Category : House of Representatives

(Wired) America’s infrastructure is such a mess it earns a D+ grade, and we need $4.6 trillion just to bring it to a B

One of President Donald Trump’s first promises after getting elected was to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure—bridges, roads, tunnels, pipes, dams. And whether you’ve had to evacuate a town in the shadow of a crumbling dam, buy filters for tainted municipal water, or even just bounced over potholes on a highway, you’ve experienced the problems the president alluded to.

Well, it really is as bad as you think. The American Society of Civil Engineers has just released its latest infrastructure report card, and grades the United States at D plus. That means the country’s public works are in substandard condition, with a risk of failure. The ASCE releases its reports every four years, and the mark hasn’t changed since the last time. “While our nation’s infrastructure problems are significant, they are solvable,” says ASCE President Norma Jean Mattei. But that’ll take money.

So … $1 trillion, right? Great news! Except the ASCE report says it’ll take $4.59 trillion to bring things up to a B, or adequate grade, by 2025. That’s a shortfall of $2 trillion over current spending plans. Again: $1 trillion is nowhere near enough.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Budget, Economy, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Donald Trump, Senate, The U.S. Government

(WSJ) Erik Stanley–How to Fix the Johnson Amendment

Yet the IRS hasn’t investigated any of the pastors who have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. The agency has made a confusing situation worse by providing no explanation for why it has refused to enforce the law against these pastors. Thus many religious leaders remain in legal limbo while the IRS continues to pronounce its ability to monitor and punish them. This inaction has stymied the possibility of a civil-rights lawsuit, making a legislative fix necessary.

The Free Speech Fairness Act would get the IRS out of the speech-police business while prohibiting political expenditures or contributions by tax-exempt organizations. It would provide a relief valve for speech by allowing all charities to speak on political issues, as long as the speech is done in the course of carrying out the group’s regular activities. Because the bill doesn’t allow for political contributions or expenditures, dark money can’t flow through exempt organizations to campaigns.

America’s pastors deserve better than the Johnson Amendment. The Constitution demands that they have the ability to speak from their pulpits without fearing punishment by the officials from one of the most feared federal agencies. President Trump should urge Congress to swiftly pass this law and do away with this injustice.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Office of the President, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate, Theology

(WSJ) Orrin Hatch–How Trump Can Help Religious Charities

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation is passed annually to set the military’s budget and settle other policy issues. A significant hangup had been Democratic opposition to a provision known as the “Russell amendment,” which would have clarified conscience protections for religious groups that receive federal contracts. The amendment is named after Rep. Steve Russell (R., Okla.), who offered the amendment at the House Armed Services Committee.

Forty-two Democratic senators signed an Oct. 25 letter opposing the Russell amendment. They claim it would have authorized bigotry by allowing religiously affiliated contractors to “engage in discriminatory hiring practices” or even to fire employees for using birth control or in vitro fertilization. These accusations are grossly inaccurate, but they led to the amendment’s removal from the final bill. The U.S. now risks losing the crucial work religious service providers do for communities with the support of federal contracts.

Every day, stories of grace and mercy are being written as people of faith help those in need. Catholic Charities has helped single moms fill their basic needs. The Mormon Church, through LDS Charities, has donated wheelchairs to hundreds of thousands of people. The University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic in Los Angeles provides care for thousands of people in a desperate part of town. The Jewish Social Service Agency supports families of children with autism. Samaritans Purse provides disaster relief across the world.

These groups are being marginalized by the federal government. What happened?

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, Economy, History, House of Representatives, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate

Charleston SC Cathedral Dean Peet Dickinson–Coming Close: Citizenship in Heaven

As Paul reminded the Christians in Philippi, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” So, what difference does having an ultimate transcendent citizenship make for our lives as earthly citizens of the United States of America?

Having a heavenly citizenship allows us to avoid the polar postures of triumphalism on the one hand, and nihilism on the other. It allows us to unequivocally pray for President-elect Trump in his victory and pray for Secretary Clinton in her defeat. Just as we have prayed for President Obama throughout his time in office, we will, without hesitation, pray for President Trump after his inauguration just as we would have prayed for Secretary Clinton had she won the election. We must pray for and meaningfully aid President-elect Trump in “binding the wounds of division” as he put it in his conciliatory victory speech. As citizens of heaven we can have the eyes of our hearts opened to the very real pain and fear that people are feeling in many parts of our country. I received a message this morning from a friend who is a teacher asking for my prayers as she had genuinely frightened African American and Muslim children weeping in her arms today at school. Our call as citizens of heaven is to have open arms of love and compassion like my friend and to work tirelessly on our knees and in the civic square to make sure that their fears are not realized. As citizens of heaven, we are free to celebrate and magnify that which is good, and to rebuke and stand against that which is evil, regardless of which political party or politician is before us. As citizens of heaven, we know full well that all authority on earth comes under the sovereign authority of Almighty God. As citizens of heaven, we are rooted in a great and glorious truth that Christ Jesus our redeemer lives and his Spirit is within us, bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Ministry of the Ordained, Office of the President, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Senate, Theology, Theology: Scripture

A Prayer for an Election from the American Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States…[and of my community[ in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Spirituality/Prayer, State Government, Theology

(NR) A Little Perspective on 2016, from a Documentary on Christian Persecution

This year’s presidential election may well be the most divisive in U.S. history, pitting liberals and conservatives against one another perhaps more bitterly than ever before, and the two major-party candidates seem in many ways to reflect cultural ills and political corruption that have been brewing for decades. On both the right and the left, countless citizens appear to believe that one candidate or the other will bring about the “end of America.” Conservatives argue that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton will, among other things, transform the Supreme Court into a progressive super-legislature to impose its anti-democratic will for a generation. Meanwhile, liberals maintain that Republican nominee Donald Trump will deport millions of minorities and exacerbate existing racial tension to the detriment of less-privileged Americans.

It is easy to allow the evident failures of our political system ”” culminating in the simultaneous nomination of perhaps the two most dishonest, corrupt presidential nominees in U.S. history ”” to consume our focus and destroy our confidence in the future of our country. But as these seemingly endless debates absorb our attention and ongoing rancor pollutes our national dialogue, millions of people around the world face genocide, and they fear for their lives and those of their children.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, House of Representatives, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Office of the President, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Senate, Syria, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

Larry Sabato's Penultimate Crystal Ball on the upcoming American Eleection

Hillary Clinton has picked an awful time to hit one of the rough patches that has plagued her throughout the campaign. Now with just days to go until Election Day, there’s added uncertainty about the outcome. But while she may not be on the brink of an Electoral College win the size of Barack Obama’s in 2008 or even 2012, her position as the clear frontrunner in this race endures.

We’re holding at 272 “hard” Safe or Likely electoral votes for Clinton, and an additional 21 electoral votes leaning to her (Nevada and North Carolina). Trump is now at 214, better than Romney’s 2012 total of 206, but also without a clear path to add the 56 additional electoral votes he needs to get to 270. Again, even adding Florida, the two Toss-up House districts, and Leans Democratic North Carolina and Nevada would only get him to 266.

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Theology

Key Guardian article on the elitism+incestuousness of some of the usa ruling class

They are the comfortable and well-educated mainstay of our modern Democratic party. They are also the grandees of our national media; the architects of our software; the designers of our streets; the high officials of our banking system; the authors of just about every plan to fix social security or fine-tune the Middle East with precision droning. They are, they think, not a class at all but rather the enlightened ones, the people who must be answered to but who need never explain themselves.

Let us turn the magnifying glass on them for a change, by sorting through the hacked personal emails of John Podesta, who has been a Washington power broker for decades. I admit that I feel uncomfortable digging through this hoard; stealing someone’s email is a crime, after all, and it is outrageous that people’s personal information has been exposed, since WikiLeaks doesn’t seem to have redacted the emails in any way. There is also the issue of authenticity to contend with: we don’t know absolutely and for sure that these emails were not tampered with by whoever stole them from John Podesta. The supposed authors of the messages are refusing to confirm or deny their authenticity, and though they seem to be real, there is a small possibility they aren’t.

With all that taken into consideration, I think the WikiLeaks releases furnish us with an opportunity to observe the upper reaches of the American status hierarchy in all its righteousness and majesty.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Psychology, Senate, Theology

Morning Food for Thought from John Dingell (Via Peter Marty): Position versus Person

From here:

A year ago, retired U.S. representative John Dingell, who for many years served Michigan’s 12th congressional district, was coaching Wisconsin congressman Ron Kind. “Ron,” said Dingell, “never forget that you’ve got an important job, but you’re not an important person. The second you start thinking that you’re an important person, you start to cut corners and think the rules don’t apply to you.”

One doesn’t have to be a legislator or city bureaucrat to risk losing the distinction between one’s self-importance and the important work one is called to do. Would that we all might pull out a report card and do the sort of reflective work Nai-Wang Kwok managed so beautifully.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(CNS) House Committee calls attacks on Christians, others in Middle East 'genocide'

The resolution on genocide, introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, “expresses the sense of Congress that the atrocities committed by ISIS against Christians, Yezidis, and other ethnic and religious minorities constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

“ISIS commits mass murder, beheadings, crucifixions, rape, torture, enslavement and the kidnapping of children, among other atrocities,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Ed Royce, R-California. “ISIS has said it will not allow the continued existence of the Yezidi. And zero indigenous Christian communities remain in areas under ISIS control.”

The Islamic State “is guilty of genocide and it is time we speak the truth about their atrocities. I hope the administration and the world will do the same, before it’s too late,” Royce added.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Churches, Other Faiths, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Theology, Violence

(WSJ) Charles Moore–Western countries must honestly face The Middle-Class Squeeze

Since the financial crisis of 2007-08, which Western leader could boast of spreading ownership in any important way? In the U.S. and Britain, the percentage of citizens owning stocks or houses is well down from the late 1980s. In Britain, the average age for buying a first home is now 31 (and many more people than before depend on “the bank of Mom and Dad” to help them do so). In the mid-’80s, it was 27. My own children, who started work in London in the last two years, earn a little less, in real terms, than I did when I began in 1979, yet house prices are 15 times higher. We have become a society of “have lesses,” if not yet of “have nots.”

In a few lines of work, earnings have shot forward. In 1982, only seven U.K. financial executives were receiving six-figure salaries. Today, tens of thousands are (an enormous increase, even allowing for inflation). The situation is very different for the middle-ranking civil servant, attorney, doctor, teacher or small-business owner. Many middle-class families now depend absolutely on the income of both parents in a way that was unusual even as late as the 1980s.

In Britain and the U.S., we are learning all over again that it is not the natural condition of the human race for children to be better off than their parents. Such a regression, in societies that assume constant progress, is striking. Imagine the panic if the same thing happened to life expectancy.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Credit Markets, Currency Markets, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Federal Reserve, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Housing/Real Estate Market, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Office of the President, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Senate, Taxes, The U.S. Government, Theology

The full text of Pope Francis' historic address to U.S. Congress today

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation. On the other, the figure of Moses leads us directly to God and thus to the transcendent dignity of the human being. Moses provides us with a good synthesis of your work: you are asked to protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, House of Representatives, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Other Churches, Politics in General, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate, Theology

(Gallup) 75% in U.S. See Widespread Government Corruption

Three in four Americans (75%) last year perceived corruption as widespread in the country’s government. This figure is up from two in three in 2007 (67%) and 2009 (66%).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, House of Representatives, Office of the President, Politics in General, Senate, Sociology, The U.S. Government, Theology

(LA Times) The talking ”” and arguing ”” points of the Iran nuclear deal

Criticism: Thousands of Iranian centrifuges will keep spinning.

The deal doesn’t dismantle or close Iran’s two uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow. It does require Iran to reduce its centrifuge inventory by two-thirds and eliminate 98% of its stockpile of enriched uranium. Iran will be allowed to keep about 6,100 centrifuges for the next 10 years and continue some enrichment work.

White House response: Iran’s inventory of centrifuges will be cut drastically from nearly 20,000, which is enough to create fuel for as many as 10 bombs. It will be left with only its oldest and least efficient models. No enrichment will be allowed at Fordow, and other activities will be restricted to producing uranium enriched to a level of 3.67%, far below the nearly 90% usually required to make a bomb.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, History, House of Representatives, Iran, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Senate, Theology

(Bloomberg) Iran, World Powers Have Reached Nuclear Agreement

Iran and six world powers sealed a historic accord to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in return for ending sanctions, capping two years of tough diplomacy with the biggest breakthrough in relations in decades.

Diplomats reached the agreement in Vienna in their 18th day of talks, officials involved in the negotiations said. A final meeting was scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. local time.

The deal, if approved by the U.S. Congress, promises to end a 12-year standoff that has crippled Iran’s economy and drawn threats of military action from the U.S. and Israel. Full implementation would take months and be contingent on the pace at which Iran meets its obligations. It would enable the oil-rich nation to ramp up energy exports, access international funding and open its doors to global investors.

“This is probably going to go down in history as one of the biggest diplomatic successes of the century,” Ellie Geranmayeh, a policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said by phone from London.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, History, House of Representatives, Iran, Middle East, Office of the President, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Senate