Let’s Ask the Right Questions

This past Sunday at St. David’s Episcopal Church in downtown Austin during adult class, I heard J. Douglas Harrison, an ethicist and technology expert, talk about Artificial Intelligence.  He raised questions about the impact the coming switch-over to automated transportation will have on the economic future of many people:  over the next fifteen years people who drive for a living will lose their jobs. I thought for the first time about how the President is addressing the wrong question as he works to roll back emission standards.  Certainly, why he would do that or why Congress or a State Legislature would abdicate the facilitating role they should be undertaking with industry, scientific experts and economic experts is a question for our time, impacting all time on our planet.  Around us record wild fires rage.  However, in putting the focus on car emissions, we root ourselves in the past.  We’ve got new and bigger problems.  Going back to previous standards doesn’t help.  To arrive at useful answers, we have to begin with the right questions.  Then we need to get informed people, from many sectors, at the table to discuss and implement workable transitions.  If we just jerk from left to right political postures and back again, we aren’t problem solving or dilemma managing.

Remembering, these are not normal times…! Here’s what’s happening as the General Convention of the Episcopal Church comes to Austin. Some of you will know the Presiding Bishop as the preacher at the recent Royal Wedding.

The message below was sent today from Chuck Treadwell, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church, to his congregation as the parish prepares on the occasion of Austin hosting the General Convention. Westboro Baptist Church is sadly known as a hate group that has staged demonstrations different places around the U.S.

As you all know, we have the great joy of hosting General Convention this week and next. We anticipate having a lot of visitors at St. David’s, particularly at our worship services on Sunday, July 8. We have recently learned that we are attracting some other visitors who take exception to who we are and what we do.

Westboro Baptist Church has invited people to protest at St. David’s on Sunday morning. Their website says they will be here from 8:30-9 a.m., but we don’t know for sure. In preparation for this, we are asking you to do a few things:

  1. Please avoid the surface lot. Please park in the parking garage. We will have attendants here to help you get in and out, and there are handicap spots on every floor.
  2. Please do not engage the protesters. They are professionals at this twisted work and are known for trying to illicit angry and violent responses and then suing people. So please simply ignore them.
  3. Come to church and bear witness to the God of love, in whom there is no darkness or hatred, and pray for a change of heart for those who spread hate in God’s name.

We will have extra security and two off-duty Sheriff’s Deputies on campus to make sure everyone plays well with others. I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

Peace,

The Cultural Vacuum

Author and co-founder of The International Congress of Youth Voices Dave Eggers writes in today’s New York Times of the present void of culture at the White House. He concludes his observations with these words: “with art comes empathy. It allows us to look through someone else’s eyes and know their strivings and struggles. It expands the moral imagination and makes it impossible to accept the dehumanization of others.  When we are without art, we are a diminished people–myopic, unlearned and cruel.”

We DO Care.

On June 22, the day she traveled to view a shelter for immigrant children in Texas, Melania Trump was photographed in a jacket that read in capital letters “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?”

Those of us who are bewildered or angered by the message on Mrs. Trump’s jacket have some options.

For those of us who try and live by a “love our neighbor” or golden rule guideline of “doing unto others as we would have them do to us,” this means channeling our concern and outrage in a constructive and civil manner.

We need to focus on building compassionate community.

Here’s how:

  1. Find out the facts and discern the implications those facts hold for the outcomes we seek.
  2. Speak out on behalf of those outcomes with our voices and our votes.

Here are worthy outcomes that should matter to us all:

  1. A habitable planet
  2. Health care access
  3. Quality education
  4. Public safety
  5. Economic well-being
  6. Freedom
  7. Enrichment of experience
  8. Problem-solving capacity
  9. Hospitality
  10. Kindness

Here are a few current amplifications about a few of the outcomes we should be seeking.

  1. Public safety: requires realistic laws that are humane, consistent administration of those laws, and practices that promote community caring, versus driving people into the shadows where bad things happen.
  2. Economic well-being: too many people can’t afford decent, much less desirable, shelter or other basics and most don’t have enough money for a $500 emergency.
  3. Freedom: when we have a President who regularly scapegoats an entire race, a religious practice, a political party, a nation, or a group within his own party that disagrees with him, our freedom is being threatened.

We need to speak out against wasting resources. Wasting energy on trying to bring back coal, failing to use the power of collaboration when working with world leaders, undermining the healthcare network to take aim at the other political party while ignoring the need to make accessible healthcare for all people a reality, failing to fund the education of our young, disregarding the plight of our aging poor, calling all regulation bad when facts prove that some regulation is vital to our future  — all  of these actions are harmful and expensive.

People in positions of influence have the opportunity to bring people into positive political action.  The Postcard Storm provides bipartisan guidelines for political action to people in  that seek healthy, caring community life.  If you would like for me to help with a plan for your group, let’s talk.

Dear People in Political Power,

I believe we need a better way of treating people seeking asylum from dangers in their homeland.  Imprisoning men and women seeking safety because they have crossed our border without permission is bad enough in itself. Compounding that meanness by separating those traveling as families  from their children is awful behavior unbecoming to any country, much less the United States of America. We forget our original greatness was founded by immigrants pursuing a better life in the face of life-straining obstacles.  This awful behavior of imprisonment and separation on the part of the party in power must change; we are losing our soul as a country unless we improve our treatment of people, regardless of what their documented status may be. We should have zero tolerance for unkindness.  There are better ways to solve problems and manage dilemmas than throwing people in prison because they are seeking safety and taking away their children in the process.

In Response to the Presidential Administration’s “Gag Rule”

I don’t know if Congress with its largely male composition can imagine what it would be like to be a young single teenage girl who is pregnant or a mature married woman who is pregnant and for whatever reason didn’t want to go forward with that pregnancy. Perhaps the young girl is terrified and traumatized by the prospect of carrying a baby to term.  Perhaps the mature woman has a husband newly dying of cancer and three children already on the ground who need her help.  There are many possibilities.

Regardless of one’s opinion about abortion, women and girls need access to reproductive healthcare, whatever their circumstances.  One half of babies are born with their deliveries paid for by Medicaid.  We need to do a better job for our people, and that means making reproductive healthcare a priority. Punishing people by making it hard to access reproductive healthcare not only is cruel to the people in need of it, it hurts all of us.

Friends for Civil Action, not an endorser in primaries, sends out a salute to all who campaigned on the inclusive values we support. Below is communication between me and Chris Perri, as he prepares to back Julie Oliver.

Dear Chris,

Thanks to you and your family for the remarkable energy and focus you gave to your campaign.  I know the misstep of the last couple of weeks must be very painful; I thought the email from your wife that followed that was full of humanity. I had given my small contribution to both yours and Julie’s campaigns.  I had been, as a friend said, dithering back and forth between voting for you or Julie Oliver, looking for who was most likely to have a bit of a chance in the race against Roger Williams.  I think Julie probably does, just because if there is a wave that will bring out non-traditional voters, in most cases, it’s likely to be the wave of women.  That said, in the end, I cast my vote for you – because the email sent under your wife’s signature after the dodgy business of taking on Julie’s campaign the way your campaign did– spoke to me of the hard, hard work you two undertook (appearing in many living rooms and at many doorsteps to talk with people, including my doorstep where you spoke with my adult son and in a neighbor’s living room where I heard you speak things I believe).  The reality is when we are working fiercely hard we all sometimes make mistakes.  Most, however, don’t apologize, even if  it is through a woman; and sometimes it just takes a woman in our society to offer the human face.  Thanks to you and your wife for your courage and stamina, and I plan to join you in campaigning for Julie.

All best,

Mary (Molly) Sharpe

 

Friends for Civil Action website: https://mollysharpe.wordpress.com

 

From: Chris Perri <info@chrisperrifortexas.com>
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2018 9:34 AM
To: molly@mollysharpe.com
Subject: With Gratitude

 

Dear mary,

Obviously, we’re disappointed in last night’s close results. It’s hard to take in the loss after all we’ve poured into this. That said, I’m deeply thankful to everyone who’s given their time, money, and support. Together, we helped shape the conversations in this race, and that positive impact will continue on.

Shannon sent me this Teddy Roosevelt quote, and I agree he says it best: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Together, we all dared greatly, and for that we should be proud.

The best news is that two strong campaigns gave it their all, and if we come together, the people have a real chance of flipping this district. I encourage everyone to get behind our nominee, Julie Oliver. She’s smart, dedicated, and hard working, and she now needs our support against Roger Williams. You can visit her website here: www.oliver2018.com. Runoffs are incredibly hard as candidates work to differentiate, but in the end, she’s got a great progressive platform, and we must all unite to help her win the real fight in November.

Once again, to our staff, our volunteers, our friends who cooked us dinner and walked our dog – thank you. I don’t think I can ever fully express my gratitude. To my family for their encouragement, I’m so grateful. I’m especially thankful to Shannon, who poured her heart and soul into this campaign, giving every fiber of her being to spreading our message of hope. She was out knocking on doors until the very last minute yesterday. She has supported me in every way throughout this crazy challenge I took on.

For us, it’s time for a little break with our furry and feathery pets, but we’ll be back fighting the good fight soon.

In solidarity,

Chris

www.chrisperrifortexas.com

 

     

 

Paid for by Chris Perri for Congress
Sent via ActionNetwork.org. To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from Chris Perri for Texas , please click here.

 

A Bipartisan Postcard About Gun Safety

Senator John Cornyn| Senate Majority Whip| 517 Hart Senate Office Building| Washington, D.C. 20510

Senator Cornyn, as a person of considerable power, please enact universal gun checks now for the safety of our school children. Some people are just not equipped to handle guns.

Sign your name and provide your address and zip code to have your opinion counted.

Messages for Your Elected Officials to Send or Call this Week

Re: Separating Children from Parents as a Deterrent Tactic is Wrong

Whether or not we agree on immigration policy, we should be able to agree that as a tactic to deter immigration, it is wrong to separate children from parents. John F. Kelly said on NPR last week most of the people who cross the border illegally “are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13” gang members.”  Stop this immoral separation.

Re: A Culture of Bad Behavior is Bad for Us All

Whatever our political preferences, we should not overlook bad behavior in our elected officials and those who represent them.  Firing by tweet is wrong. Offloading blame is wrong. Disrespect of human dignity is wrong. Calling people names because they are affiliated with a different political party is wrong. Those in power need to protest on all their constituents’ behalf.

Re: Ignoring Environmental Hazards is Bad for Us All

Fifty years ago, the Stanford Research Institute delivered a report titled, Sources, Abundances and Fate of Gaseous Polluters. While what to do is a matter of debate, ignoring the impact of pollution puts us all in peril. Pay attention to pollution.

Re: Costly Facts to Ignore

Internet searches quickly reveal from multiple, credible sources:  1. More than half of households in the U.S. lack $500 for an emergency and 2. Approaching half of children born in the U.S. have their deliveries paid for by Medicaid, because their parent(s) are below the poverty line.  Yes, we can improve our social services network, but not by cutting it back. The reality of poverty and fragility in our country isn’t going away without government paying attention to our environment, our health, and our public education system.  Do what is right, and invest in your people.

Re:  Choosing Who to Help is Morally Wrong

For those who have a faith or secular life practice that respects the call to love our neighbor, we don’t have the choice of helping only those who behave as we think they should. In other words, it’s not right to only give health care to those who will work.  It is right, however, to improve conditions so that more people will be equipped for work.  Less government isn’t a reliable option when more people than ever need help in America.

Interested in helping spread positive political action? Give friends and family a political engagement tool they can use, regardless of the party affiliationThe Postcard Storm, Ten Outcomes We Should All Want can be ordered online from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Eating Well

Something we all do is eat.  Getting food safely to the table involves a chain of people and complex legislation.  To learn more about what’s involved, check out:  www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org.  Once again, the Episcopal Public Policy Network proved to be for me an excellent resource on how to act.  The information below shows you how to join the Episcopal Church in urging the U.S. House of Representatives to reject their current farm bill draft and develop a “bipartisan, evidence-based bill.”  The quotes are mine, highlighting how valuable and needed legislation that is bipartisan and evidence-based (YES!) is.

Farm Bill: Wait for Evidence

Dear Mary (Molly),

The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, commonly known as “the farm bill,” is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress develops, and the programs under it have a national and global impact. As occurs roughly every five years, Congress is in the process of renewing this bill. The following information will help you to navigate what’s being proposed and take action.

What’s in the farm bill?

Contained within the bill are provisions for international food assistance, conservation and environmental measures, research, and domestic food assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which provides assistance to 1 out of every 8 Americans. The SNAP program, at less than a $1.75, per meal, supports working individuals and families and helps those who rely on the program to keep food on their plates.

Are there plans to improve SNAP?

In 2014, Congress funded a series of pilot programs to learn more about how people transition into family-supporting jobs. This bipartisan plan provided hundreds of millions of dollars in ten states to test a variety of methods to encourage or speed a family’s transition to more consistent and reliable higher-paying work. These pilot programs will begin providing data and real-world results in the coming years, data that can be used to make evidence-based reforms and improvements to SNAP.

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives is trying to move forward with reforms prior to receiving findings from the pilot programs. Instead, the currently proposed reforms would significantly increase SNAP’s bureaucratic barriers; change the age that full-time parenting is permitted to only cover up to seven years old; and revoke the right of states to make adjustments to the program based on local conditions. These changes are expected to result in more than one million families losing food assistance.

The funding that currently goes to feed hungry families would be redirected to workforce development programs, although the funding would be insufficient to meet demand among those who rely on SNAP. The Congressional Budget Office determined that even after ten years, the money would fall short to provide training to all those in need. Families will lose access to food assistance, yet there will not be enough resources for individuals to earn associates’ degrees or other industry recognized credentials necessary to earn family supporting wages in the modern economy.

Further, the program would require more paperwork and bureaucracy for families and government. Those who were part of the program would need to verify employment monthly, rather than once every six months, increasing the likelihood of errors or simply not managing to submit paperwork on time and losing access to food as a result.

Does SNAP work?

The SNAP program, at less than a $1.75, per meal, supports working individuals and families. Demand for SNAP increased during the Great Recession, but demand has decreased since 2014. SNAP provides critical support to working families, as wages remain stagnant and insufficient public investment in public education contributes to a growing skills gap. In fact, most non-disabled, non-elderly adults receiving SNAP are working within a month and 74% are working within a year, for households with children 65% work within a month and 87% within a year.

Take Action!

The Senate is moving forward with a bipartisan farm bill, and they already said they do not want to consider the House bill as written.

Join the Episcopal Church in urging the House to reject their current farm bill draft and develop a bipartisan, evidence based, bill.

Additional Resources

Episcopal Church policy: Advocate for a Just Food System

Episcopal Church policy: Affirm Support for Government Funding of Social Safety Net Programs

Episcopal Church policy: Advocate for Safe Food Production and Farm Labor Policies

In Case You Missed It

Join our free immigration webinar May 16! Registration required.

Urge Congress To Invest in Job Training, and Workforce Development Programs

Support Historically Black Colleges and Universities