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.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A History Lesson

An online critic wrote: “Jim, I appreciate your undying loyalty to partisan politics. It is cute and all, but you are out to lunch on reality.”

Cuteness aside, I’m loyal to the Democratic Party, because of what they’ve done for America.

Woodrow Wilson supported the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, thereby giving women the right to vote.

Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933, and unemployment had reached 24.9%, by 1936 it had dropped to 17.0%. He signed the “Social Security Act” in 1935. Less government and tax cuts didn’t end the Great Depression, develop the atomic bomb or win WW II.

Truman’s Fair Deal expanded Social Security, instituted a full-employment program, and signed a Fair Employment Practices Act. He urged Congress to approve the Marshall Plan, a plan that reduced communist influence in Western Europe. The popularity of the communist parties faded and the trade relations forge in North Atlantic alliance persisted throughout the Cold War.

In 1969, the first humans landed on the Moon. Thus, fulfilling President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s. LBJ completed Kennedy’s term and was then elected president by a large margin in 1964. He was responsible for designing the “Great Society” legislation that included laws that upheld Civil Rights, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, and aid to education.

The 10 principles Carter proposed for a national energy plan was opposed by the oil and gas industry. The Reagan administration ignored the 10 principles Congress had approved and gutted or terminated Carter’s programs.

Clinton created jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus. Republicans haven’t produced a president in the past 40 years that balanced a budget.

Obama is trying to make the lives of all Americans better, which is a highly cherished tradition for Democratic presidents.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Information

Angelo Mozilo the executive of Countrywide Financial Corporate was fined $67.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the “Financial Times,” Chrystia Freeland wrote, that it wasn’t Countrywide alone, but in fact part of a system, where the banks, as they did historically, no longer held the mortgage. Consequently, investment banks no longer had a direct financial incentive to care whether people were going to pay their mortgages back.

Clayton Holdings, a Connecticut-based firm that analyzes home mortgages for banks, hedge funds, insurance companies and government agencies, provided its data to the Financial Crises Inquiry Commission, a bipartisan panel created by Congress to investigate the roots of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The firm was hired by Wall Street investment banks to analyze mortgages given to borrowers with poor credit, which were then packaged and sold to investors during the boom years. The firm revealed that as much as 28 percent of those loans failed to meet basic underwriting standards.

Clayton Holdings flagged those loans as potential problems, but Wall Street banks ignored the warnings of the rating agency nearly half the time and purchased those loans anyway to sell them to unwitting investors. Investors were never told that the biggest home loan due diligence firm in the country had found potential defects in those mortgages.

Wall Street firms knew they were deceiving the buyers. The implications of the data released could bolster the case of pension funds and other investors in their pursuit to force Wall Street banks to take back the bogus mortgages they had peddled. Many lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the subprime mortgage crisis and subsequent housing market collapse. So far, Wall Street has been winning that battle, but that could change in light of new information.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Data Wasn’t In

Some claim, that Obama is responsible for the poor economy.

On 1/29/10, Obama address the Republican House retreat in Baltimore. Rep. Pence asked: “Now last year, unemployment was 7.5% in this country.  Your administration and your party in Congress told us that we’d have to borrow more than $7.5 billion to pay for a so-called stimulus bill...  All of which had to be passed or unemployment would go to 8%, as your administration said.  Well, unemployment is 10% now, as you well know.”

Obama said: “Everyone was hoping, that unemployment would remain in the 8% range.  That number was based on the estimates made by both conservative and liberal economists because at that point, all of the data wasn’t in.”

America lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008.  Republicans can’t hold Obama’s policies for those lost jobs.  An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in.  He shouldn’t be held accountable, because he was in office for only a week.  On February 13th, the Recovery Act was passed without the vote of a single House Republican and the 650,000 jobs lost in that month wasn’t a consequence of Obama’s policies. The job losses from this recession prove to be much more severe in the first quarter of 2009, than anybody had anticipated.  

Obama told Rep. Pence: “I think we can score political points on the basis of the fact that we underestimated how severe the job losses were going to be.  But those job losses took place before any stimulus, whether it was the ones you guys proposed or the ones we proposed, could ever have taken into effect.”

The unemployment rate was 24.9% when FDR was sworn in, and it took 6 years to get the unemployment rate down to 17%.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Game Changer

Republicans won’t support the proposals in Obama’s jobs bill that they used to support in the past because those are his proposals. Therefore, at every opportunity, Obama will show voters that House Republicans are standing in the way of economic progress in this country and that they need to be removed from office in the next election and replaced with a Congress, that has not signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

Obama insists: “Anyone who assigns some pledge to protect every single tax loophole so long as they live, they should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness, explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15% on their taxes when a teacher making $50,000 a year is paying more than that? Paying a higher rate? They ought to have to answer for that. And if their pledge to keep that kind of unfairness in place, they should remember... the only pledge that really matters is the pledge uphold the Constitution. We’re already hearing the usual defenders of these kinds of loopholes saying this is just class warfare. I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or teacher is class warfare.”

House Speaker, John Boehner made the point that we can’t afford the kind of politics that says, it’s my way or the highway. Obama pointed out, that in the same speech, he came out against any plan to cut the deficit that includes any additional revenues whatsoever. Boehner is quoted as saying: “There is only one option. And that option and only option relies entirely on cuts.”

Obama is no longer eager for compromise to make a legislative deals. He’s taking his proposals to the voters.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Voters Will Decide

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell insists, that his highest priority, is to defeat the president. He opposed measures in the jobs bill, because Obama proposed them. In fact, Republicans have in the past favored the idea of a payroll tax holiday. Now, they don’t want anything to help this economy.

President Obama went through the phase of being a reasonable person, by putting compromise on the table, but Republicans didn’t take him up on it. They’ve fought him every step of the way. He’s warned: “I will not support any plan that puts all the burden for closing our deficit on ordinary Americans. And I will veto any bill that changes benefits for those who rely on Medicare but does not raise serious revenues by asking the wealthiest Americans or biggest corporations to pay their fair share.”

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer made it clear, that the days of compromise are over. He was quoted as saying, "We were in a position of legislative compromise by necessity. That phase is behind us."

The president was willing to negotiate cuts in Medicare and discuss changes in Social Security. Obama has taken raising of the retirement age of Social Security and cuts in Medicare benefits off the table.

Obviously, the Republican game plan is to do everything they can to ruin the economy, because they see high unemployment as their road back to the White House.

Obama has decided to take it to the voters, by turning the 2012 election into a referendum, on the Paul Ryan plan that would voucherize Medicare, and cost seniors $6,500 more a year. He will be fighting to raise taxes on people who can afford to pay a lot more in taxes, and who haven’t paid their fair share for at least 10 years.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Jewish Voice for Peace

I’ve received the following message from Cecilie Surasky, a Jewish Voice for Peace activist.

“The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, presented a bid for the state of Palestine, based on the 1967 borders, to be considered by the Security Council for full membership in the United Nations.

“Shortly afterward, he addressed the General Assembly, where he reviewed, from the 1948 Nakba until today, the multitude of ways in which Israel has suppressed Palestinians’ rights. While the question remains if the UN statehood bid adequately addresses the larger issue of Palestinian rights, Abbas’ address importantly gave voice to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. While there is no uniform support for this UN bid, today was undoubtedly a historic and moving day. After over 63 years struggling for global recognition, it was moving to see the countries of the world represented in the UN general assembly give President Abbas a rousing standing ovation.

“Not so for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who spoke shortly after Abbas. Netanyahu responded to the Palestinian leader with diversion and doublespeak instead of honest engagement, and peace slogans couched in hostility, aggression, and denial of Palestinian claims—a continuation of the standard Israeli tactic. We know from history that this empty rhetoric has been used by Israeli government for decades and will only mean further pain and oppression for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and all over the world.

“As a Jewish-American organization, we believe it is important to remain focused on our primary responsibility:  having an impact on U.S. policy. As such, we will continue to speak out strongly against the U.S. using its veto power in the Security Council to reject this bid for statehood.

“We know now that President Obama will not do the right thing. Speaking at the UN on Wednesday, Obama lauded the Arab Spring—but rejected the Palestinian Autumn. The president retreated from his earlier positions that demanded Israeli accountability for its military occupation, and he did not acknowledge the ongoing role of the U.S. in maintaining that imbalance through its extraordinary economic, military, and diplomatic support for Israel, even when its actions violate international law, human rights, and U.S. policy. And he didn’t acknowledge that twenty years of the ‘peace process’ has brought only a more entrenched occupation. Instead, Obama merely said that both sides should ‘sit down together, to listen to each other, and to understand each other’s hopes and fears.’

“While this week has not been an easy one, we at JVP actually feel a redoubled assurance in the promise of our strategy to change the dynamics on display at the United Nations. We know now, more than ever, that the President or Congress will not change on their own.  The array of power and money is simply too strong—for now.  We know, as with the examples of the civil rights movement and the anti-apartheid movement, to name just two, that it is movements like ours that force our governments to change their policies. It was the steadfastness, the creativity, the demonstrations, the local organizing, and the BDS tactics that helped these movements and so many others for social justice eventually succeed. So we’ll let the politicians play their games, and meanwhile, our work will continue.”

Saturday, September 24, 2011

In One Year

The Recovery Act did work for millions of Americans across this country.

One year after, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, it had saved or created at least 2 million jobs, cut taxes for 95% of working families, and made loans to over 42,000 small businesses.  It also provided critical relief for state governments facing record budget shortfalls.

Rep. Joe Wilson told the Department of Agriculture that the money he was seeking "would provide jobs and investment" for his South Carolina district.  Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty balanced his state budget with the same funds he often attacked on TV.

In February 2009, the Republican leadership in both the Senate and House sought to kill the stimulus bill.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was able to get all but three Republican Senators to vote against the Recovery Act.  Now, he’s bragged about funding for a military project in Kentucky.  Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor the Republican House Whip succeeded in getting every Republican member of the House to vote against the Recovery Act, but is now seeking funds for a high-speed rail project in Virginia to create jobs.

Oklahoma, Republican Senator Inhofe attacked the stimulus over the course of the year, but in his state he touted the stimulus spending as great news and necessary funds to his constituent.

Obama focused on creating jobs and being honesty with the American people, but Republicans continue to engaged in a hypocritical campaign of attacks.  They’ve proved, that their opposition was about politics, pure and simple.

Dozens of congressional Republicans, who praised, the stimulus at home denounced it in Washington.  These hypocrites weren’t at all unembarrassed by attempting to maintain two opposite positions simultaneously.

If you are both praising something as necessary and saying it doesn’t work, you are a hypocrite. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Obamacare

President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act. Among its provisions are insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime expenditure limits on anyone, even those with major illnesses; no one can be denied health coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Medicare is strengthened and everyone can keep their current health coverage if they wish. The reform law gives seniors and their families greater control over the care they receive and makes preventive care and an annual physical free of charge. It strengthens Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste. It protects guaranteed benefits, eligibility and the right to keep your doctor for all seniors.

It gives us the ability to reject insurance companies' unreasonable rate increases to prevent them from unfairly raising Medicare costs. It creates a voluntary program that would 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 received $250 checks to help cover the cost of prescriptions, and within ten years, the new law will have closed the gap completely. The Congressional Budget Office indicated that the Health Care Act was the most significant effort to reduce our deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s.

In order to get elected, the Tea Party Patriots talked a lot about the deficit, but the first bill, that they vote for would have cause the deficit to increase dramatically. House Republicans sought to repeal Obamacare, but the Congressional Budget Office sent a letter to Speaker Boehner saying: “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.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Art of the Possible

Some claimed that had President Obama insisted on a public option, it could have passed the Senate. In fact, Nate Silver, of FiveThirtyEight.com fame, estimated that the number of solid Senate votes for a public option was a only 43. Politics is the art of the possible.

The most significant reason, that we didn’t get a more efficient health care reform was the fierce opposition fueled by special interest lobbyists, who used fear tactics to misrepresent efforts to achieve reform as an attempt to socialize medicine.

The issue of public option was taken off the table in the Senate, by Democratic Senator Baucus, the Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. For six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by his political action committee came from individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical supply firms, health service companies and health professionals.

Senior citizens, who feared change worried, they’d lose what works about our health care system while trying to fix it. Physicians, insurance companies, businesses, and workers couldn’t agree on the need for reform or what shape it should take.

Some folks perceived the individual mandate as one of the greatest corporate giveaways in history, because it forced uninsured Americans to buy insurance from the private insurance industry. Although, the Health Care Reform Act does provide for a tax penalty for anyone, who doesn’t purchase health insurance, no penalty can be imposed. Eventually, it could be less expensive to help people buy health insurance than to pay for them to use emergency rooms.

Taking health insurance out of the hands of private corporations is a major accomplishment, because insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, or issue exorbitant rate hikes when we get sick and need care the most.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Watered-down Care

Some Democrats accuse Obama of selling out to Republicans, because he signed a “watered-down health care bill.” In fact, there wasn’t any evidence that Congress could have pass a stronger bill.

Bismarck said: “Politics is the art of the possible.” Obama took on the most difficult issue. Fortunately, he’s a pragmatist, who didn’t let the perfect, become the enemy of the good.

Obama scolded House Democrats: “You know, this notion that we are willing to compromise too much reminds me of the debate that we had during health care.  This is the public option debate all over again. I signed a piece of legislation where we finally got health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for 100 years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get, what would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow was a sign of weakness and compromise.

“Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done.  People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people.  And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting condition, or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out.

“That can’t be the measure of how we think about our public service. That can’t be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Stronger Military

Today, the military will become stronger, with the official end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.  For those of us who served, this is a moment to be celebrated.

Over the course of recent wars, our military became dangerously overextended, while we were severely lacking in troops with special skills, such as translators.  This didn’t have to be, but it was, because we discharged many able and honorable servicemembers – many with the skill sets we needed –  simply because of their sexual orientation.  Going forward, our military will be able to hold onto its finest, and those who serve will no longer be ordered to lie about who they are and who they love.  Today, the greatest military the earth has ever known has become even greater.

Trust Yourself

Some Democrats are upset that Obama hasn’t come out in favor of gay marriage. In fact, he has concluded that the Defense of Marriage Act, that passed in 1996 is unconstitutional.  DOMA defines marriages as only between a man and a woman. Obama will no longer defend DOMA in appeals courts because, “much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed the law.”

It’s up to the Justice Department to defend the constitutionality of any statutes that Congress passes. However, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced, that in good faith, they can’t defend the law constitutionality.  

Obama concluded that DOMA failed to meet a rigorous standard under which courts view with suspicion any laws targeting minority groups who have suffered a history of discrimination.  

DOMA will remain in effect and the administration will continue to enforce the law until a federal court abolishes it, or Congress repeals it. In December, Obama said that he’d supported civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, but that his position on gay marriage was “constantly evolving.” 

The law is going to be enforce, but the Justice Department isn’t going to defend its constitutionality on appeal. The distinction being made by the Obama administration is very important, because there are lawsuits currently pending where the constitutionality of this law is being challenged. 

What the Obama administration has done is not only appropriate on the merits, but is a giant step towards removing a grave injustice that plagues the lives of tens of thousands of gay Americans.

Obama’s unpopularity reminds me of a verse by Kipling.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too; ”
 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Afghanistan

Some Democrats are upset that Obama has failed to get our troops out of Afghanistan.

In December 2010, on "Meet the Press," Vice President Biden said, that our troops will be withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, “Come Hell or High Water.”

The Obama issued a strategic review of the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to assure the public that it’s on target to begin withdrawing troops in July of 2011 and hand over security operations to Afghan forces by 2014.

Biden added: “In the meantime, we'll help to build a government. We'll transfer responsibility and we'll be gone. That's exactly what we did at the recent Lisbon conference, NATO conference, where we said we're starting this process like we did in Iraq. We're starting it in July 2011, and we're going to be totally out of there, come hell or high water, by 2014.”

Eric Wattree wrote: “allow me to congratulate you on bringing Osama Bin Laden to justice. That one act alone separates you from the disingenuous chest-beaters who have been manipulating American misery to gain political traction. No longer can they wrap themselves in the flag and strut around in their ineffectual, faux patriotism while they accuse the President of the United States of “palling around with terrorists.” The quiet and effective way in which you’ve gone about carrying out America’s business clearly distinguishes who’s the adult in the room, and who's the true American.

“But Osama’s death could also provide you with an opportunity to correct one of the biggest mistakes of your presidency. It gives you a second chance to extricate the United States from the no-win quagmire in Afghanistan, and that part of the world.”

Safely extricating our troops from the land locked country of Afghanistan will require a lot of careful planning.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Closing Gitmo

Some Democrats complain, that Obama has failed to close “Guantánamo.”

On 1/22/09, Obama signed an executive order stating that Guantánamo Detention Camp would be closed within the year. His plan encountered a setback, when incoming officials discovered that there were no comprehensive files concerning many of the detainees.

In 2009, the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility in Michigan, were considered as a site for over 220 prisoners. Kansas public officials including both of its senators and governor objected. Many in Michigan where the unemployment rate was 17%, welcomed the move. Obama admitted that the camp would probably be closed later in 2010.

The Guantánamo Review Task Force issued a final report on 5/28/10. It recommended releasing 126 current detainees to their homes or to a third country, 36 be prosecuted in either federal court or a military commission, and 48 be held indefinitely under the laws of war. In addition, 30 Yemenis were approved for release if security conditions in their home country improve.

By Jan, 2011, Republicans controlled the House, and Obama had to signed a Defense Authorization Bill, which contains provisions preventing the transfer of Guantánamo prisoners to the mainland or to other foreign countries, and thus effectively stopping the closure of Gitmo. He strongly objected to the clauses and stated that he would work with Congress to oppose the measures.

Regarding the provisions preventing the transfer of Guantánamo prisoners to the mainland Obama wrote, that the “prosecution of terrorists in Federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the Nation and must be among the options available to us. Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our Nation’s counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security.”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Social Problems

Some Democrats insist, that Obama hasn’t dealt with “Social Problems.”

The term “social problems” covers a wide range of issues. But, I’ll start with the fact that 16 million children are living in poverty, and SAT scores are the lowest they’ve been in 40 years.

Obama believes, that the best anti-poverty program is a world-class education. However, some Republicans want to eliminate the Department of Education and cut education by 20%. Our President wants to invest in the skills and education of our people, because in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job. Obama and the 111st. Democratic Congress expanded the Pell Grant program, and made the largest investment in education in decades.

Obama reversed Bush’s ban on embryonic stem cell research and sent the message, that he’ll restore science to its rightful place in America.

In his Notre Dame address, Obama said: “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this is a heart-wrenching decision for any woman to make, with both moral and spiritual dimensions.

“So let’s work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.

“...No matter how much we may want to fudge it - indeed, while we know that the views of most Americans on the subject are complex and even contradictory, the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bush Era Tax Cuts

Some Democrats claim, that Obama has failed to get rid of “Bush-era tax cuts.” This issue is addressed in my post of 9/5.

In his speech to Congress on 9/8, Obama addressed the issue and the need to overhaul our entire tax code.

“I’m also well aware that there are many Republicans who don’t believe we should raise taxes on those who are most fortunate and can best afford it.  But here is what every American knows:  While most people in this country struggle to make ends meet, a few of the most affluent citizens and most profitable corporations enjoy tax breaks and loopholes that nobody else gets. Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary -- an outrage he has asked us to fix. We need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake and where everybody pays their fair share. And by the way, I believe the vast majority of wealthy Americans and CEOs are willing to do just that if it helps the economy grow and gets our fiscal house in order.   

“Should we keep tax loopholes for oil companies?  Or should we use that money to give small business owners a tax credit when they hire new workers?  Because we can’t afford to do both.  Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires? Or should we put teachers back to work so our kids can graduate ready for college and good jobs?  Right now, we can’t afford to do both.  

“This isn’t political grandstanding.  This isn’t class warfare. This is simple math These are real choices that we’ve got to make.  And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose.  It’s not even close.  And it’s time for us to do what’s right for our future.”       

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Financial Bailouts

Some Democrats claim, that Obama hasn’t done anything to prevent more “financial bailouts.” Actually, Obama has signed Wall Street reforms, that will put an end to taxpayer bailouts; bring complex financial dealings out of the shadows; protect consumers; and give shareholders more power in the financial system.

During the reform debate, battalions of financial industry lobbyists descended on Capitol Hill and firms spend millions to influence the outcome of the reform debate. Misleading arguments and attacks were made that weren’t designed to improve the bill, but to weaken or kill it. A bipartisan process buckle under the weight of those withering forces. Nevertheless, Congress produced a bill that according to Obama is a reasonable, non-ideological approach that targets the root problems that led to the turmoil in our financial sector and ultimately in our entire economy.

Obama wants business as usual to end and expects both political parties to put that kind of cynical politics aside. He points out to those, who are in the financial sector, that although they’ll not always agree, that doesn't mean they have to choose between two extremes. We don’t have to choose between markets that are unfettered without even modest protections against another crisis, or markets that are stymied by onerous rules that suppress enterprise and innovation. That is a false choice and we need no more proof than the recession that America is now experiencing.

There has always been a tension between the desire to allow markets to function without interference and the absolute necessity of rules to prevent markets from falling out of kilter. In the end, our system works and our markets are free, when there’re basic safeguards that prevent abuse, that check excesses, that ensure that it’s more profitable to play by the rules than to game the system.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bank Corruption

Some Democrats are upset that Obama hasn’t addressed the issue of “bank corruption.”

Republicans never oppose tax cuts for the wealthy, because they’re committed to being cheerleaders for Wall Street charlatans. Driven by greed, special interest lobbyist prevent members of Congress from considering the common good.  

Since gaining control of the House, Republicans have started their reckless effort to undo Wall Street reform. Their agenda is to bring back the days of de-regulation of Wall Street. One of their strategies is to obstruct funding to two of the agencies which are critical to the implementation and enforcement of the financial reform law, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated: “anything we can do to slow down, deter or impede their ability to engage in this kind of oppressive over-regulation which is freezing up our economy would be good for the country… The less we fund those agencies, the better America will be.”

This is extreme right-wing ideology and payback to their big contributors in the financial services industry, many of whom are working to defeat Obama in 2012.

Republicans are also trying to block the funds necessary to implement the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. House Republicans have demanded that the bureau be run by a five-person commission; Senate Republicans have vowed that they will not confirm Elizabeth Warren or anyone else to run it.

Congressional Republicans want to cripple our government’s ability to police too-big-to-fail institutions. In the final analysis, their goal is to repeal Wall Street reform completely. They’re determined to re-deregulate Wall St, because the Republican attack on the Democrats’ financial reforms have paid off handsomely for them in the form of millions of dollars in campaign contributions.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Job Creation

Misinformed Democrats are upset that Obama has failed regarding “job creation.”

Obama took office, in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. America had lost 650,000 jobs in December, 2008, and 700,000 jobs the month Obama was sworn in. Twenty-four days after Obama took office the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed. It provided assistance to states, that saved tens of thousands of jobs for teachers, police officers and other public servants. However, the job loss prove to be much more severe in the first quarter of 2009, than anybody had anticipated.

We had witnessed 8 years of the same old economic theory that gave tax cuts to billionaires and powerful corporations with the farcical hope that prosperity would trickle down to everyone else.

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%. Thanks to Obama and the 111th. Congress, we saw a 10% growth in private sector jobs. 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 in early 2011, corporate profits reached their highest point ever as a share of GDP.

Tea Party Republicans want Obama to fail.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Anger and Frustration

I received the following e-mail from an angry Democrat.

“Am I going too far to say that in spirit, if not in fact, we actually have a right-wing government … I want to vote democrat in the next election-- and based on what I see, voting for Obama is voting for the right. I've been fed up for a long time, as you all know, but this has reached a new low: Obama is pathetically out of touch with the left wing and with people who are rightfully angry that in economic matters (job creation, bank corruption, financial bailouts, Bush-era tax cuts), social problems (Guantanimo Bay, Afghanistan, gay marriage, even the watered-down health care), and leadership style (defeat after defeat with congress), he seems to align himself with the republicans at every turn. Why does he capitulate so easily?

“I will not vote for him in the primaries-- he is not a bad person, he is simply inept. If he makes it to the election, I would even consider voting third party.”

In fact, we don’t have a right or left wing government, because laws and budgets are passed by the legislative branch of government. The House of Representatives is controlled by tea party Republicans and although Democrats hold a small majority in the Senate, it’s meaningless, because Republicans can use the filibuster to prevent any bill from passing.

Obama can either sign a bill into law, or veto it. Divided government wasn't cause by Obama, it was caused by those that didn't vote in 2010 and those that voted for the Republican candidates in November 2010.

Angry, frustrated, misinformed voters could ensure that Obama will be defeated in the 2012 election and thereby guarantee, that tea party Republicans will control the House, Senate and White House.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Plausible Deniability

Plausible deniability was a trademark of the Bush administration.

Career counterterrorism expert Richard A. Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions. He was the nations crisis manager in Bush’s White House situation room on 9/11. His book “Against All Enemies” is a chronology of the facts before, during and after 9/11.

Speaking at the National Press Club on the day after Clarke’s article: “The Trauma Defense,” was published in The Washington Post, Vice President Cheney attempted to blame 9/11 on Richard Clarke. Cheney said: “Dick Clarke, who was the head of the counterterrorism program in the run-up to 9/11, obviously missed it.  The fact is that we did what we felt we had to do, and if I had it to do all over again, I would do exactly the same thing.” Actually, it was Cheney who “missed” the warning signs, not Richard Clarke.

New York Times reporter Philip Shenon’s book, “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation,” reprinted some of Clarke’s e-mails warning the Bush regime of an impending al Qaeda threat. They included:

May 26, 2001: “Bin Laden’s network plans advancing.”

June 23rd: “Bin Laden’s attacks may be imminent.” 

June 25th: “Bin Laden and associates making near-term threats.”

June 30th: “Bin Laden planning high-profile attacks.”

Time Magazine reported that Clarke used a powerpoint presentation, for Condoleezza Rice, entitled “Response to al Qaeda: Roll back.” Clarke had developed the proposal in the winter of 2000-01, but it spent four months making its way through the bureaucracy before they were readied for approval by Bush.

Clarke had repeatedly attempted to warn Bush about an imminent attack by al Qaeda. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Jobs Act

Excerpts from Obama’s speech to Congress on 9/8/11.

“The people of this country work hard to meet their responsibilities.  The question tonight is whether we’ll meet ours.  The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy. The question is whether we can restore some of the fairness and security that has defined this nation since our beginning.”

“The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple:  to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working.  It will create more jobs for construction workers, more jobs for teachers, more jobs for veterans, and more jobs for long-term unemployed. It will provide a tax break for companies who hire new workers, and it will cut payroll taxes in half for every working American and every small business. It will provide a jolt to an economy that has stalled, and give companies confidence that if they invest and if they hire, there will be customers for their products and services.  You should pass this jobs plan right away.” 

“There are private construction companies all across America just waiting to get to work. There’s a bridge that needs repair between Ohio and Kentucky that’s on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America.  A public transit project in Houston that will help clear up one of the worst areas of traffic in the country.  And there are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating.  How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart?  This is America.  Every child deserves a great school, and we can give it to them, if we act now.”  

“Pass this jobs bill, and thousands of teachers in every state will go back to work.  These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher.  But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves.  It’s unfair to our kids.  It undermines their future and ours.  And it has to stop.  Pass this bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.”

“But know this:  The next election is 14 months away.  And the people who hired us to work for them don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months. Some of them are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, even day to day.  They need help, and they need it now.” 

Friday, September 09, 2011

Part 2. William Masters

“While that is like a Marxian idea, I am not sympathetic to any totalitarian system, including communism. But I do think some socialist ideas have substantially bolstered our communal well-being.



“Privatized endeavors are not always or automatically superior or somehow more pure in my eyes. Individual initiative is vital when planted in the soil of opportunity, but markets do not magically solve all our problems fairly.



“Privacy and private property are basic to our culture. But achievers do have an obligation to recognize the advantages that society's shoulders have provided them. We must also remain aware that our individual stewardship of the Earth is but a time-speck in the big picture.



“I admit I am a tree-hugger environmentalist. I do not believe that anyone should so exploit the Earth as to damage it irreparably. I do worry that the perspective we have within a single lifetime can be blind to seeing some long-range consequences of our actions.



“Ecosystems are subtly complex intertwinings of seasons and species _ circular interdependencies that are often obscure to us in the present. It is nonetheless vital to weigh these matters as much as the fistfuls of dollars that urge us carelessly forward sometimes.



“I strongly believe in tolerance (except of intolerance itself). I think that original sin is described in Genesis as ‘eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil,’ by which each of us is tempted to play god, to judge ourselves good, and ‘them’ evil.



“This leads to ends justifying means. That can be a mullah assigning a suicide bomber, or a preacher condemning abortion. I believe in a rigid separation of government from religion, and that no one is entitled to control the personal choices of others. 



“Some on the left are disappointed about the performance of our president (too few home runs as a Democrat), but to me the cries of the right are foul balls, full of misplaced anger and denial at the contradictory record of their own Republican Party.



“No one is infallible. I know that I will not always resist imputing motives to people with different views, even though this can approach treading upon the thin ice of disrespect. So, it would just have to go down as speculation. In the broadest of brush strokes, that is about it for me now.”



William Masters can be reached at wmasters@thedailystar.com.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Part 1, William Masters

For years, I've read William Masters’ letters to the editor in the Daily Star, and wished that I was able to articulate the position of liberal Democrats as skillfully has he has. I can't think of a better person to write a column, that represents the views of our party. An excerpt from his first column follows:

“This is the beginning of a biweekly column, as The Daily Star strives to remain fair and balanced in relation to the opinions of the day.

“Opinions left and right can fester into thorny issues, and it is not my intention to stir up negativity. It is rather to explore how our community values fit together and how we interact with each other, economically and politically.



“My own opinions are rather strongly held, but I strongly value open-mindedness. Working as an election inspector for a number of years, it has been wonderful to observe the neighborly atmosphere at the polls, among people who represent various factions in our community. I go to work that day filled with the political hopes of my party, and leave feeling admiration for our ability to interact with each other in courteous and friendly ways as Oneontans.



“I expect to be called a ‘bleeding-heart liberal,’ at least by some of you, whatever that means. I retired after 22 years as a clinical social worker at Delaware County Mental Health Clinic. After a five-year hiatus (to build a new house for my wife and me in Oneonta), I was then with the Arc Otsego part time for another seven years. I have two grown kids and four grandkids.



“I believe in the fundamental goodness of people. I am aware that it is not uncommon for good people to do bad things. I believe in personal responsibility and also in the healing power of forgiveness. People hurt one another, not always on purpose, and can be selfish or blind to the needs of others, as well as generous and kindly.



“I believe in evolution (as the hand of the creator) and that our chief attribute as a species is our ability to work together successfully as a group pooling our strength, as well as to care for each other. I believe that patriotism is expressed by contributing to our society to the best of our individual ability, and that in fairness, we should expect protection within society for some of our needs.”



Part 2, of William Masters’ column will be posted tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Compromise or Confrontation

In a letter published in the “Oneonta Daily Star”, Stuart Anderson concluded: “President Obama, it is time to abandon your sinking flagship Compromise and move your colors to the battleship Confrontation.”

Usually, I agree with Mr. Anderson, but I believe that this is not the time for confrontation. Keep in mind the old saying, that “You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” I can’t imagine why anyone would want to attract flies. However, a confrontational belligerent attitude will only revive images of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who most white voters disapprove of.

Obama has got an image problem, that he’s not fighting hard enough, and Progressive Democrats want a confrontational fighter in the White House. Our President isn’t an angry confrontational person. He’s a deal maker, who is being forced to come to grips with an unwavering, cynical resistance, that no other president has had to deal with.

Many in the black community don’t want to hear, that this is a time for patience, or that the president is doing everything he can to work with Republicans to create jobs. Obama’s campaign is going to have to make the case that things could be worse, if the Republicans win back the presidency, because they will continue to favor the corporations and the wealthy, until the middle class will be gone.

Obama is going to have to convince voters that the alternative is a lot worse, and explain the obstructionism that he’s facing. It’s best, that Obama calmly articulate his message to the American people.

Republicans see an opportunity to win back the White House in 2012. They prefer an unstable economy so that investors will be less likely to expand. They don’t want more jobs, or more Americans being able to provide for themselves and their families.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Liberty

Conservatives claim Democrats are forcing liberal ideas down their throats.

In 1944, federal judge Learned Hand said: “In the American battle of minds, too many are seeking ‘freedom’ and too few are seeking ‘liberty’. 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;...”

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty authored by Emma Lazarus says: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

That golden door has been closed, by tea party Republicans, who have taken an inflexible position, and will not compromise on immigration reform.

The DREAM Act was a liberal idea, that Congress didn’t pass. Consequently, a 3 year old child, that was brought to America by a parent, and attended a public or private schools, and achieve high grades for 12 years will continue to be label a lawbreaker.

If the DREAM Act had passed undocumented students who had graduated from an American high school would have a pathway to legal residency and citizenship after earning a college degree or serving two years in our military.

Specific requirements included being between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of application. Having entered our country before the age of 16, and lived here for at least five consecutive years prior to enactment of the bill. Graduation from high school, or a GED, and being accepted into an institution of higher education. Plus, good moral character.

Nevertheless, the dream survives.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Too Conciliatory


Obama is a pragmatist, who doesn’t allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good. He is a very savvy politician and is aware that it’s wise not to start an unnecessary fight, that he can’t win.  He wants to be perceive as a person, who is willing to compromise.

Many frustrated progressive Democrats perceive Obama as too conciliatory. However, they should keep in mind, that uncompromising has become the most obvious attribute of tea party Republicans, who presently control the House of Representatives.

Most American voters want a leader, who is willing to compromise in order to solve the serious problems, that our nation faces. Obama has demonstrated, that he will compromise to get things done for the most vulnerable among us.

For example, in December of 2010, Senate Republicans refused to extend unemployment insurance, for 2 million Americans, who had their unemployment insurance run out.  Nor, would they extended middle class tax cuts.  Their actions would’ve caused millions of families to see a spike in their tax bill when they could least afford it. Senate Republicans held the middle class tax cuts hostage to high-end income tax cuts.

It was tempting, for Obama and congressional Democrats not to negotiate with hostage-takers, but the hostages would have end up getting harmed. Republicans were willing to harm the unemployed, in order to continue providing unwarranted tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans, who saw their income go up more than 10% each year between 2002 and 2007.

If, young voters had turned out in 2010 congressional election, in the same numbers that they did in the presidential election of 2008, Obama might not have need to compromise.

It’s easy to blame politicians, but in the end lazy and politically naive voters get the government they deserve.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Perceptions of War

In his book, “Superpatriotism” Michael Parenti points out: “We are told that during times of crisis we must trust the president. Democracy is not about trust; it’s about distrust, accountability, public exposure and responsible government.”

Republican President Eisenhower said: “If men can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war include almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence and his comprehension... would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”… “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Legendary Marine Corps officer, Major General Smedley Butler, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of heroism shared his perception of war, in 1933. Butler delivered a speech at the VFW national convention entitled: “War is just a racket.” He said: “A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.” An actor’s interpretation of that speech is on:

youtube.com/watch? v=F3_EXqJ8f-O

Italian fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, was an enemy of Major General Butler. Mussolini had a quite different perception of war. He claimed: “And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace... War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it.”

Which is your perception?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Savings Elsewhere


In 2004, Eric Cantor was among 127 Republicans who voted against an amendment to an emergency supplemental bill for disaster aid that would have offset any increases in the relief with budget cuts. It was defeated.

On May 22, 2011, a tornado devastated Joplin, Mo., leaving 142 dead. The next day, House Majority Cantor voiced confidence the government would provide ample relief, but said any supplemental emergency money would have to be offset by cuts to other federal programs.

Cantor made similar comments to Fox News on Aug. 29. He said: “Yes, we’re going to find the money. We’re just going to make sure that there are savings elsewhere to continue to do so.”

Where do you think those savings will be found? There is a way to balance the budget called shared sacrifice, whereby you don’t balance it entirely on the backs of the middle class, or senior citizens.

For example, we could go back to the Clinton income tax levels, for people making over $1 million a year, that would saves $360 billion in 10 years.

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

We could save $4 billion a year by cutting ethanol subsidies, thereby a savings $40 billion over 10 years. Eliminating subsidies to very profitable oil companies, who are paying no taxes, would save taxpayers $21 billion. 

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

The voting record of the Tea Party controlled House, suggest that it’s those conservatives, who are forcing their ideas down the throat of Congressman Chris Gibson’s constituents. In the video below, they seem quite angry about it.

front.moveon.org/best-republican-town-hall-takedown-weve-seen-today/#.Tl-LiDWLoUX.facebook

Friday, September 02, 2011

Cynical and Wrong


Initial estimates put the cost of Hurricane Irene at $7 billion to $10 billion, because the hurricane pummeled an unusually wide area of the East Coast. In addition to the deadly flooding that caused havoc in upstate New York and Vermont, the hurricane flooded cotton and tobacco crops in North Carolina, temporarily halted shellfish harvesting in Chesapeake Bay, sapped power and kept commuters from their jobs in the New York metropolitan area and pushed tourists off Atlantic beaches in the peak of summer.

Typically, insurers have covered about half of the total losses in past storms, but they might end up covering less than 40% of the costs associated with Hurricane Irene. Much of the damage was caused by flooding, and it’s unclear how many damaged homes have flood insurance, and also because deductibles have risen steeply in coastal areas in recent years, requiring some homeowners to cover $4,000 worth of damages or more before insurers pick up the loss.

This could make it harder for many stricken homeowners to rebuild, and could dampen any short-term boost to the construction industry that typically accompanies major storms. People don’t have money sitting around, local governments are broke, and possibly people can’t even get loans from the banks.

It’s cynical and wrong to capitalize on a natural disaster that has destroyed homes, wiped out bridges and pushed already struggling businesses to the brink just to advance Republicans’ radical Tea Party agenda. It’s the role of government to respond to the needs of its people in the wake of disaster. Tea Party Republicans like Eric Cantor need to get out of the way and let the federal government help the states aid those in immediate danger, and as quickly as possible begin the essential work of repairing the damage.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Hurricane Victims


Hurricane Irene will most likely prove to be one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in our nation’s history. Much of the damage might not be covered by insurance because it was caused not by winds but by flooding, which is excluded from many standard policies.

Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor wants to take advantage of the urgent needs of hurricane survivors in order to advance his radical crusade to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Cantor is refusing to allocate money to disaster relief unless Congress first offsets that money with cuts to vital government programs.

Hurricane Irene’s path across the eastern seaboard caused tens of billions of dollars in damage. To make matters worse, our federal disaster fund is dangerously low in the wake of a string of recent tornadoes and other extreme weather-related natural disasters. FEMA had to temporarily suspend some payments to rebuilding projects in Joplin, Mo., and other states hit hard this spring by tornadoes in order to pay for urgent needs caused by Hurricane Irene.

Congressman Cantor wants to hold victims of the devastation caused by Hurricane Irene hostage in order to extort more budget cuts. He's insisting that funds needed to meet immediate human needs must first be offset with budget cuts elsewhere.

It’s unlikely, that we’ll offset money spent on emergency disaster relief and rebuilding by cutting the budget for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Republicans won't touch the tax subsidies they’ve awarded to the big oil companies whose products are accelerating global warming and contributing to the extreme weather events that are the cause of intensifying natural disasters. When Rep. Cantor talks about the need to offset disaster funding, what he's really saying is that we have to submit to his demands to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.