Crisis, Constitution, and Bible Classes

It is an attempted power grab, no two ways about it, and no one should really be surprised that President Trump actually went ahead by declaring a national emergency at our southern border. What should, perhaps, surprise us is that the Republican Party is almost completely silent, if not complicit, with this unconstitutional move. And, no, the 1976 National Emergencies Act does not give the President the authority to do what he is attempting. As the Brennan Center for Justice pointed out recently, nearly all cases of declared emergencies have involved foreign governments, outside terroristic threats, and gross human rights violations, never the President of the United States circumventing funds already appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the Executive Branch.

Of course, one could argue the finer points of the law, and sooner than later the Courts will decide the proper interpretation and possible application of the National Emergencies Act, which will in all likelihood make its way to the Supreme Court where we can only hope and pray a majority of Justices are faithful enough to the Constitution, not to mention frightened enough by the prospect of giving the President so much power, that they will rule Trump’s attempted move illegal. In the meantime, we might ask some simple but very sensible questions about all this … questions that, really, any good Republican should be asking him/herself right now, such as:

  1. Why did President Trump fail to get his billions of dollars in border wall funding during his first two years of office when the GOP controlled both chambers of Congress, especially if it was so imperative?
  2. When Trump did not receive adequate funding for the Wall, why did he not declare a national emergency in 2017 or 2018? Did this “national emergency” just suddenly arise in 2019, after the Democrats took back control of the House? Hmmm …. suspicious at best.
  3. If there really is a national emergence at the southern border, where’s the proof? No, we mean good, solid evidence rooted in reality, which begs the question: Why is illegal immigration at a nearly 50-year low if there really is a crisis along the Mexican border?
  4. Does this crisis primarily have to do with narcotics and other contraband? But studies and reports have consistently shown that most illegal drugs come into the United States through legal ports of entry… So how does this allow President Trump to declare a national emergence along our southern border?

The most important question I have for Republicans ~ and I’m really kind of frightened I even have to ask this ~ is, “Why in the world would you stand idly by and allow, if not support, any President so obviously circumventing the Constitution? Why would you … how could you support someone striking at the very balance of power we have enjoyed in our country since its foundation? Do you not realize that this sort of action threatens to erode the very foundation of our nation?”

We can only hope and pray the challengers to Trump’s power grab are successful, that they prevail. Even back in the 1930s, good ole FDR had to be challenged for his own attempted power grab, and he was … and his challengers were, thankfully, successful. However, bear in mind that many of his challengers were, as a matter of fact, from his own party. Sadly, this is seemingly not the case today!

Bible in the Classrooms?

Some states evidently have proposals on the table to offer Bible classes in public schools. Proponents offer all kinds of arguments for doing this, such as: Judeo-Christian Scriptures contain good teaching to which children need to be exposed, especially in character development. Also, the Bible constitutes some of the great literature of the world, and it has also been an integral part of the history and heritage of the United States.

Besides all this, the Bible class would only be offered as an elective, not as a requirement, so parents should not be offended because their children would not be forced into religious instruction. So there should presumably be no problem, and President Trump is evidently all for it … and at this point we might make the salient observation that he himself could use a good class or two in biblical competency! At any rate, the real question is: Would this be a good idea assuming it is not ultimately deemed unconstitutional. (And, of course, if state legislatures pass bills for Bible classes, even as electives, there will be court challenges.)

Well, there are probably many objections. For instance: Why offer an elective in the Bible and not, say, the Qur’an? Or the Upanishads? Or the Bhagavad Gita? Or the Analects of Confucius? One can easily argue that these religious writings also comprise part of the world’s great literature, and that they offer good teachings conducive to character development. Of course, they have not, perhaps, played a major role in the history and heritage of America, yet it is also true that many of these important spiritual/religious works were studied by educated Americans as part of a classical education, including many (if not most) of the Founding Fathers. (Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, for example, had personal copies of the Qur’an.)

But one additional concern, fairly simple and straightforward, is the question of just who would write the curriculum, and who would actually teach the class. Imagine offering a Bible class in southeast Alabama created by, say, Paulist Press and taught by the local, Roman Catholic priest! This would not go over at all, of course, even if the class were an elective and even if the priest received no monetary compensation. Most folks in this area of the country just would not put up with it, their attitude being: “How dare you when the overwhelming majority of us are Southern Baptists, and we don’t believe in prayers to Mary and the saints, the real presence of Christ in Holy Communion, etc. etc.!” So you see, this could be a problem: Who would end up teaching these classes?

Personally, I would not really object to a comparative world religions class offered as an elective to, maybe, juniors and seniors with curriculum produced by, say, MacMillan or Oxford and taught by an astute PhD in Religion (with said PhD eared from a fully-accredited institution of higher learning.) Such a course would possibly further expose students to the various cultures and belief systems of the Earth, which could be very helpful, indeed … especially since we live here in the “melting pot of the world.”

Advertisements

Another Silly Meme on Socialism

MonopolyWhat an excellent example for Capitalists to use to try to prove some point against socialism: The infamous Monopoly game! Read this meme and then think about it for a minute. Digest the contents of this and try not to regurgitate. Now… 

Ever wonder how Monopoly got its name? Because the objective was to buy up all properties, brutally running everyone else out of business, which meant out of their livelihoods, too, so no competition was left… It was literally the game to establish monopoly, i.e. winner literally takes all, leaving everyone else with nothing. Now that’s Unbridled Capitalism in a nutshell! (Of course, it is just a game … and one I’ve always personally enjoyed!)

But there more to this meme that strikes me as humorous. For example: In the game as it is, every player gets exactly $200 when passing Go, no more, no less. That’s equality of income, my friends. And anyone who lands on Income Tax must pay 10% or $200. Anyone who lands on Luxury Tax must pay $75, whether they have luxuries or not! LOL Anyone landing on Go To Jail must go to jail, and anyone landing on Free Parking … well, they get free parking! Imagine that: parking that’s free, income equality, justice for everyone across the board, equitability in taxation, not to mention equal distribution of wealth at the onset of the game… Wow! Even the game of Monopoly has built-in socialistic elements! Who’d have thought???

Perpetuating Another Myth: Government Funding of Abortion

I am and always have been pro-life; however, I have always tried to be careful in the information I share on this oh-so controversial topic … and I’ve encouraged others to please do the same, but I kind of got in trouble the other day when I replied to a misinformation meme that said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the government funded adoptions instead of abortions?” I simply pointed out to my fellow pro-lifer that the government does not fund abortions per the 1977 Hyde Amendment. Planned Parenthood receives approximately $500 million per year as of 2016, none of which may be used for abortion procedures. It’s very important to keep our fact straight! He was not very happy with me.

So God Told Nehemiah to Rebuild the Wall

Evidently, somewhere along the way in the debate over Trump’s proposed Wall along the Mexican border, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must have asked, “What would Jesus do?” I personally don’t remember her asking this, but many evangelicals started circulating a meme claiming that God told the Old Testament character, Nehemiah, to reconstruct the Wall around ancient Jerusalem; therefore, Jesus would presumably tell us to build our President’s “big, beautiful” Wall! The meme ends by saying to Pelosi something like, “So stop asking what Jesus would do and just read the Bible”

Huh? God told Nehemiah to rebuild the Wall around Jerusalem sometime in the fifth century B. C. (or BCE, if you prefer), so Jesus of Nazareth would instruct the 21st century United States to build a wall of protection along the Mexican border. Right? Yeah, right! This is so convoluted it’s not even funny, but folks shooting this meme around are actually quite serious, and will even add the fact that there is (supposedly) a wall around heaven, or the New Jerusalem, as it’s described in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation, perhaps the most symbolic and esoteric book in the Bible.

Of course, Nehemiah was also a eunuch, so maybe we should think about something similar for our POTUS??? 

Ah, but the lengths some will go to in order to prove a point… Ridiculous but often times funny, really! More later, and till then blessings to one and all!

 

Trafficking in People: What Solutions?

Thank heavens Republicans, Democrats, and the President were able to come to an agreement to at least temporarily reopen government, even if it is only for three weeks. At least the 800, 000 workers who have gone without pay will not only now go back to paying jobs, but will also receive very much needed backpay. Our prayers continue for them and their families.

In his remarks about this temporary agreement, though, President Trump used his time to make yet another pitch for the Wall. Well, we’ve heard his claims over and over again, and in this blog (as well as many other blogs and outlets), these claims have been reviewed … mostly. One that I personally have overlooked, however, has been his claim that thousands of human trafficking victims are smuggled across our southern border.

My apologies go out to the President and his supporters for this tragic oversight. Human trafficking is an extremely horrible problem involving tens of thousands of individuals “trafficked into the U. S. yearly,” according to the U. S. Department of State. And, indeed, the “Department of State also expresses that Mexico is the primary country of origin
for trafficking victims…” So, we do have a problem here, no doubt about it.

The U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency recently reported:

In fiscal year 2016, HSI initiated 1,029 investigations with a nexus to human trafficking and recorded 1,952 arrests, 1,176 indictments, and 631 convictions; 435 victims were identified and assisted.

Impressive though this is, when comparing the above figures with the total number of individuals being trafficked into the country annually, we clearly have an awful lot of work to do, including better securing our southern border. How is this best achieved, though? Is the President correct in surmising that a strong, tall border wall from “sea to shining sea” will almost completely cut out human trafficking into the United States?

Several important factors in combatting human trafficking from Mexico involves Mexico itself, that is: Need for increased awareness, the strengthening of anti-trafficking laws, greater dedication to the enforcement of those laws, more compassionate response to and support of victims, and other necessary changes. Beyond this, though, there are some actions the United States can take.

According to Human Rights Along the U.S.-Mexico Border, which is a compilation of articles written on the subject, there needs to be “a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policy so that more people can come to the U.S. legally, instead of risking their lives and their livelihoods upon entrance.” The proponents of this idea also argue for “more effective usage and promotion of T-Visas.”

Another source, “Prostitution and Trafficking of Women and Children from Mexico to the United States,” argues that U.S. policies need specific improvements, including amending the requirement that “the burden of proof falls on the victims to show evidence of force, fraud, or coercion,” increasing victim services, and building stronger bilateral approaches with Mexico.

Another possible solution to this admittedly tragic problem is to build a wall along the Mexican border, which is just what President Trump has proposed as an almost fail-proof deterrent to illegal crossings … so the claim goes. However, Dr. Alexandra Still of Pepperdine University notes that “this option also is expensive, would take years to complete, and most likely would not be effective.” She continues to explain:

Migrants who are desperate to come to the U.S. … will find a way to continue coming … (so) this wall could prove useless in time. Furthermore, if this policy option did, in fact, lower levels of trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico, it would also trap people in vulnerable situations in Mexico, and it might increase trafficking between Mexico and other countries. This option violates all three criteria because it does not protect vulnerable persons, it is not enforceable, and it could increase tensions between the two countries.

Doubtless debate will continue on how best to counter human trafficking, but there are probably better options than building an extremely expensive wall that might ultimately prove ineffective anyway. For now, each of us should be both aware and vigilant. If you are in the United States and notice any suspicious activity in your community, call the ICE Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. For more information visit https://www.ice.gov/features/human-trafficking

Also of interest, and consulted for this article, is Pepperdine Policy Review: Solving Human Trafficking Between Mexico and the United States by Alexandra Still.

One Mall, Three Groups: Who’s to Blame?

So who is to blame for the raucous, divisive incident at the National Mall involving three very different groups: white, male Covington Catholic High School students, members of the radical Black Hebrew group, and/or the Indigenous Peoples, who were present to march for world peace? The media and commentators have been all over this story, which is, unfortunately, emblematic of the disunity and dissention in the United States today, and which tragically occurred the very weekend before we reverently remembered the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

First off, let me say unequivocally that no matter who “started it,” the very adult Black Hebrews ought to be held accountable for their incendiary, vulgar shouts and taunts at the high schools students, and should even be held legally accountable for any and all threats made against those boys, (and we are, after all, talking about minors.) There is simply no excuse for calling high school boys “incest babies” and other gross names, and threatening to “harvest the organs” of an African American student. And, by the way, where is the outrage over this?

Second, though, the chaperones of the Covington Catholic High School boys are culpable in all this if for no other reason than the fact that they failed to move the students away from the situation, that is, away from the Black Hebrews. Where were they, anyway, and what were they thinking? Mature, levelheaded adults would have removed the boys some reasonable distance from the vulgar, incendiary group and then surrounded them as a kind of protective barrier. This is, after all, the sort of thing chaperones are supposed to do, yet these boys were left to basically choose their own course.

Third, where the students themselves are concerned, instead of backing away from the Black Hebrews, they formed a semi-circle around them, began chanting “school spirit” chants (ostensibly, at least), hooping and hollering and jumping up and down… One young man even ripped off his shirt and started doing a kind-of-sort-of-whatever “dance,” much to the amusement of his classmates. None of this served to diffuse the situation at all, and even the junior, Nick Sandmann, whose image we see smiling, or smirking, at Mr. Phillips said as much in his interview on the Today Show. 

Fourth, when Mr. Phillips and the other Indigenous Peoples entered between the two groups ~ the Black Hebrews and Covington Catholic High ~ Sandmann and his classmates should have simply turned and walked away some distance. Again, even Sandmann now says as much … but they didn’t do this. Instead, the junior stood his ground in order to show Mr. Phillips that he was not going to be, in his words, “provoked” or “intimidated.” What??? No viewing of any of the video footage would lead anyone to believe that Mr. Phillips was attempting to provoke or intimidate.

Besides, when did it become appropriate for some young, wet-behind-the-ears, whipper-snapper to stand his adolescent ground in front of an adult, Marine veteran? No “if, ands or buts” about it, this was just plain disrespectful, but again, where were the chaperones? Yes, these students had been subjected to an hour-long (at least) barrage of insults from the Black Hebrews, but when Mr. Phillips intervened they had yet another opportunity to back off to some safer place. Instead they directed their hooping and hollering, now with offensive tomahawk chops, toward the Indigenous Peoples. Wow … Just wow!

Finally, who in the world was stupid enough to allow students to wear any political clothing or paraphernalia to a Right to Life march? Of all the important issues in the world, one would think the Sanctity of Life is one that does not need to be politicized … at least not more than it already has been. Aside from the fact that many, many people consider MAGA hats (and shirts and whatever) to be offensive for a variety of reasons, why would any religious school allow its students to display/advertise politics on or at the school and school functions? Just enforce a non-descript, uniform dress code!

Well, I will say at least one more thing about all this, which is a broader point and, perhaps, a take-away lesson, and that is: Perhaps young people should not be carted to state capitals and D. C. for marches and demonstrations. Yes, it’s important for high school students to learn about civics, history, the political process, etc. but maybe they’re not quite mentally and emotionally developed enough to actually be directly involved? Or at least if they are, then they really should be held to the same standards as adult participants… No pass for the stupidity of youth!

Peace in the Middle

Lady Liberty cries as angry words fly and malice stains the palates
Of youth untaught in the ways of grace when coming face to face
With elder glory in story boldly told in chanting prayer for peace,
And yet on the other side another mob from another world of hate,
Who throw out the bait by taunting, vaunting their own religiosity
In some monstrosity of twisted history with apocalyptic prophecy,
While one veteran man stands in the gap to quell the rising storm
As the foundations are being shaken to awaken our sleeping souls

Local Papers Tell More Than You Might Think…

Local, small town newspapers may tell more than you might think, perhaps especially in what they don’t say. I know. I worked for a small town paper in east-central Alabama, wrote freelance articles for another half-dozen papers, and have generally followed smaller, local publications anyway. And one thing’s for sure: Small town papers respond to and cover what’s important to local residents. After all, it’s their bread and butter.

For example, the paper I worked for ran a few AP (Associated Press) articles, but for the most part covered very typical small town stuff. You know, last night’s high school basketball game, the latest meeting of the garden club, town council and country commission meetings, a new traffic light to be installed at a “heavy” traffic intersection. Typical stuff for small town papers.

However, and this is important, if a larger issue directly affected our area, we’d report on it. For example, when I was with the paper we had an issue with water usage along the Chattahoochee River. The city of Atlanta was sucking up large quantities of water from the River, thus lowering water levels along the Chattahoochee further south. This directly impinged upon our area, so … we reported on it, albeit from a local perspective.

This is true, I believe, of most local papers, especially smaller ones. Ordinarily you expect them to report on typical, small town matters. They should. Again, it’s their bread and butter. Subscribers can, and do, easily get national and international news from the larger papers, from radio, television networks, and now the Internet. Consequently, what they want from their local paper is … well, local news. Period.

This is a big part of the reason I delved into local, small town newspapers in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, particularly focusing along the Mexican border, when trying to determine whether or not there is really a crisis there. And what did I find? I ended up searching through more than 40 such papers and found only a handful, perhaps six or seven, that addressed border issues and illegal immigration at all, and those publications pretty much offered the same conclusion: There is no crisis along the border.

What really struck me, though, was the fact that out of those 40+ papers I consulted, the overwhelming majority had nothing whatsoever to say about any border problems, illegal immigration, drugs and crime (supposedly) flooding in from Mexico. Nothing. Period. So because of my own background, I knew there must not really be any “crisis” at all.

You see, I know that if there really were, and if it were directly impacting those towns and cities, the papers would be reporting it. The silence, in this case, told me more than what was reported in those other, very few local publications. Add to this the fact that, according to other larger news outlets, residents along the border are actually reacting negatively to the (false) claim that there’s a “crisis” and you know with hardly any doubt that this frenzy has been manufactured by our current President. 

Sad, really, but before signing off on this article, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of the honest, hard working, small town newspaper reporters, who keep their constituency informed so well day after day, week after week. They deserve our applause and our respect!


Read “Beyond Washington: What the Locals Have to Say About the Border ‘Crisis’” and Beyond Washington: What the Locals Have to Say About the Border ‘Crisis,’ Part II

Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’ Part II

In yesterday’s “Beyond Washington, What Do the Locals Say About the Border ‘Crisis?’” we looked at what New Mexico and Arizona residents, local papers, and Border Patrol officials have to say about the President’s proposed Wall and the alleged “crisis” at our shared border with Mexico. Today, let’s at least glance at the State of Texas, especially since POTUS just visited there to drum up support for the Wall, and see if we can get at least a bird’s eye view of what the situation looks like from there.

President Trump visited the city of McAllen, Texas on Thursday, January 10th, to advance his case for his promised Wall along the Southwest border as an essential necessity in combating illegal immigration, especially focusing on drug smuggling and other contraband, terrorism, gangs and other critical problems allegedly tied directly to illegal immigrants crossing over from Mexico. His simple point remains the same as it has since at least 2015: The U. S. needs a wall all along the Mexican border for security.

If this is true, then one might logically expect the fairly elected mayor of McAllen to agree with the President. One might reasonably expect the mayor to fully support the President’s assertion that there is, indeed, a “crisis” at the border … but this is simply not the case. Following Trump’s visit, McAllen’s mayor, Jim Darling, told Time pointblank, “We don’t feel a crisis in our city… We live day to day in a very safe community.”

Darling further pointed out that McAllen is “a vibrant area” and “the safest city in the state of Texas, and we’re right on the border, so that kind of rhetoric,” about crisis, “resonates and sells newspapers, but it hurts our area.” He added the fact that McAllen had “no murders last year in a city of 150,000…” In a city of that size, especially along a border in “crisis,” one would expect things to be grimmer.

Furthermore, Julie Hillrichs, who represents a coalition of border mayors, judges, and other officials, told Time that “the real way to increase security at the border would not be a wall, but increased investment in the legal ports of entry that already exist in their area. ‘We have never supported the wall,” Hillrichs says. “The Border Coalition has consistently over the years stated we believe the wall is a wasted investment.'”

But the Attorney General for Texas, Ken Paxton, claimed fencing along the border in El Paso has helped to substantially reduce crime in that city, which, he further claimed, had previously had one of the highest crime rates in the nation. “After that fence went up and separated Juarez, which still has an extremely high crime rate, the crime rates in El Paso now are some of the lowest in the country,” Paxton said. “So we know it works.”

El Paso may not quite agree, however. In a January 10, 2019, article the El Paso Times investigated the AG’s claim and found that this is simply “not the case.” The paper further, and importantly, explained:

Looking broadly at the last 30 years, the rate of violent crime reached its peak in 1993, when more than 6,500 violent crimes were recorded. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of violent crimes fell by more than 34 percent and less than 2,700 violent crimes were reported. The border fence was authorized by Bush in 2006, but construction did not start until 2008. From 2006 to 2011 — two years before the fence was built to two years after — the violent crime rate in El Paso increased by 17 percent. 

Point in fact, in January 2018, community leaders and law enforcement officials in El Paso credited a number of developments, programs and efforts that have resulted in lowering crime rates … not border fencing. 

Meanwhile, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Trump during his Thursday visit to McAllen, except it wasn’t really a discussion. Saenz said, following the event, he felt rather “disenfranchised” because he was, quite frankly, not able (or allowed) to make any contributions whatsoever. On Friday, January 11th, the Laredo Morning News reported him saying:

There was a disconnect. Maybe he (Trump) gets information, but really he ought to take into account the border leaders, the mayors and county judges – input that he didn’t get because there was no opportunity for us to provide that information… We need to make our own evaluations locally to come up with the best plan.

The editorial board of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times judge the proposed Wall would be “like setting fire to billions of dollars,” and that “money would be better spent on stronger administration and enforcement at the ports of entry and better technological monitoring of the remote places where Donald Trump envisions a tall physical barrier.” In its December 2018 article, simply concludes that the Wall is “not the solution.”

Once again, seemingly not much support for the Wall, at least along the borders in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll take a look at California, or more appropriately southern Cal, to gain some local perspective there. So far, though, it seems folks along the border, with the majority of Americans, favor better and tighter border security, but by other more effective means than a wall.