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

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

American Exceptionalism

On Memorial Day, I recalled: “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job.

They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time. Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime.
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell, Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell, And I was the kid with the drum!

Then, I remembered, that in the summer of 1932, a large group of WW I veterans, who had slogged through Hell, became upset with a crushed economy and their miserable circumstances, were lobbying aggressively to get our government to change the date their bonus certificates could be paid. These certificates had been provided to veterans in 1924 as a bonus for war service, but they were not payable until 1945. A bill to pay the benefits early was rushed through the House, but blocked in the Senate, because they couldn’t spare a dime.

The Hoover administration was growing annoyed with the so-called Bonus Army of protesters, that had marched to Washington and set up a large camp, they named Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats not far from DC. The Army was ordered to clear out the protesting veterans. Infantry and cavalry troops under the command of Douglas Mac Arthur fixed bayonets and hoisted sabers, and rolled up the Bonus Army encampment using tear gas, fire, and forceful persuasion.

The lesson learned by the Bonus Army that day was that our leaders do not like to be presented with a constant eyesore that advertises their failure. They will put up with it for awhile, but inevitably the enforcers will be sent in and the shacks destroyed and heads busted.

Indeed, American Exceptionalism.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Imperfect

The following is an excerpt from a column written by Sam Pollak the editor of The Daily Star entitled: “It’d OK to love an imperfect USA.”

“I've been paying pretty close attention for more years than I'd like to admit, but I'd never heard anything quite like it.

“On Tuesday, before a rapturous joint session of Congress, the leader of a foreign nation actually said ‘thank you’ to America.



“‘Providence entrusted the United States to be the guardian of liberty,’ said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. ‘All peoples who cherish freedom owe a profound debt of gratitude to your great nation.’



“This may seem a bit unusual coming from someone who leans a bit to the political left and has no illusions about his nation's imperfections, but I really enjoyed hearing that.



“It's almost always a thankless task to be the world's only superpower and possess its largest economy, and here someone was saying ‘thank you.’



“I mean, most of the time, if folks from other nations aren't actually burning our flag, they're calling us imperialists or warmongers or chanting ‘death to America.’



“Not that on occasion we haven't actually been imperialists, warmongers and unwelcome meddlers in other countries' affairs. But we do plenty of good stuff, too, and I can't really recall any country's leader just standing up and saying ‘thank you’ before Netanyahu did it.



“The Filipinos after Douglas MacArthur returned? The Kuwaitis after we kicked Saddam Hussein out of their country? Europeans _ but probably not the French _ after we helped liberate them from the Nazis and kicked in with the Marshall Plan?



“Maybe, but it was obvious Tuesday that Congress really appreciated being thanked.



“It's important to note on this Memorial Day Weekend that Democrats as well as Republicans rose to their feet and cheered lustily when Netanyahu praised their country.



“For some reason, progressives have permitted conservatives to shanghai the whole concept of U.S. patriotism. The political heirs of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy have allowed ourselves to be marginalized when it comes to acknowledging that we love our nation.



“The ‘America, love it or leave it’ crowd has always had the wrong kind of patriotism, caring far more about the flag than what it represents, and sacrificing wisdom and nuance for simplistic bumper-sticker slogans.

“All this ‘American Exceptionalism’ stuff that Republican presidential candidates are spouting is just exceptional nonsense.”



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Inflexible Position

The mission statement for Tea Party Patriots reads: “Such runaway deficit spending as we now see in Washington D.C. compels us to take action as the increasing national debt is a grave threat to our national sovereignty and the personal and economic liberty of future generations.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complained: “Because of pressure from their most conservative wing, GOP negotiators were shifting their demands away from an agreement. The Republican leadership has the Tea Party screaming so loudly in its right ear that it can’t hear what the vast majority of the country demands. The country demands that we get this done.”

The Tea Party movement that helped fuel Republican electoral success last November is insisting that a campaign promise to their constituents is a promise. House Speaker John Boehner was willing to accept smaller spending cuts for the rest of the current fiscal year than what Republicans pledged in the 2010 election campaign, and the Tea Party reaction was both swift and decisive.

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips wrote on the group's website: “The Tea Party movement should find a candidate to run against John Boehner in 2012 and should set as a goal, to defeat in a primary, the sitting Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

Tea Party supporter Robin Maas said: “I'm not the slightest bit worried about a government shutdown. I think we find out that there are many things government does that we really don't need to keep this country going. And a government shutdown would actually save us some money.”

According to a CNN research poll 62% of tea party supporters think a government shutdown for a few days would be good for the country? The policies supported by Tea Party groups are rigidly conservative. It’s almost exclusively white supporters claim to represent the foundation of our society, but a recent CNN poll showed more people disapproved of the movement than approved.

Such a strong commitment to the cause of shrinking our government explains why Tea Party supporters, including some members of Congress they helped elect, welcome a possible government shutdown. Bringing to a halt what they consider to be a bloated and misguided federal government would be a tangible success for their citizen activism that claims allegiance to no single party.

Apparently, the Tea Party has put the Republican Party into an inflexible position.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Improvement

The addition of 244,000 jobs in April suggest a slow, but steady improvement in the economy. New York added 45,700 jobs in April, the most of any state. By region the Northeast had the lowest unemployment rate at 8%. The West region at 10.4% had the highest unemployment, since California and Nevada were hit very hard by the foreclosure crisis.

Recently, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced, that thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia reported unemployment rate decreases in June, and six states saw no change.

The Department of Labor reported that nationwide, unemployment rates generally declined because the labor force contracted not because the states produced new jobs. All in all, only 21 states had more jobs in June than in May, while 27 states had fewer. The District of Columbia and 16 states had unemployment higher than 10%, and 32 states have unemployment rates higher than 8%.

Maine’s two Republican Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins crossed the aisle to support extending unemployment benefits, since Maine has an unemployment rate of 8%. A state qualifies for the federal extension of unemployment by providing jobless workers with up to 99 weeks of benefits. Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is the only member of the Democratic caucus not to support the unemployment benefits extension. Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota are the only states with unemployment rates under 5%. In 2007, before the recession hit, the national unemployment rate ranged between 4.4 and 5%.

Some of the states that have drained their unemployment insurance funds are cutting the number of weeks that a laid-off worker can count on those benefits. Legislators are trying to limit tax increases for businesses to replenish the pool and are hoping the federal government keeps stepping in when the economy slumps.

Michigan, Missouri, Florida and Arkansas recently reduced the maximum number of weeks that the jobless can get state unemployment benefits. The unemployment in those states ranges from 7.8% in Arkansas to 11.1% in Florida.

About 30 states borrowed more than $44 billion from the federal government to continue payments to laid-off workers. Many states hastened the insolvency of their funds by keeping balances at historically low levels going into the downturn.

The burden of replenishing the funds and paying off the loans will fall primarily on businesses through higher taxes, but the benefit cuts are an effort to limit the tax increases.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Medicare Secured?

A Democrat won a special election in New York’s 26th. Congressional District. The seat had been considered safe in a solidly Republican district, but the Republican Medicare plan was the central issue of the campaign.

Paul Ryan budget proposal, that had passed the House with the 235 Republicans had voting in favor of Medicare overhall plan, and only 4 against it, required our government to no longer directly pay health care bills for senior citizens in the program, starting in 2022. Instead, recipients would choose a plan from a list of private providers, which the federal government would subsidize. People now 55 or older would not be affected by the changes.

The Ryan budget proposal would slash non-military discretionary spending and reform Medicaid, our government-run health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis of Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan the benefit would cover 32% of the cost of a private health insurance package equivalent to the current Medicare benefit. The beneficiary would pay 68% of the cost of the new plan. Assuming a 2.5% annual inflation, the value of the Medicare voucher would grow to $9,750 by 2030. Thus, a Medicare type plan for someone age 65 would be $30,460 under Representative Ryan's plan, leaving seniors with a bill of $20,700. This doesn’t count various out of pocket medical expenditures not covered by Medicare. Keep in mind, that the median income for people over 65 years old in America is $19,000 a year.

Senate Democrats forced a vote in order to make Senate Republicans go on record in support of the Medicare overhaul. The House budget measure had been expected to fail in the Senate due to overwhelming opposition by majority Democrats, plus wavering support for its Medicare overhaul among some Republicans.

The final vote on the proposal originated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan was 57-40, mostly along party lines. Republicans who joined the majority Democrats in opposing the measure were Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

The Senate also rejected Obama's budget plan on a 97-0 vote. Democratic Senators joined Republicans in opposing the plan to signal they wanted a stronger deficit reduction proposal than Obama offered.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Effective Government

Effective government regulations may have prevented and definitely lessened the impact of the Great Depression.

The Great Depression followed the stock market crash of 1929. Republican President Hoover and congressional Republicans insisted on a spending freeze, so that by 1933, when FDR became president nearly 25% of Americans were unemployed.

The Hoover administration did act in the summer of 1932. A large group of WW I veterans, had became upset with their miserable circumstances, they were lobbying aggressively to get our government to change the date their bonus certificates could be paid. Those certificates had been provided to veterans in 1924 as a bonus for war service, but they were not payable until 1945. A bill to pay the benefits early was rushed through the House, but blocked in the Senate. 

Hoover was growing annoyed with the so-called Bonus Army of protesters, that had set up a large camp, they named Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats not far from DC. The Army was ordered to clear out the protesting veterans. Infantry and cavalry troops under the command of Douglas Mac Arthur fixed bayonets and hoisted sabers, and rolled up the Bonus Army encampment using tear gas, fire, and forceful persuasion.

The lesson learned by the Bonus Army that day was that our leaders do not like to be presented with a constant eyesore that advertises their failure. They will put up with it for awhile, but inevitably the enforcers will be sent in and the shacks destroyed, heads busted and people killed.

Roosevelt became president in March of 1933, and initiated spending programs, he called a New Deal for the American people. Statistics by the Bureau of Economic Analysis clearly demonstrates that it was Roosevelt’s New Deal spending that got us out of the Depression. 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.

FDR was in office for six years before the Depression ended and unemployment came down. In 1936, voters overwhelmingly reelected FDR with the largest margin since George Washington. He carried every state, but Maine and Vermont and in 1940 and 1944, voters again reelected Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Most likely, the election of 1932 was when starving Americans began to expect their government to do something, that would effectively serve to eliminate their suffering.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Protecting Medicare

Democrats are committed to protecting Medicare, while trying to balance the budget, because they understand how important it is for senior citizens.

The Health Care Act strengthens Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste and keeps it solvent for decades to come. Preventing, Medicare fraud could save $60 billion a year. A few months ago, federal authorities charged more than 100 doctors, nurses and physical therapists with Medicare fraud scams worth $225 million.

Health care reform gave seniors and their families greater control over the care they receive. It made preventive care a priority by requiring free annual physicals. It gave our government the ability to reject insurance companies’ unreasonable rate increases to prevent them from unfairly raising Medicare costs. It created a voluntary program to help seniors and people with disabilities get support to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible.

Seniors who fell in the "doughnut hole" in Medicare prescription drug coverage have already starting receive $250 checks to help cover the cost of prescriptions and within ten years, the new law will have closed the gap completely.

Democrats want to negotiate with the drug companies as the Veterans Administration does, because over 10 years, it could save $240 billion for Medicare Part D.

In order to balance the budget, Democrats are looking at oil company subsidies of $21 billion. Cutting $4 billion a year in ethanol subsidies would save, $40 billion over 10 years. 

Secretary of Defense Gates has suggested cutting the Pentagon budget by $78 billion. 

Going back to the Clinton income tax levels, for people making over $1 million a year would saves $360 billion in 10 years.

There’s a way to balance the budget called shared sacrifice, whereby you don’t balance it on the backs of the middle class or on the backs of senior citizens.

Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell said that he’s not going to expect Republican senators to vote for the Paul Ryan budget plan. That’s surprising, since with the 235 House Republicans voted in favor of that plan, and only 4 against it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thomas Beattie

Yesterday, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following thoughtful, factual and relevant letter submitted by Thomas Beattie.
“David Sehat's "Debunking Church-State Myths" (Star, April 30) may not be the last word on separation of church and state. But it points to an important reason why the founders did not declare Christianity the national religion.



“They were historically very close to centuries of religious war between Catholics and Protestants and keenly aware of the consequences. They were also well aware of England's "Test Acts," in effect from 1661 to 1829.



“Parliament passed the Test Acts to buttress the official, "established" state religion, the Church of England. Those wanting to hold public office had to pass a preliminary "test:" they were required to take communion in the Church of England.

“Roman Catholics were the chief target, but all ‘non-conformists’ or ‘dissenters’ were also included: Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc. _ not to mention Jews, Buddhists or followers of Islam. All but members of the Church of England were therefore excluded from government service.



“The founders knew that if they established Christianity as the national religion, the first question asked would be: ‘Which denomination?’ They knew that this could doom us to a history of bloody, nasty, divisive sectarian war such as they had witnessed in Europe and such as we witness today, for example, between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq.



“In their wisdom, the founders opted for religious pluralism for a pluralistic nation. From many, one.”

*********************************************************************************************************************************

Indeed, the motto on the great seal of the United States is: "E Pluribus Unum", which translates from Latin as: "diversity with unity"; or "out of many, one". Our nation has always been one of religious diversity. The present animosity and division will continue until religious extremist comprehend that strict separation of church and state is essential to healing any divided country.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Economic Collapse

Actually, George W. Bush is still responsible for the economic collapse in 2008.

When, Obama took office, we we’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We had witnessed 8 years of the same old economic theory that gave tax cuts to billionaires and big corporations with the farcical hope that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. For 8 years, no one in the Bush administration payed attention to Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists repeatedly killed common-sense regulations.

America had lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008. An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in. On February 13, 2009, twenty-four days after Obama took office the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, without a single Republican vote in the House and only 3 Republican votes in the Senate. By doing so, they prevented the worst financial crisis from getting worse and turned the economy from contraction to expansion.

Small businesses have historically been the engine of job creation in this country. Therefore, Obama took $30 billion of the TARP money Wall Street banks had repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they needed to stay afloat. Many small companies had weathered the worst of the recession and were ready to grow, but the banks on Wall Street were mostly lending to larger companies.

By December 2009, employment in the private sector has risen by 1.1 million. That was 10 straight months of job growth. The Obama administration had already created more jobs, than Bush did in 8 years.

By the end of 2010, the DOW was up 11%, and a 10% growth in private sector jobs, were made possible by the Obama administration and the 111th. Congress. Recently, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth reached their highest level in the three decades. Profits had plummeted to the lowest point ever, when the recession hit, but two months ago, corporate profits reached 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. The Recovery Act funded tens of thousands of projects nationwide, that are not only created jobs, but also laid a long-term foundation for economic growth, including investments in high-speed rail, health technology, broadband, a smarter electrical grid, clean cars and batteries, and renewable energy.

While we’ve made tremendous progress, our work is far from finished. Some projects have just begun getting underway and will be creating jobs throughout 2012 and beyond.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Incorrect Claim

It’s incorrect to claim that the economy started going bad the last two years of Bush’s presidency.

In 2007, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all-time high.  For the first time in our nation's history, the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans includes only billionaires.

The rich had gotten richer, while the middle class struggled, because real wages had fallen.  According to the Census Bureau, the real median earnings of full-time working males had fallen 2%, and the real wages of working women had fallen 1.3%.

Consequently, more Americans were living in poverty, living without health care, paying more for housing and for public education.  Many homeowners had to pull equity out of their houses in order to keep up with escalating college tuition bills, health care costs and energy costs.
 
The number of Americans without health coverage rose by 1.3 million in 2006.  One in every 10 children became uninsured. Fewer employers were providing health care to their employees and those who were still lucky enough to receive employer provided coverage had begun paying a much larger share.  The cost of family health insurance had gone up 87% since 2000.

The election in November of 2006 determined a shift in power in both the House and Senate.  In January 2007, Nancy Pelosi become the first female Speaker of the House and Harry Reid became Senate Majority Leader. 

Very little could be accomplished to address economic issues, because when Republicans lost the majority in the Senate, they started using the filibuster on nearly every vote.  They used it to force a 60-vote supermajority for every single substantive vote in the Senate.

Bush had veto power over economic proposals passed by in the House, but he didn’t have to use it, because Senate Republicans made sure nothing of significance reached his desk, until the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) bailout of Wall Street in 2008. Bush signed the TARP bailout into law after both presidential candidates McCain and Obama voted for it to prevent a world wide financial collapse. 

It's easy to suggest that we should have let Wall Street collapse, when one doesn't feel any responsibility for what happens to their fellow American.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Judgement Day"

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." - Matthew 7:15

An article in the Oneonta Daily Star announced, that today would be “Judgement Day.”

“For the last several months, followers of 89-year-old radio evangelist Harold Camping have been pestering just about anyone who has an e-mail address with the prediction that May 21 is the day of the "Rapture."



According to Camping's rather tortured mathematical logic, Christian believers will be lifted to heaven and everybody else will be left to "eternal death," culminating in the fiery destruction of the planet on Oct. 21.



Some people can be very gullible. For example in March of 1997, we learned that 39 people committed suicide in California in an attempt to reach a UFO they had been told was trailing Comet Hale-Bopp. They were convinced that the world was coming to an end, and killing themselves would allow them to hitch a ride on the alien spacecraft and take their souls to another "level of existence above human."

Predicting the apocalypse has been difficult. In 1844, William Miller and tens of thousands of his followers waited for Jesus to appear. Some of these Millerites had given away all of their belongings. The no show was called the Great Disappointment.

The best selling non-fiction book of the 1970's was Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth"; selling 18 million copies. One of the best sellers of 1988 was a booklet called "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988."

Ten years ago, N.Y.Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote: "Left Behind" novels depict Jesus returning to heave everyone who is not a born-again Christian into everlasting fire...howling and screeching. Being wrong has never been so lucrative.

Tina Pippin, a professor of religious studies wrote: "Left Behind" novels encourage people to see the world in terms of black and white, good and evil, with us or against us."

During the last decade, our nation was deeply divided by this type of commercial and political exploitation of religion. In my opinion, we have not recover.

Friday, May 20, 2011

False Information

In 1967, John McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese after his plane went down over a lake.  McCain was a prisoner of war for over five years and was tortured.

Recently, Senator McCain spoke out against torture and insisted that torture didn’t help in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. McCain criticized the former Bush administration officials who have been claiming that harsh interrogation techniques, including water boarding, led to the killing of Osama bin Laden. He offered proof in the form of new details provided to him by CIA Director Leon Panetta. 

Senator McCain insisted: “The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times.  We did not first learn from Khalid Sheik Mohammed the real name of bin Laden’s courier or his alias, Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, the man who ultimately enabled us to find bin Laden. The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, as well as a description of him as an important member of al Qaeda came from a detainee in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee’s interrogation, nor did we render into that country for the purpose of interrogation.  We did not learn Abu Ahmed’s real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any enhanced interrogation technique used on a detainee in U.S. custody. In fact, not only did the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on Khalid Sheik Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed, it actually produced false and misleading information.”

McCain added, that he had learned from the Senate Intelligence Committee that the best information obtained was from a CIA detainee was through standard, non-coercive methods. 

In an op-ed in the “Washington Post,” McCain wrote: “I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence, but often produces bad intelligence, because under torture, a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear, true or false, if he believes it will relieve his suffering.” 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Important Questions

Some people claim, that we need to keep subsidizing big oil companies so they’ll keep investing in the United States and keep creating jobs. However the record shows that as they keep making more profits for themselves, it hasn’t translated into making any more jobs. Upon examining ExxonMobil’s net income from 2005 to 2008, it was discovered, that every single year the corporation made more money, and every single year they shed employees. How much more profit do these oil companies need to make before that turns into jobs?

Furthermore, its been claimed, that cutting oil company subsidies will hurt the oil industry’s bottom line, and means higher prices at the pump.  Recently, Exxon posted its highest quarterly profit since the end of 2008.  Ironically, both of those record quarters came at a time when consumers were paying 4 bucks a gallon for gas. If there is a cause and effect relationship between the company having a good bottom line and consumers getting lower gas prices, how much better does Exxon’s bottom line have to be, before we can expect prices to go down?

The five largest oil companies alone made $1.5 trillion in revenue every year.  Exxon Mobil makes $83,000 in profit every single minute. Do they actually depend on the few hundred million given to them in subsidies every year?  It’s a drop in the bucket for them. How much profit do the largest oil companies need to make it on their own without taxpayer subsidies?

Last month, the U.S. Coast Guard singled out Transocean for their history of safety violations as one of the key causes of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Nevertheless, Transocean is presently contracted to drill almost half of the new wells since the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Deep water oil workers drilling off shore in U.S. waters are five times more likely to be killed than those working on oil rigs in foreign waters. Shouldn’t be concerned about those statistics?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

$21 Billion

The United States government has officially hit its $14.3 trillion borrowing limit, although the Treasury Department says it can still meet its obligations until early August.  

Unfortunately, we’re still giving tax cuts to billionaires, and handing out subsidies to oil companies, that are swimming in record profits. The Republican Party seems to only be interested in paying down our national debt, if it can be done on the backs of the middle-class and poor.

Recently, nearly every Senate Republican proved, that its only allegiance is to protecting the corporate interests of those that contribute to political campaigns. Senate Democrats failed in an effort to discontinue giving subsidies to oil industry corporations, that have been costing taxpayers $ 21 billion a year.

These oil industry subsidies were originally meant to bolster an “emerging” industry a 100 years ago.  Cumulatively, oil companies have benefitted from trillions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies over the last century.  Today, these subsidies are insignificant for a corporation like ExxonMobil, who earned 31 billion in the first quarter of 2011.  The subsidies amount to about 1% of oil company profits, which amounted to 900 billion in the last two years.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled, that corporations can make unlimited contributions to political campaigns. Had the oil subsides been eliminated, oil industry corporations might have cut back on their political contributions to those member of Congress that have been doing their bidding for decades.

A majority of the Senate voted to discontinue providing subsidies to the oil industry, but Republicans again insisted on a super-majority of 60 votes for the bill to pass. Part of the reason, the bill failed to come closer to the required 60 votes was the vote of Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who has been owned by the oil industry for years. Along with a few other Democrats, Senator Landrieu voted against the bill and with Senate Republicans.     

The vote was 52 to 48 in favor discontinuing to subsidize those very profitable oil corporations. The 52 votes against continuing to subsidize oil companies included two Republican Senators from Maine, who were labelled RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only), back in 2009, for voting in favor of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Money for Influence

A recent poll indicated that 75% of Americans support getting rid of all oil subsidies.

During recent Senate hearing, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon played a video of the 2005 version of the Big Five oil Company CEO’s at a Congressional hearing, when all answered “yes” when asked if they agreed with then-President George W. Bush’s comment that “with oil prices at $55 a barrel oil companies don’t need incentives to drill.”

Today, the CEOs from the five major oil companies, which together made $36 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2011, sought to justify to the Senate Finance Committee the $4 billion in tax giveaways they'll receive this year.

These companies don't need and don't deserve taxpayer money, especially with a budget deficit to close and gas prices at or near record highs. However, when the Senate tries to strip these oil company giveaways, it's likely that a minority of senators will block the vote from happening. Should, the Senate somehow manage to pass a bill eliminating oil subsides, there's no chance it will be brought up for a vote in the House.

These five companies are expert manipulators of the money-for-influence game in Washington that Obama is working to change. They spent more than $145 million last year on nearly 800 lobbyists whose job is to defeat bills like this one. The $4 billion they'll get to keep as a result represents a 2,700% return on their investment.

Our Congressman, Chris Gibson’s campaign takes money from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. Voters can’t do a thing to change outcome of next week's vote in the Senate, but we can build a campaign that will keep a spotlight on issues like this and the fundamental reasons why Washington doesn't work for the American people.

The oil industry have been earning billions in profits, and gas prices have surpassed $4 a gallon. The results Democrats achieve on Election Day 2012, will be the biggest blows we can strike against a dysfunctional system and the distorted outcomes it has created.

As the President Obama has said, "Instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow's."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mark Berger

The following excerpts are from a letter written by Mark Berger, who lives in East Nassau, N.Y.

“Since jobs are issue number one in our country, Gibson leads off by saying he voted for ‘creating jobs by removing impediments to growth.’ Did he vote for a jobs bill? No, he did not. After 4 months control of the House of Representatives, the Republicans have yet to put forth a single jobs bill.

“The phrase ‘impediments to growth’ is Republican code for regulation. In this case, the Republicans want to require a job impact study before the EPA adopts any environmental regulation. Their goal is to stifle the EPA by pitting employment against environmental protection. This is not a jobs bill, because it will not have any impact on the level of unemployment we are experiencing.

“Gibson’s vote has nothing really to do with jobs, and, from my perspective, it has everything to do with making the Koch Brothers and Carl Rove happy. Rove and the Koch’s are absolutely opposed to the EPA. Remember, they poured over $600,000 into campaign ads that attacked Scott Murphy, which helped Gibson win. Might he owe them one?

“If the Republicans were interested in keeping America competitive in the world economy they would be supporting the president’s green economy and education initiatives. But they are not.

“Gibson and his fellow Republicans keep marching out their bogus claim that regulation is what’s hurting American businesses. The truth is some regulations work and others don’t. But one thing is certain: without regulation, we get toxic waste sites, unsafe work places, and unsavory financial products. Think Dewey Loeffel, think black lung disease, think climate change, think the financial meltdown of 2008, the savings and loan collapse of the 80’s, and the Great Depression.

“After the worldwide financial collapse in 2008, free market guru and Bush’s fed chair, Alan Greenspan admitted he was wrong to believe that the directors and managers of the large banks and investment houses would honor their fiduciary responsibilities and, thus, would never back worthless securities nor push marginal mortgages. His philosophical position of free trade did not work in the real world where organized greed and a hands-off policy on regulation nearly brought on the second great depression. Did the real world conform to Greenspan’s philosophical viewpoint, no, it did not and we are still picking up the pieces of this misguided political philosophy.

“Back to Gibson. In his mailing, he points to his vote against the use of ‘un-elected’ agency czars as if that is something that matters. As he knows and so do we, we do not elect agency heads, we elect the president and he makes appointments with the advice and consent of congress. Bush appointed so-call czars for homeland security and drug enforcement and so has Obama. With all the serious problems that confront our country why waste time on this?

“Ironically, the one place where Mr. Gibson can control federal spending is in the running of his office. Here I expected big cuts, just like the Republicans are calling for all over the place. Yet all Gibson was able to cut was 5% of his office budget. Is Congressman Gibson realizing that running an efficient and responsive government office costs money? Does he realize that making across the board cuts often creates more problems than it solves?”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Confrontational Hearing

A 100 years ago tax breaks were given to the oil companies, when a barrel of oil was $17. Today, it’s about about $100 a barrel. American oil companies are seeing the highest profits of any corporation in the world. Nevertheless, they have the audacity to not only sock it to consumers at the pump, but hold America hostage because there is no competition. 

At a recent Senate hearing, this led to some angry words between Democratic Senators and the CEO’s of ConocoPhillips and Chevron.

ConocoPhillips' profits from 2007 through 2009 totaled $16 billion, but it received $451 million in tax breaks because of oil and gas manufacturing deductions.

In response to a Senate hearing on the subject of cutting tax subsides for oil companies a formal press release put out by ConocoPhillips raised concerns over un-American tax proposals at an annual meeting of shareholders. They’re attacking anybody who questions their tax status as un-American. 

The Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Schumer asked the CEO of ConacoPhillips, Jim Mulva: “Do you think anyone who advocates cutting these subsidies is un-American?  Yes or no?” 

CEO Mulva said: “Well—” Schumer interrupted: “Yes or no, sir.  That one, we deserve a yes-or-no answer on. It was your release that said un-American. Do you apologize for it?” 

Chevron's IRS refund last year totaled $19 million, but its 2009 profits came to a whopping $10 billion.

Highlighting an angry exchange between Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and the CEO of Chevron in the Senate hearings.  Oil company executives had testified before the Senate Finance Committee that they need big tax breaks. Senator Rockefeller stated: “I think you’re out of touch, deeply, profoundly out of touch and deeply and profoundly committed to sharing nothing.

Chevron CEO, John Watson responded: “I don‘t think the American people want shared sacrifice.  I think they want shared prosperity.  And, what we have to offer.

Rockefeller countered: “But do you understand how out of touch that is? We don’t get to shared prosperity until we get to shared sacrifice.”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

High Speed Rail

The Obama administration has been 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 this country is helping our battered construction sector grow for the first time in a many years, but nearly one in five construction workers remain unemployed. Many American construction workers have been idled for months, even years, at a time when there is so much of America to rebuild.

According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, 15 states across America have benefitted from the $2 billion in federal funds, that Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott turned down for high speed rail projects.  The biggest beneficiary is the Northeast corridor route which stretches from Washington to Boston.  It got nearly $800 million to upgrade the train travel between those two cities.

In the Midwest, roughly $404 million is going to expand high-speed rail service on the Detroit to Chicago route.

On the West Coast, approximately $300 million will be invested to lay the groundwork for a high-speed rail from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Reportedly, 80% of America will eventually be connected by high speed rail in the next 25 years.

For the $2 billion that the Department of Transportation got back from Florida, it received over 100 applications requesting $10 billion. Many Americans are tired of highway congestion, high gasoline prices, and being stuck in their cars. They’re ready to park their car and board comfortable fast-moving trains, that people can afford. 

Over a billion dollars is being invested in Illinois. Chicago to St. Louis will take a little over two hours, on trains going 115 miles an hour. It’ll stop in Joliet, Normal, and Springfield on it’s way to St.  Louis.  From there passengers can catch a train going west to Kansas. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Debt Ceiling

Recently, House Speaker John Boehner spoke at the Economic Club of New York, to an audience of Wall Street executives.

Speaker Boehner said: “Without significant spending cuts and changes in the way we spend the American people’s money, there will be no increase in the debt limit.  And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in the debt limit that the president is given.  We’re not talking about billions here.  We should be talking about cuts in trillions if we’re serious about addressing America’s fiscal problems. And, these should be actual cuts, real reforms to those programs.  Not broad deficits or deficit targets that punt the questions to the future.  And with the exception of tax hikes, which in my opinion will destroy American jobs, everything is on the table.  That includes honest conversations of how to best preserve Medicare, because without a change in Medicare, with millions of baby boomers about to retire, the status quo is unsustainable.”

Those conditions will not be enough to satisfy Tea Party voters, according to Tea Party founder William Temple, who spoke at the National Press Club in Washington.

Temple said: “The Tea Party plans to score just one vote in the U.S. House for purposes of candidate ratings this year.  If you vote to raise the debt ceiling, you get a zero for the year from the Tea Party.  If you don’t vote to raise the debt ceiling you score 100 and you’re a hero. I wish our tearful House speaker would just show some compassion for American taxpayers and our children that he and Mr. Ryan have already surrendered to President Obama.  It’s a cowardly act of treason against coming generations and we may be able to give Boehner really something to cry about in 2012.”

Speaking for Wall Street, the chief economist for Moody’s Analytics told “Bloomberg News”: “What Wall Street wants to hear is that they are going to raise the debt ceiling in a timely way.  When it comes down to brass tracks, they are going to raise that debt ceiling.”

Former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich pointed out, that on the one hand, you’ve got the Wall Street, the big business wing of the Republican Party wanting the debt ceiling raised.  They’re worried that if the debt ceiling is not raised, or if there’s a lot of talk about not raising the debt ceiling, that could spook world credit markets, that could lead to a huge spike in interest rates, the dollar could plummet, we could put the full faith and credit of the United States in jeopardy.

On the other hand, you’ve got the Tea Party wing, who don’t want the debt ceiling raised, and also don’t want to raise any taxes even on the rich.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tora Bora

According to intelligence reports, Osama bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora since November 17, 2001, after he and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri had slipped out of the city of Jalalabad, and thanks to informers the CIA was close behind. In early December 2001, the CIA was confident bin Laden was hiding in his mountain lair. The Bush administration could have captured Bin Laden at Tora Bora, but failed to commit ground troops to hunt him down.

Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan’s mountainous eastern border. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S. Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war’s operational commander let pass the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader in 2001.

The Iraq War Resolution wasn’t signed into law until October 16, 2002. However, late 2001 General Franks was already illegally using assets, that Congress had specifically approved for use in Afghanistan to prepare for the invasion of Iraq.

On March 13, 2002, former President George W. Bush said: “Deep in my heart I know (Osama bin Laden) is on the run, if he’s alive at all. Who knows if he’s hiding in some cave or not; we haven’t heard from him in a long time. And the idea of focusing on one person is - really indicates to me people don’t understand the scope of the mission. Terror is bigger than one person. And he’s just a person who’s now been marginalized. His network, his host government has been destroyed. He’s the ultimate parasite who found weakness, exploited it, and met his match.”

It was Bush that boasted, he’d get Osama bin Laden dead or alive. But, it was Obama, who carried out what the vast majority of Americans wanted accomplished. Basically we wanted revenge, and justice for the over 3,000 people that were murdered on 9/11.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interrogation Proficiency

Some folks wonder: “Why it is terrorists have not carried out another major operation in this nation since 9/11 aimed at murdering as many innocents as possible?”

The answer has a lot to do with our changing interrogation techniques. "How to Break a Terrorist" was written under a pseudonym of Matthew Alexander, who served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force. During that time, he personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and supervised more than 1,000. In 2006, he led an interrogations team assigned to Special Operations task force in Iraq.

According to Alexander, the supporters of waterboarding should be asked to explain, how come we didn’t find or locate Osama bin Laden back when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was repeatedly waterboarded in 2002 and ‘03, after his capture, or when other detainees were exposed to other enhanced interrogation techniques. 

Recently, Matthew Alexander a former senior military interrogator pointed out: “Those techniques (waterboarding) ended years ago, and never resulted in the critical pieces of information that would have handed us bin Laden or his exact location.

Alexander insists: “What I found is that when I treated people with respect, when I built a relationship of trust, when I changed their attitudes about me as an American interrogator, and what I stand for, I was able to get them to cooperate. Our success rate in Iraq for my team was upwards of 80 percent.  I have no doubt that American interrogators are more than capable of defeating al Qaeda terrorists in the interrogation booth, in the battle of wits.”

Matthew Alexander explains: “You’ll never hear torture advocates talk about the long-term negative consequences of using torture and abuse.” In Iraq when he was overseeing the interrogations of foreign fighters the number one reason they stated for coming to Iraq to fight was because of the torture and abuse of prisoners at both Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Torture handed al Qaeda its number one recruiting tool.  Those statistics were tracked by Department of Defense, who determined that torture resulted in the deaths of hundreds, and possibly thousands of American soldiers in Iraq. 

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ship of State

William Eckardt had another controversial letter to the editor published in the Oneonta Daily Star. He wrote: “Obama can pilot our ship of state only when the political seas are calm. When geopolitical storms arise, Obama is the first to board the lifeboats.”

A reality check is in order for Eckardt and those people, that agree with him. In late 2008, the Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers collapsed and Merrill Lynch faced extinction, but was saved at the last minute by Bank of America.  The Insurance giant AIG teeter on the brink of bankruptcy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 777 points in one day, the biggest points loss ever.  Wall Street melted down, because a relatively small number of irresponsible people who controlled a great deal of money had been allowed to get away with breaking the rules. Rules that were originally put in place, during the Great Depression to prevent Wall Street from creating a massive public risk in order to chase private gain. 

Under the leadership of George W. Bush dramatic action was taken to try to save the economy. Bush's appointee, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke the Chairman of the Federal Reserve asked Congress for $700 billion. A bi-partisan vote passed the $700 billion the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). Both, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama supported it. House Minority Leader, John Boehner implored his fellow Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives to support it. By stepping in to limit the damage of that catastrophe our government most likely prevented another Great Depression, with 24.9% unemployment.

When, Obama took the helm of our ship of state in late January 2009, our financial system teetering on collapse. We had witnessed 8 years of the same old economic theory that gave tax cuts to billionaires and big corporations with the farcical hope that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. For 8 years, no one in the Bush administration payed attention to Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists repeatedly killed common-sense regulations.

On 5/7/11, I posted “Progressive Update,” a very lengthy lists of the most remarkable accomplishments of the Obama administration. My plan is to periodically, updated that posted list as Obama continues to chart a course for our Ship of State through very rough seas.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Wise Decisions

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

Republican Congressman Dave Camp is chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He has acknowledged that Republican plans to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are “dead.” Camp is now predicting, that his party will focus on overturning the most controversial portion of that legislation: the mandate requiring individuals to buy insurance.

Camp said: “I don’t think the Senate is going to do it, so I guess repeal is dead.” He added: “I think we have to see where this (health care) lawsuit that is working its way through the courts goes. I’m monitoring that pretty closely. The individual mandate, I think, we need to get an answer from the courts on that... I do think we may have a vote to repeal that provision some time in this Congress.”

Congressman Camp also threw cold water on the Medicare reforms included in Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed 2012 budget. He said that legislation to turn Medicare into a voucher system would likely not get a hearing in his committee.

"I'm not really interested in just laying down more markers. I'd rather have the committee working with the Senate and the president, focusing on savings and reforms that can be signed into law."

Camp claimed, that he was unmoved by the protests that have erupted over Ryan's Medicare proposal at recent constituent town halls. He insisted: “We have stepped forward pretty boldly on this issue,” while adding that he did not regret voting for the highly contentious budget legislation, when it came to the House floor.

Perhaps, he was moved by a recent, “Washington Post”/ABC poll, that found that 78% of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare in order to reduce the national debt; 65% said, that the Medicare program should remain the same; while only 34% of Americans favored Congressman Paul Ryan’s version of Medicare.

Strategically, it looks like, Congressman Camp recently made two wise decisions.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Progressive Update


Congressional scholar, Norm Ornstein said that the 111st. Congress had a greater level of productivity than any Congress in the last 40 years. According to Ornstein, Obama has had greater legislative success in terms of significant legislation than Lyndon Johnson or Ronald Reagan.

When, Obama took office, we we’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. America had lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008. An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in. On February 13, 2009, twenty-four days after Obama took office the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, without a single Republican vote in the House and only 3 Republican votes in the Senate. By doing so, they prevented the worst financial crisis from getting worse and turned the economy from contraction to expansion.

Obama signed into law the Health Care Act, that protect all Americans from the worst practices of insurance companies. Coverage won’t be revoked, premiums won’t be arbitrarily raised and insurance companies won’t be allowed to use a pre-existing condition to deny coverage.

It strengthens Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste and keeping it solvent for decades to come. And, most importantly, it protects guaranteed benefits, eligibility and the right to keep your doctor for all seniors.

According to the Congressional Budget Office health care reform should cut the deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years, and as much as $1.3 trillion in deficit reduction over the next two decades. A report from CBO indicates that the Health Care Act is the most significant effort to reduce our deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s.

Obama signed into law, the Consumer Protection Act, which cracks down on corporate fraud and holds big banks accountable for reckless, risky behavior. The financial crisis has taught us that the look-the-other way, hands-off deregulatory policies of the recent past can jeopardize not only private investments, but our entire economy.

This legislation will reform Wall Street by creating a consumer financial protection bureau to regulate the trading of derivatives, one of the root causes of the current meltdown, while allowing small businesses to continue using them to mitigate risk. It will end taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street institutions by establishing a new authority to wind down failing mega-firms outside of bankruptcy, so shareholders and creditors pick up the cost, not taxpayers.

Furthermore, Obama upheld the principle of equal pay for equal work, by signing into law the Fair Pay Act, also known as the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Obama signed an expanded the Pell Grant program; and made the largest investment in clean energy in history, and the largest investment in education in decades.

Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the Senate approved her nomination.

Obama signed a credit card reform bill designed to protect consumers from surprise fees and sudden interest rate hikes and helped consumers deal with the twin plagues of mortgage fraud and predatory lending.

The Obama Treasury Department implemented policies with real qualitative and quantitative impact on debt-burdened families. Chief among them is a $2,500 tax credit to help offset the cost of tuition for those seeking a college education. Nearly five million families are expected to save $9 billion, according to Treasury officials.

Through the Recovery Act, the Justice Department secured $2 billion for Byrne Grants, which funds anti-gang and anti-gun task forces. The money had been cut during the Bush years, and is expected to have massive ramifications on inner-city crime and violence.

The Obama White House has put under federal protection more than two million acres of wilderness, thousands of miles of rivers and a host of national trails and parks.

He reversed Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research and sent the message, that he’ll foster science and make sure that our government helps to improve people’s lives.

Obama inherited a financial system teetering on collapse. We had witnessed 8 years of the same old economic theory that gave tax cuts to billionaires and big corporations with the farcical hope that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else. For 8 years, no one in the Bush administration payed attention to Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists repeatedly killed common-sense regulations.

Small businesses have historically been the engine of job creation in this country. Therefore, Obama took $30 billion of the TARP money Wall Street banks had repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they needed to stay afloat. Many small companies had weathered the worst of the recession and were ready to grow, but the banks on Wall Street were mostly lending to larger companies.

By December 2009, employment in the private sector has risen by 1.1 million. That was 10 straight months of job growth. The Obama administration had already created more jobs, than Bush did in 8 years.

By the end of 2010, Democrats, Independents and Republicans came together to make progress on some very important issues.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was overturned. It was the right thing to do for our military, and the right thing to do for our country. No longer will thousands of patriotic Americans in uniform be forced to live a lie or leave the military because of their sexual orientation. We demonstrated, that we’re a nation that believes all men and women are created equal.

The New START Treaty has ratified by the Senate. The most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades was passed in a bipartisan fashion. Thus, we’ve strengthened American leadership on non-proliferation issues, reinforced our relationship with a vital ally, and made our country safer.

An Extension of Middle-Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance was passed. The package will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. Neither party was happy with every part of the package, however the bipartisan support it received indicates that when taken as a whole, this is a good deal for the American people and the American economy.

A New a Bipartisan Food Safety Bill represent the most significant upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression.

The 9/11 Health Bill was passed. It will help cover the health care costs of the first responders who rushed to the World Trade Center to help, and inhaled toxic air as a result.

In early 2010, the DOW was up 11%, and we had seen a 10% growth in private sector jobs. Recently, corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth reached their highest level in the three decades. Profits had plummeted to the lowest point ever, when the recession hit, but two months ago, corporate profits reached their highest point ever as a share of GDP.

The situation in Pakistan was destabilizing, so Obama’s diplomatic team secured $5 billion in aid commitments to bolster that country’s economy and help it Islamic radicalism within that country. Recently, a small group of Navy Seal, with the support of our CIA were able to captured and kill Osama bin Laden.

As of 5/1/11, unemployment was at 9.0%, and 244,000 additional jobs in April suggest a slow, but steady improvement in the economy. And, on 5/21/11, the Labor Department announced, that unemployment rates dropped in 39 states.

U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a drone strike on 9/30/11. Al-Awlaki helped recruit Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic flight on December 25, 2009. He’s also exchanged e-mails with accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hassan.

Osama bin Laden and Anwar al Awlaki were killed, Tripoli fell and the last of American combat troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. It’s time people give Obama credit for his war strategy.

On 12/18/11, Obama announced that our mission in Iraq had finally been accomplished. The last of our combat troops had left that country as required by the Status of Forces Agreement.

As of 1/1/12, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% as a result of 200,000 jobs being added in Dec. 2011.

On 2/3/12, the DOW closed at 12,862.20 and the Nasdaq ended the day at an 11 year high of 2,905,66.  According to the Labor Department, private sector payrolls increased by 257,000 jobs in January. The economy has added private sector jobs for 23 straight months, for a total of 3.7 million payroll jobs over that period, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3 %.

On 2/28/12, the DOW closed at 13.005.12. That was the first time since May of 2008, that it closed above 13,000 points.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration helped to created close to 4 million new jobs.  We’ve witnessed the biggest growth in manufacturing since the 1990s. Our exports are on track to double. We have an opportunity to build on all the work that has been done over the last three years. The economy has added private sector jobs for 24 straight months.

On 3/13/12, the Dow closed up 217 points, at 13,178. It was the highest for the Dow since 2007. For the first time in 11 years, the Nasdaq closed above 3,000, by gaining 56 points and closing at 3040.

Another sign of broad improvement in the U.S. labor market was reported on 3/30/12. The unemployment fell in 29 states and rose in only eight. March 2012 ended with the Dow and S&P 500 at their highest levels since 2008, while the Nasdaq is at its highest point since 2000,

The Labor Department reported, that private sector employers added 120,000 jobs in March, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.2%.


The economy added 115,000 jobs in April, which is the 26th. consecutive month, that it has added private sector jobs.  The unemployment rate fell to 8.1% as 342,000 workers dropped out of the labor force.

On 4/6/12, senior operative of al Qaeda, Fahd al Quso was killed for his role in the USS Cole bombing was killed by an airstrike in Yemen.  Al Quso was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in 2003 on 50 counts of terrorism offenses for his role in bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.  The bombing killed 17 U.S. sailors.

The Labor Department reported that the economy added 80,000 jobs in June, but the unemployment rate remained at 8.2%.  However, we’ve witness 28 consecutive months of private sector job growth.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Out Spent

In addition the $1,200,000 being spent by 60 Plus and Americans for Prosperity, the Republican Party has the backing of Karl Rove’s groups, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. When asked; what sort of resources could be brought to bear in support of Paul Ryan’s budget. Rove’s group reminded us of the $750,000 ad buy the group placed last month going after union rights. At one point last year, 91% of the funding for American Crossroads came from just a handful of billionaires.  Again, Crossroads doesn’t have to publicly disclose who funds them.

In addition to enormous amount of money coming from the right, there are other conservative groups like FreedomWorks, Heritage Action for America, and the American Action Network, who are joining the corporate-funded counter-offensive in support of the Ryan budget. They’re distributing pro-Paul Ryan budget talking points.

The American Action Network is run by a who’s who of current and former Wall Street executives. It’s obvious who’s behind the conservative counter-offensive to stop the angry denunciations of the Republican budget, that is lighting up town halls across the country.

The criticism the Paul Ryan budget in town hall events was not organized by anyone, but after citizens started turning up on their own at town halls, the Democratic Party and liberal groups started scrambling to try to catch up and reinforce the criticizm of the Republican budget plan.

The effort on the left compared to the corporate-backed efforts on the right is anemic.  Presently, the Democrats House campaign committee is running radio ads, web ads and robocalls attacking the Paul Ryan budget.  They’re running them in 25 separate swing districts, at a cost of $6,000. A Democratic group called the House Majority PAC is running radio ads in 10 districts, at a cost of $100,000. 

A total of $106,000 in comparison to the money spent on the right, that includes $800,000 from 60 Plus, $400,000 from Americans for Prosperity, and whatever Karl Rove’s billionaire groups eventually contributes, is pitifully small.

It doesn’t appear that liberal groups are going to be able to raise enough money to compete. However, the national reaction to the budget that the Republicans in the House passed suggests that in red districts across our country, the Republican re-election chances look rather slim. Apparently, they’ve recognize that a great deal of money will need to be spent to forestall a major defeat on election day 2012.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Just the Beginning

Since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United, the Republican political party may have become irrelevant.  The corporate side of Republican politics is mounting a counter-offensive to criticism of the Republican Paul Ryan’s plan to dismantle Medicare and cut V.A. benefits in favor of tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

A Florida veteran expressed his criticism with the Republican plan at a town hall event held by Republican Congressman Daniel Webster of Florida. An ad paid for by the 60 Plus Association immediately countered the veteran’s opinion by claiming: “Something unusual happened last week.  In Washington, D.C., of all places, elected officials actually did what they said they would.  The House passed a budget that protects and preserves Medicare for years to come and our congressman, Daniel Webster, voted to protect Medicare and keep it secure for future retirees.”

Paul Ryan’s budget plan will dismantles Medicare. Nevertheless, 60 Plus group is running radio ads, making robocalls and sending out mailers in 39 House districts in support of the plan. Someone is shelling out about $800,000 on this deceptive campaign, but 60 Plus doesn’t disclose who funds them. In the 2000s, the 60 Plus group lobbied against allowing states to re-import prescription drugs from Canada so they would be cheaper. It doesn’t make sense that a seniors’ advocacy group wouldn’t want cheaper drugs for seniors. Now, that same group, 60 Plus claims Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare would actually be great for senior citizens.

Another deceitful group on the right is Americans for Prosperity, who is also running pro-Paul Ryan budget radio ads, web ads and robocalls in more than 20 districts across the country right, at a cost of about $400,000. Again, Americans for Prosperity doesn’t disclose its donors. These ads are funded at least in part by corporate funds. 

In 2009, the president of Americans for Prosperity, Tim Phillips announced on national T,V. : “We would love to have more corporate funding so if there’s more corporations watching tonight, feel free to give to us.” Americans for Prosperity was founded and supported by the David Koch, who is the 18th. richest man in the world. David Koch’s group is stepping in to defend the Paul Ryan budget, which of course slashes taxes for corporations and for the wealthiest people in the country. The Ryan budget plan also happens to dismantle some key parts of President Obama’s Wall Street reform law.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Transforming America

As a result of the 5-4 Supreme Court decision, we can expect billionaires and corporations will secretly provide hundreds of millions of dollars for political campaigns, radio ads, television ads.

The Paul Ryan budget plan, that passed in the House is the most radical, right wing extremist budget ever passed in the history of the United States Congress. It would transform America by giving $1 trillion more in tax breaks to the richest people in this country, who are already doing exceedingly well, when working, low income, and middle class people are hurting. It would decimate important social programs and change Medicare into a voucher program. Accordingly, low and moderate income seniors somehow would have to come up with money they don’t have when they get sick and end up in the hospital. 

Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate, plans to bring the Ryan budget plan to the floor of the Senate, thereby giving Senate Republican a chance to vote for it or against it.

Polls have suggest that the working class people in the Tea Party don’t think it’s a good idea to decimate Medicare and Medicaid or Pell grants. The 2012 campaign will be about giving tax breaks to billionaires, while decimating programs that millions of Americans depend upon. It will become clear, that Republican also want to destroy Social Security. The choices have never be clearer, because the vast majority of the American people don’t support the basic concepts of the Republican budget.

Democrats must focused on family issues. Many single moms are struggling all ready, but if Republicans cut Head Start, how will mothers be able to go to work without decent child care.

If Medicaid is cut and a person has chronic health problem and doesn’t have a lot of money.  How will, they get to the doctor after Republicans decimate health care.

Parents are already wondering how their children are going to be able to go to college if Pell grants are cut substantially.

We’re seeing is people just hanging on right now, but Republicans are insisting that we cut those types of programs to give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.

There is an unprecedented assault underway on the part the some very wealthy people, to remake America in a way that the vast majority of people in our country do not want to see.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Single Payer Care

Recently, President Obama told all the governors in the country, that waivers would be available three years earlier than health reform originally promised if a state’s plan covers as many people as federal health reform with at least the same level of coverage in a way that doesn’t add to the federal deficit.

Democratic Governor, Peter Shumlin of Vermont announced that the state Senate of Vermont has voted 29 to 9 to create a single-payer health care system. Similar legislation had already passed the Vermont House. There are two different versions and they’ll need to work out a version acceptable to both houses.

According to Governor Shumlin single-payer health care is on its way. Vermont plans to create a state-based exchange as envision under the Affordable Health Care Act. The state legislature work from a plan developed by one of the architects of Medicare to create in essence a Medicare system for all Vermont residents, that would cover everybody and take the insurance companies out of the equation.

Vermont will need a waiver in order to be the first state in the country to passes a health care system that treats health care as a right and not a privilege. The plan will be more affordable, and since it doesn’t require employers to contribute, it should create jobs.

The situation in Vermont isn’t unlike the other 49 states. Health care premiums have been burden on the middle- class and businesses in Vermont, and rising premiums have become unsustainable.  The legislature is trying to create an affordable system that applies to all Vermonters, gives quality health care, but spends healthcare dollars wisely and not on insurance company profits, waste, or collecting money, that are the crushing inefficiencies in our American system.

Governor Shumlin and Obama believe that the states should be the laboratories for change, as long as they don’t reduce standards. The Vermont plan isn’t asking for additional money. They’re just asking to be allowed to spend healthcare dollars more efficiently. It’s publicly financed Medicaid for all.

Real health care reform will come from the smaller states who are not as beholden to for-profit corporations. Sustainable health care is very important in Vermont, because if it doesn’t go to a single-payer system, the costs will increase to $2,500 every year out of the pocket for every single Vermonter in a state where the incomes on average are stagnant.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Carnival Barkers

Recently, Obama announced: “As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth.  Now, this issue has been going on for two and a half years now. I have watched with bemusement, I’ve been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going.  We’ve had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated, confirmed that, yes, in fact I was born in Hawaii, August 4th, 1961 in Kapiolani Hospital.”

After complaining about how much the birth certificate story had distracted from Washington’s and the media’s ability to focus on the important issues of the day. Obama said: “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

One of the carnival barkers Obama was referring to is Donald Trump, insisted that it was impossible for Obama to write his own books. Historical, there is a precedent for this kind of degrading of literate African Americans.

Frederick Douglass was not able to publish his own autobiography without affixing to it a letter from the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, as it were, vouchsafing Frederick Douglas’ literacy.  Every edition you get of Frederick Douglas’ autobiography has a letter from William Lloyd Garrison telling the white audiences, that this black man was not only literate, but literate enough to write a masterpiece.

Today, we have the same kind of atmosphere in which the authenticity and the biography of a man’s life is questioned. It’s not enough to disagree on all the various issues that Obama stands for. Racist seek to undermine his credibility, his legitimacy as a human being. They consider, the most radical thing about Obama is not his policies, but the fact that he’s the first African-American elected to the presidency.

Trump turned from attacking Obama’s birth certificate to trying to undermine the academic credentials of not only Obama, but of African-Americans generally. He’s suggested that Obama didn’t deserve admission to Columbia University or Harvard Law School.

Trump recognizes, that some racists may never believe that there are black students from much more educationally challenged backgrounds, who are capable of getting better SAT scores and better grades, than children from rich white families.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Tom Colburn

Republican Senator Tom Colburn is a members of a bipartisan group of six senators working to negotiate a deficit reduction solution. In an appearance on “Meet the Press,” NBC’s David Gregory asked Colburn, whether the so-called “gang of six” plan would include tax increases.

Colburn answered: “Well, we’re not talking about it.  I think if you go back and look at the commission’s report, what we were talking about is getting significant dynamic effects by taking away tax credits, lowering the tax rate, and having an economic increase that will actually increase the revenues to the federal government.  We’re not talking about raising tax rates at all. So, if there’s a net effect of tax revenue, that would be fine with me.  I experienced that during Reagan’s period in 1986.”

That may not sounded like a particularly bold response, but for a Republican senator, it’s possibly the bravest comment said on television in a long time.  Senator Colburn admitted, that he’s willing to violate a pledge he submitted to Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, back in 2004.

The mission statement submitted to Grover Norquist reads: “The government’s power to control one’s life derives from its power to tax. We believe that that power should be minimized.”

There are some Republicans who have thought that, we should have raised taxes to pay for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. However, they wouldn’t dare say so, because that would violate the written pledge they made to Grover Norquist, who presents every Republican running for the House, Senate, or White House.

The signed pledge says, that he or she will never support raising taxes in any way, including by cutting loopholes out of the tax code that might then force an individual or corporation to pay a higher tax bill, something closer to their actual rate that they’re supposed to pay.”

David Gregory pointed out that if Colburn supports a “gang of six” plan that raises net tax revenue, he would violate Norquist’s pledge. 

Senator Colburn reasoned: “Well, I think, which pledge is most important, David? Is the pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group, who claims to speak for all of American conservatives when, in fact, they really don’t?”