Making fun of the president is now a deportable offense. Peter Bywaters is a white Englishman. He’s not even at the top of Trump’s priorities. He still got deported.
by David T. Bruce
United States Representative Jim Moran recently bemoaned that the members of Congress are underpaid. His argument is that the current annual salary of $174,000 is insufficient to maintain a decent lifestyle in Washington D.C. (Finally, the working classes of America may have something in common with their representatives.) Yet, government data shows that the typical household in Washington earns in excess of $60,000, which is more than any other metropolitan area in the country. Given that, we can safely argue that our nation’s representatives seem to be doing relatively well then compared to the majority of the nation. As well, the impact of serving as a representative has not been overlooked by the government.
The Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) is provided to each representative. This one-time allowance is intended to offset personal and official expenses that occur as a result of fulfilling his or her obligations. This is in addition to the salary and benefits provided to the politician.
The average MRA is $1,446,009.
Representative Moran further received campaign contributions in excess of $424,000 for the 2014 election campaign cycle. This figure does not factor in fundraising events on his behalf. Someone should also point out to Moran that approximately half of all congressional members are millionaires.
Serving the United States as a representative or a senator is intended to be a privilege, not a right of birth or a benefit of being independently wealthy.
For a man who works 115 days a year on the average, $174,000 is not too bad. That averages out to approximately $189 an hour, assuming an 8-hour work day. I would like to volunteer for an opportunity to do that job. But I can’t afford to play, because in our government, you have to have money to make money.
The government by the people no longer exists. Jim Moran’s statement further illustrates how tearfully, shamefully out of touch our elected representatives are with their constituency.
by David T. Bruce
Schools across the United States have adopted anti-bullying programs, and many school districts have reported varying degrees of success in minimizing bullying in their schools. Virtually all of us have been witness to, victims of or perpetrators of bullying. And even if all schools have not found success implementing programs that curb bullying, at least awareness about bullying has been raised across the nation. For those students who may look or behave differently than their peers, there is support. This is a good thing.
However . . .
If a student happens to be gay or lesbian (or even perceived as such), that student is still more likely to be bullied than another student, with almost two thirds of students expressing concern for their safety in school as a result of their sexual orientation. And three fourths of teens in the LGBT community have acknowledged being bullied as a result of their sexual orientation, with little or no intervention from teachers or school districts. And while the verbal and physical bullying cited in these reports is most obvious, perhaps the most prevalent bullying is of an indirect nature.
Indirect bullying – a more covert type of bullying that often goes unseen and includes excluding people from social groups – not only prevails in our schools but in our society as well, and if we are going to eradicate bullying in our schools, we have to eliminate bullying in our society as well, starting with our government leaders.
A civil rights battle is currently being waged throughout the United States, as state governments wrestle with the social, ethical and religious implications associated with allowing LGBT couples to wed. While some government leaders have opted to bring down the barriers that prevent couples marrying regardless of sexual orientation, others choose to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples, thereby excluding them from a particular social group. To be blunt: this is bullying.
Most recently Utah Governor Gary Herbert has announced that he will not recognize same-sex marriages recently married in the state, even thought the U.S. Constitution affords gay couples equal protection under the law. This is not the example we should be setting for those students whom we are telling that bullying is unacceptable. How can we hope that bullying will be eliminated from schools and that students will grow to see the worth in all people, while a governor indirectly bullies a group of people because they do not fit his social, ethical and religious schema? There are enough bullies on the playground. We don’t need them in our government.
by David and Shadra Bruce
So, the issue, then, is that the Syrian government allegedly used chemical weapons against its citizens. President Obama has been quoted as saying that the use of such weapons would cross a “red line”, prompting intervention by the United States. But does it make sense for our government, or any government, to respond by taking more lives?
And seriously: The Bush vs. Obama debate is old. Who knew what and when is irrelevant. Both men allegedly had America’s best interests at heart at one time or another, and the only interests that they or our government have demonstrated is that of corporate and offshore interests. Both Bush and Obama are cut from the same cloth, and instead of renewing this debate every time a domestic or global incident occurs, it may make more sense to address the larger issue.
Granted, a government killing its own citizens with chemical weapons is a crime. But how is killing additional people more acceptable? The true crime is that millions of people will find themselves displaced while governments engage in a global pissing contest. The true crime is that millions of dollars will be spent on killing more people (just to make a point) while simultaneously sentencing people in America to death for lack of food, shelter and health care. The money spent on global conflicts could be spent on taking care of the poor and elderly in America. This is not about Bush or Obama. This is about a government as corrupt (if not more so) as the one we broke ties with over 200 years ago.
We have spent over $4 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead of spending money on killing more people, what if we used this money on providing aid to Syrian refugees? What if we used a fraction of that money to affect repairs in the countries we have scarred with our search for phantom WMDs and war criminals? A more aggressive stance in terms of sanctioning governments who fund Syria may prove more affective, less deadly and less costly.
We do not need any more wars. We need to take care of the people here at home. We need to focus on strengthening the economy. We need to focus on our veterans and saving lives, not putting more soldiers in harm’s way. We need to make sure every American has access to healthcare. We need to address poverty and the growing gap between the poor and the rich. We need to humble ourselves enough to realize that we are not the country that can save the whole world any more. War – any kind of military action – is not the answer in Syria or anywhere else in the world.
Haven’t we had enough of the political and military grandstanding?
Drought is inevitable, but famine is not. The current crisis in the Horn of Africa is the result of a tragic combination of factors that are man-made, including abnormally high food prices, lack of governance and security in Somalia, and a historic lack of investment in long-term agricultural development in the Horn. Over the past few years, we lost the political will and public support necessary to prevent the famine – and its causes. As a consequence, tens of thousands of children have died.
We have also missed the opportunity to help 200 million people from poor farming families lift themselves out of poverty. Communities in Africa can cope with droughts and natural disasters. But we need donors to put resources toward seeds, irrigation and teaching farmers new growing techniques. We need leaders to invest in early warning systems and national social safety net programs.
Congress can help keep our commitment to farmers in developing countries by fully funding Feed the Future— a life-changing USAID initiative that is investing in long-term agricultural development and could help put an end to famine for good.
Please sign our petition to Congress calling on them to fund this vital program:
At the base of the Statue of Liberty, these words are carved in stone: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” It was this welcoming, open-door policy that made America the land that dreams were made of. There was no gatekeeper at Ellis Island who said, “Oh, we didn’t really mean that. Your skin is too dark. You have too many kids. You think differently than we do. Your religion is wrong.”
But now we live in a society in which the state of Arizona can pass a law that allows any state or public official, including law enforcement, to request proof of citizenship from anyone they suspect of being an illegal alien. How frightening is it that we are regressing at such a pace and that so many fundamental rights that embodied the spirit of America are being systematically chipped away? The only way a public official or peace officer can suspect someone, at face value, of being an illegal alien is because of skin color. This law is discriminatory and targeted at specific populations.
Georgia (It is easy to get confused, but we are referring to the state within North America in this example, not the country that was formerly part of the USSR) followed suit and passed a nearly identical law that gives a ridiculous amount of power to police officers to question any person about their right to be there based solely on racial profiling. While we were born in America, as were our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, Shadra has dark hair and exotic enough looks that she would fear being a target should she happen to travel in Arizona or Georgia.
The current legislation by Arizona and Georgia suggests that in comparison the potential exists for citizens of the European Union to have more freedom to get around in their home countries, where the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights mandates that “profiling will be considered as discriminatory (and therefore unlawful) where police powers are exercised in relation to individuals and the only or main reason for this is their race, ethnicity or religion.”
This is the United States, and immigration and identification requirements should be addressed on a national level. We or no one else should have to carry a birth certificate to travel through Arizona or Georgia, and we or no one else should have to worry that our children might be targeted because of the color of their hair, the color of their skin, or what religious artifacts they wear.
And if we are empowering peace officers to determine whether or not someone should reside here, what’s next: Laws that prevent us from speaking out against the government or a majority religion? Will we someday have to show that we have been baptized into an acceptable religion?
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, when the KGB started in what was the USSR, they were “responsible for foreign intelligence, domestic counterintelligence, technical intelligence, protection of the political leadership, and the security of the country’s frontiers.” They evolved, however, conducting “most of its activities domestically, on Soviet soil and against Soviet citizens.”
With the growing fear of terrorism and the threat to entitlement benefits, the perceived duty to place blame or eliminate probable causes blinds us to the truth that we do not take to heart that all people are created equally. Like the Communist administrations we condemned years ago for crimes against citizens, we tread dangerous ground when we propose that officials may essentially interrogate someone walking on the street with no more reason than a suspicion that someone may not have the right to be an American based solely on the way they look.
by David and Shadra Bruce
Memorial Day is often marked as the launch of the summer travel season. Plenty of people are traveling (even with gas prices as high as they are) and sales of beer and potato chips give a little boost to the economy. But today is about more than backyard barbecues and three-day weekends. We mark this day on the calendar as a tribute to men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country. It is important to us that we take a moment to remind our kids why we take time away from school and work.
Memorial Day was created to pay tribute to those who have fought and died for these liberties, and it gives us an opportunity to remind our children and ourselves of why the United States is the country that it is. Citizens are encouraged to visit memorials and cemeteries, display the U.S. and POW/MIA flags, and pledge aid to disabled veterans.
The two of us love any excuse to celebrate, and we do enjoy the time we spend with friends and family on these days; however, those have served and given their lives are to be honored, and we don’t want that to be overshadowed by the fun. We don’t preach to the kids about the day, but we feel that their knowledge of why we have Memorial Day is very important. We talk to the kids and tell them why the day is significant; our hope is to fill them with pride and an understanding of our nation’s history. Our children, and we as a family, enjoy the holidays we celebrate as well as a multitude of privileges. We travel, we enjoy the outdoors, we enjoy music and movies, we laugh, and we play. Easily, we could forget why we have these privileges, and many of us do.
Debates rage worldwide regarding the actions of the United States over the past decade. As well, our kids are aware of our ongoing frustration with the political climate in this country as some of our rights begin to feel infringed upon. We teach our children that it is okay to question and express concern. Our right to debate this (or any) issue is as important, if not more important, than the debate itself. We teach the children that they are free to disagree with our government’s actions and that the power they have as citizens is in the right to assemble and the right to vote.
Regardless of how we feel about the actions of our government, we teach the kids that those that have enlisted with any branch of the military are fighting for them; they are fighting for us; they are fighting for their country. The soldier’s place is not necessarily to debate; their place is to defend. Many have lost their lives doing so. This is the point we try to make with our kids on Memorial Day.
Politics do not have a place in our home on Memorial Day. In our minds and in our hearts, this day is for those that have fought and died for everyone in the United States, regardless of politics or religion. This is not the day to debate just or unjust causes. This is not the day to debate government policies. This is the day to celebrate our nation and our heroes. More so, this is the day to remember . . .