This Lenten Prayer of St Ephrem goes back to the 4th century.
My former colleague, Representative Todd Russ, recently passed a piece of legislation, HB 1125 that would move issuance of Oklahoma marriage licenses from court clerks to clergy or judges.
Under Oklahoma law as it presently stands, court clerks, who are elected officials, issue marriage licenses.
I think that the bill is a response to lawsuits against court clerks around the country who have not issued marriage licenses for gay marriage due to their religious belief. It appears to be an attempt to remove that pressure from court clerks. According to both the author and representatives who opposed the bill, court clerks have not objected to the legislation.
During floor debate, Democratic Leader Scott Inman raised the question of whether or not the bill would, as an unintended consequence, open the door for “marriage” of any type, including group marriage, polygamy, marriage between humans and animals, etc. Rep Russ answered that HB 1125 does not change regulations as to what constitutes legal marriage.
I think that Representative Russ made an attempt to deal with a problem. I don’t think that this piece of legislation does what he hopes. It has huge holes in it. It also transfers the potential for court challenges and judicial pressure from court clerks to the clergy.
There is no definition of clergy in the bill. This piece of legislation, by creating a whole new legal responsibility for clergy, needs a definition for what constitutes clergy that is specific to the legislation.
As it stands now, the only requirement in the law is that the clergy be “ordained.” That leaves the definition of what constitutes clergy for the purposes of performing this government function entirely in the hands of the religious body of which they are a part.
Since “ordained” is not defined in the bill either, any person could, for the purposes of this law, “ordain” themselves. I am aware that there are definitions in other places in the statutes. But since this creates a new kind of clergy that is part government functionary and part religious leader, a new definition is called for.
Another serious problem with the legislation is that it does not define what relationship the clergy would hold vis a vis the government. Are they now government officials, rather than clergy? That is a legitimate question, since they are now charged with enforcing state law concerning marriage so far as it pertains to the issuance of marriage licenses.
America has kept the issuance of marriage licenses and the definition of marriage as a legal construct entirely under the auspices of the government for over 200 years. The idea of transferring this to clergy is a radical change with many unintended consequences.
One unintended consequence would be the massive impact that this change would have on arguments concerning religious freedom. I believe strongly that clergy should not be government officials by virtue of their ordination. If we make them that, we also make them subject to the same oversight and control as any other government functionary.
Statutes that make all ordained clergy function as government opens clergy and faith to government regulation. It transfer the court challenges and pressure being brought against court clerks to clergy. It pierces the protected legal status that clergy holds now.
This legislation, which I think is a good-faith attempt to deal with a serious problem, will, in a few years, create other problems concerning attempts to limit religious freedom that will be exceedingly grave. It has the potential to create a religious freedom train wreck.
HB 1125 has been the object of quite a bit of purple prose, both in the mainstream press and in the blogosphere. This includes claims that Oklahoma has done away with marriage licenses, or that the bill would limit marriage to people of faith.
These claims are not accurate. The bill changes how marriage licenses are issued. It does not do away with them. Any one who wants to get legally married in Oklahoma today would be able to get legally married under this bill if it becomes law.
I’m not sure how to handle the problems we are now facing as a result of the nihilism that is being applied to family law in this country. If I was still a legislator, I would have voted against this particular bill for the reasons I give above.
My greatest concern about the bill is that it would change the legal status of clergy and that would create the means for successfully attacking religious freedom in the future. It does not matter if the bill labels clergy government functionaries or not. If this bill becomes law, that is the function they will be performing.
I have no doubt that future civil challenges would use this law to seek to define clergy as government functionaries through the courts. This law creates a means by which clergy can be subjected to government regulation as civil authorities.
In today’s political climate, that would be a disaster for religious freedom in this country. Groups have been attempting to control what clergy preaches for decades. This law hands them the means to do that. It would also open the doorway for legitimate court challenges requiring clergy to perform gay marriages (and other inventive forms of “marriage”) even if it violates the teachings of their faith.
You can read the version of the bill that passed the House here.
I went all winter and never got a cold. Now that the weather’s turning warm, it catches up with me.
I’m taking a sick day today. I’m going to sleep, watch old movies on tv and get well.
See you in a few.
The boys and girls in DC are doing their doo-dah, once again.
It seems that Congress has labored and almost brought forth a bill. That in itself is newsworthy. Congress doesn’t make laws these days. It makes slander against anyone in the opposing political party that it can find to attack. By opposing party, I mean, of course, both of the political parties. Each political party is the opposing party to somebody.
It seemed for a moment in political time that this great American law-making body was actually going to make a law. They found something they could agree on enough to get enough of themselves to stop denouncing one another long enough to … ummm … actually do something that was part of the job they were elected to do.
Congress was poised on the tip of an actual vote on an actual bill. Americans everywhere held their breath. Would this Congress, long thought barren, bring forth a law?
Not, mind you, that it was much of a law. This particular bill would set up a fund for victims of sex trafficking. The monies to support this fund would come from fines that are paid by those who are convicted of sex trafficking. The money in the fund would be disbursed through grants to local law enforcement and non profits.
In other words, the law would not “protect” sex trafficking victims, as one headline I read stated. In fact, it would not do anything for sex trafficking victims in a direct fashion. But it would provide jobs for folks in the shiny new anti-sex trafficking industry, and some of them night help sex trafficking victims. Of course, the recipients of the grants would be subject to all sorts of politically correct stuff and nonsense, but that’s another post.
This bill is, as they say, a modest proposal. It is an especially modest response considering the horrific crime against humanity that it seeks to address. The real story here is that Congress actually came so close to passing a bill.
But, never fear my fellow Americans. Congress is not going to allow itself to break its losing streak by doing something. It seems that the Dems discovered that (Gasp!!!!) the bill does not allow these monies to be used to pay for abortions for victims of sex trafficking.
Now, we can not have that. Any piece of legislation that concerns “women’s issues,” which is to say any piece of legislation that involves sex, which as we all know, is a man’s delight and a woman’s “issue,” must have a codicil in it somewhere providing “access” for abortion. The reason for this is simple: All any woman needs, ever, is an abortion.
If a woman is kidnapped, raped, beaten, shut in a tiny room and only let out to be repeatedly sold so that she can be raped again and again and again, night after night, day after day. If she is sold across borders and put in “legal” brothels or put on the street and sold hand to hand, if she is told that if she resists, her family in her home country will be killed … if all this is done to her … why then, what she needs is an abortion.
I know something about this problem. I sit on the board of directors of a non-profit that rescues these women, often at great personal risk (people who will do all this, will kill anybody you know.) This organization provides a home environment, therapy, medical aid, education, clothing, and anything else these women need to help them rejoin humanity. Sometimes, the women are pregnant. When they have their babies, it’s a time of great rejoicing in the shelter. The babies are loved and the women are supported.
Odd as it may sound to the abortion-is-all-women-need crowd, when women are given the option of having their babies without paying a horrific price for doing so, when they are honored, respected and loved and their babies are honored, respected and loved, they want the children.
Many of the women we are talking about come from very traditional, conservative societies where children are valued. They value their maternity, when the people around them value it.
But I digress. Let’s return to the ugliness of Congress. It appears that this modest little piece of legislation is in big trouble.
The Democrats (or at least enough of them) are going into a you-can’t-pass-a-bill-about-women-without-promoting-abortion frenzy. They are willing to see the bill die rather than forego using it to fund abortion.
Because, you see, if help for women doesn’t include abortion, why then, it’s no help at all. Women need abortions. More than they need rescue, therapy, medical care (many of these women are horribly injured) freedom from slavery, legal aid, love, support and home, these women — like all women, everywhere — need abortions.
If the Ds can’t make sure that the sex trafficked ladies get their abortions, then they will protect them from having freedom, medical care, therapy, shelter, legal assistance, love, support and home forced on them. After all, without abortion, why would any of these things matter to a woman?
Just when it seemed that the Ds would take home the trophy for dereliction of duty for the week, the Rs jumped in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that, unless the Ds stop fighting the sex trafficking bill, he will not schedule a vote on the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, who is President Obama’s nominee for Attorney General.
Because, you see, refusing to do its job is how Congress gets its way, and its way is always about partisan fighting.
There is the possibility that public dismay might jog the Stepford Congress out of its partisan thrall. But that won’t happen unless public dismay convinces the people who own Congress that their investment is in danger. It’s more likely that this bill will go the way of the ban on abortions after 20-weeks.
These people campaigned on all sorts of issues, and that got our votes. But they were lying in all those campaign ads. They were sent there to do what they are doing, which is to position their parties to take over the White House in ’16 and allow their money backers to take control of the Imperial Presidency.
The Ds are fighting over money for abortion because that’s big campaign $$ to them. The Rs are blocking everything that Congress might do because, as any politician knows, it’s easier to sell the public on being against things than it is to explain why you’re for something. They don’t want to do anything because there is risk in doing things and that might hurt the chances of taking the White House in ’16.
That’s why this little bill almost came to a vote. It looked like such a win-win-win-win that everybody thought it would be good political fodder for themselves.
But then, abortion reared its ugly head, and Congress stopped itself from breaking its self-imposed losing streak just in the nick of time.
From the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — An amazing thing about Congress: Things can always get worse.
After several years of troubles with spending bills that were once routinely bipartisan, the Senate has now found a way to disagree on a bill that would protect victims of sex trafficking. And in the process, that dispute has ensnared President Obama’s largely uncontroversial nominee for attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch.
The latest impasse sweeps up five years of the lowlights of congressional dysfunction: abortion and immigration policy disputes, White House exasperation, garden-variety distrust, and mutual loathing between Democrats and Republicans.
“Life is really simple,” Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and minority leader, said on the Senate floor on Monday, attributing the sentiment to Confucius, “but we insist on making it complicated.”
The bill in question, sponsored by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, is a modest measure with broad support in Congress that seeks to create a victims’ fund from fines collected from perpetrators of sex trafficking. A similar measure has passed the House and was expected to pass easily in the Senate.
But a provision in the Senate bill would prevent the fees from being used for abortions for the victims. Democrats say Republicans sneaked it into the bill. Republicans firmly deny the charge. And Democrats now say they will not vote for it unless the language is removed, something that Republicans decline to do.
In turn, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has said he will not turn to the matter of confirming Ms. Lynch, Mr. Obama’s nominee to replace Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., until the sex trafficking bill gets off the floor. A procedural vote to move the bill forward was expected on Tuesday.
I am aware that there are Islamic teachings which lead to a more peaceful application of that faith. I think that the interpretation referenced here is an accurate depiction of of the application of Islamic teachings of a thousand years ago. It also seems that it is still relevant to Islamic extremists today.
I want to emphasize that this video discusses events which happened almost over a thousand years ago. The reason I am posting it here is to correct the inaccurate history of the Crusades which is being used in the popular media to attack and degrade Christians and Christianity.
“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Harry Truman
The New York Post has run a story using unnamed sources to identify President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett as the source of the story about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of her home computer to conduct official business.
The question has rapidly evolved into a “What was she hiding?” scenario that is the stuff media storms and political pilings on are made of. The resulting furor has led to an announcement from Speaker Boehner that the House of Representatives is going to “investigate” the whole email question.
That is certainly a legitimate thing for Speaker Boehner to do. However, I do not expect an honest investigation that is concerned with getting to the truth. I expect partisan grandstanding masquerading as an investigation, all of it with an eye to the ’16 elections.
According to the New York Post, the reason behind the White House leaks was that President Obama does not think that the former Secretary of State is “liberal” enough. In other words, she might, if she were elected, do something different than what he would do.
There are also tales of little boy bitterness on the part of President Obama because Democratic candidates did not want him standing beside them in the ’14 elections. He reportedly blames Clinton machinations inside the Democratic Party for this.
If that’s true, he’s teetering on delusion. The reason Democratic candidates did not want him beside them was that he’s political poison in much of this country. The reason for that is his own short-sighted and destructive domestic policies such as the HHS Mandate.
Whatever the reasons, Mr President needs to be careful. Sometimes, when you set fire to your neighbor’s house, you end up burning down your own house along with it.
From the New York Post:
President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked to the press details of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email address during her time as secretary of state, sources tell me.
But she did so through people outside the administration, so the story couldn’t be traced to her or the White House.
In addition, at Jarrett’s behest, the State Department was ordered to launch a series of investigations into Hillary’s conduct at Foggy Bottom, including the use of her expense account, the disbursement of funds, her contact with foreign leaders and her possible collusion with the Clinton Foundation.
Six separate probes into Hillary’s performance have been going on at the State Department. I’m told that the email scandal was timed to come out just as Hillary was on the verge of formally announcing that she was running for president — and that there’s more to come.
… “My contacts and friends in newspapers and TV tell me that they’ve been contacted by the White House and offered all kinds of negative stories about us,” one of Bill’s friends quotes him as saying. “The Obamas are behind the email story …
…“Obama and Valerie Jarrett will go to any lengths to prevent Hillary from becoming president,” a source close to the White House told me. “They believe that Hillary, like her husband, is left of center, not a true-blue liberal.”
If she gets into the White House, they believe she will compromise with the Republicans in Congress and undo Obama’s legacy.
Fourteen people are dead and at least 78 people were injured in deadly terrorist bombings of two Christian churches in Pakistan. One of the Churches was Catholic the other protestant.
Churches in Pakistan have been forced to post guards during Church services because of the threat of violence against Christians in that country. One of the guards, spotted the suicide bomber, trying to enter the Catholic Church and tried to stop him. This forced the terrorist to detonate the bomb before entering the church. This saved many lives.
At Christ Church, guard Zahid Goga confronted the bomber, but was shot in the head by the bomber’s accomplice.
Pakistani Christians took to the streets in mass demonstrations following the attacks.
According to news reports, this particular slaughter of unarmed Christian civilians was the work of the Taliban. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murders. He says that the Taliban plans to carry out similar attacks in the future.
There has been little coverage of these attacks in the mainstream media.
From Catholic Herald:
Although the incident has been condemned by Pakistan’s Prime Minister, President and the majority of politicians, and compensation has been announced for the dead and injured, this is not enough,” he said.
Christians are constantly under attack, especially with their churches and colonies being attacked under the cover of blasphemy accusations, and sometimes by Taliban and extremists. Christians are living under constant fear for their lives and many have fled the country.
I believe these attacks are sustained attempts to force Christians out of Pakistan.”
There is a constant demand to provide security to Christians and even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered security to be provided to them, but the government has not done anything about it, Mr Saeed continued.
I would like to salute to the bravery and sacrifice of Zahid Goga who martyred himself to save hundreds of faithful who were worshiping in church. I also salute the bravery of the policeman who was killed at Catholic church in his attempt to stop the attacker,” he said.
Mr Saeed added that the government had failed to provide justice to Christians in light of previous attacks.
From Voice of America:
Hundreds of Pakistan’s minority Christians rallied in the eastern city of Lahore, blocking roads and shouting slogans in a second day of protests against twin suicide bombings outside two churches in the city that left 15 people dead.
Hundreds of police were deployed to the area Monday as Christian schools were closed for the funeral services for the victims.
Seventy people were wounded Sunday in the attacks when two gunmen tried to shoot their way into the churches during services in the majority-Christian Lahore suburb of Youhanabad. When security guards stopped them at the gates, the attackers detonated explosives.
After the attack, angry Christian mobs blocked highways, ransacked a bus station and killed two people they suspected of being involved in the attacks.
A militant group allied to the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blasts.
Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denounced the bombings as an “inhumane act” and said terrorists are hitting soft targets like churches and mosques in utter desperation following increased military action against them.
Members of the Taliban launched suicide bombings against a Catholic church and a Protestant church in Pakistan, leaving at least 14 dead.
Arriving at the bombed church in the afternoon, Archbishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore complained, “The government has failed to protect us.” The bishop said that Christians have pleaded for protection, warning of impending attacks, to no avail. He praised the members of the congregation who had blocked the terrorists from entering the church, at the cost of their own lives, describing them as martyrs. “We are already on the road to Calvary,” the archbishop said.
Later the Pakistani bishps’ conference issued a statement deploring the bombing and calling upon all of the people of Pakistan to “stand alongside their Christian brothers and sisters, against extremist forces.” The statement demanded “extraordinary measures” by the government to protect religious minorities, and instructed Christians to “avoid violence and to cooperate with the police in their investigations.”
Decades ago, not long after my conversion, I had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine.
This friend was from the time when just about all of my friends — including me — evinced a militant disregard for things Christian.
I didn’t know it at first, but that conversion to Christ was going to change everything in my life, including my relationship with people who had been as close to me as family. One by one and despite everything I could do to avoid it, I would lose them all. Worse, the same friends that I loved, truly loved, would become my worst enemies. They would do everything they could to destroy me.
This particular friend didn’t do that. But the friendship, the easy, warm trust between us, was gone almost as soon as I began to follow Christ. I tried my best to keep my new faith low key. I did everything I could to continue to blend in with my old crowd.
But … you’ve changed, this friend said one day.
It was an accusation, and I cringed inside, not understanding this “change” that he saw, even when I was doing my best to hide it. I did not realize in that moment that he had just unwittingly given me the greatest compliment he could.
He saw Christ in me. Despite everything I could do to pretend that nothing had happened and hang onto all my old friendships, I was changed. And this man saw it.
That comment began the slow unraveling of my old life as an unbeliever. I do not mean that it began my conversion. That had already happened. It was the start of the end of previous relationships with people who lived in the world of unbelief.
I fought it. I wanted to keep these people as friends. I wanted to hold onto the good times we’d shared.
But … you’ve changed, he said. And it was true.
This change began to resound in all these relationships with my old crowd. I never preached to them. I didn’t even talk about Christ to them. But I had changed on a fundamental level, and they were like ring wraiths sniffing me out.
This particular friend was the only one to address the change directly and then to lay into me at the root of that change. He knew, without my telling him, that I was now a Christian. And he began a program of reconversion.
Once, in one of our many arguments, he spat out a couple of sentences that I will never forget.
Go look in the mirror, he said. That is the only God you will ever see.
That comment was the apex of his arguing, and the end of our togetherness as people. It wasn’t the comment itself that did it. It was the unbridgeable gap between us.
We never formally stopped being friends, but we did stop spending time with one another. It was too fraught, too uncomfortable. We had the memory of a friendship, nothing more.
He died of a heart attack a few years later. There were jokes about his vehement unbelief in the many eulogies at his memorial service. This was a man who understood friendship. The memorial service was a crowded event, the building filled to overflowing.
I walked out, gripping my husband’s hand, hoping that in those last extremities my old friend had finally turned to God.
Did he go to hell?
I said it aloud when we got back to the car. Was he dead, really, eternally dead and gone to hell? My passionate, crazy friend — had he doomed himself to eternal death?
My husband was silent for a moment. Then, he reached out and squeezed my hand.
Probably, he said.
I changed again after that. My friend’s death shook me out of my somnambulance. I realized that being quiet about Jesus was the cruelest thing I could do to the people around me. I called quite a number of my old friends and told them directly that I did not want them to go to hell. I pleaded with them to change.
One of them changed, began following Christ and follows Him to this day. Otherwise, those calls had no effect.
You just don’t worry about me, one of them said, summing up the reaction from all of the rest.
A few years later, someone I knew and had crossed swords with was dying of cancer. This person and I barely spoke and when we did, it was barbed.
I picked up the phone and called him. Are you right with God? I asked him.
My friend’s death has taught me that there is never a wrong time to try to tell someone about Jesus, and there is never a right time to let another person slide into eternal death while you stand politely by and say nothing.
I read a headline before I began writing this post saying that 7.5 million Americans have abandoned their faith in Christ in the last year. I didn’t read the story, but I would assume that it was based on statistics from a survey of some sort.
There are a lot of reasons for the rising apostasy, but I think that the heresy of salvation through politics is one of the primary factors.
Many Christians have become besotted with a political Christianity where voting right and joining the correct political party has replaced following Christ. They have removed Jesus from Lordship of their lives and replaced him with an angry and unthinking devotion to their political party.
The Holy Spirit will not honor this kind of fallen Christianity. This Christless Christianity without a cross will not produce the fruit of the Kingdom because it is not of the Kingdom.
Go look in the mirror. That is the only God you will ever see.
Seven point five million Americans evidently decided to turn their backs on eternal life and plunge themselves into eternal death while we were barking at one another over whether or not the priest wears a stole when he hears confessions and is the Church too “feminized” and which political party is the right one for Christians.
Let me tell you something. If Jesus Christ is truly the Lord of your life, it does not matter which political party you are in or whether or not the mass or church service you attend is sufficiently to your liking.
It does not matter because wherever you are, you will do His will. If people aren’t looking at you accusingly and saying You’ve changed, then something is wrong with your relationship with Christ.
If you fit comfortably in this world, then you are not going to fit comfortably in heaven. If you sit idly by and watch people trot themselves off to eternal hell and do nothing, say nothing to stop them, then you are the most cruel of people.
Let me turn my friend’s comment around. When you look in the mirror, do you see your God?
Sin is one thing. We all sin. This is why we have confession. But if you are one of those many people who are trying to cut your faith to fit your politics, if you are trying to shear the teachings of Christ down to slip them nicely into the folder where you keep your political handouts, then you are, no matter how often you go to Church or how much you proclaim yourself a Christian, in rebellion against God.
If you do not accept the Lordship of Christ in all matters, then you are not following Christ. If you do accept the Lordship of Christ, then it does not matter where you are or what people you associate with, you will be His witness in that place.
Bearing witness to the Gospel with our lives is the universal Christian vocation.
But it doesn’t end there.
We are also called to bear witness to Christ with our words.
Ask yourself this: Have people abandoned the Church because of you? Have you driven them away with your peculiar and particular insistence on a vengeful reliance on your version of what a Christian should be? Has your unbending self-righteousness made them feel that the Church is the last place on earth they would go for love and forgiveness?
Have people come to Christ because of you? Have they felt safe to tell you of their failings, to share their doubts, to trust you with their darkest secrets? Have they experienced the love of Christ in you and begun to follow Him because you allowed yourself to be a conduit of His grace in their lives?
What fruit have you born with your followership of Christ?
When you stand before God, will lost souls point at you in accusation and say He or she never told me about Jesus.
Or worse, will they say, He or she was so angry and so self-righteous that I thought their Jesus was the devil?
How many souls will point to you and say He or she was the spark that led me to Christ?
The answer to those questions begins with another one. When you look in the mirror, do you see a beloved child of God who can trust His love to forgive their sins? Do you see a sinner who does not need to be afraid before God; someone who is forgiven and who is grateful for that forgiveness?
Do you look in the mirror and see the true lord of your life and the only god you will ever know?
Plainly put, the “agreement” between Iran and President Obama (not, notice between Iran and the United States of America) is just that: It’s an agreement.
But, it appears to have many of the qualities of a treaty.
However, the Constitution plainly states that the United States Senate will ratify all treaties. If the Senate won’t ratify, the treaty is dead.
But presidents — not just this president — have been entering into these “agreements” unilaterally for quite a while now. These “agreeements” do not require Senatorial approval.
How did this happen?
It happened because the United States Congress wanted it to happen. They set this whole thing up to work this way.
Let’s talk about the “agreement” in question. It revolves around relaxing the economic sanctions against Iran. The most interesting part of these sanctions is that, for the most part, Congress did not create these sanctions. Congress passed laws that allowed the President to act unilaterally and create the sanctions himself.
So, when President Obama enters into an “agreement” with Iran in a unilateral, and dictatorial, fashion he is within the legal rights that Congress itself has given him. What he is negotiating in this particular “agreement” is a trade in policy change between Iran and himself.
He is offering to relax United States’ economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for a change in Iran’s nuclear arms development. I do not know what this entails. I can not guess if it’s a good idea or a bad one.
The reason he can do this unilaterally, without the Senate ratifying this “agreement,” is because presidents of the United States enacted these sanctions unilaterally in the first place. The reason they were able to do this is because Congress handed the power over to them. If Congress wants to rescind the statutes granting this power, it can do that. However, it needs a vote big enough to override a veto to get that done, which means that both parties have got to agree to it.
So long as We the People continue tolerating lock-step, straight-party-line voting, which is enforced by party discipline and big corporate campaign money which is also controlled by the parties, that won’t happen. We the People are a major player in this catastrophe precisely because we have allowed party propaganda to persuade us to regard our government like a football game where we cheer on our team.
We have forgotten that government is not a sport. It is deadly business that can kill people on a mass level and for generations. We have also forgotten that the only team that matters is team USA.
Let’s take a moment and look at the sanctions against Iran, since they are the main point of the agreement. Sanctions against Iran began after Islamic radicals of that day seized the American Embassy in Iran and took the staff hostage. This happened in 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president, and, in those relatively naive times, it was a huge deal. Huge.
The United States began its first economic sanctions against Iran during this crisis by ending US importation of Irani oil. This hardly crippled Iran, since lots of countries are willing to buy oil and they don’t care from whom. In 1983, President Reagan declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, and ended United States loans to the country. In 1987, the United States entered into an international embargo of Irani ships.
In the 1990s, fears of Iran developing nuclear weapons prompted President Clinton to ban all American investment in Iran and all trade with Iran. The administration froze the assets of companies who violated this ban.
Under President Bush, the United States began freezing the assets of foreign entities that did business with Iran, including companies, both foreign and domestic, who attempted to avoid sanctions by a loan-laundering process called a u-turn.
President Obama has been even more aggressive in his use of sanctions against Iran. He has issued sanctions against all trade with the country, even that involving food and medical supplies. In 2011, Congress got involved in all this by passing a bill that would freeze the assets of banks and other financial firms that did any business with Iran.
None of these Presidents were acting outside the law. Congress itself gave the presidency this power in much the same way that Congress has handed over its responsibility to vote on whether or not this nation will go to war. By the ruse of calling our wars “police actions” or “counter insurgencies” or some such, and bowing out of the decision, Congress has not only castrated itself, it has castrated the American people.
To get back to the “agreement” between President Obama and Iran, the whole thing involves these economic sanctions. The beauty of the sanctions is two-fold. First, not a drop of American blood was spilled on them. Second, they are working. Iran wants out from under them, and is willing to deal to get there.
This has led us to the supposedly nefarious and at this point, nebulous “agreement” between President Obama and Iran. President Obama has not hidden the fact that an agreement with iran is in the offing. I posted a video from 2013 in which he announced to the American people that the agreement was being developed.
What has changed is the political character of Congress. Republicans now control both the United States House and Senate.
I am not advocating for this agreement. I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion, either for it or against it. I may, after I learn more, oppose it vehemently. I may, on the other hand, support it. At this point, I just do not know enough to say.
But it is clear to anyone who will take off their partisan blinders that the agreement, and the whole question of nuclear war in the Middle East, is being used as a political football.
My concern here has nothing to do with the fact that a good many members of Congress are worried about the ramifications of this particular agreement. Thinking about these things is their job. They should be concerned about it, precisely because it is a grave issue. It is their job to worry about things like this.
I am also neither outraged nor dismayed because Congress invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of their House. It is their House, and they can invite anyone they want. Plus, I do not accept at all the idea that the President should be able to negotiate these agreements without input from both Congress and the American people.
We have a right to know. We also have a right to hear from all parties, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.
As I said, I have no quarrel with Congress wanting to be part of this process. I do not think they should have absented themselves from their responsibilities in the first place.
However, what I’m seeing is not a Congress that is doing its job. I’ve haven’t seen that in a long, long time.
From the 50 members who boycotted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, to the 47 Senators who signed the letter to Iran — what I’m seeing is a Congress that has moved its partisan gamesmanship from domestic issues to foreign policy issues.
We need clear, intelligent discussion of this most serious issue. We need members of Congress who are concerned about this nation and who are willing to cross party lines as if there were no party lines to take whatever position they think is right. We are not a nation of the R and the D. We are a nation of We the People.
The Congresspeople we have now are not doing their jobs, haven’t done their jobs for a long time. They are grandstanding for the ’16 elections. In the process, they are endangering American security and, as usual, American lives. Anything they do on this matter or any other matter is tainted from top to bottom by partisan positioning for the ’16 elections. It has reached the point that I do not trust Congressional sincerity in any matter.
Congress has the power to propose initiatives of its own. But it is not doing that. The reason it is not doing that is that taking positive action imposes political risk and political risk might harm their political party’s position in the ’16 elections. I can not say this strongly enough: Members of our Congress are acting on behalf of the two political parties and the money interests that control them, not the American people.
I wish sincerely that Congress would use its clear Constitutional power to engage in the governance of this nation. That would require, first and foremost, that they start acting as duly elected representatives of the people and not party puppets. That would require them to start thinking and acting as individuals and not some sort of partisan Stepford Congress that marches blindly along party lines without any apparent sense of responsibility to this nation and its people.
The American people have become so inured to our elected officials voting along straight party lines that they have forgotten that this is the antithesis of democracy. These elected officials — of BOTH parties — are not representing their constituents. They are representing the special interests that control their political party.
I know, up close and personal, the price that political parties seek to exact against wayward elected officials who go off the reservation and vote their districts and their consciences. But that is what they are elected to do.
We the People need to get wise. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be flim-flammed by these two political parties and their constant games.
I’ve said it twice before. Now I’ll say it again. If we let them get away with spreading the corruption of their partisan gamesmanship into foreign policy, they are going to get us killed.