Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

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Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Founding of ISIS

Recently, Donald Trump claimed on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, that President Barack Obama deserves the blame for the Muslim terror group's rise because of the US military withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, which left a power vacuum for a Sunni Muslim terrorist group to exploit.
In Iraq, the problem is 60 percent of the population of Iraq are Shiite, 20 percent Sunnis and 20 percent Kurds.  The Sunni population doesn’t want to be ruled by the Shiite majority, and Shiites don’t want to be ruled by ISIS, who are former Saddamists.

In 2010, Iraqi Shiite politicians refused to grant our troops immunity from prosecution.  Iraq’s Prime Minister Abadi, who is also a Shiite didn’t want our combat troops in Iraq.  However, he still wants our military to continue airstrikes against ISIS. 

Republicans remain critical of Obama’s withdrawal plan from Iraq and seem oblivious to the fact that the withdrawal plan was put in place by George Bush.  A Status of Forces Agreement was agreed to by Bush and the Iraqi government, who required, that it be approved by the Iraqi parliament.  Our Congress was never consulted.  Bush signed a deal requiring our combat troops to be out by 2011.  And, congressional Republicans did not complained when he signed it.

ISIS can be traced back to 2004, when Jordanian Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi became a major player in the insurgency against American led forces that had toppled Saddam Hussein.  They were also against the Shiite-dominated government that eventually replaced Hussein.

In 2006, members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, infiltrated a thousand-year-old sacred Shiite site in Samarra.  They planted bombs that destroyed the famous gilded dome al-Askari Mosque.  Those terrorist morphed into ISIS, and their savage act of religious vandalism started Iraq’s slide into a civil war.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Harming America

The Oneonta Daily Star recently published the following letter to the editor, that was submitted by Andrew Reinbach of Burlington, N.Y. 
“There are clearly people who insist that Donald Trump should be the next president of the United States.  And they seem delighted that he is getting under the left’s skin.
“It’s not so much that Trump is getting under ‘the left’s’ skin.  It’s just that most Americans believe that Russian agents, unwitting or otherwise, have no business running for POTUS, and Michael Morrell, the former head of the CIA and a political independent, says Donald Trump is an unwitting Russian agent.
“Likewise, most Americans usually listen when 50 retired members of our national security apparatus — all Republicans — say electing Donald would put the United States in serious danger.
“We believe that the president of the United States should honor his oath of office and ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’  Donald Trump, on the other hand, keeps promising he won’t do that.
“We don’t think a candidate for POTUS should be the business partner of a man named Felix Satter, a man convicted of felony stock fraud in the U.S., did time for driving a broken wine glass stem into a man’s face, and was accused by American diplomats of laundering funds for Iran.
“We don’t think a candidate for POTUS should have been either found guilty of, or settled claims of, being dishonest 236 times — one every other month for 30 years.
“And we think that no candidate for POTUS is special, and, like every candidate since Richard Nixon, should show us his or her taxes and detailed medical reports.  Mr. Trump says he can’t release his taxes because he’s under audit, but that didn’t stop Richard Nixon.
“In short, people supporting Donald Trump are trying to harm the United States, whether or not they realize it.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hillary’s Economic Plan

The top 1 percent are defined as households making more than $730,000 a year.  Reportedly, the top 1 percent of households would see their taxes go up by more than $78,000 on average under Hillary Clinton’s economic plan.  The plan would require that the top 1 percent pay more than three-quarters of tax increases, and the majority of tax filers would see little change in their after-tax income.

Clinton’s tax plan would reduce deficits in the first decade by $1.1 trillion and by another $2.1 trillion in the following decade.

She would impose the so-called Buffett Rule, that requires those with adjusted gross incomes over $1 million to pay a minimum of 30 percent of their income in taxes.  Furthermore, the plan would impose a 4 percent surcharge on adjusted gross income over $5 million.

Clinton’s plan would limit the value of certain deductions and exclusions to 28 percent.  Thereby, reducing the benefit of tax breaks for anyone in tax brackets higher than 28 percent.

Individually and combined those measures would make figuring one's tax liability harder.  For instance, filers would need to compare their tax bill under both the regular code and the Alternative Minimum Tax to what they would owe under the Buffett Rule, and pay whichever is highest.

Capital gains are a major source of wealth for very high-income filers, who make more than $400,000.  Under today's tax code, they pay a 20 percent tax on realized gains from investments held more than a year.  Clinton would preserve that rate, but only for investments held at least six years.  Under her plan, realized gains on investments held less than six years would be taxed on a sliding scale.  The top capital gains tax rate would then fall by about 4 percentage points each year thereafter until it reaches 20 percent in year six.

Clinton’s plan would require so-called carried interest to be taxed as ordinary income.  Carried interest is a portion of investment profits paid to managers of hedge funds, venture capital funds, and other private equity funds.

Money and assets left to heirs would be taxed more heavily if they come from larger estate.  Estates worth more than $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples.)  Hillary Clinton’s plan would also raise the top estate tax rate to 45 percent from 40 percent.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wealth Distribution

The wealthiest 10 percent control three-quarters of all family wealth in America.  The wealth of those families totaled $67 trillion in 2013.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 10 percent of those families, who had at least $942,000, held 76 percent of total wealth.  The average amount of wealth in top 10 percent was $4 million.

Everyone else in the top 50 percent of the most wealthy families held an average of $316,000 per family.  That leaves just 1 percent for the entire bottom half of America’s population.

For families in the bottom half, the average amount of wealth held was $36,000.  However, if a family fell into the bottom quarter of that group, they had zero wealth.  On average they were $13,000 in debt.

Wealth was higher for households headed by someone 65 or older.  Median wealth for those families was $211,000, or almost three and a half times higher than the median for households run by someone 35 to 49.

Families run by adults with college degrees, had a median wealth of $202,000, or nearly four times that of families headed by someone who only had a high school diploma.

The Congressional Budget Office analysis looked at what it called "marketable wealth," which are assets that are easily traded and have value after someone's death (e.g., real estate, stocks, bank accounts, 401(k)s and equity in a business).  From those assets it subtracted non-mortgage debt (e.g., credit cards, auto and student loans).

Most political discussion focus on income inequality.  Although, income is important it’s not the only part of the wealth equation.  The recession from 2007 to 2009, hit investment and real estate values as well as jobs, thereby taking a bite out of everyone's wealth.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Politically Motivated

Benghazi had already been investigated by four House committees, and three Senate committees, before the House Select Committee Investigation on Benghazi began.

Today, that committee’s investigation is the lengthiest investigation in congressional history, ans it’s staff of 18 people were paid an average of $128,000 apiece.

Former committee investigator, Major Bradley Podliska alleged the Republican led panel of carrying out a politically motivated investigation targeting Clinton instead of an objective fact finding mission it was set up to pursue.

Chairman Gowdy claimed that our military didn’t mount an armed response.  However, former Secretary of Defense Panetta explained in 2013 that our military didn’t rush to Benghazi because they couldn’t get there in time.

Last November, Republican members of the House Select Committee interrogated Hillary for 11 hours, before releasing a report that found no evidence of wrongdoing by the former Secretary of State.

Career counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan.  He established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions.

Regarding the House Select Committee, Clarke said: “This has been completely examined many times.  And we shouldn’t even dignify this with pretending that it’s a serious effort.  The fact of the matter is everyone in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, knows this is a political stunt, and that’s all that it is.  It’s a political stunt using the lives of dead Americans, and there’s no reason in my mind to give the Republicans or anybody who says that this is serious any credibility whatsoever.  Just call it for what it is.” 

Dr. Anne Stevens the sister of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was killed in Benghazi doesn't blame Hillary Clinton for her brother’s death.  She instead pointed to Congress for under-budgeting the State Department.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Defense of Freedom

The following is a recent letter to the editor of The Oneonta Daily Star, that Duncan Smith submitted. 
“I wonder, if you are not politically correct, are you politically incorrect? And if it is vital to add the phrase ‘Radical Islamic’ to the term ‘Terrorists,’ shouldn’t we also be careful to use ‘Radical Christian Terrorists’ when speaking of groups like the KKK or the Aryan Nation?  I mean, how can we defeat them if we avoid naming them?
“And, ah, the ‘rigged’ system.  Donald Trump is already crying foul.  Or is he just crying?  Here is a man who knows a rigged system when he sees it because he has enjoyed the fruits of one all his life — born white, male, rich and well-connected.  I am sure a lot of African- and native-Americans laugh, or cry, when they hear him claim that what he thinks should be his birthright is being stolen from him.
“Remember, in our framing documents, African slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of allotting states their number of representatives.  You read that, didn’t you, Donald?  And, of course, slave states used that enhanced power to protect their ‘investment.’  After Emancipation, Jim Crow laws and intimidation continued for decades to rig the system in favor of European-Americans.  Rigged, rigged and rigged again.
“Our history is plagued by like policies intended to keep wealthy white males in positions of power.  When the Donald makes the demonstrably false statement that removing laws aimed at limiting the vote of people he thinks don’t like him will result in a flood of illegal votes, he demonstrates that he wants to continue a system rigged in his favor.
“Defense of freedom requires us to check power in ways that produce balance, not unfairly tip the scales.  And that includes being sure the Second Amendment is not used to trump the First.  Just say’n.” 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Path to Citizenship

Illegal immigrants do not represent an assault on our sovereignty.  If that were true, it would be the first time in world history that a country employed its invaders.
According to reputable economists a path to citizenship for over 11 million illegal immigrants would ensure that our economy would continue to grow.  
Voters need to realize that immigration reform should be based upon the views of economists and nonpartisan academic researchers, and not partisan propagandist.  Comprehensive immigration reform would level the playing field so that American workers wouldn't be taken advantage of, by undocumented workers, who are being exploited by employers.
Millions of undocumented people are contributing to our economy, and paying $12 billion a year into Social Security.  By passing immigration reform, our government would stimulate new income, that would continue to grow our economy.
The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration reports that undocumented workers contributed nearly $300 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund.
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted: “Alexis de Tocqueville described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called ‘self-interest properly understood.’  The last two words were the key.  Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now!  Self-interest ‘properly understood’ is different.  It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being.  Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite.  It was a mark of American pragmatism.  Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.”