Praying the Divine Mercy Novena in a Time of Christian Persecution

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

I am not going to write about this week’s events until after Easter. But I do want to make one small point.

The nasty reaction to an Indiana law that would provide religious freedom underscores that we live in a post Christian America. That fact should not frighten us. It is an opportunity for us to serve the Lord in meaningful ways. We can stand for Jesus in these times and actually suffer for having done it. That is not a curse. It is a gift.

This situation fits the meaning and the purpose of the Divine Mercy Novena extremely well. Jesus gave the Divine Mercy Novena to Saint Faustina in the years before World War II. St Faustina was an unknown Polish nun.

The point of the Divine Mercy is that Jesus’ mercy towards us knows no bounds. It is Him, reaching out to us through this humble nun to try to tell us that He is always ready to forgive us, that His mercy is available to anyone who will accept it.

The Divine Mercy chaplet, Divine Mercy novena and Divine Mercy Sunday are all manifestations of that plea from our blessed Lord to accept His mercy before it is too late. Biblical prophecies are coming true at fast clip these days, beginning with the founding of the State of Israel. I am not equipped to comment on end times prophecies. In truth, I don’t think it matters. We are each of us hurtling toward our own end of days every moment we live.

Christ Jesus offers us mercy in the face of our depravations. That is the meaning of Holy Week. Christ’s Passion, his death on the cross, which we remember today, are an expression of the depth of His love for us, and His mercy towards us.

As we ponder the horrible events on Calvary, we must always remember that this is the price God paid for our salvation. This is how much He loves us.

The Divine Mercy is another gift of love to us. It is a way of underscoring once again that we, like the thief of the cross, can find salvation and eternal life at any time, in any extremity, no matter what we have done. The eleventh hour and 59 minutes is not too late to accept Christ’s mercy. The last moments of life are not too late.

But what a waste of good living and happiness — not to mention the danger of not doing it, ever — it would be to play brinksmanship with our eternal lives. My pastor said in a homily that when we die, someone will say to us: You belong to me. We get to chose who that will be. When you die, will you meet Jesus and have Him say, “You belong to me?” Or, will it be satan? The choice is yours, and you make it now, in this life.

The Divine Mercy novena is a series of prayers in which we take those who need His mercy before the throne of God in prayer.

Today is the first day of the Novena. We pray on this day for all of suffering humankind. The world is dying for lack of Christ. The satan in people’s hearts manifests itself in attacking Christians the world over. We are no longer safe from discrimination and even violent persecution for our faith here in America.

Our world bleeds on this Good Friday. It is dripping away its life blood from a thousand self-inflicted cuts. There is one answer for this, one Way out of the abyss of hatred and violence. It is the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of the Lamb of God, guarding our hearts against that day when we will stand on the threshold of eternity and someone says to us “You belong to me.”

Please pray the Divine Mercy Novena today. Pray for the whole human race, which is dying for lack of His love.

First Day
Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners,

and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.”

Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

OU President Boren: Racist Chant was Taught to Students at National Fraternity Leadership Training

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Phil Constantin, open source

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Phil Constantin, open source

University of Oklahoma President David Boren announced at a press conference today that the racist chant members of the SAE fraternity were singing in a video that was released earlier this month was taught to local fraternity members during a leadership cruise sponsored by the national organization four years ago.

The chant had become a standard part of the pledge recruitment and initiation process. It was routinely taught to new members. The report said that the chant was part of the “institutional culture” of the fraternity.

Levi Pettit, one of two students who were expelled for singing the chant on the video, participated in a press conference with state Senator Anastasia Pittman and leaders in the Oklahoma City black community, including several prominent black pastors. He apologized for his participation in the chant and expressed deep remorse because of what he had done. Representative Mike Shelton addressed the House of Representatives about the video soon after it first aired.

Hopefully the national leadership of this fraternity will be held accountable at some point.

You can read the complete report here.

From News9.com:

NORMAN, Oklahoma -University of Oklahoma President David Boren has announced the findings of an investigation into a fraternity after members were caught on video engaging in a racist chant.

President Boren held a news conference at noon on Friday. According to the University, the origin of the chant was that it was learned by local chapter members on a national leadership cruise sponsored by the national organization of SAE four years ago. Overtime, the chant was formalized in the local SAE chapter and was taught to pledges as part of the formal and informal pledgeship process.

According to the University, prior to the chapter’s annual Chapter’s Founder’s Day event on March 7, there was alcohol available at the fraternity house, and there is evidence that a significant number of members were consuming alcohol prior to boarding the bus on which the chant was sung.

Jill Stanek: “I Expect that From the Democrats.”

Jill Stanek Photo Source: Flicker Creative Commons by Pro-Life Unity https://www.flickr.com/photos/24711181@N05/

Jill Stanek Photo Source: Flicker Creative Commons by Pro-Life Unity https://www.flickr.com/photos/24711181@N05/

We have two goals today. First of all, in our own way we want to pressure the GOP leadership in the House to present the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act for a vote.

From various sources on Capitol Hill, I have heard that we have already had an impact. There really wasn’t any particular rush felt on this issue, and now there is.

The other goal is to reorient this discussion back to the babies, who are literally being drawn and quartered on a daily basis. People don’t seem to have any sense of urgency about making that stop.  Jill Stanek

Jill Stanek is pro life.

Her pro life convictions were acquired the hard way: From being forced to do the dirt of abortion’s toughest kind of killing.

Infants born alive from abortions are often killed, usually from neglect. I’ve talked to nurses in Oklahoma hospitals who were ordered, as Jill Stanek was, to let babies that are born alive during abortions die slowly and unloved.

That was the inspiration for the bill that brought me within 50 votes of being censured by the statewide Oklahoma Democratic Party. It was the motivation behind the bill that drove a wedge between me and my Democratic colleagues that made the rest of my time in the legislature a kind of purgatory. It was why I could never attend another Oklahoma Democratic Party function again, even though I was the state party’s longest running elected official.

Ms Stanek was a nurse, working in a hospital who had to let a baby die. Unlike the doctors who gave the orders and walked away, she was a witness to these deaths. I heard stories from nurses about what happened here in Oklahoma when babies survived abortions in our state hospitals. I heard the same stories from clergy who worked as chaplains in these hospitals.

These situations drove some of the nurses who were forced to do these deeds to a moral crisis. Most of them just did what they were ordered to do and went on. I don’t know if it hardened them into a deformed version of themselves that was indifferent to killing, or if they suffer deep grief in silence.

I do know that a few nurses were not able to go on with it. Both here in Oklahoma and in Illinois, they stepped out. That is how Jill Stanek became pro life. She held a dying baby in her hands and it changed her. Then, she got involved in seeking a political end to this killing, and that changed her again.

She met President Barack Obama when he was Senator Obama. She lobbied him to pass the law that would allow infants born alive in abortions to receive medical treatment. What she got instead was a dose of what legislators do when they want to kill bills by sleight of hand. The guy who took the hit for the whole pro abortion movement in Illinois was Senator Obama, chair of the committee where the bill died.

The fight for this bill went on for years. When it finally came to a vote, Senator Obama continued to fight it on the floor.

Then, presidential candidate Obama lied about having done this.

Jill Stanek was well-schooled in the ways of politics. But she harbored illusions. She thought that this behavior was a Democratic failing. She evidently honestly believed that Republicans were different.

If she had asked me, I would have told her the truth. But I doubt that she would have believed me. Because this is a hard truth, that people detest. It rips away illusions that make things easy and simple. The pretend that there is a moral safe house in politics simplifies and comforts. The truth, not so much.

When the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives withdrew the bill that would have stopped abortions after 20 weeks off the agenda, a good number of pro life organizations rushed to defend him. That’s the way it works, you know.

Some of these pro life organizations have become Republican organizations first and pro life second. Many of them receive substantial funding from the Republican Party. Others, including most big name Republican-backing clergy, enjoy the backslapping and the “access” to people in power so much that they will not jeopardize it by publicly calling powerful politicians out when they betray the pro life cause.

They have deified a political party, and, no matter what they say to the contrary, that political party is where they bend their knee.

Not so Jill Stanek. She didn’t come to the pro life cause through theological reasoning or political allegiance. She held a dying child in her hands. She was the unwilling participant in the murder of innocents.

Her pro life convictions, unlike that of these other folks, is why she’s involved in all this. She’s there because of the babies, not the political goodies on the periphery of elective office.

She had seen Democrats use legislative ruse to kill pro life bills. But she evidently did not believe that Republicans, once they were in power, would do the same thing.

She didn’t understand the core truth of party politics. I repeat this truth like a mantra. Here it is again: The political parties are about getting power and keeping power. Everything else they say is a lie.

I’m not saying that there are no differences between the Rs and the Ds. What I am saying is that  those differences are not as meaningful as the similarities. At their core, the Rs and the Ds are the same. Both of them are about gaining and holding political power.

So, Jill Stanek joined together with people from the Christian Defense Coalition and Operation Rescue to hold a prayer vigil in front of Speaker Boehner’s office. Ms Stanek said she was there to put the emphasis back on the babies. She ended up getting arrested, along with other pro life leaders.

I am going to add that in this, at least, the Rs and the Ds are different. The Ds treat their allies better than the Rs. I saw it in the Oklahoma legislature and I see it again in this arrest. The Ds don’t have Planned Parenthood people arrested. In all my years in office, I never saw the Democratic leadership disrespect liberal clergy the way I saw the Republican leadership tell pro life clergy to sit down and shut up.

Pro abortion advocates do not grovel before pro abortion Democrats. They work together with them as a team. That’s a huge part of why they’ve seen so successful at keeping abortion legal these past 40 plus years.

The Ds treat their allies on social issues better than the Rs do theirs. And that’s a fact.

According to Ms Stanek, the actions that she and her allies have taken have put the bill to end abortions after 20 weeks back on the legislative map.

Hopefully, she is right.

From Charisma News:

Since the U.S. House of Representatives pulled the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act from consideration on Jan. 21—the evening before March for Life 2015—pro-life blogger Jill Stanek has been relentless in calling for the bill to come back to the House floor for a vote.

With the bill yet to be reintroduced two months later, Stanek felt the voice of pro-life activists was not being heard.

When she teamed up with Rev. Pat Mahoney of Christian Defense Coalition and Troy Newman of Operation Rescue to announce a Sit-in/Pray-in at Speaker John Boehner’s Congressional office, within days the Speaker of the House responded.

Before the protest, Stanek agreed to an interview as her team met at Pete’s Diner on Capitol Hill—a location they knew was one of Speaker Boehner’s favorite spots for breakfast.

Within two hours, she was handcuffed and arrested by Capitol Police outside the Congressional office of Speaker Boehner along with seven other pro-life activists.

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Levi Pettit, OKC Black Leaders Hold Press Conference About Racist Video

Senator Anastasia Pittman Oklahoma State Senate File Photo

Senator Anastasia Pittman Oklahoma State Senate File Photo

Levit Pettit, one of the two young men who were expelled from Oklahoma University for their participation in singing a racist song at a fraternity gathering, apologized at a press conference this afternoon.

Senator Anastasia Pittman and other leaders in the Oklahoma City black community, including prominent members of the clergy, joined him at this press conference. At one point, one of the black community leaders reached out to pat him on the back while he was speaking.

Senator Pittman ended the press conference by saying that she and the community leaders who were with her wanted this event to lead to a growth in understanding and greater interracial harmony.

I am proud of and grateful to our Oklahoma City black community for the noble and loving way that they have handled this situation. These Christian leaders have shown us the positive way that true Christian leadership can function. Senator Pittman has demonstrated the best in what an elected official can contribute to her community.

They have shown us the healing power of forgiveness.

You can watch a video of the press conference with Senator Pittman’s comments here.

This is a video of the press conference. It does not contain Senator Pittman’s comments, which I regret. Her words about using this incident to bring us together are important.

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From KFOR.com:

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Former OU student Levi Pettit issued an apology this afternoon, weeks after a cellphone video showing him participating in a racist chant went viral.

20-year-old Pettit is accused of participating in the racist chant along with other Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members.

“Let me start by saying that I am sorry… Although I don’t deserve it, I want to ask for your forgiveness,” began Pettit.

Pettit, flanked on both sides by local leaders in the black community, gave his apology after meeting and speaking with Oklahoma Senator Anastasia Pittman, civic leaders, and local pastors about the incident.

“There are no excuses for my behavior. I never considered myself a racist,” said Pettit. “All the apologies in the world won’t change what I’ve done.”

Pettit and his family have reportedly spoken with Senator Pittman several times since the video was made public on March 9th.

 

Breaking: Speaker John Boehner’s Office Orders Arrest of Pro Life Demonstrators

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons, by Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

Pro life leaders were arrested for holding a prayer vigil outside House Speaker Boehner’s office today.

Pro life nurse Jill Stanek, who has been a vociferous critic of President Obama for lying about his history of killing the infant born alive bill when he was in the Illinois State Senate was one of those arrested. Other arrestees include Rev Pat Mahoney, the director of the Christian Defense Coalition and Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue. Seven pro life protesters were arrested in all.

“We were told yesterday by Speaker Boehner’s office that this is the most pro-life Congress that has ever been installed,” Troy Newman told CNSNEWS.com.

The protesters were holding a vigil in an attempt to get Congress to pass the ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The bill is usually referred to as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

The bill was scheduled to come to a vote in the House on January 22, which is the anniversary of Roe v Wade. It was pulled at the last minute and a bill disallowing the use of federal monies for abortions in circumstances not pertaining to the Affordable Care Act was passed in its place.

I am grateful to these protestors for doing this. Maybe the bad publicity will force Speaker Boehner to bring the bill to a vote.

I’ve personally witnessed pro-life people back down and cover up for Republican leadership when they killed pro life bills here in Oklahoma. I’ve also seen big-name preachers take a pass on everything they’d been preaching to their flocks when leadership leaned on them.

This arrest underscores a simple fact that We the People are loathe to accept:  Politics is about power, not morality.

From CNSNEWS.COM:

CNSNews.com) – U.S. Capitol police on Wednesday arrested seven pro-life protestors while they were praying outside the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

hose arrested, who included prominent pro-life activist and nurse Jill Stanek, were protesting the House Republican leaderships’ failure to call a vote on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit aborting an unborn child in or after the 20th week of gestation.

The House Republican leadership shelved the bill less than 24 hours before it was set to come up for a vote on Jan. 22 after some Republican congresswomen, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), objected to the rape and incest exceptions in the bill, which they deemed too onerous. The exceptions said a baby 20 weeks old or older could only be terminated if the the baby had been conceived by an act of rape or incest that had been reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

In 2012, Ellmers had co-sponsored the District of Columbia Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which banned abortions in the 20th week or later in Washington, D.C., and had no rape or incest exceptions whatever. On July 31 of that year, the bill was brought up on the House floor under a suspension of the rules, which required a two-thirds vote instead of a majority. The bill failed to get two-thirds but did get a majority, with 220 voting yes, 154 voting no, 55 not voting and 2 voting present. Six Democrats voted for that bill with no rape and incest exceptions.

 

Rep Mike Shelton: OU Racist Video the Action of ‘A Few Ignorant Individuals’

Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Oklahoma House of Representatives File Photo

Representative Mike Shelton gave a powerful speech about the video of University of Oklahoma fraternity members singing a racist song.

It’s particularly pertinent in this season of Lent.

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Slander and Character Assassination are Murder with Words

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steve Jurvetson https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Steve Jurvetson https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/

Living with shame is like walking barefoot on glass. If anyone knows about public shaming, it’s Monica Lewinsky.

I chose the video of a TED talk that Ms Lewinsky gave for this post because she does not believe the things I do, at least in certain areas. I want to make the point that neither this nor her previous behavior matters in what I’m about to say. You can find the video at the end of this post.

The current practice of using personal attacks and character assassination to advance political agendas is one of the great evils of our time. It slashes people’s spirits like emotional shrapnel. If it doesn’t absolutely destroy them, it hurts them so profoundly, alienates them so deeply, that most of them will never be the same again.

This is trauma on a deep, social/psychological level.

People engage in these merciless attacks on others in comboxes, on their own blogs or Facebook and twitter accounts, from in front of television cameras, and in personal conversations. They aren’t merely disagreeing with others, they are actively trying to destroy them with hazing, mockery, slander and character assassination.

There is a profound moral disconnect at work in all this. Invariably those who engage in character assassination to advance their views make all sorts of aggressive and self-righteous statements about themselves and their cause. It does not matter if they are pro life or pro abortion; in favor of gay marriage or against it; pushing for euthanasia or working to stop it. At some point they have fallen into the clutches of the devil.

You read that correctly. A person can be fighting for the sanctity of human life, working mightily to stop abortion and euthanasia, praying and fighting to defend the family; they can do all these things, and be working for the devil.

How can this happen?

It begins when we lay aside the armor of God — which St Paul tells us is peace, faith, truth, righteousness, salvation and reliance on the Holy Spirit — and take up the weapons of satan, which are self-righteousness, hatred, slander, mockery, lies, destruction and a refusal to forgive.

St Paul said that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  He also said that the acts of the flesh are debauchery, orgies, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy.

Now I ask you, which of these lists best describes the attitudes and behaviors of those who engage in attacking others with slander, mockery, hazing and character assassination? Christians who try to destroy others with words may not be attending orgies, but how much love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control do we see in them and in their behavior?

Who are they serving when they try to destroy people with their vicious words and ugly photos? If we do not see the Spirit of God in their actions, but we see instead the spirit of the flesh, then who is their master? Who is their lord?

I know that Christian-bashing blogs and books routinely engage in character assassination as a tactic and a lifestyle. I also know that many in these groups are hardened in this sin and refuse to consider the destructive evil of their actions.

But my focus in this Lenten season is Christians who have fallen into this pit alongside the people they claim they are trying to convert. I think these are Christians who have fallen away from Christ without realizing it. I think they are Christians who are trying so hard to do His will that they have exhausted themselves in the effort.

They have been overcome by the world unawares. They’ve forgotten that the first part of doing His will is trusting Him. These are people who need to retreat from the fight and seek Him with all their hearts. They have lost the battle in this spiritual warfare. If they continue, they may lose the war, as well.

St Paul counseled First Century Christians to let go of the legalisms that crippled them in their walk with Christ. He told them to forget about who was circumcised and who was not. He said that the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love. Elsewhere, he said that only faith, love and hope abide. In other words, we take three things with us when we leave this life: Our faith, hope and love.

This is the treasure that Jesus spoke of, that He told us to lay up for ourselves in heaven.

How much faith, hope and love are in character assassination, slander, and the social murder of another person? Who will we convert to Christ by this ugliness and hate? Why would anyone want our Jesus or believe that He is Love when we, His followers, do these unGodly things in His name?

It is not only possible, it is more effective in the long run, to avoid attacking people personally and confine yourself to a strong advocacy for what you believe. A firm and unyielding commitment to those beliefs will win out in time, even if it gets knocked down repeatedly at the beginning. Stand for life. Do not slander those who support abortion or euthanasia or egg harvesting or whatever.

Speak the truth of Christ crucified. Share the hope of forgiveness and eternal life. Do it especially with those who spurn Him and who will call you names for speaking of Him.

Never back away or back down when the question is Jesus Christ. Do not become silent for fear of being slandered and slimed yourself.

When others engage in character assassination, speak out against the practice. You may make a target of yourself by doing this. That is often what happens when people take a stand on the Gospels. But taking a stand for Jesus and His teachings is our universal vocation as Christians.

Do not attack other people on a personal level. Put your ideas forward with the absolute knowledge that He can persuade where you can’t. What I’m saying is don’t rely on yourself. Just do what He tells you and trust Him. Trust Jesus.

Do not sit silent when people you are with engage in these sins. Do not feed this behavior by watching it on tv or clicking on it on the internet. Do not use the anonymity of the combox to unhinge youself from your conscience. None of us is anonymous to God.

It is easy to become a slave to the approval, ratings, readership, votes or whatever that demagoguery, slander and personal attacks can bring. I would be the last to deny that those of little conscience and no fidelity to Christ make money, gain promotions, and acquire power by doing these things.

After all, what did satan offer Jesus when he tempted Him? He offered power, money, prestige.

You can get elected slandering people. You can get ratings and big careers and catapult yourself into bestsellerdom. What you cannot do is destroy other people — deliberately and maliciously inflict harm on them that pushes them to the edge of despair and scars them for the rest of their lives — and stand righteous before the living God.

The more you do this, the more it destroys you. That is what it means to deliberately and for your own pleasure and dark gratification to destroy another person with your words, your Photoshopped photos, your hazing, mockery and shunning. That is what it means to bring another person down like a lion bringing down a gazelle.

That is character assassination, and it destroys those who engage in it from the soul out.

We have become a nation of people who advocate for things we claim to believe by using character assassination instead of discussion. If someone disagrees with us, we try to destroy them and their standing in the community. We try to degrade them to death.

We do not talk about why we think their ideas are wrong. Instead, we try to vanquish their ideas by destroying their worth as people.

If you engage in character assassination, if you sit still and be quiet while others do it in front of you, if you enjoy watching while it is done to someone else, you are in sin. You are erecting a fence between yourself and your own salvation. You are putting a barrier between you and the Holy Spirit, between you and Jesus.

Slander and character assassination are murder with words. The damage they do to the people who suffer them is real and lifelong.

Do not inflict blood guilt on your own soul for the paltry pleasure of joining in with the crowd in the latest hate-off. Follow Christ. Say no to this sinful practice. It, like its author, is from the pit.

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America and Its Half Million Homeless Ghosts

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Poe https://www.flickr.com/photos/mockstar/

Foxes have dens, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Jesus Christ

Sprinklergate, the story that the Cathedral of St Mary in San Francisco was using its sprinkler system to clear the cathedral steps of homeless people, is a symptom of a big-time problem.

That problem is that American cities are haunted by over a half million ghosts. These ghosts sleep on park benches, sidewalks and in shelters. They panhandle and go through dumpsters, searching for clothing, food, money, drugs.

These are not silent ghosts. They accost us as we walk to work, they wave signs begging for cash as we drive down the road. They take over the public libraries and, as St Mary’s has discovered, can block entrances to buildings with their vacant-eyed vigils.

The ghosts haunting American cities are the homeless. They are not in any way homogenous. Some of them are temporary down and outs. Others are mentally ill. Many are drug addicts and alcoholics. Others are panhandlers posing as homeless while they ply their trade.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by davejdoe https://www.flickr.com/photos/92414546@N04/

Homelessness is the opposite of the American dream. It is the opposite of what, until a few decades ago, was the American self-image. I am old enough to remember a time when America did not have homeless people lying on its park benches, snoring in its libraries and blocking the entrances to its churches.

I was born in that era between the Great Depression with its hobos and today with our ubiquitous and ignored homeless.

America’s basic response to homelessness among so many of its citizens, including many children, has been to ignore them. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issues a glossy report on the homeless every year. This report differentiates between types of homelessness. There are the homeless who stay with relatives, and are not, to my way of thinking, truly homeless at all.

Then there are those who sleep in shelters or whatnot. Finally, we get to the homeless that inspire us to such conflicting feelings of pity, indifference and annoyance, those who do not have shelter at all.

In the meantime, while we ignore the homeless, and refuse to even take a look at the government policies and social changes that made them homeless, we shift the burden for dealing with them onto whoever the homeless themselves chose to impose themselves upon.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Alex Barth https://www.flickr.com/photos/a-barth/

Businesses, public buildings of all sorts, churches and other facilities can easily find themselves unable to perform their intended functions because of the homeless sleeping on the sidewalks at their entrance or sitting inside their buildings. Mothers won’t bring the kiddos to the library if the homeless take it over. Guests won’t check into hotels whose entrances are blocked or whose lobbies are filled with homeless people. Churches can’t hold services if the worshippers stay away rather than step over the homeless, sitting on the steps.

We ignore the homeless because we feel helpless to do anything decisive for them. We ignore them because we don’t truly understand what policies and practices of political and social corruption made them homeless in the first place. We ignore the homeless because they overwhelm us and baffle us and scare us.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by David Hood https://www.flickr.com/photos/131405116@N07/

Worse, we ignore them because if we acknowledged that many of our political and social ideas on both sides of the political spectrum have created this problem and allowed it to grow, it would require us to re-evaluate many of our simplistic viewpoints. We ignore the homeless because not ignoring the homeless would require us to change.

So, we dump them.

We dump them on the businesses and operators of public buildings. We dump the problem on the administrators of these businesses, public buildings and churches. Then, when they take any action to dislodge the homeless from camping out on their property and blocking access and use by those for whom it was intended, we excoriate these administrators for their heartlessness.

This public venting of moral outrage has nothing to do with compassion. It is just us, being our hypocritical selves about a problem we will not do anything to solve. We will not take a homeless person home and house them in our spare bedroom. We will not let them sleep on our porch. We will not change our politics to fit the realities of real life.

We will ignore them and what brung them.

They are not people to us. They are ghosts of what once was people like us. Somebody birthed them, taught them to write those signs they hoist and how to read the hours of operation on the signs in front of public buildings.

They were once part of the larger society.

But now they are ghosts.

And we ignore them.

And we denounce those on whom we dump them for being overwhelmed by them.

And we will not change.

Will the Stepford Congress Kill the Sex Trafficking Bill?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chuck Coker https://www.flickr.com/photos/caveman_92223/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Chuck Coker https://www.flickr.com/photos/caveman_92223/

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.

 

So What’s this “Agreement” with Iran that’s Got Everybody in an Uproar?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tavis Ford https://www.flickr.com/photos/itzafineday/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Tavis Ford https://www.flickr.com/photos/itzafineday/

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.

 


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