Tell your Friends in Cranston’s Ward One about Steve Stycos

What is Steve Stycos about? Independent analysis, common sense energy and conservation efforts, and increased clarity on what we are spending money on in Cranston and whether we are getting our money’s worth. We desperately need Steve’s skills on the Cranston city council:

When news broke that Councilman Terence Livingston wouldn’t be seeking re-election in Ward 1, whispers began over who would throw their hat into the ring. But perhaps no candidate caused more of a stir than longtime School Committee member Steve Stycos.

No one was as surprised as Stycos himself.

“I didn’t expect to run,” he said of his 11th hour decision. But after a series of land use discussions (including decreased lot sizes in western Cranston and the Warwick Avenue Stop & Shop) that troubled the Edgewood resident, he decided the empty seat was reason enough. “I was sitting there saying, ‘I have the opportunity to try and make sure these things don’t happen.’”

It was 10 years ago when Stycos first broke onto the School Committee, after a previously unsuccessful run. And since then, he has carved out a reputation as an outspoken, albeit unobtrusive, advocate. Always soft-spoken in demeanor, he has subjected his colleagues to extensive questioning on matters ranging from curriculum to contracts.

Voters can expect the same on the Council.

“I’m not interested in going along because a majority wants to do something,” he said.

If that means coming up against opposition from entrenched incumbents, Stycos isn’t scared. As a freshman committee member, his opinion was often overlooked.

“I felt for a number of years no one was listening. The attitude was, ‘he’s off the wall,’” Stycos recalled.

In his early years in public service, Stycos’ colleagues killed several of his pet projects. During negotiations with the teachers’ union before the most recent contract, Stycos voted to table the contract because it had not been costed out.

He did not receive a second to the motion.

When it came the City Council’s turn, however, they passed an ordinance to ensure that never happened again.

Stycos thinks those kind of protections are common sense, as is making the budget accessible to taxpayers, which was another priority for him.

“I felt that the budgets in general were inflated and you couldn’t understand them. I think there’s still a problem with understanding them,” he said.

Read more: Cranston Herald – Stycos ready for a change of scene

Glenn Beck Has a Problem With Christians?

I probably should leave this alone, but being a former End-Times Pentecostal it just fascinates me. Glenn Beck now has problems with President Obama’s theology.

It makes me wish we could just judge our politicians on their politicking, but we’re in the era of blurred boundaries and public piety for fun and profit.

Anyway, Glenn Beck has just dissed the United Church of Christ, of which Barack Obama is a member. The UCC is a liberal Christian church, practicing social justice on a foundation of Protestant Christian beliefs.

Glenn Beck is a convert to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Whether the Mormons are Christians depends on who you ask. Mormons say they fill in the missing scriptures, many Christians disagree— including the NYT conservative editorial writer Ross Douthat.

Theologically speaking, I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I’m inclined to give the whole issue a Taoist ‘it’s all good’.

Religion should not even be an issue– to sink further into prejudice and demonizing the opposition using actual demons takes us back to the Middle Ages, or maybe to the Seventeenth Century when Puritans hanged Mary Dyer on Boston Common for unrepentant Quakerism.

But I have to point out a double standard here. Anyone who fails to follow the True Political Party is judged un-christian despite all evidence to the contrary, while the differences between LDS and Christianity are swept under the rug when there’s profit to be made. Who or what is the object of worship?

RAY O’ HOPE: Senator Orrin Hatch, himself a Mormon, comes out in defense of the proposed Islamic Community Center in New York City on the grounds of freedom of religion and private property rights. Well said.

WORSHIPPING MAMMON: That’s the fighting words used by some conservative Evangelical clergymen on seeing the flock singing along to Glenn Beck’s hymnbook. They suspect Mormon influences. Washington Monthly has the quotes.

Is Privacy, Like, So Twentieth Century?

It has been many years since I read George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel, 1984. My curiosity about perusing the book anew is offset by my uneasiness about its prescience. I fear that the world occupied by Winston Smith, the novel’s protagonist, will eerily resemble America in 2010. Not entirely, but increasingly so. Big Brother is out there, observing, gathering data, infiltrating our lives in ways both overt and covert. The technology that we so eagerly embrace today, often with nary a second thought, may later bite us in the hindquarters. Sure, there are great benefits to cell phones, computers, wifi, the Internet, GPS, and the like. The whole world is immediately accessible. No longer do we have to await a call at home, seek information at the library, fumble with a map for directions, hunt for merchandise at local stores, wonder where our friends and family members are at any given moment. We have been freed from such burdens! But at what cost?

I worry that today’s liberators may become tomorrow’s oppressors. I worry that the technology we possess today may come to possess us tomorrow. I worry that the interests of big government and big corporations (often one and the same) will subvert and subsume our interests. I worry that we are not spiders on the worldwide web but prey. I worry that, as a people, we are growing ever more blithe about privacy and civil liberties—and ever less vigilant and perceptive. I worry about the future.

Do I appear paranoid? A little paranoia in this day and age may be healthy (assuming it’s reality-based). Was Julie Matlin paranoid when, after visiting a retail website and admiring a pair of shoes, she found that advertisements for “the shoes started to follow her everywhere she went online”? Was Louise paranoid when she encountered a stranger at a bar who “knew a lot about her personal interests” and then “pulled out his phone and showed her a photo…of [her] that he found online”? Was Juan Pineda-Moreno paranoid when, after being arrested on marijuana charges, he discovered that DEA agents “snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and…attached a GPS tracking device to [his] vehicle’s underside” and the “U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit…decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant”? Was Blake Robbins, a Philadelphia-area high school student, paranoid when he discovered that school personnel “activated the remote tracking system” on his laptop computer and “photographed him 400 times in a 15-day period last fall, sometimes as he slept in his bedroom or was half-dressed”?

Another twentieth century author, Joseph Heller, once wrote, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” Do you know who’s watching you?

Compare and Contrast

Kai Wright, of The Nation examines the claims of Glenn Beck and other revisionists who wrap themselves in the mantle of the civil rights movement…

There are many things about King’s dream speech that Beck won’t likely point out at this weekend’s gathering. Perhaps top among them: the 1963 March on Washington was the work of a war-resisting labor organizer, A. Philip Randolph, and an openly gay man, Bayard Rustin, who was himself a war-resisting socialist.

The event’s actual name was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That moniker was a compromise between King, who wanted a more focused event, and Randolph, who helped broker the broad constituency that made the march the largest peacetime gathering in the nation’s history at the time. King’s iconic speech reflected the event’s dual focus on economic and political justice–and it included much, much more than a call to judge people by their character.

Why is Glenn Beck aligning himself with a man who ‘palled around’ with socialists and homosexuals and union organizers? Why is he claiming to carry on the spirit of a movement that drew federal troops to enforce de-segregation of schools? Why is he quoting a man who did, indeed, call for re-distribution of wealth from the rich to the poor as a Christian practice and a matter of basic justice?

Because Martin Luther King was on the right side of history. Because he was an American hero. And because America has a short memory and prefers saints and martyrs over real human beings with doubts and flaws. It takes effort to read through Dr.King’s speeches or read his biography. It takes effort to learn about the many brave people of all races who worked with Dr.King, among them, Prof. Bernard Lafayette who taught nonvioence at URI..

When Dr. King was assassinated he was working for economic justice. Far from being revered, he faced brutal criticism from both white conservatives and black radicals who thought he made too many compromises.

Dr. King was murdered in Tennessee where he had gone to support a sanitation worker’s strike…

In the later 1960s, the targets of King’s activism were less often the legal and political obstacles to the exercise of civil rights by blacks, and more often the underlying poverty, unemployment, lack of education, and blocked avenues of economic opportunity confronting black Americans. Despite increasing militancy in the movement for black power, King steadfastly adhered to the principles of nonviolence that had been the foundation of his career. Those principles were put to a severe test in his support of a strike by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. This was King’s final campaign before his death.

During a heavy rainstorm in Memphis on February 1, 1968, two black sanitation workers had been crushed to death when the compactor mechanism of the trash truck was accidentally triggered. On the same day in a separate incident also related to the inclement weather, 22 black sewer workers had been sent home without pay while their white supervisors were retained for the day with pay. About two weeks later, on February 12, more than 1,100 of a possible 1,300 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition.

Dr. King called on us to open our eyes and see the injustices inflicted every day, and work to remedy them. His vision of America was one of justice and equal opportunity. He knew that removing the color bar was a beginning, not an end.

When so many politicians and entertainers claim to be speaking for God, it’s not such a surprise that some will claim to speak for leaders who are no longer here to contradict them. Dr. King’s words are on the record. They are pure gold. Compare and contrast and don’t settle for counterfeit.

EVANGELICAL VOICE: Reverend Jim Wallis also does a compare and contrast. He recalls Dr. King’s message of social justice.

Door Knocking

Yesterday I spent a fine afternoon going door to door in the Smith Hill neighborhood urging people to vote in the upcoming elections. The canvass was sponsored by Organizing for America, just one of the organizations that works to increase voter participation.

I only do this kind of thing every few years, but I’m always impressed with the willingness of people to talk about our state and our politics. For the most part they are polite and pleasant, something I don’t take for granted when I am ringing their doorbell unannounced.

You know what they say, if you don’t vote you can’t complain, and complaining is a right I will never give up.

Beyond Vietnam

Today, on the 47th anniversary of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, there are many who want to wrap themselves in the aura of a struggle for justice that has been blessed by history.

Since we have short memories and the truth is not always comfortable, it’s important to remember that Doctor King was not murdered for having a dream. He confronted and provoked the powerful and goaded the consciences of many who would gladly have stopped at the gradual advance of racial justice in our own country, and rested on that. Doctor King was fiercely criticized for his stand against the Vietnam War and the politics behind that war.

Before we tie another yellow ribbon, and have another picnic to honor our troops, we should read his speech, ‘Beyond Vietnam–A Time to Break Silence’. Here is Doctor King on ‘the troops’…

A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Compare and contrast. How do we restore America’s honor? By seeking some standard of political and religious ‘purity’ that makes enemies of our fellow Americans and chases around the world to defeat an enemy that has no uniforms or borders? An enemy that is not a nation, but an idea?

Or do we restore honor by ending the hopeless foreign wars that entangle us? By restraining our corporations from playing robber-baron here and abroad? By working for justice so that our troops will come home to a country that values its citizens? By restoring our safety net so that there will be no more homeless veterans?

Doctor King said in a speech that he had a dream, but in his life’s work he was wide awake, too awake for comfort and hated by many. He was considered a threat to the white race, and after many attempts on his life a white man succeeded in taking him away.

Now others claim to speak for him, but his words remain. Compare and contrast.

Claiming our History

March on Washington, 1963 Getty/AFP Images

My mind reels with the crazy 15-second news cycle, the flying slogans, the waving flags. So much nonsense and so tempting to jump in and argue. But the best remedy, in the long run, is a national lesson in history and civics.

Above is a photo of one of America’s great moments, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Below is quoted from the National Parks Service…

King’s speech was the grand finale of the August 28, 1963, “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The march, led by union leader A. Philip Randolph and organizer Bayard Rustin, drew 200,000 supporters, 50,000 of them white. They included clergy of every faith, students, blue-collar and white-collar workers, and celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr., Marlon Brando, James Garner, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. Robert Weisbrot, author of Freedom Bound, called the march “the largest political assembly in American history.” On August 22, 2003 the Martin Luther King, Jr. Inscription Dedication unveiled the commemoration of the “I Have a Dream” speech with a keynote presentation by Coretta Scott King. The work, an inscription in the granite approach to the Lincoln Memorial, marks the location where Dr. King spoke to the crowd, which assembled for the March on Washington.

Remember that Dr.King dedicated his life, and ultimately gave his life for justice. During his leadership in the civil rights movement he was called every name in the book, ‘un-American’ being the least of it. He was slandered, arrested, jailed and threatened. He endured threats to his wife and children.

If anyone claims to carry on his message, compare their actions to his and make your own judgement. There are some who work courageously and in obscurity to help our country realize the dream. A very few are called by history and challenged to lead, as Dr. King did so faithfully. Remember him, and all the other brave Americans who made the civil rights movement possible.