Mennonite service; Catholic to the Max!; …out of one’s comfort zone

Catching up…  I continue writing free-lance pieces for the Bluffton News.  For instance, I just finished a short article about a group of local Mennonite youth who are going to Canada to put on a week-long Vacation Bible School  for a Chinese community just north of Toronto.  A Mennonite pastor going on the trip said to me that they’re trying to teach their youth that service work is part of being Christian…  And in order to keep up my populist image (and to put food on our table as well), I continue to do house painting projects.  One of my most recent jobs — I’ve been traveling back and forth between Bluffton and Steubenville to paint — was part of the upstairs of a large home in Steubenville.  The family  has recently moved to Steubenville from Northern California to be part of the Catholic ethos that emanates out from Franciscan University.  The university’s slogan:  “Catholic to the Max!”  [I recently attended a weekend-long seminar at Franciscan on:  Politics and Catholic Thought.  [More on that later.]  Note:  Another recent story that I did for the newspaper was about high school sophomores attending a week-long “HOBY Leadership Program” at nearby Ohio Northern University.  One of the group leaders said to me during the interview:  “Leadership is often about helping move people out of their comfort zone.  It takes a person from where they’re at, to where they need to be — even if it’s somewhere you initially didn’t even want to go.”  That would be such a good slogan for our campaign — if it weren’t so darn long!

a world of his own…

Yesterday our Jonathan and I got in a game of basketball at a cracked, outdoor court near some projects in downtown Steubenville.  It was actually a pretty intense game with some high school and young adult age guys.  [I’m, oh, a little older.]  Anyway, one of the guys on our team had an excellent outside shot, was a pretty good playmaker, yet appeared to have some sort of emotional/mental problem.  While he played well, he didn’t communicate at all, except to occasionally nod — all the time either looking away or keeping his head down.  When the game broke up, we all went our separate ways.  I said goodbye to him and he nodded.  As we were walking up the hill from the court, I looked back.  There he was by himself continuing to shoot in, seemingly, a world all his own.  The projects were just beyond the railroad tracks to the southeast.  I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of ‘world’ he’d be going back to.  Or for that matter, perhaps the world he was trying to escape for a few hours on the court.

faith walk; town hall topics: abortion, climate change, religious liberty…

I gave a speech at Franciscan University last week.  I talked about my faith walk and how it tied into my running for president.  I turned the second half of the talk into a “Town Hall Meeting.”  Someone asked me how I thought Trump was doing.  I said my opinion was “mixed” on this.  Unlike the polarizing “all good / all bad” Party rhetoric, I saw “some good / some bad.”  I said I was opposed to him pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change (which had just happened the day before).  However, I said I was heartened with his Supreme Court pick with Neil Gorsich.  And I was heartened as well with some of his recent overtures in protecting, in part, “religious liberty.”  However, I added that the country was at the 60 million abortion mark, and if I was president I’d be showing the movie the Silent Scream during my first State of the Union Address and mobilizing massive, and ongoing, street protests against this Holocaust.  It worked to end Segregation.  It would work to end this.  We can’t treat this as a side issue any longer!

Ivanka — Sarah?

A news report today explained some of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is made in Chinese factories where the average worker earns $62 a week.  That’s it.  My daughter Sarah recently went on a missions trip to Haiti where they make even less.  Sarah, because of her spirituality, compassion, sensibility… would make an absolutely great First Daughter.  And our platform would revolve around getting a lot more help to these people in Third World sweatshops.  Not exploiting them.

North Korea chess match; $6.4 billion in tax prep!

An American aircraft carrier is steaming toward North Korea.  In the face of a UN Security Council resolution banning test missile launches, North Korea continues to defy that.  It’s a high stakes geopolitical chess match.  That is as we move the carrier into place, we have to be cognizant of the 30,000 American troops (plus South Korean troops) aligned on the border.  While North Korea can’t reach the U.S. with a nuclear missile yet — it can reach South Korea…  Just prior to April 15 this year, a news report indicated Americans now spend a whopping $6.4 billion a year on tax preparation.  It was also reported the Trump administration is considering floating a tax reform proposal that would include some version of a flat tax across the board with a simple one page (or even postcard-size) filing form.  [Ted Cruz advocated for this during the Republican primaries.]  Our administration would advocate for a “simplified progressive tax” — which we believe would be fairer to those less well off — with an easy one page filing form as well.  For more on this, see…

exclusive golf clubs and not-so-exclusive golf clubs

I just heard an NPR piece that said Donald Trump is on a par (pun intended) to be the most prolific of all the golfing presidents, and there have been many.  (Truman used to where his golf shoes in the Oval Office.)  It was noted that Trump was once Club Champion at Mar-a-Lago and still plays quite frequently at these types of rather exclusive clubs.  Meanwhile, on the “average Joe” side of the fairway (or, okay, often ‘side of the rough’), I was just chipping in our backyard in Steubenville now that spring is here.  And my son Joseph and I are planning an early evening golf outing at nearby Fairway River Links Golf Course — 16 bucks for 18 holes.  To view what can best be described as my “PGA” form, see…

gang shooting; Dirty Vagabonds; war zones…

There was a gang shooting a couple blocks from our home in Steubenville the other night.  [We live near the border of a pretty hardscrabble Rust Belt area here.  Let’s just say it isn’t Mar-a-Lago.]  A teenage boy was killed and two others ended up in the hospital with gun shot wounds.  Some of the city came together tonight downtown in the upstairs of a place called the Dirty Vagabonds.  This is a Catholic/Christian ministry for latch key kids living in a rather rough area.  I joined them.  As I saw town adults and Franciscan University students huddled in corners talking with these kids, and as I heard modern praise and worship music coming from a service upstairs, I was heartened on one level — yet tremendously concerned on another level.  That is, these kids were going to have to leave this safe space at some point and head back into their respective ‘war zones.’  Neighborhood violence, parents on drugs, run down houses, not enough food in the kitchen…  Our administration would be heavy on urban renewal and giving these kids a way better shot at life in general.  Note: Our family lived near the inner city of Cleveland for five years doing outreach work with a group of Catholic Workers there.  We saw how bad it can be for these kids.  Most all of us who are better off should be sacrificing way more (money, volunteer time…) to shift this around, quick.

They adopted nine…

I am painting a new third floor addition to a house just up the street.  A young couple has added this rather large addition for the wife’s parents when they visit — with their nine adopted children!  The daughter told me her mom had three biological children, then was told she couldn’t have any more because of physical complications.  So instead she and her husband have made nine international adoptions of kids in need from multiple countries.  The last adoption was of three Bulgarian siblings who were about to be separated,  “My mom couldn’t have that,” said the daughter.  Note:  What a better world this would be with more of these adoptions, in tandem with way more Americans financially adopting children (through Compassion International, and so on).  Yeah, we help more than most countries — BUT WE COULD HELP SO MUCH MORE!  In fact, I graphically point this out in our foreign affairs position paper.

Bully Pulpits and Fireside er’ Podcasts?

In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book The Bully Pulpit, she notes that one of Theodore Roosevelt’s biggest challenges was confronting the “malignancy” of big money in politics.  In a scathing NY Times editorial about this at the time, the paper suggested that a millionaire could buy a Senate seat “…just as he would buy an opera box, or a yacht, or any other luxury in which he can afford to indulge himself.”  Fast forward to, well, the Trump administration.  Just sayin’.  Note:  One form of Roosevelt’s “bully pulpit” were “Fireside (Radio) Chats.”  Our campaign has resurrected those (for the cyber age).  We call them “Fireside (Internet) Podcasts.”

Russian and American ‘propaganda’

With the heightened focus on Russia of late, I picked up an old book in the Bluffton University Library titled:  The Soviet Cultural Offensive.  Author Frederick Barghoorn writes that when your average Russian citizen is asked a political question:  “Feigned incomprehension, ingeniously tangential replies, or indignant parroting of the official policy are among the common responses.  Some foreigners have reported that Soviet people are equipped with a wealth of slogans, but with a minimum of facts about either domestic or foreign politics.”  While written in the mid part of last century, a lot of this still probably holds true — because, for one, the media in Russia is controlled by a somewhat repressive government, still.  Okay.  But what of Americans today in our extremely polarizing society?  They are either fed a steady media diet of liberal ideology, or conservative ideology.  Then they often parrot this back in per-established talking points. Less and less of American citizen opinion is a well reasoned amalgam of solid points from both sides, mixed in with just as well reasoned personal opinion.  Note: We’d like to think our position papers are, indeed, a good amalgam of the best of both (liberal and conservative) trains of thought, mixed in with some refreshingly original thought as well.