Still Blinded By A Bird’s Eye View From The World Trade Center

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo by Jim Allen World Trade Center (1-15-1999), NYC 106th Floor Window

Looking through some old papers tonight, I found this 35mm photo I took on January 15, 1999 from a 106th floor  window of what used to be the World Trade Center in New York City.

You will notice the clouds from this bird’s eye view.

Tragically, this vantage point is practically no longer available.

Can someone please tell me why?

Seriously!

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Boston PD Bomber Suspects Manhunt: So That’s How You Take Back a Neighborhood?

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Boston PD Manhunt and City Lockdown for Boston Marathon Bombing Suspects

Annette and Jim Retirement

Honoree Annette Harris and Emcee Jim  Allen at April 13, 2013 Retirement Gala at Norfolk State University. She happened to take the 911 call after my dad (JOA Sr.) died at home on June 1, 2001.

One week ago today, I was honored to serve as the emcee at a retirement gala at Norfolk State University for a family member who served for 34 years among the most noteworthy ranks of first responders; obviously having no idea of the level of heroism we would see from first responders and ordinary citizens in the aftermath of the heinous Boston Marathon bombing on Monday and the police manhunt for the two suspects and city shut-down that followed; ending yesterday with the capture of the surviving suspect. 

While one has ample cause to reaffirm the celebration of first responders, one is troubled by the early and errant reports by CNN’s John King (and picked up by other media outlets) that the bombing suspects were “dark skinned” men. That was utterly irresponsible, dangerous and ironic at once; particularly since we now know these young brothers’ family hails from near the CaucasusMountain region of Russia—Caucasus, as in Caucasian—which may turn out to be largely inconsequential as well, we’ll see.

A tedious layout here of the diaspora of Shem, Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and how and where, in the Abrahamic tradition, they repopulated the Earth after Noah’s flood would be pointless and likely eye-glazingly boring to most. I also think a discussion about the color of the bombers’ skin is, at this point, largely insignificant, but is only worth mentioning because of the intensity of the discourse that ensued in social and other media once they were (wrongly) identified as being “dark-skinned men,” and how quickly so many people said “I knew it!”

Putting aside that quick rush to judgment, I think there may be a more meaningful point to attempt to make here. Police shut down a Boston-area bedroom community, without mobilizing the National Guard, and deployed tactical sophistication and an overwhelming show of coordinated force (developed since 9-11) which included interagency electronic communication, video surveillance from numerous private and public sources, house-to-house searches, advanced-SWAT-grade weaponry and first-responder infrastructure, barricaded streets and voluntary lockdown orders for citizens.

Notwithstanding what those among gun-rights advocates who fear the possible tyranny of the government might make of that well-oiled mechanism of paramilitary force, I now know, without a doubt, that if the government is of a mind to shut down crime and criminals in any given area for a period of time, it can.

Somehow, as a nation we are no longer “outraged” when there are multiple murders from gun violence in Washington, DC, Detroit and Chicago inner-city neighborhoods, on any given weekend, as were the residents of Watertown, MA, after just one night, when the bombing suspects allegedly shot it out with police in their otherwise peaceful neighborhood.

“I cannot believe it—not here,” said one resident. “Not us,” said another. But we, as a nation, accept it in neighborhoods where, let’s say, certain other people are predominant. It’s sad, and I am so reluctant to voice it in those terms, but it’s true.

Really, I suppose one cannot blame others for violence in their own communities, but when thousands die every year of gun violence on the streets of America, that’s an epidemic that impacts and should concern us all—and it is likely just a matter of time before someone you know, or knows someone whom you know, is either a victim or a perpetrator.

So far, almost to a person, all who knew the bombing suspects “could not believe” that they could have done what they are accused of doing and had allegedly become what is being called in the media and US State Department circles, “radicalized.”

All except for their own mother, whose mixed messages included the FBI had been tracking her elder son for three years, she had been interviewed by government officials about his “suspicious” activities and that he was “set up” and “controlled” by the FBI. An ex-girlfriend of his years ago reportedly filed assault charges against him, which, in conjunction with his FBI file, some sources indicate may have led to his US citizenship application being placed on hold(which the younger brother achieved), thus, perhaps, essentially ending his US amateur boxing career, and US Olympic-team dream, which was his passion, and perhaps initially sparked his anger according to some credible reports.

In any case, it appears these brothers were well armed and well-trained (or self-trained) at least in Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) execution, if not end-game, escape tactics. An auto-body mechanic said in a television interview this week that the “nail biting” and visibly shaken younger suspect, who was known to him as a “neighborhood kid,” came to pick up his brother’s car after the bombing, but it was not ready for delivery. How much different would this story be if that car had been ready?

Moreover, and on a different front, we each need to take a long look in the mirror to see how we might have had a hand letting so many young people in our inner-cities spin out of control, to become “thug radicalized,” steeped in ignorance (with abysmal drop-out rates), premature parenthood and violence.

While we in America continually attempt to heal ourselves from centuries of social pathology, the Boston area has given us more proof that whole-community involvement makes a difference in law enforcement and that more tax dollars can and should be shifted to facilitate an increased police presence in violence-blighted communities in order to take back those neighborhoods currently under siege from untrained shooters whose value systems do not mix well with firearms; to the dismay of the majority of citizens in those communities who are law abiding, conscientious residents who want to raise their children to be educated in public schools and live in safety with hopes of upward mobility.

It was a resident of Watertown who informed the police that a murder suspect (from a nearby community) was hiding in a boat behind his house. Was the person who reported this to the police a “snitch” or a hero?

People in urban communities must stop covering for criminals. The concept of labeling someone a “snitch” for reporting to police the whereabouts of someone who is actively engaged in undermining ones community is foolish and self destructive.

From the concerted police action in Boston, we now have a template to send a desperate, weapons-sophisticated teenage murder suspect into hiding, with the president’s, governor’s and mayor’s commitment of the necessary resources and with the community’s’ support. The same should now be fully expected in not-so-bedroom-like communities while we work to get our minds right and in the meantime effectively shut down firearm-ignorant, cowardly drive-by shooters, who many times are also between 19 and 26 years of age.

It appears to be a matter of prioritizing the allocation of resources. Would it not be great to see inner-city policemen spontaneously cheered by the people they serve and people in those communities feeling the sort of relief that is felt today in Watertown?

Posted in 2nd Amendment, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Media, NRA, Politics, Second Amendment | Tagged , | 16 Comments

The Life Changing House of Help City of Hope Needs a Miracle

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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House of Help City of Hope 2013 Graduating Class

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2013 Class Valedictorian and Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway

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Rev. George E. Holmes, First HOHCOH Teen Graduate, Dr. Robert L. Woodson Sr. and Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway

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Before Photo Graceview Apartments Transitional Housing, SE, Washington, DC

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After Photo Graceview Apartments Transitional Housing, SE, Washington, DC

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House of Help City of Hope Kingdom City Men’s Facility Waldorf, MD

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House of Help City of Hope Kingdom Village Women’s Facility Suitland, MD

DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Dr. Robert L. Woodson Sr., president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and The Reverend George Edward Holmes, a member of President Barack Obama’s National African American Clergy Leadership Working Group, and chaplain of the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee, last week supported the celebration of the House of Help City of Hope graduation ceremony and fundraiser, where a class of 27 men and women were recognized for starting new lives by completing the first phase of the faith-based substance abuse and homelessness program. As it now stands, House of Help City of Hope itself needs a miracle.

“We are trusting God for a miracle because the owners of the [women’s facility] property are legally running out of time to act to sell the building, which means we too are challenged,” said Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, founder and CEO of the 501(c)3 House of Help City of Hope and creator of the faith-based, “hand-up, not hand-out” treatment programs.

The [building] owners have reduced the selling price significantly, which is a blessing in itself, but we just do not have the cash on hand,” said Holloway

“My business mind tells me that someone could buy the building and lease it back to us, or someone could buy it and sell it back to us over time. I believe if we could show a deal in principle, we could slow this process down and give us time to gather ourselves and secure additional funds. And we’ll also soon have to position ourselves to buy KingdomCity [men’s facility] as well,” Holloway added.

“Our financial house is in order and we have been excellent stewards, properly maintaining our facilities and consistently meeting our financial obligations, but we were not expecting to have to purchase these properties on such short notice. But we are expecting a breakthrough or benefactor to appear right now!” Holloway continued.

The mayor’s official statement last week concerning the 2013 graduation and fundraiser read in part, “This occasion is an opportunity to reflect on your important and respected voice promoting peace, racial and religious dialogue, understanding, cooperation and mutual respect for differences.”

The House of Help City of Hope takes in those who need help regardless of race, creed, color, sexual orientation or religious conviction, whose “…programs have proven to help enrich the quality of life in our community,” added the mayor.

In its nearly 20 years in operation, House of Help City of Hope has helped over 30,000 people.

Standing arrow straight and smiling was a 2013 lady graduate whose quality of life has been redeemed. “It’s hard to believe that just a few months ago, I was so far out there on [the street drug] ecstasy that I was almost little more than a play toy for depraved, violent men,” said the graduate.

“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, or for my background, or the choices I made—but if it wasn’t for the Bishop, I might be dead right now, instead of graduating from the House of Help and preparing to start a new job, continuing my education and have a spiritual foundation to lean on,” she added.

“We receive people just as they are. They come to us from various referral sources with the mutual expectation that they are being prepared to resume productive lives and not be permanently dependent on us or any program,” said Holloway.

House of Help City of Hope has a recidivism rate of 15-25% compared to the national average of 30-59% for drug court graduates and as compared to a 75-80% recidivism rate for those not participating in any structured program, according to a June 2008 research report commissioned by the Virginia Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee: Planning and Development Subcommittee.

The treatment regimen is a patient-centered outcome approach. In addition to alcohol and substance-abuse treatment and transitional housing, House of Help City of Hope provides other mental health-related services, career counseling, protective services for battered women, a GED program, parenting classes, daycare facilities and K-12 academic support for children

“One of our most unique features is that we shelter women and their children at KingdomVillage [women’s facility], whereas most shelters will not take in women who have their kids with them,” said Holloway.

“We are one of the few programs in the nation that accepts whole families into the program when one member in the family is accepted into treatment,” added Holloway

“So many women who need mental health services or to escape physical or sexual abuse are forced to forego the residential treatment and counseling they need, in order to keep their children, which often also puts the children at greater risk. We remove that barrier at House of Help City of Hope and strongly promote family stability,” added Holloway.

KingdomVillage is a certified clinical treatment facility and shelter with a capacity for 150 women and children, with an in-house prayer sanctuary, located in Prince George’s County at 2420 Brooks DriveSuitland, MD.

The men are housed and treated at the “KingdomCity” 330-bed certified drug-treatment center and men’s shelter, also equipped with a sanctuary, located in CharlesCounty at 11100 Billingsley Rd, Waldorf, MD.

“We provide the same basic services for men at KingdomCity as we do for the women at KingdomVillage, including anger management counseling, life-skills training, job preparation and job placement assistance,” added Holloway.

She says that they learned over time that it is better to separate the sexes during the critical early treatment phases of her programs.

“It’s too much of a distraction for people in the program, it’s better to house the men and women apart for obvious reasons,” said Holloway.

“But we have had roughly 100 successful marriages that have come about through people connecting within our work-life and faith-based outreaches within programs and right now we are celebrating two recent engagement announcements!” beamed Holloway.

“And for the first time, we graduated a teenage young lady and a young man which, frankly, I did not think we were up to. But I now we believe we can help more families in this way,” she continued.

The House of Help City of Hope transitional housing and treatment phases are 90-days, 6-months, and 5 years for ex-offenders, after which includes possible transition to its Graceview Apartments facility, which it owns, located at 2322 16th Street, SE Washington, DC.

The complex has 42 safe and affordable one-and-two bedroom transitional apartments, and avails tenants to optional participation in the “Homelessness to Homeownership” program, of which there are a number of graduate homeowners.

When Holloway acquired the Graceview property, it was a dilapidated haven for drug dealers and prostitution and a nightmare for DC police.

“Before we took over that property, [utility] meter readers refused come there without a police protection for fear of being robbed,” said Holloway.

“We’ve come along way and it’s virtually crime free now and the police have thanked us for helping to make their jobs less dangerous in the area and the community safer,” she added.

Holloway says “people are free to stay in various the programs, as long as they are active in their progress toward recovery, they become and stay gainfully employed as soon as they are able, and begin to take responsibility for their lives.”

“Our calling is to equip and ennoble people, not further cripple them. No one sits around and watches us work,” said Holloway.

Mayor Gray added a final hopeful message to his official statement of support for House of Help City of Hope 2013 graduation and fundraiser.

“As you gather to celebrate this festive occasion, please continue your charitable contributions and continued support to youth programs, education, health fairs and community outreach activities,” said the mayor.

“From the mayor’s mouth, to God’s ear,” said Holloway through a smile.

 

Note: For more information about House of Help City of Hope, to financially support its programs, make donations of goods or services, or speak to Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, you may call her at (202) 889-2942.

Posted in Bible, Healthcare, Homelessness, Jesus, Media, Mental Health Counseling, Politics, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

DC Mayor, Community ‘Godfather’ and White House Adviser Celebrate New Beginnings

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Letter of Support for House of Hope City of Help 2013 Graduation and Fundraiser from DC Mayor Vincent C.Gray

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Dr. Robert L. Woodson, Keynote Address, House of Help City of Hope 2013 Graduation Exercises, March 30, 2013, Kingdom City, Waldorf, MD

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Rev. George E, Holmes, White House Faith-based adviser with words of encouragement for grads

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Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway (L) and Assistant, Minister Gloria Williams (R)

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House of Help City of Hope 2013 Graduates

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2013 Class Valedictorian and Bishop Dr. Hoiloway

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Graduate with dignitaries

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Dr. Woodson with Graduate

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First Teen Graduate

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Grads gather for final exhortation

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Bishop Dr. Holloway commissions post grads to nurture new grads

DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray issued an official statement in support of the House of Help City of Hope 2013 graduation ceremony and fundraiser this past Saturday; the pomp and circumstances of which marked a new start in the lives of twenty-five men and two women who completed the first phase of the pioneering faith-based House of Help City of Hope intervention program, designed to help individuals who have struggled with drugs, alcohol, depression (and other mental health challenges), physical, sexual or psychological abuse, homelessness and/or have criminal backgrounds get their lives back on track.

“This occasion is an opportunity to reflect on your important and respected voice promoting peace, racial and religious dialogue, understanding, cooperation and mutual respect for differences,” wrote Gray.

“Your programs have proven to help enrich the quality of life in our community. As you gather to celebrate this festive occasion, please continue your charitable contributions and continued support to youth programs, education, health fairs and community outreach activities,” added the mayor.

Dr. Robert L. Woodson Sr., president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, nationally known as the “godfather” of neighborhood economic development, and a long-time supporter of the House of Help City of Hope, delivered the keynote address. His message to the gathering at the program’s Kingdom City campus in Waldorf, MD was one of encouragement to “continue to be more than conquerors.”

Woodson also framed the mission ahead for the graduates and the “ennobling” program invoking the words of Mother Teresa: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

The Reverend George Edward Holmes, a member of President Barack Obama’s National African American Clergy Leadership Working Group and chaplain of the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee, exhorted the graduates to “stand firm”  and to “remember the source of [their] strength” when forces and people from their former lives try to get them off “the positive path” they are now on.

Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, Founder and CEO of the House of Help City of Hope, and creator of the innovative hand up, not hand out treatment programs, is often a proverbial beacon in the night for the lost—providing shelter, food and counseling for the dejected and tormented.

“Of course, I am so proud of our graduates—what they have accomplished for themselves and for their families is what this is all about,” said Holloway.

“And for the first time, we graduated some teens. I’ll admit, initially, I was a little reluctant to go this route. But I am now confident this has opened a new window for us to be of service to more families in DC, Maryland and Virginia communities,” she continued.

“This was also a most fitting end to a wonderful week of international fellowship for our ministry conference. We had visitors who attended the graduation in from as far as Belgium, Germany, New Zealand, Angola, Congo, and as near Kansas City [Missouri], Atlanta and Baltimore,” Holloway added.

Since its humble beginnings, nearly 20 years ago, the 501(c)3 non-profit House of Help City of Hope program now has treatment, continuing education and/or housing facilities in Washington, DC and Prince George’s and Charles Counties, MD and has served over 30,000 individuals.

Holloway, who is also a certified substance abuse counselor, has been featured in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The New York Post, and Afro-American Newspapers.  She travels nationally and internationally preaching the gospel and oversees churches in Florida, Louisiana, Israel, UK, Russia, and supports the HOPE orphanage in Uganda.

Note: For more information about House of Help City of Hope, to financially support their programs or make other donations of goods or services you may call Bishop Dr. Holloway at (202) 889-2942. House of Help City of Hope has a recidivism rate of 15-25% compared to the national average of 30-59% for drug court graduates and as compared to a 75-80% recidivism rate for those not participating in any structured program (Statistics cited are according to researchers working under the auspices of the Virginia Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee: Planning and Development Subcommittee, June 2008).

Posted in Bible, Healthcare, Homelessness, Jesus, Media, Mental Health Counseling, Politics, Religion, Spirituality, Subtance Abuse | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

DC Mayor’s Office Says Meeting with Deanwood Citizens Not Prompted by Murder

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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DC Mayor Vincent Gray (D) on Monday will meet with members of the Deanwood Citizens Association who are outraged over the shooting death of Akinwole Olu Williams, 31, killed on Thursday of last week, near midnight, while walking the short distance from the Deanwood Metro Station to his home.

Doxie McCoy, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office, on Saturday, said prior to Williams’ murder, the mayor was engaged with the Deanwood Citizens Association and was scheduled to meet with the residents of that community the week prior, but was forced to postpone.

“So his visit was not prompted by murder [as indicated in the headline of an earlier report], though it is certain to come up,” said McCoy.

Deanwood representatives agree that they had been reaching out to the mayor for some time and fully expected the mayor to make time for them, as recently as the postponed meeting last week, and believe the Williams murder has indeed pressurized the situation.

“But [the murder of Mr. Williams] was not the initial driver of our desire to meet with the mayor, who clearly wants to meet with us, but we do not expect a postponement this week,” said one concerned Deanwood property owner, on Saturday.

“…Certainly he wants to be responsive to urgent community concerns about murder, other crime and whatever other issues residents want to address. So he looks forward to the dialogue,” added McCoy on Sunday.

Violent crimes have rocked this community, including the murder of Williams, who recently completed his bachelor’s degree studies at Catholic University, was considering law school and, meanwhile, worked at Comfort One Shoes, near Dupont Circle in NW DC.

On the night of his brutal slaying, Williams decided not to wait for his usual ride home from his brother (also his roommate) who was delayed at his job. He caught the Metro train home and was killed, by a still-unknown assailant by a shotgun blast to the chest, just steps from his apartment in the 1000 block of 44th Street NE, near I-295.

Deanwood community activists have secured a commitment from Gray to meet with them on Monday (March 25, at 6:30 p.m.) at the Deanwood Recreation Center at 1350 49th Street, NE to discuss the violence in that community and conditions which they believe are untenable to the peace and stability of the neighborhood.

“We want more police patrols, new bright lighting, clean streets and enforcement of housing codes to eliminate dilapidated, vacant homes,” said another Deanwood property owner, on Friday.

Sources say, Ward 7 DC Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D) is also expected to attend the Monday meeting.

Note: For more information about the Monday meeting in Deanwood with Mayor Gray, contact Adrienne Loftin at 301-706-9390.

Posted in 2nd Amendment, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Jesus, Media, NRA, Politics, Second Amendment, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Murder of Catholic U Grad Prompts Deanwood Citizens Monday Meeting with DC Mayor Gray

By Jim Allen, Editor NuVote Reach

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According to my sources,  DC Mayor Vincent Gray (D) on Monday will meet with members of the Deanwood Citizens Association who are outraged over the shooting death of Akinwole Olu Williams, 31, killed on Thursday of last week, near midnight, while walking the short distance from the Deanwood Metro Station to his home.

Williams, who recently completed his bachelor’s degree studies at CatholicUniversity, was considering law school and, meanwhile, worked at Comfort One Shoes, near Dupont Circle in NW DC.

On the night of his brutal slaying, Williams decided not to wait for his usual ride home from his brother (also his roommate) who was delayed at his job. He caught the Metro train home and was killed, by a still-unknown assailant by a shotgun blast to the chest, just steps from his apartment in the 1000 block of 44th Street NE, near I-295.

Deanwood community activists and citizens at large are saying, “it’s enough!” and have secured a commitment from Gray to meet with them on Monday (March 25, at 6:30 p.m.) at the Deanwood Recreation Center at 1350 49th Street, NE to discuss the violence in that community and conditions which they believe are untenable to the peace and stability of the neighborhood.

Adrienne Loftin, an HR executive and Deanwood property owner who has deep family roots in the community and whose daughter, a 21-year Howard University student, lives a short distance from where Williams was murdered, says this apparently senseless killing is a late wake-up call to the community and the mayor’s office.

“We want more police patrols, new bright lighting, clean streets and enforcement of housing codes to eliminate dilapidated, vacant homes,” said Loftin.

“Two years ago, another CatholicUniversity student was killed in the Sherman Circle Community in NW and as a result of that community taking a stand, with the support of DC Government officials, that community is now safer than it’s ever been,” she continued.

“New street lighting has been installed there, the streets and sidewalks have been cleared of debris and now there are more police officers patrolling the streets,” Loftin added.

“As taxpayers, we want the same consideration. People need to come out on Monday night, in good numbers, and talk to the mayor, face-to-face; and we want the press there too, to record the conversation,” said Loftin.

“We will not just sit by and allow Deanwood residents to continue to be the victims of violence and neglect. Mr. Williams’ tragic death—and I’ll be frank—and my own daughter’s proximity to it makes it clear to me that we can wait no longer to take action,” she added.

“As a parent of a college student, who will graduate this year, this is unimaginable, unacceptable, and we expect full support and decisive action from Mayor Gray and the DC government to help us rid this neighborhood of undesirables—both, violent criminals and unhealthy conditions,” Loftin  continued.

Sources say, Ward 7 DC Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D) is also expected to attend the Monday meeting.

A CatholicUniversity spokesperson, said the school will invite Williams’ parents to their May commencement exercises and present his diploma to them.

DC Police are offering a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons wanted for this homicide. If you have information, please call 202-727-9099.

Note: For more information about the Monday meeting with Mayor Gray, contact Adrienne Loftin at 301-706-9390. By the way, I met my wife literally one street over from where this shooting took place, in the Deanwood neighborhood where she grew up (a nice neighborhood of mostly home owners), I lived and we were married. The least I could do for the “old neighbor” was write this piece, circulate it, and ask that if you live in DC, the epidemic of violence is not limited to the Deanwood area, so let’s take a stand and make this meeting with the mayor on Monday night standing room only!

Posted in Gun Control, Jesus, NRA, Politics, Second Amendment | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Ready, Set, Go!

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Sometimes people (even those who may like or love you) may hold you hostage to being the person that you were when they met you. You may just have to come to grips with that.

Today, someone who is feeling a little misunderstood might consider focusing on getting your steps properly ordered to RUN into your destiny, no matter what others might think of you or your plans.

If you are blessed to catch a vision, only look back to pull someone else forward who is ready and willing to run with you; pray for the rest, and keep it moving!

If you BELIEVE you are not quite positioned to run right now, consider starting now to renew your mind for the race.

Everyday, thinking of it as run and won.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

And, when your race is run, you can catch your breath:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

(Smile!)

Posted in Bible, Jesus, Politics, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Big Bang and Other Weekday Handiworks

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

A-Big Bang

Photo credit: nothingoutofnothing@wordpress.com

I read a piece last night, that was referred by a former colleague (boss at The Hill newspaper actually) which appeared in the Weekly Standard, that was essentially a book review, and a review of book reviews, of NYU Professor and noted American (US) philosopher and confirmed atheist, Thomas Nagel’s work: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, which examines various scientific and creationists doctrines,  called:

The Heretic Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? By Andrew Ferguson. It’s too long to re-post here, but here is the link:

http://m.weeklystandard.com/articles/heretic_707692.html?page=3

I’ll wait.

One of the more memorable quotations within it to me (apart from the line that spoke of being “ravaged by sheep”–LOL!) was:

“…But the human brain can do much more than this. It can perform calculus, hypothesize metaphysics, compose music—even develop a theory of evolution. None of these higher capacities has any evident survival value, certainly not hundreds of thousands of years ago when the chief aim of mental life was to avoid getting eaten.”

During my tenure (at the director level) at the American Institute of Physics, I was privileged to spend considerable time with many noted physicists, including even David Salzberg, UCLA Physics Professor and consultant to the television program The Big Bang Theory (smile). I had on my staff the very engaging and preeminent Nobel-prize-award handicapper, Dr. Phil Schewe (personal biographer of physicist Freeman Dyson), and other very key science-trained colleagues on my staff; spent considerable one-on-one time with AIP’s Executive Director, Fred Dylla (a friend), as a ghostwriter for him; and had “fun” and quite “lively” and enjoyable talks in several social settings and surrounding various committee meetings over time.with whom Dr. Dylla referred to as “my buddy,” Nobel Laureate Dr. John Mather (NASA-Goddard Project Coordinator of the Webb Telescope, which one could loosely say is the next iteration of the Hubbell Telescope, slated to launch in 2018, if memory serves) about his Nobel-prize-winning work on “cosmic microwave background radiation” which, for  most scientists, essentially cemented the big bang theory of the creation of the universe.

“We can not measure the time before time,” says Dr. Mather, whom I really like and respect.

It is a good question: What was there before “In the beginning, God…”?

Backtracking a bit, I received a mandate (and the resources and an exceptional team) from the AIP Executive Committee to create a platform to help them communicate their often complicated intellectual property to the general public—to highlight the role that science (and scientific research) plays in our everyday lives—thus the InsideScience.org news platform was born, please visit our “baby” when you get a chance (who knew???).

Anyway, I recently moved on from the AIP and the fine folks there, and somehow, philosophically speaking, after having many discussions there about Higgs boson, the other side of black holes and dark matter; having personally thumbed through and read some of the hand-written notes in Richard Feynman’s calculus primary-school-age text book (what a mind!) in the Niels Bohr Library (across the hall from my then-office);doing Q&A at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab; and almost daily breaking bread with the physics (and other scientific-society) elites, over discussions of the Big Bang. etc., what I came away with was a reinforcement of my faith, as mathematics, almost without exception, in my opinion, is a perfect universal language—I would venture to say, the language of God (along with music, which also, in my opinion as a musician, is fundamentally interpretative mathematics) that would have no organically motivated prompting or survivalist requirement to exist, as such, except to establish an exacting order for the sustenance (and in the case of music, for the enhancement) of the universe—particularly considering the delicate mathematical balances required for eco systems, such as Earth’s, to equate (and how certain music strains, I believe, speak to our very souls, to the point of drawing tears).

Even after those up-close, personal and most rewarding encounters with the very impressive big brains of science, I am left with lingering questions about the big bang and our ever-outwardly expanding universe:

If we are the products of one random, ”thoughtless” explosion, continually and uniformly expanding outward, why then, within our own solar system, as products of the fallout, does Venus spin in the opposite direction of Earth—alright, maybe a major asteroid impact?—no, it just doesn’t “add up.”

Why does the moon Triton orbit in the opposite direction of the rotation of its planet Neptune?

Mars has two moons: Deimos and Phobos, which revolve around it in opposite directions?  Picture that view from a terrace, as they cross paths!

Thinking of those few systemic anomalies, the like of which are innumerable within the “natural order” that are, to me, figuratively indicative of the afterthoughts of an intelligent intent, which challenge the seeming perfection of our understanding of complex mathematics, about which even a Neanderthal, such as I, could be reduced to proclaiming: ‘Glory to God!’—roughly translated, ‘Wow!!!’

I am a man of faith, very pro science (and pro scientific research) and do not embrace or understand any mathematical calculation that would estimate life on earth in the range of thousands of years old. I can appreciate the passion of those who extrapolate from the bible the literal six-day-creation argument, but 2 Peter 3:8 clearly says “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Which thankfully, frees me up to embrace carbon dating, geology, archaeology, and the idea of much older intelligent life forms on planet Earth.

Modern science teaches us there are stars in the heavens (if one will pardon the expression) that are many thousand times larger than our sun. Our idea of a day is based on our limited experience with our relatively tiny sun, and Earth’s miniscule ~365-day annual orbit of it, a mere twinkling of an eye, in universal terms—but  should add, I generally am not compelled to try to translate the divinely liturgical into the literal, but to try to glean to spirit of intent.

The Apostle Paul said “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1Corinthian 13:12)

That passage, among others, will just have to sustain me for now—after many years of suspicious religious indoctrination, inner turmoil, eye-glazing study, many “wilderness” walks, personal epiphanies and inexplicable gracious serendipity. And somehow, I find that scripture comforting. It allows me to continue to research, reason, reflect and opine, while aided, though my faith, to feel connected to something obviously beyond my scope to comprehend, with intentions that mostly outweigh my personal concerns, but, I believe, are clearly more decidedly directional than the orbits of the planets.

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Back to Hell with F-alse E-vidence A-ppearing R-eal!

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

Thanks all for the well wishes to me for our team at Alejo Media. For me, the real question is how does one go from, years ago, coming to the DC area as a broken, broke, homeless man, who had lost his family (now, largely intact), to becoming something else? I believe the answer is the power and grace of God to restore, and the determination to be so.

I want to encourage someone today to focus on celebrating your family and loved ones and do not internalize the emotional output of your detractors—pray for them as God prepares a table before you in their presence.

There will always be people and dark forces potentially lurking around the perimeter of your life—just keep it moving, resist.

I suggest trying to making amends where you may have hurt people and forgive those who have hurt you.

Consider silencing the negative talk in your own head and give some thought to the idea of transforming religion into relationship. I personally use the 23rd Psalm. Whenever something crazy starts to stir around in my head, I replace it with that (I memorized the passage).

Psalm 23

King James Version (KJV)

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord  for ever.

It works for me.

Someone is going through something today that may seem just too tough to handle. Do not believe it, because it’s not true. I take the letters in the word FEAR and transform them into a borrowed reminder that fear is: “F-alse E-vidence A-ppearing R-eal.”

Faith and fear cannot operate together.

Again, thanks to all of you who have offered up a sacrifice of emotional support and/or prayers for our business venture and our kingdom work at the House of Help/City of Hope.

Your thoughtful gestures are humbling, greatly appreciated and, I believe, will not return to you void.

I am not speaking as someone who has “arrived,” but as someone redeemed.

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DC Media Veterans Jim Allen and Anna Davalos to Partner at Alejo Media (Reprint from Examiner.com)

 

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Alejo Media CEO, Anna Davalos

Jim Allen headshot

New Alejo Media COO, Jim  Allen

Reprint, from Examiner.com 3-13-13

Alejo Media today announced that DC media veteran Jim Allen has joined the Springfield, VA-based, full-service video production company as a partner, effective March 11, 2013. Allen has assumed the title of Chief Operating Officer and will be primarily responsible for corporate imaging and branding, sales and marketing, and business development.

Alejo Media Founder and Chief Executive Officer Anna Davalos will continue to oversee all aspects of production, personnel and administration for the Corporation.

“Alejo Media is very excited to join forces with Jim,” said Davalos. “His knowledge of media matters, business development and his wide range of talents will have an immediate impact at Alejo Media and make for a very positive imprint on the future of our company,” Davalos continued.

“I believe the timing is just right for this partnership and I could not be more excited about this opportunity or more committed to the continued growth and development of this dynamic enterprise,” said Allen.

“Anna is an artist, a master video technician and a great story teller. She and the Alejo team of producers, photographers, editors, and its partnering agencies, have produced top quality work for the likes of the Philippe Cousteau’s Global Echo Foundation (a philanthropic partner of the Clinton Global Initiative), the American Diabetes Association and more—the groundwork is well laid.” Allen continued.

Before partnering with Davalos at Alejo Media, Allen served as Director, News and Media Services, at the American Institute of Physics, where he conceptualized and led his team in the development of the www.insidescience.org multi-media news platform for research sciences and to promote STEM education—which includes Inside Science TV.

Alejo Media soon will be announcing the time and Capitol Hill location of their Annual Spring Reception.

About Alejo Media: Founded by Anna Davalos, in 2011, Alejo Media is emerging as one of Washington, DC’s most artistic and innovative video production and post-production media companies. It is comprised of a team of seasoned professionals dedicated to giving personal attention to our clients’ needs under the mantra “Your Vision Made Real,” who have many years experience crafting messaging strategies and are expert at the effective delivery of those messages through the constantly-evolving world of electronic media, to include video-for-mobile applications, using state-of-the-art video production modalities and infrastructure. Alejo works with broadcast, corporate, professional, political action committees, advertising, non-profit and government clients.

About Anna Davalos: Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Alejo Media. Anna is a multi-talented, Emmy-award-winning producer with more than 20 years of experience in broadcast and online-media, a well-seasoned expert in video production techniques, and an advanced Final Cut Pro editor. Anna began her career as a small-market producer before working her way up to national-level assignments—along the way, receiving an Emmy for “Best Newscast.”

During an eight-year stint as a freelance producer, she was intricately involved in the writing, producing, editing and other elements of a wide variety of important television and cable network news productions—which include an extensive range of stories with historical import, such as Papal visits, presidential inaugurals, natural disasters coverage and the Olympics.

In February 2006, Anna took her storytelling skills to an online platform—joining the Associated Press Online Video Network. There, she and her team developed, wrote and edited stories for distribution to hundreds of websites across the country.

Before launching Alejo Media, in 2011, Anna was the Executive Producer at EnergyNOW!, overseeing a team of production professionals who produced a 30-minute, weekly news magazine on energy and environmental issues for national distribution on Bloomberg Television. Anna graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She also serves as a guest lecturer at Georgetown University and the University of Oklahoma. Contact: anna@alejomedia.com

About Jim Allen: Chief Operating Officer of Alejo Media. Previously, as Director of News and Media Services at the American Institute of Physics, he led the creation of the InsideScience.org news platform, which includes Inside Science TV.

He also previously served as Media Director, Energy NOW! and Clean Skies TV and as Special Reports Editor/Media Relations Director at The Hill newspaper. Jim has served in various executive, business development and/or programming roles for a number of media concerns including CBS Radio/Television, Radio One Inc. and the Los Angeles Times. Since 1995, he has been a contributor to the Reporters Notebook news roundtable program on NBC 4 TV, DC.

He earned a music scholarship to Delaware State University, a Bachelor of Arts in English/Television Production at Virginia State University and, from 2003-2007, attended Concord University School of Law. His commendations include the Washington, DC Teachers’ Union Media Relations Award, at Radio One Inc. and shared an American Academy of Nursing National Media Award, as a director at Campbell and Company Communications.

Jim also chairs a development task force for the faith-based, non-profit House of Help/City of Hope, founded and led by Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, which has provided substance abuse, mental health and continuing education programs and transitional housing for tens of thousands of homeless (and battered) women, families and men (including ex-offenders) at its shelter and treatment facilities in Washington, DC and Prince George’s and Charles Counties, MD. Contact: jim@alejomedia.com.

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Fellow Bloggers, thanks for your prayers, patience, well wishes and support–now back to our regularly scheduled programming (smile)!

 

Posted in 2nd Amendment, Bible, Energy and Environment, Gun Control, Gun Rights, Healthcare, Jesus, Media, NRA, Politics, Religion, Second Amendment, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Give or Die

A kindred blogger posted this today:

Prayer of the Day Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness, and your grace waters our desert. Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing, that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love given to all through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

There are two new things, I can share:

The first is, the following item appeared today (3-12-13) on Media Bistro/Fishbowl DChttp://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc/alejo-media-chief-operating-officer-jim-allen_b98650

Alejo Media Hires Chief Operating Officer

By Betsy Rothstein on March 12, 2013 11:30 AM

Alejo Media has announced that D.C. media veteran Jim Allen will join the Springfield, Va.-based, video production company as a partner. Allen will be Chief Operating Officer and will be primarily responsible for corporate imaging and branding, sales and marketing, and business development.

Before joining Alejo Media, Allen was Director of News and Media Services at the American Institute of Physics.

Alejo Media Founder and Chief Executive Officer Anna Davalos will continue to oversee all aspects of production, personnel and administration for the Corporation.

Alejo will soon announce the time and Capitol Hill location of their Annual Spring Reception.

What is Allen’s employment history? In his past…( etc,etc. and it goes on from there)

I could not be more excited about this opportunity and I thank God and Anna Davalos for the vision.

The second thing I’d like to share is that on December 21, 2012, in an epiphany, I was instructed, in no uncertain terms, that God was not one of us, so I had no further need to argue doctrine, because He does not fit in any of our boxes. And, if I was not giving, or looking for a way to give, I might as well be dead; and if I was not in service, I might as well not exist.

I have comfortably settled in under the tutelage of Jesus Christ.

I had been asking for those marching orders for 4o years, and as amorphous as they might seem to some, if I never get another set of orders, these will hold me, until I can get our of here.

This week, I was appointed chair of a development task force for the faith-based, non-profit House of Help/City of Hope, founded and led by Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, which has provided substance abuse, mental health and continuing education programs and transitional housing for tens of thousands of homeless (and battered) women, families and men (including ex-offenders) at its shelter and treatment facilities in Washington, DC and Prince George’s and Charles Counties, MD.  These programs are a hand up, not a hand out, and there are very strict rules of participation, education, employment and other parameters.

The properties are:

Kingdom Village: A transitional women’s shelter and certified clinical treatment facility, career, mental health, and battered women’s counseling, parenting classes, with a daycare/future-Montessori program, K-12 academic support for children and GED program, located in Prince George’s County, MD. Capacity: 150 women and children

Kingdom City: A men’s shelter and certified drug treatment facility, with mental health, anger management, life skills, job preparation, job placement assistance, parenting and GED programs, located in Charles County, MD. Capacity: 300 men;

Graceview Apartments: Safe and affordable transitional housing (1 and 2 bedroom apartments) for up to 42 homeless families, the parent(s) of whom have completed a structured life-skills program to help them transition into mainstream life, located in SE Washington, DC  with optional participation in the Homeless to Home Ownership Program, with the prospect of becoming first-time home buyers.

Today, seven US Congressman visited with Dr. Holloway and us at our DC facility, that was formally a boarded up crack house and house of prostitution, which is now a house of healing and deliverance for, 42 families, people who might normally be cast off from society.

Three weeks ago, I did not know Dr. Holloway, who is now my pastor, and who is being used by God in such a mighty way to change lives. I am honored an humbled to be associated with her. God sure can work fast, when He wants to. I have found my calling! Praise God, that He is true to His word and I was not mistaken about who was calling me, when I heard the call.

Amen.

Posted in Bible, Jesus, Media, Politics, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Dear God, Why Did Jesus Tell Peter To Arm Himself?

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

  Image

Photo Credit: Albrecht Altdorfer, Saint Peter cutting off the ear of a Roman Soldier

Jesus of Nazareth, then a fugitive, sure was busy on the day he was arrested. He dined and was anointed for burial at the home of Simon the leper—he had days earlier come to Bethany, against his disciples’ wishes, on very short notice, to raise his friend, Lazarus, from the dead (how many times have you said that about someone?). He washed the feet of his disciples, in an effort to show them that true leadership was being in the service of others. He also had the “Last Supper” with them, during which he established the “body and blood” communion memorial. Before Jesus prayed to God, in the Garden of Gethsemane, for a Plan B for the salvation of mankind, sans the cross, he had an interesting exchange with the Apostle [Simon] Peter that ended with a directive from Jesus for him to arm himself, beginning at Luke 22:31:

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Yikes! “Sift as wheat.”  Sifting, to me, sounds much worse than does ‘kicking’ someone’s backside. And, this was not the first example of this kind of parlay between God and Satan. Satan made an arrangement with God to test Job (See Job Chapter 1), and in that case, God basically told Satan, ‘have at it.’ Going back to Luke 22:

33 But he [Simon Peter] replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s claim to having his back was basically, ‘Child, please!’ But here comes the set up for our subject, as Luke 22 continues:

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

The above passage speaks symbolically about the provisional nature of God when one is in His service. If God sent them on a mission, wouldn’t He make provisions for its fulfillment?  Of course! Do we really think the disciples were literally sent out two-by-two without shoes? No. In fact, look at Mark 6:

7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

Jesus had instructed them to “wear sandals,” so we know he was speaking symbolically, not literally, in Luke 22, about sending them out with no sandals—because that just didn’t happen—thus, establishing the need to rightly divide the truth regarding the true nature of the conversation between Jesus and Peter, which contained the sword talk. Luke 22 continues:

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 

Jesus again was using symbolism to instruct his disciples to get ready to fend for themselves and to do what was necessary to be properly armed. But we will circle back to better establish this assertion later, in order to first fully establish the context in which Jesus spoke.

Jesus then started to talk about why things would almost immediately change so radically. Luke 22 continues:

 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’;

Jesus quoted from the prophet Isaiah about the coming of, fate of and Kingdom-establishment of the Messiah: “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

He was indicating to his disciples that he was about to leave them to complete his mission on earth, and again, for a time, they would have to fend for themselves. Jesus continued in Luke 22, verse 37:

37(cont’d)…and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

Which can be interpreted: “I have to do what I have to do, and it will not be pleasant for me in the short run. But this is not about me, right now. It’s about your future. I will lay down my life, as the Messiah of God, as my destiny was set in the stones of the Ten Commandments, to deliver the world from the inability of The Law and the blood of animals to sanctify mankind as holy before God, in exchange for my own blood and subsequent personal extension of eternal grace, in a new covenant with all who believe in me, and through which I will reign forever.’

Luke 22 continues, with the blissfully spiritually naïve response of the disciples:

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.

It’s almost as if Jesus sarcastically said ‘OK, ahhh, that’s enough, riiiiight, two swords. I just told Peter that the devil had his number, a Roman cohort is on the way to arrest me, there are 13 of us, and you’re asking me about two swords—yeesh!,’ while shaking his head.

To fully make the point, we must agree to stipulate that Jesus grew up in or nearby the Roman-occupied territory of Judea, had knowledge of the history of various violent Jewish insurrections against Roman tyranny (and many others over the Old Testament history of the Jewish people, about whom Jesus was expert, as established at the Temple at age 12), and was fully knowledgeable about the earthly power of the Roman Empire, even mentioning it in the context of Jews submitting to taxes, Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.” (Mark 12:17)

In fact, Jesus Barabbas, who was released by Pontius Pilate, instead of Jesus the Christ, was on death row for armed insurrection against Rome, as recorded in the gospel of Mark Chapter 15: 7 A man called [Jesus] Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising.

If we can agree on that context, let’s look at the series of events, leading up to Jesus’ arrest, as recorded in the gospel of John chapter 18:

 Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment [originally interpreted “band”] of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

That was a very large, heavily armed group. Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says: “A band – Την σπειραν, The band or troop. Some think that the spira was the same as the Roman cohort, and was the tenth part of a legion, which consisted sometimes of 4200, and sometimes of 5000 foot. But Raphelius, on Matthew 27:27, has clearly proved, from Polybius, that the spira was no more than a tenth of the fourth part of a legion.”

In any case, let’s stipulate that a lot of armed people came to arrest Jesus. If Jesus was talking about literally preparing his disciples for a physical armed battle, his saying “two swords” were “enough” would be idiotic. Can we also stipulate that, whatever you believe, Jesus was no idiot?

Just before that sword conversation, the disciples had been engaged in some infighting about who among them was the favored disciple. Luke 22 continues:

24 A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 

Jesus intervened and tried to impress upon them that the Roman idea of greatness and strength, was a false premise. Luke 22 continues:

 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.28 

As we said earlier, Jesus warned Peter about Satan wanting to “sift” him “as wheat” and that although he had prayed for him, Peter was going to have to fend for himself, during the period of Christ’s passion, at which point Christ, on the cross, would take on the sins of the world, and, as such, be separated from them.

The context of the entire conversation was the period of time when Jesus would be numbered with the transgressors and out of spiritual connection with the disciples.

Note: Of course, I cannot say with certainty that Jesus was also separated from God, on Calvary’s cross. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:21: God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. And, Isaiah 59:2 says: But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear, which could possibly speak to the meaning of Jesus’ words from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” as recorded in Matthew 27:46—as some interpret as a possible indication of a temporary separation from God.  But others hear those words simply as a rhetorical affirmation of his choice to lay down his life—that phrase, formed as a question, the answer to which is “Love.” But the doctrine of the two natures of Christ, says the divine nature was never separated and could easily explain away that argument, if one is so inclined, to discount the separation-from-God theory—all of which, to date, I should say, is way above my spiritual pay grade. Now, back to the Luke 22 thread:

Moreover, if Satan was coming after Peter, outside of the spiritual covering of Jesus, which is the context of the conversation, of what good would a metal sword be?

There is a better, post-resurrection recommendation about arming oneself, using the same type of symbolic language as did Jesus with Peter, along with concurrent interpretations, to be found in Ephesians Chapter 6

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 

Those weapons of spiritual warfare are itemized in Ephesians 6 as a post-Pentecost complement of weaponry, at the ready.

Do we Christians really believe we are on our own, as were the disciples, scattered and fearful during the passion of Christ?  Certainly not. Ephesians 6 continues:

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

There we are: the “sword of the Spirit represents the Word of God, which Peter had received for several years, directly from the mouth of Jesus.

There is further evidence of Jesus’ true intent regarding the sword reference, indicated by what Peter did when Jesus was about to be arrested. Luke 22 continues:

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?”50 And one of them [Peter, as it says in John 18:10] struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

Peter and the other disciples obviously misunderstood what Jesus said to them about the sword, or we must then say Jesus was doubled-minded about things, speaking both literally and symbolically within the same sentence, an assertion which we can hopefully stipulate to take off the table.

If one gets stuck on the two swords, consider Hebrews 4:12: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

After Jesus was arrested and his passion began, sure enough, Peter denied even knowing Christ, 3 times, the disciples were spiritually detached, dispersed, running scared, and confused until, three days later, we find most of them gathered together when Jesus rose from the dead and first appeared to Mary Magdalene and then to them, as John Chapter 20 teaches us:

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Even before he was crucified, Jesus promised the disciples that he would send a helper to comfort and guide them, and they would not need to be self sustaining anymore. Look at John 14:

 15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 

Not orphans, as they were during the passion, but sons and daughters—heirs indeed. You can read about what happened on the Day of Pentecost, when this helper/covering showed up in a big way, in the Book of Acts, chapter 2.

Did Satan end up sifting Peter as wheat? Here’s what some of the well-established (non-biblical) traditions say about the fates of the Apostles:

Paul was beheaded outside of Rome;

Matthew died by the sword in Ethiopia;

Mark was dragged through the streets in Alexandria;

Luke was hanged from an Olive tree in Greece;

John was boiled in oil but survived to be exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he received in the spirit the Book of the Revelation;

James, the greater, died by the sword, likely beheaded in Jerusalem (The only actual Apostle’s death recorded in the bible, in Acts 12:2);

James the lesser (the brother of Jesus, not really an Apostle) was thrown from pinnacle of the Temple, stoned and beaten to death with a club while praying for his persecutors;

Bartholomew was whipped by seven soldiers, then crucified;

Andrew was crucified on a cross and preached to his tormentors until he died;

Thomas was run through his body with a spear in India;

Jude was killed with arrows; another tradition says he was crucified;

Mathias (who replaced Judas) was first stoned and then beheaded;

Peter was crucified in Rome, upside down, at his own request, because he deemed himself unworthy of the upright crucifixion the Savior suffered, but not before making an indelible imprint on the establishment of the worldwide Body of Christ–as Jesus prophesied, he “turned back to strengthen his brothers and sisters!

To Hell with Satan!

Amen.

Note: I am not a trained theologian, just an inspired, would-be dot connector and seeker of truth, who is open to, and indeed, encourage discussion about any or all of the aforementioned biblical or traditional interpretations. I do not claim to have any corner on the truth, just sharing the view from my vantage point. I thank God for His Word, which has become a lamp unto my feet and light unto my path.

Posted in Bible, Politics, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Dear God, What About My ‘Cold, Dead Hands’?

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit: Life of Mary Magdalene Raising of Lazarus By Giotto di Bondone

There is the curious story of Lazarus, a contemporary and good friend of Jesus of Nazareth, who became gravely ill, died and was raised from the dead by Jesus. In the gospel of John Chapter 11, we learn, in a just a few words, just how close they were:

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.(This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

As gravely concerned as the sisters were, the only message they knew they needed to send was basically ‘You better come see your friend, he’s not doing well.’ That’s tight! That’s relationship! There were no a panicky overtures, or a detailed account of what as wrong with Lazarus from his sisters, such as we sometimes do ‘Lord have mercy, I do not know what we are going to do; Lord, it’s crazy right now; Lord, where are you??!!, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord!!!!???’

Mary and Martha knew to whom the message was directed and all that was required was a simple heads up. What a great prayer: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Period

Isn’t it good to know that, if it’s God’s will, just a short message, acknowledging an established, loving relationship, is all it takes to get a move of the power of God in your life.

However, the answer to the sisters’ prayer did not come in what they thought was a timely manner. Can I get a witness?! John 11 continues:

v5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

Well, Jesus’ disciples, all of whom had been on the road with him for at least a couple of years now, didn’t think another road trip to Judea was such a great idea. John 11 continues:

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Translation: ‘Are you nuts?!’ They thought, if Lazarus was just sick, he would recover and be back on his feet in no time, so why risk the trip? John 11 continues, a few verses later:

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Not having received any further messages from Lazarus’ sisters, Jesus knew, apparently in the spirit realm, that Lazarus had already died, and Jesus had a secret plan to use the death of his good friend to make a larger point. Jesus and company arrived at Bethany four days after Lazarus died and were greeted by his sister Martha. John 11 continues:

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Such faith! At that moment, Martha’s words put her in the pantheon of the faithful for all time. Then, they sent for Mary. John 11 continues:

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied

35 Jesus wept.

The ubiquitous, two-word bible verse, that for countless generations has been a lifeline for ‘many a’ backslidden Sunday school student. Moreover, it is good to know that when Jesus’ loved ones hurt, he hurt too, just like us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Then Jesus rolled up the sleeves on his robe, rubbed his hands together (ok, not really) and went to work in the spirit realm. The problem with Jesus’ timing was a buzz-killing Jewish tradition that said the soul of a dead person hung around the grave for only three days, but after that, you were irreversibly dead. John 11 continues:

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.

 Man, Jesus sure loved this guy—perhaps,a childhood friend? John 11 continues:

 It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

As we used to say, in our old neighborhood, Lazarus was ‘dead and stinking.’ John 11 continues:

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, 

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me.42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Jesus’ prayer begs no interpretation from me, but it is interesting, to me, that he “looked up when he began to pray.

I wonder why he would do that because as we find in Luke 17:20  Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

But yet, he “looked up.” Anyway, I am leaving that alone. John 11 continues:

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus’ act of resurrecting Lazarus from the dead, with all of its spiritual/prophetic symbolism, did as much as anything in the natural realm to assure his own death at the hands of the religious elite. Stay with me, I believe this is going somewhere. John 11 continues:

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

Ahhhh, a church meeting! Ever been to one? Here’s what it was like (I can almost hear the discourse of the congregates.) John 11 continues:

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

The passage says “they asked,” which suggests everyone is talking at once, utter chaos abounding. What is needed here is Levitical leadership. John 11 continues:

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

What staggeringly blind, but, at once, prophetic logic! If we turn back to the book of Genesis, chapter 50, when the son of Israel, called Joseph, was sold into slavery and delivered into the hands of his enemies, by his envious brothers, he ended up becoming a prince in Egypt and, as recorded in verse 20, he says: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

The entire biblical narrative is a tread culminating in the prophecy, incarnation, life, sanctification, temptation, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and promise-to-come of the reign of Jesus, which winds its way from Genesis to the Book of the Revelation of John on the Isle of Patmos. Now, as this narrative connects back to John 12, with reference to the high priest, Caiaphas:

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

From that point forward, in the flesh realm, things went downhill pretty quickly for Jesus.  Nearly everyone who would likely read this would know about Jesus’ proverbial “Last Supper” with his disciples—but how about Jesus’ last supper with Lazarus, Martha and Mary? Let’s pick up the story, at the beginning of John 12:

 1Six days before the [final] Passover [in his earthly life], Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. 

‘Shut the front door!’ I am sure you could have knocked the neighbors over with a feather! Lazarus is kicked back in his house, having dinner with his main man, Jesus, having recently been raised from being four-days dead—how many times have you said that about somebody?  You have to know that people would have been staring at Lazarus as he went to work, to the store, to church, taking out the trash, getting his mail, as if he were a giraffe with two necks.

They likely whispered about how “different’ he was, how he had ‘changed’ saying all manner of things about Lazarus, who was now breaking bread with his formerly ‘cold, dead hands’ with Jesus. I’d want to ask Lazarus where he was for those four days and what he did. You know SOMEONE must have asked him—surely his sisters would have asked. Isn’t it conveeeeenient that Q&A is left out of the gospel account?

The only clue we have here was given earlier in John 11:11 when Jesus said “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (There is theology there that we could go into, but it is so tedious!) John Chapter 12 continues:

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 

Of course, what a spectacle! Judas Iscariot could have sold tickets to make money for the ministry treasury! “Tonight Only, A Pre-Passover Powerhouse, Standing Room Only, The Messiah and The Corpse, Breaking Bread in Bethany Before Bedtime, Hurry, Hurry, Hurry, Step Right Up and See The Greatest Show on Earth!” John Chapter 12 continues

10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.

Man oh man, Lazarus can’t win for losing. Just days after being raised from the dead by the power of God, the church leaders are seeking to eradicate the miracle of the resurrection done by Jesus, by killing Lazarus again. Nonetheless, the party rolls on:

John 12 continues:

Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.

And the rest, my friends, is history, by way of the cross at Calvary.

Why would Mary, sacrifice something so precious, worth a year’s pay? Why would not Lazarus go into hiding? Was their inspiration the miraculous gift of a life that had been temporarily given back to them?

How much more grateful then or of service should I be for the gift of eternal life given to me, in that “God so love the world [and me] that he gave His only begotten son [Jesus] and who ever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)

That one verse has been used so much, from face paint at football games, to bumper stickers, that it may sound cheesy to some, to me too, at one point.

Until very recently, I had totally disconnected myself from anything spiritual in my life. Most of the people with whom I have regular contact, at this point in my life, have only known me since around 2004 (not all, but most of my current associates), which happens to be the year I lost my faith.

I would venture to say that most of my new world of associates don’t know that I was a minister of the gospel, who had a daily radio ministry on CBS Washington Radio, co-produced by my wife and two others over time, with guests ranging from Ann Coulter, to Jackie McCullough, Carlton Pearson, Patrick Morley, Tony Campolo, Cynthia Tobias, Thomas Weeks, Benny Hinn, to my own pastor Clarence W. Turner III (RIP). I was making weekly conference appearances and/or church speaking engagements. Who knew I was/am the husband of an evangelist and the son of pastor and minister of music/music educator?

I can assure you, nothing in my comportment or “colorful” use of language, from the time since my faith-break until very recently, would betray my unspoken secret background. A few colleagues at my jobs on Capitol Hill and elsewhere might have picked up on my being able to, on the fly, expound on some biblical concepts, chapter and verse.

There was no defrocking, or scandal, I just became spiritually sick, disillusioned with the institution of the ‘Body of Christ’ and I allowed something to inside me to die. I walked away and forfeited my active covering and ministerial outreach—and, more critically, I left my family spiritually uncovered, I believe, and was not living in a way that was pleasing to God.

What was the sickness that led to my spiritual death? I suppose while I was busy doing church, I left my spirit-man unattended and let it starve to death. I had no prayer life, the bible study I was doing was mostly on, or for, my radio show, or to prepare to teach others, not for my own edification. I could do church by rote and basically from memory through the things I learned as child, with an exceptional memory, sitting at feet of my father and mother, Pastor James Oliver Allen Sr. and Dr. Ruby L. Allen.

My faith became frustrated because I had not developed my calling into a loving relationship with God. That allowed familiar vulnerabilities to again take root in my mind and manifest in my life.

In 2004, I began to feel lukewarm about the whole “religion” thing and walked away—radio show, church, everything—and being the type of person who is all-in or all-out, my life eventually devolved into active rebellion against God, to the point of agnosticism, bordering on atheism.

From early 2011 through September 2012, I was a director of news and media services at the American Institute of Physics (AIP), traveling around the country attending important scientific and technical conferences, presenting on topics such as “communicating science to the public” to major scientific boards and organizations, which included, for example, the physics adviser to the television show The Big Bang Theory, ghostwriting for a brilliant physicist/executive and was closely associated with other Nobel-prize winning and other noted physicists, including on my own staff.

While there, I got a vision to create the InsideScience.org multi-media news platform and was given the resources by AIP and had an exceptional team to accomplish it. A component of that initiative was underwritten by a previously existing, but splintering coalition of 13 scientific society underwriters, each of whom the team and I personally courted to continue their support of this worthy venture, to promote STEM research and education and the role that science, scientific researchers and the scientific method play in our everyday lives.

I am so grateful for the experience in that world and the few friends and many acquaintances I made there, but that was not what I was called to do. On December 21, 2012, I had, let’s say, for the sake of this exercise, a life-altering encounter, that came complete with a set of instructions on the role I had to play in the everyday lives of people:

“If you are not giving or looking for a way to give, you might as well be dead. If you are not in service you might as well not exist.”

Whoa!!!

As vague as that might seem to some, if I never hear another word from God, as such (heaven forbid!), my marching orders are now clear—and yours may be quite different from mine, but there is nothing like having clarity.

From the time I was a child, I believed I had something to do ‘for God,’ but it never was quite clear to me for what I was being equipped.

If I had received my instructions 40 years ago, when I first asked for them, they were so simplistic they would not have made sense to someone of my tender years and limited exposure.

Perhaps I would have never ended up as a director at AIP, or playing bass guitar for Stevie Wonder, or being homeless, or interviewing Rosa Parks, or touring the Sydney Opera House with Sheryl Crow as my guest, or being in the Rose Garden for the swearing in of a Supreme, or a television commentator, being divorced and remarried, or a political columnist, or lived through the various pathologies which I allowed to creep into my life as a teenager—from which I have learned tremendous lessons, paid a tremendous price, and can now speak of on a first-hand basis.

I believe what it says in the book of James 1:Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

All of a sudden, over the past weeks, I am not doing columns on straight politics any more, I am writing about God and life and liberty in Christ, in an interpretative manner and style, which I never did before, and cannot fully explain how, now. Just this past week, I put in a request for a new category to write for Examiner.com, “Religion and Spirituality,’ because I was originally engaged as a political columnist.

Not unlike at the time of Lazarus’ resurrection, I am sure a number of my more-recently acquired associates are understandably asking about me, ‘wasn’t he dead, just a few days ago?’ And the answer would be ‘yes,’ I am not exactly the same person they knew. But the people who knew my father and know my mother are likely not so surprised.

I was spiritually dead and lost, but looking quite prosperous and successful, by the worlds’ measure. I have or have had all of the material things and temporal experience anyone could ever want or imagine (or not want or find unimaginable, in their renewed minds)—for better or for worse—may God forgive me, where applicable.

Jesus said in Luke 16:15 said…“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

But I was not really dead, but, like Lazarus, just sleeping. And what is made clear to me through the story of Lazarus is that God can take a set of apparently cold, dead hands, even such as mine and Lazarus’ were and make them quick and able again in His service—because He loves me and we have a close relationship—closer than ever.

Now I am actively working on daily building my relationship with God (praying, even on the fly, and doing daily bible study) even as people may be gawking at what appeared to be a formerly dead man partaking of the bread of life with Jesus the Christ, and looking for ways to give and serve, as I have been directed.

I have learned that if you dive in with God, you cannot tread water in the baptismal pool of grace, because as soon as you stop pulling yourself forward, you can sink and drown in your own anointing.

Like Lazarus, I too am one of His friends and all I had to do was send a short message:

“Lord, the one you love is sick.”

 And now, I am alive forever. It sounds crazy, even to me. Trust me. And, if I am honest, right now, I’d probably rather not be this person, because of the isolation I feel. But, it is what it is and I think the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth sums it up nicely, for me:

1Corinthians 1: 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.

###

Note: Today, I tried to write about the time I played host (in a professional setting) to Charleton Heston (RIP), America’s fictitious Moses from the movie, The Ten Commandments, and one-time president of the NRA who made legendary the phrase “from my cold, dead hands,” referring to his rejection of any government attempts to take away his guns. Although I mostly finished the piece, I was shut down in my spirit about publishing it and was compelled to do the above ‘cold, dead hands’ testimony. Perhaps, I will feel free to do the former some other time.

Posted in Bible, Politics, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Dear God, Is King Solomon There? I Have A Question About Guns

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

A Solomon- cuts babyimages burlsblog.wordpress.com

Photo Credit: Burlsblog.wordpress.com

Aberrations, such as the massacre of 20 elementary school children at Sandy Hook do not appear out of thin air, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against…the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Trying to find political consensus to solve the problem of gun violence in America, while establishing reasonable parameters of gun regulation appear to require the wisdom of King Solomon.

Perhaps we can get guidance about handling this critical issue from Solomon. Before he became arguably the wisest man in all of history, he properly positioned himself for success, as we learn in 1Kings Chapter 3, beginning with verse 7:

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

We could say Solomon had ascended to the Oval Office, or we could say he was at the helm of the most powerful lobbying group in the land—God’s chosen people. But he did not rest on, nor self-exalt in how well capitalized and influential was his PAC or that he was ‘clothed in immense power,’ but he foresaw the challenging politics to come, realized he couldn’t manage this favored positioning as an island, and sought to be Divinely equipped with the ability to ‘rightly divide the word of truth.’

It was a brilliant approach, which immediately paid dividends.

1Kings 3 continues:

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.

The current political landscape has the National Rifle Association (NRA) leadership, and many gun-rights advocates on the right in a stalemate with the Obama Administration and many gun-control advocates on the left—while the body count from gun violence in America daily rises, and the rift widens.

How did Solomon deal with a similar situation?

1Kings 3 continues:

16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “Pardon me, my lord. This woman and I live in the same house, and I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.

19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

Post Sandy Hook, a growing number of progressives are aggressively arguing against the NRA assertion of second amendment protection of the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines to the general public—which is seen by many as solely as an NRA campaign to drive upward the profits of gun manufacturers.

Meanwhile, a recent Rasmussen poll found that 65 percent of Americans see gun rights as protection against tyranny.

The previously existing paradigm was deemed perfectly acceptable capitalism 101 and/or political lobbying 101, until the moral vacuum was filled with the bullet-riddled bodies of 20 babies.

Now the argument must be settled to find which group’s thinking is the parent of the solution to this unspeakable tragedy. Those who would insist on universal background checks, fingerprinting and licenses for all gun purchases, “well-regulated” sales at guns shows, banning high-capacity magazines and assault rifles; or, those who would reject any attempt to restrict the sale, manufacture or ownership of firearms in America and direct attention to strictly focus on mental health issues, the effects of the consumption of violent entertainment on youth and/or the championing of posting armed guards at every school in America?

The political gulf is wide—widening!—and given the stream of non-conciliatory rhetoric, seems impossible to bridge. But a decision has to be reached that will be in the best interest of children.

If only we could get King Solomon on the phone!

We can’t do that, but we do have a court transcript of the baby-gate trial proceedings. Let’s review how Solomon ensured the safety of the child and saw that the child’s future was guided by the right hands?

1King 3 continues:

23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 

 Well, one cannot say Solomon was against arming himself to deal with a problem. The first thing he did was call for his “piece.” I digress.

 1Kings 3 continues:

 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive was deeply moved out of love for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” 27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

 The elegant, God-given wisdom of Solomon!

Soon, we in America will know who best loves our babies, by their actions. We will see who is ultimately wise and just.

Understandably, there is an intense focus in the ongoing debate on guns. There is also some mostly amorphous talk about possibly related mental-health issues. But the question also bears posing: can we really expect to arrive at a wise and just resolution of this conundrum of carnage without factoring in America’s love affair with violence?

This romance is evidenced by the ample commerce generated by violent movies, television shows and video games, which confirm our uniquely American predilection for that which is the pablum for weaning our children on macabre forms of entertainment.

Enter, Ephesians Chapter 2:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 

 It talks about, “The ruler of the kingdom of the air.” Is that not how these violent movies, games, even violent music are introduced into our children’s spirits, through the air—either by sight or by sound—watching television, watching movies, playing video games, listening to music, via the ‘airwaves’?

Alright, table that thought and come back down to earth, if we must. Look at what we  have been able to figure out in the temporal realm: A 15-year-long University of Michigan longitudinal study published in the March 2003 issue of Developmental Psychology says children’s “perceptions [are] that TV violence is realistic” and the viewing of violence is “linked to later aggression as young adults, for both males and females.”

The study re-surveyed 329 of the 557 boys and girls who were the subjects of a 1977 study, when they were between the ages 6 and 10.

In the 2003 study, the subjects were in their early 20’s.

In addition, a report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania: The Effectiveness of the Motion Picture Association of America’s Rating System in Screening Explicit Violence and Sex in Top-ranked Movies from 1950 to 2006, indicates “the explicitness of violence and sex in popular movies rose following the 1968 replacement of the Production [or Hays] Code with the MPAA [Classification and Rating Administration (CARA)] rating system.”

“Violence increased steadily in both R and PG-13 films over time…which suggests that CARA has systematically changed its criteria over time for assigning R to violent films, since it increasingly takes more violence to receive an R rating,” reads the Annenberg report.

“Especially concerning is the finding that proportions of PG-13 films escalated drastically over time to the point where they accounted for about half of top-grossing films. PG-13 has contained increasingly violent content over time…,” the Annenberg report continues.

Youth aged 12 to 24 buy more movie tickets than any other age group. It is therefore in the MPAA’s financial interest to limit the number of R-rated films, as PG-13 films generate far more revenue.

The Motion Picture Association says US/Canadian box office revenues totaled $10.2 billion in 2011.

We passionately patronize movie-industry and gaming interests who, under first amendment protections, produce and traffic in violent content intended for our children.

To begrudge Hollywood and gaming interests their “artistic freedom” is not my cause and that appears to be settled law in America. It is primarily a parental and community responsibility to protect our children, not theirs.

We allow for the emotional adoption by our young people of screen (and video game) heroes and anti-heroes with whom or through whom, on a daily basis, they interactively or imaginatively mimic committing the most heinous acts of gratuitous violence.

We label it entertainment and countenance its consumption by their developing or, in some cases, their innocently developmentally arrested minds.

News flash: we also blissfully buy McDonald’s Happy Meals for our early learners that are frequently a primary point of aftermarket distribution for the violent characters and weaponry depicted in commercial motion pictures—perhaps stealthily (along with other worse offenders) or unintentionally, grooming our babies to take over the cinema seats of their aging big brothers and sisters.

In his 2009 book, “The Moment of ‘Psycho’: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder,” British film critic David Thomson argues that the 1960 film Psycho allowed for increasing levels of violence to enter into motion pictures.

“In terms of cruelties we no longer notice…we are another species,” wrote Thomson.

Ephesians 2 continues:

3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 

The acculturation of violence in our children begins almost as soon as they start watching cartoons like Roadrunner (which I loved), or can be babysat by a violent video game, or phoneticize the word ‘McDonalds’—whose marketing to children is iconic—as is their legendary philanthropy through the Ronald McDonald House, to be fair.

There does seem to be a paradigm shift in America—with the Sandy Hook shootings being the apparent tipping point.

A recent Johns Hopkins poll indicates 89 percent of all respondents, and 75 percent of those identified as NRA members, support universal background checks for gun sales. It also indicates a majority of NRA members support prohibiting people with recent alcohol or drug charges to buy guns and 70 percent support a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison for selling guns to persons not legally allowed own them.

“Not only are gun owners and non-gun-owners very much aligned in their support for proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws, but the majority of NRA members are also in favor of many of these policies,” Daniel Webster, co-author of the Hopkins study and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research said in a written statement.

The Hopkins survey also indicates most Americans favor greater spending on mental health issues, a plank in both President Barack Obama’s and the NRA’s plan, outlined by Wayne LaPierre, intended to curb gun violence.

Is there a 21st century cultural renaissance or spiritual awakening afoot? Can we generationally devolve from the ‘Thomson model’ of insensitivity to violence, if one accepts the premise, even if one rejects the spiritual elements of this equation?

One can only hope that a growing and continuing chorus of grassroots voices calling for national and/or states’ action on violence in entertainment, mental-health issues, school safety and “well-regulated” gun ownership will provide enough political cover, if not backbone reinforcement, for lawmakers to take meaningful action, now, and not allow the Sandy Hook victims to die in vain.

Wise King Solomon settled the political dispute between the prostitutes in his court by testing which of them would sacrifice their own personal comfort and relent from their well-rehearsed talking points to save the life of the child.

1Kings 3 continues, after Solomon’s ruling on the child’s life:

28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

In the settlement of this gun-rights/gun-control debate, we too must keep a discerning eye out to see who is willing to cut the baby in half and whom we will hold “in awe.”

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Dear God, Please Stop — People Are Watching!

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit: goodgazetteblogspot.com

Suffering an acute crisis of identity, feeling dejected because his newly found Hebrew brothers and sisters want little to do with him, and with a murder charge hanging over his head, the prophet Moses went on the lam for 40 years, during which time he got married and herded sheep for his father-in-law.

We learn in Exodus 2:

23During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

God needed an appropriate recruit to do his bidding. Someone who could effectively communicate with the new pharaoh, in his own language, knew the ways of the royal court, and had a Hebrew pedigree as well.

Moses, being a fugitive, I suppose, was just a bonus for us, to show that God can use anyone, and manifest a new destiny for someone out of the worst situations.

Moses met and got a first interview with “I AM THAT I AM” by way of a non-consuming wildfire—the Burning Bush. He reluctantly took on his marching orders, got Divine confirmation of his vision quest, then went back to Egypt with his cool walking stick, and connected with his biological brother, Aaron.

Continuing in Exodus 5:

1Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”

Bad move, pharaoh! Lots of unpleasant things began to happen which had a definite, direct and long-lasting impact on Egyptian tourism–10 plagues: Water to Blood, Frogs, Gnats or Lice (not at all helpful to the hotel trade), flies, livestock diseased, boils (that would have done it for me, ‘let those people go’), thunder and hail, locusts, darkness and death of first-borns, as projected in Exodus 7:

1Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

After the death of the pharaoh’s son, the Hebrews, or Israelites, were allowed to leave—not on a long-weekend pass, as first requested, but were supposedly free to leave forever.

Sidebar: Moses became the primary moving part of God’s will that resulted in extreme hardships and rejection of the people who for the first 40 years of his life were his kinsman.

Isn’t it hard when you find yourself having to separate yourself from certain people, thinking you are doing God’s will?

That could not have been easy for Moses either. But, of course, when he learned the true narrative of his people, he sought to bond with them.

Meanwhile, back at the palace:

The grief-stricken pharaoh commanded his army to follow and corner the Israelites at the Red Sea (some say, it’s better translated in Hebrew, Reed Sea—Yam Suph—or Sea of Reeds, or Sea of Seaweed) and the waters (and/or reeds, and/or seaweed) parted, by the power of God, at Moses’ command, using his wooden staff.

The Israelites passed through and the sea closed-in behind them, drowning the Egyptian Cavalry.

Fast forward to Moses, being up on Mt. Sinai, in the presence of Elohim, getting Commandments, as rules for the Israelites to live in covenant with-and-as God’s “chosen” people. But he tarried with God just a little too long and the Israeli encampment turned into an idolatrous, fleshly, mosh pit. Look at Exodus 32:

3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

Meanwhile, our hero, Moses, who has no idea what his then-zany brother was up to, received the bad news directly from GNN—and, I must say, that “bull” especially did not go over well with Corporate.

Exodus 32 continues:

7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ 

May Day, May Day!!!

Exodus 32 continues:

9 “I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” 

Weeeelllll, a deal with the Most High is on the table!!! Temp-ting!

Moses may have thought to himself ‘you mean to tell me, all I have to do is put my shoes back on and walk out of this scary meeting and I can drop this grumbling, never satisfied, what-about-this-Moses?-whining, stubborn, rag-tag bunch of pains-in-the-neck for a top-billed, solo road act—complete with a mansion, with a four-car garage–an open account at Whole Foods, a Benz for me and the misses, a pre-paid American Express card and a lifetime pass to Disney World for my kids AND my grandkids—yuuuuum, yum!’

Exodus 32 continues:

11 But Moses sought the favor of the LORD his God. “O LORD,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 

Look at our beloved Moses, standing up for the “stiff-necked” malcontents he had basically just met! Let’s face it, Moses had been gone for 40 years, and had not gotten a glut of bar mitzvah invites before he left town. But he is a making a case—he’s making an argument to save his new family and friends!

Exodus 32 continues:

 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.

Moses had put the pedal to the metal on the ‘straight-talk express’. The former stutterer, in so many words, said:

‘God, Please Stop! People are watching. Don’t do this right now, people will talk—you know how they talk. Let’s just chill for a moment—‘relax, release, relate’—and think this thing through, rationally!’

Could God be influenced by a cheeky threat of having a bad name on the rumor mill, in Egypt, a place He had just devastated? Could one actually cause God to change His mind?

In Exodus 32, Moses continues:

13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ “

 Had Moses struck a resonant chord with the Almighty?

 Exodus 32 continues:

 14 Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Oh happy day! “…the LORD relented.

The indication is that “I AM” was/is quite keen on keeping his covenant promises! Moses heads back down the mountain, and that, in a big hurry.

After having the sand to give God a memory jog, I would say Moses probably grabbed his sandals and high-stepped off that Holy ground at top speed, in his bare feet, if it were not for the fact of having two divinely inscribed tablets of stone in his hands.

But now we learn God is not petty and that He is patient. When Moses climbed down the mountain, he broke the first two stone tablets in disgust with his people.

The bible says those first tablets had writing on both sides, so there were likely more than Ten [original] Commandments, but God didn’t say a Word about Moses smashing His handiwork.

But wait, back in verse 14 when it said that God “relented,” did that mean Moses caused God to change his mind, or, did God just delay executing His will?

Look at Moses’ words, later in the same chapter, Exodus 32:

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

Good Heavens! We could do volumes on that passage of scripture. Did Moses just do that on his own?!

Before God exacted his will, by Moses’ command, eventually purging the base camp of a select group of 3000 freaky-deaky, singing infidels, perhaps, Moses had passed a little test on that mountain, to see where his heart was.

Maybe God wanted to see if Moses could be swayed by promises of self enlargement, as opposed to walking in the path of true leadership already laid out for him—to always work in the best interest of His people.

I will leave it up to you to meditate on these things.

What I do know for sure is that much later on, when Moses became frustrated and snippy with God by striking a rock twice with his staff, instead of just speaking to the rock to bring forth water, as he had been so instructed by God, his disobedience caused him to not enter into the “Promised Land,” after walking around in circles with His people in the wilderness for nearly 40 years (See The Book of Numbers Chapter 20).

Things can go downhill, really quickly, if one is disobedient to God’s Word.

The most compelling teachings I hear, these days, focus on instilling principles of love, peace, charity, obedience, scholarship (to study to show yourself approved), character, good stewardship, forgiveness and praying for God’s will to be done, not trying to corner God to enlarge our kingdoms for personal gain.

Would He not want the best for us, as it says in Matthew 6?  (Please read Matthew Chapter 6)

We were taught to pray “…Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven…”

Thank God, Jesus did not take the selfish route in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Note to self: Apparently, if one has the favor of God, it’s just fine to remind Him of His covenant promises and fully expect to walk away in one piece, especially, if I am praying on the behalf of other people.

Moreover, I believe I am an heir of the fulfillment of the covenant championed by Moses—with a provision for everlasting forgiveness and a bright future in eternity. (John 3:16). Smile.

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Dear God, These People Are Straight Trippin’!

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit: bethelstone-inspiration.blogspot.com – Nehemiah’s Wall Under Repair

Without getting too bogged down into the weeds of biblical history, the prophet Nehemiah was a Jew who served as an affluent governor of his people under the King of Persia (what is now Iran), who was then ruling over the Jewish people, who had returned to Judah from being exile in Babylon. Judah was the so-called Southern Kingdom of Israel, after the north-south split, where Jerusalem existed.

Nehemiah was a good governor and did not take the additional taxes and food rations that were his due, by Persian edict, from the Jewish people, as other Jewish governors had done. He also forced the other Jewish nobles to stop over-taxing their own people (who were doing so against Jewish law forbidding usury), who were over-mortgaged in the pre-Nehemian system, and often forced to have their children do undesirable things to offset debt obligations—Nehemiah was a good egg.

He got a brainstorm to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, not to make a name for himself, or for personal gain, but because it needed to be done for the protection of the capitol and it seemed like the right thing to do.

A certain alliance of enemies of the Jewish people did not like the idea of a rebuilt wall around Jerusalem, as it would foil their schemes to eventually overtake it. And thus, set out to kill Nehemiah and scuttle his shovel-ready, well-orchestrated and nearly completed public-works project.

Nehemiah 6:1 Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had finished the wall. There were no gaps in it, but I had not yet put the doors in the gates. 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message, ‘Let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain called Ono.’ But they were plotting to hurt me. 3 So I sent some men to say to them, ‘I am doing an important task. I cannot go down there. The work should not stop, so that I can go down to meet you.’ 4 Sanballat and the men who were with him sent me the same message 4 times. Each time I gave them the same answer.

Puh-leez!, if you will pardon the slang. “Let us meet…” Nehemiah knew, in his spirit, they were up to no good and that he needed to stay focused on his work.

Sanballat persisted, basically saying, in so many words, ‘C’mon, “Nee,” my man—just meet us after work one day for one drink, so we can talk about your future.’

But the city of Ono, from Jerusalem, was a one-day trip going and a one-day trip coming back, meaning Nehemiah’s work would have been sidetracked for nearly 3 days.

I suppose a short vacation, on someone else’s dime, may have been nice (if Nehemiah had fallen for the hype). But Nehemiah sent back four brief, but polite RSVPs in the negative, highlighting the impact his absence would have had on finishing the wall. Continuing, Nehemiah 6:5:

5 Then Sanballat sent his servant to me again. This was the 5th time that he came with the same message. The servant was carrying a letter in his hand. Sanballat had not closed the letter

 Wait a minute, an open letter to a sitting governor from a foreign leader! Any official communication in that day would have been be rolled up, likely tied up, and sealed with wax. I smell a skunk. Verse 6:

6 The letter said, ‘There is a report that you and the *Jews are plotting a revolution. That is why you are building the wall. This report is well-known in the nations round you. And Geshem says that it is true. People are also saying that you want to become the *Jews’ king. 7 They say that you have appointed *prophets. And these *prophets will declare the news about you in Jerusalem. These *prophets intend to say, “There is a king in *Judah.” People will tell the king about this. So come and let us discuss this.

 “Ono” he didn’t! Sanballat is trying to start some mess! Where I come from, some people call it being “loud talked” when someone tries to “put your business in the street” like that.

I guess more formally one could say Sanballat was trying to foment seeds of dissent among Nehemiah’s colleagues and instigate distrust of him by his boss, the King. That crafty old Sanballat (whose name means, enemy in secret) intentionally left open that letter, knowing full well it would be read by some prying eyes, whispered into some “itching ears,” and passed on by a ready tongue and loose lips, to start some scandalous gossip about Nehemiah. Continuing with verse 8:

8 I sent this reply to Sanballat, ‘What you are saying is not true. You are making it all up.’ 9 Sanballat and the men with him were all trying to frighten us. They thought, ‘The *Jews will be so afraid that they will stop the work. Then they will be unable to complete their task.’

Nehemiah had the good sense to calmly and succinctly try to set the record straight and made it clear that he knew what Sanballat was up to, hoping he would stop the madness.

Nehemiah also thought to do one other thing. Verse 9 continues:

But I prayed to God, ‘Make me strong.’

Nice move, Nehemiah, pray for strength! But he was still a little jumpy, so he decided to take some old friends into his confidence, in verse 10:

10 One day I went to Shemaiah’s house. He was the son of Delaiah and was the grandson of Mehetabel. Shemaiah had shut his door and he would not go out of his house. He said, ‘Let us meet in God’s house, in the inner *temple. Let us close the *temple’s doors. Men are coming to kill you. They are coming by night to kill you.’

Stop it! Here we go with another sketchy invitation, with the same words: “Let us meet…” It was absolutely forbidden for any layman to enter into that part of the inner temple where the doors could be shut. Nehemiah’s supposed confidant (whose house he was already in, whose people’s people he knew of) was a back-stabbing co-conspirator of Sanballat.

Good old Shemaiah offered Nehemiah some get-you-fired-from-your-job type advice that, in this case, would also put him in line for a stone shampoo, with a complimentary rocky scalp-massage treatment! Continuing with verse 11:

 11 But I said, ‘A man like me should not run away! I cannot go into the *temple to save my life. I will not go!’ 12 I realized that God had not sent Shemaiah. Shemaiah had pretended to give me a message from God because Tobiah and Sanballat had paid him. 13 They paid him in order to frighten me. They wanted to make me do what was wrong. Then Tobiah and Sanballat could make people think bad things about me. They could make me ashamed.

Nehemiah bucks up, realizes the back-stabbing nature of his un-cool so-called friends, then goes back to the source of his keen discernment, the “Wonderful Counselor” (Isaiah 9:6) to renew his strength. Verse 14:

14 I prayed, ‘God, you know the bad things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And you know about Noadiah, the female prophet, and the other prophets who have tried to frighten me.’

 LOL! Until I met Nehemiah, I did not know you could get away with praying and naming names of people (including preachers, smile, because Nehemiah called out some would-be prophets in his prayer) who are getting on your nerves and trying make what is yours, theirs, by trying to jam you up, ruin your reputation and in the ensuing drama, try to separate you from access to the power of God in your life.

Nehemiah’s prayer wasn’t an unrighteous one, and he didn’t pray for anyone’s nosey nose to drop off into their coffee cup. Nehemiah basically prayed, “Dear God you and I both know these people are straight tripping, and, Lord, you know I do not have time for this foolishness! Amen!”

Who knew that was allowed under the rules?!!!  How liberating! Nehemiah 6 continues:

15 We finished the wall on the 25th day of the month called Elul. It took 52 days to rebuild the wall. 16 Our enemies heard that we had finished. All the nations round us became afraid, and they felt less important. They realized that God had done the work.

Sweet! I mean, Glory!

Such understated elegance from Nehemiah: “They felt less important” (the old silver-tongued angel!). I love that, but that’s probably just my flesh, huh? Well, it was Nehemiah who said it, not me.

Nehemiah used his gift of discernment, a cool head, survival of a moment of self doubt that led to a near-stumble, but a quick recovery, along the way (from talking to the wrong people!), and ultimately his faith, prayers and strength of character led him to successfully navigate his way through the wiles of the enemy, and walk in the grace that had been afforded him.

Note to self: Stay focused! Don’t let others force you into a manufactured crisis in your life—and always test the spirits (and the facts) to avoid taking bad advice.

Thanks to Pastor Dave Huffman of South Potomac Church, White Plains, MD for the inspiration for this piece.

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Did Jesus Rent or Own?

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit: Offered just as food for thought: Beneath the foundations of this octagonal Byzantine martyrium church at Capernaum, archaeologists made one of the most exciting Biblical archaeology discoveries: a simple first-century A.D. home that may have been the house of Peter, the home of Jesus in Capernaum. Photo: Garo Nalbandian

When I heard a preacher on TV say that Jesus didn’t have a house, I said to myself, ‘uh-uhhh!!??’

Consider John 1:37-40 (Note: this is right after Jesus’ Baptism and being stalked by a future disciple.)

37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? And they said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), where abideth thou?

39 He saith unto them, Come, and ye shall see. They came therefore and saw where he abode; and they abode with him that day: it was about the tenth hour (Note: about 4 pm by Jewish clock, 10am by Roman reckoning of time of the day.)

40 One of the two that heard John [speak], and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s (Note: the Rock of the church) brother.

My conclusion: Not only was there an apartment of some sort, Jesus apparently had rations enough to entertain, because it said “they abode with him that day.”

At that point, Jesus was a 30ish-year-old, full-grown, working man who, all at once, gave up his known life, to become an evangelist.

He met Peter because he had entertained his brother, Andrew, at his dwelling place, which he had obviously worked for (or, as a craftsman, built himself), because he had just that very day been baptized into his true mission.

That part where “…Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head” was nine chapters into the Gospel of Luke (9:58) and considerably after he began to travel in ministry.

I think this distinction is very important in the context of so many self-centered,“spiritual” teachings these days about going after things, in the name of Jesus.

I figure, if you want something, save your money and go buy it— it seems to work for me, anyway.

The cautionary tale about that is, as I heard another preacher say, “You can spend your whole life climbing the ladder of success, and when you finally reach the top, you realize, you put your ladder on the wrong building.”

Luke 16:15: And he said to them, You are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

Finally, speaking of buildings, Revelation 3:20 says: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me.

The “good news” in the book of John, described above, plainly teaches us the same thing would happen if we were to knock on Jesus’ door (smile).

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A History of the Geo-Politics of Climate Change

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit: icjproject.org

To better understand the world’s response to global warming, over the past 20 years, one can mostly track its progression (some might argue, regression) through United Nations initiatives and US Politics.  And no matter how much political heat or rhetorical gas is generated by of-late discussions and/or upcoming congressional debates about climate change, most scientists agree, the response to human-induced global warming requires a commitment to reducing the introduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the earth’s atmosphere. While there were not many specifics in President Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address about an agenda to address global warming, he did declare forcefully: “We must do more to combat climate change.”

“Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend,” said Obama. “But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late,” continued the president.

“In 1992, in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable,” reads a UNFCCC report.

By 1995, countries realized that emission-reductions provisions in the Convention were inadequate. The first Conference of the Parties (COP 1) takes place in Berlin, Germany to strengthen the international response to global warming. The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, legally binds developed countries to emission-reduction targets – the first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. The US reduction target was 7%.

President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Treaty in 1998, but did not submit it to the Senate for advice and consent. President George W. Bush (43) pulled out of the Treaty in 2001 principally citing lack of controls over developing nations like India and China – following intensive lobbying by fossil-fuel interests.(Note: President George H.W. Bush (41) in 1990 said “We all know that human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and in unprecedented ways.”)

In February, 2002, Bush 43 announced a US plan to voluntarily reduce the “GHG intensity” (ratio of emissions to economic output) of the US economy by 18% over the following 10 years.

In 2007, “Climate science entered into popular consciousness,” according to a UNFCCC report.  I first began to track UN-backed climate-change initiatives, in 2005, as special reports editor at The Hill  newspaper, which intensified, in 2008, as an executive and Morning Brief editor at Clean Skies/Energy NOW! TV.

While at Clean Skies/EnergyNOW! TV, I was privileged to co-produce daily radio and television reports, generated by our team coverage of the December 2009 COP 15 UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, and managed a congressional op-ed platform for political debate.

Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA), a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, wrote an op-ed for us about the US engagement at COP15 – which coincided with the end of President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

“As Copenhagen’s [COP15] climate talks conclude, we in Washington must not wait any longer to lead.  With the White House recently committing to emissions cuts of 17% by 2020 (from 2005 levels), 30% by 2025, 42% by 2030 and 83% by 2050, President [Barack] Obama is recognizing the uniqueness of this moment, making an important appearance in Copenhagen, setting the precedent for American support and leadership,” wrote Honda in 2009.

The Washington Post’s Brad Plummer, in 2012, rather succinctly laid out “what President Obama [since COP 15] has — and has not — done on climate change: Over the past four years, climate has largely taken a backseat to the economy, health care, and financial regulations. But the Obama administration has taken a few modest steps to curb carbon emissions,” wrote Plummer.

“The Environmental Protection Agency has crafted carbon regulations for power plants, making it difficult to build new coal plants in the United States. The administration has tightened fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, reaching 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. And the stimulus poured $90 billion into clean energy, which, for all its shortcomings, did boost U.S. solar and wind capacity significantly,” he continued.

“But Obama has also been fairly cautious on climate issues: The White House endorsed, but didn’t push very hard for, a carbon cap-and-trade bill when it was struggling in the Senate in 2010,” Plummer added in 2012.

Also, in 2010, world governments agreed that emissions need to be reduced so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius. At COP17 in Durban, South Africa in 2011, governments of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol decided that a second commitment period, from 2013 forward was in order.

“The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end in 2012, and the negotiations under the UNFCCC have yet to reach an “agreed outcome” to regulate greenhouse gas emissions post-2012. This impasse raises the prospect that in a year’s time – even as the scientific evidence mounts that human impact on the climate system is veering out of control – there will be no internationally agreed legally binding commitments regulating greenhouse gas emissions,” wrote Jacob Werksman of the World Resources Institute in November 2011.

Through three October 2012 nationally televised presidential debates, with total audience impressions of hundreds of millions, not one section was dedicated to asking the would-be and sitting leader of the free world about their plans to address global warming.

The 2008 Democratic Convention platform plank on climate change was forceful: “We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.”

The 2012 Democratic platform was a bit less forceful: “We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation – an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”

The 2008 Republican platform acknowledged climate change: “The same human economic activity that has brought freedom and opportunity to billions has also increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. While the scope and long-term consequences of this are the subject of ongoing scientific research, common sense dictates that the United States should take measured and reasonable steps today to reduce any impact on the environment. Those steps, if consistent with our global competitiveness will also be good for our national security, our energy independence, and our economy.”

In the 2012 Republican platform, there is no per se plank on global warming.

At the GOP nominating convention, in August 2012, in his acceptance speech, Governor Mitt Romney joked about climate change, “President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise … is to help you and your family,” said Romney to a chorus of cheers.

At the Democratic National Convention, in September 2012, Obama responded to Romney’s dig: “And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it,” said Obama to a chorus of cheers.

Informal UN Climate Talks also convened in early September in Bangkok, China, with the UNFCCC citing “concrete progress on key issues across all three negotiating groups [Ad Hoc Working Groups on: Further Commitments for Annex I…, Long Term…, Durban Platform…], setting a firmer base for decisions that will be made at the UN Climate Change Conference [COP18]…,” written in a UNFCCC press release.

Some would argue (perhaps cynically) that the optics of Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the Atlantic eastern seaboard, in November 2012, and the subsequent optics of the bi-partisan, disaster-relief related embracement of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) and President Obama, in the closing days of the 2012 presidential campaign, gave the Obama campaign a final surge to a more impressive electoral victory.

Just a few weeks after President Obama’s re-election, fully twenty years after the current UN framework to address climate change commenced, the US and 190 other countries convened with low expectations, in late November 2012, at COP18 in oil-rich Doha, Qatar.

Todd D. Stern, the US State Department’s special envoy for climate change, has been the government’s chief negotiator at UN climate talks since 2009. “This year was understood as a year of conceptual thinking about what the shape of the 2020s ought to be,” said Todd in New York Times interview.

The Kyoto Protocol was extended 8 years at COP 18 to 2020. But the agreement was severely weakened by the withdrawal of Russia, Japan and Canada, so its signatories now account for only 15 percent of all global emissions.

A report released just prior to COP18, in November 2012, by the UN Environment Program said nations’ pledges were already too weak and greenhouse gas emissions were increasing at a rate that put the world at risk without immediate action.

“Partial loss of ice sheets on polar land could imply meters of sea-level rise, major changes in coastlines and inundation of low lying areas, with greatest effects in river deltas and low-lying islands,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the science advisory group to the UN – to delegates in Doha.

With regard to achieving a universally binding agreement on climate change “Time is running out,” said the UNFCC executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, at a COP 18 news conference in Doha.

“The door is closing fast on us because the pace and the scale of action is simply not yet where it must be,” she added.

“Evidence suggests that for most of the past 3,000 years, sea levels were stable, but that they began rising in the 1950s. Since then, they crept up at an annual rate of 1.7 millimeters per year. Lately, though, sea level rise has apparently been accelerating: This 2010 paper published by Science magazine (pay walled), notes that over the past 20 years, global sea level has risen an average of 3.3 millimeters a year,” wrote science writer John McQuaid for Forbes in August 2012.

In his first post-2012-election press conference, in November, the economy and the politics surrounding it were understandably still foremost on the president’s mind, but climate change was addressed.

“I don’t know what – what either Democrats or Republicans are prepared to do at this point, because, you know, this is one of those issues that’s not just a partisan issue. I also think there’s – there are regional differences,” said the president.

“There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices, and you know, understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that,” he added.

“If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support,” said Obama.

Fast forward, two months, to the president’s 2013 the State of the Union, “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama said. “I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy,” said Obama.

In exiting the Office of the President, in 1989, President Ronald Reagan wrote in his Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate Transmitting the Fiscal Year 1990 Budget:

“To continue the significant progress we have made in cleaning up the environment, I recommend a $153 million increase for the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory, research and enforcement programs. I also recommend an increase of $315 million for the Superfund hazardous waste clean-up program in order to maintain the program’s momentum and support a stronger enforcement role.

Because changes in the earth’s natural systems can have tremendous economic and social effects, global climate change is becoming a critical concern. Our ability to understand and predict these changes is currently limited, and a better understanding is essential for developing policies. The budget proposes a coordinated and effective Federal research program on global change. This budget is accompanied by a report by the Committee on Earth Sciences that describes this program and its strategy.”

There was no mention of the Environmental Protection Agency in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address.

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A Second Emancipation Proclamation: Free Your Mind

By Jim Allen,Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit: FourStory.org

The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the 10 confederate states, it did not free any slaves in the Border States, nor did it abolish slavery. Because of this, President Abraham Lincoln and other supporters believed that an amendment to the Constitution was needed. Thus, the 13th Amendment was passed by Congress and later ratified by the States on December 6, 1865.

Look at the exact language of the 13th Amendment: “Neither SLAVERY nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

I guess my bold highlighting is leading the witness a bit, but the 13th Amendment does appear to allow for conditional slavery — that condition being “as a punishment for crime… [having] been duly convicted.”

The Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy yesterday (2/17/13) wrote: “Today, one in every 15 black men is incarcerated — that’s a 500 percent increase since 1986. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there have been more than 250,000 black-on-black homicides since 1976. Our “school to prison pipeline” is so huge that it would make the Keystone XL pipeline look like a soda straw.”

Which begs the question, who’s to blame for the legal enslavement of black young men — President Obama? The “Man”?

Moreover, who is in a position to help break the cycle?

I would say, anyone who supports efforts to hand each child a book when that child is months old and ensures someone continues to read to and with that child, at least until they start kindergarten, is working toward a sure remedy. I’d say that would be a program worth funding.

Overly simplistic? Perhaps — but what are we doing, waiting for the criminal justice system (and drug possession laws) to change? Are we hoping the US prison-building boom will die of natural causes? Are we still clinging to President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” dream that we can “welfare” our way out of hundreds of years of cyclical ignorance and neglect that exists in certain pockets of America, both urban and rural.

This is not just a “black” problem either, the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice says nearly one in four of all prisoners worldwide is incarcerated in America.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research: “The case for public investment in early education has been strengthened by evidence that preschool programs can boost  school readiness in the short run and, in the long run, improve graduation rates, increase adult earnings, and lower crime rates.” Read it for yourself:  (Reynolds, A.J., Temple, J.A., Robertson, D.L., & Mann, E.A. (2001). Long-term effects of an early childhood intervention on educational achievement and juvenile arrest: A 15-year follow-up of low-income children in public schools,” Journal of the American Medical Association 285:2339-2346)

If an average child can’t effectively compete in the primary publicly funded arena provided for his or her advancement in America, what is the likely outcome of that child’s life? Having worked closely with Nobel-prize-winning and other noted scientists, as a director, at the American Institute of Physics, I can assure you the answer is not of rocket science, because I would be stumped.

An educable child and engaged parent, guardian or mentor, can also mitigate marginal teaching, where it might exist. A child should be reading or reading ready, before they even meet an elementary school teacher for the first time. Teachers should be held to high standards, but it’s that first teacher, the parent or guardian, who often sets the course for a child’s educational outcome.

Suppose that parent or guardian is illiterate or marginally literate? Sequestration will gut the Head Start program, perhaps permanently, and we cannot afford that lapse in leadership.

#freeyourmindandyourbodywillfollow #theSecondEmancipationProclamation

Mr. Courland Milloy’s Column can be read at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/if-president-obama-addressed-black-america-would-he-cite-a-travesty/2013/02/17/4ad8bfca-790e-11e2-9a75-dab0201670da_story.html

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American History, Family History: Am I Black Enough For You?

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVoteReach

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Dr. Ruby (Lonesome). Allen celebrates her  Doctorate conferral in 2012, at age 79, with family members comprising four generations of descendants of 19th century marriages between enslaved Parsons, Brown, Butts and Fulford family members.

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2nd set of twin Daughters of Gabriel Benson McLean (RIP) and Queen Victoria (Parsons) McLean (RIP): (R) Great Aunt Ruby Dahlia McLean (Davis)RIP and (L) My Grandmother Ruth Estelle McLean (Lonesome) RIP, circa 1970

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2nd set of twin Daughters of Gabriel Benson McLean and Queen Victoria (Parsons) McLean: (L) born July 20, 1911, Great Aunt Ruby Dahlia McLean and (R) My Grandmother Ruth Estelle McLean. circa 1916

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Gabriel Benson McLean’s and Queen Victoria (Parsons) McLean’s twin great-great-great grandsons Cameron and Christopher Duckworth (My niece Dana (Allen} Duckworth’s sons), circa 2009

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Gabriel Benson McLean’s and Queen VIctoria (Parsons) McLean’s twin great-great-great granddaughters Ayana (RIP) and Aliyah Allen (My niece Diana Allen’s daughters), circa 2005

David Jr and Uncle Bubbie

This almost exact face,where ever it originated. seems to have skipped a generation. On the left my nephew, David Anthony Allen Jr.(my brother’s son), circa 2010; and on the right, my uncle Andrew Louis Lonesome Jr. (RIP) my mother’s brother, circa 1952–Gabriel Benson McLean and  Queen Victoria Parsons’ great-great grandson and grandson.

Grandpa  Louis

Grandpa Louis Andrew Lonesome Sr. (RIP) (born a Fitchett or Ficklin, raised by the Lonesome family of Caroline County, VA, who were white, pictured, circa 1930

While charting my ethnic identity, doing so especially for my children and the other young people in my family, the complexity of relationships I have uncovered created a desire in me to learn even more about myself and American history. As I offer this last chapter, I also highly recommend this type of exercise in discovery as it is both cathartic and has added rich context to my being identified as “black” in America.

The only thing that really concerns me about the label “black” is that is has no specifically distinguishable cultural grounding and can be viewed as little more than a freight label. On August 31, 1619, Virginia colonist, and its first tobacco baron, John Rolfe (also famous for marrying Native American Princess Pocahontas) bought the first recorded enslaved Africans sold in America—trading food and supplies for them with Dutch slavers at Point Comfort, Jamestown, VA., really close to my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia.

Rolfe described them in his journal (which, by the way, is available for viewing) as “negars,” from the Latin root for the word black. “…There came in a Dutch man-of-war that sold us twenty negars,” he wrote—documenting the amorphous, but culture-stripping label—which overtime morphed into the n-word.

What a can worms he opened!

Applying the freight-label “black” effectively de-ethnocized those Nigerians or Sierra Leoneans or whatever they were (and there were and are various intact West and Central-African cultures) before they became trade commodities.

To Rolfe, the Dutch slavers and the English (who took over the slave trade from the Dutch through the enactment of various Navigation Acts, which restricted the use of foreign shipping lines, beginning in 1651) they were just “blacks” and cataloged as property.

So “black” is really just too generic a label for me to strongly identify with, but it does not really bother me to be referred to as such. If someone insists on labeling me, I guess, I prefer African-American, but heaven only knows what that means, in the context of American history.

When I was child, we were called“negro” or “colored”. Colored is on my 1956-vintage, Virginia-issued birth certificate, as per the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which divided Virginia society into two classifications, “white” and “colored,” to be recorded at birth.

The law also codified the illegality of “interracial” marriage and additionally frustrated the land-claim rights of Native Americans who, with the official “colored” designation, were unable to prove their titling rights to lands historically deeded to their ethnic groups. It stayed on the books until 1967 when it was overturned by the US Supreme Court in Loving v Virginia (that’s an interesting story, check out the background on that sometime).

At one point, in the not-to-distant past, to be called black (even within the black community) was almost as offensive as being called the “n-word,” believe it or not, and was usually not a good formula for establishing warm-and-fuzzy relationships.

I occasionally hear some of today’s journalists, perhaps out of blissful ignorance, using the phrase “…the pot calling the kettle black.” You never hear anyone say “…the chalk calling the rice white.” There is no negative cultural connotation in that assertion, as there has fundamentally been, in America, about idea of being black.

I think it’s great that, in the last few decades, the negative connotation of being designated black, in America, has mostly been erased. But boiling down a people to a “shade,” does not inform you who they are, historically, or pinpoint where they come from, any more than “negars” tells us anything of substance about the people whom Rolfe bought.

By the 1660’s, Virginia and Maryland began establishing legal distinctions between the races, instituting lifetime slavery requirements (quashing indentured servitude) and codifying the generational inheritance of slaves.

Unlike the slavery institutions, for example, in Brazil, Cuba and Haiti, the American chattel slavery institution sought to erase the ethnic identities of the enslaved Africans and their succeeding generations, and disconnected them from their tribal roots, religion and languages—save the African idioms and rhythms preserved through music and often expressed in a faith-based context—with other notable exceptions being the so-called Gullah people of South Carolina and Georgia and many Africans enslaved in French-dominated Louisiana, who more than any other groups held onto more of their African cultural identities.

Most descendants of formerly enslaved Africans in America are deemed “black” and know vaguely that they are in some measure descended from some unknown African tribe.

The American “Negro” who emerged from slavery was often a unique hybrid of ethnicities—no longer tribally connected to Africa and largely marginalized in American society. Most were uneducated or under-educated, unconnected, unacknowledged by their slave-master biological fathers (where applicable), unorganized, unwanted, abruptly unshackled from an inhuman existence and unquestionably, and an unrequited co-builder of America.

In his 30-plus year church ministry, my father (Rev. James O. Allen, Sr.) always emphasized the importance of placing the spiritual concepts and precepts of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles into the proper hermeneutical contexts, attendant to the characters or scenarios being studied. He also stressed to me the importance of knowing where you come from.

As I have outlined in previous chapters, that I am able trace my roots, on my father’s maternal side, to Sierra Leone, and on father’s paternal side, to Sussex/Essex England is rare among African Americans.

Similarly, I can trace the roots of my mother’s mother, born Ruth Estelle McLean, back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. My 3x great grandfather Boston Brown, a slave, born around 1824, and my 3x great grandmother Olive Butts, a slave born in 1830, both from what was then known as Norfolk County, VA, were married in 1850.

Soon after that marriage, my 3x great grandmother Olive had a son by Preston Cooper, her white “owner.” She named that child Preston Lottie Cooper and through him we share a common ancestor with a certain branch of the Cooper family of Virginia Beach, VA. There are records indicating the Cooper family came to Virginia from England beginning in 1618 and there were four notable Cooper family landings in Virginia in the 1700’s.

Also, in he late 1700’s, the children of another of my ancestors, my enslaved 4x great grandmother, whose name I  have yet to uncover, were split between the Parsons Plantation and the Lamb Plantation in Princess Anne County VA, now called Virginia Beach. Thus, the Lamb and Parsons families of what was then known as the Seatack area of Virginia Beach are, in fact, one family.

One of those enslaved siblings, Sandy Parsons was my 3x great grandfather. He married my 3x great-grandmother Margaret (Fulford) Parsons and in 1844, they had a son, my 3x great grandfather Wilson Nero Parsons.

Also in 1844, Abraham Lincoln, as a “presidential elector” campaigned for Henry Clay, who made the Speaker of the US House of Representatives the position of great political power it is today. Clay later helped establish and became president of the American Colonization Society, a group that wanted to send freed Negro slaves to Africa, and that founded Monrovia and Liberia in Africa for that purpose.

In 1844, the first electrical telegram was sent via telegraph wire from Washington, DC to Baltimore, MD and James Knox Polk was elected President of the United States, on a platform of annexing Texas into the Union as a slave state. Clay and Lincoln opposed the annexing of Texas for fear of opening up the American West to slavery.

In 1852, my aforementioned 3x great grandmother Olive (Butts) Brown of the Cooper Plantation in Virginia and my 3x great grandfather Boston Brown had a daughter they named Sarah Brown who was my 2x great grandmother.

My 2x great grandfather Wilson grew into manhood as a slave during the height of the abolitionist movement and the Civil War (1861-1865). He gained his freedom during Lincoln’s presidency. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. Lincoln was assassinated five days after the war ended on April 14, 1865.

In 1869, during the Reconstruction period (1865-1877), my 2x great grand mother Sarah Brown married my 2x great-grandfather Wilson Nero Parsons. They had 10 children, including a daughter, Queen Victoria Parsons, my great grandmother.

In the early 1900’s, my great grandmother Queen Victoria married a Methodist preacher called Gabriel Benson McLean, my great grandfather.

Note: Queen Victoria’s sister, Sarah Ann Rebecca Parsons, graduated from Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, in 1902, and is credited with founding the first schools for “Negroes” in Seatack, VA—now called Virginia Beach—in 1908A pioneer, like her great aunt Sarah Ann Rebecca Parsons, my mother, Dr. Ruby Cleopatra (Lonesome) Allen, in 1953, became the first black music teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools history and in the 60’s, the first black middle school teacher in that system—mom earned her Doctorate in Music Arts from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA in 2012, at age 79.)

In 1910, Madam CJ Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) moved her central hair care products operations from Pittsburgh, PA to Indianapolis, IN, then the country’s largest manufacturing base (and birthplace of the resurgent KKK), to utilize that city’s access to eight major railway systems. As a result, she became America’s first “colored,” female millionaire.

1911 was the year Pancho Villa stepped down as commander of the Mexican Revolution and Gone With The Wind’s, “I don’t know nuthin’ bout birthin’ no babies…” star, Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen, was born (By the way, by 1947, McQueen had grown tired of the ethnic stereotypes she was required to play, and thus, ended her film career).

On June 11, 1911, Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Meanwhile, my great grandparents, Rev. Gabriel Benson and Queen Victoria (Parsons) McLean became the parents of two sons and two sets of twin girls, including, on July 20, 1911, twins, Ruth Estelle McLean and Ruby Dahlia McLean. (Note: two of my brother’s (David Anthony Allen, Sr.) daughters, Diana and Dana, had sets of twins, a third daughter, Ariana, is still a minor).

Ruth Estelle McLean was my mother’s mother—my grandma Ruth.

Over her lifetime, my grandma Ruth was a church organist, deaconess, usher, a domestic for the Taggert family of Wayne, PA, governess for the Lichtenstein family of Virginia Beach, VA, a License Practical Nurse and the first African American female Matron for Women in the Virginia Beach Department of Corrections (until she was forced off the road in her car and injured, twice, reportedly, by her white colleagues).

She was a Democratic Party organizer, lifetime NAACP member, recipient of Virginia Beach Mayor’s First Citizen Award; member of the Daisy Chain Social and Savings and Charity Club; Rhoda Court #2 Heroines of Jericho; Arabia Court #23 Daughter of Isis A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Portsmouth, VA; Evening Light Chapter #48, Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliate, VA Beach; Pioneer Temple #1124 Order of Elks, VA Beach, VA; cat lover (Princess), avid gardener and as you might imagine, all around social butterfly. Whew!

Grandma Ruth married my grandfather Louis Andrew Lonesome Sr., born a Ficklen (or Fitchett), who was adopted and raised by the white Lonesome family of Caroline County, VA.

They had a son, Louis Andrew “Bubbie” Lonesome Jr., (RIP), but preceding him, on June 4, 1932, they had a daughter, Ruby Cleopatra Lonesome, my mother, who grew up to be a pioneering music educator and who, on December 26, 1953, married my father, radio broadcasting pioneer and pastor, Rev. James Oliver Allen Sr. (RIP). They had two sons, James O. “Jimmy” Allen Jr. (yours truly), born January 18, 1956 and David Anthony Allen, Sr., born September 29, 1961.

Grandpa Louis also for a time worked for the Taggert Family of Wayne, PA, as their butler and chauffeur. He died of spinal meningitis serving in the US Army in West Africa and was transported back to a US Army base in New Jersey, in a sealed coffin. The family assumed he was in it and buried him.

Later in life, Grandma Ruth married retired Navy Chief Petty Officer Nathaniel Kates (RIP—a Kosher chef) and died in 2006, at age 95. Her twin sister, Ruby (an educator, for whom my mother was named and modeled her career), preceded her in death by about 3 years.

It was through this process of familial discovery that I found out I had a great grandfather and a 3x great grandfather named Boston, on my father’s and mother’s sides of my family, respectively.

Thinking about them reminded me of my first trip to Boston, MA to meet my former colleagues and staffers from the America Institute of Physics at an annual physics conference. I was bumped up to first class and flew into Boston via San Francisco on Virgin Air, coming from making my semi-annual presentation to the American Physical Society Committee to Inform the Public convened in Los Angeles, CA.

As we circled in over the Atlantic Ocean toward the Boston coastline, I got all choked up, thinking of how different my first trip and view of the Boston shore was from my 4x great grandpa Cicero’s (aka John Williams), who was cited in an earlier chapter, on my dad’s mother’s side of the family. He was enslaved in Sierra Leone, West Africa, landing Boston in the belly of a slave ship, in the late 1700’s, before eventually earning enough money to buy back his freedom.

As the jet descended, my emotions shifted. I managed a smile and paid silent homage to the old African, because through him and all of my ancestors, slave and free, African, European and Native American (such as my 4x great grandmother Priscilla “Williams” a Nantucket Island, MA Native American (Cicero’s wife) and 3x great grandma Rosa Allen (Sr.), a Cherokee from Fayetteville, NC, both cited in earlier chapters), and through amazing Grace, I am here to share what I can of their stories with my family and others.

I also feel more of a sense of urgency to do my best to ensure that their lives, prayers and struggles were not in vain. Even my white 4x great grandfather Christmas (of Warrenton, NC), on my father’s father’s side, who owned my 4x great grandmother Sallie Christmas Curtis, on his plantation, is in my prayers. Just because he owned my 4x great grandmother makes him no less my 4x great grandfather.

One last story about ethnic identity: In 1980, while on vacation from my first radio job out of college at WFOG FM/WLPM AM in Suffolk, VA, desperately looking for the next break, scrambling through a string of seemingly serendipitous events and gracious gestures, with 5 minutes to spare, I ended up in the Washington,DC office of Wanda Townsend who was in charge of minority and special services for the National Association of Broadcasters. She politely informed me about the many hundreds of clients she had and that the best she could do for me on that day was to refer me to an upcoming job fair at Howard University.

As my crest was in the process of falling and my heart breaking, Ms. Townsend’s phone rang. Her assistant said it was Genevieve Glasscock (RIP) calling from WSTU-AM Radio in Stuart, FL.

She took the call while I sat quietly and listened to her side of the conversation—obviously about radio, and the person on the other end was interested in diversifying their operation (God Bless Ms. G!). “I am sorry Ms. Glasscock, the young man you’re interested in is not available and he’s not black,” said Ms. Townsend.

I am sure my eyes widened, as I began to frantically point to myself “Am I black enough?!” I whispered with intensity, still vigorously pointing to myself. Ms. Townsend smiled and continued on the call.

“There’s a young man sitting here right now who is qualified and says he’s interested, would you like to speak with him?” she asked.

Well, that phone call resulted in my very first airline flight and I landed that job in south Florida and the rest, as they say, is history. I guess I was black enough!

Since then, as trying as life can be sometimes in the course of human events, I am rarely afraid to follow my heart. And, I have finally reached the point in my life, that on my better days, I am increasingly mindful and able to point to God, rather than myself.

Today’s leaders must continue to point to the achievements of the heroic dead and be as eager to encourage their living contemporaries who are trying to make a difference—in education, self awareness, finance and faith.

What if W.E.B. Dubois and Booker T. Washington would have teamed up? There are enough opportunities for everyone to pitch in to encourage growth and development of the young people in our communities and to coalesce around the idea of arresting the pathologies we have allowed to fester around them—evolving the deliverables in the fight for so-called “racial” equality from a 1950’s and ‘60’s-won social metric to a practical, permanent and ever-growing record of academic, economic, athletic, artistic and spiritual achievement, as set in motion by our forbearers.

On the concept of equality: generally speaking, why would one expect that average children first exposed to books, on a regular basis, at age 5 would have the same educational outcomes as average children first exposed to books, on a regular basis, at age 5 months?

Speaking of books, I have recently discovered Ms. Lesley Gist, author of The Gist of Freedom—a book about faith, family and justice, as one historian who elegantly celebrates the achievements of our forefathers and mothers with equal aplomb as does she of those of her contemporaries.

And, finally, through all of this, I am convinced that there is one race—human. Otherwise, all of my ancestors of these different ethnicities would not have been able to get each other pregnant, their offspring would not be able to reproduce and I would not be here (smile)—let alone the conclusive scientific evidence which indicates someone who looks nothing like you, ethnically, could be more closely related to you, genetically, because of the thousands of markers in your DNA thread that make you who you are, only a handful determine you hair texture, skin and eye color.

You are mostly what you cannot see, just like me! And that also happens to be the essence of faith.

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American History, Family History: Happy Birthday Dad and President Lincoln

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVoteReach

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My dad, Rev. James Oliver Allen Sr, during his radio/MC days circa 1950

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My mom, Educator, Dr. Ruby Cleopatra (Lonesome) Allen, circa 1953

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My father’s father, James Walter “Box” (Wilson) Jones, circa 1950

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My father’s mother, Rosa May Allen (Woodley), circa 1950

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Photo insert on the left, my brother, David Anthony Allen Sr., my dad (Rev. James Oliver Allen Sr) and me (James Oliver Allen Jr., circa 1965

Today, February 12, 2013, would have been the 86th birthday of my father, Rev. James O. Allen Sr., who shares his birthday with our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, the savior of the Union and the great emancipator. It seems particularly fitting to me today to add my father’s paternal roots to the record I am compiling, as the bloodline flows through Africa, Europe and American chattel slavery.

In the 1600’s, there were four notable landings of the Christmas family in Virginia from Europe.  Records say the Christmas family name was first found in Austria, then onto Germany, and the Anglo-Saxon Christmas’ hailed from Essex, England (and some also from Sussex and Ireland). The Essex Christmases reportedly held a family seat from ancient times, dating back before the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy) in September 1066.

Dating back to the late 1700’s, my 4x great grandfather was a “white” slave holder whose last name was Christmas, of Warren County, NC.  My 4x great grandmother, Sallie (Christmas) Curtis, was a mulatto slave of his.

Great grandma Sallie had at least 5 children, including Christopher “Kit” Christmas, whose father was her master. Kit was my 3x great grandfather. Sallie was married to a man whose last name was Curtis – thus, we share 4x great grandma Sallie with a certain branch of the Curtis family. This was before the American Civil War.

Around this time, in 1843, as a lawyer, Abraham Lincoln unsuccessfully represented a slave owner trying to maintain a claim over a slave woman and her children in Matson v Bryant (Google this, it is a compelling story.)

In 1844, Lincoln, as a “presidential elector” campaigned for Henry Clay, who made the Speaker of the US House of Representatives the position of great political power it is today. (Clay later helped establish and became president of the American Colonization Society, a group that wanted to send freed Negro slaves to Africa, and which founded Monrovia and Liberia in Africa for that purpose.)

Also in 1844, the first electrical telegram was sent via telegraph wire from Washington, DC to Baltimore, MD and James Knox Polk (over Henry Clay) was elected President of the United States, on a platform of annexing Texas into the Union as a slave state. Clay and Lincoln opposed the annexing of Texas for fear of opening up the American West to slavery.

Further, in 1844, after working on Clay’s losing presidential campaign, Lincoln started a law practice with William Herndon and bought a home in Springfield, Ill (from where President Barack Obama launched his first presidential campaign.

In 1846, Lincoln was elected to Congress by the Whig Party. In 1849, he introduced an amendment to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia and ended his first and only term in the US House of Representatives.

By the 1850’s, he was a prominent Illinois lawyer with big clients like the Illinois Central Railroad. He later lost a Senate bid to his rival Stephen A. Douglas, who introduced the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed settlers in those territories to determine if they would be slave or free and also repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, enacted to stop the western spread of slavery (also see Dred Scott v Sandford Supreme Court decision of 1857). Talk about earmarks, the Kansas-Nebraska Act started off as a bill to facilitate development of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Around the time of the Civil War, my 3x great grandfather Kit Christmas (who fathered children into his 90’s) and my 3x great grandmother Melinda Powell Alston, of Warrenton, NC, had a daughter Roberta Powell Christmas, my 2x great grandmother.

The two toughest first years in office any president may have ever faced were exactly one hundred years apart: Lincoln’s first, in 1861, in deciding to go to war to save the Union, dealing with state’s rights issues and mounting racial tensions; and Kennedy’s, in 1961, when he decided not to go to war with Cuba (the Bay of Pigs), the Cold War–the threat of nuclear war with Russia, state’s rights/Civil Rights issues and mounting racial tensions. It is ironic that they both were assassinated.

The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863.  Lincoln was assassinated five days after the Civil War ended on April 14, 1865.

By late 1865, the 13th Amendment officially outlawed the institution of slavery. Some four million freed slaves faced the obstacles of the lenient Reconstruction era (1865-1877) policies of Lincoln’s successor, President Andrew Johnson.

The Freedman’s Bureau was established by Congress on March 3, 1865 and set up to help freed slaves during Reconstruction.

The Congressional Reconstruction Act of 1867 organized the south into 5 military districts—each state had to have a military leader from the north (martial law). They also had to sign on to the 14th Amendment and get rid of the “black codes” that were designed to restrict the activity of freed African Americans and ensure their availability as a labor force, now that slavery had been abolished.

On July 28, 1868, the 14th Amendment was ratified. The amendment grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves. It was rejected by most Southern states but was ratified by the required three-fourths of the states.

In 1869, Ulysses S. Grant assumed the Oval Office, succeeding Johnson.

Fast forwarding a bit to President Chester A. Arthur’s administration, the Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 in an 1883 decision, about which Arthur expressed his disagreement in a message to Congress, but was unable to persuade Congress to pass any new legislation in its place.

In 1883, Arthur intervened to overturn a court-martial ruling against an African-American West Point cadet, Johnson Whittaker, after the Judge Advocate General of the Army, David G. Swaim, found the prosecution’s case against Whittaker legally invalid and based on racial bigotry (you may have seen the movie: Assault at West Point: The Court Martial of Johnson Whittaker, starring Samuel L. Jackson. Note: Johnson Whittaker’s grandson served with my wife’s (Antoinette Kim (Myers) Allen) great uncle Capt. Andrew D. Turner (USAF) in WWII as Tuskegee Airmen)

Also in 1883, my 2x great grandmother Roberta Powell Christmas (Plummer) and her husband, my 2x grandfather, Henry Plummer of Ridgeway, NC had a daughter, Nannie Roberta Plummer, my great-grandmother.

Great grandma Nannie married Walter Wilson, the son of James Jones and Ester Wilson (who later married a Summerville). They had a son, James Walter Wilson, on February 18, 1907. He was my father’s father, who nickname was “Boxhead” commonly shortened to “Box.” They made their home in Norfolk, VA, my birthplace.

Nannie later married John Jones and my grandfather took the name of his stepfather becoming James Walter Jones. (Later in life, Nannie married a third time to a Cherokee we called “Daddy Brown.” I knew her as Nannie Brown. She died in her 90’s, when I was a teenager.)

On President Lincoln’s birthday in 1927, the same day a great Nor’easter blew into Norfolk, VA, a midwife delivered to my grandfather James Walter Jones (age 18) and my grandmother Rosa May Allen (age 16), my father, James Oliver Isaac Allen Sr.  By the time he got an official birth certificate—which by the way had the wrong year of birth (1928)—he had dropped “Isaac” from his name.

Great grandma Gracie forbad my grandparents to marry. They tell me, she could not stomach my grandfather.  My Grandma Ro later married and had 5 children with Webster Woodley Sr.: Webster II, Susie, Rosa, Lena and Duke. Grandma Ro died a really pointless death at age 48, when I was two or three years old, misdiagnosed as being menopausal, when in fact she had cervical cancer. For a time, my father was inconsolable.

My grandfather, James Walter Jones, known as “Box Head” or “Box,” was a popular clothes model and entertainer in Norfolk, VA, before moving to New York City in the 1930’s, near the end of the Harlem Renaissance.

He became was a pimp, a numbers runner for Dutch Schultz and eventual part owner of the nightclub “Sugar Rays,” with boxing champ Sugar Ray Robinson.

My dad said Grandpa Box dated Sarah Vaughn near the end of his life. He died, in 1953, in his mid 40’s, under mysterious circumstances in a New York Jail.

It is interesting that my father James Oliver Allen Sr. (February 12, 1927- June 1, 2001) became a man of the cloth, indeed an itinerate preacher and great pastor for three decades of St. Mark’s RZUA Church in Norfolk, VA, having for a time grown up a bordello.

In 1945, between high school and college, while serving as a ship’s steward in the US Coast Guard in WWII, my father was ordered to report for duty in San Francisco, CA.

Upon reporting, he discovered the base commander was expecting a “white” James Oliver Allen, in the still-segregated US military, and refused to post him.

Until the Coast Guard Brass figured out what to do with my father, he was assigned to work as a courier and clerk for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Mrs. Roosevelt and political scientist and US Diplomat Ralph Bunche were working on the formation of what is now the United Nations – lemonade out of lemons was my father’s way of looking at it. Not bad company for a reject.

In 1950, Bunche became the first person of color to win the Nobel Peace Prize, for mediating in Palestine, in the late 1940’s.

My parents met as students at Virginia State College, Norfolk Division—now, NorfolkStateUniversity. My parents had two sons, yours truly, James Oliver (Jim) Allen Jr., born on January 18, 1956 and born on September 29, 1961, my brother David Anthony Allen Sr.

My father later attended seminary at VirginiaUnionUniversity in Richmond, at the same time as America’s and Virginia’s first elected African-American governor, L. Douglas Wilder (a one-time US presidential contender).

My father also worked at WANT radio in Richmond. He told me the station call letters stood for “Want All Negro Talent.”

As a prominent radio personality and pioneering radio executive, my dad gave Gospel great Shirley Caesar “a career boost,” interviewed Little Richard and many other celebrities, and served as Master of Ceremonies on programs for the likes of Mahalia Jackson and Earl Bostic. It was at an event he was MC-ing that he reconnected with my mom. Although they met at Virginia State College, they were not a couple there.

My father shared a story of hiding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the KKK in a radio station he managed located above a furniture store he managed in Montgomery, AL.

He was also program director of WAOK radio in Atlanta. It was an unusual arrangement for the 1950’s for an African American to manage multiple radio stations in multiple markets (including WRAP in Norfolk, VA) for a white-owned company.

It’s your birthday today dad, and I sure do miss you. Thank you for creating a path to follow. And as I promised you, shortly before you died, I will look out for mom—Dr. Ruby Cleopatra (Lonesome) Allen (who in 1953 became the first African American music educator in the history of Virginia Beach, VA City Public Schools and later, the first African-American middle school teacher there—and that I would not let our story go untold.

My father died on the day their mortgage was paid off. What a guy!

I love you, dad. May you, all of our ancestors and President Lincoln, rest in peace!

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American History, Family History – Red Tails: WWII to the Present

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVoteReach

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Great Uncle Captain (later Major) Andrew D. “Jug” Turner (January 6, 1920-September 14, 1947) commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force.

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Pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, Tuskegee Airmen, the elite, all-African American unit, pose at Ramitelli, Italy: (from left) Lt. Dempsey Morgan, Lt. Carroll Woods, Lt. Robert Nelson Jr., Capt. Andrew D. Turner and Lt. Clarence Lester.

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Red Tails Commander Capt. Andrew D. Turner, Tuskegee Airmen, from the cockpit of his North American P-51C-10-NT Mustang [#42-103960] “Skipper’s Darlin’ III.”)

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Capt Turner’s Grandniece, my wife, Antoinette Kim (Myers) Allen

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Correction: This is”Red Tails”  Capt. Paulus C. Taylor 301st FS 332nd

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Capt. Turner’s Great Grandnephew Staff Sergeant Donnell Myers (USMC) and wife, Chasity Banks Myers

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Capt Turner’s Great Grandniece (my youngest daughter) Candace Jewell Allen

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Capt Turner’s Great Grandnephew (my son) James O. Allen III

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First Baptist Church Deanwood NE Washington, DC, Rev. Clarence W. Turner III (Capt Turner’s nephew), Antoinette Kim (Myers) Allen (Capt Turner’s grandniece) and me, November 3, 2001

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“Red Tails” Commander Capt. Andrew D. Turner and colleague, Tuskegee Airmen

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“Red Tails” Commander Capt. Andrew D. Turner, Tuskegee Airman

Just this past week, I was watching the movie Red Tails, about the WWII Tuskegee Airmen, which connects to our family history through my wife’s Great Uncle Capt. (later Major) Andrew D. Turner—Commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, the Tuskegee Airmen.

Here’s the bloodline: My wife: Antoinette Kim (Myers) Allen, is the daughter of Matthew Myers and Jewell Clarice (Turner) Myers (RIP).

My wife’s mother, Jewell, was the daughter of Clarence W. Turner II (RIP) and Martha (Slaughter) Turner (RIP). Capt Andrew D. Turner was Clarence’s W. Turner II’s brother.

Her Great Uncle Andrew, Grandpa Clarence II and seven other siblings were the children of Rev. Clarence W. Turner I and Jennie Virginia (Jones) Turner.

My daughter, Candace Jewell Allen has Andrews’ nose and my wife and youngest son James Oliver Allen III (and many of the Turners and Myers) have his eyes. You can see the family resemblance in our nephew, below — Staff Sergeant Donnell Myers (USMC), deployed overseas at the time of writing. Stay Frosty, D! We love you!

Here’s a brief summary of Great Uncle Andrew’s story from the National Archive:

“Captain (later Major) Andrew D. “Jug” Turner (January 6, 1920-September 14, 1947) commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group, 15th Air Force. Turner graduated from Tuskegee class 42-I-SE and was inducted on October 9, 1942. When the 100th’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Robert B. Tresville, failed to return from a mission in June 1944, Turner took command.”

“On July 18, 1944, Turner was credited with a probable Me-109 which he was seen to damage heavily, but a crash was not witnessed. [The Messerschmitt Bf 109, often called Me 109, was a German World War II vintage Fighter plane, with a liquid cooled engines, vulnerable to hits to the cooling system]. Turner flew 69 missions with the 100th,” continued the archive.

“Electing to stay in the Air Force, Turner was killed at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, when his Republic P-47N Thunderbolt collided with another pilot. Both Turner and the other pilot were killed. Corporal Hugh Beguesse (1917-? ) his plane’s armament crew, was a Caribbean native who moved to Chicago, Illinois; he was not yet a citizen when he was drafted. “Skipper’s Darlin’ III” was sold for scrap on September 30, 1945,” the archive record continued.

Great uncle Andrew was a resident of the Deanwood area of Northeast Washington, DC, and attended Deanwood Elementary and DunbarHigh Schools in Washington, DC. He was a member of the First Baptist Church of Deanwood, of which, his father, Rev. Clarence Turner I was a founding member.

In addition, Clarence I’s grandson (Capt Andrew’s nephew, our uncle “Butch”), Rev. Clarence W. Turner III, who was our pastor, married my wife and me, baptized our children, and licensed my wife and me in ministry, died suddenly on October 13, 2012 (RIP).

You can imagine when we and other family members watch the movie Red Tails. It’s really special!

My wife and our babies’ great uncle was the Commander of the 100th Fighter Squadron, a Red Tail!

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American History, Allen Family History: Coming to America through WWI — By Jim Allen, Editor NuVoteReach

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351st Field Artillery [African American] Troops on the Deck of the “Louisville.” Part of the Squadron “A” 351st Field Artillery, [African American] troops who returned on the Transport Louisville (National Archive). The company of Boston Allen, Jr.

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1921 Graduating Class Russell’s School of Beauty Culture (Norfolk, VA) Great Grandmother Gracie May Williams Allen (in lightest colored dress)

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Grandmother Rosa May Allen (Woodley)

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My first cousin Jordan Woodley (granddaughter of Rosa May Allen Woodley)

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My Nice Dana “Day” Allen, Great granddaughter of Rosa May Allen Woodley

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My Daughter Khera B. Allen Great granddaughter of Rosa May Allen Woodley

The Allen-Woodley side of my family are descended from a man called Cicero (one record says Caesar) who was enslaved in Sierra Leone (West Africa) in the early 1700’s and transported to America as a slave, landing in Boston, MA.

Cicero eventually bought back his freedom, changed his name to John Williams and married a Native American woman from Nantucket Island, MA called Priscilla. They moved to Prince William County, VA.

For my generation, John Williams Sr. and Priscilla were our 4x great grandparents.
The Williams were free men in America from the 1700’s.

In 1888, John’s grandson, John Williams III, a fishing boat deck hand, married Anna “Annie” Fountain, the daughter of Isaac Fountain and May “Mary” Major of Prince Georges County, MD. They had a daughter, Gracie May Williams, born on October 26, 1889—she was my great-grandmother.

Gracie married Boston Allen Jr. of Fayetteville, NC, (son of Rosa, a Cherokee Indian and Boston, Sr. who was the son of Claude Allen, reportedly of European and West Indian extraction-not sure which island yet) My brother (David) and I and our children are the only related Allen(s) (with that exact name) that we know of – although we know Claude Allen of Fayette, NC had several offspring, according to an old family Bible which names them.

Gracie and Boston had a son, James Isaac Allen, who was a Booker T. Washington High School (Norfolk, VA) football star; and a daughter, Rosa May Allen (Woodley), (named after his mother, Rosa) born on March 23, 1910. She was my father’s mother, “Grandma Ro.”

My father was born James Oliver Isaac Allen Sr., later dropped the Isaac, thus I am James Oliver Allen, Jr.

Great grandpa Boston Allen Jr. was killed in WWI, under the command of General John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing. Pictured is the US government document from the now defunct “Treasury Department, Bureau of War Risk Insurance” (dated May 4, 1921) that confirms Great Grandpa Boston’s service (C-40 720. Boston Allen, Jr., Private, Battalion D, 351st F.A. [Field Artillery] HHC/sc-12) and the death benefits to our great grandmother Gracie May Williams Allen and her minor children (Grandma Rosa May Allen (Woodley) and Great Uncle James Isaac Allen.

As the story goes, the Armistice (peace deal) was struck, but Pershing sent his black troops into battle anyway.

They same year of the documented veteran’s death-benefit claim, 1921, Great Grandma Gracie Williams Allen graduated (pictured) from Russell’s School of Beauty Culture in Norfolk, VA.

The death-benefits claim from Great Grandpa Boston was still active through August 7, 1978 (per the attached document). The War Risk Department became the modern day Veterans Administration. Grandma Gracie, who moved into my parents’ home, into my bedroom, when I moved out, died in 1985, shortly before her 96th birthday

So far, no picture of Boston Allen Jr. survives in the family “archives,” but I found a picture of his regiment. Pictured above are soldiers of the 351st Field Artillery. Perhaps my Great Grandpa Boston Allen Jr. is among these men.

The original photo caption reads: “351st Field Artillery [African American] Troops on the Deck of the “Louisville.” Part of the Squadron “A” 351st Field Artillery, [African American] troops who returned on the Transport Louisville. These men are mostly from Pennsylvania.”

The family resemblance is striking to my Grandma Rosa May Allen Woodley (1910-1958),by three of her descendants (R-L) Khera Allen (my eldest daughter), DAY Allen (Dana-my niece) and Jordan Woodley (my first cousin of Tampa, FL).

Grandma Rosa’s hair was halfway down her back (but curled tightly in this photo) — perhaps passed down by her 2x great grandmother Priscilla, a Nantucket Native America woman, who married the former slave Cicero (John Williams Sr. – who purchased his freedom in Boston, MA the mid 1700s).

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Gun Rights Debate Exclusive: A Massacre-Survivor’s Perspective

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVoteReach

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Karissa Marcum, Columbine Massacre Survivor

As the US Senate prepares to formally take up the gun debate this week, various aspects of gun control versus gun rights are very much on the minds of most Americans in the wake of the December massacre of 20 students and six education caretakers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As theories on gun violence are spun, the body count daily rises from gun violence and political factions on the right and left dig in their heels for the debate, it may be instructive to the proceedings to hear a perspective from someone who actually survived a shooting-massacre scenario.

Karissa Marcum, a 28-year-old media professional, has lived half of her life with the memory of a fateful April day in 1999 in Littleton, CO when two of her school mates went on a shooting rampage.

On that day, Marcum was a 14-year-old ninth grader in her first year of public school, sitting in the cafeteria at Columbine High School with her elder sister and 480-some-odd others, mostly children, doing what most kids do at lunchtime in school.

The shooting conspirators, however, had earlier that day stashed their cache of weapons on the floor beside two tables near the Marcum girls, unbeknownst to them. The two duffel bags contained a TEC-DC9 assault pistol, Hi-Point 9mm Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun, and a Savage 311-D 12-gauge shotgun.

With no warning, the usual unintelligible din of a school cafeteria was interrupted by an odd sound from the front of the building, “pop-pop-pop!” There was a hush, then another report, “pop-pop-pop!”

There was a release of panic. Pandemonium erupted and then more “pop-pop-pop-pop!” crackled through the air. Hot metal cut through the flesh of children (and staffers) as hundreds of them screamed and scrambled toward the cafeteria exits—some running into the path of fire, some away from it—while others just froze in their tracks.

Marcum and her sister ran. They ran fast, but her sister fell, “oh no!” Marcum turned back to help her big sister back to her feet as the “pop-pop-pop!” of gunfire closed in.

Both girls managed to run to safety, shaken but uninjured. But by the time the shooting had stopped, 13 others (plus the 2 shooters, by suicide) lay dead and many others were injured.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” said National Rifle Association President (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre in December at a news conference in Washington, DC.

Marcum recalls there was an armed officer on duty at Columbine, who was quickly joined by a second sheriff’s deputy who was nearby, both of whom fired at one of the shooters, but both failed to stop him.

LaPierre has called on Congress “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

“That’s a tough one,” Marcum sighed. “I firmly believe that even if we posted a security guard at every school, grocery store and movie theater, it wouldn’t be a guarantee that a Columbine or Sandy Hook wouldn’t happen,” she continued.

“When someone is bent on destruction, a security guard who is outgunned is likely to be outmatched by a mad man, nine times out of ten…may we see God’s great mercy,” Marcum continued.

A spate of national polling has tracked public opinion on second amendment rights since the roll out earlier this month of President Barack Obama’s plan to stem gun violence in the United States:

Rasmussen poll found that 65 percent [of Americans] see gun rights as protection against tyranny.

A CNN/Time poll says 55 percent of Americans say gun controls should be tightened.

An ABC/Washington Post poll says 58 percent back an assault weapons ban.

A CBS/New York Times poll says 63 percent support banning high-capacity magazines and 78 percent favor creating a database to track all gun sales in the United States.

A Johns Hopkins survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, says about 70 percent support bans on military-style semiautomatic weapons and more than 80 percent back measures restricting guns sales to people with histories of domestic violence or serious juvenile crimes.

Also in the Hopkins poll, 89 percent of all respondents, and 75 percent of those identified as NRA members, support universal background checks for gun sales. It also indicates a majority of NRA members support prohibiting people with recent alcohol or drug charges to buy guns and 70 percent support a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison for selling guns to persons not legally allowed own them.

“Not only are gun owners and non-gun-owners very much aligned in their support for proposals to strengthen U.S. gun laws, but the majority of NRA members are also in favor of many of these policies,” Daniel Webster, co-author of the Hopkins study and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research said in a written statement.

“Frankly, I’m surprised that some of the reforms weren’t the norm already,” said Marcum. “For example, the provision that requires background checks for all gun sales, I would have thought that that was a given,” she added.

The Hopkins survey also indicates most Americans favor greater spending on mental health issues which is a plank in the president’s plan intended to curb gun violence.

“I was…happy to hear that proper attention is being paid to the mental health aspect, which is a critical component of these tragedies that we cannot afford to ignore as a nation,” said Marcum.

“One of the things that we’ve seen is that these mass shooters are often depressed, so, I also hope that more people will reach out to people they know who are depressed or hurting,” said Marcum.

“I don’t know if that will prevent another Columbine or a Sandy Hook, but I know it couldn’t hurt. I do know that good is the antidote to evil,” she added.

The FBI reports that the most background checks done in periods tracked since 1998 were done in the month of December. Gun sales also reached a record high last month.

Law enforcement officials who met with the president this week tried to steer him toward strengthening gun-purchase background checks and mental health systems, but were split on more controversial gun-control measures, such as bans on assault weapons.

“We’re very supportive of the assault weapons ban,” as police chiefs, said Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief J. Thomas Manger to The Associated Press. “But I think everybody understands that may be a real tough battle to win,” he added.

Top brass from larger metropolitan areas tended to be supportive of assault-weapons and high-capacity magazine bans, while, more often, small-town and elected sheriffs did not.

“I think what was made clear was that gun control in itself is not the salvation to this issue,” said Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald of Story County, Iowa to the York Daily Record.

Reportedly, in that meeting, the president did not specifically ask anyone if they supported banning anything.

Unlike the Columbine, Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords and the Aurora, CO movie theater shootings, the murder of first-graders and their teachers at Sandy Hook appears to have struck a different sort of national nerve and moved an emotional president to action, including signing 23 executive orders in January and urging the Congress to make new laws.

“I look forward to seeing how Congress handles this issue as advocates of the best interests of the people,” said Marcum.

Debate in the Senate begins on Wednesday.

Marcum has built a good life for herself. Her “story [is still] developing,” she says. She is warm with plenty of life in her eyes. Through it all, she is delightfully comical and upbeat.

“I believe, even after [surviving] Columbine, that there is more good in the world than bad and that evil doesn’t have the ultimate victory over us. Our world is just so broken…but this is not the end, I believe in a heavenly home,” added Marcum.

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Obama Lays Out Agenda to Stem Gun Violence — A Political Heavy Lift

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

“I think there should be should changes,” is the advice President Barack Obama got from one of the children who wrote to him after the massacre of children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Appearing with several young letter writers at The White House on Wednesday, the President “put forth [what he called a] specific set of proposals” to try to stem gun violence in the United States and “protect our children.”

The president signed twenty-three executive orders in the presence of his young advisers, ranging from charging the CDC to study the impact of violent programming, ordering data sharing for the federal background check system, to school safety and school counseling initiatives.

Moreover, the president said the “Congress must act… right away to institute “universal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun.”

“Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons” and mandate a “10-round limit on magazines,” said the president.

“Congress needs to help rather than hinder law enforcement” and “severely punish” anyone who buys a gun to sell illegally sell it to someone else, added the president.

The president is also asking Congress for $billions to put “more police back on the job and back on the streets” and to beef up enforcement. And called for confirmation of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Acting Director B. Todd Jones as his nominee for the permanent post – vacant for six years, due to political opposition.

“I know that laws have to be passed by Congress but I beg you to try very hard,” wrote another of the president’s youthful advisers.

The president called on citizens to make their positions clear to lawmakers, as his Congressional-focused initiatives will be political heavy lifts and meet vociferous and well-funded opposition.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), responding to President Obama’s framework, said on Wednesday “the president is abusing his power.”

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It’s the Night Before Christmas, Please Be Encouraged!

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

peace-on-earth-250x188.jpg Mike Roberto

Image Credit: Mike Roberto

One of my beloved cousins was concerned that she was not feeling or embracing some of the outward trappings of the Christmas season this year and thought it was odd.

It touched me, put me into a reflective mood, and reminded me that I have at times gotten so caught up in the revelry of the season that I have forgotten that some of us or those around us have family members and/or friends who are sick, lonely, in deep despair, have wayward children, are in grief for lost loved ones (my own mother’s wedding anniversary is the day after Christmas, and now that my father is gone – this can’t be the most joyous time of year for her).

There are among us the homeless, the hungry, those with their electricity or gas turned off, rent or mortgage running late, unemployed or underemployed, with divorced or divorcing families, mentally or emotionally challenged family members or friends or family in rehab (or need to be) – who are trapped in alcohol, drug or sex addiction – or committed to jail or all other kinds of temporal bondage. Many have friends and family members in the military, who could be in harm’s way tonight.

We may even at times feel guilty about not dealing with, or wanting to deal with, those around us who are so emotionally and often financially draining to us.

I spent a lot of time last week in reflection with a dear friend, of strong faith, who survived the Columbine massacre (at age 14, now 28) who really opened up to me and birthed some things in me, in the context of what happened at Sandy Hook (and Columbine) – and the hand of God, or not, in something as unspeakable as that.

There are people in Sandy Hook who last week buried the bullet-riddled bodies of their babies, asking why? I can hardly type this, without welling up.

I have been struggling with my faith – a serious crisis of faith – over the past eight years, and this past Friday night, had an epiphany in a Salvation Army Thrift Store (of all places!) – while shopping for Christmas presents for the children of homeless people I don’t even know.

I FINALLY had an encounter, of sorts, a clear revelation of what is my place in this world, in the eyes of God, I believe.

Then, on Saturday, my mother’s pastor, posted this on his Facebook page: “There are days when God moves and speaks in our lives with such clarity and He speaks with such power that it becomes an unmistakable call to service. When it happens, don’t ignore it, dismiss it, nor deny that it was Him. Listen and obey. It may be the beginning of the greatest period of growth you have every known. Think on these things!”

For me, if I am not giving something or trying to figure out how to give something, I might as well be dead. If I am not in service, I may as well not exist (my bass guitar is a close second).

But that doesn’t mean we are all called to the same mission or expression, and the intensity of the manifestation of that outreach may change over time.

I say to all, please be encouraged!

All of us, and nature, operate in various cycles, you may be in a cycle of reflection, not expression this season – and to everything its season (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

I wish a joyous and glorious Merry Christmas to my Christian brothers and sisters, a blessed season of observance to my many friends and family of all other faiths and peace to those of no faith.

I have engaged in debates, this year, over religious dogma – but I don’t think God resides solely within our protocols and rituals – as “obedience is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22). Sometimes, that is so tough to fathom.

I have to get busy being obedient, again – for to whom much is given.

I believe that perfection in humanity (in earthly terms) is to strive for excellence – that’s the best we can hope for, as mere men and women – because we can never be perfect.

I will try to be a better person next year (I owe a lot of apologies and seeking of forgiveness) and I will also pray for your strength of purpose – and indeed value your patience.

God bless you, or may He at least take a liking to you (smile) in this Holiday season.

It’s the night before Christmas, please be encouraged!

With Love,

James O. Allen, Jr.– Jim

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Part Two: Columbine Survivor Says No to NRA Armed Guards in Schools Plan

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVoteReach

A-RevKarissa Marcum A579064_10101158438307243_1751980295_nUS-SHOOTING-SCHOOL-GUNS-NRA

Columbine Survivor Karissa Marcum        NRA’s Wayne LaPierre (Credit:AFP/Getty)

The NRA on Friday put forward what they previewed in a written statement on Tuesday as “meaningful contributions to help make sure” a tragedy like Sandy Hook or Columbine “never happens again.” But a Columbine survivor says the NRA plan to place armed guards in schools is not a good one.

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a news conference Friday in Washington, DC. LaPierre also called on Congress “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

Karissa Marcum, now 28, was a ninth grader at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO on that fateful April day in 1999 when two of her school mates killed 13 people and wounded many others before committing suicide. There was an armed guard on duty at Columbine, who was quickly joined by a second armed officer who was nearby, both of whom fired at one of the shooters, but both failed to stop him.

Reporter Ginny Simone, in her NRA News webcasts this week, was essentially the first to break the NRA’s early-week silence on Sandy Hook.

“…As the nation continues to mourn the loss of the 26 innocent victims” [President Obama has ordered the drafting of legislation]. “Measures that would likely include the assault-weapons ban because word from the White House is that the ban remains a commitment of the president,” Simone said, adding “a ban we all know was a failed experiment from the start.

“…And you look at Connecticut, and they’re number five when it comes to the strictest gun laws in the country,” Simone said in a webcast this week.

“If one of those [Sandy Hook] school administrators that first confronted him [the shooter] had a firearm, we might not be talking about what we’re talking about today,” opined Simone.

But as someone who has lived through a diabolical massacre, Marcum says having armed guards in school is not the right approach. “That’s a tough one,” she sighed, early on Friday morning, a week to the day after Sandy Hook.

“I firmly believe that even if we posted a security guard at every school, grocery store and movie theater, it wouldn’t be a guarantee [that Columbine or Sandy Hook types of violence would not happen],” said Marcum

“When someone is bent on destruction, a security guard who is outgunned is likely to be outmatched by a mad man, nine times out of ten…May we see God’s great mercy,” Marcum continued.

“We talk about gun control and other preventative measures because we are trying not only to stop these things from happening again, but because we are trying to answer the fundamental question of why? How could someone plot the murder of children?” Marcum added.

America appears to be on the verge of making concerted attempts to curb what President Obama on Wednesday called “the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country,” while announcing the creation of a task force commissioned to find solutions, which has convened, led by Vice President Joe Biden.

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Part One: A Columbine Survivor’s Perspective on Sandy Hook

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Karissa Marcum, Columbine Survivor and American Hero

A gutsy survivor of the Columbine High School massacre, Karissa Marcum, first told me her story in 2007, when she was a Washington, DC-based intern under my watch, when I worked at The Hill newspaper. Over past few days, since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, she has privileged me to examine and write about her thoughts on the subjects of guns, grief, nagging eternal questions and healing, in the context of a range of punditry and prescriptions to stop the violence in America.

At age 28, Karissa Marcum, (along with an elder sibling) has lived half of her life with the memories of one terrible day in Littleton, Colorado, where two deranged school mates of hers, the shooters, culminated a diabolical murder-suicide pact.

On April 20, 1999, Marcum was a 14-year-old ninth grader. Because her mother died when she was a very young child, she was being raised by her loving father.

Marcum was in first year of public school and seated in the Columbine cafeteria with her sister, and 486 other people, mostly children. The shooters had earlier that day left two duffel bags on the floor beside two different tables near them. Shots rang out from the front of the building – pop-pop-pop-pop. Panic and pandemonium – pop-pop-pop – people were screaming and running for the cafeteria exits.

Marcum and her sister ran too. But her sister fell and Marcum turned back and helped her get back to her feet as the pop-pop-pop-pop of closing-in gunfire reverberated – the horror.

They managed to run to safety, uninjured, but by the time the shooting stopped, 13 others (plus the 2 shooters) were dead and many others were injured.

The deviant violence staged in Newtown, CT last Friday, which left dead 20 children and 6 educators, touched hearts around the world and understandably opened up some old wounds for Marcum.

“I’ve definitely had a good cry or a few…but I mostly just feel incredible empathy for what those people are going through…so senseless,” Marcum said late on the night after the Sandy Hook shootings.

That same night, former Arkansas Republican Governor and Fox News presenter Mike Huckabee said he believes the root cause of such tragedies is essentially a divine vacuum in America.

“It’s an interesting thing, we ask why there’s violence in our schools but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?” said Huckabee.

Even though, in September 1999, a deranged man interrupted a teen prayer rally at the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, TX and opened fire on over 100 defenseless worshippers with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun and a .380-caliber handgun. Seven people were killed, four of whom were teenagers.

Huckabee this week also wrote on his website, in the context of Sandy Hook, about a possible causal connection between violence and same-sex marriage.

“We dismiss the notion of natural law and the notion that there are moral absolutes and seemed amazed when some kids make it their own morality to kill innocent children. We diminish and even hold in contempt the natural family of a father and mother creating and then responsibly raising the next generation and then express dismay that kids feel no real connection to their families or even the concept of a family,” wrote Huckabee.

General-public reaction to the child murders at Sandy Hook will likely provide President Barack Obama and Congress with the necessary political capital to relatively quickly reinstitute bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

The original assault-weapons legislation, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, with a 2004 sunset provision, prohibited the manufacturing of 18 models of semiautomatic weapons and the manufacture of high-capacity ammunition magazines housing more than 10 rounds.

As I understand it, the Bushmaster .223 rifle (an AR-15 semiautomatic-type rifle) used by the Sandy Hook shooter was not on that list, but his 30-round high-capacity magazines were.

Among the mass shootings that occurred during the effective period of the assault weapons ban are:

1998 – Thurston High School, OR: 4 dead, a 15 year old got his father’s Ruger semi-automatic rifle, shot and killed his parents, then shot up the school, getting off 51 shots and making 37 hits.

1999 – Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting, CA: Gunman fired 70 shots with a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol wounding five people and shortly thereafter shot and killed a mail carrier.

1999 – Columbine High School, CO: 13 dead, TEC-DC9 assault pistol, Hi-Point   9mm Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun, and a Savage 311-D 12-gauge shotgun.

2000 – Wakefield, MA Massacre: 7 dead, AK-47 variant, 12-gauge shotgun, and a .32 caliber pistol. He fired off a total of 37 rounds.

Reporter Ginny Simone, in her NRA News webcasts this week, essentially broke the NRA’s virtual silence on Sandy Hook.

“…As the nation continues to mourn the loss of the 26 innocent victims” [President Obama has ordered the drafting of legislation]. “Measures that would likely include the assault-weapons ban because word from the White House is that the ban remains a commitment of the president,” Simone said, adding “a ban we all know was a failed experiment from the start.

“…And you look at Connecticut, and they’re number five when it comes to the strictest gun laws in the country,” Simone said in a webcast this week.

“If one of those [Sandy Hook] school administrators that first confronted him [the shooter] had a firearm, we might not be talking about what we’re talking about today,” opined Simone.

Marcum seemed anxious about the notion of armed school guards. “That’s a tough one,” she sighed, early on Friday morning, a week to the day after Sandy Hook.

“I firmly believe that even if we posted a security guard at every school, grocery store and movie theater, it wouldn’t be a guarantee [that Columbine or Sandy Hook types of violence will not happen],” said Marcum.

There was an armed guard on duty at Columbine, who was quickly joined by a second guard who was nearby, both of whom fired at one of the shooters, but both failed to stop the shooter.

“When someone is bent on destruction, a security guard who is outgunned is likely to be outmatched by a mad man, nine times out of ten…May we see God’s great mercy,” Marcum continued.

“We talk about gun control and other preventative measures because we are trying not only to stop these things from happening again, but because we are trying to answer the fundamental question of why? How could someone plot the murder of children?” Marcum added.

America appears to be on the verge of making concerted attempts to curb what President Obama on Wednesday called “the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country,” while announcing the creation of a task force commissioned to find solutions.”

The NRA on Friday put forward what they previewed in a written statement on Tuesday as “meaningful contributions to help make sure this [Sandy Hook-type event] never happens again.”

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at a news conference in Washington. LaPierre also called on Congress “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school in this nation.”

I personally am not sure if anyone, or any group, can “make sure” something like Columbine or Sandy Hook never happens again.  There may be too many guns already in too many peoples’ hands in this generation.

In any care, as difficult as it may be, politically and practically, to find effective solutions to the culture of violence in America, I believe the president may have quite nicely framed the sentiment of much of the nation.

“We have a deep obligation, all of us, to try,” said the president on Wednesday, adding that he expected “compromise and common sense” to prevail.

“I believe, even after [surviving] Columbine, that there is more good in the world than bad and that evil doesn’t have the ultimate victory over us. Our world is just so broken…but this is not the end, I believe in a heavenly home,” added Marcum.

Marcum has built a wonderful life for herself –  her“story [still] developing. ”  She is warm, with plenty of life in her eyes and through it all, is, generally, delightfully comical.

She gives one a sense of the best potential of the human spirit.

On the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, her mind set was one of outreach to others. Among the first words she shared with me were “You know, the past year or so I’ve been feeling like I want to talk about my experiences [at Columbine] in the hopes that they’ll encourage other people. I’m not quite sure what that looks like, but I think it would also be a way to give all of this terrible tragedy some greater significance,” said Marcum, an American hero.

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Note: It’s been widely reported that NRA News is owned and operated by the NRA. To be clear, Ginny Simone is a Senior Vice President for the Mercury Group, a communications firm and subsidiary of the Oklahoma City-based Ackerman-McQueen advertising agency for whom I worked for a period, beginning in 2007. To my knowledge, unless there have been major changes there, the NRA is a client of the Mercury Group, which produces NRA News for the NRA.

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President Convenes Task Force to Reduce Gun Violence in a PG-13 Culture

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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President Barack Obama Announces Gun-Violence Task Force

Photo Credit: Getty Images

President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced the formation of an interagency gun-violence task force commissioned to find solutions to curb “the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country.” The unspeakable massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has spawned much talk about the need to steer America away from a culture of violence – including taking a hard look at entertainment-related influences, in addition to gun rights and mental health concerns.

The president said the task force will include members of his Cabinet and will be headed by Vice President Joe Biden whose voting record as a US Senator earned him an “F” grade from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The working group is being asked to come up with recommendations and “concrete proposals not later than January, which I intend to push…for real reforms,” said the president.

President Obama added that America has to make “access to mental healthcare as easy as access to a gun,” an obvious allusion to the Newtown, CT and other mass murders.

Aberrations such as what happened at Sandy Hook are not appearing out of thin air. Our culture romanticizes violence, as evidenced by the ample commerce generated by violent movies, television shows and video games which influence our children and confirm our uniquely American predilection for macabre forms of entertainment.

A 15-year-long University of Michigan longitudinal study published in the March 2003 issue of Developmental Psychology says children’s “perceptions [are] that TV violence is realistic” and the viewing of violence is “linked to later aggression as young adults, for both males and females.”

The study re-surveyed 329 of the 557 boys and girls who were the subjects of a 1977 study, when they were between the ages 6 and10. In the 2003 study, the subjects were in their early 20’s.

A report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania: The Effectiveness of the Motion Picture Association of America’s Rating System in Screening Explicit Violence and Sex in Top-ranked Movies from 1950 to 2006, indicates “the explicitness of violence and sex in popular movies rose following the 1968 replacement of the Production [or Hays] Code with the MPAA [Classification and Rating Administration (CARA)] rating system.”

“Violence increased steadily in both R and PG-13 films over time…which suggests that CARA has systematically changed its criteria over time for assigning R to violent films, since it increasingly takes more violence to receive an R rating,” reads the Annenberg report.

“Especially concerning is the finding that proportions of PG-13 films escalated drastically over time to the point where they accounted for about half of top-grossing films. PG-13 has contained increasingly violent content over time…,” the Annenberg report continues.

Youth aged 12 to 24 buy more movie tickets than any other age group. It is therefore in the MPAA’s financial interest to limit the number of R-rated films, as PG-13 films generate far more revenue.

The Motion Picture Association says US/Canadian box office revenues totaled $10.2 billion in 2011.

We passionately patronize movie-industry interests who, under First Amendment protections, produce and traffic in violent content intended for our children. We allow for the emotional adoption by our young people of screen (and video game) heroes and antiheroes with whom they interactively or imaginatively commit the most heinous acts of gratuitous violence. We label it entertainment and countenance its consumption by their developing and/or innocently developmentally arrested minds.

News flash: we also blissfully buy Happy Meals for our early learners that frequently are a primary point of aftermarket distribution for the violent characters and weaponry depicted in commercial motion pictures – quietly grooming our babies to takeover the cinema seats of their aging big brothers and sisters.

In his 2009 book, “The Moment of ‘Psycho’: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder,” British film critic David Thomson argues that the 1960 film Psycho allowed for increasing levels of violence to enter into motion pictures.

“In terms of cruelties we no longer notice…we are another species,” wrote Thomson.

The acculturation of violence in our children begins almost as soon as they start watching cartoons like Roadrunner (which I loved), or can be babysat by a violent video game, or phoneticize the word ‘McDonalds’ – whose marketing to children is iconic – as is their legendary philanthropy through the Ronald McDonald House, to be fair.

Post Sandy Hook, a growing number of conservatives on Capitol Hill are now seemingly ambivalent about – and more gun-rights progressives are aggressively challenging – the NRA assertion of Second Amendment protections for the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines to the general public; seen by many as solely a campaign to drive the profits of gun manufacturers. This is simply deemed capitalism 101 and/or lobbying 101 until the moral vacuum is filled with the bodies of 20 babies.

There does seem to be a paradigm shift on Capitol Hill – or at least a rhetorical shift within many spheres of influence, with the Sandy Hook shootings being the tipping point – perhaps even on gun rights for the average gun owner.

Is there a 21st century cultural renaissance or spiritual awakening afoot? Can we generationally devolve from the Thomson model of insensitivity to violence, if one accepts the premise?

One can only hope that a growing and continuing chorus of grassroots voices, calling for national and/or states’ actions on violence, mental-health issues, school safety and reasonable gun restrictions will provide enough political cover, if not backbone reinforcement, to lawmakers to take meaningful action, now, and not allow the Sandy Hook victims to die in vain.

President Obama stepped up on Wednesday, saying he expects “compromise and common sense” to prevail.

“We have a deep obligation, all of us, to try,” said the president.

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Note: It should be noted that the referenced Annenberg study was a content-analysis study, not a measure of audience impact.

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Will Chris Dodd Put Hollywood on Hold and Take a Call from Sandy Hook?

By Jim Allen,Editor, NuVote Reach

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President Barack Obama and MPAA CEO, Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)

Photo Credit: ABC News

Former Democratic US Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, in 2009-10, hit a rough patch – politically speaking and with his health – walked away from the Senate and took the helm of the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA). Now that his former colleague, outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman (I), also of Connecticut, in the wake of the Sandy Hook, CT massacre, is calling for a “national commission on violence” to focus on “violence in the entertainment culture, mental health services and, of course, gun laws,” Dodd may have to shift his focus from Tinsel Town to Newtown.

Dodd these days is pushing for Hollywood and Silicon Valley to join forces to protect Web content, entertainment-related intellectual property rights and to fight piracy – nice work, if you can get it. But a much more critical protectorate role and bigger fight on the national stage may await Dodd – and there is precedent for this ascension, attendant to his position at MPAA.

From the MPAA Website: Former Postmaster General William Hays, a member of President Warren Harding’s Cabinet, led the organization and instituted initiatives to forestall government interference in filmmaking. He oversaw the creation of a system of industry-led self-censorship, known as The Production Code or the Hays Code, a regime requiring the review of all film scripts to ensure the absence of “offensive” material.

Establishment of the Hays Code was a forward-thinking, movie-promoting, survival-focused business decision made after the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Mutual Film Corporation v. Industrial Commission of Ohio (1915) that commercial motion pictures were not protected by the First Amendment.

In the landmark Burstyn v. Wilson (1952) case, the high court reversed course and ruled in favor of the New York distributor of the controversial-on-religious-grounds 1948 film, The Miracle, holding that a state may not censor a film on the basis of a finding that it is “sacrilegious.” The court thereby struck down almost every governmental justification for censorship and their unanimous opinion gave First Amendment protection to motion pictures.

The MPAA Website continues: In the late 1960s our nation was changing, and so was its cinema. Alongside the progress of the civil rights, women’s rights and labor movements, a new kind of American film was emerging – frank and open. Amid our society’s expanding freedoms, the movie industry’s restrictive regime of self-censorship could not stand. In 1966, former Special Assistant to President Lyndon Johnson, Jack Valenti, was named MPAA President. That same year, sweeping revisions were made to the Hays Code to reflect changing social mores. In 1968, Jack Valenti, who went on to hold the position for 38 years, founded the voluntary film rating system giving creative and artistic freedoms to filmmakers while fulfilling its core purpose of informing parents about the content of films so they can determine what movies are appropriate for their kids. More than forty years later, the system continues to evolve with our society and endures as a shining symbol of American freedom of expression.

With the benefit of more than 35 years of service to the people of Connecticut on Capitol Hill under his belt, perhaps what Dodd’s predecessors did at MPAA for First Amendment guarantees, social evolution and self regulation for their generations, he may help lead us through these exponentially more dire circumstances to appropriate constitutional remedies for this age.

One does not expect the Supreme Court will reverse itself on Second Amendment gun rights, the way it did over a period of about 35 years on First Amendment protections for motion pictures. And America surely doesn’t have the luxury of three decades to fix what ails us now.

With the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment, being such a heavy lift, in evolutionary terms, we need special interest groups to make some forward-thinking, America-promoting, survival-focused, voluntary decisions – and them, right soon.

Dodd speaks the language – heck, he is a lobbyist now.

The Sandy Hook massacre may be the horrific tipping point and catalyst for a grassroots movement that brings along the ruling class and often inflexible special interests – or perhaps America may just plain outgrow them.

It’s nearly 2013 and the nation is changing – has changed – and we need our best and brightest minds to try to help us evolve our expectations of each other and of our Constitutional protections; to aggressively seek common ground and champion our mutual interests so that we may better protect our children and our communities, and survive the very freedoms we hold so dear.

Connecticut surely may need one of its favorite sons to come home to Sandy Hook to assist with the nuts and bolts of this evolution. President Barack Obama could perhaps use Dodd’s counsel on working with Capitol Hill to move forward some relevant agenda.

Dodd will be pulled into this national debate by virtue of his job at MPAA, and its advocacy of First Amendment rights to produce widely available violent material intended for entertainment purposes. It will be interesting to see how he positions himself.

Right now, post-Sandy Hook, we have to have all hands on deck – especially experienced, non-accusatory, moderate hands – to begin a cultural shift toward a national consensus on those key issues pointed up by Lieberman; to skillfully help shake loose those absolutists in urban and rural America; to “promote the general welfare” and do ALL we can to better protect ourselves from an undeniable epidemic of violence in the United States of America.

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Note: We are very late on this – curbing the violence, I mean.  It’s been out of control among many of America’s young people for some time. Last weekend, I heard a pundit say, ‘you’d expect this kind of thing in New York, but not here.’ Excuse me?!

We are still in a state of national mourning, so I’ll let it go – for now.

By the way, here’s a sampling of children-focused legislation sponsored by Dodd while in the Senate:

S. 4044 (111th): Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2010

S. 4027 (111th): Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act

S. 3968 (111th): Children’s Act of 2010

S. 3895 (111th): Keeping All Students Safe Act

S. 3557 (111th): Sandy Feldman Kindergarten Plus Act of 2010

S. 3559 (111th): Mentoring America’s Children Act of 2009

S. 3136 (111th): Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Reauthorization Act of 2010

S. 3003 (111th): Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Act of 2010

S. 2860 (111th): Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act

S. 1966 (111th): Global Child Survival Act of 2009

S. Res. 659 (111th): A resolution supporting “Lights on Afterschool”, a national celebration of afterschool programs.

A Sampling of Dodd’s Nay Votes on Gun Control

Authorizing Concealed Firearms Across State Lines

Allowing Loaded Guns in National Parks

Firearm Confiscation Prohibition Amendment

Firearms Manufacturers Protection Bill

Charging Teens as Adults for Crimes Involving a Firearm 

A Sampling of Dodd’s Yea Votes on Gun Control

Gun Show Sale Regulation Amendment

Prohibiting the Possession of Semi-Automatic Assault Weapons

Brady Handgun Bill

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Bill of Rights Challenges to Preventing a Sandy Hook

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) talking to reporters Sunday outside the interfaith memorial service for the Sandy Hook victims in Newtown, CT said a “national commission on violence” should be convened to focus on “violence in the entertainment culture, mental health services and, of course, gun laws” in the United States, in the wake of the massacre. The “right to…bear arms” and a range of other “unalienable” guarantees delineated in the Bill of Rights would unavoidably drive the politics and complicate consensus building of such a convention.

Examining some of the likely applicable constitutional-amendment battlegrounds in numerical order, the First Amendment promises that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Attempts to curb depictions of “objectionable” material in the entertainment industry, including graphically violent video games, would prompt position stakeouts on the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of expression.

The Miracle, a 1948 movie directed by Roberto Rossellini, which concerned a poor girl who thought she was impregnated by a saint, was condemned by the Catholic Church and a vocal public as “sacrilegious and blasphemous.” The film was subsequently pulled from New York theaters by the New York State Board of Regents, acting through the Commissioner of Education, Lewis A. Wilson. The film’s New York distributor Joseph Burstyn sued for relief.

The US Supreme Court ruled in Burstyn v. Wilson (1952) that a state may not censor a film on the basis of a finding that it is “sacrilegious” and by extension struck down almost every governmental justification for censorship. The unanimous opinion essentially extended the same First Amendment protection to motion pictures that was previously afforded to newspapers, magazines and books.

Moreover, in Brown v EMA/ESA (2011) – originally filed as Schwarzenegger v EMA/ESA – the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Entertainment Software Association and declared “unconstitutional” a 2005 California law signed by violent-action-movie star and then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger preventing the sale to minors of games involving “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.”

Protecting children “does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia.

An active battlefront would undoubtedly be the Second Amendment enshrinement ofA well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

In 2008, in a 5-4 opinion, the US Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling in the landmark DC v David Heller case that struck down Washington, DC’s gun laws which barred the registration of handguns, required licenses for all pistols and mandated that all legal firearms must be kept unloaded and disassembled or trigger locked, saying the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to defend themselves and their homes with a firearm.

The high court’s Heller ruling did leave open the possibility of “reasonable” gun restrictions and DC officials quickly codified some of the nation’s most stringent gun laws. The modified gun laws required residents to have trigger locks, make multiple trips downtown to register the weapons, and forbad certain categories of firearms.

US District Judge Ricardo Urbina upheld DC’s revised gun laws in 2010 finding that the new regulations were designed to make DC safer and did not violate the Second Amendment guarantee of a person’s right to own a gun for self-defense.

“It is beyond dispute that public safety is an important – indeed, a compelling – governmental interest,” Urbina opined.

Wrangling with the mental health-related aspects of this nationally expansive conundrum might begin with the Fifth Amendment guarantees that: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The High Court held 5-4 in Miranda v Arizona (1966) that “there can be no doubt that the Fifth Amendment privilege is available outside of criminal court proceedings and serves to protect persons in all settings in which their freedom of action is curtailed in any significant way from being compelled to incriminate themselves.”

Even if a person’s public or privately observed tendencies “profile” them to be a potential ticking time bomb seemingly primed to perpetrate heinous acts of violence on their community, would not a potential assailant have an enduring Miranda right to remain silent during a court-ordered mental examination?

What would be the parameters of a “competency” assessment and impact when no crime has been committed?

In a 6-3 opinion in the landmark Sell v. United States (2003) the high court held that the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause allowed for the involuntary administration of antipsychotic drugs to a mentally ill defendant facing serious criminal charges in order to render that defendant competent to stand trial, but does not establish a precedent for a pre-crime scenario.

The Fourteenth Amendment says: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Could a compelling community interest be established and legally upheld regarding the disposition and/or detention of a presumed or clinically documented mentally ill person, suspected of contemplating mayhem — when there is no imminent danger?

There is also the Writ of Habeas Corpus, Article I, Section 9, Clause 2, where there must be a demonstrated legal and jurisdictional basis for continuing to hold a prisoner which is constitutionally expressed asThe Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

President Abraham Lincoln ordered the suspension of the constitutionally protected right to writs of habeas corpus in 1861, shortly after the start of the American Civil War.

Of course, no one expects President Barack Obama to suspend habeas corpus. Might he or could he issue an Executive Order to require universal background checks for gun purchases? We’ll see.

In his remarks at the interfaith service the president stopped short of laying out his plan of action to address the recurring waves of predatory violence across the US, which left dead 20 children and 6 educators last Friday at the hands of a troubled man with a semi-automatic rifle at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But it appears he has something on the “executive” level in mind whatever may come of the idea of a per se national commission on violence.

“In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.  Because what choice do we have?” said the president.

“We can’t accept events like this as routine.  Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?  Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?” added the president.

The president acknowledged the prospect of “hard” politics ahead, and as a former law professor he knows better than most that constitutional battles of epic proportions are likely ahead, engaged on the most fundamental tenets of US jurisprudence.

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#SandyHook Massacre: Is the NRA a Three-Headed Monster?

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

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Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Aftermath

Photo Credit: Reuters

In late 2008 and early 2009, I shared office space with and daily socialized, laughed, debated and broke bread with the editors of National Rifle Association’s Freedom magazine, NRA spin masters, NRA radio staff and/or other high-level NRA executives and their affiliates. The NRA’s advertising agency hired me for an unrelated energy-and-environment news network start-up, which was delayed for months, leaving me often in breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings with the NRA brain trust. I occasionally traveled with them and got to know many of them. I found them to be really decent folks and not at all to be the three-headed, gun-waving monsters they are sometimes portrayed to be. Fairly or unfairly, the NRA name will no doubt emerge prominently in upcoming news cycles. But as a political exercise, as the Sandy Hook massacre details unfold and given recent history, is it a fair question to ask about street-legal weapon-modification systems and/or super high-capacity magazines whose only purpose is to up the body count in assaults on human beings?

Many of my NRA-affiliated former associates enjoy hunting and take great pride in passing on the legacy of safe firearms use as a family tradition. That’s not my cup of tea, but, more power to them.

Even though while a college student I was trained and worked part time as armed security, at this point in my life, fear for my personal safety, or that of my family to the point of wanting to own or carry a firearm, particularly a handgun, is just not in my spirit. And, as long as there is a supermarket and I can afford to shop there, fortunately for me, I will not be out stalking and shooting my dinner.

Moreover, one of the most chilling true stories I have ever heard is a one-on-one, first-hand account of what happened on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Boulder, CO, from someone who was a student there – then a ninth grader in their first year of public school.

They and a younger sibling were in the Columbine school cafeteria when shots rang out, causing all to flee, and were in their twenties and the elder was a DC-based intern under my watch when their story was shared with me, in confidence – so I will not write further about their personal story. But the weapons they heard report and fatefully avoided were the Intratec TEC-DC9 assault pistol, Hi-Point 9mm Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun, and a Savage 311-D 12-gauge shotgun.

In light of the massacre Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, President Barack Obama, fighting back tears, may have adequately echoed the sentiments of the entire nation.

“These neighbors are our neighbors, and these children are our children, and we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this – regardless of the politics,” Obama said.

In 2008, in a 5-4 ruling the US Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling in the landmark DC v David Heller case that struck down DC’s gun laws which barred the registration of handguns, required licenses for all pistols and mandated that all legal firearms must be kept unloaded and disassembled or trigger locked, saying the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to defend themselves and their homes with a firearm.

On the day the High Court ruled on Heller, I happened to end up in a room with a quietly beaming Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, who told me the ruling was “the opening salvo” in a series of planned legal challenges across the country aimed at ensuring individual gun rights, “starting with San Francisco and Chicago,” he told me.

He told me he found it to be somewhat “racist” that some believed that DC residents couldn’t be trusted to own firearms at their own discretion.

In a separate conversation that same day, NRA General Counsel Robert Dowlut told me he was “surprised” that then-DC Mayor Adrian Fenty chose to “go forward with the Heller case as a Second Amendment test case” because David Heller was a licensed special police officer who already “had a special permit to carry a handgun in Federal office buildings,” but could not legally deploy his weapon at home.

The high court’s Heller ruling did leave open the possibility of “reasonable” gun restrictions and DC officials quickly codified some of the nation’s most stringent gun laws. The modified gun laws required residents to have trigger locks, make multiple trips downtown to register the weapons, and forbad certain categories of firearms.

In 2009, when DC was closing in on getting voting rights in the House of Representatives, a gun amendment advanced by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), would have repealed the District’s restrictive laws on possessing handguns and its ban on certain types of semi-automatic weapons. The bill was ultimately scuttled and the DC voting-rights debate was suspended.

In 2010, then-DC Mayor Fenty, then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) were willing to accept gun-rights provisions in order to secure a voting representative in House.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who was the chair of the DC City Council and a candidate for mayor at the time, did not support the DC voting rights bill that restricted the city’s ability to set its own gun control laws.

He said the gun amendment was “too high of price to pay” for securing a vote in Congress. “I do not support a bill that would have us give up our right to legislate and have us give up our gun control laws,” said Gray.

That bill was quashed. DC’s vote in the Committee of the Whole was revoked by the newly elected Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which left DC residents without any meaningful voting representation in the United States Congress.

US District Judge Ricardo Urbina upheld DC’s revised gun laws in 2010 finding that the new regulations were designed to make DC safer and did not violate the Second Amendment guarantee of a person’s right to own a gun for self-defense.

“It is beyond dispute that public safety is an important – indeed, a compelling – governmental interest,” Urbina opined.

The judge ruled that the District’s handgun registration process, which requires owners to submit fingerprints and allow police to perform ballistics tests, is constitutional, as is the ban on most semiautomatic pistols.

Robert Levy, chairman of the board at the Cato Institute, a muse of the gun-rights movement and a major figure in Heller, told NBC News, after the January 8, 2010 Gabby Giffords-related mass shooting and murder in Tucson, AZ that he saw no constitutional objection to banning the sorts of high-capacity magazines used by the Tucson shooter in his Glock 19 — one of the weapons of choice of the Virginia Tech Shooter, in addition to the Walther P22 he used to kill 32 people.

NRA-Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris Cox in a statement following the Gabby Gifford’s-related mass shootings: “These magazines are standard equipment for self-defense handguns and other firearms owned by tens of millions of Americans.”

Except for the obvious use by the Sandy Hook shooter of high-capacity magazines to massacre 20 innocent little children, 6 of their institutional caretakers and his own mother, we have the sketchiest of details about what happened and why. In the coming days the NRA will likely become an easy political target as we try to deal with our collective grief and begin to get those answers.

We are seeing copycat tendencies, with the dark-commando-like clothing of several of these shooters, but what stands out to me more is what Cato’s Levy said about banning high-capacity magazines, designed only to kill humans. That would seem like a really good place to find some political common ground for Democrats and Republicans, for starters – in addition to requiring universal background checks.

In between my sobs today, it will be interesting to hear what my former associates at the NRA will have to say – knowing enough about them to know they likely feel as sad as I do right now. Especially since the Sandy Hook shooter apparently shot his mother in the face with one of several firearms she legally bought.

The NRA will likely reserve comment until more Sandy Hook details are confirmed.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) weighed in on Sunday.“I’m going to introduce in the Senate and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons. It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession. Not retroactively but prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. So there will be a bill. We’ve been working on it now for a year,” Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.

The Hill newspaper reported on its website on Friday:

The incoming chairwoman of the House Republican Conference urged caution in passing new gun laws.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), speaking in an interview with C-SPAN set to air Sunday, was asked whether it was time to review current gun laws in light of a shooting rampage in Connecticut.

“We need to find out what happened and what drove this individual to this place,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I think we have to be careful about new —suggesting new gun laws. We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions and make sure that we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And yes, definitely, we need to do everything possible to make sure that something like this never happens again.”

What may be “crazy” is how we talk about and treat mental illness and the mentally ill in this country. But for right now, as a father and grandfather, I am crazy with waves of grief for those families and the survivors at Sandy Hook — and I know of a great example of someone who came through Columbine, has made a great life and makes people feel good to be around them.

I have been in touch with them (the Columbine survivor) this weekend, and wouldn’t you know it, they are looking for a way to help us all deal with Sandy Hook, in between their own tears.

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Part Three: Lagging Black and Latino Students Pressurizing Politics of No Child Left Behind

By Jim Allen, Editor NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

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The Obama Administration has granted waivers to 34 states and the District of Columbia to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) performance mandates – that all children be proficient in reading and math by 2014. These waivers allow Virginia, Florida and other states’ education officials to dumb down testing parameters for student subgroups along ethnic lines, as stop-gap measures, as there is yet no clear signal about the future of NCLB in a second Obama term.

Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) starting points for the 2012-2013 accountability year are based on the actual pass rates of student subgroups in low-performing schools on the 2010-2011 Standards of  Learning (SOL) reading assessments and the 2011-2012 mathematics SOL tests. For example, in math, the passing rate is 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for Afro-Americans and 33 percent for kids

The Florida State Board of Education also in October passed a plan that sets goals for students in math and reading based upon their race. By 2018, it wants 90 percent of Asian students, 88 percent of white students, 81 percent of Hispanics and 74 percent of black students to be reading at or above grade level.

For math, the goals are 92 percent of Asian kids to be proficient, 86 percent of whites, Hispanics at 80 percent and blacks at 74 percent. It also measures by other groupings, such as students with disabilities, and those living in poverty.

Florida State Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Shanahan told the Palm Beach Post that setting goals for different subgroups was a direct response to meeting NCLB mandates.

Before NCLB was enacted in 2002, school systems automatically received Department of Education federal funding based on a formula. Now, while trying to cope with the reality of underperforming students, they are forced to craft such controversial methods to stratify federal annual measurable objectives (AMOs) for certain students in reading and mathematics.

“The AMOs are intended as yearly progress measures for low-performing schools; higher-performing schools are expected to maintain or improve upon current pass rates. High schools must also meet a benchmark for graduation,” according to a VBOE report.

“The waivers from NCLB mandates granted by the Obama administration to Virginia and other states mark a dramatic shift in federal education policy,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright said in the VBOE report.

“We are now able to target school turnaround efforts and resources on those schools where students truly are falling behind,” Wright added.

The Virginia Department of Education has directed 485 of its 2093 public schools to develop and implement improvement plans to raise the achievement of student subgroups that fell short of AMOs.

“Over the next six years, the lowest-performing students will be expected to make the greatest gains,” VBOE President David M. Foster said in the VBOE report.

“The benchmarks are challenging but achievable and reflect the board’s firm belief that all students are capable of meeting Virginia’s rigorous standards,” he added.

“Relief from unworkable federal mandates is welcome but there must be no retreat from the goal of closing the achievement gap,” Virginia Republican Governor Robert F. McDonnell was quoted in the VBOE report.

“Every student has a right to attend a school where expectations for learning are high and there is accountability for results,” he added.

“To expect less from one demographic and more from another is just a little off-base,” Juan Lopez, magnet coordinator at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Riviera Beach, told the Palm Beach Post.

JFK Middle School is 88-percent Afro-American.

“Our kids, although they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, they still have the ability to learn,” Lopez said. “To dumb down the expectations for one group, that seems a little unfair,” he added.

Not unlike Virginia education officials, Florida educators say the curved-assessment standards take into account that not every group is starting from the same point and the bottom line is: critical federally funding is tied to NCLB mandates.

“The fact is, many educators didn’t take NCLB seriously because it assumed all children start from the same place and learn at the same rate. That’s just not reality,” US Department Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington in October.

“Personally, I am less concerned about performance targets and goals,” he said, “than I am about getting results – and at the end of the day, the result that matters most is whether kids are learning and gaps are narrowing,” he added.

Jon Schnur, education adviser to President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, said the president acknowledges that meeting the NCLB goal of 100 percent proficiency for all students by 2014 wasn’t realistic.

“President Obama supports having different standards for subgroups as long as the groups were making significant gains toward high academic standards every year,” said Schnur as an Obama surrogate in a presidential campaign debate on education.

“Obama sees this as the more realistic approach in that it embraces ambitious standards but sets attainable goals,” Schnur added.

“Of course it bothers me [where you have Afro-Americans expected not to reach the same level of proficiency as white students in certain subjects]. And—and one of the good things about No Child Left Behind was to say all kids can learn. Black, white, Hispanic, doesn’t matter. That everybody should be able to achieve at a certain level. But the problem that you had was, because it was under-resourced, and because some kids were coming in to school, a lot of minority kids were coming into school, already behind, the schools were not going to be meeting these standards, weren’t even coming close to meeting these standards.,” said Obama to NBC in September.

In 2008, candidate Obama campaigned on rewriting NCLB. In 2010, Obama released guidelines for reauthorization of the law, but Congress failed to pass a revised bill, thus the advent of Obama’s NCLB-mandate waivers.

Some political pundits say granting NCLB waivers and the attendant flexibility to states was an Obama 2012 campaign give-away. Some education experts say it is not clear if the Obama administration sees reauthorizing NCLB as a second-term priority – viewing the state waivers as a possible panacea.

I was once a television news reporter in West Palm Beach, FL and was educated in Virginia Public Schools that were segregated until I was in the 9th grade – thus my continued interest in those jurisdictions.

One wonders about the possible stigma placed on a Virginia or Florida public school student by being officially identified as a member of an underperforming group, when in fact that student may be quite competitive and rank high on standardized tests on their own merits.

This is a sensitive area, but is there a plan in place for one to disassociate ones high-achieving child from its own underperforming “racial group?”

In addition to my 2 adult children, I have 2 minor children and 4 minor grandchildren, some of whom could be members of more than one ethnic group, if they so chose. We prefer they be judged by one set of rules. If we had special needs kids, we would address that education process appropriately, but we do not.

As it happens, my youngest daughter, identified in Maryland Public Schools as an Afro-American 4th grader, this week brought home her standardized County Quarterly Assessment test results. She scored in the 93.5 percentile in reading and 90.9 percentile in math.

We’d like to stand on those results without fear of a possible state-mandated ethnic subgroup identification calling into question her test results – vis a vis the assumption of a non-existent testing curve.

Should students now have to possibly distance themselves from a systematic marginalization of their ethnic group – or do you try harder to fix bad laws, equitably fund schools, fix bad schools, get better standards for judging teachers and principals and invest more in Head Start (or the like) and parenting intervention – as all credible studies indicate the “early learning” years are clearly where the education gap first manifests?

Let’s face it, for whatever reasons, some kids seem to fare better on standardized tests than other kids – and I am talking about within my own family, not across ethnic lines. One test or no test, for all – and let’s really start to look at true education reform.

Continuing to force our state school systems to grovel for federal dollars, in an unrealistic model, while possibly stumbling into the creation of new forms of ethnically focused self loathing for students – along with possibly institutionalizing lesser regard from their peers and targeted institutions of higher learning – cannot possibly be helpful to improving student achievement.

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Shoeless and Homeless My Eye, This Man Needs a Doctor!

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

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Army Vet Jeffrey Hillman Received Gift of Shoes from NYPD Officer Lawrence DiPrimo

Photo Credit: New York Times/Robert Caplin

I believe it was a touching gesture by New York Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo, 25, who about two weeks ago, bought and gave a pair of $100 Skechers boots to presumed homeless US Army veteran Jeffrey Hillman, 54. But as the New York Times reported this week, a “woman said she had bought him a pair of shoes a year ago.” Hillman does not need or want shoes – for that matter, nor does he a need a home. Hillman reportedly has a home paid for by his government benefits. What Hillman may need is the kind of mental health care and counseling many US veterans today so desperately need.

After walking around barefoot for any considerable amount of time, shoes are, at best, painful. Moreover, when spotted on Broadway in New York this week, again without shoes, and asked ‘where was Officer Primo’s gift?’ he said it is best for him if “those shoes are hidden. They are worth a lot of money,” Hillman said to the New York Times.

“I could lose my life,” he added.

In Hillman’s world, wearing shoes makes him vulnerable to trauma – either real or imagined.

Hillman has an apartment in the Bronx, officials on Tuesday told New York’s News 4 I-Team.

“He does have stable housing,” said Seth Diamond, New York City’s homeless services commissioner. “We’ve worked with Mr. Hillman for years,” he added.

Since we got sucked in on this virulent heart-strings-tugging bandwagon, so many of  us “support the troops” and hate homelessness so much, let’s look at some hard facts about how our military veterans are fairing when back in the loving embrace of the US homeland.

The VA reports, as of September 2009, there were approximately 23 million veterans.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans says there are between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans who are homeless at some time during the year; and on any given night, more than 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters.

The good news is, the number of homeless vets in the US declined by nearly 12% between January 2010 and January 2011, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

More bad news, thirty-three percent all homeless males are veterans, who are also twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless. They represent only 11% of the adult civilian population, but are 26% of the homeless population, according to the Homelessness Research Institute.

The risk of women veterans becoming homeless is four times greater than for male veterans. The National Center on Family Homelessness says 7% of the nation’s homeless veteran population is comprised of women and that between 23 and 29% of female veterans seeking VA medical care reported incidents of sexual assault.

The homelessness of so many military veterans is a real and critical issue, but likely Hillman (whatever the cause) and surely many thousands of other veterans are suffering from some sort of mental illness and/or other social disabilities — and are finding it increasingly difficult to adjust to an increasingly complicated society.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says veterans often have limited education and lack of transferable skills from military to civilian life (especially true of younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan); they suffer from Combat-related physical and mental health issues and disabilities; they have substance abuse problems that interfere with job retention; and have weak social networks due to problems adjusting to civilian life.

We recently hosted for an extended stay in our home, a veteran, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and several other clinically diagnosed issues. He asked me to document his current VA-issued prescription medications, which I thought would be a piece of cake. He could fit a whole cake in the shopping bag that he dropped on the table which held his medications.

He had several different pain prescriptions, two different mood enhancers, two different heart pills, two different sleeping pills, two different blood pressure meds, and on and on – at least 20 different prescriptions.

I am not doing a hatchet piece here on the VA, but they are apparently not equipped to deliver the kind of patient-centered outcomes that our veterans need – nor can the VA consistently offer a common thread of care through its overwhelmed and often well-meaning medical professionals.

The combination of medications ingested daily by  my guest vet apparently caused negative side effects including three black outs in the last three weeks – leading to an evening in the emergency room for him, this past Sunday night.

I am pleased to say our veteran is now in a non-profit, faith-based residential and work-life development program and is doing well.

Should American vets have  to depend on the services of private entities to take care of their critical post-military-service needs?

The same week that Officer Primo bought those shoes for Hillman, the Senate sent the White House a bill giving nearly 4 million veterans and survivors a 1.7 percent increase in their monthly benefit payments next year. But the VA appears to needs a lot more, including a total overhaul of its mental health patient-care model.

Veterans with mental health and substance abuse disorders are a large, growing, and expensive group to treat among veterans. In a RAND Corporation 2007 report, the per-patient cost for veterans receiving care through the VA for mental illness or substance abuse was $12,337, compared with an average cost of $4,579 for veterans without any mental health diagnoses.

Veteran patients with mental-health challenges represented 15.4% of patients in the VA system, but their care represented almost 33% of all VA healthcare costs.

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Note: The US Senate Tuesday failed to ratify an international treaty intended to protect the rights of those with disabilities, with conservatives opposed the treaty believing it could weaken US law.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) says signing onto the treaty would have been a positive outcome “for US disabled veterans.”

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Energy Watch: New Rulemaking and Class-Action Settlement Approved on Tribal Lands as Native Americans Prepare to Meet with President Obama This Week

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

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President Barack Obama and Elouise Cobell aka Yellow Bird Woman, Oval Office Dec. 2010

Photo Credit: Great Falls Tribune

President Barack Obama, this week (December 5), will host his fourth White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of the Interior (Interior), in the wake of significant rulemaking on leasing Tribal lands and final approval of a multi-billion dollar class action settlement related to US mismanagement of Indian lands, both last week. The White House/Interior conference will provide leaders from the 566 federally recognized Native American tribes and Alaska Native Corporations the opportunity to “interact directly with the President and representatives from the highest levels of his Administration,” according to a White House press release.

As part of “President Obama’s commitment to empower Tribal nations and strengthen their economies,” last week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in an Interior press release, the “final regulations that will streamline the leasing approval process on Indian land, spurring increased homeownership, and expediting business and commercial development, including renewable energy projects.”

The reform initiative seeks to overhaul outdated regulations governing the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) process for approving the surface leases on 56 million acres which the US federal government holds in trust for the Indian tribes and individuals.

It is intended to “expand opportunities for individual landowners and tribal governments to generate investment and create jobs in their communities by bringing greater transparency and workability to the BIA leasing process,” Secretary Salazar said.

“At its core, this reform is about good government and supporting self-determination for Indian Nations,” said Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk to Native American Times.

The federal Indian trust responsibility is a legal obligation under which the United States “has charged itself with moral obligations of the highest responsibility and trust” toward Indian tribes, as expressed in Seminole Nation v. United States, 1942.

This obligation was first expressed by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and has been seen in conventional terms as guiding the evolution of federal Indian law to the present: “That tribes possess a nationhood status and retain inherent powers of self-government,” wrote Marshall.

The new rulemaking buttresses the recently-passed Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act (HEARTH Act), which allows federally recognized tribes to assume greater control of leasing on tribal lands.

Previous BIA regulations, established in 1961, lacked a defined process or deadlines for review, which resulted in simple mortgage applications being in limbo for several years awaiting approval from the US government.

The new process provides a 30 day-limit for the BIA to issue decisions on residential leases, subleases and/or mortgages. For commercial or industrial development, the BIA would have 60 days to review leases and subleases, or those agreements will automatically go into effect.

The new leasing rulemaking “…caps the most comprehensive reforms of Indian land leasing regulations in more than 50 years and will have a lasting impact on individuals and families who want to own a home or build a business on Indian land,” said Salazar.

One notes the designation of “surface leases” on 56 million acres of Native American land in trust with the US government. With US natural gas deposits sufficient for 100-plus years of shale-rock-related mining, using relatively recently improved hydro-fracking technology, and with the various debates over oil pipeline development, the energy-related aspects of this rulemaking – although downplayed in the Interior press release – over time, may be interesting to track.

This, from the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs webpage:

  • Some experts estimate that up to 10 percent of the nation’s untapped energy resources (including oil, gas, coal, wind, and solar) lie under or on tribal lands.
  • According to the Department of the Interior, the production of energy and mineral resources in 2007 generated $524 million in royalty revenue paid to Indian individuals and Tribes. These resources are critical not only for national energy security, but for the generation of jobs, royalties, and other benefits for members of the tribes that own the energy.
  • All 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge can be produced utilizing just 2,000 acres of surface land throughout the whole 1.5 million-acre area.

“The revised regulations will bring greater transparency, efficiency and workability to the BIA approval process, and will provide tribal communities and individuals certainty and flexibility when it comes to decisions on the use of their land,” added Echo Hawk.

With regard to the “moral obligation” attendant to Indian land-trust management by the US government, Secretary Salazar also announced last week the final settlement approval of the Cobell v Salazar class action suit.

In 1996, Elouise Cobell (aka Yellow Bird Woman), who is Blackfeet from Browning, Montana, filed a lawsuit alleging Interior had woefully mismanaged Native American assets, since the 1800.

Her case finally settled in late 2009 for $3.4 billion – with final approvals from all parties issued just last week, one year and one month after Yellow Bird Woman died from cancer, at age 65. The proceeds will be divided among hundreds of thousands of Native Americans owed royalty payments on lands developed by the US government.

“She always spread the word, stood up for people who can’t stand up for themselves or when there was a need that was unmet,” said her son Turk Cobell about his mother to the Great Falls Tribune.

The settlement includes a $1.5 billion fund to be distributed to class members for accounting and potential Indian trust fund and asset mismanagement claims and a $1.9 billion fund for a land consolidation program that allows for the voluntary sale of individual land interests that have “fractionated” among many owners, over successive generations “making it difficult for individuals to use the land for agriculture, business development, or housing from which tribes can benefit,” according to the Interior.

“This marks the historic conclusion of a contentious and long running period of litigation,” said Hilary Tompkins, Solicitor for the Department of the Interior.

“Through the hard work and good will of plaintiffs, Interior and Treasury officials and Department of Justice counsel, we are turning a new page and look forward to collaboratively working with Indian country to manage these important funds and assets,” Tompkins added.

Each tribe has been invited to send one representative to this week’s White House/Interior conference. The President is expected to deliver remarks during the closing session and Tribal leaders will also participate in breakout sessions, building upon “the president’s commitment to strengthen the government to government relationship with Indian Country,” according to the White House.

But alas, the breakout sessions will be closed to the press. Wouldn’t one love to be a fly on the wall in that room next to a portrait of Yellow Bird Woman with a caption that reads: “…conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all…”?

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World AIDS Day Approaches, UN and White House Report on Strides

By Jim Allen, Editor NuVote Reach and Examiner.comImage

Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A primary focus of United Nations (UN) World AIDS Day this year, observed every year on December 1, continues to be the “Getting to Zero” by 2015 campaign, initiated in 2011 – meaning zero AIDs-related deaths, zero new infections and zero discrimination. A new report by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) indicates positive returns from the significantly stepped-up global response to AIDS, although disturbing statistics still persist. In observance of World AIDS Day, the White House Thursday published details of the United States’ (US) global HIV/AIDS strategy going forward.

The UN report shows 81 countries increased their investment in the fight against HIV/AIDS by 50% and that a more than 50% reduction in the rate of new HIV infections has been achieved in 25 low- and middle-income countries – more than half in Africa, the region most affected by HIV.

The most progress is being made in reducing new HIV infections in children. Half of the global reductions in new HIV infections in the last two years have been among newborns.

Of the 34 million people globally living with HIV in 2011, about half do not know their HIV status. The report states that if more people knew their status, they could come forward for HIV services.

Also in 2011, 2.5 people globally were newly infected with HIV and 1.7 people died from AIDS-related illness.

The report shows an estimated 6.8 million people in the world need treatment and are not receiving adequate care and an additional 4 million discordant couples (where one partner is living with HIV) would benefit from HIV treatment to protect their partners from HIV infection.

HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on sex workers, men who have sex with men and unregulated intravenous drug users. HIV prevention and treatment programs are mostly failing to reach these key populations.

“When discrimination, stigma, and other factors drive these groups into the shadows, the epidemic becomes that much harder to fight. That’s why we are supporting country-led plans to expand services for key populations, and bolstering the efforts of civil society groups to reach out to them,” US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the State Department on Thursday in a speech in observance of World AIDS Day.

The White House Thursday released a statement from the president in observance of World AIDS Day in which he pointed up the US stake in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

“Today, I am pleased my Administration will make public new data that demonstrates we are on track to meet the ambitious treatment and prevention targets I announced on World AIDS Day a year ago.  As of today, we are treating over 5 million people with lifesaving medicines for AIDS, up from 1.7 million in 2008,” said President Barack Obama.

Secretary Clinton used the occasion at the State Department on Thursday to unveil the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation”– a five-point roadmap for how the US government intends to wage its global battle against HIV/AIDS.

  • Make strategic, scientifically sound investments to rapidly scale-up core HIV prevention, treatment and care interventions and maximize impact.
  • Work with partner countries, donor nations, civil society, people living with HIV, faith-based organizations, the private sector, foundations and multilateral institutions to effectively mobilize, coordinate and efficiently utilize resources to expand high-impact strategies, saving more lives sooner.
  • Focus on women and girls to increase gender equality in HIV services.
  • End stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and key populations, improving their access to, and uptake of, comprehensive HIV services.
  • Set benchmarks for outcomes and programmatic efficiencies through regularly assessed planning and reporting processes to ensure goals are being met.

“…as I pledged last year, we are on track to treat 6 million people by the end of 2013.  This year, we have also reached over 700,000 HIV-positive pregnant women with antiretroviral drugs that will prevent them from passing the virus to their children,” said the president.

“As we continue this important work with our partners around the world and here at home, let us remember the lives we have lost to AIDS, celebrate the progress we have made, and, together, recommit to ourselves to achieving our shared vision of an AIDS-free generation,” concluded the president in his written statement.

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Note: PEPFAR Blueprint Summary: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/11/201195.htm

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High Hopes and Low Expectations for UN Climate Talks in Qatar

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

Photo Credit: UNFCC (COP 18 UN Climate Talks in Doha, Qatar)

Even as most scientists say more ambitious action on global warming is needed now, expectations are low as the US and more than 190 other nations convene this week (through December 7) in oil-rich Doha, Qatar for the latest round of UN global climate talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) – the 18th Convention of the Parties (COP 18) to these talks.

Under the UNFCCC, leading countries have pledged to keep global warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius above pre­-industrial levels by the end of the century.  At COP 17, in Durban, South Africa last year, delegates reaffirmed the two-degree target and pledged to conclude a new global climate change treaty by 2015 to take effect starting in 2020.

A report released last week by the UN Environment Program said nations’ current pledges were too weak and greenhouse gas emissions were increasing at a rate that put the world at risk without immediate action.

“Partial loss of ice sheets on polar land could imply meters of sea-level rise, major changes in coastlines and inundation of low lying areas, with greatest effects in river deltas and low-lying islands,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the science advisory group to the UN – to delegates in Doha.

“More rapid sea level rise on century timescales cannot be excluded,” he added.

In a 2007 report, the IPCC said the probability that human activity was the primary cause of climate change was “at least 90 percent.”

Pachauri told Reuters late on Wednesday he expected IPCC would raise the level of likelihood even higher in its next report, due in 2013.

The World Bank issued a report last week suggesting that a temperature rise of 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 could result in widespread crop failures, malnutrition and significant sea-level rise.

The World Meteorological Organization said 2012 was on track to be the ninth-hottest on record.

Developing nations fault industrial countries for failing to cut emissions quickly enough. The US has pledged a 17 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 and the EU pledged 20 percent – levels not projected to meet the UN’s two-degree goal.

China is against capping greenhouse-gas emissions in developing nations by 2020, because adopting such early targets would constrain economic growth, they say.

In his 2012 acceptance speech, President Barack Obama said the environment was high on his list of priorities. “We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” said Obama.

In his first post-election press conference last week the president said while he remains no less concerned about climate change, US economic development was his first priority.

“There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices, and you know, understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that,” said the president.

Todd D. Stern, the US State Department’s special envoy for climate change, has been the government’s chief negotiator at UN climate talks since 2009. “This year was understood as a year of conceptual thinking about what the shape of the 2020s ought to be,” said Todd in a recent New York Times interview.

The COP 18 talks may accomplish an extension of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol emissions agreement that set different terms for advanced and developing countries. President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Treaty in 1998, but did not submit it to the Senate for advice and consent.

President George W. Bush pulled out of the Treaty in 2001, principally citing lack of controls over developing nations like India and China – following intensive lobbying by fossil fuel interests.

Canada, Japan and Russia have already announced they will not sign up for a second commitment period. The big players left in Kyoto are Europe and Australia, representing only about 10 percent of global emissions.

“If…we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support,” the president added at his post-election press conference.

President Obama on Tuesday signed a law to keep US airlines from paying for the carbon their planes emit flying into and out of Europe. The carbon fee bill was the first piece of legislation debated in the House after the Thanksgiving recess. It passed unanimously in the Senate in September.

A White House spokesperson told The Hill newspaper: “The Obama administration is firmly committed to reducing harmful carbon pollution from civil aviation both domestically and internationally, but, as we have said on many occasions, the application of the EU [Emissions Trading System] to non-EU air carriers is the wrong way to achieve that objective.”

With regard to achieving a universally binding agreement on climate change “Time is running out,” said the UNFCC executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, at a news conference in Doha.

“The door is closing fast on us because the pace and the scale of action is simply not yet where it must be,” she added.

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War-Torn Afghans Seek to Calm Potential Investors at Conference This Week

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

Photo Credit: Mauricio Lima for the NY Times

Efforts are underway in Afghanistan to encourage improvements in the business climate, attract foreign investment and develop trade capacity – including through the World Trade Organization. This week (November 27-30, 2012), the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency is sponsoring the Afghanistan National Industrial Conference & Exhibition at the Loya Jirga Compound, Kabul-Afghanistan, under the theme: It’s great, it’s Afghan made. However, the scheduled 2014 draw-down of United States and NATO troops there may have international investors wary of making long-term commitments.

Apart from the obvious security concerns, the lack of indigenous capital, except from drug trafficking, is a definite stumbling block to the economic advancement of this war-torn nation. The mineral wealth of Afghanistan, which includes deposits of iron ore, copper, niobium, cobalt, gold, molybdenum, silver and aluminum, as well as sources of fluorspar, beryllium, lithium and other resources, estimated be worth up to three trillion dollars, is considered to be the most obvious source of its economic independence, but developing the supportive infrastructure is still at least a decade away from becoming a reality.

Afghanistan’s minister of mines says 70% of the country’s territory is yet unexplored and the potential for fruitful investment is great.

India is working quite deliberately on investment potential there – in addition to keeping an eye on the economic footprint and influence in the region of Pakistan and the insurgency of the Taliban.

China has made an investment in Logar Province, an area under Taliban influence, but is going slow in starting up its copper-mining operations apparently for fear of attacks.

A Wall Street Journal report last summer (Delays Imperil Mining Riches Afghans Need After Pullout, June 12, 2012) indicated that China may be waiting to see the effects of troop draw-downs before going into full production mode.

In 2011, US imports from Afghanistan were less than 1% of US exports. Afghanistan has signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the US, but a Bilateral Investment Treaty has not been negotiated – neither is there a Bilateral Taxation Treaty.

Over the past ten years, over $588 billion have been allocated by the US government for the war in Afghanistan – including $111.1 billion in fiscal year 2012.

What the return on that investment will be is anyone’s guess.

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Oil and Gas Lease Sales in the Western Gulf Slated for Wednesday This Week

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Photo Credit:Looking Glass Animations-UK

More than 20 million offshore acres will be put up for lease sale by the US Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Wednesday which account for all of the remaining unleased areas in the Western Gulf of Mexico Planning Area (WGMPA). The lease sale is being framed as part of an Obama administration effort “to implement a comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy strategy, expanding domestic production, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and supporting jobs,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a DOI press release.

It will be held on Wednesday November 28, 2012 at 9:00 AM CDT, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana and be the first lease sale under the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (five-year program) for exploration and development of all offshore areas with the highest conventional resource potential. These areas represent 75 percent of the undiscovered, recoverable offshore oil and gas resources in the US.

The sale will include all available unleased areas in the WGMPA – encompassing 3,873 blocks and covering approximately 20.8 million acres – located from nine to 250 miles offshore, in water depths ranging from 16 to more than 10,975 feet.

“BOEM estimates the proposed lease sale could result in the production of 116 to 200 million barrels of oil and 538 to 938 billion cubic feet of natural gas,” according to a DOI press release.

At the Wednesday sale, BOEM will open 131 bids submitted by 13 companies on 116 offshore blocks.

In December 2011, 181 leases on WGMPA tracts covering 1,036,205 acres were awarded to the successful high bidders – valued at $324,971,001.

In June 2012, 442 leases on Central Gulf of Mexico tracts covering 2,335,646 acres were awarded to the successful high bidders – valued at $1,681,578,390.

The November 2012 Final Notice of Sale information package is available at: http://www.boem.gov/Sale-229/.

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White House Uses Cyber Monday to Frame Fiscal Cliff Talks

By Jim Allen, Editor NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

Photo Credit: Flickr/Michael Holden

The White House has taken a consumer-focused tack as President Barack Obama prepares to enter into negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” – a number of tax increases and spending cuts that will be triggered at midnight on December 31, 2012 that might weigh heavily on US economic growth and possibly drive the economy back into a recession. A report by the National Economic Council and the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), The Middle-Class Tax Cuts’ Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers purports to outline the impact to retailers and consumer spending “if Congress fails to act to avoid taxes going up on 98 percent of Americans… and 97 percent of small businesses…at the end of the year,” said the White House in a written statement on Cyber Monday.

The CEA report summary concludes:

Allowing the middle-class tax rates to rise and failing to patch the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) could cut the growth of real consumer spending by 1.7 percentage points in 2013.  This sharp rise in middle-class taxes and the resulting decline in consumption could slow the growth of real GDP by 1.4 percentage points, which is consistent with recently published estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Faced with these tax hikes, the CEA estimates that consumers could spend nearly $200 billion less than they otherwise would have in 2013 just because of higher taxes.  This reduction of $200 billion is approximately four times the total amount that 226 million shoppers spent on Black Friday weekend last year.  As Figure 5 shows, this $200 billion reduction would likely be spread across all areas of consumer spending.

The president campaigned on his proposal to extend income tax cuts that benefit families who make less than $250,000 per year and asked the wealthy “to pay a little more” in taxes to help effect $4 trillion in deficit reduction. The Senate has passed a bill with that middle-class tax-cut provision which the president – waving his pen in the air at his first post-election press conference – said he will sign.

Obama has called on House Republicans to not “hold the middle-class and our economy hostage over a disagreement on tax cuts” while the two negotiate the particulars on how to raise revenues.

An obvious sticking point in upcoming negotiations may be a pledge not to raise taxes made by a majority of GOP lawmakers to Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist.

“The people who have made a commitment to their constituents are largely keeping it,” said Norquist to ABC News last week.

But Norquist’s long-solid, anti-tax coalition may be splintering.

“You know, that pledge I signed 20 years ago was valid then, it’s valid now, but times have changed significantly and I care more about this country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge,” said Georgia GOP Senator Saxby Chambliss on Thursday.

New York Republican House member Peter King endorsed Chambliss’ position. “I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss – a pledge he signed 20 years ago…is for that Congress,” King said Sunday on NBC. “The world is changed and the economic situation is different,” he added.

Joining Chambliss and King in distancing themselves from the no-tax pledge to Norquist are GOP Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Tom Coburn (OK) and conservative six-term Rep. Jeff Flake (AZ), now senator elect.

More significant than those soundings from the Senate, House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) said on MSNBC Monday “…it’s not about that pledge, it really is about solving problems.”

“John Boehner went to the White House ten days ago and said ‘Hey, Republicans in the House are willing to put revenues on the table’ — that was a big move. And we said we were going to do that in the name of trying to fix the problem to respond to the electorate that reelected this president…” Cantor added.

King on Sunday also indicated that he believed Obama and Boehner could reach an accommodation. “I think John [Boehner] is going to do all he can to avoid an increase in tax rates…bottom line is we cannot have sequestration. We have to show the world we’re adults…Get them in the room. And that’s what representative governments should be about.  No one gets all – all they want.  If Reagan and O’Neill could do it, Boehner and Obama should be able to do it,” said King.

Uncertainty about the course of US economic policy and concerns over the dysfunctional relationship between Congress and the Obama White House have prompted the business community to sideline billions in investment dollars and curtail new hiring.

“Right now, I’m not that bullish at all.  And, in fact, I’d say there’s a great uncertainty that’s just hanging over the entire economy because we’re not confident that our guys can govern anymore,” said Honeywell Chairman and CEO David Cote on NBC.

“We’ve got 536 independent contractors [in the US House of Representatives and Senate] all talking about the significance of jobs, but the one thing that they could do that would remove that uncertainty and create this job growth we’d all like, they’re not doing.  And there’s [sic] a couple of stumbling blocks.  It’s not just taxes.  We have a significant problem with entitlements.  Medicare, Medicaid in – in particular,” Cote continued.

“Those things need to get resolved together.  If we could actually develop a four trillion dollar credible market credible plan that would cause everyone out there to say, wow, we can govern again,” Cote added.

Many Capitol Hill watchers believe the most likely outcome is another set of stop-gap measures that would delay a more permanent policy change until 2013. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that if Congress extends the Bush-era tax cuts but cancels the automatic spending cuts the result would be modest growth.

The CBO also estimates if the Congress and the White House allow the $560 billion deficit-reducing cliff dive, it would cut gross domestic product (GDP) by 4 percentage points in 2013, sending the economy into another recession.

“American consumers are the bedrock of our economy, driving more than two-thirds of the overall rise in real GDP over 13 consecutive quarters of economic recovery since the middle of 2009.  And as we approach the holiday season, which accounts for close to one-fifth of industry sales, retailers can’t afford the threat of tax increases on middle-class families,” said the White House in a statement on Monday.

If no action is taken, unemployment would rise by almost a full percentage point, with a loss of approximately two million jobs, predicts the CBO.

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Part II: Lagging Black and Latino Students Pressurizing Politics of No Child Left Behind

By Jim Allen, Editor, Nu Vote Reach and DC Politics Examiner.com

The Bush (43) administration’s 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act pushes states to compete for Department of Education funding, rather than automatically receiving it based on a formula. It has spawned a generation of purveyors of the controversial “teach-to-the-test” model. In September 2012, President Barack Obama, introduced a plan to allow states to opt out of the NCLB requirement that all children be proficient in reading and math, by 2014, if states meet conditions such as setting standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting performance-review standards for teachers and principals. Thirty-three states have received such waivers of NCLB performance mandates and too many school systems still appear to be no closer to closing educational achievement gaps between certain groups of students.

In order to meet President Obama’s NCLB opt-out requirements, the Virginia State Board of Education, after looking at the passing rates of students by ethnic group, drafted a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for Afro-Americans, Latinos and students with disabilities. For example, in math, the passing rate is 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for Afro-Americans and 33 percent for kids with disabilities.

“So why do we have these different subgroups? Because we’re starting with black children where they are,” said Winsome Sears, one of three Afro-American board members at a September state board of education meeting.

“We can’t start them at the 82 percentile because they’re not there. The Asian students are there. And so the real question is why aren’t black students starting at the 82 percentile? Why? Why are they not there?” Sears said.

No matter how one might feel about the coarse competition for education dollars sparked by NCLB, the fact remains that school systems have to do something to deal with the poor performance, discipline, social issues, and truancy of a growing number of pupils (1-10 DC public school students are truant).

In terms of solutions, a growing number of charter schools have opened in many jurisdictions as an alternative to public schools where students have substandard performance.

Teaching to the test essentially evaluates so-called “value-added” (VA) teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores. A study published in January 2012 by researchers from Harvard and Columbia University, The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Students’ Outcomes in Adulthood, which tracked one million students from 4th grade to adulthood concluded, “We find that when a high VA teacher joins a school, test scores rise immediately in the grade taught by that teacher; when a high VA teacher leaves, test scores fall,” wrote the researchers.

So you say Asian students are outpacing all students in educational achievement in Virginia and many other US public schools, hmmm? Before we get to the role of parental involvement in educational preparation and the early learning of students, let’s focus on teaching methods in Japanese schools, highlighted in an NPR-published story by Alix Spiegel, who reports:

In 1979, when Jim Stigler was still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he went to Japan to research teaching methods and found himself sitting in the back row of a crowded fourth-grade math class.

“The teacher was trying to teach the class how to draw three-dimensional cubes on paper,” Stigler explains, “and one kid was just totally having trouble with it. His cube looked all cockeyed, so the teacher said to him, ‘Why don’t you go put yours on the board?’ So right there I thought, ‘That’s interesting! He took the one who can’t do it and told him to go and put it on the board.’ ”

Stigler knew that in American classrooms, it was usually the best kid in the class who was invited to the board. And so he watched with interest as the Japanese student dutifully came to the board and started drawing, but still couldn’t complete the cube.

Every few minutes, the teacher would ask the rest of the class whether the kid had gotten it right, and the class would look up from their work, and shake their heads no. And as the period progressed, Stigler noticed that he — Stigler — was getting more and more anxious.

“I realized that I was sitting there starting to perspire,” he says, “because I was really empathizing with this kid. I thought, ‘This kid is going to break into tears!’ “

But the kid didn’t break into tears. Stigler says the child continued to draw his cube with equanimity. “And at the end of the class, he did make his cube look right! And the teacher said to the class, ‘How does that look, class?’ And they all looked up and said, ‘He did it!’ And they broke into applause.” The kid smiled a huge smile and sat down, clearly proud of himself.

Stigler is now a professor of psychology at UCLA who studies teaching and learning around the world, and he says it was this small experience that first got him thinking about how differently East and West approach the experience of intellectual struggle.

“I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you’re just not very smart,” Stigler says. “It’s a sign of low ability — people who are smart don’t struggle, they just naturally get it, that’s our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity.”

In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it’s just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle.

They’ve taught them that suffering can be a good thing,” Stigler says`. “I mean it sounds bad, but I think that’s what they’ve taught them.”

Granting that there is a lot of cultural diversity within East and West and it’s possible to point to counterexamples in each, Stigler still sums up the difference this way: For the most part in American culture, intellectual struggle in schoolchildren is seen as an indicator of weakness, while in Eastern cultures it is not only tolerated but is often used to measure emotional strength.

It’s a small difference in approach that Stigler believes has some very big implications.

There’s some great food for thought there when considering solutions to address the critical issue of improving educational outcomes for public school children.

Spiegel’s reporting shows that in the Japanese classrooms Stigler studied, teachers consciously tried to push their students slightly beyond their capabilities. Once the task was mastered, the teachers point out that the student’s accomplishment came through hard work and struggle.

Virginia educators believe dumbing down testing parameters, in response to NCLB, is a viable stop-gap measure. At a September meeting of the state board of education, Patricia Wright, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, defended the policy.

“Rest assured, all of us hold all students to the same academic standards, but when it comes to measuring progress, we have to consider that students start at different points,” Wright said.

“The concept here is that if indeed within six years we can close the achievement gap between the lowest- and highest-performing schools — at least cut it in half — that would be acceptable progress,” Wright later told NPR.

That may not be a consensus great solution, but they are trying to keep their NCLB money – which they must – and trying deal with the reality of poor test scores among many students in certain minority groups.

What one does not hear much talk of is how to possibly, intervene into unfavorable community social structures to address the critical issue of preparing children to be educated.

Excerpting from his singular, but little known 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, about 45years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in an address to the 10th Anniversary Convention of the Sothern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta on August 16, 1967:

“In elementary schools, Negroes lag one to three years behind whites, and their segregated schools receive substantially less money per student than the white schools. One twentieth as many Negroes as whites attend college. Of employed Negroes, 75 percent hold menial jobs. This is where we are. Where do we go from here?” King said.

Where, indeed?

The National Academy of Sciences says early childcare environments and early childhood education are the best indicators for effective early learning, language development and school achievement. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/research/project/national-academy-of-sciences-study-of-early-childhood-assessment-2006-2008

To me, that indicates that parents and guardians, not teachers and schools, bear the brunt of the responsibility for the educational fate of students.

But suppose mom is a marginally educated and single, and dad is less educated and gone?

Suppose the latchkey starts too early for kids of the honorable working poor.

Suppose there is no breakfast, no homework assistance, domestic violence, sexual abuse – oh yes, and no children’s books in a home?

Suppose mama is on crack – will she take a couple of hits off to check homework?

Suppose grandma or granddad, just can’t read or write very well?

Suppose kids are raised in an environment where “uh-huh,” and “ah-huh” are words?

Suppose in the phonetic structure in your house the “th” sound is replaced with an “f” or a “v” at the end of a word – as in, “wif” and “smoove”?

Suppose you are weaned on fast food?

A child’s experiences in the first few years of life (and proper nutritional intake) are critical to growth and brain development – charting pathways for learning. The early years are critical to language development, socialization, and higher thinking – key skills needed for success in school (and standardized tests) and beyond – lending credence to Head Start-type programs.

Do we just throw away, or simply lower expectations of the kids who through no fault of their own are the second-generation growing on up musical lyrics like “Die MF Die” — fully unabbreviated, which I heard blaring from a well-dressed young man’s car with a kid in a car seat in it, a couple of MLK Jr Day’s back — now a staple in their daily educational intake?

What do you do when the values of an increasing share of your community (young and old) are disproportionately influenced by marginally literate millionaire entertainers and/or athletes, solely by virtue of their affluence, and not “the content of their character”?

What if your boys think being a faux “thug” and your girls believe being an “around the way girl” are reasonable alternatives to contributory citizenship?

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” said Dr. King (1963: Strength to Love).

I think we have to wake up and give “the dream” a rest.

So many churches leaders today are pushing for the prosperity of their ministries (not the community or even their members) that they don’t have time to apply the type of sacrificial “balm in Gilead” to battle the ignorance, poverty, AIDS and addiction or attend to the “least” of us in a way that Dr. King’s generation of preachers did, which included my father, the late Rev. James Oliver Allen, Sr.

The words “Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists,” echo from Dr. King in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail (a must read!).

So maybe this phenomenon isn’t so new.

Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed some true spiritual warriors out there (and I know some personally, of all faiths) – but too few are in the trenches in these educationally deteriorating communities – given the headcount of those “called.”

I really had better enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday, because some of my friends and family are soon going to stop speaking to me.

So be it.

End of Part Two

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Lagging Black and Latino Students Pressurizing Politics of No Child Left Behind

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By Jim Allen, Editor, Nu Vote Reach and DC Politics Examiner.com

The Virginia State Board of Education is doing its level best to deal with some of the unrealistic mandates of the President George W. Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) ACT of 2001; intended to improve the educational achievement metrics of students and teachers in K-12 US public school systems. NCLB pushes states to compete for Department of Education funding, rather than automatically receiving it based on a formula; and the controversial “teach-to-the-test” model highlighted by NCLB has not resulted in a marked improvement across all demographics in test scores and many stakeholders are unsettled over the whole matter.

Teaching to the test essentially evaluates so-called “value-added” (VA) teachers based on their students’ standardized test scores. In a study by Harvard and Columbia University scholars, published in January 2012, “The Long-Term Impacts of Teachers: Teacher Value-Added and Students’ Outcomes in Adulthood,” the researchers track one million children from a large urban school district from 4th grade through to adulthood.

The study asks, ‘does VA accurately measure teachers’ impacts on scores or does it wrongly penalize teachers who may routinely work with lower achieving students?’ They also analyzed VA teachers’ impacts on students’ long-term outcomes.

“We find that when a high VA teacher joins a school, test scores rise immediately in the grade taught by that teacher; when a high VA teacher leaves, test scores fall,” wrote the researchers.

Moreover, “students assigned to higher VA teachers are more successful in many dimensions. They are more likely to higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods, and save more for retirement,” the study continues.

The study concludes that great teachers create great value and that test-score metrics are helpful in recognizing such teachers. However, they say the jury is still out in determining how best to use VA to structure education policy.

Because the US Congress failed to update the NCLB Law, President Barack Obama in September 2012 introduced a plan to allow states to opt out of the requirement that all children be proficient in reading and math, as measured by standardized testing, by 2014, if states meet conditions such as setting standards to prepare students for college and careers and setting performance-review standards for teachers and principals.

In order to meet President Obama’s NCLB opt-out requirements, the Virginia State Board of Education, after looking at the passing rates of students by ethnic group, drafted a controversial new set of education goals that are higher for white and Asian kids than for Afro-Americans, Latinos and students with disabilities.

For example, in math, the passing rate is 82 percent for Asian students, 68 percent for whites, 52 percent for Latinos, 45 percent for Afro-Americans and 33 percent for kids with disabilities.

At a September meeting of the state board of education, Patricia Wright, Virginia’s superintendent of public instruction, defended the policy.

“Rest assured, all of us hold all students to the same academic standards, but when it comes to measuring progress, we have to consider that students start at different points,” Wright said.

“The concept here is that if indeed within six years we can close the achievement gap between the lowest- and highest-performing schools — at least cut it in half — that would be acceptable progress,” Wright later told NPR.

Afro-Americans and Latinos do not do as well as white and Asian children on standardized tests, and that achievement gap is “what the new policy is meant to address by setting more modest goals for struggling minority children and giving them more time to catch up,” NPR reports.

“So why do we have these different subgroups? Because we’re starting with black children where they are,” said Winsome Sears, one of three Afro-American board members at a meeting last month.

“We can’t start them at the 82 percentile because they’re not there. The Asian students are there. And so the real question is why aren’t black students starting at the 82 percentile? Why? Why are they not there?” Sears said.

Thirty-three states have received such waivers of NCLB pipe dreaming performance mandates that all children perform at grade level by 2014.

This columnist, yours truly, was born an Afro-American male in Virginia (my January 1956-vintage birth certificate actually designates me as “colored”). Before the 9th grade, I attended 5 different segregated elementary and/or middle schools in Portsmouth and/or Norfolk, Virginia Public Schools – a few were crumbling – until forced busing was implemented in Norfolk (1970). I was then bused to a white junior high school for one year; and then bused to a black high school, because we moved to a white neighborhood – that whole zip code thing.

My SAT scores ranked high, state-wide and nationally – and I was not alone and was no genius.

What has changed?

I need to sleep on this.

End of Part One

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NBA’s Larry Bird Inspired: Post-Election GOP 12-Step Affirmative Action Program

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Photo Credit: Fox News

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach (11-11-12)

As a patriot and in order to strengthen the two-party system in US politics, what follows is a prescription to be immediately administered to some on the far right of the GOP to help them better deal with an acute fear of emerging US electoral demographic dynamics, using what I call my GOP 12-Step Affirmative Action Program – inspired by the life of National Basketball Association (NBA) Hall of Famer and Indiana native Larry “Legend” Bird.

By way of background, until 1950, the NBA was segregated against Afro-Americans. Earl “Big Cat” Lloyd was drafted from West Virginia State College (hometown, Alexandria, VA), and the first to play in an NBA game — for the Washington Capitols.

It wasn’t easy for Afro-Americans in those days. “I remember in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we stayed at a hotel where they let me sleep, but they wouldn’t let me eat. They didn’t want anyone to see me…” said Floyd.

Over time, things changed in Indiana. Case-in-point, battleground Indiana went for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, although Mitt Romney took it in 2012 – perhaps raising false hopes for Romney supporters on Election Night.

Historically, southern Indiana is credited with spawning the modern-day Ku Klux Klan and that’s the cultural milieu of the 1950’s and 60’s that Larry Joe Bird grew up in – poor and the fourth of six children. Bird came of age in the town of French Lick, later earning him the nickname “the hick from French Lick.”

His mom, Georgia, was a waitress, his dad Claude Joseph “Joe” Bird, was laborer, who had occasional bouts of drinking and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, stemming from his military service in Korea.  Joe Bird committed suicide when [Larry] Bird was 18, saying the family would be better off without him.

When he was in the “sixth or seventh grade” Bird says he couldn’t wait for school to be out so he could play pick-up basketball games with the older and better-skilled Afro-Americans waiters who worked at a hotel near his home.

“They let me play,” said Bird in an HBO documentary: Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals. “I always looked at that…as I got a chance to play against the black man, and they treated me good,” he added.

After a great high school basketball career, Bird quit legendary Coach Bobby Knight’s Indiana University basketball program and dropped out of IU after 24 days. He said his mother didn’t speak to him for two months.

He cut grass and hauled trash for the French Lick public works department for about a year before being coaxed to Indiana State where the Sycamores put together a perfect 33-0 season – ultimately suffering a bitter loss to rival Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans in the 1979 NCAA final.

The predominantly white NBA of the 50’s and 60’s gave way to the “blackening” of the league by the late 70’s; so much so that the New York Knickerbockers were then known colloquially and coarsely as the “New York N-word-bockers.” White-viewer interest in televised professional basketball waned.

Bird and Magic renewed their rivalry in the NBA. Within a few years of Bird joining the storied Boston Celtics and Magic signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, CBS resumed the for-years-suspended live coverage of NBA basketball featuring the slick “Showtime” style of Magic’s predominantly black Lakers against Bird’s mostly white, so-called “lunch-pale carrying, blue-collar” Celtics.

At the time, Boston was settling from ethnic strife between Afro-Americans and whites still smarting from violent confrontations over court-ordered busing to integrate the public schools.

But “race was never an issue with Larry Bird,” said Bird’s Celtic Afro-American teammate Cedric Maxwell. “He was just a guy who wanted to kick some [expletive deleted]…and win,” he added.

Bird’s position was and is “…It don’t mean anything to me. It never has. I don’t know why. I mean, am I doing something wrong here?” said Bird to HBO.

Bird didn’t complain about the changing demographics of the league or about “lost traditions” or ever talked about ‘taking our league back.’ He played hard, played fair and won 3 championships and 3 NBA Most Valuable Player Awards.

He didn’t whine about his prospects or mourn archaic or prohibitive NBA traditions or take his ball home when he lost a big game. Nor did he take guff from Afro-American, or any other players for that matter, or claim to be colorblind.

“I just wanted to prove that a white boy who couldn’t run and couldn’t jump could play this game.” Bird has said.

In the 65-plus year history of the NBA, Bird is the only person (white, black or otherwise) to be named League MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the Year – which he accomplished in an era when the demographical evolution of the league starkly trended away from being wholly dominated by white men, to become dominated by Afro-Americans.

Larry Bird’s story is a uniquely American one and as unlikely as is President Obama’s life narrative. Both sagas are worthy of celebration by us all and give hope to all Americans of all ethnicities. It is in that spirit that I offer this balm in Gilead – my GOP 12-Step Affirmative Action Program for those who are near spasmodic over the 2012 election. There is hope. There is healing.

 

The Steps:

1. Even if your brain trust is legendary, if it’s not helping you achieve your desired results, get a new one (Symptom: High tolerance to prolonged exposure to televised pundit meltdowns)

2. Be tough – No whining and no excuses when things don’t go your way (Symptom: Experiencing continued verbal aspirations of those who predicted a Romney landslide)

3. Work hard and work with the best, even if they look different from you – combine your transferable traditions with new cultural idioms (Symptom: Compulsion to shout “We are going to take our country back”)

4. Color-blindness is not necessary; Color-fear is ridiculous (Symptom: Amos and Andy are the only black people you know)

5. Find people who believe in you (Symptom: Problem choosing alliances and building coalitions and you attract people who believe that a job is more important than your health)

6. Live and let live and people will work and play well with you (Symptom: Propensity to legislate personal lifestyle choices of others and toward building fences around anything south of your home)

7. Acceptance that you can only build a winning team with the human resources that exist in the present and that diversity abounds (Symptom: Inability to digest food in the presence of a 2010 US Census Bureau Report)

8. Don’t trash an exceptional rival, mimic him or her (Symptom: Delusional belief that Stepin Fetchit could become editor of the Harvard Law Review)

9. Acknowledge that most people don’t want your “stuff” (Symptom: Irresistible paranoid feeling that someone wants to take your gun)

10. Commit to not embarrass your mother (Symptom: Uncontrollable tendencies toward voter suppression)

11. You can come from the most lily-white, dirt-poor, KKK-spawning environment and still achieve in America and lead others – including Afro-Americans – to greatness, without being angry or afraid (Symptom: Failure to acknowledge that Red states lead the nation in consumption of government entitlements)

12. Evolve. Do not patronize those who market in divisiveness (Symptom: Irresistible urge to host a screening party to watch D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation or “The Best of GOP 2012 Election Night Punditry”)

WARNING: Moderate Republicans, Compassionate Conservatives and/or Center-Right Progressives should use these steps sparingly and they should only be administered in the presence of a registered Afro-American Republican or Rev. Al Sharpton (if not available, Rev. Jesse Jackson will do) to avoid experiencing an overwhelming overdose of empathy; leading to unpredictable side-effects including, smiling at unknown Afro-Americans and inviting known Afro-Americans to your home for a fried chicken dinner and to watch reruns of Good Times.

Serious Note: Larry Bird does not endorse my Larry Bird-inspired GOP12-step AA program nor has he any known history of substance abuse; nor is the reference here to a 12-step model intended in any way to be disrespectful to those suffering from the disease of alcoholism. The writer constructed this model completely out of whole cloth and acknowledges that Larry Bird would likely want no part in this exercise.

Posted in Politics | 11 Comments

White House Faith-Based Advisor and Neighborhood “Godfather” Help Launch New Lives

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach

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Rev. George. E. Holmes

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Robert L. Woodson, Sr.

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Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway

Reverend George Edward Holmes, a member of President Barack Obama’s National African American Clergy Leadership Working Group and chaplain of the District of Columbia Democratic State Committee will serve as master of ceremonies, and Robert L. Woodson, Sr., president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, nationally known as the “godfather” of neighborhood economic development, will be the keynote speaker at the House of Hope/City of Help graduation ceremony this Saturday that will mark a significant milestone in the previously severely dysfunction lives of 27 individuals.

The occasion will honor twenty-five men and two women who have completed the first phase of the pioneering faith-based House of Help/City of Hope intervention program that helps individuals who have struggled with drugs, alcohol, physical, sexual or psychological abuse, homelessness and/or overcome criminal backgrounds to get their lives back on track.

The creator of the pioneering treatment regimen, Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, Founder and CEO of the House of Help City of Hope, is often a voice for the voiceless—providing shelter for the homeless, rejected and abused.

“I am so proud of our graduates. Some were victims of unspeakable violations, some have mental health or substance abuse challenges and others have just taken a wrong turn or two in life,” Holloway.

“In any case, we offered a hand up, not a hand out, they have embraced what we have offered and we are so proud and pleased to be celebrating with them this next big step in their lives,” Holloway added.

Since its humble beginnings, nearly 20 years ago, House of Help/City of Hope now has treatment and/or housing facilities in Washington, DC and Prince George’s and CharlesCounties, MD and has served over 30,000 individuals.

Holloway, who is also a certified substance abuse counsel, has been featured in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The New York Post, and Afro-American Newspapers.  She travels nationally and internationally preaching the gospel and oversees churches in Florida, Louisiana, Israel, UK, Russia, and supports the HOPE orphanage in Uganda.

Note: House of Help/City of Hope graduation ceremonies will be held on Saturday March 30, 2013, at 5:00 p.m. at KingdomCity, 11100 Billingsley Rd, Waldorf, MD20602. For more information: (202) 271-9056.

Posted in Homelessness, Jesus, Media, Mental Health Counseling, Politics, Religion, Spirituality, Subtance Abuse | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments