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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Rand Paul’s Proposals

Tea Party favorite and libertarian Rand Paul of Kentucky in now a Senator. Following his victory in the Republican primary, he made statements in a series of television interviews, declaring his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as well as the Americans with Disabilities and the Fair Housing Acts.

Paul backtracked on those comments in order to get elected, by saying that he believes Congress was the right to bar segregation in private businesses. However, his original position was what you’d expect from someone who basically believes private-property rights and business interests trump all others and the market will fix any problems. Senator Paul may still attempt to drag this country back 60 years, because that seems to be the real platform of the Tea Party movement.

Rand Paul’s budget cuts recommendations include cutting Homeland Security by 43 %, the National Institute of Health by 37 %, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 28 %, and Amtrak subsidies. He is in favor of eliminating Housing and Urban Development and the Dept. of Education. He’d also eliminate and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but that is going to be difficult because, there are some treaties involved. 

Within the next two weeks, Senator Paul is expected to present a proposal on Social Security. The Republican leadership has been silent on what Paul is going to say, however, the Democratic Party is interest talking about Senator Paul’s plan for Social Security.

For the next two years, the mantra from the White House should be that if you want Rand Paul’s philosophy to be in the majority vote for Republicans. Whenever, Senator Paul announces a press conference, Democrats might consider canceling theirs, to make sure all the cameras get to cover Paul’s proposals.

Recent polling shows, that Americans don’t want to cut Social Security. As many as, 80% of Republicans don’t want to cut Social Security or Medicare. Consequently, some congressional Republicans don’t want anything to do with Rand Paul’s proposal.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Fear

I doubt, that America’s future holds much bipartisanship in Congress anytime soon.

Learned Hand was a federal judge during WWII, who in 1944 said: “In the American battle of minds, too many are seeking freedom and too few are seeking liberty...What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias;”

Unfortunately, many Americans are unable to weigh their interests alongside those of the less fortunate among us and this is reflected in those, who have recently been elected to Congress.

The intense hatred of Obama may result in his assassination. Those on the far left and on the far right find it difficult to formulate a thoughtful, civil, and persuasive argument for their position on issues. Often, their efforts are devoid of accurate factual information and therefore, they must resort to rhetoric, that promotes anger, hatred and possibly violence. In the end, that approach will be counterproductive, especially if Obama is assassinated and he becomes a martyr for the agenda, that he has been promoting.

This phenomena is similar to a parent, who doesn’t approve of a friend or friends, that their teenager is associating with. In many cases, if a parent viciously attack the person(s) that they disapprove of, they will force the teenager to defend their “friend,” because they’re mocking their child’s judgement. Political persuasion and effective parenting skills both require civility, thoughtfulness, pragmatism and understanding.

Furthermore, in my opinion the extremist at both ends of the political spectrum tend to be inflexible. They seem to consider being pragmatic and compromising a sign of weakness. Consequently, the problems that need to be solved to get our country out of this recession are going to be much more difficult to solved.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Slavery Extinguished

To begin the 112th Congress, the Republican controlled House had members take turns reading parts of the Constitution. However, instead of reading the Constitution in its entirety, House members only read an amended version that only includes the sections and amendments that were not changed at a later date. The decision in part allow members to avoid reading less pleasant sections, like the clause in Article 1, Section 2, which counted black slaves as three-fifths of a person.

Congresswoman Michele Backman recently claimed:  “We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began.  We know that was an evil, and it was a scourge, and a blot, and a stain upon our history.  But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbears who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country.”

John Quincy Adams died in 1848 and slavery was far from being extinguished. The Civil War began in 1861, with the attack on Fort Sumner. It was instigated by very wealthy slave owners and resulted in a total of 618,000 American lives extinguished. More Americans died in our Civil War than in the Seven Years’ War, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and on 9/11 combined.

We need to constantly remind Tea Party revisionists, that George Washington wrote: “The warmest friends and best supporters the Constitution has, do not contend that it is free from imperfections; but they found them unavoidable and are sensible, if evil is likely to arise there from, the remedy must come hereafter; for in the present moment, it is not to be obtained; as there is a Constitutional door open for it, I think the People (for it is with them to Judge) can as they will have the advantage of experience on their Side, decide with as much propriety on the alterations and amendments which are necessary as ourselves. I do not think we are more inspired, have more wisdom, or possess more virtue, than those who will come after us.”

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stimulus Spending

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 didn’t amount to a trillion dollars. According to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office the total economic stimulus package amounted to $862 billion dollars. Over $564 billion was spend on fueling the economy and the remaining was spent on tax breaks.

Over $237 billion went for tax relief for individuals, and $51 billion was to provide tax relief for businesses. There was a one-time payment to social security beneficiaries in the amount of $250.00 in addition to their regular benefits. Unemployment beneficiaries saw an increase of up to $25.00 per week in benefits. Many working Americans saw more money in their paychecks as part of a payroll tax credit. When the stimulus package was passed, we were loosing 700,000 jobs a month and our economy was on the verge of total collapse.

Recently, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth reached their highest level in the past three decades. Profits had plummeted to the lowest point ever, when the recession hit. Today, corporate profits are nearly at their highest point ever as a share of GDP. The recovery of corporate America has been much faster than anyone anticipated, however the recovery hasn’t trickled down to the average workers.

Nevertheless, in 2010, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, which was the strongest job growth since 2006. By the end of 2010, the DOW was up 11% and a 10% growth in private sector jobs, was made possible by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

About half of the energy funding, $16.8 billion, is for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including $5 billion to make low-income housing more energy efficient.

The Transportation Department has $23.9 billion in the pipeline for highway construction and has spent $6.1 billion so far, and $8 billion in grants will go for 13 high-speed rail projects.

Federal payments to states for Medicaid, unemployment insurance and food stamps were increased. Unemployment insurance payments were $10 billion higher in 2009 than originally estimated.

Over, $19.6 billion, in education money went to state governments as part of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. States can use that money to shore up budgets for schools and other essential services.

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry strongly opposed the 2009 stimulus program, but according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Texas was the state that depended the most on stimulus funds to plug nearly 97% of its fiscal shortfall.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Deal with the Issue

Now, Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona has offered a solution for the 98 surviving patients that need organ transplants. Her solution will leave them at that risk until July, and requires denying medical coverage to 285,200 additional people in her state.

According to “Bloomberg News,” the governor’s plan calls for the Republican legislature to cut off 280,000, mostly childless adults from the state Medicaid rolls, as well as, 5,200 more seriously mentally ill individuals from Medicaid.

State Senate minority leader in Arizona, Democrat David Schapira insists, that Jan Brewer’s plan doesn’t solve the problem, because it does not pay for the transplants.

Arizona plans to create a $150 million pool, which, can only done with the approval from the federal government and the approval from the state’s voters. The doctors who might provide those transplants would seek to get compensated out of that fund, but will only be compensated with pennies on the dollar. In turn, its likely, that the doctors will go back to the patients, and tell them if you can’t pay for it, we’re not going to perform the procedure.

The Governor has told Senator Biggs, the chairman of the appropriations committee, that she doesn’t want the transplant funding restored, no matter what kind of solutions the legislature can come up with.

Gov. Brewer is still pushing for tax cuts for corporations as opposed to the legislature authorizing $1.4 million to potentially save 96 lives. State Senate minority leader, Schapira believes, that the Governor has been holding on to the transplant issue so that when Arizona seeks the waiver for Medicaid, it could say, that you’ve got to give us this waiver because if you don’t, we aren’t going to be able to restore the transplant money. She’s creating an uncompensated care fund which doesn’t solve the problem, and is literally using 96 people’s lives as a political bargaining chip.

Arizona Senate Democrats are asking Brewer to set political partisanship aside, take into account the real human capital involved, and deal with the issue.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Making It Right

Republican Governor Jan Brewer made a decision to let some citizens of Arizona die. She justified her decision by pointing out, that the job requires her to make tough choices. Gov. Brewer’s administration had months after approving the budget last spring to find the money, that would have allowed Francisco Felix to receive a liver from his dead friend, but instead he was allowed to die for lack of funds.

Steven Daglas is an Illinois Republican Party committee man, who has scoured Arizona’s entire state budget, looking for ways of putting money back in the budget for organ transplants. Daglas took it upon himself to read the Arizona state budget, reports from the auditor general, the treasurer, the legislature and from AHCCCS insurance program. He hoped to find the $1 million-plus, which, along with federal matching funds, would cover the transplants.

Daglas has listed 26 separate ways Arizona could use existing funds or raise new funds to pay for the transplants on his website, Arizona98.com Among those suggestions are to use the proceeds from a settlement with AIG, selling bonds backed by future settlements from big tobacco, and cutting subsidies for travel by Arizona State University’s sports teams.

Mr. Daglas insists: “The primary concern here is this will set a dangerous precedent.  I think there are a lot of good people in government on both sides of the aisle, Democrat, Republican, libertarian, conservative, liberal, across the spectrum of politics.  These are good people who mean well and sometimes just get caught up in the overwhelming pressures of government and leading a state the size of Arizona. It’s a $9 billion budget and I understand tough decisions have to be made.  But right now, I don’t think that’s the way to go. So, here’s a way we can work on this and just make it right together.”

Steve Daglas hasn’t been able to get through to Gov. Brewer, but he’s hopeful, that she‘ll look at those 26 funding solutions, pick one or two, which she finds suitable, and move forward to save the lives of the 96 remaining individuals who continue to need transplants.

People are recognizing, that those funding solutions don’t take money away from anyone. They require no new spending and no cuts to state services or other obligations.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Additional Questions

#1. Some folks ask: “Why does someone who takes risk and works hard not deserve their income?” The problem arises, when they’re gambling with other people’s pension funds and home mortgages.

In 2006, the Democrats were still in the minority, Rep. Barney Frank raise the question of executive pay. The top decision makers on Wall Street were able to take risks and if the risks paid off, they made lots of money. However, if the top decision makers took risks, that went terribly wrong, they didn’t lose any of their own money.

There was agreement in Congress, that the risk structure was one of the reasons that Wall Street got in trouble 2008, and had to be bailed out. Financial reform insisted, that all of the regulators of any financial institution; banks, the bank regulators, and the Security Exchange Commission put in rules, that didn’t allow the kind of bonus structure, that provided incentives to take a lot of risks, because if the risk pays off, they made a lot of money and if the risk fails they don’t lose anything.

There’ve even been cases, where the risk appears to pay off within a short period of time and they make a lot of money. However, if the deal later turns sour, they don’t have to give any of the money back. Regulations have to spell out, that top decision makers cannot have one-way bonuses. Heads they win, tails they break-even, because it has proven to result in Wall Street scoundrels taking too many risks, and that endangered our entire financial system.

#2. People wonder: “Why health insurance companies are required to spend 80% of premiums on medical care?” They’re concerned, that the mandate will drive many carriers out of the market, and kill the jobs of anyone working in their health divisions.

As of January 1st, insurance companies had to begin spending 80 to 85 percent of their policyholders premiums on direct patient care or send a rebate if they didn't, under rules, that were passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called this rule: “an important step to hold insurance companies accountable and increase value for consumers.”

Presently, health plans spend as little as 60 percent of premium dollars on medical care, because a large amount goes for administrative costs such as marketing, lobbying, executive salaries and other non-health-related overhead. This provision of the Health Care Act was designed to reduce the rapidly escalating cost of healthcare.

Like any business, if you can’t compete with your competitors, its best to get out of the business.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ultimate Question

Some Tea Party types claim, that if we eliminate the undeserved income that millions who can work, but choose not too, we would have plenty of money to help truly needy folks that are unable to help themselves.

The problem with that plan is that it defies a logical solution. At 8% unemployment, the recession was far from over when Obama took over. America lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008. An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in. On February 13th, the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, saw 651,000 jobs lost. By March 2009, the unemployment rate in this country shot up to 8.1 % and if you add in the underemployed, the people who have taken part-time jobs, but need full-time work, and the people who’ve stopped looking for work or who’ve just given up, you get a more accurate unemployment rate of 14.8%. Thus, the recession produced more that 8 million unemployed Americans.

Obviously, the first question must be: How to determine, which of our fellow citizens don’t deserve our assistance? That task has been complicated by the reality, that we’ve witnessed 8 years of the same old economic theory that continues giving to billionaires and big corporations with the farcical hope that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. For 8 years no one in Washington was watching Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists repeatedly killed common-sense regulations. 

Consequently, the word undeserving and the term truly needy folks that are unable to help themselves have become meaningless.

Of the past 12 presidents the top six in terms of job creation were all Democrats. At the bottom of the list is Bush the younger, Bush the elder and Herbert Hoover.  Since 1989, only Clinton led the country in the direction of creating more jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus.

The Republican Party definitely has a history of creating an environment, that results in high unemployment for middle class Americans. The ultimate question must be: Who benefits the most from such a frightening environment?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Violent Rhetoric

Newly elected Congressman, Allen West of Florida has “no regrets” for any of the violent rhetoric used in his campaign.  His first choice to be his chief of staff, Joyce Kaufman said: “I am convinced that the most important things the Founding Fathers did to insure my First Amendment rights was to give me a Second Amendment.  And if ballots don’t work, bullets will.”

Glenn Beck warned: “They believe in communism.  They believe and have called for revolution—revolution.  You’re going to have to shoot them in the head.  But warning: they may shoot you.”

Conservative radio host in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Bob Durgin complained about the coverage of the Giffords shooting by the “New York Times.” He said: “somebody ought to burn that paper down. Just go to New York and blow that sucker right out of the water.”

In a statement honoring Martin Luther King, former President Clinton said: “We’d all do well to heed this message. While no one intends their words or actions to incite the violence we saw in Tucson—and it’s wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise - we live in a world where what we say and how we say it can be read, heard, or seen by those who understand exactly what we mean and by those whose inner demons take them to a very different place.”

Former MSNBC, Countdown host Keith Olbermann pointed out; “We learn that the right does not understand that if we foment a political environment in which politics are to be settled by violence, or the threat of violence, or in a rhetorical tide of violent imagery, it no longer matters what those politics specifically are, or if the hearer even understands your politics or agrees with your politics. He may hear only the permission to be violent.”

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cost Containment

People with healthcare coverage are able to avoid waiting in overcrowded emergency rooms, by scheduling an appointment with their family physician. In fact, emergency room treatment for non-emergency medical conditions has been a major contributor to the rising cost of healthcare. On average, emergency room visits cost $2,000, while a doctor's office visits cost much less.

Those seeking medical help ought to consider seeking out retail clinics. Sometimes, they’re located in pharmacies or grocery stores, which are usually staffed by nurse practitioners who can handle urinary tract infections or sore throats. Urgent care centers are staffed by physicians and can handle more serious conditions, such as minor fractures and serious cuts. Both facilities tend to be open in the evenings and on weekends and they’re substantially cheaper than the ER.

According to David A. Kindig, MD, PhD, the concept of value-based payment systems is one approach that has been gaining traction in recent years. The Affordable Care Act establishes one such approach as a new Medicare payment model: the “Accountable Care Organization.” The ACOs are designed to improve quality and reduce costs by incentivizing shared savings collaboration among health care organizations and providers. Although, the ACO model is not silver bullet, it does provides a promising place to start thinking about realigning incentives.

Policymakers should be required to identify specific targets in regional per capita total health expenditures and their growth rates. As in the Clinton healthcare plan, geographic areas in which incentives for ACOs and other market forces are strong enough to meet these goals would avoid regulation. However, in those that fail to meet targets, federal regulation should be invoked, limiting the annual increases in Medicare and private premiums that could be charged until target growth rates are achieved.

Dr. Kindig concludes: “In our resource-limited world, we urgently need to rebalance our health investments to expand resources for prevention and the social determinants of health. While we can’t presume that savings from ineffective health care could or would be redirected to these ends, we should all agree that this is a worthy goal.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Relief for Seamen

According to an article by Rick Unger, our Founding Fathers wouldn't disagree with the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

In July of 1798, Congress passed and President John Adams signed: “An Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen.” The law authorized the creation of a government operated marine hospital service and mandated that privately employed sailors be required to purchase health care insurance.

The 5th Congress did not really need to struggle over the intentions of the drafters of the Constitutions in creating that Act, since many of its members were the drafters of the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson was the President of the Senate during the 5th, Congress while Jonathan Dayton, the youngest man to sign the Constitution, was the Speaker of the House. The bill came to the desk of President John Adams, who had good grasp on what the framers had in mind

Our founding fathers realized that foreign trade would be essential to our country’s ability to create a viable economy. They relied on the nation’s private merchant ships and their sailors for this trade. In those days, troublesome reductions in manpower often left a ship’s captain without enough sailors to get underway. Thereby, causing a strain on the nation’s economy. Congress knew that a healthy maritime workforce was essential to the ability of our private merchant ships to engage in foreign trade, they pass our first health care law.

It created the Marine Hospital Service, a series of hospitals built and operated by the federal government to treat injured and ailing privately employed sailors. The healthcare service was to be paid for by a mandatory tax on the maritime sailors (a little more than 1% of a sailor’s wages), the same to be withheld from a sailor’s pay and turned over to the government by the ship’s owner. The payment of this tax for health care was not optional. If a sailor wanted to work, he had to pay.

The law was not only the first time the United States created a socialized medical program, but was also the first to mandate that privately employed citizens be legally required to make payments to pay for health care services. Upon passage of the law, ships were no longer permitted to sail in and out of our ports if the health care tax had not been collected by the ship owners and paid over to the government, thus the creation of the first payroll tax in our nation’s history.

When a sick or injured sailor needed medical assistance, the government would confirm that his payments had been collected and turned over by his employer and would then give the sailor a voucher entitling him to admission to the hospital where he would be treated for whatever ailed him.

As our nation expanded, the system was also expanded to cover sailors working the private vessels sailing the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The program eventually became the Public Health Service, a government operated health service that exists to this day under the supervision of the Surgeon General.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Job Killer?

Yesterday, House Republicans passed a bill calling for the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, by 245 to 189 vote.

On the same day, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported, that Obama’s approval ratings were up to 53%, which is his highest rating in 18 months. Moreover, 65% of doctors insist, that healthcare in America will deteriorate if the present Health Care Act is actually repealed.

Even Tennessee Republican and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said “It is not the bill that I would have drafted. But it is the law of the land and it is the fundamental platform, upon which all future efforts to make that system better, for that patient, for that family, will be based. And that is a fact. I know the discussion of Washington is repeal and I'm sure we will come back to that discussion.” Dr. Frist added: “And those strong elements need to be preserved, need to be cuddled, need to be snuggled, need to be promoted and need to be implemented. But how do you do it? How do you do a lot of what is in this law?”

People are discovering there are actually some things in the Health Care Act, that they like. Many are pleased to have their kids insured again because they can keep them on their policies up until 26.  They can’t be denied health insurance, because they have a pre-existing condition. Folks are suddenly discovering that the current healthcare law does a lot of good and that’s not what they were led to believe by the right wing.

How repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act helps create jobs is a mystery and it certainly isn’t a job-killer. The Health Care Act has begun to expand health insurance coverage to an additional 46 million people. It seems reasonable, that more staffing will be required in hospitals and clinics throughout our country.

Repeal will result in 32 million fewer Americans with health coverage, and add $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prosperity for Everybody

Statistics by the Bureau of Economic Analysis clearly demonstrates that it was Roosevelt’s New Deal spending that began getting us out of the Great Depression. When Roosevelt took office in 1933, unemployment was 24.9%.  It dropped to 17 % by 1936.

Our government has a long history of creating jobs, especially during a time of war. The enormous spending on WW II, is credited with finally getting America out of the Great Depression. The Republican mantra of less government and tax cuts didn’t end the Great Depression, and it isn’t going to end devastating unemployment now.

Republican President Eisenhower launched the most massive government undertaking in our history known as the Interstate Highway System. Some complained that the program was too costly, however it turned out to be the one of the most successful long term economic stimulus programs in American history.

Furthermore, Eisenhower insisted: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children.”

The Obama administration has made the largest investment in basic research funding in history. Investments in advanced biofuels, clean-coal technologies, the world's cheapest solar cells. America must begin building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants, building a new smart grid to carry electricity from coast to coast, lay down broadband lines, and high-speed rail lines. We have just begun turning ideas into inventions, and inventions into industries.

The United States led the world’s economies in the 20th century because we led the world in innovation, and that’s how we’ll have to rebuild our economy to be stronger to compete globally and avoid the cycles of boom and bust that recently caused so much havoc. Our economy in the 21st century must become strong enough to bring prosperity for everybody, not just a few.   

In 2010, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, which was the strongest job growth since 2006. Nevertheless, we still have a very long way to go, because 40 thousand factories closed during the Bush era. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tea Party Fraud

Speaker of the House, John Boehner stated: “We know there’s job-killing health care law, it hurts our economy. I don’t think that anybody in this town believes that repealing Obama-care is going to increase the deficit.” 

Actually, the Congressional Budget Office sent a letter to Boehner saying: “If that legislation was repealed, such reductions in spending and increases in revenues would not occur. Thus, H.R. 2 would, on net, increase federal deficits over that period.” Over the period of 2012 to 2021, the likely increased was estimated to be “in the vicinity of $230 billion.”

In order to get elected, the Tea Party talked a lot about the deficit, but the first bill, that they vote for will cause the deficit to increase dramatically. However, this is the same song the Republicans played when George Bush was president, while continuing to increase the deficit.

In 2007, the Comptroller General at the Government Accountability Office, David Walker painted a very sobering picture regarding the federal government's ability to meet its future obligations. Walker singled out the Medicare prescription drug bill passed by Congress as a totally irresponsible piece of legislation.  The Comptroller General insisted, that Congress knew the projections that the program would cost $400 billion over the next decade were inaccurate, when they voted for the bill. The true cost will be at least $1 trillion in the first decade and much more in following decades as our population grows older. 
On the night Feb. 3, 2004, the Republican Party pushed the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit through the House of Representatives. A 15-minute vote was scheduled, and at the end of those 15 minutes, the Democrats had defeated the bill. Then, the Republican leadership froze the clock for three hours while they desperately whipped defectors. 
Tom DeLay bribed Rep. Nick Smith to vote for the legislation, using the political future of Smith’s son for leverage. DeLay was later reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee.

The non-partisan budget office may be right or they may be wrong, but everybody had already agreed that we’ll use the CBO’s scores as we attempt to pay down the deficit. Consequently, to deny the CBO scores on the Affordable Health Care Act indicates that Tea Party folks aren’t serious about the deficit and they’re really a fraud.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr, was a prominent leader in the African American civil rights movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods by following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

Early in his career, King became a civil rights activist. As a Baptist minister, he led the 1955, Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech. His vision include a color blind society, and that speech established his reputation as one of the greatest orators in American history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination, through nonviolent civil disobedience. At the time of his murder in 1968, he was focused on ending poverty and the Vietnam War.

King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1986 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a federal holiday. He gave his life to the cause of equality, but for some bigoted Americans, he remain a very controversial figure in our history.

Martin Luther Jr. King lived his entire life in service to others, speaking out against poverty, economic injustice, and violence. Wherever he saw suffering, he did what he could to help, no matter who it was that needed him or why they were in pain.

The best way, for us to honor Dr. King's memory is by committing ourselves to a brighter future for our children. All of us have something to contribute, and all of us can make a meaningful difference.

Dr. King pointed out: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

It was true then, and it is certainly true today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Death Panels

During the healthcare debate, end of life planning references had to be dropped, because those opposed to the bill had spawned the lie, that the new health care reform law would create government run death panels. In order to avoid a congressional fight, the White House removed the end of life language, even though nothing in the proposed legislation prohibited patients from declining to participate in end of life planning. 

Arizona State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat from the Arizona 15th. district pointed out, that during the budget process last spring cutting out organ transplants coverage would lead directly to the deaths of 99 Arizonans on the waiting list for transplants. She was correct, since two have recently died.

Those Arizona citizens were denied the opportunity for lifesaving organ transplant, because newly elected Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona decided the transplants were optional. Governor Brewer’s cuts to the state’s Medicaid program took effect in October.  Since then, Democrats have repeatedly called for the government to convene a special session of the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to act to save people’s lives. 

Governor Brewer said, that the state couldn’t afford organ transplants, and challenge Democrats to find a way to pay for them. The program costs only 1.4 million dollars a year, which in the context of a state budget is very small. 

On the opening day of Arizona legislative session, State Senator Sinema introduced two bills.  One restores the funding for transplants, and a second closes a tax loophole for big businesses in order to pay for those transplants. She expects, that her Republican colleagues in both the Senate and the House will take up that legislation and debate it seriously.   

The Republican State House Appropriations chairman said, that he would review the cuts to the transplant program as part of the budget hearing for the state’s Medicaid program early in the 2011 legislative session.

Meanwhile, it appears that death panels actually exist in Arizona.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Read and Re-read

The following excerpt is from President Obama’s speech at the memorial service on the campus of Arizona State University, in Tucson.

“And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green. Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer. She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her. She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed. We have the best life.” And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

“Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing, and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness. Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many them went to see on Saturday. I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak. And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.

“And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others. We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive. We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload. We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives. And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.

“These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle. They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength. Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.

“Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us. It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward. How can we honor the fallen? How can we be true to their memory?

“You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.”

“But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds...

“For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

“So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

“But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

“After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected. We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

“So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

“That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires. For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong.…

“In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.”

“And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic. So deserving of our love.

“And so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost. Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

“The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.…

“Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

“I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

“That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed. Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

“I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

“Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day. And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Go Figure

In a letter to the editor, recently published in the Oneonta Daily Star, W. A. James wrote: “When do you think our government will figure out that it does not create jobs, never has, and never will?”

Statistics by the Bureau of Economic Analysis clearly demonstrates that it was Roosevelt’s New Deal spending that started getting us out of the Great Depression. When Roosevelt took office in 1933, unemployment was 24.9%.  It dropped to 21.7% in 1934, 20.1% in 1935, and 17.0 by 1936.

Our government has a long history of creating jobs, especially when we go to war. The Depression didn’t end until World War II, and it wasn’t tax cuts that ended it. The Republican mantra of less government and tax cuts didn’t end the Great Depression, that started in the late 1920s and it won’t end it now.

The spending on WW II, is credited with finally getting America out of the Great Depression. By the way, Eisenhower insisted: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hope of its children.”

Republican President Eisenhower launched the most massive government undertaking in our history known as the Interstate Highway System. Some complained that the program was too costly, however it turned out to be the one of the most successful long term economic stimulus programs in American history.

In 2010, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, which was the strongest job growth since 2006. Nevertheless, we still have a very long way to go, because 40 thousand factories closed during the Bush era. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shredding the Safety Net

House Republicans are saying, that if you want to spend a dime on anything, like investing in education, you have to offset that expense not with an increase in revenue but with a cut somewhere else. However, there just isn’t a lot of fat left, particularly since they’ve taken defense, veterans, and homeland security cuts off the table.

Although, the Secretary of Defense has said there’s plenty to cut within the defense budget, Republicans don’t want to disturb their lucrative relationship with the military-industrial- legislative complex. Consequently, we’re talking about cutting programs that continue the shredding of a safety net for middle class Americans.

In late January 2010, Paul Ryan the Chairman of the House Budget Committee released a new version of his "Roadmap for America’s Future,” that would make across the board tax cuts by reducing income tax rates; eliminating income taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest; and abolishing the corporate income tax, estate tax and alternative minimum tax. The plan would privatize a portion of Social Security, eliminate the tax exclusion for employer- sponsored health insurance and end traditional Medicare and most of Medicaid. The plan would replace these health programs with a system of vouchers whose value would decrease over time.

Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman took issue with the contention that Ryan's plan would reduce the deficit. He reports, that Ryan's plan "would raise taxes for 95 percent of the population" but that the tax cuts for the rich would be large enough to produce a $4 trillion revenue loss over ten years. Krugman labeled the proposed spending cuts a "sham" because they depended on making severe cuts in domestic discretionary spending without specifying the programs to be cut, and on "dismantling Medicare as we know it", which is politically unrealistic.

Recently, Congressman Ryan said, that House Republicans were going to reduce all domestic discretionary spending. However, experts agree, that Congress could eliminate all of the rest of discretionary spending and it wouldn’t come close to balancing the budget.

Today, we have the largest disparity, between the rich and everyone else.  The richest Americans control 34% of the wealth, while 90% of Americans control only 29% of the wealth. This situation is not good for a democracy, and it’s not good for our economy.  But, Republicans are planning to make it worse.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Growing Inequality

The Star published the following though provoking letter by Ed Ambrose.

“Libertarians opposed to the ‘nanny state’ argue against government intervention regardless of the consequences, believing the absence of regulation will somehow create good order. Free-marketeers believe nothing overrides profitability, regardless of resulting unlivable low wages, health hazards, environmental damage, market collapse, sheer dishonesty or greed.

“Nationalists tend to believe in their nation right or wrong (no apologies) and to claim only fellow nationals (and sometimes only some of them) deserve human rights. Many Christians believe the absolute truth is only what they think the Bible says _ selectively chosen and interpreted, of course. Worldwide other religious absolutists argue the equivalent.

“Liberals who understand the systemic nature of poverty tend to overlook individual responsibility. Advocates of government regulation (of the economy, environment or cultural values) have a tendency to over-regulate. People who clearly understand the disastrous consequences of misguided U.S. foreign policy over the past 100 years tend to be overly idealistic about the self-interested and brutal realities of international relations.

“Increasingly, all of the above absolutists tend to demonize people with other opinions, thereby guaranteeing no serious consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of any course of action will take place. Instead, the idea is to go for the jugular and ignore the consequences.

“One of the many values characterizing democracy and politics is the art of compromise for the common good.

“These days we have seen little compromise or concern for the common good _ with the possible exception of Obama, who recognizes the emergency we are in and is willing to negotiate a course between extremes, making him open to criticisms from all extremes.

In 2005, billionaire Warren Buffett was asked about a comment that our country is becoming a sharecropper society and economy. Buffett response was that if we keep doing what we're doing, the world will own a greater percentage of this country. The cost of servicing the debt will mean that we will send abroad a percent of our GDP every year just to service debt, which arose from the over - consumption that is currently taking place. Buffett emphasized: "Our sons will pay for the sins their fathers."

Buffett added: "The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good... It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be."

Alan Greenspan has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to our "democratic society."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Show Time

PAYGO is the practice of financing expenditures with funds that are currently available rather than borrowed. House Republicans began the 112th. Congress, by weakened budget rules known as PAYGO.  Their new rules will exempt most tax cuts from offset requirements, making it easier to pass tax cuts that add to the deficit.

The campaign pledge by House Republicans to cut $100 billion from this year’s budget has quickly changed into something far less.  Since by the time the current stopgap measures expire, the fiscal year will already be halfway over, a circumstance the GOP is blaming on Democrats for not getting the budget through last year.

Regarding open discussion, Speaker of the House, John Boehner said: “You will not have the right to willfully disrupt the proceedings of the People’s House.  But you will always have the right to a robust debate in an open process that allows you to represent your constituents to make your case, offer alternatives, and be heard.”

However, the new House majority leader, Eric Cantor, had already suggested that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would not employ that open rule that allows for amendments. Cantor said: “It‘s a straightforward document.  This was litigated in the last election.  Most people out there believe that this health care bill has been litigated.”

Republicans are trying to avoid amendments by Democrats that would carve out popular elements of the health care bill to force Republicans to take a stand on those provisions one at a time. Although, health care repeal will not get through the Senate, the House GOP members wanted to get these symbolic Tea Party-fueled votes out of the way.

The biggest winner in November was billionaire David Koch, who hosted a party for Republicans.  Koch Industries is responsible for Americans for Prosperity, one of the classic cases of corporate interests leading the so-called Tea Party movement by its nose.  Koch Industry lobbyists entered the Capitol, along with members of Congress and their families for John Boehner’s swearing in ceremony.

Mainstream conservatives were knocked off in the primary by right wing extremist, who have made unrealistic promises, to their contributors. Chaos will continue, because extreme are now running the House of Representatives. One of the first things they’ll try to do is reduce the funding that’s needed by the Security and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to regulate derivatives. Wall Street financial reform calls for regulating derivatives and credit default swaps, so right wing extremist are trying to disarm those two agencies that are supposed to do it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cheap Labor

The three ways to reduce our national debt is to cut spending, increase taxes or get our country out of this recession so that more people are paying taxes. Historically, Republicans are against raising taxes, especially on the very wealthy.

Tea Party Patriots succeeded in getting elected by uninformed, frustrated and angry voters on a promise to reduce our national debt. Now, they need to come up with specific plans to reduce our national debt. Although, compromise is usually the only way to get something done in Congress for the American people, many Tea Party folks consider the word a sign of weakness.

Unless, more people become employed and start paying taxes, we’re never going to reduce our national debt. Innovation by small businesses are the key to our economy, since they create two out of every three new jobs. Congressional Democrats have arranged for small businesses to get financing and have cut taxes in key areas. Obama wants Congress to eliminate capital gains taxes on small businesses so that when they’re starting up and don’t have a lot of cash flow, they get a tax break.

In 2010, 1.3 million private sector jobs were added, which was the strongest job growth since 2006. Nevertheless, we still have a very long way to go, because 40 thousand factories closed during the Bush era. 

The Carlyle Group is interested in investing $1.8 trillion in China, India and Brazil, because Wall Street is addicted to cheap foreign labor and would much rather pay a line worker in India pennies on the dollar instead of investing in the American way of life. 

Capitalism is not interested in economic patriotism, it’s only concern is the bottom line. Republican wants to continue to reward their corporate masters, while unemployed middle class Americans beg for jobs.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Anger, Hatred and Bigotry

Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was critically wounded yesterday, in a shooting outside a Tucson grocery store. Giffords is married to NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, a Navy captain.

The lead trauma surgeon at University Medical Center confirmed that Rep. Giffords had been shot through the head, with the bullet exiting her head on the side opposite to the entry wound. He said, that she came out of surgery alive and that he was very optimistic about her recovery, but later added: “I’m about as optimistic as I can be in this situation.”

Giffords was one of 18 people shot in front of the grocery store at what she called: “My 1st Congress on Your Corner.” During this week’s reading of the Constitution on the House floor, Rep. Giffords drew the First Amendment, which including: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

Congresswoman Giffords was one of three Democratic members of Congress, who reported vandalism at their offices following the March vote on healthcare reform. Last year, in response to that vandalism incident and being placed on Sarah Palin's crosshairs list, she said: “We're on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun site over our district. People do that they've got to realize there's consequences to that action.”

In November, Giffords narrowly beat Tea Party-backed Republican Jesse Kelly a former Marine, who had served in Iraq by a margin of 49-47 percent. On his website, Kelly was pictured in military gear holding his automatic weapon to promote a fundraising event, where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle.

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Read more by going to talkingpointsmemo. com

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Repealing the Job-Killer

During the 2009 healthcare debate, it was pointed out that we remain the only major county without a national health care program guaranteeing health care for all. We were spending far more per capita than any other industrialized country, because America had the most cumbersome bureaucratic health care system in the world. More than 31% of every dollar spent on our health care went for paperwork, overhead, CEO salaries, and profits. Drug companies are charging Americans the highest rates in the industrialized world. 

According to an independent study by Thompson-Reuters, the international news and information organization with expertise in health care and science, our health care system wasted as much as $800 billion every year.  Other findings include $300 billion of waste every year coming from unnecessary care, like the overuse of antibiotics and lab tests.

Up to $200 billion, of waste was created by fraud. Administrative inefficiency and redundant paper accounted for 18% of the waste. Medical mistakes and preventable conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes cost, as much as, $50 billion a year.

Prior to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office projected, that it would result in a savings of $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years.

On 1/6/11, the CBO released a preliminary analysis of House Republican legislation indicating that, over the 2012-2021 period, the effect of enacting HR 2, “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act” on the federal budget would be an increase in deficits in the vicinity of $230 billion.

It would seem, that those Republicans, that support HR 2 don’t understand the concept of financial responsibility or actually care about our national debt. Congressional Democrats' argued, that the House GOP would violate a key campaign pledge with its first major vote.

Senator Chuck Schumer announced: “We’re hear today to say these reckless fiscal policies are dead on arrival in the Senate. We’re hear to assure everyone that, that don’t worry, these things won’t happen because we’re here, and we’re responsible.”

Friday, January 07, 2011

Recipient Class

Some on the far right insist, that our system is broken, because Democrats have created a “recipient class.” However, America has created several types of recipients. For example, 50% of Bush’s tax breaks went to the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

American tax payers will be subsidize oil and gas companies $36.5 billion over the next ten years, including deductions for certain drilling costs, tax credits for low-volume oil and gas wells and a manufacturing tax deduction for oil and gas companies.

We shovel billions of dollars every year to Israel which, unlike our country enjoys a booming economy and universal health care coverage.  Foreign aid, money is also transferred to Egypt ensure stability and peace with Israel.

Bank of America, Citi Bank, GE, and many other corporations are already paying a net tax of zero dollars. Nevertheless, eleven times over the last four years, congressional Republicans voted to preserve tax breaks, that encouraged corporations to ship jobs overseas.

Taxpayers bailed out American International Group (A.I.G.) to the tune of nearly $182 billion dollars. Today, those tax dollars are desperately needed to fund other economic recovery measures including aiding the nation’s unemployed workforce.

The Obama administration is making long-overdue investments in upgrading our outdated and inefficient national infrastructure. They're not just talking new roads, bridges, dams and levees; but also a smart electric grid and the broadband internet and high-speed rail lines required to compete in the 21st century economy. They're talking investments in tomorrow that are creating hundreds of thousands of private sector jobs, that can’t be exported.

Tens of thousands of projects all over the country have helped our battered construction sector grow for the first time in a long time. Nevertheless, nearly one in five construction workers are unemployed. Many American construction workers have been idled for months, even years, at a time when there is so much of America to rebuild.

Over the next six years, the Obama administration plans to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads; lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways; restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next generation air-traffic control system to reduce travel time and delays for American travelers.

Jobs are the answer, for public assistance recipients, not arrogant condemnation of the disenfranchised and less fortunate among us.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Jibs and Jabs

In an online response to a letter by birther Jack Harmon published in the Oneonta Daily Star, I wrote that, Harmon may not realize that Hawaii, became a state in 1950. And, added, that the attorney general of Hawaii will release additional documentation of Obama's birth on Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital.

Neil Abercrombie the newly elected governor of Hawaii, knew Obama’s mother and father. He said: “It's an insult to his mother and father. It is disrespectful to the president; it is disrespectful to the office."

One point of contention with the birthers is that Obama has provided the short form of his birth certificate, and they’ve demanded to see the long form. The birther movement is a group of extremist, who reject evidence, whenever it doesn’t support their agenda. Harmon can never be dissuaded, because the birthers don't want to be dissuaded. Mr. Harmon only needs to look in the mirror to see why America is so divided.

Patriot Guest responded to my comments was: “Cheers to Jack Harmon and his excellent, factual letter. Jeers to O'Leary, who has a long-winded, left-wing opinion on just about every topic known to mankind.”

Otsego Voters added: “Bravo Jack & Patriot Geust (sic),” and taxpayer chimed in with: “And I second that opinion!”

Andrew Reinbach pointed out: “1. There are no facts in Mr. Harmon's letter, merely right wing opinions based on right-wing hysteria. 2. This is America. If Mr. Harmon has a right to his opinions, so does Mr. O'Leary. If Mr. O'Leary has a lot of opinions, so be it: Better to think and have opinions than listen to talk radio and spit said opinions back at people.”

My reply to Patriot Guest was to quote Frederick Douglass: “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 his 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.”

Then. I asked: By what criteria does Patriot Guest consider himself as a patriot. If he really loved our country, he would tolerate my left-wing opinions and respect my right to free speech. I try to keep informed, but it's a gross exaggeration to say that I have an "opinion on just about every topic known to mankind." For example, I don't comment on natural gas drilling.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Repeal Healthcare

Republicans say they'll repeal and replace The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, but tinker around the edges is as far as they're likely to get.

Strategically, their attempt will keep the issue alive until 2012, when they'll try to unseat President Obama. Republicans now control the House, but they don't have the votes to overcome a Senate filibuster, much less Obama's veto. Should Republican carry out a threat to deny funds to carry out the healthcare act, it could backfire if it escalates into a government shutdown.

Republicans might use the oversight authority of Congress to scrutinize the agencies responsible for implementing the new healthcare, thereby essentially tying up the instruction manual for the overhaul.

Obama has already said he's willing to revise an IRS reporting requirement that small businesses find burdensome. Another Republican target could be the yet-to-be-named board with the power to make Medicare cuts, or tighten restrictions on abortion coverage.

Nevertheless, the first bill that Republicans controlled House will be taking up will not be repeal of healthcare, since taxes and government spending is their priority.

The repeal of “Obamacare” slogan energized big-government foes in the midterm elections, and helped turn out Republican voters. However, there could be a backlash, because the exit polls in the mid-term elections found voters divided. Forty-eight percent said they supported repealing the overhaul, but 47 percent said the healthcare act should be expanded or kept as it is. Currently, Obama enjoys a 50% approval rating.

At Obama’s post election news conference, he dared Republicans to follow through on their threats, by citing popular provisions of the law, such as help for seniors with high prescription drug costs and guaranteed coverage for people with medical problems. Obama pointed out: “I don't think you'd have a strong vote for people saying ... ‘Those are provisions I want to eliminate.”’

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

George Eppsteiner

Yesterday, George Eppsteiner of Otego had the following letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star.

“This is in response to William Eckardt's Dec. 23 letter. As an individual who cares about the validity of newspaper content, I must respond to Eckardt's false accusations regarding Barack Obama; reading his letter felt like an English professor grading a student's essay written in pig-Latin.

“Obama, despite Eckardt's statements, could not have had a more dissimilar upbringing than JFK. I would not say that the childhood of a mixed-race individual born to a single mother and raised by middle-class grandparents compares to JFK, raised by one of New England's most prestigious families. Comparing Obama's childhood to JFK's is like comparing the upbringing of the country-club child to that of the pro-shop boy.

“Obama was also not "bankrolled" by George Soros, but in fact was elected by one of the most diverse fundraising sets in U.S. history. Soros wasn't even one of Obama's 20 highest contributors.

“Eckardt's premise is that Obama has sought a communist scheme and is attempting to bring "chaos" to the USA. Again, Mr. Eckardt's letter may be a successful attempt to rile up fellow supporters of an anti-Obama agenda, but in actuality, it is replete with inaccuracies.

“Communism's basic structure is the equality of the classes. Recently, President Obama signed a tax bill that allowed tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent to remain; allowing the wealthy to keep their money is a far cry from communism.

“Nor do the recent events indicate anything that resembles national disunity. Obama signed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which will allow 13,500 military members to serve their country if they choose to do so. Adding to the number of troops while our nation fights in two wars is precisely the job description of the commander-in-chief. Criticism of our president should at least be accurate.”

Monday, January 03, 2011

Deficit Commission

National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles addressed the deficit by making major cuts in programs that are essential for seniors citizens, college students, working families and vulnerable Americans.

Former Wyoming Senator Simpson is a darling of the Republican right wing and former Clinton White House chief of staff Bowles is a former investment banker who made a fortune on Wall Street.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out: “It is no surprise that these two favor draconian cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the needs of our veterans, and education while proposing tax reductions for the wealthy and large profitable corporations.”

The huge increase in the national debt in recent years was caused by two unpaid wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, a Medicare prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry. Unlike Social Security, none of those Bush era programs were paid for. Not only has Social Security not contributed a dime to the deficit, it has a $2.6 trillion surplus.

Senator Sanders noted: "Everyone agrees that over the long-term we have got to reduce the record-breaking $13.7 trillion national debt and unsustainable federal deficit. The national debt is a very serious issue and we’ve got to tackle it, but we can do it without balancing the budget on the backs of middle-class families. It is reprehensible to ask working people, including many who do physically-demanding labor, to work until they are 69 years of age. It also is totally impractical. As they compete for jobs with 25-year-olds, many older workers will go unemployed and have virtually no income. Frankly, there will not be too much demand within the construction industry for 69-year-old bricklayers.

“Despite all of the right-wing rhetoric, Social Security is not going bankrupt. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security can pay every nickel owed to every eligible American for the next 29 years and after that about 80 percent of benefits.

“If we are serious about making Social Security strong and solvent for the next 75 years, President Obama has the right solution. On October 14, 2010, he restated a long-held position that the cap on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes, now at $106,800, should be raised. As the president has long stated, it is absurd that billionaires pay the same amount into the system as someone who earns $106,800.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

McCarthyistic Implications

Republican Congressman, Peter King of N.Y. warned: “I believe it’s important to have this investigation on the radicalization of the Muslim community.  We’ve seen what happened in England.  We know that al Qaeda is trying to recruit people over here such as they did with the subway bombing in New York last year, the attempted subway bombing, the Times Square bombing.  These are all people living illegally in the United States.” 

In a “Newsday” op-ed Rep. King added: “I will do all I can to break down the wall of political correctness and drive the public debate on Islamic radicalization.”

Some American-Muslims fear bigoted intentions and believe the proposed debate will mostly serve to drive the hate. Rep. King is suspected of trying to demonize the entire Muslim religion, in order to make Obama look bad when it comes to the war on terror. 

The first Muslim member of Congress, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison approached Rep. King on the floor of the House to express his concern. Rep. Ellison agrees, that we need to be concerned about violent radicalization, but not just in the Muslim community. He believes, that our concerns should include the guy who flew a plane into an IRS building, the guy who killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum, and terrorist like Timothy McVeigh. 

Ellison agrees, that it’s worthwhile to find out what turns an American citizen into a violent radical, but by doing it only against the Muslim community, the hearings would serve to vilify that community and clearly has McCarthyistic implications. 

Congressman Ellison wants to investigate the issue of home grown terrorists in a responsible way, by enlisting Muslim-Americans to help safeguard our country. He’s worried, that Rep. King’s hearings would use the awesome power of Congress to discourage Muslim leaders from feeling comfortable talking to the FBI, and local law enforcement, when they perceive a national security threat in their midst.  

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Children First

A new survey of standardized test scores compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in the principal industrialized countries of the world.

In reading Americans ranks 14th, tied with Poland and Iceland. We lag behind Shanghai, Korea, Finland, Hong Kong. In science, we rank 17th, behind Shanghai, Finland, Hong Kong and Japan, but our most dismal ranking is math, because American 15 year olds rank 25th, which is far behind Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea.

According to Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO of “Students First” our children are not engaged in quality instruction.  The standards we expected of them aren’t high enough, and they’re being promoted to the next grade level without the requisite skills and knowledge that they’ll need at that grade level.

The policy is described as a “social promotion.” Unfortunately, many school districts have put it in place, by claiming it’s better for the child to be moved along.  By focusing on how to make the students feel good, schools aren’t teaching them how to do basic math and read. Those are critically important subjects, that would actually make them feel proud of themselves.

High school is the most important time of a persons life, because if students begin to master English, math or develop an interest in science, they’re much more likely to go to college and not settle for a second-rate opportunity.

One of the most disturbing situation happens to students, when they graduate from high school and go to college. They gotten all A’s in high school, but in college they end up being placed in remedial classes. Obviously, we didn’t do those young adults a service by promoting them to a higher grade without knowing, what they’ll need at the next grade level.

The best private, charter and public schools agree, that it’s all about quality teachers. Some folks want to blame teachers’ unions, but the purpose of the teachers union is to protect their members and to maximize their teachers’ pay. The unions aren’t the problem, since they’re just doing their job. The problem is that we don’t have an organized interest group that’s advocating on behalf of children as opposed to the adults.

The purpose of Michelle Rhee’s organization, “Students First,” is to advocate and put pressure on school board decision-makers and politicians to put our children first.