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.

 

The R and the D: Destroying America to Win in ’16.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a stirring speech to a joint session of Congress.

Fifty Democratic members of Congress decided to boycott the speech because they didn’t want to involve the United States Congress in politics. That is a little like a doctor boycotting his patients because he doesn’t want his practice involved in medicine.

After that, (and we’ll get to this in detail in the next post) 47 Republican Senators of equal concern for this country to the Ds who boycotted the speech decided to send an open letter to Iran. Yeah. You heard that right. They sent an open letter to Iran about an agreement that hasn’t been made yet. Evidently, they forgot they were in the United States Senate.

All this leads back to the question I asked in an earlier post: Is beltway partisanship going to get us killed? 

We deserve better than the government we’re getting people. I mean from both political parties.

Now, back to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his excellent speech. What’d he say that caused all this ruckus?

Nothing.

I’m not saying that he said nothing. I’m saying that nothing he said should have caused this childish, destructive and utterly disgusting behavior on the part of our elected officials. Prime Minister Netanyahu did exactly what he should have done. He gave a stirring speech on behalf of the interests of the nation that he clearly cares about, his own country, Israel. I only wish that members of our Congress cared so much about America.

His concern in the speech was based on his fear of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. No one on any side of this situation argues that Iran is working to do this. There seems to be only one question: What are we going to do about it?

Before I get into the speech in a bit more detail, I want to backtrack a few years to our totally useless and ultimately destructive to everybody invasion of the nation of Iraq.

Before I do that, I want to back track a couple of decades to the first war in Iraq.

We fought the first war in Iraq under the leadership of President Bush 1. President Bush 1 did a lot of things right. First, he went to Congress and got actual, legal authorization for a war. Second, he put together a real coalition of allies. Third, he went into the war with clear military objectives.

The result was that we got the thing done quickly and got back out.

The salient phrase there is that we got back out. Why, when we had Iraq down for the count, didn’t Bush 1 go ahead and finish off Iraq? I think there were a couple of reasons. First, this was not the objective he had given the American people, Congress or our allies. Second — and this is the one that applies to our discussion today — Iraq served as a stopper in the bottle where Iran was concerned. With Iraq in place, there was a counterbalance to Iran, which kept America from having to be so exposed to the need to military intervention in that part of the world.

He did it for the now seemingly quaint and never considered reason in American politics of preserving future peace and saving the lives of American soldiers.

Enter Bush 2 and our pyrrhic “victory” in Iraq. People have been dying in that region of the world because of this ham-handed and destructive war ever since we engaged in it. Not only did President Bush 2 needlessly kill American troops, he created a political and military vacuum that has led directly to the slaughter under ISIS. He also pulled the stopper out of the bottle that was holding Iran in place.

Now, we are faced with the possibility of a nuclear Iran, which is to say with a possible conflagration of unimaginable proportions. Would Iran use such a weapon to kill on a mass scale immediately after obtaining it? Maybe not. But, given the instability of governments in the Middle East, and the obvious willingness of the various Islamic radical groups to kill, kidnap, torture, enslave on a mass scale, plus their evident love of genocide as a practice of domination, that is not reassuring.

From Prime Minster Netanyahu’s viewpoint, the first and most pressing fear concerning a nuclear Iran is the resulting change in the balance of power in the Middle East. Israel has the bomb. If Iran has the bomb, what would that do to Israel? Will we see another holocaut of the Jews?

That is clearly what Prime Minster Netanyahu fears.

Enter President Obama. Unlike every other president we’ve had, President Obama is opaque to the American people. I think that is the real reason why the people of this country distrust him on such a fundamental level. He does not make sense to us. I think the reason for that is that his history is not our history. He spent his formative years living in other countries as a native of those countries. He attended Muslim schools in Indonesia and clearly has a greater and more sympathetic understanding of the Muslim outlook than he does that of most of Christian America,

He spent the rest of his growing-up time in Hawaii. He attended Harvard, and then settled in Chicago. All this is to say that his experience of America is bi-coastal and, in terms of the life experiences of the vast majority of the American people, non-existent.

What does this mean to the questions surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech? It means that President Obama, for all his great speech-making ability, cannot communicate on the essential unspoken level where trust is built with the American people. This is nothing to do with his dark skin and everything to do with his almost total lack of an American ethos.

If he was an African American president, he’d be fine. But he’s more of an African-International president. American’s don’t “feel” him the way they have every other president. They don’t understand him, don’t “read” him on an unspoken level. He just doesn’t give off recognizable American vibes.

President Obama has done a good job of keeping America out of troop entanglement in the Middle East. He has done an excellent job of encouraging the countries of the Middle East to take on ISIS and wage war against them directly. This has done something that the war-sellers don’t seem to consider at all. It has saved American lives.

Now, he is engaged in an attempt of some sort to negotiate an agreement (not, notice a treaty) with Iran about the development of nuclear weapons by Iran.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is so alarmed by the potential for this agreement to let the nuclear Iran genie out of the bottle that he came across the ocean to address a joint session of Congress. Congress, for its part, doesn’t care very much about American lives or nuclear genies. They just want to poke the prez in the eye so that they can position things for the ’16 elections,

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech made three points: First, this agreement the President Obama is working to create will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapon. Second, the agreement will enable Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Third, Iran cannot be trusted, as its interests are always antithetical to those of the United States.

The third point has certainly been true in the history of the past few decades, both for the United States and Israel. But is it always going to be true?

One question for America is how can we change that dynamic, without pulling another plug out of another bottle and setting off a holocaust of the Jews in Israel, as well as a third world war?

President Obama was trying to work out his agreement in secret, without informing the American people, or dealing with Congress.

He was outraged that Congress allowed Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak. Personally, I’m concerned that it took the speech of the head of another nation to inform the American people.

I don’t know enough about what our president is trying to accomplish to have a clear opinion of it, and that is the rub. We the people have a right to know. But I am very concerned about this new idea — which is being pushed by the press, by the way — that keeping the people in the dark about their government is patriotic.

I am also concerned about the total breakdown of governance in Congress. Even more than that, I am concerned about what these two political parties and their unending partisan power struggles are doing to all of us and to the future of this nation.

They are destroying America. They are dismantling and exporting our industry, keeping us constantly at war, bankrupting us with their constant war-time economy and allowing the nation to wallow and slowly degrade.

The only thing they care about is jockeying for the next election. I know people who were ecstatic after the election last November. They honestly thought that this new Congress was going to take any number of actions. These trusting souls actually believed the campaign rhetoric.

I knew this was not true. I knew that the only focus our newly elected Congress was going to have was the next election. The campaign for ’16 started the day after the votes were counted in ’14.

Now, this vicious, mindless and totally destructive partisanship has invaded foreign policy. I want to ask this Congress the same question that was once asked of Senator Joseph McCarthy: Have you no shame?

The bottom line is that this constant partisan bickering shows no sign whatsoever of abating. It is getting worse. If it doesn’t stop, it is going to get us killed.

47 Republican Senators’ Letter to Iran: Here It Is.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by DonkeyHotey https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

The letter that 47 United States Senators sent to the government of Iran is below.

This letter has set off something of a firestorm and a potential Constitutional crisis. A massive number of people have signed a petition demanding that the signatories be prosecuted for treason amid questions of whether or not the Senators broke the law.

Meanwhile the senators who signed the letter and the president are standing firm. The news is that the letter will “not derail the agreement.”

Here is the letter in full. You can read the petition here.  There is a legible list of the senators who signed the letter at the bottom.

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton

4 the-letter-senate-republicans-addressed-to-theHere, from CNN,  is a list for Republican senators who signed the letter. Those who did not sign it are also listed.

Here is the full list of who signed:

Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-UT

Senator Charles Grassley, R-IA

Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY

Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL

Senator John McCain, R-AZ

Senator James Inhofe, R-OK

Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS

Senator Jeff Sessions, R-AL

Senator Michael Enzi, R-WY

Senator Michael Crapo, R-ID

Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC

Senator John Cornyn, R-TX

Senator Richard Burr, R-NC

Senator John Thune, R-SD

Senator Johnny Isakson, R-GA

Senator David Vitter, R-LA

Senator John A. Barrasso, R-WY

Senator Roger Wicker, R-MS

Senator Jim Risch, R-ID

Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL

Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO

Senator Jerry Moran, R-KS

Senator Rob Portman, R-OH

Senator John Boozman, R-AR

Senator Pat Toomey, R-PA

Senator John Hoeven, R-ND

Senator Marco Rubio, R-FL

Senator Ron Johnson, R-WI

Senator Rand Paul, R-KY

Senator Mike Lee, R-UT

Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH

Senator Dean Heller, R-NV

Senator Tim Scott, R-SC

Senator Ted Cruz, R-TX

Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-WV

Senator Bill Cassidy, R-LA

Senator Cory Gardner, R-CO

Senator James Lankford, R-OK

Senator Steve Daines, R-MT

Senator Mike Rounds, R-SD

Senator David Perdue, R-GA

Senator Thom Tillis, R-NC

Senator Joni Ernst, R-IA

Senator Ben Sasse, R-NE

Senator Dan Sullivan, R-AK

Here is the list of those who didn’t sign: 

Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN

Senator Susan Collins, R-ME

Senator Bob Corker, R-TN

Senator Dan Coats, R-IN

Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS

Senator Jeff Flake, R-AZ

Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK

 

 

President Obama’s 2013 Statement on Nuclear Iran Deal

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

This is the statement President Obama’s made on the agreement with Iran in November of 2013. The six-month timeline has drug on a bit further than he predicted.

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Outrage Over Racist Video Rolls. Everybody Apologizes.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Allison Meier https://www.flickr.com/photos/astrozombie/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Allison Meier https://www.flickr.com/photos/astrozombie/

Outrage over the video of Oklahoma University fraternity partiers singing a racist video is rolling forward.

The only people not apologizing are those voicing outrage and some people are apologizing and expressing outrage, both at once. African American students express hurt and betrayal.

“These are the same people who are shaking my hand after I score a touchdown,” one football player said. An African American alumnus of this fraternity said that watching the video was “like getting punched.”

The two young men who have been identified as participants in this video have received death threats via twitter and Facebook. They have both been expelled from the school. A protest is being planned at the Dallas home of one of the young men.

The plot thickened when one of the young men who has been identified as a participant in singing the racist chant, Parker Rice, said that the chant had been taught to members of the fraternity. That moves the issue from the behavior of a few young men to a question of the behavior of the entire fraternity.

As I said in an earlier post, the Greek system at OU is almost a separate university within the larger university community. There are bigger questions about that system which need to be addressed than just this one video.

“I hope they think long and hard about what they’ve done,” OU’s president David Boren said of the young men. “They won’t be back,” he added, referring to his decision to expel the two students, “not while I’m president of this university.”

Here are the apologies of the one of the young men and the family of the other.

Parker Rice:

I am deeply sorry for what I did Saturday night. It was wrong and reckless. I made a horrible mistake by joining into the singing and encouraging others to do the same. On Monday, I withdrew from the university, and sadly, at this moment our family is not able to be in our home because of threatening calls as well as frightening talk on social media.

I know everyone wants to know why or how this happened. I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the house before the bus trip, but that’s not an excuse. Yes, the song was taught to us, but that too doesn’t work as an explanation. It’s more important to acknowledge what I did and what I didn’t do. I didn’t say no, and I clearly dismissed an important value I learned at my beloved high school, Dallas Jesuit. We were taught to be ‘Men for Others.’ I failed in that regard, and in those moments, I also completely ignored the core values and ethics I learned from my parents and others.

At this point, all I can do is be thoughtful and prayerful about my next steps, but I am also concerned about the fraternity friends still on campus. Apparently, they are feeling unsafe and some have been harassed by others. Hopefully, the university will protect them.

For me, this is a devastating lesson and I am seeking guidance on how I can learn from this and make sure it never happens again. My goal for the long-term is to be a man who has the heart and the courage to reject racism wherever I see or experience it in the future.

Thank you for your consideration of my deepest apologies for what I did.

From the parents of Levi Pruitt:

As parents of Levi, we love him and care for him deeply. He made a horrible mistake, and will live with the consequences forever. However, we also know the depth of our son’s character. He is a good boy, but what we saw in those videos is disgusting. While it may be difficult for those who only know Levi from the video to understand, we know his heart, and he is not a racist. We raised him to be loving and inclusive and we all remain surrounded by a diverse, close-knit group of friends.

We were as shocked and saddened by this news as anyone. Of course, we are sad for our son – but more importantly, we apologize to the community he has hurt. We would also like to apologize to the – entire African American community, University of Oklahoma student body and administration. Our family has the responsibility to apologize, and also to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Our words will only go so far  – as a family, we commit to following our words with deeds.

To our friends and family, thank you for your kind comments and prayers. They are very comforting in this difficult time.

We ask that the media and public please respect our family’s privacy as we come together to heal and determine next steps.

This is a video of an interview of an African American alumnus of this same fraternity.

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Here’s the Racist University of Oklahoma Fraternity Video

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by xploitme https://www.flickr.com/photos/45928872@N08/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by xploitme https://www.flickr.com/photos/45928872@N08/

The racist University of Oklahoma fraternity video that’s been in the news is below.

The video was released by the campus group Unheard. Unheard is working to increase African American presence at OU. They sent a 12-page letter of grievances to OU’s President Boren earlier. President Boren said that he agreed with most of the grievances. He was already working with Unheard to implement many of their suggestions before the video surfaced.

The University of Oklahoma has a long-standing divide between “the Greeks” and “independent” students. The Greeks are, in many ways, a separate university, and a law unto themselves.

I don’t believe this video reflects the attitudes of most of the larger student body or faculty at OU. However, it clearly reflects the attitudes of this fraternity. Also, African Americans are underrepresented in the university student body and faculty. I believe that is what President Boren is working with Unheard to change.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon’s national leadership closed the OU chapter.  I hope that, in addition to facilitating the reforms which Unheard is advocating, President Boren will consider a thorough investigation into the Greek system at OU.

Here’s the video.

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Mr President, Whatever Happened to the People’s Right to Know?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Official White House Photo.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a powerful and inspiring speech before a joint session of the United States Congress last week.

The single most compelling thing about this speech was his commitment to Israel. I would give anything if American elected officials actually cared about America the way that he so obviously cares about Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu came before Congress to speak on behalf of Israeli interests. He told us that Israel would stand alone if it had to, but that the days when Jews silently and obediently marched into the gas chambers were over. Jews would defend themselves. He underscored this by bringing Elie Wiesel, the well-known survivor of the Holocaust, to sit in the gallery while he spoke.

The primary concern he raised during his speech was about a possible agreement between the United States and Iran concerning nuclear development in Iran. He is opposed to this agreement on the grounds that it not only will not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, it actually facilitates them in doing this.

President Obama went nuts in a public way in his opposition to the invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu. He felt — rightfully so — that the invitation was a partisan jibe at the White House by a Republican Congress. What he forgot is that he doesn’t have a vote in Congress. Congress can invite whomever they want to address them. The prez has nothing to say about it.

There was the usual tut-tutting in the press, most of it appearing to have been fed to it by the White House. Several members of the Obama Administration gave interviews trying to cast the speech as oh-so-damaging to America’s interests. Then the prez got 50 members of Congress to boycott the speech, making themselves look like party hacks in the process.

I believed at the time and I still believe that the reason the White House was so upset was that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech could very well have served the purpose of drawing the American people into the debate. I don’t think the prez cares all that much what Congress thinks, since Congress has consistently proven itself to be completely indifferent to matters of governance.

I think the president of the United States was upset because there was a possibility that the people of the United States might become informed about this potential agreement and voice opinions of their own. I also think that much of the press were his allies in trying to keep the people from hearing this speech. In other words, I don’t think his objective was Prime Minster Netanyahu talking to Congress. I think the president — and his hacks in the press and Congress — objected to the fact that the American people would hear him do it.

Think about that for a moment. The press is allied with the government to keep the people uninformed, because the President doesn’t want the American people meddling in their own government. That’s what I’m saying.

I’m going to stop this analysis at this point and take it up again tomorrow. I think the comments I’ve made about the run-up to the speech itself and the situation in Washington are enough for us to chew on today. They strike to the heart of the American malaise.

What are you feelings about this?

1. Has Congress abdicated its responsibility and allowed the president to govern as an elected dictator?

2. Do you wish that American elected officials cared as passionately about America as Prime Minister Netanyahu cares about Israel?

3. Was the president angry about the speech because he didn’t want the American people to hear a viewpoint that opposes his plans for this agreement with Iran?

4. Is the press colluding with the White House in keeping the American people in the dark about the agreement?

Those are serious questions. I want you to think them over before we move to the questions raised by the speech itself. We’ll talk about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said tomorrow.

 

The Popes and the Sister Speak Against the Death Penalty

Our popes have spoken with a consistent voice against the death penalty. I agree in general with Pope Francis’ comments on life sentences. Life sentences should be reserved for capital crimes and people who simply cannot be allowed to walk free because that would endanger the public safety. However, I do not support ending life sentences altogether. 

My favorite line in these videos is when St Helen Prejean said, “Gospel of Jesus stretches us.”

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Republic of Korea https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/

Pope Francis on the death penalty and life sentences.

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Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Tadeusz Gorny

Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons by Tadeusz Gorny

Pope Benedict XVI on the death penalty, as well as in favor of marriage.

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Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Don Lavange https://www.flickr.com/photos/wickenden/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by Don Lavange https://www.flickr.com/photos/wickenden/

Sister Helen Prejean on the death penalty and the crucifixion.

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