Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More on redistricting

The New York Times has an editorial today on the current state of redistricting:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has taken a strong stand against gerrymandering. He put forward a good bill that would create an independent commission to draw political districts and promised to veto any new maps that are “partisan.” Albany’s pols are not giving up.

Mr. Cuomo’s bill went nowhere, despite the fact that a hefty majority of legislators signed a pledge in 2010 to support such a commission. The old-style task force is now drawing up maps, and the business-as-usual crowd is trying to figure out how to get around the veto threat.

The word on the street is that they may stall the release of the new maps for the 2012 election (and the decade to follow) until early next year. Then lawmakers can say it’s too late to use anything else.

Mr. Cuomo needs to fight back now. He should press the Legislature to create the real independent commission that was promised to the voters. If that fails —things don’t look promising — he should name his own commission to draw alternative maps, using the best redistricting practices outlined in his bill. Those include such basics as ensuring that each district has about the same number of voters, makes geographical sense and isn’t drawn to guarantee the election of one party or candidate.

The entire editorial is here. We suggest that you read it for another view on this important issue.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Answers to questions

The Office for Social Justice, a division of Catholic Charities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, is a wonderful resource for information about Catholic social justice teaching. One example is Answers to 25 questions about Catholic social teaching, from an excellent introductory work on Catholic social teaching entitled Responses to 101 Questions on Catholic Social Teaching by Kenneth R. Himes O.F.M.

The link to that page is here.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Talking politics

Paul Saffo is managing director of foresight at Discern, an institutional investment research firm in San Francisco. He recently wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle about how we can better discuss politics in this nation of democracy.
Americans don't talk politics enough. We have outsourced the conversation to quarrelsome politicians and talk show celebrities. The consequence is that Americans are failing at the most basic task of civics: the obligation to fully understand the issues facing us and participate as informed citizens in running our country. It is time to take the conversation back. Our democracy is utterly dependent upon an informed and engaged citizenry. We must talk to each other about politics to form thoughtful opinions and maybe learn something that will help us run our communities. We may as well start at home.
. . .
Of course, conversation alone is insufficient if the participants are clueless. Political conversation is not welcomed at American dinner tables in no small part because most Americans have no idea what they are talking about. A recent Newsweek poll suggests that 38 percent of Americans would fail the U.S. citizenship test, and a shocking 73 percent couldn't explain why we fought the Cold War.

This ignorance is precisely the problem we need to fix, and we can do it over dinner. Pick a topic to discuss, inform your guests and invite them to read up on it in advance. Something in the news is great, but make it bite-size.

To learn how this might done, read this.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Catholic Charities Clothing Drive

Catholic Charities is helping disadvantaged job seekers with a unique clothing drive:
From now until August 31, Catholic Charities Housing Office (CCHO)—homeless housing and emergency services provider—is partnering with Men’s Wearhouse to help disadvantaged job seekers get a boost of self-confidence during the fourth annual National Suit Drive, the country’s largest collection of gently used business attire.

This is Catholic Charities Housing Office’s first time joining Men’s Wearhouse and approximately 200 other charities to distribute the items collected at more than 900 Men’s Wearhouse locations. Items collected include men’s and women’s suits, shirts, jackets, ties, belts, and shoes. Residents of Albany may donate their gently used and cleaned items at Men’s Wearhouse, 18 Wolf Road, Colonie, NY.

“With nearly one out of ten working-age men unemployed in this country, the weak economic recovery has disproportionately hurt the male workforce,” said George Zimmer, Men’s Wearhouse founder and CEO. “By collecting and donating professional clothing, Men’s Wearhouse aims to help men ‘suit up’ for job interviews and give them an important boost of confidence that will help them reach their goals.”
. . .
To thank donors for their generosity, Men’s Wearhouse will reward them with 50% off a purchase at Men’s Wearhouse and will donate a tie for every suit received. What’s more is that for every “like” on Facebook, Men’s Wearhouse will donate a $1 to the cause, up to $10,000.

You can learn more here. You also can help by posting this flier at your place of business.


Friday, August 05, 2011

First Fridays for Food Security

What is First Fridays for Food Security?
On every first Friday for a year, eat meals that cost only as much as is allotted for a family of your size by the USDA Modified Thrifty Food Plan. (You will need to divide the weekly cost by seven.) This plan is used as the basis for food stamp allotments.* Many individuals or families may notice a disparity between the cost of their normal meals and the amount allotted in the food plan. The “cutting back” that will likely be required in order to stay “in budget” can be considered a type of fasting.

Why fast?
“Voluntary fasting from food creates in us a greater openness to God's Spirit and deepens our compassion for those who are forced to go without food. The discomfort brought about by fasting unites us to the sufferings of Christ. Fasting should bring to mind the sufferings of all those for whom Christ suffered.” (United States Catholic Bishops, Penitential Practices for Today’s Catholics, 2000)
Participating in this fast can make you open to the Holy Spirit and help you to walk in solidarity with all those for whom access to adequate, nutritious food is difficult.

. . .

On each first Friday, those participating can visit the Facebook event page to discuss their experiences and activities. There, they can also access prayer and educational resources from USCCB.