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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Regulations Ignored

According to regulatory records,the fertilizer plant that blew up in Texas had warned state and local officials but not federal agencies that it had 270 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate on site.

The explosion at West Fertilizer Co. killed 14 people and devastated the small town of West, Texas.  Investigators reported that they're not sure how much ammonium nitrate was actually on site at the time of the explosion, since plant records were destroyed in the blast.

The company sold ammonium nitrate and anhydrous ammonia, both commonly used as fertilizers.  However, the risk management plan it filed with the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 mentioned only anhydrous ammonia, which produces suffocating fumes and can cause burns if mishandled.  That plan listed as a worst-case scenario "the release of the total contents of a storage tank released as a gas over 10 minutes" and didn’t warn of the risks of an explosion.

Federal law requires any operation that holds more than a ton of fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate to report that stock to the Department of Homeland Security.  However, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate subcommittee that West Fertilizer doesn't appear to have reported its ammonium nitrate stock to federal officials.

Among the dead was plant foreman Cody Dragoo, who was also a member of the town's volunteer fire department.

The explosion registered on seismographs as a magnitude 2.1 earthquake and could be felt 50 miles away.  It damaged numerous houses, a nursing home and the town's high school and middle school, all of which were built within a few hundred feet of the plant.  Zoning restrictions are rare in the state, and there have been thousands of complaints from neighborhoods in areas like Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, home to numerous oil refineries.

West Fertilizer had been cited by federal regulators twice since 2006.  In 2012, the Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration fined West Fertilizer $5,250 for storing anhydrous ammonia in tanks that lacked the proper warning labels.  The agency originally recommended a $10,000 penalty, but it was reduced after the company took corrective action.

In 2006, the EPA fined the owners of the plant $2,300 to correct problems that included a failure to file a risk management program plan.  The TCEQ also investigated a complaint about the lingering smell of ammonia around the plant the same year.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Profits over People

In the Dhaka suburb of Savar, Bangladesh a catastrophic building collapse occurred, a day after cracks appeared in the structure.  The cracks led the bank on the first floor to order its employees not to report for work, but the garment factory workers above were told to report to work despite great concerns that the building's structure was not sound.  The next day, the building collapsed, and a week later the the death toll stands at 378 dead, (on May 13th.the final death toll was reported at 1,127.)

The building collapse has stirred outrage in Bangladesh over lax safety standards in the country's key industry.  The commercial building housed five garment factories, several shops and a bank.  Authorities have arrested three factory owners, two government engineers and the owner of the building, Sohel Rana a local leader of the ruling Awamil League party has also been arrested.  He had gone into hiding soon after the collapse, and police said he was trying to flee the country.

Savar, about 27 miles from the capital, Dhaka, is home to many of the country's more than 4,000 garment factories.  Bangladesh is among the top exporters of clothes to the United States and Europe; the industry accounts for 77% of its exports.

Although, the deadly accidents and deplorable conditions at garment factories are all too common, the pay is still a lure for many citizens in this impoverished country, where the minimum wage is $38 a month.  The last major building collapse in Bangladesh occurred in 2005, in the same area and killed more than 70 people.

In November, a fire at Tazreen Fashions Factory in another suburb of Dhaka had killed at least 112 people.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Comprehensive Reform

According to Senator Chuck Schumer, we have a chance to pass truly comprehensive immigration reform and finally fix our broken system.
Schumer is part of a bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” that has introduced a bill to fix our broken immigration system by passing The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.
The legislation will provide credible ways for undocumented immigrants to apply for legalization and citizenship, to keep families together, and to protect American workers. The act will make crucial, historic changes to our immigration system by:
Putting hard-working young people eligible for the DREAM Act on a fast-tracked path to citizenship;
Allowing otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants to apply for a legal provisional status;
Reducing family separation and eliminating the immigration backlog;
Requiring higher wages for temporary foreign workers, ensuring American workers are not undercut;
Incentivizing foreign entrepreneurs with "start-up visas" so they invest in America and build their companies here;
Securing the border by strengthening surveillance along high-risk areas;
Helping American companies find workers for hard-to-fill positions, like elder care-giving, with the new W-visa program.
This bill is a responsible, humane, and enduring solution to the problem of the millions who are here illegally, while continuing to attract the most skilled talent the world has to offer.  Business, labor, faith, and law-enforcement leaders all know we must act now to fix our broken immigration system, but powerful forces are content with the status quo.
Anti-immigration extremists are out in force in an attempt to squash this reform bill, and they're dead set on blocking any reforms.  
We need to show that we won't be stopped this time.  Schumer is urging each of us to become citizen co-sponsors of this bipartisan bill to reform our immigration system.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Firearm Mortality

Since 1980, our country as witnessed 3,000 terrorism deaths, and over 900,000 shooting deaths.  Our political system has zero tolerance for terrorism fatalities, but 30,000 gun deaths a year doesn’t appear to be a problem.

According to Dr. Eric Fleegler, an attending physician in pediatric emergency medicine at Boston Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School: "States with the most gun laws saw a 40% reduction in firearm-related homicides and a 37% reduction in firearm-related suicides.”

Fleegler was the lead author in the study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.  That study reached its conclusion by analyzing data reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 through 2010 and then correlating those figures with state-level firearm legislation aggregated by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Over the four years scrutinized, 121,084 firearm fatalities occurred, with rates ranging from a high of 17.9 per 100,000 in Louisiana to a low of 2.9 per 100,000 in Hawaii.                                                                                        

Based on how many of those categories a state's laws covered, the researchers calculated a "legislative strength score," which they compared with firearm-related mortality rates in all 50 states.  The legislative strength scores ranged from zero in Utah to 24 out of a possible 28 in Massachusetts.

Even on a state level, some figures were striking.  There was a three-fold difference in firearm-related suicide between Massachusetts and Louisiana, which has few laws limiting the use of firearms.

Fleegler noted: "We anticipated that there was going to be a relationship between state laws and firearm mortality.  The magnitude of the effect, a 42% reduction, that was a big number to look at.  When you're talking about 300 million people, you're talking about thousands of deaths that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gun Violence

The United States has 5% of the world’s population and 50% of the world’s guns.  There are more than 300 millon gun out there, as compared to 250 million vehicles.  In the month after the Newtown massacre, more than 900 people died as a result of gun violence.
Congress is concerned, that in the last 11 years, 6,650 of our troops were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, according to the Centers for Disease Control in 2011 guns killed 31,347 Americans, and many members of Congress don’t seem to be at all concerned about those deaths.  
In 2009, the Congressional Research Service estimated there were 310 million firearms in America, not including weapons owned by the military, 114 million of them were handguns, 110 million were rifles, and 86 million were shotguns.  In that same year, the Census bureau reported the population of our country was less than 306 million people.                                                                                                                                                                

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported in 2009, that 66.9% of all homicides in America were perpetrated using a firearm.  There were 52,447 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in our country during the year 2000.  Two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides.  
In 2010, there were 19,392 firearm-related suicide deaths, and 11,078 firearm-related homicide deaths.  There were 358 murders involving rifles.  Murders involving the use of handguns in that year totaled 6,009, with another 1,939 murders with the firearm type unreported.                                                                                                                                                                                         

Gun-related death rates in America are eight times higher than they are in countries that are economically and politically similar to ours.  Higher gun-related death rates can be found in developing countries and countries with political instability.  However, developed countries with strict gun laws, such as Australia, have essentially eliminated gun violence.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fixing the Debt

The following excerpt is from a column Bob Joyce had published in the Oneonta Daily Star, entitled “Here’s How you fix the national debt.”
“Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, having scorned income taxes and budget-balancing, have left the U.S. in a desperate economic fix by unnecessarily selling national debt bonds.
“Reagan took a long-standing income tax of 70 percent and dropped it to 28 percent. After inauguration, he bought a pot of military junk and caused a national debt of less than $1 trillion to expand to $3.5 trillion.
“Bush unadvisedly started two wars.  Instead of asking for sacrifices from the taxpayers for his stupidity, he initiated two income-tax reductions mostly favoring the rich.  Tax collections diminished along with a military spending increase.  To fill the gap, Bush sold national debt bonds at an alarming rate, and the debt is now $16.7 trillion.
“President Barack Obama inherited the resulting financial disaster.  It’s not his fault.
“Conservative Tea Party people and Republicans think we could balance the budget by depriving funds for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.  Obama says now is not the time.
“That leaves the military as the main source of funds to balance the budget.  Through the years, we have spent trillions on a military, and for that we have lost the last four wars; Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  We lost all that money and suffered thousands of mutilated veterans.  Republican insistence on a strong military seems to be the worst investment ever.
“Special deals and loopholes at income tax time have allowed some individuals and corporations to double their assets since 1970.  Obama says we should eliminate all subsidies, and all sources of income should be taxed.
“Here is a fair, sacrificial start on reducing the federal debt to zero, where it belongs.

80 percent income tax rates for hedge-fund billionaires.  They now pay 15 percent.

70 percent for millionaires.  This rate was reduced by Reagan to 28 percent.

60 percent for people making $500,000.                                                                                           

50 percent for people making $250,000.  

35 percent for the upper middle class.                                                                                                                                                  

30 percent and under for various intervals downward."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Now in Session

A federal magistrate judge, defense attorney and prosecutor went to the Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston, to conduct a court hearing next to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s hospital bed.

The judge said: "I’ll asked the doctor whether or not the patient is alert.  You can rouse him."  The doctor said to the patient, "How are you feeling?  Are you able to answer some questions?"  The defendant nods affirmatively.  The clerk of the court announced: "United States District Court for the district of Massachusetts is now in session.  The Honorable Marianne B. Bowler presiding, the case of U.S. versus Tsarnaev will now be heard.

Judge Bowler asked the defense counsel, "You have had an opportunity to speak with your client?"  The answer; "Very briefly, Your Honor."  Then the judge said to the patient/defendant; "So you have your lawyers here."  The defendant nods affirmatively.  The judge continued: "Mr. Tsarnaev, I am Magistrate Judge Bowler.  This hearing is your initial appearance before the court.  We’re here because you have been charged in a federal complaint.  At this hearing, I will advise you of your constitutional and legal rights.  I will tell you about the charges against you and the penalties that the court could impose if you are found guilty.

“You have been charged with: one, use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death."

Judge Bowler asks the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Weinreb, "What are the maximum penalties?"  The prosecutor tells her, "Death or imprisonment for life or imprisonment for any term of years."

Judge Bowler speaks to the defendant: "This is not a trial, and you will not be called upon to answer the charges at this time.  If at any time I say something you do not understand, interrupt me and say so.  Is that clear?"  The defendant nods affirmatively.

Judge Bowler: "All right. I note that the defendant has nodded affirmatively.  As a first step in this hearing, I’m going to tell you about your constitutional rights.  You have the right under the Constitution of the United States to remain silent.  Any statement made by you may be used against you in court, and you have the right not to have your own words used against you.

“You may consult with an attorney prior to any questioning, and you may have the attorney present during the questioning.  Counsel will be appointed without charge if you cannot afford counsel.

“If you choose to make a statement or answer questions without the assistance of counsel, you may stop answering at any time.  This right means you do not have to answer any questions put to you by law enforcement agents or by the assistant U.S. attorney, Mr. Weinreb."

Judge Bowler added: "I want to make it clear, that you not prohibited from making statements.  But that if you do, they can be used against you. You are not required to make a statement at this initial appearance, and any statement you do make may be used against you.  

“Finally, if I ask you any questions here in this hearing or at any future hearing which you think might incriminate you, you have the right not to answer.  Do you understand everything I have said about the right to remain silent?"  The defendant nods affirmatively.

Judge Bowler continued: "You have the right to have this court assign counsel if you cannot afford counsel or if you cannot obtain counsel.  Can you afford a lawyer?"  The defendant spoke, and said: "No." 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Inevitable Change

This article was originally posted on Robert Reich's blog.
“My first reaction on hearing of the Senate’s failure to get 60 votes for even modest measures to regulate the flow of guns into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, such as background checks supported by 90 percent of Americans, was to be furious at the spinelessness of the four Senate Democrats who voted against the measure (Mark Begich, Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, and Heidi Heitkamp), as well as the Republicans.  And also with Harry Reid, who wouldn’t lead the fight on changing the filibuster rule when he had the chance.
“The deeper message here is that rural, older, white America occupies one land; younger, urban, increasingly non-white America lives in another.  And the dividing line on social issues (not just guns, but also abortion, equal marriage rights, and immigration reform) runs between the two.
“Yes, I know: Plenty of people who are rural, older, and white aren’t regressives on guns, abortion, equal marriage, and immigration.  And plenty who are urban, younger, and non-white are.  My point is that if you want to explain what’s happening in America on these non-economic issues you have to understand what’s happening to the nation demographically — and why the demographic split is important. 
“Begich, Baucus, Pryor, and Heitkamp may be Democrats but they’re also from rural, older, white America.  That land has disproportionate political power in the Senate, and a gerrymandered House — which may not bode well for immigration reform over the next few months, and suggests continuing battles over ‘state’s rights’ to determine who can marry and when human life begins.  Over time, though, older, rural, white America is losing ground to a nation becoming ever younger, more urban, and increasingly non-white — a fact that threatens the former so much that it’s in full backlash against the forces of change.”

Monday, April 22, 2013


Regarding the Senate's failure to pass the Manchin and Toomey bill, President Obama said: 

“A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies -- including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who's here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers -- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.

“Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders -- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children.  And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it.  They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.

“By now, it's well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun. We're talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness.   Ninety percent of Americans support that idea.  Most Americans think that's already the law.

“And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea.  But it's not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea. 

“A majority of senators voted "yes" to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks.  But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.

“I'm going to speak plainly and honestly about what's happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen.  We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with "A" grades from the NRA -- come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks.  And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that.  That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Background Checks

Federal law states that a felon isn’t supposed to be able to buy a gun.  And, if a judge has adjudicated a person mentally ill, that person isn’t supposed to be able to buy a gun.

CNN’s Martin Savage went to Kingsport, Tennessee for a gun show.  He purchased three semiautomatic handguns with extra ammunition magazines and AR-15 assault rifle with an expended capacity 30-round magazine, for $2,800, without filling out a single form.  Cash and carry, no background check, because it’s not needed for a private sale.  Savage purchased the same Bushmaster with a 30-round extend magazine, that was used to kill those first graders at Sandy Hook.

That’s how we enforce the federal law in our country that says no one can sell you a weapon if you are a felon or mentally ill. 

The Senate’s Manchin-Toomey bill was a baby step toward actually enforcing a federal law that says felons and mentally ill people can’t buy guns.  We don’t enforce that law in this country, because cash and carry, no questions asked guns sales are legal at gun shows.  The Manchin-Toomey bill would have required buyers to undergo the same background check, that they do when they purchase a gun at a store.

Why bother having background checks at gun stores if we don’t have them at gun shows or for people who sell guns online? 

President Obama told the Senate: “All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check.  That didn't make our kids safer.  Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done?  It begs the question, who are we here to represent? 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Responsible Solutions

Former Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords is a founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, which focuses on gun violence.  The following are two excerpts from an article she authored:
“Senators say they fear the N.R.A. and the gun lobby.  But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets.  The fear that those children who survived the massacre must feel every time they remember their teachers stacking them into closets and bathrooms, whispering that they loved them, so that love would be the last thing the students heard if the gunman found them.
“On Wednesday, a minority of senators gave into fear and blocked common-sense legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get hold of deadly firearms — a bill that could prevent future tragedies like those in Newtown, Conn., Aurora, Colo., Blacksburg, Va., and too many communities to count.
“Some of the senators who voted against the background-check amendments have met with grieving parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook, in Newtown.  Some of the senators who voted no have also looked into my eyes as I talked about my experience being shot in the head at point-blank range in suburban  Tucson two years ago, and expressed sympathy for the 18 other people shot besides me, 6 of whom died. These senators have heard from their constituents — who polls show overwhelmingly favored expanding background checks.  And still these senators decided to do nothing. Shame on them.
“I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else.  We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like ‘tough vote’ and ‘complicated issue.’  I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress.  I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote.  This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear and on cold calculations about the money of special interests like the National Rifle Association, which in the last election cycle spent around $25 million on contributions, lobbying and outside spending.”
“They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest.  I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents.  They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.
“This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul.  Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful.  On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.
“Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s.  To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.”

Friday, April 19, 2013

Thomas Edison

Recently, Cheri Theis of Butternuts had the following informative letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star.
“‘We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. ... I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy.  What a source of power!  I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.’ — Thomas Edison, inventor (1847 to 1931).”
“I would hazard a guess that we all can agree that this was a man who knew what he was talking about. One of the greatest inventors of our time could see that relying on oil, coal and gas was certainly not the way to go, why can’t we? We’ve certainly been living with the problems they present for long enough. Aren’t we smart enough to leave our children a legacy of clean, affordable and renewable power, rather than the mess we are making of things now?”
************************************************************************************************************Obviously, many Americans are not “smart enough.”  The concept of cap and trade involved our government limiting the amount of pollution companies are allowed to release.  Credits are issued, which allow companies to pollute a certain amount, as long as the aggregate pollution equals less than the set cap.
Since, some companies can reduce polluting emissions more inexpensively than other companies, they may engage in trading any extra permits.  Companies that can more efficiently reduce pollution sell permits to companies that cannot easily afford to reduce pollution.  The companies that sell the permits are rewarded while those that purchase permits must pay for their negative impact.  This system would theoretically reduce carbon dioxide by over 80% by 2050 and significantly reduce the rate of global warming.  This system would create billions of dollars for the government to spend on consumer energy programs and doing so at the lowest total cost.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Shameful Day

Yesterday, the Senate defeated a compromise plan to expand background checks on firearms sales as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons.

The votes were on amendments to a package of gun laws pushed by President Obama and most congressional Democrats in the aftermath of the Newtown school massacre.

Opposition by the powerful National Rifle Association led a backlash by congressional Republicans and three Democratic Senators from pro-gun states doomed key proposals in the gun package.

Obama angrily criticized the NRA and those senators who voted against the expanded background checks for rejecting a compromise, that was supported by a large majority of Americans.  He insisted: "Instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill."  Polls showed 90% support for the measure.  Obama called the vote a "pretty shameful day for Washington" and wondered: "Who are we here to represent?"

The President was flanked by relatives of gun violence victims as well as former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a gun owner who was disabled in a shooting attack and supported Obama's proposals.  In a statement by Giffords and her husband, a former astronaut Mark Kelly asserted, that the Senate had "ignored the will of the American people," and that those senators who voted against the expanded background checks chose to "obey the leaders of the powerful corporate gun lobby, instead of their constituents."

Erica Lafferty, the daughter of the principal of the Newtown, Connecticut, school, who was killed along with 20 first-graders and five other educators, said the vote amounted to inaction in the face of a national tragedy.  She predicted: "The next time there's a mass shooting and they're asked what they did to prevent it, they're going to have to say nothing."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Outspoken Ally

In a story headlined: "Victims turned Lobbyists," Politico reported: "When a lobbyist for families of Newtown shooting victims called the office of Senator Susan Collins to set up a meeting, the first response from the office was a standard DC offer, they would get a meeting with her staff and perhaps a quick, simple hello from the senator herself.  They were told the families’ answer, not good enough.  According to the lobbyists, the families have a rule now against staff-only meetings.  They won’t do them.  They’re insisting on sitting down with the senators themselves."

If a family member of a deceased victim came looking for a meeting, it would be disrespectful to put that request at a staff level.  Out of respect, even if you disagree with the request, you should show respect to the family and them meet face to face.

Newtown families had been repeatedly told, that even getting a vote on their gun safety regulations would be impossible, but things have changed in a very important way.  Initially, those families weren’t aggressive enough, but the family members have come to realize that they can be more effective than Mayor Bloomberg’s ad money, since it’s a personal matter with them.

The families of the children and educators who were murdered in the Newtown massacre went back on Capitol Hill for a second day meeting with lawmakers.

In the debate over gun laws in this country, the professional gun lobby is no longer the only side.  They aren’t the only side, that has the energy and resolve to relentlessly push hard for the legislation they want.  There is another powerful side in this fight, who are organized and they want results.  They’re pushing for those results because it matters, that they have an outspoken ally in President Obama.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Decision Time

Grover Norquist started his anti-tax pledge back in 1986, when Ronald Reagan was President, our deficit was $220 billion.  In 1986, we were the the largest creditor, as well as the largest exporter of manufactured goods, and importer of raw materials on the planet.  As a consequence of Reagan’s “starving beast” ideology, our county has become the largest importer of finished goods, manufactured goods, and exporter of raw materials, such as oil.

In 2001 and 2003, congressional Republicans passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history.  The richest 1% of Americans saw their income go up an average of more than 10% each year between 2002 and 2007.  The middle class saw their income stay about the same, and the number of people in poverty increased.  Those tax cuts resulted in the slowest job growth in half a century, and over eight million Americans lost jobs during the Bush presidency.

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.

The Republican narrative for the last election was that 47%, who don’t pay any taxes are dependent on government.  Their referring to the 46.4 percent of American households that pay zero federal income tax.  Republicans love to paint those folks as absolute free loaders, but in reality, over 28% of those Americans paid payroll taxes.  The rest were mostly elderly or those with incomes under 20,000 dollars, which is just over minimum wage.

The freeloaders in our society are actually the Fortune 100 companies.  According to a Government Accountability Office Report, 83 of the Fortune 100 companies use offshore tax havens to lower their taxes.  U.S. corporations have an estimated $1.7 trillion of un-repatriated foreign profits sitting offshore. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Suffering the Most

President Obama proposed a $9 an hour minimum wage.  The lowest income workers are the ones that have suffered the most.  One reason the Republican Party is opposing a minimum wage hike is because two of its biggest donors the United States Chamber of Commerce, and the National Restaurant Association are against it.  The Republican Party believes that those lobbyist are more important than people living below the poverty line.

According to every credible study raising the minimum wage has no effect on job creation.  The same Republicans that don’t want to raise the minimum wage want to eliminate taxes on corporate profits, taxes on capital gains, and estate taxes, even on estates over $5 million.

Obama insisted: “We’ve got to make sure hard work is rewarded with a wage that you can live on and raise a family on.”  Obama believes that we can help people that are struggling without having any negative effect on employment.

This lopsided recovery is partly due to technology, because corporations are able to do more with fewer workers, and 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.

At a congressional 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%, the minimum wage would have actually risen to $33 an hour.  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.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Less Taxed

Margaret Thatcher preserved a top income tax rate of 60% for 10 of her 11 years in office.  That’s 20 points higher than the top income tax rate under Obama.  She maintained an extremely high overall tax burden on the United Kingdom, and actually increased taxes as a percentage of GDP.  She pushed it down to 35% when she left office, and that’s where it remains today.

The reason Thatcher had to maintain such a high tax burden in the United Kingdom is that she had a lot of expensive socialism to pay for in Britain, which she had no intention of eliminating.

Margaret Thatcher said: “The principles of adequate health care should be provided for all, regardless of ability to pay, must be the foundation of any arrangement for financing the health service.  We stand by that.”

Her most expensive program was universal health care coverage.  She got rid of some socialized industries, but she kept the most expensive socialism that the United Kingdom had.  The United Kingdom has universal health care coverage, but the United States does not.  We’ll not come close to universal coverage after all of Obamacare is completely implemented.

Our country’s refusal to provide adequate health care for all, is what allows the United States to be one of the least taxed modern economies in the world.  In fact, 31 countries have a higher tax burden than our country.  Denmark is at the top, taking 47.6% cut out of the economy for taxation.  At about 25%, we’re about half as socialistic as Denmark and a third less socialistic than the United Kingdom.

Our government provides less for its citizens than 31 other countries.  We are as a government less generous and less taxed.  Those numbers include all forms of taxation, state, local, federal, and corporate.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Same Sex Marriage

Recently, South Dakota Democratic Senator Tim Johnson become the 54th senator to endorse same-sex marriage.  

In May of 2012, our Catholic Vice President Joe Biden publicly announced his support for same-sex marriage on "Meet the Press."  He was out front on the issue, and his support of the issue prompted President Obama to do the same just a few days later.  The next day, Nevada Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid announced, that he thought gays should be able to marry legally.

Last month, an incredible swell of support for same-sex marriage started when Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman cited his gay son as the reason he had reevaluate his position.  Three days later, Hillary Clinton in a taped video for the Human Rights Campaign endorsed same-sex marriage.

Then support came from Senators McCaskill, Rockefeller, Warner, Begich, Tester, Hagan, Casey, Carper, Kirk, Bill Nelson, Heitkamp, and Donnelly.  The three Senate Democrats, that have not backed same sex marriage are Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu, Arkansas’s Mark Pryor and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.  Possibly, they are afraid of their constituencies back home. 

Yesterday, the Republican National Committee passed resolutions reaffirming its commitment to defining marriage as between a man and a woman, and calling on the Supreme Court to “uphold the sanctity of marriage” as it weighs rulings on two landmark cases involving gay marriage.

One of the RNC’s resolutions affirms the committee’s “support for marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and as the optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America.”

Conservatives had called upon the RNC to pass a resolution reaffirming its support for the 2012 platform.  Among other things, that platform had called for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pushing Back

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell issued this statement, saying that he would join 13 other Republicans who had pledged to block any gun legislation from even coming up for a vote.  They want there to be no vote even on issues like universal background checks.

A group called the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence had decided to filibuster the filibuster as soon as Republicans started blocking a vote on gun legislation.  Had those Republican senators attempted to block a vote in the Senate, victims and survivors of gun violence were prepared to start standing outside the Capitol reading the names of the more than 3,300 Americans who had been lost to gun violence since Newtown.  They intended to do that at the same time Republican senators were filibustering the gun legislation.  The coalition insisted: "We will go as long as they go."

The gun lobby is seen as so powerful in Washington politics that it’s become common wisdom that it would be very unlikely for any congressional Republicans to vote for a policy that is supported by 90% of Americans.  A policy supported by most Republican voters.  A policy supported by most gun owners.  A policy supported by most NRA members, because the NRA leadership said no.

This time, there is a strong push from the other side of the issue.  A push, that is demanding that the focus not be just on politics, but that the focus stay on the problem that our representatives in Congress refuse to address the problem of gun violence.

Ever since the tragedy, the Newtown families have been willing to bring their grief into the public, and rigorously make demands in a way that is hard to ignore, including physically putting themselves in front of their legislators who are on their way to vote.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reagan and Thatcher

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan had a close relationship during their times in office. 

During the 8 years, Ronald Reagan was president, he was a very divisive political figure.  Divisiveness is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just indicates, that his supporters liked him a lot, and his detractors disliked him a great deal.

The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project is part of a concerted, conservative effort to make him into a hero, and to gloss over what was so unpopular about him.  He was almost impeached over the Iran Contra scandal, 14 Reagan officials were implicated in that scandal, and were indicted.  Those indictments included Reagan’s defense secretary and the head of the CIA and two national security advisers. 

Reagan tripled the deficit to run up an arms race with the Soviet Union, and his economic policies led to the largest gap between the rich and poor in a generation.  He couldn’t bring himself to say the word AIDS while tens of thousands of Americans were dying from the new, terrifying disease.  Reagan’s legacy includes arming Saddam Hussein, and invading Grenada.  His legacy remains that some American conservatives love him, but he’s certainly not loved by everyone.

"The Guardian" a liberal newspaper in England wrote: "The Iron Lady was more admired abroad than at home where even many conservative voters recoiled from her apparent lack of compassion for those whose lives and careers were disrupted by her policies."

Without question, Margaret Thatcher was an important and transformational figure in British politics.  There were riots against Thatcher trying to impose a poll tax on the country right at the end her time in office.  Earlier, some massive and sometimes violent strikes and demonstrations occurred as she busted the British unions.  There were riots in Brixton, and Liverpool.  There were huge strikes in support of coal miners whose industries she dismantled as a means of dismantling their union power.  Manufacturing in Britain was decimated under Thatcher.  Her economic policies included big tax cuts for the richest people in the country.  And under her leadership, the rate of poverty and economic inequality in Britain rose to rates not seen since the Great Depression which angered many people.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was polarizing on purpose.  She said: "I’m not a consensus politician, I am a conviction politician."  For good or bad, let the record show, that she was honest.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Epiphany

On thedailystar.com a person known only as “debek” wrote: “One can only evolve when one becomes open and willing.  Stubbornly hanging onto an old idea simply because it's comfortable and familiar is a barrier of the self to growth.
“I know about that evolution from opposing gay marriage to becoming almost militant in the desire to see equality for ALL.
“I am one of the lucky ones.  I had an epiphany one day that hit me like a brick.  My movement forward since that day has been swift.  No one is more surprised than me to find myself demanding equality in marriage for everyone.
“I used to think that simply because I did not comprehend same sex attraction that made it 'not normal'.  Now I understand that 'not normal' for me is just that: not normal for me.  Someone else's normal is just as valid as mine.  Being Christian is my normal. Being Atheist or Agnostic might be yours.
“Then there's the Biblical arguer that insists that God abhors homosexuality.  As I studied the Bible I noticed that God also abhors the eating of shellfish.  I love shrimp, lobster, crab.....  Am I going to hell?  In the same text the Bible demands that when a man dies without an heir, his brother must marry the widow and produce an heir - yet I have yet to see a single lawsuit demanding that a widow come forward to be impregnated by her brother-in-law and produce that heir.  And frankly, even though the Bible says so, I'd rather not see this happen!  The Bible also demands that farmers leave a portion of the fields unharvested for the poor to come and take.  I wouldn't mind seeing this happen, but I certainly don't believe it would appropriate to make it a law of the land simply because my holy book says it is a law.
“If a man can claim to love his son, and yet can not understand why his son does not deserve the same legal protections under the law that heterosexual couples can secure for each other, he certainly must be a man lacking in any compassion or empathy at all, and I honestly doubt that this kind of man has any real idea about 'love'.”

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Higher Education

After World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a 50% chance of becoming middle class as an adult.  Since 1980, that chance had fallen, and if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born in 2012 will only have a 33% chance of making it into the middle class.

Twenty years ago America had the most educated population in the world, but we’re no longer ranked number one.  Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Norway and Sweden have a higher percentage of it’s workforce educated than we do.

Education is directly related to more earning power later in life.  The average employed young person with a bachelor's degree earned 81% more in 2011 than his or counterpart with a high school diploma.  A recent study found the median income for workers with a high school degree was $32,000, with a four-year college degree $54,000 a year, and the median salary for those with a master's degree or higher was $72,000.  The earnings premium of individuals with college degrees continues over their lifetime.

President Obama and congressional Democrats have doubled Pell Grants, raised education standards, invested in research and development at our universities and early childhood education in our neighborhoods.  Our nation cannot continue to be the world’s number one economy if we aren’t committed to being the world’s number one educator.

For generations in Americans, our underlying national aspiration was that no matter who you are, no matter what your color, how you choose to pray, who you love, you should be able to retire with dignity and respect.  And, you should be able to give your children the kind of education that allows them to accomplish more than you could ever imagine.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Pay No Taxes

The Republican narrative for the last election was that 47%, who don’t pay any taxes are dependent on government.  Their referencing the 46.4 percent of American households that pay zero federal income tax.

Republicans love to paint those folks as absolute free loaders, but in reality, over 28% of those Americans paid payroll taxes.  The rest were mostly elderly or those with incomes under 20,000 dollars, which is just over minimum wage.

The freeloaders in our society are actually the Fortune 100 companies.  Today, we have record breaking low taxes for the rich and austerity hype for the rest of us. 

According to a Government Accountability Office Report, 83 of the Fortune 100 companies use offshore tax havens to lower their taxes.  U.S. corporations have an estimated $1.7 trillion of un-repatriated foreign profits sitting offshore. 

When the richest corporations in the world slash private jobs while taking in record profits, and they’re cutting the funding for public jobs by refusing to pay their taxes, they’re destroying jobs.  That is hurting all of us.

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky have  introduced “The Corporate Tax Fairness Act,” that effectively does away with corporate tax havens and brings the money back home, where it belongs. 

Under current law, American corporations are allowed to defer U.S. income taxes on overseas profits until the money is brought back into the United States.  Those corporations are also provided foreign tax credits to offset the amount of taxes paid to other countries.

Senator Sanders has also reported how 31 corporations represented by the Business Roundtable have avoided $128 billion in federal income taxes by setting up more than 500 subsidiaries in tax haven countries.  The Business Roundtable recently released a report calling for Congress to slash Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Recent Oil Spills

On July 25, 2010, in Marshall, Michigan an oil pipeline bursts, sending hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the nearby Kalamazoo River.

The Canadian company, that owns the pipeline did nothing for nearly 18 hours.  The spewing oil forced evacuations of all the local residents.  It compromised the drinking water in the area and nearly three years later, the Enbridge oil company is still trying to clean up all the oil in the Kalamazoo River. 

On July 1, 2011 in Laurel, Montana an oil pipeline owned by ExxonMobil dumped oil into the pristine Yellowstone River.  Even though local officials warned Exxon that there was dangerous flooding in the area, and even though another oil company shut down their pipeline in the area because of that warning, Exxon decided to keep theirs running.

Recently, in Mayflower, Arkansas another ExxonMobil pipeline busted carrying oil between Illinois and Texas, ruptured underground and flooded the neighborhood and went down a drain at the end of the street.  Dozens of residents have been evacuated indefinitely and oil is encroaching toward Lake Conway, which is a local source of drinking water.  It turns out this spill was a ticking time bomb lurking underground, and the pipeline was unknown to many residents who live on top of it.

Official from the Arkansas Geological Commission said most of the pipeline is buried underground expect for places where it crosses a body of water.  Although, there are published maps of the pipeline, after 9/11, details of its location were depressed.

Officials in the state of Arkansas are gearing up to take on ExxonMobil.  The attorney general from the state of Arkansas has very publicly put Exxon on notice.  The attorney general demanded Exxon preserve all documents and information related to oil spills in his state.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Religious Zealots

During my elementary and high school education, we recited a pledge which didn’t include the words “under God.”  In 1954, Congress added those words, after a vigorous campaign by the Knights of Columbus.  At that point the Pledge became both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.
The effort to undermine the separation of church and state doctrine reached a peak in the so called “religious revival” of the 1950’s.  Eisenhower inaugurated the prayer breakfast.  Congress created a prayer room in the Capital and added the words “In God we Trust” to all paper money.
In my opinion the historic roots of the deep division we’re now facing in our nation began when Congress added “under god” to the Pledge. 

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.  President 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.”

Atheists and religious zealots appear to be incapable of being intellectually honest, because they can’t admit that when it comes to the existence of a Supreme Being they don’t “know.”  Reasonable people recognize that no amount of scientific evidence can prove or disprove the existence of a creator.

Truth revealed through scripture is subjective truth predicated by one’s faith.  Faith is the antithesis of skepticism and objective truth.  Most religions blinds their followers to the role faith plays in perpetuating human conflict.  Logic suggests that a God would expect us to acquire vast amounts of objective information and make maximum use of our ability to reason.

George Washington maintained: "every man should be free to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience."

Thomas Jefferson lamented: "the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world."
James Madison wrote: "Religious bondage shackles and dehabilitates the mind, and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect."
Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 left a deity out of the picture, by refusing to follow Ben Franklin’s suggestion that their daily sessions be opened with a prayer for divine guidance.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Connecticut Legislation

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has signed what advocacy groups call the strongest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation.  Similar legislation appears to be stalled in Congress despite overwhelming public support for background checks and for reasonable gun restrictions.  The new Connecticut law bans some weapons and the sale or purchase of high-capacity magazines like those used in the Newtown, Connecticut shooting on December 14, that left 20 young children and six adults dead.

Connecticut became the third state to pass tough measures since those murders.  Both New York and Colorado passed legislation limiting the size of magazine.  The Connecticut measure adds more than 100 guns to the state's list of banned assault weapons, limits the capacity of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and bans armor-piercing bullets.  Despite disappointment in a provision in the Connecticut bill that allows people who already own high-capacity magazines to keep them, a gun control advocacy group praised the state legislation as historic.

Under the new law current owners of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds are allowed to keep them, but it requires those people to register the magazines with the state, and forbids owners from loading them with more than 10 rounds outside their homes or while at a gun range.

The legislation creates the nation's first statewide registry of people convicted of crimes involving the use or threat of dangerous weapons.  The registry will be available only to law enforcement agencies.

It requires eligibility certificates for the purchase of any rifle, shotgun or ammunition, and significantly increases penalties for illegal possession and trafficking of guns.  It requires background checks for all firearms sales, including at gun shows, and creates safety standards for school buildings.

Some people questioned whether the law deals enough with the state's mental health system, a reference to the presumed mental condition of the Newtown shooter.  The legislation allows school districts to require "mental health first aid" training for school personnel and creates a task force to examine the state's mental health system.  Additionally, it alters state insurance regulations to beef up mental health care coverage.

Families of the children slain in Newtown were disappointed the larger-capacity magazines were grandfathered in.  They had asked for an across-the-board ban.  Governor Malloy had backed the broader ban, saying banning the future sale of high-capacity magazines "would not be an effective solution."

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Tears Aren’t Enough

President Obama warned: “There are some powerful voices on the other side interested in running out the clock or changing the subject or drowning out the majority of the American people to prevent any of these reforms from happening at all.  They are doing everything they can to make all our progress collapse under the weight of fear and frustration or their assumption is that people will just forget about it.”

Obama has announced: “That anguish is still fresh in Newtown.  Less than 100 days ago that happened.  And the entire country was shocked.  The entire country pledged we would do something about it and this time would be different.  I haven`t forgotten those kids.  Shame on us, if we have forgotten.”

Obama has continued to pushed for approval of all of his legislative proposals, including an assault weapons ban, a limit on high- capacity magazines and a universal background checks without any loopholes.

He has argued: “Ninety percent support background checks that will keep criminals and people who have been found to be a danger to themselves or others from buying a gun.  More than 80 percent of Republicans agree.  More than 80 percent of gun owners agree.  Think about that. How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything?”

We must recognize that no president can bend Congress to his will.  Therefore, Obama is asking for help from we the people, who can.

Obama urged: “Right now members of Congress are back home in their districts, and many of them are holding events where they can hear from their constituents.  So I want everybody who is listening to make yourself heard right now.  Tears aren’t enough, expressions of sympathy aren’t enough.  Speeches aren’t enough.  Now is the time to turn that heartbreak into something real.”

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

National Scandal

Recently, President Obama established a bipartisan commission to try to fix what has gone so wrong with the elections in our country.  Obama is saying lets bring in the leading lawyers from both sides and come up with something that isn`t going to tip the fields in either direction that’s going to be fair.  

Last November, the long voting lines in Florida, Ohio, and Virginia on election day were a national scandal, but in the states where there’re making policy on these matters, we’ve seen 55 measures in 30 states introduced to make voting harder.

A survey by "New York Times" found it took twice as long on average to cast a ballot in Virginia, than it did in Ohio.  After the election, the Virginia state legislature decided to make it even harder to vote in future elections.  Virginia Republicans in the statehouse rejected a bill that would have allow for more absentee voting and more early voting.

Another bill that would have kept wait times for everyone to an hour, never made it out of committee.  Instead, Virginia Republicans decided to pass a bill that bans citizens from voting unless they could show new documentation, that they never had to show before and that hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia don’t have.  Even the ID people got last year from the state will not be good enough anymore under the new law.

Donald McEachin is a Virginia state senator, and chairman of the state’s Democratic Caucus is an opponent of Virginia’s new law.  He is hoping that the Justice Department through its exercise under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, puts a stop to the Virginia law.  But, Democrats are also making sure every Virginian knows what the law requires and gets their photo ID.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Seeking Solution

Corporate profits hit record highs in the second half of 2012, and the first quarter of 2013, but millions of Americans are still out of work, and income inequality has been exploding over the last 30 years.  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, and 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.

Senate Democrats 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.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Regulating Procreation

Prominent lawyer David Boies is challenging the constitutionality of California’s Prop 8 and DOMA before the Supreme Court.  He argued: “There was no attempt to defend the ban on gay and lesbian marriage.  All that was said in there was that this important constitutional right ought to be decided at the state level.”

Prominent conservative litigator Ted Olson is also arguing to overturn Prop 8, by insisting: “No one really offered a defense for the awful discrimination that takes place when gay and lesbian citizens are denied the right given to everyone else to have the family relationship recognized and respected equally.”

Charles Cooper the lawyer defending California’s Proposition 8 was asked by Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “Outside of the marriage context, can you think of any other rational basis, reason for a state using sexual orientation as a factor in denying homosexuals benefits or imposing burdens on them?”  Cooper admitted: “Your Honor, I cannot.”

Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out: “I mean, there are lots of people who get married who can’t have children.” 

Justice Elena Kagan asked: “If you’re over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage.  So why is that different?”

Charles Cooper responded: “Your honor, even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both couples, both parties to the couple are infertile and the traditional --”

Justice Kagan interrupt: “No, really, because if a couple - I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.”

Cooper: “Your Honor, again, the marital norm which imposes upon that couple the obligation of fidelity.”

Justice Sotomayer wondered: “I’m sorry, where is that in the Constitution.”