MY TAKE ON THE TEA PARTY INVASION OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

CRUZEver since the 2010 mid-term elections when the radical far-right Tea Party infiltrated the ranks of the Republican Party, the House of Representatives have produced more partisan gridlock than in the history of our country. Instead of governing like other congresses, because of the Tea Party faction, the most legislative “priorities” brought to the House floor by Speaker Boehner have been over 50 attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).  Along with its vile rhetoric and personal attacks on President Obama and his family, the Tea Party splinter group has succeeded in terrorizing other Republicans with the threat of primary challenges that has produced a severely fractured Republican Party. Not only has this faction been successful in attempting to hold America hostage by failing to increase the 2011 debt limit that caused our perfect credit rating to be downgraded, under the leadership of Ted Cruz, they “shut down” the entire Federal government for over two weeks costing the American taxpayer well over twenty-five million dollars.

 

In a partisan vote on July 30, 2014, inspired by the Tea Party, the House of Representatives approved a resolution to authorize Speaker Boehner to initiate a law suit against the President, something that has never been done before. Five Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic Caucus in opposition to the resolution.

 

In a floor speech during debate on the bill, Boehner said the vote was not about differences between Republicans and Democrats, but was “about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold, and acting decisively when it may be compromised.”
“No member of this body needs to be reminded of what the Constitution states about the president’s obligation to faithfully execute the laws of our nation. No member needs to be reminded of the bonds of trust that have been frayed, of the damage that’s already been done to our economy and to our people,” Boehner said. “Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change? Are you willing to let anyone tear apart what our founders have built?

 

During the week of June 30, 2014, Democrats complained that Republicans will potentially waste millions of dollars with what they called a “political stunt” that they believe will put the GOP on track to impeach the President. “This lawsuit is frivolous. It is also wasteful and without merit,” Democrat Marc Veasey said during debate on the bill, which he voted against. “We must focus on critical legislative priorities instead of political lawsuits that will do nothing but waste millions of taxpayers’ dollars.”

 

Democrat Adam Schiff, who also voted against the measure, questioned whether the House even has standing to sue the President over what he termed “a policy difference.”

 

“The House cannot speak for the Senate which doesn’t agree with its position, and, therefore, cannot represent the legislative branch,” Schiff said during debate on the bill. “This Congress has a remedy: if it does not like the way in which the President has implemented the Affordable Care Act, it can change the law. That would be a far better approach, one more consistent with our separation of powers than this expensive and ill-conceived lawsuit.” And a lot less costly, I might add.

 

A U.S. District Court judge will have the final word whether the House actually has standing to sue the President, but the vote to sue will almost certainly be one of the recurring soundtracks during the countdown to the fall elections.

 

Immediately following the vote, Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, sent out a fundraising email with the subject line “Give Obama Hell!” that sought to stimulate 1,500 new grassroots supporters.

 

The White House reacted quickly by making it clear that the President will continue to take executive actions if Congress continues to block him legislatively. “President Obama is ready and willing to work with Republicans in Congress if they decide to get serious and do something for the American people,” the statement read, “But he is also committed to acting however he can to help more working families — even as Congress won’t.”

 

Republicans have grumbled about a range of Obama administration executive actions, including regulations out of the Environmental Protection Agency. The speaker’s office argues that the President effectively created his own law by waiving the mandate and the penalties that come with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) last year.

 

The delay last year came after concerns from the business community about the law’s requirement to provide coverage for full-time workers. The administration granted a second delay earlier this year, giving employers with between 50 and 99 workers until 2016 to comply.

 

“This is not about impeachment,” Boehner said. “This is about faithfully executing the laws of our country.” But what many say that the speaker is doing is creating the groundwork to impeach the President in order to placate Tea Party Republicans and its right-wing radical base.

 

The Tea Party faction in both the House and Senate, although a minority, actually controls Boehner and the House Republican caucus. Its influence is so strong that head Tea Partier, Senator Ted Cruz, persuaded House Republicans not to vote on a Boehner sponsored measure to provide resources to deal with the immigration and border crises. Rather than risk defeat of his bill, Boehner pulled it from the calendar. In the waning hours before adjourning for the August vacation, Boehner was able to get something passed that basically ignored the bi-partisan Senate Bill and probably will not even be considered by the Senate. It is interesting to note that public approval of the Boehner led House is 7%; even head lice is more popular.

 

Speaker Boehner recently claimed that the House was “working its tail off” and there may be some merit to that statement. For example, they passed over 50 bills to repeal Obamacare, spent millions of taxpayer dollars in hearings on so called Benghazi, Fast and Furious and IRS scandals, caused our credit to be downgraded by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, shut down the government for over two weeks costing over 25 million taxpayer dollars, and recently passed a resolution authorizing the Speaker to sue the President for delaying part of the Health Care law to allow businesses time to adjust, something that House Republicans were in favor of. So to that extent, I guess they have been working albeit accomplishing nothing substantive to move the country forward.

 

Yet Republicans argue that the House has passed over 300 bills that are stalled in the Senate which include radical changes in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, higher taxes on the middle class why lowering taxes on the wealthy, additional tax breaks for corporations, and 51 bills to repeal the Health Care law, just to name a few.

 

In my view, the Boehner House of Representatives will be remembered as the most unproductive and divisive House in history, all because he has allowed the Tea Party to take control especially Senator Ted Cruz, to completely dominate the House Republican caucus. I believe that a majority of the American people is fed up with the obstruction and divisiveness because of this radical fringe of the Republican caucus and will reflect that displeasure at the polls in November 2014, but that’s just my take.

 

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MY TAKE ON THE MURDER IN FERGUSON, MISSOURI

FergusonOver the years, my experience with police officers have been positive. In fact, my oldest son was a 20 year veteran of the Prince George’s County Maryland Police Department, and I have several friends and business associates who are current and retired officers.  However, there have been and continue to be instances across our nation where episodes of police brutality have occurred especially against African Americans. Recent examples include the Eric Gardner homicide in New York on August 1, 2014, resulting from an illegal choke hold by a police officer, and the July 1, 2014, incident in Los Angeles of a bulky California Highway Patrolman on top of Marlene Pinnock, a Black female, punching her unmercifully in the face. In instances like these, police officers who engage in such behavior must be held accountable as any other citizen accused of similar conduct would be. Overall, however, I have great respect and admiration for the act of policing, and applaud the majority of officers who conduct their operations according to good policing standards and principles in the midst of sometimes dangerous situations. However, what transpired in Ferguson, Missouri in recent days was not policing but tantamount to a combat military invasion of an American city. Let me explain.

 

On August 9, 2014, a Ferguson police officer shot and killed eighteen year old African American Michael Brown. There are conflicting accounts between witnesses and the police regarding the shooting, but one thing that is not in dispute is that Michael was unarmed when he was shot several times. The sentiment within the community is that the Ferguson Police Department could not conduct a real, impartial and transparent investigation, and when the police department declined to identify the officer involved, protests began.

 

Almost 68% of the citizens in Ferguson are African American, and just under 30% are white. Five of six city council members are white, the mayor is white, the chief of police is white, and the Ferguson police force has 50 white and only three black officers. A Missouri Attorney General report on racial profiling last year shows that there were 611 searches in Ferguson: 562 of blacks; 47 of whites; one of an Hispanic; and one of a Native American. Although whites make up almost 30% of the population, they represent less than 10% of those stopped according to the report. Even though some may believe that these statistics are accurate because blacks are more likely to commit crimes and should be stopped and searched more frequently, however, in instances where illegal products were found, a higher percentage of whites (34%) who were stopped had contraband when compared to blacks (22%).

 

Michael’s death sparked several days of clashes with angry protesters in the city in the face of a militarized response by county police officers. The officers shot smoke bombs, tear gas canisters, and rubber bullets at demonstrators. The police arrested two reporters, one of whom was wearing his Washington Post press credentials around his neck at the time, the other from the Huffington Post. The police pointed sniper controlled high-powered rifles at unarmed citizens in front of cameras, they refused to identify themselves when making arrests, and had refused to identify or arrest the police officer who killed Michael Brown. According to video, the county police were dressed in military combat uniforms and arrived in machine-gun mounted military armored vehicles. Indeed an out-of-control police department.

 

“All they did was look at us and shoot tear gas,” Pedro Smith, who has participated in the nightly protests, said on Thursday.
President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time about the shooting and the subsequent violence that shocked the nation and threatened to tear apart Ferguson, a town of 21,000 that is nearly 70 percent black and patrolled by a nearly all-white police force.

 

The President said there was “no excuse” for violence either against the police or by officers against peaceful protesters. But a change came on Thursday evening as demonstrators gathered again. Governor Jay Nixon removed the military brigade of the county police from the equation and inserted the Missouri State Highway Patrol under the leadership of African American Captain Ron Johnson. According to reports, the latest protests had a light, almost jubilant atmosphere among the racially mixed crowd, more akin to a block party. The streets were filled with music, free food and even laughter, according to reports. When darkness fell, the point at which previous protests had grown tense, calm continued.

 

“You can feel it. You can see it,” protester Cleo Willis said of the change Thursday. “Now it’s up to us to ride that feeling.”

 

Captain Ron Johnson grew up near Ferguson and commands a region that includes St. Louis County. Together with other high-ranking brass from the Highway Patrol and the county department, Captain Johnson marched alongside protesters on Thursday that provided a police escort for the protestors.

 

“We’re here to serve and protect,” Johnson said. “We’re not here to instill fear.”

 

On Friday morning, August 15, 2014, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson released several police reports and documents during a news conference where he also identified Darren Wilson, a six-year veteran of the Ferguson police department, as Michael killer (my word). According to the police reports, Michael Brown and his friend, Dorian Johnson, were suspected of taking a box of cigars from a store in Ferguson that morning. Jackson said Wilson, along with other officers, was called to the area after a 911 call reporting a “strong-arm” robbery just before noon. He said a dispatcher gave a description of the robbery suspect, and Wilson, who had been assisting on another call, was sent to investigate.

 

But the police chief’s announcement was met with skepticism and anger by a number of community members who attended the news conference, which was hurriedly held at a gas station burned during a night of looting earlier in the week.

 

“He stopped the wrong one, bottom line,” yelled Tatinisha Wheeler, a nurse’s aide who was at the news conference.

 

The police account is that Michael was shot after the officer encountered him and Dorian on the street. The police say that Michael pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled into the street, where Brown was shot multiple times, according to police.

 

Even if Brown committed the robbery and the police account of a physical alteration in the officer’s vehicle is true, how, then, can the police justify the fact that according to witnesses, unarmed Michael Brown had his hands in the air in a surrendered position when he was shot repeatedly by officer Wilson? In my opinion, Officer Wilson’s actions were nothing more than premeditated murder, and he should be arrested and charged with first degree murder. In addition, Michael Brown’s death must generate one of the largest voter turnout in Ferguson history to vote out every member of the Ferguson city council who sit by mutely while the African American citizens of Ferguson are being treated like second-class citizens, but that’s just my take.

 

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THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE-AN INSPIRING DOCUMENT

DeclarationofIndependenceIf you had to think of one document other than the Bible that people can most easily quote almost without thinking about it, that one document would be the Declaration of Independence. The comparison of this document to the Bible is appropriate. Not that the Declaration of Independence is holy in a religious sense, but it has a place of reverence in the hearts of the American people and in the history of the founding of this great nation.

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

This one statement so beautifully illustrates some core principles that show why this document has such a deep impact on the American mind, heart and spirit. The statement that the truths in this document were indeed truths is a profound statement in its own right. The Declaration of Independence does suggest that what is being declared in those pages are theories, possibilities, or even political ideology. These are truths which put them on the same value as statements of values as often taught in a religious setting. Truths are eternal values that are not changed by circumstances, by whomever or whatever is handling the government of the land, or by the whim of politicians. These truths exist above those temporal earthly ideas and live on the plain of the eternal.

 

“Self evident” is a powerful phrase and it the document reflects the founder’s belief in what was called “natural law.” Natural law is the belief system that there are laws that are part of our natural state of existence and that they cannot be taken away (inalienable). These laws are our rights as creations of Almighty God and any government system must recognize these laws because they are above government. It is a basic belief system of the American system that ALL people are entitled to these rights and that they cannot be taken away.

 

The mention of a creator in this powerful document is very important because there are those who would maintain that the separation of church and state tells us that the government is at heart a secular institution. Clearly the founders did not lay the foundation of our country on that premise. They saw the inheritance we as Americans have in our rights and freedoms to be part of our legacy from God and as such, the government has a duty to defend.

 

The Declaration of Independence is truly an amazing document especially when you consider the “primitive” state of the nation when it was written by Thomas Jefferson and signed on July 2, 1776, to become the backbone of our American system of government. It became an often referenced and quoted document, even becoming a part of President Lincoln’s famous inaugural speech when he said with such deep conviction:

 

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

 

Because the words in this amazing document are such a deep part of our American heritage, American history and the American spirit, they are often a crucial part of any study of history in the schools in this country. That is why most school children in every state are so familiar with these words.

 

Perhaps it would do us all well to take some time once a year or so to read the Declaration of Independence either as a private moment of reflection or with our families. What a wonderful fourth of July tradition that would make! Then as we watch the fireworks and other festivities celebrating the birth of our country and its independence, we will have those words of this truly American document fresh in our heart to remind us that it was our creator that gave us our freedoms and independence and nobody has the right to ever take them away, but that’s just my take.

 

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