Mind and Destiny

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

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

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Gun Culture


New details have been released about Adam Lanza the murderer, who went on a killing rampage that claimed the lives of 20 children and six teachers and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Lanza fired 154 bullets, killing all of those innocent people in less than five minutes.  He was able to fired roughly one bullet every two seconds.  Investigators have reported, that he brought nine 30-round magazines with him and three completely full magazines were found on Lanza after he killed himself.

In the home he shared with his mother, Nancy.  Investigators also found a holiday card from his mother with a check in it for her son to buy a gun.  There were a total of ten 30-round high-capacity rounds in magazines.  One magazine was found on Lanza, and of the nine that were found at the school, three had been emptied. 

A loaded 12-gauge shotgun was in the car.  At the home, a vast array of weaponry was found.  Two rifles and a pistol.  In addition, more than a thousand rounds of ammunition was discovered in the house, three samurai swords, a spear, and a lot of gun paraphernalia, gun magazines, and gun literature.

Lanza had been meticulously researching mass shootings over the years and had compiled very detailed computer printout of mass shootings dating back several years.  One that he was particularly obsessed with was the Anders Breivik shooting in Norway, the person who killed 77 people in July of 2011.

Lanza was clearly much more obsessed and a part of the gun culture than anyone realized.  An FBI witness described Lanza as being an avid video gamer who rarely left his house.  Clearly, Adam Lanza was a very disturbed young man, who was deeply immerse in the gun culture.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Those Angry Days


Today, we live in a time of very bitter feuding between right and left on everything from cultural issues like gay marriage to taxes, spending and health care.

Leading up to Pearl Harbor, before World War II, the country experienced one of the most divisive periods in our history, regarding whether our country should enter a war in Europe. 

President Franklin Roosevelt was moving towards war, by sending destroyers to aid Britain and signing a bill into law that required men between the ages of 21 and 45 to sign up for the draft.

Charles Lindbergh an American hero, became the voice of isolationists, and FDR’s most prominent critic.  In October 1940, Lindbergh claimed on the Mutual Broadcasting Network: “The doctrine that we must enter the wars of Europe in order to defend America will be fatal to our nation if we follow it.  When men are called upon to fight and die for their country, there must not be even the remotest question of foreign influence.”

In a Madison Square Garden speech, Lindbergh insisted, that the only people that want us to fight are the British, the Roosevelt administration and the Jews.  FDR was very pro-British, but he may not have actually wanted America to go to war in terms of sending troops.  Unquestionably, he wanted to save England.

Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie gave Roosevelt the best fight he ever had in the 1940 presidential race, but he didn’t take cheap shots.  Willkie supported Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease Act to help the British. 

He could have gone the isolationist path like Lindbergh.  Instead, Willkie supported the draft and gave Roosevelt all the assistance he could toward national unity.  Willkie did what he thought was right for our country.  He stood up for the best interest of this country instead of seeking a partisan advantage, and Republican leaders hated him because of his support of Roosevelt.  Willkie believed we had to save England, and he didn’t care if it was Franklin Roosevelt’s policy or not.  He was going to support it.

Before Pearl Harbor, many Americans were screaming not to go to war, but liberals especially the Jewish people were very worried about what was going on Europe.  Some of Roosevelt’s advisers wanted him to declare war on Japan and Germany immediately after Pearl Harbor, but he waited for three very long days until Hitler declared war on us.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Barry Levinson


Barry Levinson, the Academy Award winning director, screen writer and producer has suggested that we view of Grover Norquist from a different perspective.  He points out that anti-tax fanatic Norquist’s most important tactic in his war on taxes is to devalue the English language.  His metaphor to shrink government in order to drowned it in the bathtub is very revealing.  Levinson believes that what Norquist is saying is that he want’s to overturn our democracy and create a new government.

Actually, Norquist isn’t a conservative, he’s a revolutionary.  He has repeatedly said over the years: “Our goal is to cut government in half as a percentage of the economy over 25 years, so that we can get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Another metaphor that Norquist has used is: “bipartisanship is another name for date rape.”

Norquist doesn’t believe in our system of government, but has avoided saying it with clarity.  Most Americans may want to lower taxes, however it certainly isn’t necessary to drown our government in a bathtub?  Most of us would simply say, that we are in favor of a lower tax code.  Grover Norquist wants to kill what the Founding Fathers fought for.  It’s not only about taxes, he’s opposed to this form of government.  He’s a 21st century revolutionary.

Republicans take Grover Norquist’s goal very seriously, and are willing to sign a pledge to him to follow his dictates on taxation.  Virtually every Republican elected to serve in Congress agrees with Grover Norquist.  They’ve agreed with someone whose goal is to destroy the federal government, destroy the type of government that our Founding Fathers’ created.  They’re attempting to create an oligarchy, in which wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a small, privileged elite.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Informed Opinions


In May 2005, Warren Buffett warned: “The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good... It’s class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn’t be... Right now corporate profits as a percentage of GDP in this country are right at the high.  Corporate taxes as a percentage of total taxes raised are very close to the historical low.”

Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson, who was the Fiscal Commissions, Republican Co-chairman has pointed out: “Only 10% of the wealthiest people in America, use them, because they’re the ones that can hire the best lobbyists.  The little guy does the standard deduction and walks away.  We found the top 400 income earners in the United States pay an average of 16% income tax, and it’s absolutely absurd.”

Nick Hanauer is a technology entrepreneur, and a billionaire venture capitalist insists: “If there was no one around who could afford to buy what we had to sell, all those companies and all those jobs would have evaporated.  That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs.  Nor do businesses large or small.  Jobs are a consequence of a circle of life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses.  An ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist like me.”

“In the United States today, the richest 1% owns 34 % of our nation’s wealth – that’s more than the entire bottom 90%, who own just 29% of the country’s wealth.” And the top one-hundredth of 1% now makes an average of $27 million per household per year. The average income for the bottom 90% of Americans is $31,244.  It’s time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share, which is why I introduced the Fairness in Taxation Act.  This isn’t about punishment or revenge.  It’s about fairness. It’s about avoiding budget cuts that harm middle class families and those who aspire to it.  We can choose to cut education, job creation and health care, or we can choose to ask those who can contribute more to do so.”- Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has point out: “You have millions and millions of people, who are struggling to pay their mortgage or rent, to buy food, to put gas in the car.  And by the way, they are paying federal taxes in terms of FICA taxes.  You can’t get blood out of a stone when the middle class is shrinking.

Thomas Hungerford, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service reports that capital gains tax cuts are by far the largest driver of income inequality.  Studies show that the income of the top 1% of Americans has been increasing dramatically.  Most Americans depend on wages which are subject to a graduated tax, but capital gains have a rate cap, which is presently 20%.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fell Silent


Some Conservative critics accused President Obama of being the most anti-Israel president in history.  Obama’s policies and relationship with Israeli were strongly  criticized during the election campaign.  The harshest critics suddenly fell silent after Obama arrived in Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu set the record straight: “I want to thank you for the investment you’ve made in our relationship and strengthening the friendship and alliance between our two countries.  I’m absolutely convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.  The president has reaffirmed more than any other president, Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, by itself against any threat.  So, it’s a profound honor to host you, the leader of the free world, at this historic time in our ancient capital.  Mr. President, welcome to Israel.”

Both leaders are struggling to build a consensus with the political opposition, and Obama was caught on tape joking: “It’s good to get away from Congress.”  Actually, Obama tried to bring some Republicans with him on the trip. "Politico" reported Eric Cantor got an invitation, but Cantor said he was too busy.

During Obama’s first trip to Israel as president, he promised unwavering support  to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Both Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu watched developments in neighboring Syria where rebels claim their own president used chemical weapons on a village in the north.  The attack killed at least 31 people.  And Syria’s government sealed off the area to keep out journalists and international observers. 

Obama said: “We have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a series and tragic mistake.  The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists.”  Prime Minister Netanyahu agrees with Obama on Syria.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Child’s Best Interest


The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared its support for same-sex marriage by announcing that allowing gay and lesbian parents to marry if they so choose is in the best interests of their children.

The academy’s new policy statement says same-sex marriage helps guarantee rights, benefits and long-term security for children, while acknowledging that it doesn’t now ensure access to federal benefits.  When marriage isn’t an option, the academy felt that children shouldn’t be deprived of foster care or adoption by single parents or couples, whatever their sexual orientation.
This review of scientific literature began more than four years ago, and the result is a 10-page report with 60 citation.  The academy cited research finding that a child’s well-being is much more affected by the strength of relationships among family members and a family’s social and economic resources than by the sexual orientation of the parents.
The academy report noted: “There is an emerging consensus, based on extensive review of the scientific literature, that children growing up in households headed by gay men or lesbians are not disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.” 
Evidence demonstrates that children raised by gay or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive and social functioning as peers raised by heterosexuals.
A study in England compared 39 families with lesbian mothers to 74 heterosexual parents and 60 families headed by single heterosexual women.  No difference was found between the groups in emotional involvement, abnormal behaviors in children as reported by parents or teachers, or psychiatric disorders in them. 
The author of the study, Dr. Nanette Gartnell said: “Marriage strengthens families and benefits child development, and it also increases a parent’s sense of competence and security when they are able to raise children without stigma.” 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Strongest Commitment


President Obama has pointed out: “The race we want to win, the race we can win is a race to the top.  A race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security.  Businesses will create those jobs in countries with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers, the most advanced transportation and communication, the strongest commitment to research and technology.”

Some Americans don’t seem to understand the concept of supply and demand.  Supply are those items that are for sale.  Demand are those customers, who are expected to be buying those items.  In 2008, we had all kinds of items and services for sale, but few people were able to purchase them.  The demand side of the economy had come to a halt, because of the credit disaster.  We had supply, but fewer people were buying.  Hence, less demand.
Whenever, no one is buying, the companies that pay people to make those items, can’t afford to keep those workers on the payroll and they’re laid off.  Unemployed people can’t buy things, which makes the no-demand problem even worse.  It can snowballs into more layoffs, less demand, and it keeps getting worse, until we have a depression.

In the 195o’s, President Eisenhower launched the most massive government undertaking in our history known as the Interstate Highway System.  Some complained that the program was too costly, but it turned out to be the most successful long term economic stimulus program in American history.

That investment in our nations infrastructure was paid for by asking everybody to do their fair share.  If we’re going to have a strong middle class, our tax code must reflect that value.

Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education and research and high-tech manufacturing or do we want to keep in place tax loopholes for profitable corporations, and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country?

When, President Clinton first proposed tax increases, congressional Republicans predicted it would kill jobs and lead to another recession.  Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we began eliminating the deficit.  Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century.  In the early ‘50s, the top tax rate was over 90 percent.  In the early ‘80s, the top tax rate was about 70 percent.  Under Clinton, the top rate was only about 39 percent.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Remember


In case you missed it, forty thousand factories closed during the Bush administration.  But, Republicans 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.

Republicans offers the same solutions, that got us into this mess in the first place.  Massive tax cuts benefiting mostly the very wealthy, and roll back regulations.  It was risky behavior on Wall Street that caused this recession.
Congressional Republican want to take our country down the same path that led to our fiscal crisis.  In 2008, voters reject those policies and embraced Obama's vision of growing the economy, not from the top down, but from the middle class out.

The top one-hundredth of 1% of Americans make an average of $27 million per household per year.  The average income for the bottom 90% of Americans is $31, 244.  It’s time for millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.
The top tax bracket begins at $373,000 of income and fails to distinguish between the well off and billionaires.  For example, the top 20 hedge fund managers average income last year was over $1 billion.

Obama and Senate Democrats have attempted to enact solutions for the future.  The “Paying a Fair Share Act” embodied Obama's proposed millionaire tax.  The bill would have impose a minimum 30% effective federal tax rate on those with adjusted gross incomes above $1 million, although it phases in for those making between $1 million and $2 million.  A lower tax rate on capital gains is the major reason why many millionaires and billionaires pay a lower effective rates than the middle class.  That proposal to implement the Buffett Rule was blocked by Senate Republicans, but proponents of the millionaire tax vowed to keep the issue alive.  Senate Democrats fell nine votes short of a 60 vote super majority.                                                                                   Obama insists: “We’ll never be able to compete with countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages, who’s best at busting unions, who’s best at letting companies pollute as much as they want.  That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win, and we shouldn’t want to win that race.  Those countries don’t have a strong middle class.  They don’t have our standard of living.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Daniel Martinez Lefew


Next week, the Supreme Court will consider Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Daniel Martinez Lefew wrote the following letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, himself the father of two adopted children.

“Dear Justice Roberts, my name is Daniel Martinez Lefew.  I am 12 years old and I live in northern California.  I have a younger sister named Selena.  And we were adopted by two dads.  We were adopted when I was five and my sister was about 12 months old.

“When I was in foster care, I was told that I was considered unadoptable because of my Goldenhar Syndrome.  That is a genetic disorder that effects the whole left side of my body.  I lost my little brother, Amelio, because some people wanted to adopt him but they weren’t willing to adopt me because of my medical conditions.

“Lucky for me, that`s when my two dads came along.  I recently found out that you yourself adopted two kids, a boy and a girl, kind of like me and my sister.  Family means a lot of different things to different people, but some people believe that you have to have the same blood to be a family.  You and I both know that family goes deeper than blood.  I was lucky to be adopted by two guys I can both call dad.  They give me and my sister so much love.  My dad Jay works in San Francisco as a deputy sheriff and my dad Brian stays at home and takes care of me and my sister.

“My dads really encourage me to excel in life.  Since I want to be a cook when I grow up, they’re letting me take cooking classes.  My parents want me to improve, whether it’s school work or my social life.

“I know you have a tough decision to make with the gay marriage issue, but my family is just as valuable and worthwhile as any other.  It is especially tough for you because I know you don’t necessarily believe in gay marriage religiously.  Lucky for us, you also don’t believe in taking away our right, even from people like us.

“My family and I spent the last four years making Youtube videos to show people who don’t understand that our family is like any other.  If Prop 8 is allowed to stand, imagine the pain we would feel knowing that we are not considered equal to everyone else.

“I guess to end this, it is important that all families are protected and valued.  In our country, we may not all be the same, but we are all Americans and deserve an equal chance at bettering our lives.  I hope you make the right decision in the end.

“Sincerely, Daniel.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Infrastructure Investments



After being re-elected by barely one percentage point of the vote, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is looking for photo op, that will impress her constituents.  Along with every other House Republican, Bachmann opposed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Recovery Act of 2009.  She opposed the 2010 Democratic Infrastructure Spending Plan and Obama’s 2011 American Jobs Act.  All of a sudden she’s looking for investments in infrastructure, as long as it’s in her district.

The folks pushing to expand I-94 to six lanes all the way to St. Cloud have an important ally in Michele Bachmann.  Recently, the sixth district congresswoman brought a huge entourage to the Minnesota capital to push that project and another one in Elk River.

President Obama and congressional Democrats have consistently proposed government investments in infrastructure like roads and bridges, investments that many Republicans like Rep. Bachmann have consistently opposed.  America’s failure to sufficiently invest in infrastructure has had consequences. 

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers comes out with an assessment of the nation’s infrastructure.  They grade everything, water, environment, transportation, public facilities and energy.  This year’s report card has good news and some bad news. The good news is that America’s grade improved slightly from the last report card in 2009.  The bad news, that the investments that have been made has only brought us up to a D plus.

The ASCE estimates that to bring our infrastructure up to par, we would need to invest 3.6 trillion dollars by 2020.  That money would create jobs, boost productivity, repair structurally deficient bridges, roads and water mains, and stimulate the economy, but it won’t happen unless Republicans like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann get behind President Obama’s push for federal infrastructure spending, and not just when it makes for a good photo op.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Living Wage


The minimum wage in this country is not a living wage, and if the minimum wage actually kept pace with worker productivity, it would be far higher than what anyone is calling for.

At a recent hearing Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren pointed out: “If we just started in 1960, not the high water mark for minimum wage, but a good time on minimum wage, if we started in 1960 and we said that as productivity goes up, that is as workers are producing more, then the minimum wage is going to go up the same.  And if that were the case, the minimum wage today would be about $22 an hour.”

If the minimum wage had kept pace with incomes going to the top 1 percent, the minimum wage would have actually risen to $33 an hour before the great recession began in 2007.  Senator Warren didn’t call for the minimum wage to be raised to $22 an hour, but she was illustrating the unconscionable disparity between the current minimum wage and the ideal merit based minimum wage.  A recent attempt to raise the minimum wage to a mere $10.10 an hour was defeated by House Republicans, who were unanimous in their opposition.

Restaurant workers generally aren’t doing anything any faster than they used to, but half of all Americans with a job, 75 million, make essentially $10 an hour less.  They make $26,000 a year or less in wages.

In an exchange with restaurateur who refused to accept that raising the wage to $9 and $10 an hour would raise his meal prices by only a dime or so, Senator Warren noted: “Maybe it’s only 4 cents on $7.19, but if your entrees are $14.40, we’ll see how fast I can do the math, are you telling me you can’t raise your prices by eight cents?”

Restaurateur answered: “You know, typically, when costs rise, we don’t actually raise it just four cents.  We might go a little higher.  That has an inflationary effect on the economy.  So, you may be taking away the money you just gave that employee through the minimum increase and raise prices throughout the economy.”

Warren responded: “I have to say, you’ve now switched your argument from what it was going to do to your business to what it’s going to do to the economy.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Counterproductive


There’s been a substantial shift by the Democratic Party on taxes in recent years, that was locked into place by the fiscal cliff deal.

Regarding, Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget in 10 years, Peter Orazag the former director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Obama administration said: “I don’t think hitting a ten year target is important and trying to hit that soon is probably a mistake.  But what we want over time is get our fiscal house in order, by which I mean that debt is no longer exploding as a share of the economy.  That doesn’t actually require balancing the budget and it doesn’t require it over a 10-year window.”

Most economist believe that the problem with cutting the budget too fast when the economy is still weak and unemployment rate is still high is that it would exacerbate our unemployment problems.  It would be counterproductive.

More stimulus and infrastructure investment coupled with a lot of deficit reduction that is phased in gradually over time would put us on a solid path to a full recovery.

Congressman Ryan’s op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" talk about implementing a tax reform that brings down rates to only 10 percent and 25 percent, and he claims forthcoming legislation from House Republicans will show how.

Actually, it’s mathematically possible to bring down rates for high income earners, which is what would happen when you switch to that kind of rate structure without raising rates on low and middle income people. It’s just not mathematically possible, if you’re going to keep revenue constant.  

There is some kind of trick in all of Ryan’s tax plans somewhere.  Either, it’s a massive revenue loss or it’s an increase in revenue from middle and lower income taxpayers, period.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ten Year Plan


Since, former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee, he’s in charge of crafting the Republicans House budget.  Ryan’s new plan is much faster than his original goal to balance the budget in 25 years. 

On FOX News, Chris Wallace asked Paul Ryan: “The plan that you’re going to release Tuesday would balance the budget in 10 years, not 25 years, like your last one.  How do you do that?  Do you have to make even tougher, deeper spending cuts?”  Ryan answered: “Actually, not really.

Wallace reasoned: “Let’s look, Congressman, at a couple of the reasons that you don’t have it make big changes in this new budget to balance it in 10 years.  You include the $600 billion as you just mentioned in tax increases that came from raising rates from the fiscal cliff debate.  You also include $716 billion dollars in Medicare cuts through Obamacare that you opposed in this last campaign.  Question: is it fair to say that at least those parts of the president’s policies make it easier to balance the budget?”  Ryan: “It is fair to say that.”  

Paul Ryan went on to tell Chris Wallace that his budget assumes the repeal of Obamacare.

Wallace inquired: “Are you saying that as part of your budget, you would repeal, you assume the repeal of the Obamacare?”  Ryan: “Yes.”

Wallace pointed out: “Well, that’s not going to happen.”  Ryan: “Well, we believe it should.  That is the point.  That’s what budgeting is all about, Chris.  It’s about making tough choices to fix our country’s problems.

Ryan is advocating repealing the part of Obamacare that gives people health insurance but he’s keeping the tax increases in Obamacare, and Medicare cuts, that he and Mitt Romney ran against in the election. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Worst Vice President


When President George Bush left office, his approval rating was 22%, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s was 13%.  Cheney remains the personification of Republican radicalism. 

President Ronald Reagan signed a ban on civilian sales or use of armor-piercing bullets, that are designed to penetrate body armor.  As a member of Congress Cheney voted against that ban. 

Under Reagan, the vote to ban undetectable plastic guns designed to slip by metal detectors and airport X-ray machines was a very lopsided vote, with 413 votes in favor of the bill and only four votes against.  Cheney voted against the bill to ban those guns.

In 1993, Clinton signed a bill named for James Brady, who was shot when John Hinckley tried to assassinate Reagan.  The Brady Bill instituted a federal background check system for people buying guns.  There are numerous loopholes to the background check system, but it didn’t exist at all before the Brady Bill.  

In 1994, after a mass shooting at a law firm in San Francisco perpetrated by a man with two semi-automatic pistols, took eight lives before he took his own.  California Senator Dianne Feinstein propose a ban on 19 types of semiautomatic rifles, pistols and shotguns and the first assault weapons ban was passed.  That bill came up for renewal in 2004, and the administration of Bush and Cheney made sure it expired.

Vice President Cheney was the designated attack dog for the Bush regime.  His comments concerning Ned Lamont’s victory in the Connecticut Democratic primary were that it would encourage those, who want to “break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.”

Ned Lamont's victory over Joe Lieberman scared Republicans because it demonstrated that a free and independent people can hold entrenched public officials accountable for their words and deeds.

Cheney's comments showed that strategy of the Republican party was to repeatedly insinuate that anyone who votes against them is giving aid and comfort to terrorists.  It's obvious that they lack basic respect for our fundamental freedoms.

During the Bush era, Cheney went to the CIA to personally comb through their intelligence to cherry-pick information that could be used to justify a war against Iraq. 

Iraq became a cash cow for government contractors like Cheney’s Halliburton.  Half of the $18 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds remain unaccounted for.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Least Democratic Legislature


The U.S. Senate has become one of the least democratic legislatures in the entire world.  Among the political compromises that created the Constitution of the United States was to require: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State.” 

Consequently, each state no matter how many people live there gets only two senators.  It is not one person one vote in the Senate.  It is one state, two votes.

In the early years of our Republic, when the Constitution was written, and the Senate was initially constructed, our nation was composed of 4 million people, not 313 million. The difference in population ratio between the largest state Virginia and the smallest state Delaware was only 11-1.  

Today, the difference between the largest state California and the smallest state Wyoming with a population of 576,412, is 66-1.  The populations of Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming combined is 38 million people.  They have 42 senators.

The population of California is 38 million people, but they have only two senators.  In theory, if the 26 smallest states held together on all votes, they would control the Senate, with a total of less than 17% of our population.

By using the filibuster, 21 of the 50 states representing a mere 11% of the population can muster the 41 votes necessary to stop a majority in the Senate.  It’s obvious, that we’ve gone too far toward disadvantaging the large states. 

However, before the citizens of California start feeling really cheated by their unfair apportionment of Senators consider that the 632,323 citizens that live in Washington, D.C. don’t have a single vote in the Senate.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Demographics


One of the things that came out of 2012 election results is that if you look at the national map, there are enough votes for a Democratic coalition to win the popular vote comfortably in a national election.  And, there are enough votes in the heavily populated states to decide presidential elections for the Democrats, and to also win Senate races.

However, when you break the country down into 435 House districts, you will find that Democratic voters are concentrated in metropolitan areas and that Republican votes are  mostly spread out over suburban and rural areas.  Basically, the most recent gerrymandering of House districts has create an absent of a Democratic majority for the next decade, and a permanent Republican House.  The demographics in all of those gerrymandered Republican House districts across the country, do not match the demographics nationally.  Those districts are not evolving the way the rest of our country has been evolving.  Those Republican districts are demographically much older and they are much whiter.

In fact, it’s the Republican primary elections, and not the general election that will determine who is going to represent those districts in the House.  Consequently, the messages from the last election are of no concern to members of Congress, who represent heavily Republican districts.  In many ways they are immune to what happened in the last presidential election, because it’s not going to influence voters in their district.

Change isn’t going to happen in those Republican districts anytime soon.  The battle, that is being playing out in hundreds of House districts across our country is to preserve yourself and insulate yourself from a Republican primary challenge.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that for President Obama and congressional Republicans to talk face-to-face isn’t going resolve the gridlock that we see in Congress.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Politically Expedient


Lynne Osterman, who served one term in the Minnesota House has told us what it was like to cast a politically expedient vote that she knew was wrong when she voted in favor of Minnesota’s Defense of Marriage Act in 2004.

Lynne Osterman went back to the Minnesota House of Representatives to make a public apology for that vote.  She admitted: “When I was a sophomore in college, I set the goal to serve in the Minnesota House of Representatives.  And when I got here, thinking I was going to be a thoughtful citizen legislature, I was ill prepared for the partisanship that greeted my class, the chair’s class of 2002.

“I served as a Republican because of my interest in smaller government.  And it was incredibly counterintuitive to me to then, upon my arrival, tell citizens how the government wanted them to live their lives.  I didn’t come to St. Paul to single out same sex couples and their families.

“But in my only term as a member, I cast a politically expedient vote in favor of DOMA.  And I have regretted that ever since.  It was not in my conscience of my own compass.  Nothing in my life says it’s OK to treat people differently than I would want to be treated, fairly, respectfully, equally.

“And that’s really what this conversation is about.  Whether you believe big government or small, do you believe in fair, respectful, equal?   Is it ever OK to say, well, except for those people?

“Lawmakers before us, you, all over this nation have had conversations about equality, respectability and fairness.  We’ve all taken our history classes and could come up with our own list of instances.

“What were the polls like for those issues?  Was everyone ready when our elected officials took the reins and led our communities, state and nation, so those laws were changed?  Voting no today in this session might seem politically expedient.  But I can tell you from experience that you will have to live knowing that a no vote is not fair.  It’s not respectful.  And it’s not equal.  I blew my vote.  And I’m imploring you, please get this right.  Minnesota citizens just want you to lead.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Old Buddies


Bob Ney spent a decade in Congress and has known Speaker Boehner for 25 years.  In 2006, Ney pleaded guilty to corruption charges stemming from the Jack Abram lobbying scandal.  He accepted gifts in exchange for votes and served 17 months in prison.

In his book, Ney accuses John Boehner of having an extramarital affair, heavy drinking, and taking thousands of dollars in gifts from lobbyists.  He thinks Boehner’s past has a lot to do with the gridlock in Washington.  

In a radio interview the former congressman said, that he thinks that the American people have a right to know what kind of person is third in line for the presidency.  Ney claimed: “At no point in time have I ever heard in 25 years John Boehner say, Bob, that’s just not good for people or, that is good for people.  This is his personality.  It is about his survival as speaker.  So if he has to obstruct, he will obstruct.  If he has to cater to all the special interests, he will cater.”

Boehner addressed those accusations: “This is a disgraced congressman who went to jail.  He’s made a lot of baseless and false accusations in order to try to sell a book.  It’s sad.”

Ney responsed: “As far as sad, I think John probably cried when he heard some of the things I said because he knows they are true.  There will be people that are Republicans.  There will be people that, you know, are not deemed liars.  That will be, I believe, coming out to verify what I”ve said.”

Only time will tell if those accusations prove to be true.  However, it should be note that in 1996 John Boehner was admonish by colleagues for handing out checks from the tobacco industry on the House floor.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tea Party Feared


President Clinton’s budget surplus was wiped out after President Bush signed his tax cuts into law.  Those tax cuts significantly contributed to our current deficits, and they were supported by Rep. John Boehner.

Currently, the Republican strategy seems to be driven mostly by a fear of the Tea Party.  There is no reason that Speaker Boehner, even if he wanted to, could stand up to the far right in his party, and make deals with President Obama.  Boehner can’t control his own caucus.  House Republicans need to get their act together and decide what they actually stand for.  Since, Obama took office, their primary strategy has been to be against whatever Obama is for.

Although, both political parties say that their willing to get rid of loophole in our tax code, Republicans want to use those revenue to lower tax rates, but Democrats would not use the new revenue for that purpose.  President Obama and congressional Democrats want to use those revenues to cut the deficit.  

It’s hard to understand the underlying logic of the Republican position on the sequester.  Boehner should consider taking things out of the tax code that are equivalent to spending, and get, in return Medicare and Social Security cuts, while protecting defense, and get a greater total quantity of deficit reduction.

Instead, congressional Republicans will get none of those things and they’ll get a smaller total amount of deficit reduction.  But, they will be able to say they didn’t break Grover Norquist’s pledge.  This is a perfect example of completely losing sight of their end policy objectives.

It’s a kind of ideological games that congressional Republicans are playing.  Rather than sitting down with President Obama and saying, well, let’s see what’s in his package.  Let’s consider if we can live with any of his proposals.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“My Body,My Decision”


A woman, who identified herself only as “debek” posted the following comment on the Oneonta Daily Star on-line blog.
“No matter what laws you choose to make, no matter what criteria you decide to judge me with, you will NEVER tell me that I am nothing more than a breeding cow!!!!!  You despise my poverty.  When I need help, you call me lazy.  You insist that I have no right to simple medical care to keep me healthy.  You become enraged at the very idea of sharing your food with me, except of course that which you have deemed too poor quality for your own.  You seek to eradicate me from the face of the earth so I might not be a financial burden to you.  You punish me daily for not having the ‘ability’ to ‘hang on to my man’ by telling me that I should be able to move a career 20 years in 18 months.  
“Yet you reserve the right to force me to put yet another face for you to hate on this earth?   The soul of my unborn child does better with God than with you.  The spirit of my unborn child will flourish with the angels, not become blackened and hurt and angry by dealing with the likes of you.  My body, my decision.  And frankly, I don't care if I have to use a coat hanger!   I will NEVER give you my child to hate, to emotionally torture, to neglect simply because he or she is not like you.
“When you become willing to share your food, to offer compassion, and yes - your time, energy, and money to help those around you, then I might give your opinion some consideration.
“As for me right now, I believe in God and God's love.  I believe that the soul lives forever with God and the value of it to God is not measured by time spent breathing on this planet.  Just because your own human ego believes that you are better than God, does not make it so.
“And lastly, Mind your Own Business.”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spending Cuts


Regarding the sequester, President Obama insists: “None of this is necessary.  It’s happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single, wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit.  Just this week, they decided that protecting special interest tax breaks for the well-off and the well-connected is more important than protecting out military and middle class families from these cuts.  There’s a caucus of common sense out there.  And I’m going to keep reaching out to them to fix this for good, because the American people are weary of perpetual partisanship and brinkmanship.”

On “Meet The Press,” moderator David Gregory asked Speaker John Boehner: “Why not allow some revenues to come from tax reform?  You protect defense spending and you unlock the key to getting the kind of entitlement cuts the president says he would give you if you would just give revenues on tax reform.”

Boehner claimed: “Republicans want tax reform.  We want to bring rates down for all Americans, so that we’ve got a fairer tax code.  But to arbitrarily pull out a couple tax expenditures and say, we ought to use that to get rid of the sequester - -listen, every American knows Washington has a spending problem.”

Gregory pointed out: “The president, is he not committed to spending?  Does his deal that was still on the table not include over 900 billion dollars in spending cuts over ten years?”

Boehner answered: “The president has asked for 1.3 trillion dollars worth of increases in revenue, and only put up 850 billion dollars worth of spending cuts.  Listen, I’ve been here for 22 years.  And I’ve watched presidents from both parties, I’ve watched leaders from both parties kick this can down the road.”

Actually, 20 years ago, President Clinton, with Democratic votes only passed what was then a huge deficit reduction bill that included 50% tax increases and 50% spending cuts, including Medicare.  John Boehner voted against that bill.

Clinton and Gingrich in the 1990s didn’t kick the deficit can down the road.  They effectively eliminated the deficit, and had Americs on the way to actually building a budget surplus, a surplus that was going to be necessary to help finance future government spending, including, it turned out, two wars that no one knew were coming.

After Republicans won back the House and the Senate, Clinton signed even more Republican spending cuts into law.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Consumer Price Index


Chained Consumer Price Index is a measure of inflation created by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that is being considered as a more accurate way to factor rises in the cost-of-living, because it doesn't rise as quickly as the measure of inflation that the government uses now.  If the government switched to chained CPI to calculate social security benefits, benefits would increase more slowly over time. 

President Obama might be considering offering Republicans a potential cut in Social Security benefits based on the consumer price index.  It’s estimates, that chained CPI could save $130 billion.  

In fact, Social Security shouldn’t even be on the negotiating table, because it’s not the issue, that created our financial problems.  The huge increase in the national debt in recent years was caused by two unpaid wars, tax breaks for the wealthy, a Medicare prescription drug bill written by the pharmaceutical industry.  Unlike Social Security, none of these proposals were paid for.  Not only has Social Security not contributed a dime to the deficit, it has a $2.7 trillion surplus, and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 20 years.

Implementing a chained consumer price index, would result in 65 year olds losing as much as $650 a year, by the time their 75 years.   Chained CPI would also result in significant cuts for disabled veterans, and the widows of people killed in those wars.

The question, that we must ask congressional Republicans is that do they really want to balance the budget on the backs of disabled vets and seniors making $15,000 a year?

Congressman Peter DeFazio and Senator Bernie Sanders have introduced legislation to make Social Security stronger for the next 50 years by increasing taxable income starting at $250,000.  

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Arkansas Republicans


The National Republican Party’s platform is very specific on the topic of abortion.  It reads: "faithful to the self-evident truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life, which cannot be infringed.  We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children."

Arkansas Republicans legislators overturned their Democratic governor’s veto and passed what will be the country’s most restrictive abortion law.  The “Human Heartbeat Protection Act” bans most abortions after a woman’s 12th week of pregnancy.  That’s three months before the usual viability standard, and before some women even know that they’re pregnant.
Governor Mike Beebe called the bill unconstitutional, and the ACLU plans to challenge the law in federal court.

Sarah Weddington is the attorney who won the Roe v. Wade case 40 years ago, by arguing: “We are not here to advocate abortion.  We do not ask this court to rule that abortion is good or dishonorable in any particular situation.  We are here to advocate that the decision as to whether or not a particular woman will continue to carry or will terminate a pregnancy is a decision that should be made by that individual, that, in fact, she has a constitutional right to make that decision for herself.”

Regarding the Arkansas abortion law, Weddington pointed out in Idaho, there was a law that banned abortion after 20 weeks, and it was ruled unconstitutional.

The same Arkansas politicians, who assaulted a woman’s right to make decisions about her pregnancy have introduced a bill to end women’s ability to get birth control at Planned Parenthood.  Women are sick and tired of being the target of politicians.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Hate Groups


James Yeager of Tactical Response said: “I am not letting my country be ruled by a dictator.  I’m not letting anybody take my guns.  If it goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.”

The biggest threat to the United States is within our borders.  A shocking new report shows anti-government hate groups are thriving in America.  Daryl Johnson is a former senior analyst for domestic terrorism at the Department of Homeland Security and the author of "Right Wing Resurgence."

There has been a significant increase in the number of conspiracy-minded anti-government groups, and in the number of right-wing plots.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported that in 2008, there were only 149 known militia groups in this country.  Last year, there were 1,360, more than eight times as many.

Those figures were collected before the Newtown massacre and before all of the right-wing anger over the proposed gun control laws.  Despite a huge spike in the number of anti-government groups, Homeland Security still has only one analyst looking into domestic non-Islamic extremism.

The new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center insists that anti-government “patriot” groups, such as the Constitution Party, Tyranny Response Team, and Americans For a Free Republic are now at an all-time high in our country.  The increase in threats on the President and other government targets is similar to the period of time before the Oklahoma City bombing.  Researchers are asking the American government to create an interagency task force to deal with the problem before it’s too late.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center the last time we saw this number of armed nationalist groups was in the Clinton years.  There was a similar spike in those kind of groups back in 1995.  The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by home grown terrorist Timothy McVeigh occurred on April 19, 1995.  That blast claimed the lives of 168 victims and injured more than 680 innocent people.

The president of the Southern Poverty Law Center has written a letter to the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department recommending two departments combine resources to protect against an active aggression against the American government.  The numbers jumped when Obama became president, and they’ve jumped again, since he has taken on the National Rifle Association. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Replacing the Sequester


On "Meet the Press," House Speaker John Boehner claimed: “But I’d asked the president and Senator Reid to come with a plan to replace the sequester.  And yet even today there is no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester.  

Actually, the president has laid out many plans to see what congressional Republicans might be willing to do.  Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, introduced a substitute plan for the sequester in the House, but Speaker Boehner wouldn’t even allow it to come up for a vote. 

President Obama has a plan.  It’s called "A Balanced Plan to Avert the Sequester," and “Meet the Press” moderator David Gregory confronted Boehner: “Speaker, that’s just not true.  They’ve made it very clear, as the president just did, that he has a plan that he has put forward that involves entitlement cuts, that involves spending cuts, that you have made a choice, as have Republicans, to leave tax loopholes in place.”  

Boehner responded: “David, that’s just nonsense.  If he had a plan, why wouldn’t Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?”

Certainly, Boehner must have known, that the Senate was planning to vote on two different plans.  The Democratic plan got a majority 51 vote, but not enough to overcome a Republican filibuster.

When asked on "Meet the Press" about the effect of sequestration on the economy, Boehner said: “I don’t know whether it’s going to hurt the economy or not.  I don’t think anyone quite understands how the sequester is really going to work.”

But, on February 20th, in an op-ed to "the Wall Street Journal," Speaker Boehner wrote: "a week from now, a dramatic new federal policy is set to go into effect that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs, and more."

Which is it?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

All Time High


Yesterday, the Dow Jones closed at 14,254 points for an all-time high.  Corporate profits hit record highs in the second half of 2012, but millions of Americans are still out of work, and income inequality has been exploding over the last 30 years.

Corporations have racked up historic profits while labor income remains sluggish.  The share of our national income going to corporations is at its highest level since 1950, while the amount going to individuals is near its lowest since 1966. 

This lopsided recovery is partly due to technology, because corporations are able to do more with fewer workers.  Furthermore, multinational corporations have outsourced jobs for cheaper labor.  The recession caused the corporations to slash payrolls and keep wages stagnant.  At the same time, worker productivity went through the roof.  Workers are afraid to slack off because it’s hard to find another job.

Employees are doing more work for less money, thereby keeping employment down while lifting corporate profits through the roof.  Instead of investing profits back into the economy, hiring more workers or paying their workers more, corporations are sitting on the cash, and concentrating the wealth at the top.  They’re choosing profits over the American worker.

Speaker John Boehner continues to insist that cutting taxes will create more jobs.  In 2001 and 2003, we had major tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy.  Those tax cuts were supposed to have created more jobs, but we lost over 8 millions of jobs, which led to the great recession of 2007 and 2008.

Congress needs to take a balanced approached, by looking at new sources of revenue to stimulate the economy.  We should be talking about closing loopholes and subsidies for special interests groups.  Congressional Republicans have refused to identify a single corporate loophole that they’re willing to cut.

  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Bob Woodward


Watergate journalist Bob Woodward claimed: “It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you’re going to regret doing something that you believe in.”

Woodward wanted people to believe, that the White House was threatening one of our country’s most well-known journalists.

Actually, the e-mail that was sent from the White House was from economic adviser Gene Sperling.  He wrote: "Bob, I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today.  I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim."

Sperling concluded: "Just my sincere advice.  Your call obviously.  My apologies again for my raising my voice on the call to you.  Feel bad about that and truly apologize.  Gene."

Bob Woodward responded to the alleged threat, by writing: "Gene, you do not ever have to apologize to me.  You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them.  This is all part of a serious discussion.  I for one welcome a little heat.  I also welcome your personal advice.  I am listening."

After the e-mails became public, "The Daily Caller" Web site insisted conservatives got played by Woodward.  The most important thing this incident reveals is the broken nature of mainstream journalism.  The Washington media has a significant impact on how stories are being shaped across our country.  Inaccurate stories are being pickup, and spread on the internet, and by local media before being verified.

Bob Woodward’s remark was totally reckless.  He knowingly put the White House and President Obama and his team in an untenable position.  The White House was put in a position of defending itself from a false accusation of threatening people.

That is not responsible in any way, and certainly doesn’t reflect journalistic credibility.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Phenomenon


The 1965 Voting Rights Act is being challenged by those who claim, that it no longer serves a purpose.  Recently, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case brought by Shelby County, Alabama.

A key provision of the Voting Rights Act has come under attack.  Section 5 of the Act gives federal authority over voting rights in states with histories of racial discrimination.  Congress has reauthorized the Act on four different occasions.

Prior to the election, Section 5 was invoked to block discriminatory voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina.  

Conservative Supreme Court Justice Scalia dismissed the protections of the Voting Rights Act.  He claimed: “I think it is very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial  entitlement.  It’s been written about.  Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it’s very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.  I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act.  And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless a court can say it doesn’t comport with the Constitution.  You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.”  

Scalia equates the right to vote in a fair election to “a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.” 
We have Section 5, because specific southern states were gaming the system.  They’d impose laws, that would infringe on voting rights.  And, when they were declared unconstitutional, they’d immediately pass another one.
Section 5 forces those states to have the federal government approve changes.  By returning to the past system, states would again play a game, where you’re not too sure where the laws are going to end up on the day of voting.


Sunday, March 03, 2013

Our Duty


In a 1964 speech to Congress, President Lyndon Baines Johnson pointed out: 

“I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.  

“At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.   So it was at Lexington and Concord.  So it was a century ago at Appomattox.  So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

“What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America.  It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

“Their cause must be our cause too.  Because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.  

“And we shall overcome.  

“Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote.  

“Every device of which human ingenuity is capable has been used to deny this right.  The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent.  And if he persists, and if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name or because he abbreviated a word on the application.

“And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test.  The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test.  He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of State law.  And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write.  

“For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin.

“In such a case our duty must be clear to all of us.  The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color.  We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution.  We must now act in obedience to that oath.”

Saturday, March 02, 2013

No Agreement


President Obama has signed an order triggering mandatory, government-wide spending cuts.  The cuts were included in a 2011 deal to raise the federal borrowing limit as an undesirable outcome if Congress failed to agree on a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan.  Congress failed to reach an agreement.
Starting today, our government will need to deal with a set of arbitrary budget cuts that will hurt the economy, make life harder for middle-class families, and threaten our national security.  That's what our government means when it uses the term sequester.
The cuts amount to roughly 9% for a broad range of nondefense programs and 13% for the Pentagon over the rest of the current fiscal year, which ends on September 30.
Not everyone will feel the consequences of these cuts immediately, but if sequestration is allowed to continue, it will unquestionably make life more difficult for Americans all across the country.  This manufactured crisis is happening, because congressional Republicans have made a choice to prioritize these cuts over closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.
Obama has indicated, that he’s open to a broader agreement: "I do know that there are Republicans in Congress who privately, at least, say that they would rather close tax loopholes than let these cuts go through... In the coming days and the coming weeks, I'm going to keeping on reaching out to them -- both individually and as groups of senators or members of the House -- and say to them, 'Let's fix this, not just for a month or two, but for years to come,' because the greatest nation on Earth does not conduct its business in month-to-month increments or by careening from crisis to crisis."

Congressional Republicans claim that they want to close tax loopholes, but they’ve refused to name a single loophole.