the 21st Century.  Something tells me that the events which led to the deaths of ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya are directly attributable to the actions which took place in 2001-2003 when the U.S. orchestrated the escalation of a Religious War in the Middle East.

So, why is it that House Republicans continue their assault on the Obama administration, when it seems to be perfectly clear that the real root cause of all of this mess in the Middle East traces directly back to bad choices and failures of the Bush/Cheney administration?

I’m thinking that a great deal of the problem is attributable to our failed public education system in the U.S. which seems to graduate young people who have never been exposed to critical thinking skills.

More on: Gun Control

January 14, 2013

I’m a New York State resident, and I’ve been following the recent activities of our legislators in Albany.

I applaud the bi-partisan work of the members of our New York State Assembly; the members of our New York State Senate; and NYD Governor Andrew Cuomo, to act swiftly and deliberately to negotiate and pass comprehensive gun control legislation in January 2013.

Assault weapons have no place in civilian hands in a civilized society. High capacity magazines are a necessary evil for law-enforcement and military purposes; they have no place in any civilian application.

No different than ownership and/or operation of a motor vehicle; possession, ownership and/or operation of a firearm should be predicated by background and identity checks; testing; registration and licensing; plus proof of liability insurance.

The frequently heard argument that the Second Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is an emotionally charged and incomplete line of reasoning.

There is nothing stated or implied in the Second Amendment which tells us possession, ownership and or use of firearms should be unfettered and outside the purview of laws and regulations carefully designed to protect the interests of the greater public good.

It is unfortunate that the immediate reaction to any talk of ‘gun control’ emanates from (often overzealous) Second Amendment advocates.

The basis of our Second Amendment — which was adopted in 1791 — likely had very clear and relevant context to the 18th century, and to the events which preceded the Revolutionary War.

Now, more than 2 centuries later, it would seem to be helpful to have a rational, detached and thoughtful public discourse to include all facets of a 21st century centric debate on firearms and what makes the most sense for the majority of our fellow citizens today.

I have not met or communicated with any balanced and rational individuals who want to deprive any responsible American adult of their right to own and use firearms.

Nor, have I met or communicated with any balanced and rational individuals who want to deprive any responsible American adult of their right to own and operate motor vehicles.

It seems that through careful analysis and regulation, we have been relatively successful keeping unqualified and/or irresponsible individuals from operating motor vehicles.

I wonder: Why would any responsible and/or qualified American adult believe that we couldn’t accomplish the same outcomes with firearms?

Most gun crimes in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley involve weapons illegally brought into our state. Do we want to continue the illegal trafficking of guns into New York?

History tells us that — in 1791 — gang violence, assault weapons and drug trafficking had not yet been invented. Multi-shot hand guns did not appear until the early 19th century, and did not become commercially viable until 1856 when Smith and Wesson produced the first cartridge revolver.

Laws and regulations developed and designed around the technology, society and economy of the 18th century no doubt have some validity for our current society, yet may need to be carefully examined to see how and where some ‘tweaks’ might make them more relevant for today.

Thank you to Governor Cuomo and our New York State Legislators for taking some bold first steps to bring our state gun laws into compliance with the Information Age. There is more to be done, but you have accomplished some solid reform in January 2013.

Bravo!

An article published in The Journal News, a Gannet newspaper serving the lower Hudson Valley, reported on an unfortunate incident involving Aron Rottenberg, who recently suffered third-degree burns to half his body.

As the story goes, Rottenberg had been ostracized by the Skver Hasidic sect that runs the Village of New Square because he did not worship at the community’s main synagogue, headed by Grand Rebbe David Twersky.

A letter distributed to the community in November 2010 by New Square’s leadership and rabbinical court warned that not worshipping at the main synagogue was a severe violation and that anyone in violation must be stopped from using the community’s facilities.

Sources reported that Rottenberg’s family had faced growing levels of intimidation in recent months, including broken windows in their home.

Protests outside the Rottenberg home calling on them to leave led to the family installing surveillance cameras.

On Sunday, May 22, Aron Rotteberg confronted a man carrying a rag soaked with flammable liquid behind his home on Truman Avenue and Rottenberg was severely burned during a confrontation.

Rottenberg is in serious condition at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla but is expected to survive.

Meanwhile, as a country, we are spending Zillions of dollars and sacrificing thousands of our soldiers to death or permanent disability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not more than 60 miles from Ground Zero, we have extreme religious fanatics engaged in early-stage ‘Hassidic Jihad’.

Today, they attack each other because of the PLACE where they worship.

Apparently, this is not even an issue of “what do you believe?” or “How do you live your life?”

What might happen tomorrow?

I’m concerned and angry, but not quite ready to fight personally.

Yet, our TAX DOLLARS are supporting this insane behavior: The fire district; The police; The district attorney; The public defender; The school district. Each of these entities is involved in this case, and it goes on and on.

I think it is inappropriate for the majority to be saddled with the costs of religious fanatics fighting over turf.

This really is no different from the Crips vs. Bloods, or any other iteration of gang behavior.

Best I can tell, this whole mess looks and smells like it has RICO implications.

Where is the US Attorney? The FBI?

If we are to support this circus with tax dollars, let’s get our money’s worth.