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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Prosecutor McCullloch decision read late at night

CNN is asking the salient question. Why did Prosecutor McCulloch wait until nearly 10 PM to read the Ferguson Grand Jury's ruling about not finding probable cause to prosecute Officer Wilson, who killed Michael Brown. He read aloud a 20 minute narrative of the Grand Jury's case. In order to make the case for the Grand Jury's decision, the prosecutor went out of his way to hamper any further prosecutions. This weird county prosecutor obviously doesn't want any further investigation into his own conclusion about the Michael Brown investigation. 

Prosecutor Robert McCulloch should be fired.  He even said some of the witnesses who presented to the Grand Jury didn't tell the truth, but he refused to say they had committed perjury.

But why did the prosecutor Bob McCulloch decide to present his daunting analysis of the Brown and Officer Wilson investigation at night, just in time to catch late night TV audiences? Obviously, the timing of this decision led to fueling intense street violence.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was asked by reporters about the nighttime announcement. Nixon said the decision was made solely by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.

"We coordinated with law enforcement, gave schools time to get their children home and in a safe place, gave businesses time to make a decision on their employees' safety, gave media time to set up, prepared our statement and made the announcement," Edward Magee, executive assistant to McCulloch, said in a statement.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said McCulloch's decision was "foolish and dangerous."

"I find this a completely bizarre decision to do this at night," Toobin said.

"Here's the thing about that time of night: it's dark. Anyone -- anyone! -- should have known that the decision in the Brown case would have been controversial. Crowd control is always more difficult in the dark."

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan noted the announcement was supposed to be made at 8 p.m. ET but was rescheduled for 9 ET.

"Why would you be moving it another hour? I think the only reason can be that they don't have their security forces in place," he said.

Initially, prosecutors were expected to give law enforcement 48 hours' notice from when the grand jury made its decision to when the announcement was made. But that clearly didn't happen Monday, since the decision and the announcement came on the same day.

Unfortunately, McCulloch assured that his Grand Jury ruling would nearly eliminate any possibility of further legal action in regard to prosecuting Officer Wilson for killing the victim Michael Brown in August 2014.  Nevertheless, nothing prevents the prosecutor McCulloch from being fired for his arrogance and, in my opinion, wrongly influencing the Grand Jury's ability to analyze the evidence presented in the Michael Brown investigation. 

Of course, only the Ferguson Missouri Grand Jury can speak about the evidence they received and acted on. We certainly can't second guess their ruling to recommend no prosecution of Officer Wilson for killing Michael Brown. 

Nevertheless, we can observe the inappropriate decisions of Prosecutor McCulloch, who, while speaking on television, appeared to be proud of his self proclaimed authority. 

He should be fired.


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Fueling the tragic Ferguson firestorm is grandstanding prosecutiing attorney Robert P. McCulloch

Sometimes, people really do have to "blame the messenger". St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert P. McCulloch behaved with annoying bravado and should be fired for mishandling the police shooting of the young unarmed black man named Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. 

Race relations between Blacks and Whites in America are obviously at an all time low. 

Therefore, we didn't need the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert P. McCulloch to incite more trouble. With what appeared, to me, to be a smirk on his face, he stepped up to the international television cameras with the bravado of the swashbuckling antagonist Gaston, to explain the secret Grand Jury's decision about whether or not there was probable cause to bring police officer Darren Wilson to trial, for killing Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri, in August 2014.

Although I do not intend to second guess the Grand Jury's decision to protect Officer Darren Wilson from prosecution, I can evaluate the behavior of the prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch. His inept handling of this race relations tragedy has made a bad situation much worse. 

Police Officer Wilson, 28, will face no charges for shooting Michael Brown. As reported by McCulloch, the Grand Jury examined the evidence and did not find probable cause to bring forth any prosecution of the police officer for the killing.  Following McCulloch's reading of this decision, the streets of Ferguson Missouri became torched, as the decision caused a firestorm of destruction. Demonstrators believed the Michael Brown shooting was another example of enabling the police to single out young black men, without allowing due process, if they become suspects of misconduct of any kind.

Obviously, McCulloch is a miserable communicator. He rehearsed the cold reading of the Grand Jury's decision statement, after keeping the public and reporters waiting for at least 4 hours to hear the anticipated decision. Following the reading, he gave condescending answers to questions from reporters during the press conference. More to the point, knowing how the decision would likely be ill received, why did McCulloch wait until after sundown to grandstand his announcement? In my opinion, McCulloch created an incendiary situation by timing his announcement concurrent with late night prime time television coverage and thereby enabling the violence that, predictably, erupted after the information was made public.

Missouri public officials must've known that McCulloch was the worst person to give this outcome information to the community, to the US and, ultimately, to the world. Although I have no idea about protocol for reading a Grand Jury decision, it seems to me a judge would have been a better communicator than McCulloch. If a press conference was deemed to be necessary, it seems to me, there should've been more than one person available standing alongside McCulloch, to answer questions. Instead, the prosecuting attorney stood alone before TV cameras, like he was the victorious gladiator in a struggle for the "up" or "down" vote of his supporters. Indeed, McCulloch gets a "thumbs down" from me. His communications failure resulted in the worst night of violence since the August 2014 incident, where Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, at about 12 noon, and then laid in the street for four hours afterwards. 

At this point, the sad death of the unarmed Michael Brown is nearly secondary to the unraveling situation resulting from prosecutor McCulloch's arrogant mismanagement.

Perhaps the only justice, as tangential as it may be, to the killing of the unarmed Michael Brown might be to see the prosecuting attorney  McCulloch fired. 

This man has misrepresented our judicial system by self appointing himself to be the judge, jury and communicator about this horrific incident.

Nevertheless, Michael Brown's death cannot be avenged. Race relations in the U.S. are probably worse than they've ever been. The more this particular Ferguson incident is discussed, the worse it gets for everyone, because there's no apparent resolution. Sooner or later, there will be another person in the litany of incidents without resolution.....Rodney King...Treyvon Martin and....Michael Brown....?  

Perhaps Americans need to experience a 1960's Civil Rights Movement revival.    

Meanwhile, our sympathies continue to grow for the family of Michael Brown and for all the victims in Ferguson, Missouri, who are trying to understand how to fix this racial tragedy.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Zealous Republicans over reach with the "I" word - impeachment has lost meaning

Perhaps President Bill Clinton gave subsequent US executives a gift. By withstanding a failed impeachment trial by the right wing Republicans in the US Senate, the entire concept of "impeachment" has lost relevance. When the Senate voted to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, the trail was based upon unprofessional conduct with a White House intern. Now, as a result, Americans are probably "impeachment" immune.  Nevertheless, Republicans continue their expensive and wasteful efforts to remove Democratic presidents.  

In fact, Republicans with the same genetic DNA as those who failed to remove President Clinton, want to sanction President Obama. These zealots are angry because President Obama took executive action to initiate immigration reform to help millions of undocumented US immigrants to stay in America with their families. On Fox News and other "yellow journalism" media sources, the pundit screeching claims the President wasn't authorized to use executive authority to provide safe residency for illegal immigrants who have lived in the US for at least 5 years and have no criminal history. Indeed, these hyped up pundits are over reaching with the "I" word i.e, impeachment.  

Moreover, if the U.S. Senate failed to impeach President Clinton, it's hard to imagine how they can succeed in yet another attempt, especially when the U.S. Constitution gives the President of the U.S. authority to act under the "Recommendation Clause". Obviously, I'm not a Constitutional law authority. Nevertheless, it seems clear, by reading this particular clause, that the President of the United States has a responsibility to act when Congress fails to do so, on behalf of the best interest of the people.

Article Two of the United States Constitution creates the executive branch of the government, consisting of the President, the Vice-President, and other executive officers and staffers appointed by the President, including the Cabinet Secretaries. 

Pursuant to Article Two, the executive power of the federal government is vested in the President.

The president has the power and duty to recommend, for the consideration of Congress, such measures which the president deems as "necessary and expedient". At his inauguration President George Washington declared in his Inaugural Address: "By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."  (This is the Recommendation Clause): Recommendation Clause also imposes an executive duty on the President. In so doing, Presidents speaks collectively for the People as they petition Government for a redress of grievances, and thus his recommendations embody popular sovereignty. The President tailors his recommendations so that their natural implication is the enactment of new legislation, rather than some other action that Congress might undertake. Finally, the President shall have executive discretion to recommend measures of his choosing.

Frankly, Americans don't know much about the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, many just believe whatever television or Fox News tells them. What I know about the U.S Constitution is that the pundits on Fox News know less than I do about this formative government document. For right wing media to claim President Obama didn't have the authority to initiate executive action to provide compassionate residency for illegal immigrants is simply whistling in the wind. These screeching right wing pundits don't even know how to read the U.S. Constitution.

From an observer of the Constitution, I'd say President Obama had a "duty to act". He was compelled to act when House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring the U.S. Senate bipartisan immigration reform bill to the floor for an "up or down" vote. 

Regardless of how Constitutional experts interpret the "Recommendation Clause", the fact is any proposed impeachment action resulting from President Obama's executive action on immigration reform are ludicrous and wasteful. 

In fact, the "I" word has lost meaning because Republicans over reached this concept with President Clinton's failed impeachment trial. Thank you President Clinton.  

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Denial of global warming and extra terrestrial life

Astrophysicists are reporting the possibility of finding life in the universe within the next 20 years. 

If so, will science deniers believe it? 

Right wing extremists are cemented in their wrong minded anti science beliefs. They don't believe in "global warming" even though the earth's temperatures continue to rise at a rapid rate. It occurs to me, these same science deniers would probably completely freak out if astrophysicists happen to find proof of extra terrestrial life in the universe. In Briefing, an article published in The Week, November 28, 2014, optimism is reported about finding some form of life in the universe within the next 20 years

Suppose life outside of earth is discovered? Will anti-science right wing extremists believe the scientists who make this discovery? Science history would indicate otherwise.

It's entirely possible right wind extremists could behave like the middle ages religious philosophers who didn't believe in a round earth. Moreover, when the Italian physicist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) proved the earth was a planet, rather than the center of the universe, he was put  under house arrest for the remainder of his life because his discovery was declared to be heretical.  

I suspect climate change deniers, along with right wing religious extremists who fundamentally believe in the Biblcal description of the earth's creation, won't believe scientists who find evidence of life outside of earth.

Nevertheless, scientists are tracking information from data collected about earth "like" planets where the potential for life forms are possible.  November 28, 2014: The Week

The search for E.T.

Buoyed by recent discoveries, NASA now boldly predicts we’ll find alien life within the next 20 years.
Why are scientists so optimistic?

The Kepler space telescope gets much of the credit. 
Before it was launched into orbit in 2009, astronomers couldn’t be sure whether planets existed outside our solar system. 
The search for extraterrestrial life was mostly focused on our own solar system—on Mars and a number of moons around Jupiter and Saturn—and on an intergalactic eavesdropping project known as SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). For 50 years, SETI has been using radio telescopes to listen for signals from an alien civilization somewhere out there in the cosmos, with no “Hello there!” detected thus far. But when Kepler began scrutinizing the stars from its perch beyond the atmosphere, its unprecedented resolution gave scientists a tool to detect the relatively dim planets circling them. Using the telescope’s data, scientists now estimate there are more than 100 billion exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) in the Milky Way galaxy alone. One in every five stars, they’ve concluded, has a planet that is habitable, and Kepler can help pinpoint which ones to examine for signs of life. “It’s within our grasp to pull off a discovery that will change the world forever,” says telescope scientist Matt Mountain.
How does Kepler work?

Trained on a patch of sky containing about 100,000 stars, the telescope studies the light emitted by each star to look for telltale dips in brightness. The periodic dips are a sign of a partial eclipse, caused as a planet transits in front of its star’s surface during orbit. From that one patch of universe, Kepler has used the “transit method” to confirm the existence of at least 2,000 exoplanets—from rocky spheres smaller than Earth to gaseous giants larger than Jupiter. The next challenge, says MIT astrophysicist Sara Seager, is to identify exoplanets that live within their star’s so-called Goldilocks zone—neither too near nor too far from their star so that their environment is “not too hot, not too cold—just right for life.” Astrobiologists believe they’ve already identified 86 Earth-like exoplanets that exist in this habitable zone and are now studying them for signs of life.
What kind of signs?

The traditional marker of life is liquid water. “Life needs a liquid; even the driest desert plant on Earth needs water for its metabolism to work,” says MIT astrobiologist William Bains. So if an exoplanet contains liquid water, the planet might be home to an alien life-form, whether it’s a simple bacterium or a complex and intelligent creature. A watery planet could be detected by the chemical signatures of water in its atmosphere. Some scientists think it’s possible that aliens are more different than we can imagine and have evolved to exist on methane or other chemicals instead of water. “The things we can conceive of are probably a very small set of the possibilities that are out there,” says biogeochemist Ariel Anbar. “We know we’re going to be surprised.” 

What else would indicate life?
NASA also plans to use its telescopes to search for certain “biosignatures” in an exoplanet’s atmosphere. A large amount of oxygen is one such biosignature: As a highly reactive element, oxygen needs to be consistently renewed by a biological process like photosynthesis in order to exist in large quantities. Another tip-off would be a carbon footprint that we’ve developed on our own planet: i.e., air pollution.  “You’d know that’s an inhabited world, not just a habitable world,” says Jill Tarter for the SETI Institute. “And then you can ask the question, Did they develop any technology we might detect?” 

Could we contact any aliens we find?
Perhaps, but not easily. The biggest barrier for astronomers is the time lag involved in communicating with planets located trillions of miles away. Suppose NASA decided to try to communicate with Kepler-186f, an Earth-like planet about 500 light-years away (or 2,939,249,910,000,000 miles): Given the planet’s distance, it would take half a millennium for a message to reach its inhabitants, and another 500 years for their response to be received. Either our civilization or theirs could perish during that time, rendering the communication moot. This assumes, of course, that the alien life is intelligent and can communicate; there will be no return signal from silent microbes in an ice-capped lake. 

What if we do find life?

Legendary astrophysicist Stephen Hawking believes we’re taking a big risk just by looking for it. He has warned that any signals we send out could invite the visit of a far superior alien civilization intent on our colonization or destruction. But even the discovery of friendly, intelligent aliens—or primitive life-forms—could have a mind-blowing effect on humanity. Traditional religious teachings about man’s central role in creation would be overturned, and our species would be forced to redefine itself in the knowledge that we’ve got company—perhaps plenty of company—in the universe. “Soon, we’re going to have an existential shock,” says theoretical physicist Michio Kaku. “Even if we find a fossil, a DNA strand from another species, that would be absolutely staggering.”

Finding a marker of civilization 
As astrobiologists search for biosignatures in a planet’s atmosphere, they’ll now also be looking for a telltale indication of an advanced civilization: pollutants like those found in our own atmosphere. Astronomers will look for industrial pollutants such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the chemicals found in aerosols and refrigeration units, which have helped to eat a hole in Earth’s ozone layer. These chemicals aren’t known to occur in atmospheres naturally, so they would be a helpful indicator that an industrial civilization once existed on that planet—though because they take approximately 100,000 years to disappear, those aliens may long be extinct. The irony is that “aliens are often referred to as green little creatures,” says theoretical astrophysicist Avi Loeb, but “detectable CFC-rich civilizations would not be ‘green,’ since they are environmentally unfriendly.” 
(Well, this would be interesting. If global warming deniers don't believe in climate science, maybe they'd actually find a reason to like extra terrestrials, who could be environmentally unfriendly.)
Regardless of what kind of life is discovered in the universe, my prediction is the anti-science right wing extremists will behave just like their middle age predecessors, whenever the disclosure is affirmed. Any astrophysicist should think twice before claiming to be the first to proclaim the discovery of extra terrestrial life. Stephen Hawkings should worry less about the dangers of the extra terrestrials and more about those who will deny the discovery. Indeed, we might worry about the response from those who will claim the "life" discovery to be false.  
"We have met the enemy and it is us." (Pogo)

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Christian Alert - please live the Word on immigration

Immigration reform has been held up in the US Congress because Speaker John Boehner, who is a Roman Catholic, wouldn't allow an up or down floor vote. Here are a few Biblical references to help Speaker Boehner to understand his Christian heritage and motivagte his leadership responsibility.

Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Matthew 25:35
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...

Message from Sean Cardinal O'Malley of Boston:

Roman Catholics are called to welcome immigrants. Christian teaching notwithstanding, we're descendents of immigrants! 

Some recent coverage from the Boston Globe

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley is hailing the Obama administration’s decision not to deport young, law-abiding illegal immigrants who came here as children.

“This action by the President makes it possible for these young men and women, who have spent most of their lives in this country, to pursue education and employment opportunities and to make a contribution to American society,” O’Malley said in a statement issued today.

“The United States has historically welcomed immigrants from throughout the world, to improve their own lives and to contribute to the common good of our nation,” said O’Malley, who heads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.

President Obama’s declaration Friday granting temporary residency to the illegal immigrants received a joyful reception among the state’s immigrant community. 

The Obama administration on Friday granted immigrants brought to America before age 16 the right to apply for deferred action, meaning they will not be deported and can apply for work permits. To be eligible, immigrants must not have any serious criminal convictions and must be in school or have received a high school diploma or its equivalent. They cannot be over age 30.

The decision was hailed by some as a major advance for young people who did not choose to break the law, while critics said it would take jobs and college seats away from Americans, the Globe reported Saturday.

Blogger's note:  I'm confident President Obama would have preferred to expand this action to include even more immigrants, but he has been held back because of the threat of legal action by the Roman Catholic Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Roman Catholics and Christians of all denominations should applaud President Obama's executive action. We are called by our Christian teaching to extend Biblical teachings, about providing care to strangers, and give legal compassionate residency to all immigrants living in the United States.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

Sheik Muhammad al-Yaqoubi could be the Islam leader to transcend the extremists

Public Broadcasting Network (PBN) journalist Margaret Warner introduced Sheik Muhammad al-Yaquobi. In an interview, the well spoken religious leader spoke with Warner as the completely positive alternative to the horrific images of Islamic extremists, who are dressed in black, while heinously terrorizing innocent people, with evil random.
Americans rarely, if ever, see Islamic clerics who are well spoken and speaking about humanitarian issues. Instead, Islamic extremists on the media are men in black, bent on destruction of civilization as we know it. 

On the other hand, in a PBS interview with Warner, al-Yaquobi said the evil ISIS leader Baghdadi is going to to to hell. In other words, Muhammad al-Yaquobi condemned the ISIS extremist leader Baghdadi to eternal damnation. Moreover, al-Yaquobi called on other Muslims to rise against terrorism and Islamic extremism's murderous tactics.

Al-Yaquobi is a Syrian Muslim scholar. He was born May 7, 1963 in Damascus, Syria.  In 1991, he joined the PhD program of linguistics in the Oriental Studies Department of the University of Gothenburg. In Sweden, he worked as a researcher and teacher of Arabic literature. In 1999, the Swedish Islamic Society appointed him mufti of Sweden.

In 1992, he moved to England and completed the FCE, CAE, CCS, and CPE Cambridge courses in English within a year, before returning to Sweden where he continued his studies in Swedish.
Al-Yaqoubi has studied seven languages.

 In April 2011, he was one of the first Islamic scholars to support the Syrians in an uprising against the Assad government. Al-Yaqoubi demanded the resignation of the evil Syrian leader, President Bashar al-Assad.
Since the start of the Syrian uprising, al-Yaqoubi has campaigned internationally to provide humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees. In December 2012, he led a convoy for the delivery of vast quantities of food, baby food and blankets to displaced Syrians in Turkey.

After being exiled from Syria, he took part in a sustained international effort to provide aid for Syrian people. He has publicly urged the international community to “implement help immediately” and to “lift the siege” on Syria.

Al-Yaquobi has a sad personal story.  His father, who was his role model and mentor, died in 1985.  Both of his wives died within one year of each other.  He is the father of three children by his first wife, who died in an automobile accident in 2006, when she was five months pregnant.

Muhummad al-Yaqoubi led prayers at the memorial of assassinated humanitarian Peter Kessig, who was murdered by ISIS executioners.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, a prominent Syrian Sunni cleric and vocal critic of the Islamic State (ISIS), led prayers at the funeral of American beheading victim Peter Kassig. 

Chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner interviewed al-Yaqoubi, who as been exiled from Syria. 

Warner asked al_Yaqoubi about atrocities committed by the Islamic State, and asked him why the militant ISIS group is able to gain followers and the fight against the Assad regime.

Two months ago, al-Yaqoubi released an open letter to the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, telling him: “You have misinterpreted Islam into a religion of harshness, brutality, torture and murder,” which he called a great wrong and an offense to Islam.  Sheik Muhammad al_Yaqoubi said ISIS carries hatred to the world, to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

About Assad, al-Yaqoubi said the Sryian president opted for violence and extreme use of power from the very early days of the Srian uprising. Moreover, Assad released from prison the most extremist Islamists, knowing that they would opt for carrying guns and fighting and revenge. So that's how the shape of the Syrian uprising changed from the beginning. It's how ISIS was able to recruit from among these extremists.  

MARGARET WARNER asked al-Yaqoubi about his declaration that al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed ruler of this Islamic State caliphate, was going to hell. "What do you mean," she asked?

SHEIK MUHAMMAD AL-YAQOUBI: al Baghdadi is against Islam. He’s non-Muslim, according to the Muslim standards, because he’s allowing people to kill Muslims, referring to the Book of Allah, wrongly using religious texts.

This is anti-Islamic. He’s going against God. He’s going against the message of Islam, Mohammed, peace be upon him. If he repents and come in a court and defend himself, he won’t have any one single verse of the Koran to defend his opinion in killing innocent people.

MARGARET WARNER: What will this hell look like?



SHEIK MUHAMMAD AL-YAQOUBI: Hell will — for him, God knows what type of punishment he’s going to receive for this savagery which has never been witnessed in modern history.You know, in Islam, we have never seen any group as extremist as this group. 

Warner's insightful interview with al-Yaqoubi was the most interesting I've ever watched with any Muslim cleric, especially when being questioned by a woman.  Al-Yaqoubi was engaging and seemed to be making eye contact with Warner. He didn't appear to be scripted or reticent about answering any of Warner's questions.

Al-Yaqoubi might be able to transcend the black robed Islamic terrorist images Americans have grown accustomed to seeing on television. Hopefully, we'll hear more inspiring interviews from this well spoken Islamic religious leader, especially if he motivates Muslims to fight against, rather than with, the evil ISIS.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Speaker John Boehner is responsible for this action he should've brought forth the Senate bipartisan bill

President Obama transcript on executive action on immigration reform.

"Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character." President Obama

November 20 at 8:33 PM

A transcript of President Obama’s remarks on immigration.

OBAMA: My fellow Americans, tonight I’d like to talk with you about immigration. For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations.

OBAMA: (Immigration) It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities. 

People not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it. Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their wages good wages benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades we haven’t done much about it. When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders.

Today we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half.

Although this summer there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years.

Overall the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix. And last year 68 Democrats, Republicans, and independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise. But it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes or no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties. And today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as president, the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me, that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight I’m announcing those actions.

OBAMA: First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I’ll make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders proposed.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already had live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we’re also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable, especially those who may be dangerous.

That’s why over the past six years deportations of criminals are up 80 percent, and that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mom who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law e enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality still live here illegally.

And let’s be honest, tracking down, rounding up and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans.

After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard often in tough, low paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of the kids are American born or spent spent most of their lives here. And their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it, they are a part of American life.

Now here is the thing. We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of the action call it amnesty. Well, it’s the not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today. Millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time. That’s the real amnesty, leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. 

Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our (American) character.

What I’m describing is accountability. A common sense middle- ground approach. If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.

And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary.

OBAMA: Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a deal breaker on every issue. That’s not how our Democracy works, and Congress shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this.

Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs right now is a common purpose, a higher purpose. Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight, but I understand with the disagreements held by many of you at home.

Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship.
I know some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time they already feel they’ve gotten a raw deal for over a decade. I hear those concerns, but that’s not what these steps would do.

Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back and forth in Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are a country and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families and works together to keep them together? Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us, or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America? That’s what this debate is all about.

We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration. We need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears. I know the politics of this issue are tough, but let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past years I’ve seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs without taking a dime from the government, and at risk any moment of losing it all just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who except for the circumstances of their birth are as American as Malia or Sasha, students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in the country they love.

These people, our neighbors, our classmates, our friends, they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study and serve in our military. And, above all, contribute to American success.

Now tomorrow I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was 4 years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS. And then she became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mom cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school, not because they didn’t love her, but because they were afraid the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant. So she applied behind their back and got in.

Still, she mostly lived in the shadows until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her. And today Astrid Silva a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid?

OBAMA: Or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in? Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too. (Editor comment: In this statement, I believe President Obama is referring to the Bible: 
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.)

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forbearers were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless this country we love.

Editor's cliff notes edition of this Executive Action by President Obama is this:  "Pass a bill...."

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Poem - When I was a little Cuban boy

Immigrant poem by Richard Blanco:
President Obama will speak about immigration policy to a national television audience.  

Yet, in the 1950s, our American parents and grandparents took our immigration status for granted. Immigration was never so vitriolic, back when Lucy loved Desi and we seemed to live in the glow of everyone getting along.  Hispanic immigrants, in particular, will relate to this poetic sentiment.


A Conversation in Poetry

Edited and Introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate
Poet Richard Blanco of Bethel describes his dream of America as a boy living in Cuba. (Poet Blanco blends nostalgia with a touch of cynicism but reminds us of how one of the most popular television shows of all time included an immigrant.)

When I was a Little Cuban Boy

by Richard Blanco

O José can you see…that’s how I sang it, when I was

a cubanito in Miami, and América was some country

in the glossy pages of my history book, someplace

way north, everyone white, cold, perfect. This Land

is my Land, so why didn’t I live there, in a brick house

with a fireplace, a chimney with curlicues of smoke.

I wanted to wear breeches and stockings to my chins,

those black pilgrim shoes with shiny gold buckles.

I wanted to eat yams with the Indians, shake hands

with los negros, and dash through snow I’d never seen

in a one-horse hope-n-say? I wanted to speak in British,

say really smart stuff like fours core and seven years ago

or one country under God, in the visible. I wanted to see

that land with no palm trees, only the strange sounds

of flowers like petunias, peonies, impatience, waiting

to walk through a door someday, somewhere in God

Bless America and say, Lucy, I’m home, honey. I’m home.

Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2005 Richard Blanco. Reprinted from Directions to the Beach of the Dead, The University of Arizona Press, 2005, by permission of Richard Blanco. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ISIS rains bloodshed with evil bravado but the Muslim world doesn't protest enough

Yasmine Bahrani writes on about how people in the world often march in opposition to many apparent injustices, but Islam isn't rising up against the evil deeds conducted by the radica Islamic State - ISIS.

By Yasmine Bahrani Special to The Washington Post:
"...Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets..." Bahrani.

This summer, many Muslims marched in the streets of London, Paris and other cities to condemn the deaths of Gazans at the hands of Israel. Of course it makes sense to protest the bombing of schools and residential buildings. I marched in the streets against Israel’s invasion of Lebanon when I was a student, and I marched against the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But, inexplicably, there have been no similarly large-scale demonstrations against the Islamic State for its horrific acts against Christians, Yazidis and even its fellow Muslims in Iraq and Syria. And there certainly haven’t been any marches protesting the beheading of innocents. It’s not hard to organize a march. So where are the demonstrations?

This is not the first time this question has occurred to me. For years, I have wondered about this absence of public outrage. When I asked about the murder of Iraqi civilians by Sunni and Shiite gangs, my fellow Muslims dodged my questions: “Why did the United States invade Iraq in the first place?” Yes, the U.S. invasion was a mistake. But why is it so hard to take a stand against the killing of women and children? I never got a straight answer.

To be sure, many Muslims have spoken out against the Islamic State, and some clerics have condemned this gang of terrorists; Qatar-based Islamic scholar Yusuf Qaradawi, for instance, said the Islamic State violates sharia law and declared “null and void” the group’s declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But their words merely echoed those of non-Muslims who have called for an end to the violence. Surely we can do better.

Don’t Muslims have a responsibility to speak out more loudly than others? We need the world to see anti-Islamic State marchers taking to the streets with the passion that we saw at the Gaza rallies in London and Paris. Mainstream Muslims must express our rejection of extremism in clear terms, while doing whatever we can to stop young people from radicalizing.

The common refrain is: “That’s not Islam.” Of course it isn’t. Muslims know that, but we need to understand that others do not. And here’s the problem: To much of the world, the Islamic State, Nigeria’s Boko Haram and other such groups do represent the Muslim community.

Today, say the word “Islam” and few think of the glories of our history and culture. Rather, they picture masked men with knives. And as long as our condemnations remain tepid, we give the impression that we accept the crimes of murderers whose savvy YouTube productions reach far and wide. Like it or not, the Islamic State is winning the public relations war.

Sadly, mainstream Muslims have no choice but to come to terms with the fact that groups of people are car-bombing, shooting, starving, kidnapping and beheading people in the name of Islam — not to mention blowing up churches and mosques. Where is the anger?

Is it possible that the marches in support of Palestinians are well-attended because Muslims hate Israel more than we hate criminal gangs who have hijacked the narrative of our religion?

The decision before the community is this: Either we reject the Islamic State and groups like it in the clearest possible terms, or we allow them to become the face of Muslims. When we say “It’s not Islam,” we are dismissing the criminals as someone else’s problem. The truth is, nobody else is going to deal with them.

It might seem easier to evade this responsibility, but the price of doing so will be heavy. Because, to the rest of the world, that horrific picture is what Muslims have become. If we don’t do something now, that image will be the world’s perception of us for years to come.

Yasmine Bahrani is a professor of journalism at the American University in Dubai. She wrote this for The Washington Post.

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