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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Romney’s Lies

Mitt Romney claimed President Obama hasn’t signed any trade deals, but officials in South Korea, Colombia and Panama know otherwise.

A woman asked Newt Gingrich: “You said of Mitt Romney, somebody who will lie 
to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president. I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar? Gingrich answered: “Yes.”

Her response was: “You’re calling Mitt Romney a liar?” Gingrich confirmed: “Well, you seem shocked by it, yes.”

There are two broad narratives surrounding Romney. First, he’s an out of touch elitist who got rich by laying off American workers. And, second, he’s a world class flip-flopper who’s radically changed his entire political persona several times. He’s an Etch a Sketch guy, who frequently says things that aren’t true. Some dishonesty in American politics is routine, but Romney-style dishonesty is a sight to behold.

Americans deserve better in a campaign this important. There are enormous differences between the two major political parties, and the voters will have a clear choice between the parties’ competing visions and policies for 2012. There’s no reason that the whole country can’t have a great debate about our collective future. However, that can only happen when there are candidates representing the parties who respect Americans enough to be honest with them.

The man who is most likely to win the Republican presidential nomination seems unwilling to do so and that is troubling. Romney seems to think he can get away with casual dishonesty, that is beneath the level of a presidential campaign. It ought to be beneath the level of a presidential campaign, but the man who may well take the oath of office in 10 months is choosing to get to the presidency on a foundation of unprecedented deceit.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Truth and Consequences

At a debate, presidential candidate Mitt Romney was less than truthful about his professional background and why he quit after one term as Massachusetts governor. He claimed: “I was trying to help get the state into the best shape as I possibly could. Left the world of politics, went back into business.”

Romney did leave the Massachusetts governor’s office in January 2007, but a month later, he launched his first presidential campaign, in February of 2007.

Mitt Romney told an Ohio audience about taking his Massachusetts-based health care policy national. He said: “Early on, we were asked, is what you’ve done in Massachusetts something you’d have the entire government do, the federal government do? I’ve said, no, from the very beginning, no. This is designed for our state and our circumstance.”

Romney has written, that our country should do what he did in Massachusetts. He has argued repeatedly that he supported a national health care plan based on what he did in Massachusetts, including the individual mandate that he now condemns.

Romney asserted: “While we’ve got $15 trillion of debt, he’s said, look, I’m going to put another $1 trillion of debt for Obamacare.”

That is not true, because every independent estimate, including analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, shows that the president’s health reform law actually cuts the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars.

Romney insisted: “Obama said, that he’d cut the deficit in half. He’s doubled it.”

Actually, when Obama took office, the deficit was about $1.3 trillion. Last year it was about $1.29 trillion, and this year it’s on track to be about $1.1 trillion. If a number is going down, it’s not doubling, its going down. To says it’s doubling is lying.

Not telling the truth should have consequences.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Etch a Sketch

Mitt Romney’s campaign manager Eric Fehrnstromn said: “Well, I think he hit a reset button for the fall campaign and everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch, you can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Like an Etch a Sketch, Republican presidential candidate, Romney has a history of erasing his old principles when it’s convenient and writing new ones to meet new political needs. Which is why the Etch a Sketch gaffe by his campaign was one of the most significant gaffes of his entire campaign.

The claim that has been made is that the far right positions Romney has taken in the primary can easily just be erased and forgotten and replaced with whatever they need to be replaced with for the general election. That is exactly the criticism that Romney’s Republican rivals have thrown against him since he has been running for president.

In 2008, the same claim was made when Romney disavowed so many of his previous positions, to run as a 2008 model year conservative. Earlier this year, Jon Huntsman made the accusation, when he called Mr. Romney a perfectly lubricated weather vane.

In his first campaign speech, Romney lied about Obama: “When he took office, the economy was in recession, and he made it worse.”

Actually, the economy got significantly better six months after Congress passed and Obama signed the Recovery Act. Obama’s first policies to deal with the economy did work, but Romney continues to insist: “He did not cause this recession, but he made it worse.”

Finally, after Mitt Romney kept saying this over and over again, an NBC News reporter asked: “How can you continue to say that things are worse when they really aren’t worse?

Romney responded: “I didn’t say that things are worse.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Let’s Improve It

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act isn’t perfect, because it still maintains the connection between employment and health care, which is inefficient and a huge burden on American business.

Businesses need to reduce regulations to be competitive globally, but they rarely talk about their biggest handicap against global competitors. They pay tens of billions of dollars to provide health care for their employees and former employees while their German, Canadian, Japanese, and British counterparts pay nothing in health care costs.

“Obamacare” expands access to healthcare to 30 million Americans, but it does little by way of controlling costs. Every expert realizes that no matter what kind of healthcare system you have, you’ll need to have some kind of board that decides that some things are covered and others are not. Some have referred to those boards as death panels. Although, no one is saying that you can't get any procedure you want, but there will be some procedures that your insurance doesn't pay for.

The fact is that all rich countries try to provide affordable health care for their citizens in some way or the other. All of them have found that they need to use an insurance or government-sponsored model. All of them provide universal health care at much, much lower costs than we do.

America has the most marketized system in the world and the most expensive and inefficient one with bad outcomes and low levels of customer satisfaction.

Perhaps, there's a theoretic model out there that would work, but presently, in the world we’re living in, some kind of mixed, messy health care system is what we have and our task isn’t to abolish it in favor of a utopia but to improve it so that Americans can get good care at reasonable prices.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

“Really a Mess”

According to Fareed Zakaria: “America's health care system is really a mess. It is partly free enterprise, partly state-subsidized and overall highly inefficient in delivering quality care at a reasonable price.”

The Nobel Prize-winning economist, Kenneth Arrow, outlined in the 1960s why markets don't work well when it comes to health care. He explained that people don't know when they will need health care and that when they do need it, the cost is often prohibitive. This means you need some kind of insurance or a government-run system.

If as a society, Americans decide that it’s all right that when people suddenly discover they need health care, they can only get it if they can pay for it, that kind of health care system would work. However, it would also mean that the vast majority of Americans wouldn't be able to pay for a triple bypass or a hip replacement when they would need it.

Consequently, every wealthy country in the world has decided that every citizen should have access to basic health care and given that, a pure free market model simply cannot work.

In our country just 5% of patients account for 50% of all health care costs. Most of these patients are chronically ill, and taking care of these catastrophic illnesses is what drives up costs.

That is why the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, came up with the idea of an individual mandate, requiring that people buy health insurance in exactly the same way that people are required to buy car insurance. That is why Mitt Romney chose this model as a market-friendly system for Massachusetts when he was governor. And that is why Newt Gingrich praised the Massachusetts model as the most important step forward in health care in years.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Proposed Republican Budget

Paul Ryan’s recently proposed budget would spend $5.3 trillion less over the next decade than Obama’s budget. Ryan would trim Medicare and Medicaid, but he’d also spend $2.2 trillion less on everything else.

Over the next decade, Ryan plans to spend about 16% less on programs for the poor. That includes everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit. Compared with the Obama budget, the Ryan would spend 25% less on transportation and 13% less on veterans. He’d spend 6% less on science, space, basic technology. And, 33% less for education, training, employment, and social services.

America has an infrastructure problem. The National Highway System started in the 1950s, is reaching the end of its natural lifespan. Our air-traffic control system is outdated, causing airport delays around the country. According to the Government Accountability Office, about one-quarter of the country’s bridges are either structurally deficient or inadequate to today’s traffic.

Analysts estimate the cost of repairing and upgrading our transportation networks between $200 billion and $262 billion per year over the next decade. Obama’s budget plans to spend an average of about $104 billion per year. Ryan’s budget, allocates $78 billion per year. Ryan claims he can meet the country’s needs by cutting back on “imprudent, irresponsible, and downright wasteful spending.” However, it’s not clear what waste Ryan has in mind.

Every Democratic administration since, Truman's have left office with the budget deficit lower as a fraction of GDP than when it entered. Every Republican administration since, Nixon has left office with the budget deficit higher.

When, President Obama took office the projected 2009 budget deficit was $1.2 trillion, more than 9% of GDP. The projected deficit for 2012 has already fallen to 7% of GDP.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Backing Down

In Idaho, a Republican bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds is in political peril. It had passed the Idaho state senate, but it wasn’t a party line vote. Five Republicans along with all seven of the Democrats in the state senate voted against the bill. During the final debate, the Republican sponsor of the bill said: “Rape and incest was used with as a reason to oppose this bill. I’d hope that when one goes into a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage. Was this pregnancy caused by perhaps normal relations in her marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.”

“The Spokesman-Review” newspaper reported that the ultrasound bill was nearly dead, because the chair of the committee told the paper: “We are still looking for some more information on the bill before we proceed, if we do.”

This move in Idaho actually follows a pattern that seems to be happening all at once. A pattern of Republican governors on a whole host of different issues began backing off of things that they could have done, because of their huge electoral majorities after they faced opposition locally and attention nationally.

For example, in the New Hampshire house, in which the Republicans have a 189-seat advantage in a 400-seat body voted by a 211-116 margin to not repeal New Hampshire’s same-sex marriage law. Therefore, same-sex marriage remains legal in New Hampshire.

“The Chattanooga Times Free Press” reported that an anti-abortion bill pending in Tennessee is likely to undergo major changes, at the behest of the legislature’s only physician, an anti- abortion Republican who says he’ll not support this bill unless his fellow legislatures eliminate a provision that would require the state health department to publish online the names of doctors who perform abortions in Tennessee.

In Arizona, the “tell your boss why you’re on the pill” legislation being amended by the Republican who sponsored it. It had already passed the house. “The Arizona Republic” reported that the sponsor of the bill is pulling it off the agenda in a senate committee so she can work on some amendments before it goes up to the full senate.

In Utah, the Republican governor, Gary Herbert vetoed a bill that would have essentially banned public schools from teaching about contraception in sex ed.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I Like Obamacare

Obama never lost sight of the fact that health care reform was about people. People like his own mother, who spent the last years of her life fighting cancer, and fighting insurance companies.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act means never having to worry about getting sick and running up against a lifetime cap on insurance coverage. It gives parents the comfort of knowing their kids can stay on their insurance until they're 26, and that a pre-existing condition like an ear infection will never compromise their child's coverage.

It's about ending the practice of letting insurance companies charge women 50% more, just because they're women.

Obamacare can save seniors hundreds of dollars a year on prescription drugs and provide them access to preventive care that is saving their lives.

The health 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 helps us keep our promise to America's seniors, by strengthening Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste and keeping it solvent for decades to come. And, most importantly, it protects guaranteed benefits, eligibility and the right to keep your doctor for all seniors. 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.

It gives us the ability to reject insurance companies' unreasonable rate increases to prevent them from unfairly raising Medicare costs.

A report from Congressional Budget Office indicates that the Health Care Act is the most significant effort to reduce our deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s.

The next time you hear someone complaining about Obamacare, remember what they're actually saying they want to take away.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Keystone XL Pipeline

Last November, the state of Nebraska and TransCanada Corp agreed to find a new route for the stalled Keystone XL pipeline.

The State Department ordered the company to find a new route for the line in a decision that set back the timing of the $7 billion, Canada-to-Texas pipeline. The pipeline would carry crude oil from Canada's oilsands area to Texas refineries.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman would have final state approval on any proposed route. Under the bill, the state would pay for a new environmental study for the new route. Lawmakers also approved paying up to $2 million for the study.

In January, the Obama administration denied a permit for the 1,700-mile-long Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would stretch from Canada's tar sands development to the U.S. Gulf Coast. That decision was met by persistent Republican criticism that the president has not been doing everything possible to create jobs and combat high gas prices.

Late last month, TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, announced it would move forward with the process to build the southern half of the pipeline.

Yesterday, President Obama unveil an effort to cut red tape for the southern half of the pipeline, that would deal with the glut of oil in Cushing, Oklahoma where oil from the Midwest hits a bottleneck as it is transported to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Obama administration is commitment to expediting the construction of a pipeline from Cushing, to the Gulf of Mexico, relieving a bottleneck of oil and bringing domestic resources to market.

President Obama insists: “As long as I'm president, I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy.” He has said, that opponents of clean energy investments amounted to “charting members of the Flat Earth Society.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Anti-women Legislation

Over 60% of Americans were against the Blunt -Rubio Amendment, that wanted to allow employers to deny a woman anything included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care services, that went against their moral judgment or religious beliefs.

The Republican leadership is doing everything they can to rally social conservatives. However, their strategy, is not working, because it’s so far out of the mainstream.

Rush Limbaugh went after a young woman who stood up to declare the rights to access to contraception. Limbaugh’s vile comments were actually an attack on woman’s rights.

Bill O’Reilly said: “It’s in motion now that if you need birth control and you go to a federal clinic, you’d get it. That’s under Title X of the Public Health Act. So there really isn’t any problem, you can get it.”

The Title X program was created in the 1970’s with the support of Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush. Nevertheless, all four Republican candidates running for president want to eliminate it. The program is used mostly for cervical breast cancer screening, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, for low-income women.

Bill O’Reilly claimed: “The Centers for Disease Control basically categorized things, and they say this is a malady, this is a medical condition, and this isn’t. And so, Viagra comes under the government’s guidelines for medical condition. Contraception doesn’t.”

Contraception is central to women’s health and their ability to be part of an economy, and to control their family’s welfare. This is a terrible double standard, and it comes down to men dominating the political process. This is a pivotal moment for women to take back their power.

We should be having a discussion about the real problems and priorities in this country. A discussion, that would include women’s economic justice and advancement.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Voting Record

Republican Congressman Chris Gibson is running in the newly configured 19th Congressional District.

After campaigning on a platform of jobs, the first three bills Rep. Gibson voted for in the House were direct attacks on women’s health. 

Gibson supported: H.R. 1, that 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 have 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 Paul Ryan budget proposal, passed with the 235 Republicans voting in favor of a Medicare overhaul, and only 4 against it. Rep. Chris Gibson wasn’t one of them.

The plan, Gibson voted for would have required our government to no longer directly pay health care bills for senior citizens. Instead, recipients would choose a plan from a list of private providers, which the federal government would subsidize.

Republicans insist, that we can’t afford our commitment to Medicare, but we can afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Koch Brothers Exposed

According to Jane Mayer, the author of “Covert Operations: Who are Waging a War Against Obama,” Koch Industries is the biggest privately held oil and chemical company in the world, the second largest privately held company of any kind in America. The Koch brothers are tied in the rankings for the ninth richest men in America.

Their political strategy has been to stop the government from limiting greenhouse gas emissions and make sure there is no tax on fossil fuels. The Koch brothers sought to prevent chemicals like formaldehyde from being labeled as causing cancer, because they’ve made many millions of dollars from formaldehyde.

The Koch brothers have been funneling massive amounts of money into organizations with innocuous names, such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, Citizens for the Environment, and Americans for Prosperity. David and Charles Koch financed Americans for Prosperity, who created the Tea Party movement.

Groups like Americans for Prosperity were behind all of the supposedly grassroots tea party rallies around the country. The group paid for the buses, organized the speakers, put together training kits for attendees, make talking points and designed the Web sites. Early on, those that attended the tea party gathering were instructed to rally against things like climate change legislation in support of the billionaire oil tycoons.

Now, they’ve tried to cause tens of thousands of families to lose their opportunity at enjoying educational equality and a fair shot at success. It’s part of the Kochs’ ideology to dismantle public schools.

Their efforts began in North Carolina where they funded an effort to resegregate schools in an award winning school district. Using the same language as Gov. George Wallace in the 60s, Koch-supported school board members attempted to make “segregation always” a policy for tens of thousands of families.

Kochbrothersexposed. com

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Defining Issue

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

The Republican Party has an entirely different agenda.  They want go back to promoting the same policies that got us into the recession in the first place. They want to go back to the days when Wall Street played by its own rules.  They want to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny coverage or jack up premiums for no reason.  They want to spend trillions of dollars more on tax breaks for the very wealthy, even if it means adding to the deficit or cutting funding to education or Medicare.

Our nation is better off when our government keeps the basic promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send a child to college, and put a little away for retirement.  We’re better off when the laws are applied fairly to everybody.

This is the defining issue of our time, because we’re in a make-or-break moment, not only for the middle class, but everybody who is fighting to get into the middle class.  We must not go back to an economy built on outsourcing, bad debt and phony financial profits.

We must fight for an economy that’s built to last, an economy built on American manufacturing, the skills and education of our workers, and reliable American energy sources. Those are the values that made this country great. Those values include hard work, everybody playing by the same rules and shared responsibility.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Preventing Unintended Pregnancy

There are 1.5 million women, who use contraceptives not for birth control, but for other valid medical reasons. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome need contraception to prevent cysts from growing on their ovaries. If unaddressed it can lead to infertility and deadly ovarian cancer.

Many Catholic women see no conflict between their faith and family planning. They’re new moms, whose doctors fear that another pregnancy too soon could jeopardize their health. Many mothers and grandmothers remember what it was like, when they were fighting for a job, for health care benefits, and equality.

Fathers and husbands know that without access to contraception, the women they care about face unfair obstacles to participating in public life. Many young women of all income levels, races, classes and ethnicities need access to contraception to control their reproduction, pursue their education and career goals and prevent unintended pregnancy.

Women know how expensive birth control pills can be, with or without insurance coverage. For a single mother with kids, a woman making minimum wage, or a student living on loans, a high monthly co-pay could be the difference between buying contraception or one week of groceries.

Some women cannot medically use the least expensive types of contraception. These women, especially those 18 to 34 have the most trouble affording contraception, simply go without. They face any number of medical risks as well as unintended pregnancy, which can damage their productivity and the health of their families.

Programs such as Medicaid are already funding contraception coverage for the poorest women in our country. Actually, the regulation under discussion in Congress has nothing to do with government funding. It’s about the insurance policies provided by private employers and universities that are financed by individual workers, students and their families, but not taxpayers.

Despite paying their own premiums, many women cannot obtain coverage of contraception on their private insurance, even when their employer or university contributes nothing to that insurance.

Restricting access to basic health care service, which 99% of sexually experienced American women have used and 62% of American women are using right now, is out of touch with public sentiment. According to a survey by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation more than 60% of Americans support affordable access to contraception for all women. It’s time for the Republicans to recognize that government shouldn’t legislate according to religious ideology.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

War on Women

The Republican Party’s war on women continues as their tone deafness reaches a truly appalling level. The latest example in this battle is the Violence Against Women Act. The legislation strengthens laws protecting women against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Since its original passing in 1994, domestic violence has dropped 58%. Historically, the law has received broad bipartisan support. It’s up for reauthorization, but the Republicans are fighting it.

Conservatives oppose the law, because of several updates. The law now gives Native American tribes authority to prosecute crimes. It also protects undocumented immigrants and same-sex couples from domestic violence.

In Pennsylvania an new law would force women, who are considering an abortion to receive copies of their ultrasound. Republican Governor Corbett claims: “I’m not making anybody watch, OK, because you just have to close your eyes. Any governor who has to say to his citizens, just close your eyes at the law that he just signed, might want to rethink signing that bill into law.

The state of Arizona wants to force women to provide proof to their employer that they’re taking birth control for reasons, other than preventing pregnancy.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski voted for the Blunt - Rubio amendment, but after she heard from female voters in Alaska, she admits: "I have never had a vote I have taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me."

Murkowski sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as anti-women at a closed-door meeting.

Since the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, Emily’s List, an organization committed to electing Democratic women, has doubled in size. They are hearing from women all across the country that this war on women’s reproductive rights has got to stop.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Energy Policy

Gas prices and the world oil markets are putting a lot of pressure on American families. When prices of gasoline increases on the world market, it’s the same as an increase in taxes.

A payroll tax cut passed by Congress earlier this year should provide some help, since on average everybody will have an extra $40 in their paycheck.

Gas prices went up around this time last year, and prices shot up in the spring and summer of 2008 as well. There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to high gas prices.  Those that tell you otherwise aren’t looking for a solution, they’re trying to ride the political wave to getting elected. 

When a politician claims that they have a plan for $2.00 a gallon gas, ask them to tell you specifically, what their plan is. Typically, their response will be to drilled for more oil. They’ll claim gas prices will come down and the problem will be solved.  

In fact, under the Obama administration we’re producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. The Obama administration has approved dozens of new pipelines to move oil across the country.  Recently, it announced support for a new pipeline in Oklahoma that will move more oil down to refineries on the Gulf Coast. 

Over the last three years, the Obama administration has opened millions of acres of land in 23 different states for oil and gas exploration.  Offshore, the Obama administration has open up more than 75% of our potential oil resources.  That includes an area in the Gulf of Mexico, that was opened a few months ago that could produce more than 400 million barrels of oil. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

“Made It Worst”

Mitt Romney claimed: “And I know the president didn’t cause this downturn, this recession. But he didn’t make it better, either. He made it worse.”

Obama inherited the greatest recession of our lifetime. Over eight million Americans lost their jobs during the Bush presidency, and in the six months after Obama took office.

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

Radio talk show host, Laura Ingraham asked Romney: “You’ve also noted that there are signs of improvement on the horizon in the economy. How do you answer the president’s argument that the economy is getting better in a general election campaign if you yourself are saying it’s getting better?

Romney responded: “Well, of course, it’s getting better. The economy always gets better after a recession. There is always a recovery.

Ingraham continued: “Isn’t that a hard argument to make, if you’re saying, like, OK, he inherited this recession, and he took a bunch of steps and tried to turn the economy around. And now, we’re seeing more jobs, but vote against him anyway? Isn’t that a hard argument to make? Is that a stark enough contrast?”

Romney asked: “Have you got a better one, Laura? This happens to be the truth.”

Yesterday, the Senate passed a reauthorization of the Surface Transportation bill by a wide margin. The current transportation legislation expires at the end of March. Passing the Senate by a margin of 74-22, the bill authorizes more than $100 billion in appropriations out of the Highway Trust Fund.

Perhaps, House Republicans will pass the bill, so they can take credit for an improved economy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Preventive Care Services

Sandra Fluke has explained: “Last month, students from several Catholic universities gathered to send a message to the nation that contraception is basic health care. I was among them, and I was proud to share the stories of my friends at Georgetown Law who have suffered dire medical consequences because our student insurance does not cover contraception for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.

“I joined these students in speaking at a media event because I believe that stories of how real women are affected are the most powerful argument for access to affordable, quality reproductive health care services.

“I also joined these students because now is a critical time to raise this issue in our public consciousness.

“Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, preventive care services, including contraception, will be covered by private insurance plans without co-pays or deductibles. If appropriately implemented, this important law will finally guarantee women access to contraception, regardless of the religious affiliation of their workplace or school.

“By now, many have heard the stories I wanted to share thanks to the congressional leaders and members of the media who have supported me and millions of women in speaking out.

“Because we spoke so loudly, opponents of reproductive health access demonized and smeared me and others on the public airwaves. These smears are obvious attempts to distract from meaningful policy discussions and to silence women's voices regarding their own health care.

“These attempts to silence women and the men who support them have clearly failed. I know this because I have received so many messages of support from across the country -- women and men speaking out because they agree that contraception needs to be treated as a basic health care service.

“Who are these supporters?

“They are women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, who need contraception to prevent cysts from growing on their ovaries, which if unaddressed can lead to infertility and deadly ovarian cancer. They are sexual assault victims, who need contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

“They are Catholic women, who see no conflict between their social justice -based faith and family planning. They are new moms, whose doctors fear that another pregnancy too soon could jeopardize the mother's health and the potential child's health too. They are mothers and grandmothers who remember all too well what it was like to be called names decades ago, when they were fighting for a job, for health care benefits, for equality.

They are husbands, partners, boyfriends and male friends who know that without access to contraception, the women they care about can face unfair obstacles to participating in public life. And yes, they are young women of all income levels, races, classes and ethnicities who need access to contraception to control their reproduction, pursue their education and career goals and prevent unintended pregnancy. And they will not be silenced.

“These women know how expensive birth control pills can be, with or without insurance coverage. For a single mother with kids, a woman making minimum wage, or a student living on loans, a high monthly co-pay could be the difference between buying contraception or one week of groceries.

“And imagine the financial burden of unplanned pregnancy and raising a child. For women without insurance coverage or with insurance that doesn't cover contraception, the costs create a significant financial burden.

“Many women cannot medically use the least expensive types of contraception. As a result, many women, especially those 18 to 34 who have the most trouble affording contraception, simply go without. They face any number of medical risks as well as unintended pregnancy -- all of which damage their productivity and the health of their families.

“Most recently, certain political commentators have started spreading misinformation about the underlying government regulation we are discussing. To be clear, through programs such as Medicaid, the government already does and should fund contraception coverage for the poorest women in our country.

“But, despite the misinformation being spread, the regulation under discussion has absolutely nothing to do with government funding: It is all about the insurance policies provided by private employers and universities that are financed by individual workers, students and their families -- not taxpayers.

“I am talking about women who, despite paying their own premiums, cannot obtain coverage of contraception on their private insurance, even when their employer or university contributes nothing to that insurance.

“Restricting access to such a basic health care service, which 99% of sexually experienced American women have used and 62% of American women are using right now, is out of touch with public sentiment. In fact, more than 60% of Americans support this regulation and affordable access to contraception, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Attacking me and women who use contraception by calling us prostitutes and worse cannot silence us.

“I am proud to stand with the millions of women and men who recognize that our government should legislate according to the reality of our lives -- not for ideology.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blurring the Lines

The following quotations are from a column written by William Masters and published in the Oneonta Daily Star

“We have freedom of religion in this country. A clear separation between churches and governmental agencies is constitutionally mandated. Government power may not favor or advance a particular religion. 

“But that separation is getting to be a one-way street. Some religious conservatives want to legislate their morality onto the rest of us. Distorting the roles of religious leader and employer, some seek to insulate church-sponsored institutions serving the secular world from obeying the public health policies of that world.

“To wit: health policy requiring contraception coverage for all is called by the pope a ‘radical secularism,’ which trespasses on religious freedom by forcing collaboration in an ‘intrinsically evil’ practice.

“If you are a Catholic, that would supposedly mean limiting your birth control efforts to the rhythm method. But Andrew Sullivan, in the Feb. 20 edition of Newsweek magazine, wrote that 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women accept and have used other birth control -- an intrinsically pragmatic practice.

“This may upset Catholic bishops, but it does not stop them from claiming the right to opt out of health insurance laws that affect us all.

“To me, it is wrong for churches to arrogate their particular constraints into rules imposed onto secular people in their employ. They argue as an employer against paying for health insurance covering contraception.

“Paying for a legitimate employee benefit does not force them to violate their own values. They are not entitled to impose those private values on others who just happen to work for them. When you disapprove of some behavior, then just don't do it.”

“The Jehovah's Witnesses do not lobby to make blood transfusions illegal. They have the strength to follow their private consciences on this matter. Abortion should be similarly a matter of private conscience.

“Now, that gets us into the semantics of good and evil, where definitions are used to beg the question. First they insist on an unprovable assumption _ such as that life begins at the moment of conception _ then it is ‘murder’ that they're opposing. A gray issue becomes absolute, rather than something more properly left to the moral discretion of individuals.

“How well I recall John Kennedy's being at pain to establish that as a Catholic president, his fealty would be completely to the Constitution, not the pope.”

Monday, March 12, 2012


A million dollar survey found that almost one third of high school students, upon hearing the actual text of the First Amendment, thinks it goes "too far."

I’m disappointed that a letter by Edward Lentz, published on Saturday in the Daily Star hasn’t been posted on line. It was very critical of Chuck Pinkey. I’m a critic of Pinkey, but Lendz advocated censorship. It was terribly wrong to suggest that the Daily Star not continue to provide a regular column for Pinkey to state his views.

The first amendment to the Constitution reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We must not be intimidated by those that don't fully understand the First Amendment is our most important defense against the tyranny of fascism.

Let’s try to focus on concepts and not the person with whom we disagree. By being tolerant of the opinions of others and making an effort to be persuasive, civil, and factual, we could become a unifier. A unifier listens to the opposition, respects their opinions and seeks compromise as opposed to being divisive.

In 1918, our government controlled freedom of speech in ways, not known in America before or since. Most political discourse went through the mail. The Postmaster General was given the power to refuse to deliver any periodical he deemed unpatriotic or critical of the administration.

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic; and servile, but it is morally treasonable to the American public." - Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, March 11, 2012

International Women’s Day

The first bill that Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which mandated that women receive equal pay for equal work. Surprisingly, 98% of Republicans in the House voted against that bill.

The Republican war on women and women’s health care has become part of their culture. The war on women’s health care is taking place all over the country, at every level of government.

More than 1100 reproductive health restrictions were introduced in all 50 states, restrictions to abortion rights skyrocketed to record levels in 2011. Nine states have voted to reduce funding for family planning programs. Texas reduced its reproductive health budget 66%. Six states passed restrictions on family planning funds. New Hampshire prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funding, that began in 1970. Last year, of the 135 bills passed by state legislatures, about 70% of them set limits on a woman’s right to an abortion.

In Atlanta, eight women in the Georgia Senate walked out of the chamber in protest as Republicans passed restrictions on contraceptive funding and abortion services.

New York State Assemblywoman Theresa Sayward is a Republican who is retiring from office this year said: “I do not have a favorite in the presidential race. If I had to vote today, I would vote for Obama... Because I really truly think that the candidates that are out there on the Republican side would take women back decades.”

On International Women’s Day, 12 female Democrats in the Senate had enough. In a letter to Speaker of the House, John Boehner, they wrote: "It’s time for you to put up an end to the attacks on women’s health care and to work with the Senate to get back to the American people’s top priority of creating jobs and boosting our economy."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Laurens County

In South Carolina some Republican leaders have put together a ultimate litmus test on one of their favorite subjects, sex. Republican party leaders in Laurens County have written a pledge for all its potential candidates to sign.

Every candidate for office must favor and live up to abstinence before marriage, be faithful to their spouse, but the spouse cannot be a person of the same gender. Furthermore, from the moment the candidate sign the pledge, they’re forbidden to look at pornography.

The pledge is not all about sex. It includes 28 principles, not all of and some of are very predictable, such as uphold the right to have all kinds of guns. All potential Republican candidates must submit to an interview, and meet in person with the Candidate Qualification Committee of Laurens County Republican Party.

Newt Gingrich warned: “If some people in the Republican Party want to go around the country purging everyone they disagree with, they’re going to rapidly make this a party for-minority party for a generation.”

On 10/1/09, Dede Scozzafava the Republican candidate for the NY 23rd. Congressional District announced, that she wouldn’t sign a pledge not to raise taxes. However, after two weeks of conservatives and independents abandoning her campaign, she signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform.

The special election for the New York congressional seat became a litmus test for Republican candidates. Sarah Palin anticipating a shot in the presidential primary in 2012 lined up to endorse Doug Hoffman against Dede Scozzafava. The conservative base end up splitting their Party into two nonviable political parties.

Dede Scozzafava suspended her campaign shortly before the election and threw her support to the eventual winner Democratic candidate, Bill Owens for the congressional seat.

Gingrich’s prediction may come true in November.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Irrefutable Proof

Forty thousand factories closed during the Bush administration. However, Republican politicians continue to claim, that tax cuts benefit the economy even after the Bush-era tax cuts provided irrefutable proof that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires didn’t stimulate the economy.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz pointed out: “Whenever, we diminish equality of opportunity, we are not using some of our most valuable asset (our citizens) in the most productive way possible. Much of the damage that results from inequality are associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests, that undermine the efficiency of the economy.

Our stalled economy requires, that Congress invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. We should be investing in transportation; highways, bridges, airports, basic research, and education at all levels, but instead cutbacks are being made.

When a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The very wealthy of that society become more reluctant to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks, education, medical care or personal security. They buy all these things for themselves. They become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may have once had. The top 1% may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in fact they prefer gridlock.

Some folks consider Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment Insurance and Universal Healthcare the creation of a cradle-to-grave dependency class.

Although, versions of: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” are shared by 21 world religions, many members of Congress don’t subscribe to that ethical code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. It’s also called the ethic of reciprocity and is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Not Silenced

Sandra Fluke, who was targeted by Rush Limbaugh for her position on contraceptives admitted, that she was upset and outraged when she first learned the radio talk show host had called her a "slut."

She acknowledged: "I felt probably the way many women do when they are called those types of names. Initially hurt and then very quickly upset and outraged because somebody is trying to silence you."

Obama called Fluke to offer his support. She said: “He encouraged me and 
supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women. And what was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud and that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So I just appreciated that very much.”

Obama called because: “I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about, even ones I may not agree with them on.  I want them to be able to speak their mind in a civil and thoughtful way.  And I don't want them attacked or called horrible names because they're being good citizens.  And I wanted Sandra to know that I thought her parents should be proud of her, and that we want to send a message to all our young people that being part of a democracy involves argument and disagreements and debate, and we want you to be engaged, and there's a way to do it that doesn't involve you being demeaned and insulted, particularly when you’re a private citizen.”

Fluke thinks, that Limbaugh was confused regarding her testimony, because she didn’t say that she expected to be paid for anything. She talked about private insurance covering a medical need. It had nothing to do with our government or taxpayers paying for anything.

The Georgetown law student pointed out: "We're talking about national legislation. Legislation has to reflect reality, not ideology and I don't think that we can actually expect that American women are going to stop engaging in healthy sexual behaviors." She added: “Women are not going to be silenced about the issue. They're going to speak up for health care needs and what this means to them and I'm certainly not going to be silenced.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

A Modern Economy

The Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. Nearly all Senators are members of the top 1% when they arrive in Congress. Many of the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1%. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, that pharmaceutical companies received a trillion-dollar gift, through legislation prohibiting our government the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price.

Congressional Republicans have oppose reinstating the Glass-Speagall Act of 1933. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980’s, banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. Keating responded: “I certainly hope so.”

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz wrote, that inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1% rarely serve in the military, since the all-volunteer army doesn’t pay enough to attract their children. The wealthiest Americans feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war, because borrowed money will pay for it. With the top 1% in charge, and paying no price, the notion of restraint goes out the window, since corporate contractors stand to gain from war.

The rules of economic globalization are designed to benefit the rich, who encourage competition among countries for business, thereby driving down taxes on corporations, weakening health and environmental protections, and weakening the right to collective bargaining.

A modern economy requires a government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. America is suffering from an under-investment in infrastructure, especially highways, bridges, railroads and airports. We should be investing in basic research, and education at all levels, but instead we’re making cutbacks.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Helping the Economy

Many Republican agree with Obama and Democrats that extending the payroll tax cut would help the economy, but the parties remain divided over how to pay for it.

Last December, the Senate blocked competing Democratic and Republican proposals from moving forward, thereby setting up negotiations on a possible compromise.  House Speaker John Boehner signaled support for an eventual deal, when he admitted: “I don’t think there’s any question that the payroll tax relief, in fact, helps the economy.”

The Senate Democrats plan to extend the payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of December was to assess a 3.25% tax on income over $1 million to pay the cost of the $200 billion for the extension.  Taxpayers with an income of $50, 000 would benefit by $1,500 a year.

Senate Republicans insisted on a 60 vote super-majority to proceed, thus nullifying the 51-49 majority vote for the Democratic proposal.  The Republican alternative proposal would have frozen discretionary government spending and cut federal jobs, while raising Medicare costs for folks with incomes above $750,000 a year.  That proposal was defeated with opposition from both parties by a 20-78 vote.

Obama response to those votes in the Senate was: “They chose to raise taxes on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they refused to ask a few hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.  It makes absolutely no sense to raise taxes on the middle class at a time when so many are still trying to get back on their feet.” 

The mission of the Republican Party for a long time has been to privatize Social Security by having the funding go into risky Wall Street investments.  The $2.6 trillion surplus in Social Security trust fund, is an obligation that according to projections show the program could be deplete of funds by 2037.  However, a major factor in determining the rate, that funds will run out is our current unemployment situation.  Last January, we had 12.8 million unemployed Americans, who weren’t paying into the Social Security trust fund, nor were they paying taxes to reduce out national debt. 

Seven years ago, Warren Buffett suggested: “I personally would increase the taxable base above the present $ 90,000.  I pay very little in the way of SS taxes.” 

Unfortunately, raising that tax would violate the Republican pledge to Grover Norquist.

Monday, March 05, 2012

A Vile Attack Dog

Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke wasn’t allowed to testify at Republican Darrell Issa’s hearing on contraceptives. She intended to talk about a friend, who has polycystic ovarian syndrome, and needed to take contraception to prevent cysts from growing on her ovaries and not to prevent pregnancy. Instead, she gave her testimony at a Democratic caucus.

Sandra Fluke has now been targeted by GOP attack dog, Rush Limbaugh who asked: “What does it say about the college coed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

The next day, Limbaugh continued: “I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want. We are paying her for having sex. We are getting screwed. So, Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, if we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you what it is - we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Sandra Fluke has an important story to tell, about the importance of making sure that contraceptives, like other medications are available to women. She pointed out, that 1.5 million women use contraceptives not for birth control, but for other valid medical reasons.

Senator Bernie Sanders said: “Let me add my strong belief that if the United States Senate had 83 women and 17 men rather than 83 men and 17 women, my strong guess is that a bill like this (Blunt-Rubio amendment) would never even make it to the floor.”

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Oil Subsidies

America consumes more than 20% of the world’s oil, but we only have 2% of the world’s oil reserves. Regardless of what we do, we’re going to have a huge shortfall.  If we really want energy independence, we've got to start using less oil, and using other sources of energy, that aren’t subject to what’s happening in other countries.

We must develop new technology that helps us use less energy. The Obama administration has been making investments in clean, renewable energy. Renewable energy has nearly doubled and thousands of Americans jobs have been created.

We’ve developed nearly a 100-year supply of natural gas, which releases fewer carbons.  Experts believe natural gas will support more than 600,000 jobs by 2020.  In cooperation with the private sector, America is positioned to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries that will power the next generation of cars.

After three decades of doing nothing, fuel economy standards have been put in place that will ensure our cars average nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade.  That’s nearly double the fuel economy standards for the cars, and light trucks, that we have today.

The typical family will save more than $8,000 at the pump, and America will reduce our oil consumption by more than 2 million barrels a day. That means we’ll continue to see a decline in how much imported oil we’ll need. That’s good for our national security, good for the economy, and good for our environment. We needs to keep investing in developing every available type of American-made energy.

There are no short-term silver bullets when it comes to gas prices. However, over the long term, the Obama administration is committed to strategy of providing the right incentives. 

Presently, $4 billion of our tax dollars goes to subsidizes the oil industry every year. These companies are making record profits of tens of billions of dollars a year and Obama wants Congress to eliminate those oil industry giveaway. He has called for a vote on oil industry subsidies in the next few weeks. He wants to put every member of Congress on record. Who stand with the oil companies, and who stand up for the American people?  Who wants to keep subsidizing a fossil fuel that’s been getting taxpayer dollars for a century, and who supports clean-energy?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Blunt Amendment

The Senate voted to kill a proposal pushed by Republicans that would have allowed employers to opt out of providing health care coverage on moral or religious grounds.

The so-called “conscience” amendment, sponsored by Senator Blunt was tacked onto a $109 billion transportation bill. Senate Minority Leader, McConnell had insisted on a floor vote on the Blunt amendment “before we can move ahead with this jobs bill.” Senate Majority Leader, Reid complained the proposal was not germane to the legislation.

By a 51-48 mostly party line vote, Democrats succeeded in killing the amendment. Moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, who is retiring voted with Democrats. Snowe told MSNBC the amendment is “much broader than I could support.”

Senator Blunt claimed: “This is about the First Amendment. It's about religious beliefs. It's not about any one issue.”

Senate Democrats insisted it would provide too much latitude for employers to impose their personal beliefs on the healthcare issues of their workers. Sen. Patty Murray argued: “It would simply give every boss in America the right to make health care decisions for their workers and their families.”

Democrats believed, that under the amendment, employers could have cited moral objections to cutting off coverage of immunizations, prenatal care for children of unmarried parents and other standard procedures.

Perhaps, now we can get a highway bill passed that will help create jobs and invest in infrastructure, build the roads and bridges and provide the mass transit that this country needs, and stop trying to come between women and their health care providers.

The Blunt-Rubio amendment would have allowed employers to refuse insurance coverage on religious or moral grounds, and sabotage the law. In fact, it was about invalidating the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

Friday, March 02, 2012

College Graduates

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum ridiculed Obama’s education policy by calling the president a snob.

Santorum claimed: “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor that tried to indoctrinate them. Well, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.”

The unemployment rate for college graduates is 4.4%. For graduates of high school, but not college, it’s 9.5%.

Obama responded: “The jobs in the future are increasingly going to those with more than a high school degree. And I have to make a point here -- when I speak about higher education, we’re not just talking about a four-year degree. We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door handling a million dollar piece of equipment. And they can’t go in there unless they have some basic training beyond what with they received in high school.

Jackie Bray is a single mother from North Carolina 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.

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, and college graduate Santorum knows that.  

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Historic President

Rick Santorum wants to be the second Catholic president.

In September of 1960, John F. Kennedy traveled to Houston to speak to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of establishment Protestant ministers. He argued that if elected the Catholic church wouldn’t dictate his presidency.

JFK was the first Catholic to run for President of the United States and many Americans were greatly concerned that he’d allow himself to be influenced by the Vatican.

Kennedy insisted: “So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.”

Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Santorum announced: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country. To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up.”

The 1960, Supreme Court decision in Engel vs Vitale ruled it unconstitutional for public schools to allow prayer, even though the prayer was non-denominational and students were allowed to abstain from the exercise.  

As promised, Kennedy announced, that he understood many people were angered by the ruling, but that there was “a very easy remedy -not a constitutional amendment but a renewed commitment to pray at home, in the churches and with their families.”