Nuns on the loose

So many Catholics have told me how angry they are at the Vatican for coming down on nuns for the work they do with the poor — instead of speaking out against abortions. Now some of those social-justice nuns will take to the highways to speak out against Paul Ryan’s unChristian budget proposals:

Washington (CNN) – American nuns are taking their opposition of the proposed Paul Ryan budget to the American people and embarking on a bus tour through some of America’s most politically important states.


NETWORK, a group founded by 47 Catholic sisters that speaks out on social justice issues in particular, will be hitting states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia in order to reveal “how federal budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI), and passed by the House of Representatives will hurt struggling families in these states,” a release by the group reads.


In interviews after unveiling his budget, Ryan said that he applied his view of Catholic social teaching in his budget proposal, a statement that Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, said co-opted sacred Catholic teachings.


“I think he was so direct in draping himself in the mantle of Catholic social teaching,” Campbell said. “He took the words but he took none of the meaning in the forming of the budget.”


Campbell continued: “It is one thing to have political differences, but to try to hide a budget that will devastate people and claim that it is supported by your faith. It is unacceptable. He is wrong and he needs to be told so.”


Ryan’s $3.53 trillion dollar budget doubles down on past proposals Republicans have made to overhaul Medicare and other government programs that are seen as politically sensitive. While the budget has little chance to become law, it draws a distinct contrast with Democratic views on spending and will loom large in the 2012 race for the presidency.


Ryan was given an opportunity to respond to Catholics who have questioned his budget in a speech at Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the country.


“Of course, there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this. The work I do, as a Catholic holding office, conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it,” said Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. “What I have to say about the social doctrine of the church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding of the problems of the day.”

Ryan’s lying, as some Catholic theologians have already pointed out.

The Georgetown speech also gave Catholic opponents an opportunity to confront Ryan with their disapproval. As Ryan delivered the remarks, he came face-to-face with protesters who unveiled a banner that read “Stop the War on the Poor.” Outside the event, Catholics United protested the event. A little over a dozen people stood outside Healy Hall, where the speech took place, and held a sign the read, “WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED THE POOR?”

Ah, who needs plankton?

I’m sure if we just keep talking about President Obama’s birth certificate, this will all go away:

BOOTHBAY, Maine — Phytoplankton. If the mention of the tiny plant organisms that permeate the world’s oceans isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider this: They produce the oxygen in every other breath you take.

Still not interested? This is where it’s hard not to take notice. In 2007, the reproduction rate of phytoplankton in the Gulf of Maine decreased suddenly by a factor of five — what used to take a day now takes five — and according to a recently released study by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay, it hasn’t bounced back.

So what does it mean? According to Barney Balch, the lab’s senior research scientist and lead author of the study, such a change in organisms at the bottom of the planetary food chain and at the top of planetary oxygen production could have disastrous consequences for virtually every species on Earth, from lobsters and fish that fuel Maine’s marine industries to your grandchildren. But the 12-year Bigelow study focused only on the Gulf of Maine, which leads to the question, will it spread?

“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to know that if you shut down the base of the marine food web, the results won’t be positive,” said Balch.

Balch said the study, which was published recently in the Marine Ecology Progress Series, provides one of the strongest links to date between increases in rainfall and temperature over the years and the Gulf of Maine’s ecosystem. Key factors in the study’s conclusions were driven by 100 years of records on rainfall and river discharge, both of which have increased by between 13 and 20 percent over the past century.

New Texas chairman

It’s great to hear that the Texas Dems have elected their first Hispanic chairman. This should be a help in that long, slow climb back up to Democratic dominance in Texas. God knows, it’s a place full of struggling people who should be voting Democratic but instead think of themselves as potential oil barons:

HOUSTON — Texas Democrats, trying to compete in a state that overwhelmingly favors Republican candidates for executive, legislative and judicial offices, elected their first Hispanic chairman Saturday.


In a reflection of the state’s burgeoning Hispanic growth and the party’s longtime success with Latinos, delegates overwhelmingly elected Gilberto Hinojosa as the next party chairman. He will replace outgoing chairman Boyd Richie, who announced in April 2011 that he would not seek another term after six years on the job.


Hinojosa successfully breathed some life into the sparse crowd on the convention floor with a fiery speech before the delegates cast an overwhelming majority of votes in his favor.


In a hoarse but booming voice, Hinojosa, who has served as a Brownsville school trustee, state district judge, justice on the state’s 13th Court of Appeals, and Cameron County Judge, lambasted Republicans for proclaiming Democrats as un-American for their efforts to expand health care, uphold voting rights in Texas and fund public education.


“This is a war, folks. This is a war that the Republicans have waged on our families in Texas and all across America,” he shouted from the stage. “We are a compassionate people. We don’t believe in pulling up the ladder after we reach the top.”


Then touting his Latino roots, the judge offered a the crowd a rallying cry in Spanish.


“Yo no quiero que me den nada, nada más pónganme en donde hay: (Don’t give me anything. Just give me the opportunity to get it.),” he said. “That is what America is all about. That is what our Democratic Party is all about. Those are our values and, dammit, don’t question my patriotism.”

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