Public Citizen is one of the great organizations in this country, constantly struggling to keep elections honest and fair. It has always been a demanding task but in my opinion it has been made much more difficult since the decision Citizens United came down from the Supreme Court.
The public should be outraged by the shameful state of elections in this country and the inordinate influence of political discourse by corporations and the wealthy. Public Citizen is leading a fight to overturn Citizens United. Twenty percent of the states have already passed resolutions to that affect and more will be coming.
Corporations are legal entities that are set up in order to facilitate business dealings. They also serve as a shield to protect investors from mistakes or unlawful actions that the corporate entity might perform. We refer to them as “legal persons” but that is simply a figment of the imagination to facilitate easier and safer business transactions. While a corporation has been recognized for centuries for the safety and protection of those forming it, it was never considered a person in the true sense. However, Citizens United has changed that and we are now told that General Motors, Ford Motor Company and your brother-in-law are really equal citizens living down the street from each other. Your brother-in-law is free to spend as much as he would desire during elections and so is General Motors. In most cases, it is not a level playing field.
Public Citizen can be reached at 1600 20th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009 (202) 588-1000.
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Image from roanoakfreepress.com
I, for one, am glad that we only have to redrawn the boundaries of the U.S. House Districts once every ten years because whenever that time comes around in most states it generates a tremendous struggle. State legislators draw those boundaries after the census that is taking up every decade. More accurately, the majority party in the state legislature draw those boundaries and, sadly but naturally, the majority party tries to draw the boundaries in a way that is advantageous to it giving it more seats in the Congress or at least protecting the seats they already have.
Are you old enough to remember an election held in every Southern state called “the Democratic White Primary?” That is the name that was given to the real General Election. It was used by all Southern states and black people were not permitted to vote much less run for office. Needless to say, that kept blacks out of office until late in the 1960’s when Congress passed the Voter Rights Act that demanded a fair electoral system be established and removing the obstacle Southern states placed between African Americans and the voting booth. In 2006, that Act was extended for 25 years by a vote of 90 to nothing in the Senate and 390 to 32 in the House. You might think therefore it was secure for the next quarter of a century but that is not the case.
Serious efforts are being discussed to undercut the Act or to go around it. A history of prejudice and discrimination is so deeply embedded in Texas and most of the other Southern states that every effort must continue to be made to protect minorities from their full rights as American citizens.
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Here it is, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Church year is progressing slowly but steadily towards its ultimate Sunday, the Feast of Christ the King, where we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is the Lord of history. These many weeks that lack the excitement of special seasons, like Advent and Lent, are really a time for adult education and deepening our knowledge. Each Sunday, the three Scriptures come together to form a collage with a very special message. Today, that message is the infinite generosity of God.
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 18th)
The Gospel tells that beautiful story of the owner of an estate who paid even those who had done very little work a very fair and just wage. However, I would prefer to take a look at the first reading, which comes from Isaiah chapter 55, when he gives the underlying reason why there is so much mystery in our lives. It is very simple. God’s ways are not our ways and there is a great gulf between our finite brains and His infinite knowledge. Isaiah has Yahweh saying,
“My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
Let’s don’t try to outsmart God.
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I mentioned earlier how saddened I was by the fact that thousands of hard working men and women are frequently cheated of the wages that they have struggled so hard to earn. Wage theft in America is a tragic reality. I am encouraged by the fact that concerned citizens and the workers themselves are making progress in confronting this crime.
Let’s celebrate the development of a new form of self-help assistance to such cheated workers. These responses are called “Worker Centers” where the workers themselves come together to cooperate in developing their rights under the law and to move in a unified fashion against corrupt employers who systematically endeavor to steal the wages of hard working but vulnerable employees.
I am very proud and happy to report that Austin has a very excellent worker center, Workers Defense Project, located at 5604 Manor Road. Recently, the Austin center was able to assist a group of masonry workers to recover nearly $12,000 in back wages which had been kept from them illegally. Victories such as this give workers the knowledge and the courage to defend their rights to work together to improve their working conditions and to secure the proper payment for frequently very difficult labor.
Like the Roman Catholic Church itself, I am a strong supporter of workers rights to organize into unions. Regretfully, in this country working people have always faced hostility in their efforts to organize themselves. Actually, they only got the legal right to do this in the mid-30’s with the passage of the Wagner Act. Regardless of where a person stands in their attitude towards unions, however, no right thinking person could be opposed to hard working men and women getting their completely fair share of payments that are owed to them for labor expended. The anti-union situation is not likely to change any time soon but in the meantime we should all be willing to encourage society to see that workers are properly paid for efforts that they have expended to provide for their families.
I am proud of the Workers Defense Project and I am proud of the good work that it has done here in Austin.
Is one of your church organizations looking for an exciting and interesting subject for a presentation and discussion? Why don’t you suggest to your president or chairman that the issue of wage theft in America be a subject of thoughtful discussion and prayer and maybe then some very real action on behalf of justice. The Workers Defense Project will supply speakers. Just call (512) 391-2305 or their e-mail address is email@example.com.
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The week between Christmas and New Years is not all that productive for most of us. For that reason, I am going to take off for a few days. However, my editor refuses to release me of the responsibility of saying something on the blog, so I am going to take a shortcut and borrow someone else’s work…
I was given a beautiful series of pictures from Norway with simple sentences on the bottom of each one. They are described as lessons in our life and I think that most of them, although obvious, are very meaningful. Here are a few more snippets while I continue on the road.
Life isn’t fair but it is still good.
Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
Make peace with your past so it wont mess up the present.
It is okay to let your children see you cry; it is better to let them see you PRAY.
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