Archive for June, 2015


June 27, 2015


It makes me sick.

How unhealthy.

A landmark decision challenged anew.

Having survived 67 separate attempts by the House of Representatives to abolish it, after an impressive presidential campaign win in 2012 during which time it became a central contentious issue, and following a 6 to 3 Supreme Court decision affirming its legality (the second time the Court has ruled in its favor), the Affordable Health Care Act still remains a target for right-wing Republican wrath.

In a clear display of dissociative delusion, Speaker of the House John Boehner moans: We will continue our efforts to repeal the law and replace it with patient-centered solutions that meet the needs of seniors, small business owners, and middle-class families.” 

 These “solutions” — featuring only wild, focus group-tested generalities — are the best the Speaker has been able to come up with after over five years of trying. Specifics? He’s still working on those.

Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, now leading in Republican polling, tentatively and a bit oddly exclaims: “This is the direct result of President Obama. He deliberately forced ObamaCare on the people in a partisan and toxic way.”

And look who’s in second place! Donald “We Will Overcomb” Trump bellows: “ObamaCare is a lie! A filthy lie!”

 I was taught way before Kindergarten not to be a poor loser.

“ObamaCare” was coined by the GOP as a nasty pejorative. Thanks to Chief Justice John Roberts and the Supreme Court, it now lives on as a lasting legacy, honoring and crediting our 44th President with successful guidance and tenacious support leading to the implementation of the nation’s first major step on our road toward universal health care, decades behind the rest of the civilized world.

Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders notched a place in history as he drew a capacity crown of 3,000 into the University of Denver gymnasium as several thousand others listened in an adjacent atrium where speakers were set up, and on a nearby lacrosse field where the speech was streamed on a scoreboard. The event was one of the largest political rallies of the 2016 election cycle so far and was promoted only a few days in advance with minimal funding almost exclusively on social media.

I like what Bernie Sanders said about health care in the wake of Thursday’s victory:

“While I am glad the Supreme Court upheld the law, in my view, the only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a Medicare-for-all single payer system.”

Senator Sanders went on to assert that profiteering by the pharmaceutical industry and private insurance companies causes the United States to spend more per capita than any other nation on earth, while our life expectancy, infant mortality and preventable death outcomes are worse than almost every other country.

He seems to have facts and figures to back this up. Check for yourself. Google till you get it.

And then came Friday — a payday gay day.

In the last major decision of this current session before an extended summer recess, the Court determined in a sweeping ruling that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, establishing a new civil right and handing advocates an historic, milestone victory.

By a vote of 5 to 4, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority with these words: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were. The Constitution grants them that right.”

In a scathing, petulant, abrasive dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote — with firepower characteristic of a flatulent flea – that the decision was ”a threat to American Democracy. The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me (he fibbed) – but what really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.” “Putsch” is one of those “Nazi words” some people resort to when they’re really putsched off.

That’s still not quite as weird as Scalia’s commentary the preceding day on the Court’s Affordable Care Act vote, which he decried as: “Somersaults of statutory interpretation”, “Applesauce”, and “Interpretive jiggery-pokery.”

This last displays a somehow discomforting familiarity with “Harry Potter”, but may well account for Scalia’s darkest reflections from his own secret world of private legal fantasy.

But enough of this.

On behalf of my Great-Great-Grandfather, Thomas Newcomb — and myself as well – We wish you a Happy Fourth of July!

Thomas rests buried on a hilltop in Central New York under a well-preserved marker indicating, “Thomas Newcomb. Soldier. Revolutionary War. Died Oct. 8, 1851. Aged 90 Years.” Directly above his name proudly flies our Star-Spangled Banner — deeply carved in lasting stone.

Yet waving.

As we march ever forward.

“Matthew v. 2015”

June 20, 2015


It doesn’t happen overnight.

From start to finish (“novitiate” to “final vows”) it can take up to twenty years to complete formation as a fully professed Jesuit priest.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Flores, Argentina, a middle class barrio of Buenos Aires, was 36 years old on April 27, 1973, when he took his final “Fourth Vow” pledging obedience to the Pope. Three months later he was named Provincial Superior of the Society in Argentina.

After a series of promotional advancements within and outside the Order, Bergoglio was named Archbishop of Buenos Aires in February of 1998, Cardinal in February of 2001 and became Pope Francis on March 19, 2013 following the abrupt and somewhat suspect resignation of his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Benedict still lives in the Vatican as a self-cloistered contemplative with no official duties or responsibilities, referenced by some as the “Pope in the Attic.”

Pope Francis speaks Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, German, French, Latin, Ukrainian and English and has earned educational degrees in Chemistry and Philosophy and a Doctorate in Theology.

In terms of intense preparation, grueling self-sacrifice, academic brilliance and unwavering commitment to Jesus and the poor, Jesuits are the Navy SEALS and intellectual vanguards of the Roman Catholic Church. Many march to become “Soldiers of Christ”. Few finish. Only one now reigns as supreme Pontiff over 1.2 billion human souls.

Francis is the first Jesuit to do so.

“Devout Catholic” Jeb Bush is not impressed. “I think religion ought to be about making us better people and less about things that end up getting into the political realm.”

Neither is “Anti Birth Control Catholic” Rick Santorum. “We are probably better off leaving science to the scientists.”

 Or especially “Not Even a Little Bit Catholic” Rush Limbaugh. “Pope Francis is a Marxist.”

 What twits.

What has them all twitchy and twittery is last week’s official Vatican release of “Laudato Si” — “Praise Be To You” – subtitled – “On The Care of Our Common Home.” It is the first major encyclical solely authored by Francis. An encyclical carries heavy weight, being a papal letter sent to all Roman Catholic bishops – in modern times the most important utterances of the Holy See given to the world.

In “Laudato Si”, the Pope deeply criticizes heedless consumerism and irresponsible development, insisting upon “swift and unified global action” to fight environmental degradation and the undeniable reality of man-made climate change.

Along with working as a chemist in his youth prior to ordination, Francis was also a bar bouncer, so it should come as no surprise that he pulls no punches all the way through this 183-page document.

“Mother Earth now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.

 “Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive.”

 “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. It is true that there are other factors, yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is a result of human activity.”

 “A sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful.”

 “The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests.”

 Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or distain.”

Reception of “Laudato Si” in this country so far falls pretty much along party lines — a sharp, cutting, divisive reality that demonstrates the power of paralysis vs. papal persuasion.

I only suggest that those with open hearts and minds spend a bit of time becoming familiar with “Laudato” even in summary form, then ask themselves if a single contradiction can be found between its insights and those revealed in Matthew, Chapters 5, 6 & 7.

Also know as — “The Sermon on the Mount”

 For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

Matthew 7:29

“Solstice Sunday”

June 13, 2015


You won’t feel a thing.

At 9:38 AM (Oakhurst Time) this Sunday, June 21st — it will suddenly be Summer 2015 — the exact point of the Summer Solstice.

The word “solstice” comes from the Latin “solstitium”, combining “sol” (sun) and “stitium” (stop). Such occurs twice a year as winter and summer begin. The sun seems to stop, then reverse its angle toward us in the days that follow. It’s not immediately evident. Don’t try staring. Doing so could make you blind, unlike other actions that really don’t, no matter what folks say.

The fact that Latin is involved suggests the phenomenon has been happening for quite some time — since way before the dawn of man, monkeys or even mud. That last didn’t come about until sufficient water was formed and eventually mixed with earth 2.4 billion years ago.

Actually, the age of most water is even older than the sun since almost every drop on our planet comes from interstellar ice, showering our planet in fiery magnificence from some time after the Universe exploded with a great big bang 13.82 billion years ago – coming into being out of what might even be nothing.

Incidentally, I find absolutely no contradiction between “Evolution”, “Creationism” and “Intelligent Design” since 6,000 years and 13.82 billion are all the same to a God Who is eternal and timeless. I’d like to thank Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. for such helpful insight.

A different Jesuit priest, Father George Coyne, S.J. is a bit more dismissive, bluntly criticizing both “Creationism” and “Intelligent Design” as “not being scientific.” Astrophysicist Coyne is now McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, that alma mater of mine.

For 28 years Father Coyne was Director of the Vatican Observatory in Rome. He even has an asteroid named after him. He writes, “We’re born of stardust in a very real sense.” He also states, “God shared with the Universe his own creativity. It’s a marvelous God.”

Our sun was worshipped as a God, itself, throughout much of recorded history in various forms, such as in Egyptian Atonism in the 14th Century B.C. and the Sun Dance of The Plains Indians of North America. Ancient Rome celebrated the feast of Sol Invictus (The Unconquered Sun) with great joy on December 25th, a date later celebrated by many in the world as Christmas. Pagan predecessors would commemorate the Summer Solstice by dancing around bonfires, but that’s hardly a good idea in Oakhurst this year.

We’re more responsibly celebrating Summer Solstice Weekend with “Sounds of Solstice 2015” from Noon till 8 PM at Oakhurst Community Park this Saturday featuring live music, vendors, children’s activities and more. My friend and current Oakhurst Honorary Mayor, Mat Sands, has put together a totally terrific time for the whole family. Think “Little House on the Prairie” and “Woodstock” combined without worrying about “brown acid” or any of that mud previously discussed, celestially derived or not.

An exceptional band lineup includes special guest “Dave T”, “The Dave Henderson Group”, “The Executive Rockers”, “Richfield”, “Ten Ton Chicken” and “Green Machine.”

Mat says attendees can enjoy shopping with local vendors selling jewelry, clothing, crafts and other assorted goodies. There’ll be a well-anchored bounce house for the kids and fun contests galore offering special treats. Adults can enjoy alcoholic beverages from South Gate Brewing Company, and fine wine from our award winning Idle Hour Winery.

Bring whatever you would normally carry with you to the park, including a chair for lounging, a canopy for shade, a football for tossing, or a chest of Kool-Aid. You can even cart along a dog or two. But the only alcoholic beverages allowed must be purchased on site. That’s not only the law, but to help increase “Sounds of Solstice” proceeds for The Boys and Girls Club of Oakhurst. And if you spent $200 to see The Rolling Stones in LA, relax. Admission is only $10 for adults. Kids under 12? Free!

I also hope to see you Saturday at The 16th Annual Oakhurst Rib Fest at the Community Center, this year celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

This Rib Fest is the only annual fundraiser sponsored by the Community Center with a Board of Directors that includes leadership from every significant service club in the area and The Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce.

Solstice Sunday is also Fathers Day 2015. So make Dad glad with Rock in the Park and Ribs after dark, then a fun day on Sunday – the only day of the week named after you know what.

Because like an eternal Sun – fathers are forever.


Donald J. Cavanaugh

Niagara Falls — -1947

“Money, Honey”

June 6, 2015


“I finally got my baby about half past three,
She said I’d like to know what you want with me.
I said, “Money, Honey.
Money, Honey.
Money Honey.
If you want to get along with me.”

Money Honey” – The third song recorded at Elvis Presley’s first RCA session. (1956)

It’s a fast, wild hustle.

“We’re here for three reasons –the money, the money, the money” — Rich Bressler, President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of iHeart Media – Speaking with Morgan Stanley investors in New York just last week.

iHeart Media (formerly Clear Channel) is the largest mass media group in America with over 800 radio stations coast to coast, including eight facilities in Fresno – KALZ, KBOS, KCBL, KFBT, KHGE, KRDU, KRZR and KSOF.

In 2014, iHeart paid near $2 billion dollars in interest alone on a growing debt now totaling $21 billion, an amount no one with the brains God gave geese believe they can possibly repay. One out of every three dollars coming in the front door goes out the back in interest payments to banks — forget the principal.

Similarly, our nation’s second largest radio group is Cumulus Media with 460 stations in 90 cities, including Fresno, where they own and operate KMJ-AM/FM, KMGU, KSKS and KYWE. Cumulus is on the hook for almost $3 billion. Last year Cumulus stock was worth eight bucks a share. Now it’s struggling to stay above two.

Combined employee dismissals at iHeart/Cumulus over the last decade add up to well over ten thousand jobs eliminated with more hatchets swinging every dawn to keep the game going.

More than 90% of these positions were zapped at facilities generating superlative profit levels of 20% to 25%. Those are the kind of numbers your average small business owner would find nothing short of a triumph. But that’s not the 40% margins and higher demanded by Wall Street’s fee-feeding lenders.

Top-level broadcast management knows the ability to borrow more at ridiculous rates is all that matters. This sets the tone for increasing termination tally.

When revenue stalls out as it has, slashing critical expenses becomes the last hype of the hopeless – prioritizing personal success over personnel survival.

Just down the hill we recently saw what’s becoming uncomfortably common.

A newly formed group called Peak Broadcasting paid over $120 million for stations in Fresno and Boise in late 2006. When P&L projections crashed by 2012, the corporation filed for bankruptcy under Chapter Eleven Reorganization. A Federal Judge sprinkled financial fairy dust and granted relief under a plan that reduced debt load by about half ($45 million) and a brand new outfit stepped forward with an almost identical name. But that was to be expected, since this emerging entity was created and controlled by the same individual who started things off in the first place and won – by losing.

A subsequent shell game saw ownership shift to yet another company, then quickly to a third outfit on the same day, August 30, 2013 when Cumulus picked up its current Fresno holdings – becoming less hometown radio stations than pawns on a churning chessboard with an actual worth that’s anyone’s guess, surely far less than current theoretical values based more on wishful fantasy than real world fact.

None other than Ron Paul has been lately gracing our TV flat screens with an invitation to stop by his website and see why the American dollar is doomed to destruction, dragging our personal savings and national security down with it. I took him up on his offer. Sadly, an extensive and accurate description of current concerns directly relating to the disappearance of American middle class wealth are accompanied by an astounding, however endearing naïveté in terms of causation.

Dr. Paul believes a potential currency collapse will be derived from too much government regulation, whereas I humbly submit exactly the opposite seems true. Those same 2008 foxes of finance are still guarding our hapless hen house, having recruited Dr. Paul as a sincere, yet specious spokesperson. He’s a nice man with the wrong plan.

Along with Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders is measurably more on target.

You’ll be there too when you get as much information from as many sources as possible and trust your own common sense.

Thinking can be scary.

But more dangerous when you don’t.