Mind and Destiny

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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Record Annual Profit

General Motors reported a record annual profit, just two years after the nation's largest automaker emerged from bankruptcy with the help of a federal bailout.

Ford and Chrysler have already reported profits for last year, thus 2011 marked the first time since 2004 that all three major American automakers were profitable at the same time.

GM’s results show the impact of changes made during the bankruptcy process in the summer of 2009, when it closed plants, won changes in labor contracts, and shed weaker brands and dealerships.

Overall global sales volume rose 7.6% for the year, enough to allow it to recapture the global sales title it held for 77 years before it fell behind Toyota Motor in 2008.

A bloated cost structure, unaffordable labor contracts, and a prolonged decline in market share doomed the company. By 2005, GM had fallen into a period of sustained losses that eventually led to it nearly running out of cash by the end of 2008. The company received $49.5 billion in federal help to fund its operations in 2009.

GM has repaid loans it received, and the Treasury got most of the proceeds of its initial public offerings. Our Treasury still holds about a third of the company’s shares.

Taxpayers fell about $1.3 billion short on the Chrysler bailout, but even if the bailouts are not repaid by GM and Chrysler, there are estimates that taxpayers are better off for the bailouts.

The federal assistance saved about 1.5 million jobs, according to an estimate from the Center for Automotive Research, and prevented GM, Chrysler and many parts suppliers from being forced out of business, which would have been a huge blow for tax revenue. All the major automakers are again hiring, and further job gains are forecast in the coming years.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Women’s Health Care

After campaigning on a platform of jobs and the economy, the first three bills House Republicans introduced were direct attacks on women’s health.

H.R. 1, would have totally eliminated Title X funding for family planning and teen pregnancy prevention. It included an amendment that would have completely defunded Planned Parenthood.

H.R. 2. “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” would have allowed insurance companies to once again discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums or denying women care because of so-called pre-existing conditions, such as pregnancy.

H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” tried to redefine rape as “forceable rape” only, which would exclude statutory rape and women who were drugged or verbally threatened.

House Republicans passed the “Protect Life Act.” It would prohibit women from using tax subsidies from the Affordable Health Care Act “to purchase insurance that covers abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or health risk to the mother.” The bill would make it illegal for federal funds to go to any health care plan that provides abortion services, even if the woman pays out of her own pocket.

“The Access to Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act” requires hospitals not to turn away anyone in an emergency life or death situations, and if they can’t treat the person, they must transfer the patient to a hospital that can. “The Protect Life Act” would continue to permit Catholic Hospitals not to treat women in life threatening situation, but in those situations they’d no longer have to transfer the woman.

Obama reaffirmed that women will be able to access birth control with no co-pay. If a religiously affiliated employer has decided not to provide contraceptive coverage, insurance companies would provide birth control coverage directly to the consumers.

Rep. Darrell Issa chaired a hearing on Obama’s plan to provide contraception to women, but blocked testimony from woman’s health advocates. Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke wasn’t allowed to testify. She had intended to talk about a fellow Catholic university student, who has polycystic ovarian syndrome. The young woman needed to take contraception to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries and not to prevent pregnancy.

These attacks on women’s health care are about a constituency that insist their representatives in Congress to do whatever it takes to push their extreme religious agenda.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Funding Education  

Most industrialized countries are increasing funding for education, but in the United States tight budgets have forced states to lay off thousands of teachers. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to children who dreams beyond their financial circumstance.  Many teachers work tirelessly with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies in order to make a difference.

Instead of bashing teacher, let’s offer schools the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best one. Obama wants to grant schools flexibility to teach creatively. They should be allowed to stop teaching to tests and replace teachers who aren’t helping kids learn. 

The Obama administration has proposed that states require all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18. After graduation the challenge becomes the rising cost of college.  Congress needs to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling in July. It needs to extend the tuition tax credit, that saves millions of middle-class families thousands of dollars, and gives more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years. 

It’s not enough for our government to increase student aid, because we can’t keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition. States need to do their part, by making higher education a greater priority in their budgets. Colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down. Some colleges have redesign courses to help students finish more quickly.  Some are using better technology.

Obama warned: “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury. It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oral Contraceptives

Yesterday, the following letter by Melinda Hardin of Cooperstown was published in the Oneonta Daily Star.

“President Barack Obama on Feb. 10 reaffirmed that women will be able to access birth control with no co-pay. If a religiously affiliated employer has decided not to provide contraceptive coverage, insurance companies will provide birth control coverage directly to the consumers.

“Religious employers are not forced to provide insurance coverage of birth control. The Catholic Health Association has already come out in support of this solution.

“Women of all faiths _ even Catholics _ use birth control. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows a large majority of Catholics support employers providing insurance plans that cover contraception. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in the U.S. have used birth control.

“Access to affordable birth control is widely supported by the general public. Seventy-one percent of American voters and 77 percent of Catholic women voters support covering birth control without co-pays.

“If people choose not to use birth control because of religious reasons, that is their own business. But people of all faiths work for religious employers, and no one should be denied a benefit because her boss doesn't want her to have it. Health decisions should remain between doctors and patients. The president has made the right decision with his compromise.”
Last week, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired a hearing on President Obama’s plan to provide contraception to women, but blocked all testimony from woman’s health advocates.

Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke wasn’t allowed to testify at Rep. Issa’s hearing on contraceptives. Fluke intended to talk about a fellow student, who has polycystic ovarian syndrome. She needed to take contraception to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries and not to prevent pregnancy. However, since Georgetown is a Catholic University, it didn’t offer birth control coverage in its student health insurance plans.

See post of 2/22/12 for Sandra Flukes complete message.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Fair Shot

The rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther apart. The children of the working poor have only a one in three chance of climbing out of poverty and into the middle class, no matter how hard they work.

That’s not a future that Americans have to accept, because it’s still possible to rebuild a strong middle class. The vision of a strong middle class had been embraced by both parties. It’s not a position that calls for punishing success or pretending that government knows how to fix all of society’s problems. It perspective that says that we’re a greater nation, when everybody engages in fair play and does their fair share. Rebuilding the middle-class begins by making sure that every American gets a fair shot at success.

America will never be able to compete with countries when it comes to who’s best at paying the lowest wages, busting unions, or letting companies pollute. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win, and we shouldn’t want to win. Those countries don’t have a strong middle class, or our standard of living.

The race we must win is the race to the top. A race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security. Businesses are eager to create those jobs in countries with the highest-skilled, best educated workers, the most advanced transportation and communication, the strongest commitment to research and technology.

Obama asked Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, but the Republican leadership in the House refused to let it come up for a vote. Senate Republicans repeatedly filibustered attempts to pass the Jobs Act. The Senate’s filibuster rule requires 60 votes to get anything passed.

Two-thirds of Americans support the ideas in that bill, but every congressional Republican opposed it. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oil Production

The number of oil rigs in U.S. oil fields has more than quadrupled in the past three years. America has more rigs at work than the entire rest of the world. The number of barrels of oil produced per year is up, and we’re producing more oil, than we did at any point during George W. Bush’s second term.

The price of oil tends to go up, whenever the world economy starts getting better, or turmoil breaks out in the Middle East. In order to avoid being at the mercy of these world events, we need to have a sustained strategy that develops every available source of American energy. Oil and gas, but also wind and solar and nuclear and biofuels.

There are no quick fixes to America’s addiction to cheap oil, and we can’t drill our way to lower gas prices.  We must take control of our energy future, if we’re going to be able to avoid these annual gas price increases.

We need to develop the technology that allows us to use less oil in our cars, and less energy for our buildings and factories. That strategy is the only real solution.

Furthermore, Obama didn’t give a loan to Brazil. That loan was made to the Brazilian oil company by the Export-Import Bank of America. The role of the Export-Import Bank is to export more American goods around the world. One way is to make loans to foreign governments and foreign companies who commit to buying American products. When foreigners buy American goods, that’s an export.

Whether you like those kind of arrangement or not, it wasn’t Obama, who made that deal. The decision to extend the loan to Brazil was made by Export-Import Bank board members who were all appointed by George W. Bush.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Preet Bharara

Since, he came to the job in 2009, U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara has expanded the office’s work on securities fraud, busting 63 people for insider trading, convicting 56 of them, with seven trials still pending.

As the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Bharara announced mortgage fraud charges accusing three former high-level employees of Credit Suisse with jacking up the book value of bundled housing loans they were selling. They overstated the value by $540 million, boosting a top executive’s bonus to $1.7 million in 2007. Three years after the collapsing value of those complex investment vehicles nearly destroyed the global economy, this could become one of the first big criminal busts in the world of mortgage bonds.

Preet Bharara has said: “There was a creeping culture of corruption in our politics and also in Wall Street and in business generally.” His greatest successes against Wall Street crime have come from prosecuting insider trading, a practice which he says “tells everybody at precisely the wrong time that everything is rigged and only people who have a billion dollars and have access to and are best friends with people who are on boards of directors of major companies, they’re the only ones who can make a true buck”

Bharara’s office claims, that in November 2007 Kareem Serageldin, a managing director at Credit Suisse and Global Head of the Structured Credit Group, told David Higgs and Salmaan Siddiqui, that “the housing markets going down the tubes” and that they had to “find a way to sell these bonds.” The three “artificially increased the price of bonds in order to create the false appearance of profitability.”

Higgs and Siddiqui have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit falsification of books and records and wire fraud.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sandra Fluke

Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke wasn’t allowed to testify at Republican Chairman, Darrell Issa’s hearing on contraceptives. The subject of the hearing was the Obama administrations’s compromise regulation requiring insurers to provide contraception coverage. Georgetown doesn’t offer birth control coverage in its student health insurance plans.

Sandra Fluke intended to talk about a friend of who has polycystic ovarian syndrome. She needed to take contraception to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries and not to prevent pregnancy. Technically, the woman’s medical condition should be covered by the Georgetown student health insurance. However, when university administrators and insurance companies get involved in deciding whose health needs are legitimate and whose aren’t, women’s health needs take a back seat to the Catholic Universities religious ideology. What happened in the case of Miss Flute’s friend happens in 65% of the female students’ cases.

They’ve repeatedly refused the woman’s contraception coverage claims. She presented verification from her doctor, but it didn’t matter. She was forced to pay out of pocket about $100 a month. Eventually she couldn’t afford the cost, and she stopped taking the contraceptives. A few months after she stopped taking the prescription, a massive cyst grew on her ovary. She woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain, because it felt like she had been shot. She had that ovary surgically removed. As a result of that surgery, she’ll have problems conceiving a child.

Since, having the surgery she’s experienced symptoms of early menopause, and her doctors are very concerned that at the age of 32, she is entering early menopause, which means that there will be nothing any doctor can do to help her to conceive a child. It will also put her at risk for increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Preserves The Status Quo

The National Defense Authorization Act helped to preserve the status quo established a decade ago with the original provisions in the Patriot Act giving the government broad new powers in the War on Terror. The bill expands those powers, codifying the use of indefinite detention of foreign nationals and possibly American citizens arrested abroad and at home. The bill expands the use of the US military on domestic soil, at once complicating anti-terrorism strategies at home and raising serious questions about the role of the military in law enforcement.

President Obama explained: “I have signed the Act chiefly because it authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, crucial services for service members and their families, and vital national security programs that must be renewed... The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.”

Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a drone strike.  Al-Awlaki helped recruit Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, the Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a transatlantic flight on Christmas Day, 2009.  He had also exchanged e-mails with accused Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hassan.

Not long after the drone killed the al Qaeda propagandist, Obama critics started lambasting the seemingly routine use of a targeted assassination in the war on terror.  

Awlaki was a U.S. citizen, at one time spending several years in San Diego pursuing graduate studies.  A secret Justice Department memo authorized the assassination and dismissed Awlaki's Fifth Amendment rights to legal protection.  An administration official put it: "What constitutes due process in this case is a due process in war."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Change for America

Change happened when the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Cate Act was passed after a century of trying. The reform has already allowed 2.6 million young people to stay on their parent’s insurance. It ensures that in America, nobody is going to go broke just because they get sick. Americans will no longer be denied or dropped by their insurance companies just when they need care the most.

For the first time in our history, Americans don’t have to hide who they love to serve the country they love. “Don't ask, don’t tell” is over. That’s change our military can be proud of.

For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. Obama has refocused our efforts on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. Thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, al Qaeda is weaker than it has ever been, and bin Laden is dead. That’s change.  

Change hasn’t come easy in this economy. As long as millions of Americans are looking for work, more needs to be done.  There are still too many families who can barely pay the bills, and their homes remain underwater.  They’re still trying to recover from the worst economy in our lifetimes. 

As tough as this economy has been, congressional Republicans haven’t made it any easier for Obama. The month he took office we were losing 750,000 jobs.

Change over the past two years, confirms that businesses added about 3.7 million new jobs. Manufacturers have been creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  Our economy is getting stronger.  The recovery is accelerating.  America is coming back, but the last thing we can afford to do is go back to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place.    

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Vision We Share

The November election is about a shared vision for America.

It’s a vision that doesn’t leave everything to the free market, or leave everybody to fend for themselves. It’s vision that says we're greater together than we are on our own, and that everybody should get a fair shot, everybody should do their fair share, and everybody should play by the same set of rules. Because when we do that, our entire country does better.

Change started with Obama signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Act that says women deserve an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work. 

Change took place with the decision to rescue the American auto industry from collapse, even when it wasn’t popular, and some were saying we should let Detroit go bankrupt.  With one million jobs on the line, Obama wouldn’t let it happen. Today, GM is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker, and has just reported the highest profits in its 100-year history. The American auto industry is back with more than 200,000 new jobs created in the last two and a half years.

Change occurred, when the Obama stopped waiting for Congress to do something about our oil addiction and raised our fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in decades. In the next decade, we’ll be driving American-made cars that get almost 55 miles to a gallon.   

Change took place, when Congress stopped handing out $60 billion in taxpayer subsidies to banks, and gave that loan money directly to the students. Thereby, increasing the number of students that are getting loans and the amount of loans that they’re getting, so that millions of young people have an opportunity to attend college.

Tomorrow, more examples of what change has looked like over the last three years.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spending and Cuts

Obama’s proposed budget projects a $ 1.3 trillion deficit this year, and $901 billion in 2013. By 2018, the deficit is forecast to fall to $575 billion.

Caps on-security discretionary spending were laid out in the Budget Control Act. Those caps are currently set at $450 billion, but would fall to $410 billion in 2013 and $385 billion by 2015.

When coupled with less spending on overseas wars, the reductions would bring discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration.

The proposed budget detailed 210 places where programs will be cut or eliminated, for savings of $24 billion in 2013 and $520 billion over a decade. It cuts $33 million from the Superfund remedial program, the effort to clean up and monitor areas where hazardous waste poses a risk to humans or the environment.

The funding reduction reflects difficult budget choices and will negatively impact the program’s performance. Fewer inspections, less monitoring and no new projects. The budget cuts $359 million in EPA funds that help finance infrastructure projects at the state level designed to ensure safe drinking water.

Funding for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which subsidized energy bills for 9 million households last year, is targeted for a $452 million reduction. Most agencies will get a smaller increases, but the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the Department of Agriculture, will see significant reduction in funding.

Mandatory programs cuts would include select farm subsidies and federal employee retirement and health benefits, for savings of $217 billion over a decade.

The Pentagon plans to spend $487 billion less over 10 years. This includes nearly $1 trillion in savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Obama budget would cut more than $360 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs over a decade. However, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to the rapid expansion of costs expected for entitlement programs in the future. The White House stayed away from fundamental reforms to Social Security.

Obama’s 2013 budget proposal is only the first step in a convoluted process that involves no less than 40 congressional committees, 24 subcommittees, countless hearings and a number of floor votes in the House and Senate.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Security and Dignity

Obama claimed: “From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America‘s wealth and prosperity.  More than citizens of any other country we are rugged individuals, a self-reliant people, with a healthy skepticism of too much government.”

“But there’s always been another thread running through our history, a belief that we’re all connected.  And that there are some things we can only do together as a nation.  Part of this American belief that we’re all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity.”

Congressional Republican don’t believe each one of us deserves some basic measure of security and dignity, especially if that security includes health care. Most think that unemployment insurance, makes us a weaker country because we give money to people who don’t work.  They consider it a government handout.

The reason the social safety net that the Democratic Party created over the last 75 years is under attack is that half our country don’t share the value, that every Americans deserve some basic measure of security and dignity. 

The political reality is that the burden of maintaining the liberal successes of Social Security and Medicare has always fallen exclusively to the creators of those programs.  

Republicans were opposed to the creation of Social Security and Medicare.  They’re not interested in figuring out how to keep them going. They’re not interested in lowering the unemployment rate.

Not a single congressional Republicans voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act. Only three Republican Senators voted for the Recovery Act and Reinvestment Act. Every House Republican voted against the Recovery Act and they’ve refused to even bring the Jobs Bill up for a vote. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fraudulent Practices

Obama announced five of the nation’s largest banks have agreed to $26 billion settlement to help homeowners who were harmed by the housing crisis. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial signed on to the agreement.

Obama said: “Millions of Americans did the right thing and responsible thing, shopped for a house, secured a mortgage that they could afford, made their payments on time, were nevertheless hurt badly by the irresponsible actions of others, by lenders who sold loans to people who couldn’t afford them, by banks that took risky mortgages, packaged them up and traded them off for large profits. It was wrong. And it cost more than 4 million families their home to foreclosure. Under the terms of the settlement, America’s biggest banks, banks that were rescued by taxpayer dollars, will be required to right these wrongs.”

The settlement could reduce mortgage debt and lower mortgage rates for 1 million homeowners, who owe more on their homes than they are worth. Another 750,000 people who lost their homes to foreclosure between September of 2008 and 2011 will get checks for $2,000.

In exchange, participating banks will be off the hook for certain types of fraud investigations, but individual homeowners can still file suit. Prosecutors can investigate many other practices that contributed to the housing bubble such as insurance, and tax fraud.

The $26 million deal, primarily addressed the robo-signing element, where banks essentially had automatic signing of these mortgage documents when you needed them to be signed by actual humans.

New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, is moving forward with a much deeper investigation.

Forty-nine states attorney general signed on the settlement. The only one missing was from Oklahoma, he thought the agreement was too hard on the banks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Proposed Budget

The budget Obama proposed forecasts a $901 billion deficit in 2013, and includes plans to make targeted investments in areas like infrastructure while hiking taxes on the rich.

It’s consider a “blueprint for how we can rebuild an economy where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.”
  By 2022, the deficit is forecast to fall to $704 billion, or 2.8% of GDP, according to the White House.

The 2013 budget is somewhat limited in scope because the White House had to fit spending on discretionary accounts below the limits set in the Budget Control Act approved by Congress last summer.

Over a decade, the cuts enshrined in the Budget Control Act total $1 trillion in discretionary spending. It's difficult to find room for additional spending on infrastructure, research and development and education. In order to fit under the caps, it had to lower spending in many areas. Discretionary spending is projected to fall from 8.7% of GDP in 2011 to 5.0% in 2022.

The Pentagon plans to spend $487 billion less over ten years. The Army will save money by pulling two of its four brigades out of permanent bases in Europe to bases in the United States. The Navy will be getting rid of older ships that don't have the latest ballistic missile defense.

The budget cuts spending and raises taxes. It calls for $1.5 trillion in tax hikes, including a provision that will allow the Bush tax cuts to expire for high-income earners.

The budget incorporates the Buffett Rule to ensure that the very wealthy don't pay a lower overall tax rate than those who earn substantially less money. No household making more than $1 million will be a allowed to pay less than 30% of its income in taxes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Greatest Conflict

Jesus taught, “For unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” 

Obama is advocating giving every American a fair shot at opportunity. He believe that when a young person can afford a college education, or someone who’s been unemployed gets a chance to retrain for a job, they regain a sense of dignity. They experience the pride of contributing to the community as well as supporting their families. 

Obama said: “I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together.  I’m not an island.  I’m not alone in my success.  I succeed because others succeed with me.”

Today, 16 million children are living in poverty, and SAT scores are the lowest they’ve been in 40 years. Obama insists, that the best anti-poverty program is a world-class education.

Some Republican politicians want to eliminate the Department of Education and cut education by 20%. We should invest in the skills and education of our people, because in this economy, a high school diploma no longer guarantees a good job.

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.

Robert Reich wrote: "The greatest conflict of the 21st century is between; those who believe in science, reason and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through scripture and religious dogma."

The conflict with religious dogma is very apparent with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and with the Taliban in Afghanistan. However, the conflict between faith and reason has been taking place in this county, since 1776.  

Some Christians don't seem to care, that truth revealed through scripture is subjective truth predicated by one's faith.  By definition faith is belief in God, and in the doctrines or teachings of religion.  Therefore, faith is the antithesis of skepticism, distrust and objective truth.  I’ve become skeptical and distrustful of most religions, because they stifle freedom of thought, and blinds the righteous to the role faith plays in perpetuating human conflict.  

Historical, arguments bolstered by faith and tradition have been made to support slavery and dismiss as heresy, the heliocentric view of the solar system.  Objective truth is not affected by faith, or tradition. Whenever, we use scientific methods, reason and logic, we are making use of the greatest gift God has bestowed upon mankind.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Contraceptive Coverage

By executive order Obama announced a compromise in the dispute over whether to require full contraception insurance coverage for female employees at religiously affiliated institutions.

Religiously affiliated universities and hospitals won’t be forced to offer contraception coverage to their employees. However, insurers will be required to offer complete coverage free of charge to any women who work at such institutions. Female employees at churches will have no guarantee of any contraception coverage, which is a continuation of current law.

Obama stated: “No woman's health should depend on who she is or where she works or how much money she makes. The principle of religious liberty is also at stake. As a citizen and as a Christian, I cherish this right."

The compromise came after days of escalating partisan and ideological rhetoric over the divisive issue. Originally, the Obama administration wanted to require hospitals and schools with religious ties to offer full contraception coverage. Many Catholic leaders and religious groups strongly opposed requirement for contraception coverage on theological grounds.

Liberal groups had pushed for an expansive contraception coverage requirement on grounds of gender equality in health care. Conservatives consider it a violation of the First Amendment and an infringement on religious liberty.

A one-year transition period for religious organizations begins after the policy formally takes effect on August 1. Democratic leaders embraced the revised rule, while Republicans called it inadequate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid explained: “The rule announced by President Obama guarantees that all women will have access to free contraception coverage through their employers, while protecting the religious freedom of faith-based institutions. I strongly support the rule, because in the year 2012, women should not be denied access to contraception... Whether women choose to use contraception should be their decision, not the decision of their employers or politicians in Washington.”

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Post Office

Republicans claim the decline in traditional mail has been the reason the Post Office is losing money. In fact, during a 2006 lame duck session of Congress, Republicans passed a law requiring the Postal Service to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees. The law required 75 years worth of pensions to be set aside over a 10 year span.

It’s believed, that the goal of congressional Republicans is privatization. The Post Office costs taxpayers nothing and doesn’t add to the deficit.

Congress should relieve the Post Office of the onerous responsibility of coming up with 5.5 billion dollars every year, because no other public or private agency has to meet that requirement.

The Postal Service has overpaid 13 billion dollars into various retirement programs. In the short term that money could provide time to develop a new business model, which allows the Post Office to get involved in more entrepreneurial effort, and raise the revenue it needs to be self- sufficient.

According to the inspector general of the Post Office, the fund has 44 billion dollars, that is accumulating at 4 % interest. In 21 years, the fund will be fully funded, and stronger than any similar fund in America.

Senator Bernie Sanders insists that presently the Post Office is very restricted in the kind of services, that it can provide. He recommends 5.5 billion of that fund be used to stabilize the Post Office, because their considering eliminating 230,000 jobs in the middle of a recession. Postal Service is also responsible for millions of jobs, in the private sector.

Congress is considering slowing down mail delivery and closing about 3,700 Post Offices, with most of them in rural areas. Many experts believe that would cause a death spiral and end of the Postal Service as we know it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Voter Fraud

Republican Secretary of State Charlie White held on to his office for more than a year despite being accused of lying about his address on voter registration forms.

A Hamilton County, Indiana jury found White guilty of six of seven felony charges, including false registration, voting in another precinct, submitting a false ballot, theft and two counts of perjury. Indiana's top elections official was acquitted on one fraud charge.

Although, state law bars anyone convicted of a felony from remaining in office, White has resisted calls to resign from Democrats and Republicans, including Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels.

White's attorney will ask the judge to reduce the charges to misdemeanors because his client has no criminal background and has a long record of public service.

Gov. Daniels has announced, that he appointed White's chief deputy, as interim secretary of state. Daniels announced: "I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge's authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder. If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly."

The jury verdict came after a weeklong trial in which White vigorously protested the charges in hearings before a state elections panel, but presented no defense.

Prosecutors said White used his ex-wife's address instead of a condo he had with his fiancee because he didn't want to give up his $1,000-per-month Fishers Town Council salary after moving out of that district.

A Marion County judge has ruled that White should be replaced by Democrat Vop Osili, the man he defeated by about 300,000 votes in the November 2010 election, but that ruling is on hold pending an appeal.

White said: “I'm disappointed for my family and the people who supported me."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ohio Elections

In 2004, John Kerry got more votes than any Democratic presidential candidate in history.  He would have won Ohio and been elected president, if all of his votes had been counted, and if all of the eligible voters who tried to vote for him had been allowed to cast their ballots.

The efforts to disenfranchise Democratic voters in 2004, were headed by the Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, who was both the chief election official in the state and co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in Ohio.

Every foul-up and arbitrary new regulation, that occurred in Ohio in the election favored Bush. Proving that Republicans hijacked the Ohio election was not possible at the time, but problems and dirty tricks have come to light. The shortages of voting machines and the long lines with waits of seven hours or more occurred in urban areas discouraged mostly Kerry voters.

Walter Mebane Jr. did a statistical analysis of the vote in Franklin County, which included the city of Columbus. He compared the distribution of voting machines in Ohio’s 2004 presidential election with the distribution of machines for a primary election held the previous spring. For the primary election, he found that there was no sign of racial bias in the distribution of the machines. However, in the general election, there was substantial bias, with fewer voting machines per voter in areas, which were heavily African-American.

More than a dozen states, with Republican governors and state legislatures have been passing laws requiring voters to show photo identification, cut back early voting periods or imposed new restrictions on voter registration drives to again ensure suppression of the African- American vote.

Recently, an Ohio Secretary of State was convicted of voter fraud. That story will be posted tomorrow.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Sheldon Whitehouse

Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse has introduce a form of the Buffett Rule. It would require that those earning more than $1 million will pay at least 30% of their income in taxes.

Most likely the legislation will go nowhere in this Congress, because Republicans abhor higher taxes and the Senate was unable to clear bills containing a millionaire’s surtax multiple times last year. However, the bill is a messaging tool for Democrats in this election year.

The revelations that Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney paid an effective tax rate of only 14% in 2010 has many voters angry.

Senate Democratic leaders insist, that the tax code need an overhaul. Senator Whitehouse has been working on the “Paying a Fair Share Act” for several months. There are huge exceptions to the rule of a progressive tax system, and many members of the Senate believe that those loopholes can and should close. There doesn’t appear to be any companion legislation in the Republican controlled House.

One of the co-sponsors of the bill is Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who pointed out: “The reality is that poverty today is at an all time high. If you are in the lowest 20% of the American people, you will die six-and-a-half years younger than if you’re in the top 20%. So, poverty in many ways is a death sentence.

“Romney and his friends want to cut Medicaid, throw children off of health insurance, they want to cut Medicare, they want to cut Social Security, and they are going to war against the poorest people in this country. I think that is an immoral position to take.

“I think what most people perceive is that somebody making $1 million should not be paying an effective tax rate lower than ordinary people.”

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Poor Of No Concern

Presidential candidate Romney said: “I’m not worried about rich people they’re doing just fine. The very poor have a safety net. They’re taken care of. In our country, the people that need the help most are not the poor, who have a safety net, not the rich who are doing just fine, but the middle class.”

Mitt Romney’s policies will demolish America’s social safety nets. An analysis of Romney’s tax proposal shows the poor would see a tax increase under Romney, while millionaires would see their taxes cut by almost 5%. Romney fully supports 
Congressman Paul Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare in a voucher system and cut Medicaid by billions.

Romney argued: “Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process, let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up.”

Ten million Americans owe more money on their homes, than their houses are actually worth. Nevertheless, Romney says: “let it run its course.” Romney isn’t going to focus on the poor because his policies leave them hanging out to dry.

Obama recently unveiled a mortgage refinancing plan. He said: “It is wrong for anybody to suggest that the only option for struggling responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom.”

Romney doesn’t seem to understand is that there are a lot of people dropping out of the middle class and going into poverty and into the lower income brackets. Obama offered a safety net for those folks, but Romney says he’s not going to focus on them.

Obama send Congress a plan that gives responsible homeowners the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low rates. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

New Markets

Bush’s top economic advisers played up our economy, at the same time his Treasury Secretary emphasized China’s threat, to dump U.S. Treasuries. A Chinese official wrote: “The Chinese central bank will be forced to sell U.S. dollars which might lead to a mass depreciation of the U.S. dollar.”

U.S. Business and Industry Council warned that the Chinese do hold very significant leverage over the U.S. economy because they hold so much U.S. debt. Actually, China owns only 8% of our debt. By holding that debt, they subsidize American consumption and keep our living standards artificially high. However, China needs American consumers to serve as the market for its manufactured goods.

Obama’s solution is to make it easier for American businesses to sell products all over the world. A bipartisan trade agreements has been signed into law. There should be millions of new customers for American goods in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. 

Our President is committed to going anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products, but he’ll not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. His administration has brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate of the Bush administration. It’s made a difference, and a thousand Americans are working today because they stopped a surge in Chinese tires. 

Obama insists: “It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized. He announced the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trading practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders.  And, he wants Congress to make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing financing or new markets.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Training Programs

Many business leaders want to hire in America, but can’t find workers with the right skills.  Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do the job. Unfilled job openings at a time when millions of Americans are looking for work is inexcusable, because it can be fix.  

Jackie Bray is a single mother from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic.  Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College.  The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training, and paid Jackie’s tuition. She has been hired to help operate the Siemens plant.

Many unemployed Americans are hoping for the same opportunity that Jackie had. The Obama administration has already lined up other companies that want to help.  Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. However, Congress needs to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers. Career Centers that teach people skills that community businesses are looking for in today’s economy, from data management to high-tech manufacturing.

We need to cut through the maze of confusing training programs, so that folks like Jackie Bray have one website to go to for all the information and help that they need.  It’s time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people back to work. 

For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, the Obama administration has convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning.

Challenges remain, but for the first time in a generation we know how to solve them.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Jesus Taught

Jesus taught, “For unto whom much is given, much shall be required.” 

President Obama is advocating giving every American a fair shot at opportunity. He believe that when a young person can afford a college education, or someone who’s been unemployed gets a chance to retrain for a job, they regain a sense of dignity. They experience the pride of contributing to the community as well as supporting their families. Thereby, we all prosper. 

Obama believes: “I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper; that as a country, we rise and fall together.  I’m not an island.  I’m not alone in my success.  I succeed because others succeed with me.”

Standing up for foreign aid, preventing atrocities or promoting democratic values will make America safer and more secure.  It’s also about the biblical call to care for the poor and those on the margins of our society. 

Many Americans believe that we have a responsibility to: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”  “Treat others as we would like to be treated.”  Thereby, living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper.”  “Caring for the poor and those in need,” is Christian value, but those values can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers.  They’re values that have always made America great. 

America faces many challenges, however, Obama believe we’re going to have to return those values and hope that God will support our efforts.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Christianity has not, and does not profess to have a detailed political program.  It is meant for all men at all times, and the particular program which suited one place or time would not suit another.” 

Saturday, February 04, 2012

No Side Issues

In his State of the Union Address, Obama insists: “Our most immediate priority is stopping a tax hike on 160 million working Americans while the recovery is still fragile. People cannot afford losing $40 out of each paycheck this year.  There are plenty of ways to get this done.  So let’s agree right here, right now:  No side issues.  No drama.”

The divide between Washington and the rest of the country has to do with the corrosive influence of money in politics. Obama asked for a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress. It passed the Senate overwhelmingly and is waiting for a vote in the House.

A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything passed through the Senate, and neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Obama ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days.  

Obama asked Congress to grant him the authority to consolidate the federal bureaucracy, so that our government is leaner, quicker, and more responsive to the needs of the American people.  

It’s unlikely, that these changes will occur until our elected officials end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common-sense ideas. 

Obama insists: “I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed:  That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.  That’s why my education reform offers more competition, and more control for schools and states.  That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work.  That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.” 

Friday, February 03, 2012

Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing. He’s been compared to Thomas Paine as being “one of the great American leaders of the nonsocialist left.”

Alinsky has gained praise from many public figures. His organizing skills were focused on improving the living conditions of poor communities across North America.

Time magazine wrote that “American democracy is being altered by Alinsky's ideas,” and conservative author William F. Buckley said he was “very close to being an organizational genius.”

Adam Brandon, a spokesman for Freedom Works, which is one of several groups involved in organizing Tea Party protests, admitted the group gives Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” to its top leadership members. In a January 2012 story that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, mentioned the organization’s tactic of sending activists to town-hall meetings. Brandon explained, “his tactics when it comes to grass-roots organizing are incredibly effective.” Former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey also gives copies of Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals” to Tea Party leaders.

When Saul Alinsky was asked whether he ever considered joining the Communist party, he replied: “I've never joined any organization—not even the ones I've organized myself. I prize my own independence too much. And philosophically, I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it's Christianity or Marxism. One of the most important things in life is what Judge Learned Hand described as 'that ever-gnawing inner doubt as to whether you're right.' If you don't have that, if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocides.”

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Can’t Do Both

The Obama administration and Congress have already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings to reduce the deficit. More needs to be done, and difficult choices must be made. Congress is about to spend nearly $1 trillion more on what was supposed to be a temporary tax break for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Loopholes and shelters in the tax code will allow a quarter of all millionaires to pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.

Do congressional Republicans want to keep tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, or will they agree to make investments in education, medical research, and care for our veterans? We can’t do both.  

Republican Senator Tom Colburn admitted, that he’s willing to violate a pledge he submitted to Grover Norquist in 2004. He agrees that Congress should stop subsidizing millionaires.  If you’re earning a million dollars a year, you shouldn’t get special tax subsidies or deductions. However, if you make under $250,000 a year, like 98 percent of American families, your taxes shouldn’t go up. They’re the ones struggling with rising costs and stagnant wages.   

Some call it class warfare, but asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes makes a lot of sense to most Americans. 

Obama said: “When Americans talk about folks like me paying my fair share of taxes, it’s not because they envy the rich.  It’s because they understand that when I get a tax break I don’t need and the country can’t afford, it either adds to the deficit, or somebody else has to make up the difference.”

The Americans people recognize that our way of life will only endure if we feel a sense of shared responsibility.  That’s how we’ll reduce our deficit. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Romney’s Tax Rate

Elizabeth Warren believes, that it’s impossible to become wealthy in isolation. She said: “I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for; you hired workers the rest of us paid to educate; you were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did... But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

In the 1950s, Republican President Eisenhower’s top marginal tax rate was 91 percent. Mitt Romney’s effective tax rate for 2010 was at 13.9 percent, because he’s taken advantage of tax loopholes which are legal.

Senator Dick Durbin said: “I think it’s impossible to explain why a man making $21 million a year pays a lower tax rate than a working family in my state of Illinois that makes $21,000 a year.”

Republicans set the table for the rich to thrive and Mitt Romney is just one of many, who have been taking advantage of it. Romney’s tax plan would give even more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

Robert Reich insists: “Its not just a political discussion. It’s an economic discussion. It’s a discussion about whether we’re on the same boat together as Americans.”

We have a budget deficit. We are laying off teachers. Our roads are crowded, and our public transportation systems dilapidated. We don’t have money to do what we need to do, but the wealthiest people in America are allowed not fulfill an underlying social contract.