More on refugees

I am very grateful for all the judges who have heard various cases on the administration immigration/refugee/travel ban. Their rulings have resulted in a stay on implementation, so refugees and visa holders are once again able to enter the United States, having already completed visa requirements, which, in the case of refugees, are extensive, taking 18 to 24 months to complete, after having gone through initial United Nations resettlement clearance.

I was heartened by our church service this morning. As it happens, our gospel readings in recent weeks have come from the Sermon on the Mount. Last week, we heard the Beatitudes; this week, we heard about not hiding our light under a bushel, but letting it shine for all to see. The hymns, which were chosen weeks ago to accord with the readings, were striking about all finding “a rightful place.” Given the refugee crisis, I was especially glad to sing this text from “Christ, Be Our Light” by Bernadette Farrell (published by OCP, 1993, 2011):

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Our regular pastor was ill, so a priest from another area parish came to say Mass. In his homily, he directly asked the President to look again at the refugee situation and told us that our bishop in Syracuse was also dedicating a Mass this morning in solidarity with refugees and exiles. There was a statement from the Bishop in our church bulletin, denouncing the executive order on refugees as un-Christian and un-American.

(Of course, if I were a deacon preaching today, I would have gone further into other encroachments on human rights that fly in the face of social justice, but that is a much too long and complicated story for a blog.)

I realize that we are in for more difficulties with DT’s executive orders and appointments and goals and plans, but the outpouring of people from all faiths, backgrounds, and parts of the country standing up for our Constitution and our moral and ethical values gives us strength to serve and protect one another, especially the most vulnerable.

Refugees definitely fall into the category of most vulnerable. The Syracuse diocese looks forward to welcoming the 220 refugees initially affected by the executive order as soon as new travel arrangements can be made. Other parts of the country are preparing to welcome thousands more.

We are living out the mission to which we are called by our country and by our convictions.

doomed to repeat history – or just doomed?

I haven’t been using most of the (optional) prompts that have been provided for Just Jot It January, but I will start off using today’s, which is history.

It begs the question, “Does DT know/understand any history?”

If he did, would he be spouting the slogan “America First” which has disturbing connotations from the World War II era?

Would he have signed an order to ban Syrian refugees on Holocaust Remembrance Day, inviting comparisons to the shameful and cruel turning away of Jewish refugees trying to flee Hitler?

Does he understand the separation of powers in the United States Constitution? In some instances at the airports, executive branch personnel refused to carry out the order of federal judges. There will be numerous lawsuits filed challenging the legality of the executive order. US immigration law prohibits discrimination due to national origin, which this executive order clearly violates.

It also disturbs me that DT reneged on the promises made to visa, refugee, and green card applicants. A local example: A staff member at my parents’ retirement community is a long-time US resident and green card holder. He planned to leave in a few days to visit family in Iraq. Now, he won’t be able to go. Even if he can get to the Consulate, which is several hours away, and is granted a waiver, he may be leery of leaving the country because the administration has already shown that they are not honoring his green card as equal to that of someone from France or China – or Saudi Arabia, the country from which most of the 9/11 terrorists originated.

I have written often about my fear of Trump, which I am trying to mobilize into energy to fight for social and environmental justice in the face of his threats and actions.  These last two days make it even more difficult to not be afraid. Does DT think that he is above the laws of the United States? Does he think he makes the laws? The legislative and judicial branches need to assert their independent authority, as our system is designed. Sadly, only a few Congressional Republicans have spoken out against the executive orders on immigration.

Again, people power has been a source of hope. Protesters appeared at the airports where travellers were being detained despite their having valid visas and passports. Lawyers skilled in civil rights, Constitutional law, and immigration law rushed to help the affected people and filed emergency suits to keep them from being deported.

And this is only the second week of the administration.

I feel like a firefighter who is being summoned to multiple locations at the same time.

So much work to be done. So many people to try to protect.

Not knowing whence the next alarm comes.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/29/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-29th17/

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SoCS: What would you do?

People sometimes ask themselves, “What would you do if…?”

We in the United States are now getting the answer to to those hypotheticals when it comes to questions of what we would did if our liberties, rights, and Constitutional protections were threatened.

The answer is “We organize and fight!”

I don’t mean fighting in a physical sense; we are fighting non-violently. We are marching, calling and writing our members of Congress and the president, getting the word out in traditional and social media, and working through established organizations.

One of the heartening things to me is that we are helping each other with various causes, even if we are not directly affected by them.

I have been involved with various organizations for environmental and social justice for years. Most of them would co-ordinate with some other closely related organizations within their areas of interest, such as environmental or health care causes, but not think about other areas, such as racial justice or poverty. Now, everyone is pitching in to help any injustice that appears.

We are all in this together.

It isn’t easy and how effective we will be is unknown, as these are early days.

But we must keep at it to ensure our rights and the fate of our nation.

There is an old story about not speaking out when “they” (meaning the authorities in an authoritarian country) came for the members of this group and that group because the narrator is not a member of those groups. When they come for the narrator, there is no one left to speak up for him.

We are not making that mistake.

And for that I am grateful.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is wood/would. Join us for SoCS and/or Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-and-jusjojan-jan-2817/

 

reaction to the morning news

No torture. Not ever. Under no circumstance. It is immoral and illegal.

I can’t believe I even have cause to write this.
*****
There is still time to join in the fun with Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/26/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-26th17/

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One-Liner Wednesday: facts

“Alternative facts” = Lies

This one-liner, which distresses me to have to write about my own country, is part of Linda’s One-Liner Wednesday and Just Jot It January series. Join us! Find out how here:
https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/25/one-liner-wednesday-jusjojan-2517-prompt-its-here/

#1linerWeds badge by nearlywes.com

 

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Fear (not)

I have been writing for months about how scared I am of DT.

Over the weekend, though, I have been getting lots of messages to not be afraid.

At the Women’s March in Binghamton and from speakers that I saw on video from other locations, the message was repeated over and over. “Don’t be afraid. Grab a clipboard and get signatures to run for office.”

At church on Sunday, we heard in readings and the in the homily to not be afraid. We sang a psalm response, “Of whom should I be afraid?”

I wish I could say that I am suddenly not afraid. I’m at least less afraid, because I feel that there are so many others who are going to be working to limit the damage that DT plans/executes. There is strength in numbers, especially when we are working together for the common good.

I doubt, though, that I will ever be brave enough to run for office. Years ago, when I was doing extensive volunteering in our local school district, numerous people tried to convince me to run for school board. I knew that I had the intellectual skills needed, but did not think I could muster the stamina needed for long, contentious meetings.

That still holds true.

I will just have to show my (developing) fearlessness in other ways.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/22/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-23rd-compromise/

jjj-2017

 

boycott

I had already been planning on not watching DT’s inauguration. Seeing and hearing him remind me too much of all the hateful things he has said and done.

I have even more reason to boycott now as a show of solidarity with Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, Georgia.

Rep. Lewis said in an interview last week that he questioned the legitimacy of DT’s election, due to the interference of Russia.

I agree.

DT does not and excoriated Rep. Lewis on twitter, of course, on Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. Rep. Lewis is one of the last living stalwarts of the 1960’s civil rights movement dedicated to non-violence, who marched with Dr. King and bled at Selma, and the member of Congress widely known as its conscience. DT once again showed his pettiness and ignorance.

Also, DT showed his complete lack of the sense of irony, given that he spent five years questioning the birthplace and legitimacy of President Obama and repeatedly said during his own campaign that the US elections were rigged.

Many, many people are upset about this situation. Over thirty members of Congress are joining Rep. Lewis in boycotting the inauguration.

While I had already decided not to watch the inauguration before this happened, I am humbled to join my small, private boycott to theirs.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/17/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-17th17/

jjj-2017

 

SoCS: panic-inducing problems

Panic must be setting in.

Why else would I be up writing this post at 2 AM?

With DT’s inauguration less than a week away, more and more information is emerging about Russia’s influence in the election, and, even worse, about possible collusion between the campaign and Russia and about the threat that our incoming president could be blackmailed by Russia.

The problem is compounded by the fact that DT won’t release tax returns and won’t divest his business holdings, so there is no way to know if he owes money to Russian oligarchs or banks – or how many other countries or financial institutions may have financial power over him.

Further compounding of the problem is that many of his cabinet and staff picks have not completed financial disclosures and ethics agreements and that some may be confirmed despite that.

DT is also phenomenally unpopular. Public opinion polls show him with the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president and the approval rating for his transition is even lower.

Our Constitution does not prepare us for this situation. The Congress could impeach and try the president if their investigations show he committed high crimes or misdemeanors, but Vice President Pence would be implicated as well. If they were both out of office through resignation or trial, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan would become president in a nearly impossible governing situation.

Is it any wonder I am having trouble sleeping?
*****
Join us for Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday and/or Just Jot It January! Today’s prompt was to base a post on a word beginning with the letter P. (I started with panic, but wound up more with problem and president.) Find out how to participate here: https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-and-jusjojan-jan-1417/

 

dread and alarm

It is with an increasing sense of dread and alarm that I approach January 20th.

January 20th is the date on which Donald Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States.

It is not a secret that I was a Bernie Sanders supporter who went on to support Secretary Clinton in the general election.  If our electoral system went by popular vote, she would be assuming the presidency and I would have at least some hope of helpful and reasonable legislation making it through Congress.

As it stands with DT, though, I believe that our country – and the world – are in danger.

That sounds very dramatic, but it is, unfortunately, true.

Early in the primaries, before it was clear that DT would be nominated, I had thought that, if he were to be elected, it would get the Congressional  Republicans to finally cooperate with the Democrats and Independents to pass reasonable, bipartisan legislation, as it was obvious that DT’s ideas were often unconstitutional, impractical, unethical, or some combination thereof. DT was also campaigning against both the Democratic and Republican establishment.

For reasons that I cannot fathom, once DT won, the Congressional Republicans suddenly think they have a mandate to do all kinds of things, such as privatize Medicare, that the majority of the public oppose (and DT used to oppose, although it is often hard to tell where he stands).

DT keeps telling us how smart he is and how he hires great people, but the nominees for staff and Cabinet positions are downright – I know I keep using this word – scary.  Several Cabinet nominees are on record as opposing the existence of the departments they are slated to head. Several have espoused outlandish conspiracy theories, which is even more pathetic when DT and his team are downplaying the very real role that Russia played in influencing the presidential election. The vetting that the Trump transition team did on background and conflicts of interest was sparse and the Senate Republican leadership is trying to rush through hearings and votes, even though the Ethics Office hasn’t been able to evaluate the candidates, some of whom haven’t even sent in their full information.

It is particularly galling because Mitch McConnell, when he was Senate Minority leader, made a huge deal about having extensive background information on President Obama’s appointees. He sent a letter detailing his requirements to then Senate Majority Leader Reid.   Recently, the new Senate Minority Leader and my Senator Chuck Schumer sent that same letter to Mitch McConnell, crossing out his name and signing it himself. It isn’t likely to do much good. Unfortunately, there looks as though there will be massive conflicts of interest with Cabinet secretaries, as well as totally unresolved conflicts with DT himself.

Because the US is so powerful on the world stage, our developing troubles here can affect other countries, too. There are the obvious problems of diplomacy, war, alliances, and trade. I am especially concerned with science and climate issues. Researchers and tech specialists have been rushing to back up data outside the country, in case DT’s departments try to limit or erase content. There is the threat that Congressional Republicans may reduce the pay for some posts, for example, those researching climate change, to $1 in the budget, effectively eliminating those jobs in a way that the Democrats could not block. The prospect just makes me sick. I am also worried that DT may try to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, which would be terrible, although many private businesses will continue to participate even if the government tries to renege on its promises.

In many areas, there is a danger that DT and the Republicans are making end runs around the laws that were set up to establish separation of powers and checks and balances. The Congressional Democrats are gearing up to fight, as well as some of the governors and attorneys general. Particularly important will be New York and California.

Everything is unsure, but many ordinary citizens are also gearing up to fight. My inbox is filled with action items on various appointees and policies, including the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act without replacement legislation in place.

It is all terrifying.

And a work in progress.

Stay tuned.

Update January 11:  Not long after I posted this, additional allegations of Russian intelligence against Donald Trump surfaced, raising fears of possible future blackmail. This just adds to the unease over his impending inauguration. DT is scheduled to hold his first news conference in six months today. Should be…interesting.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January!  Prompts are provided but any post counts. I usually choose not to use prompts, but today’s from Matthew is “danger” – which fed into how I was feeling after watching the news. Find out more about it all here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/10/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-10th17/

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Open letter to the electors

Dear Members of the Electoral College,

On December 19th, you will meet to perform your Constitutional duty and elect the next president of the United States.

Your duty is to cast a vote for someone who is equipped to lead the country and ready to uphold and defend the Constitution, a person who has the support of the plurality of the electorate.

That person should be Hillary Clinton.

Clinton won the popular vote in the country by two percentage points, over two and a half million more votes than Donald Trump. The current electoral college system gives more weight to the votes cast in less populous states, as well as disregarding the votes for anyone but the winner in all states. This distorts the will of the people as a whole, which is why there has been a movement for electors to agree to vote for the winner of the national popular vote, even if their state voted for an opponent.

Even if you don’t believe that the largest number of votes should determine the winner of the presidency, electors have always been called upon to exercise judgment in their choice, to vote for a candidate who is qualified for office and who will put the country and its interests above party, personal gain, or foreign influence.

Consider this quote from the Federalist Papers (No. 68):

Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union? But the convention have guarded against all danger of this sort, with the most provident and judicious attention. They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any preexisting bodies of men [and women] who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes; but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment.

Electors are to cast their votes to protect the country from candidates who have been compromised by corruption, which, sadly, Donald Trump has exhibited in recent weeks.

I was already alarmed by Russia’s interfering with the campaign process, but it has become clear that Russia intervened specifically to elect Donald Trump. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge this, or even to pledge to investigate further, is not worthy of the presidency, which needs to remain vigilant against undue foreign influence. Equally appalling is the fact that some of the Republican Congressional leadership opposed informing the American people about the level of threat of Russian interference in our election before the vote took place. These members of Congress put their party above the security and integrity of the American people and our electoral process. Trump is rewarding Senator McConnell by appointing his spouse to a Cabinet post. It also appears likely that Trump will choose Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, as Secretary of State, whose main qualification seems to be his cozy relationship with Russia and Putin, centered around oil drilling.

Even for those who don’t respect or believe the assessments of the intelligence agencies of the United States, Trump’s staff and Cabinet appointments have been alarming. Despite running his campaign as a populist who understands working class concerns, he is stuffing the Cabinet with insiders and billionaires, some who have records of profiting from illegal or unethical business dealings. In a nation that prides itself on civilian leadership, there are three recently retired generals in major posts, including his pick for Defense Secretary who is ineligible to serve under current law because he has only been retired for three years.

Some staff and Cabinet appointees have exhibited extreme views. Steve Bannon comes to mind immediately. Several are antagonistic to the departments for which they are assigned, for example, an education secretary who is not a great supporter of public schools and a head of the EPA who has filed suit multiple times against the EPA on behalf of Oklahoma fossil fuel interests. Others just seem spectacularly unqualified for the posts to which they are nominated. Dr. Ben Carson is a good brain surgeon, but even he admits that he is not a trained administrator and has no expertise in public housing policy.

Beyond all of these issues, there is the problem of Trump’s refusal to disconnect himself from his business, setting up myriad conflicts of interest. Trump used his campaign to promote his business ventures and to enrich himself by renting space, his airplane, etc. to the campaign. Since the election, he has continued to mix business with his duties to the nation, even allowing his daughter and business partner to meet with a foreign dignitary.  Foreign governments and organizations have been using Trump properties in hopes of currying favor with the president-elect; prospects for projects for the Trump brand abroad have been smoothed. Even if Trump doesn’t let his business interests affect his decisions, his connection to his business and brand will affect business and government decisions made by others, both domestically and internationally.

Donald Trump also has a long history of legal problems. He has been sued countless times and been connected with wage theft, hiring of undocumented workers, and housing discrimination. He threatens to sue others frequently. He has flaunted his sexual behavior, including his infidelities, showing over and over that he abuses his power and position to ogle, touch, and assault women, as well as rate them on their looks, overlooking all their other attributes as people.

He has espoused clearly unconstitutional views, including discrimination on the basis of religion and the denial of birthright citizenship.

He has also lied – a lot. Some in his circle have even said that facts don’t matter and that whatever the president does is legal by virtue of the fact that the president is the one doing it.

All of this illustrates why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States.

An elector from Texas has publicly said he will not vote for Trump and suggests another Republican such as Gov. Kasich.  I applaud him for using his judgment as an elector to protect the country from Trump, but humbly suggest that he use his vote to reflect the winner of the national popular vote, including 3.8 million Texans, Hillary Clinton.

I realize there would be backlash if the electors choose Clinton on December 19th – and that her transition period would be very short, although she is well-prepared with policy positions and would be able to use the preparatory work that was done during her campaign to quickly put the major nominations in place – but it would save the country from the prospect of four years of corruption and interference from Russia that a Trump presidency would almost surely bring.

The electoral college was designed to prevent just such an occurrence, with the electors using their judgment and conscience to choose the most qualified candidate. In this instance, the electors have the backing of the popular vote count.

Please, Electors, for the good of the country, cast your votes for Hillary Clinton on December 19th.

Your fellow American,
Joanne Corey