Mind and Destiny

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

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

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Not Liberal Enough


The latest CNN/ORC health care poll found that a majority of Americans still oppose the nation's new health care measure.  However, more than a quarter of those who oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, insist that they don't support the measure because it doesn't go far enough.
Opponents of the Affordable Health Care Act have been emphasizing the first number in the survey, that reports 54% of Americans oppose the law.
But, the second paragraph of the report indicates that more than a quarter of those who oppose the law, say they don't support the measure because it doesn't go far enough.
Supporters of the law point to the second number in the survey: That 35% oppose the health care law because it's too liberal, with 16% saying they oppose the measure because it isn't liberal enough.  Add that 16% to the 44% who say they favor the law and that means that six in ten either support the law or don't think it goes far enough.  Or in other words, 60% are on the opposite side of the most vocal conservative critics of Obamacare.
CNN’s, Polling Director Keating Holland points out:  "It's sometimes difficult to remember, but at the start of the health care debate in 2009, many Democrats wanted nothing less than a single-payer system and were extremely disappointed when that approach was not part of the new law.  That disappointment seems to have persisted among some groups." 
CNN has been asking the "support/oppose" question and the "too liberal/not liberal enough" breakdown since March 2010, before the bill was passed by a then Democrat controlled Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.  The responses to both questions have stayed pretty much the same ballpark over the three year period.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Conscientious President


Recently, President Obama addressed the use of drones targeting Americans who are making war on our country, and what to do with the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.  

Obama argued: “To begin with, our actions are effective.  Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers and operatives have been taken off the battlefield.  Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities, and our troops in Afghanistan.  Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.”

He pointed out: “During the past decade, the vast majority of those detained by our military were captured on the battlefield.  In Iraq, we turned over thousands of prisoners as we ended the war.  In Afghanistan, we have transitioned detention facilities to the Afghans, as part of the process of restoring Afghan sovereignty.  So we bring law of war detention to an end, and we are committed to prosecuting terrorists whenever we can.

“The glaring exception to this time-tested approach is the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  The original premise for opening GTMO – that detainees would not be able to challenge their detention, was found unconstitutional five years ago.  In the meantime, GTMO has become a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.  Our allies won’t cooperate with us if they think a terrorist will end up at GTMO.  During a time of budget cuts, we spend $150 million each year to imprison 166 people –almost $1 million per prisoner.  And the Department of Defense estimates that we must spend another $200 million to keep GTMO open at a time when we are cutting investments in education and research here at home.”

We have a commander-in-chief, who is grappling in public with very real dilemmas between civil liberties and security concerns, because we’re not going to have this war on terrorism forever.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reasonable and Fair


“Recently, MSNBC, Chris Matthews said: “I was thinking the other day about the constant unfairness of the so-called Benghazi issue.  When our country was hit in 2001 with those planes flying into the World Trade Center up in New York and the Pentagon down here in Washington, the country accepted the horror.  

“Sure, there was some finger- pointing about the warning the CIA had given the president about al Qaeda attacking in the United States, but nobody serious was out there saying it was George W. Bush who is behind 9/11, nobody really calling him a bad guy over it, and certainly, nobody is serious talking about impeachment.  

“And then I read the other day about some Republican talking about impeaching President Obama over the attack by terrorists on a CIA facility in Benghazi, out there in the wilds of revolutionary Libya.  Think for a second of how disproportionate this is.

“In one case, the United States is attacked in its greatest city and its capitol.  The casualty is climbing to the thousands.  In the other case, an ambassador is killed in the midst of his duties, out there in the location that even under quiet circumstances was risky.  And in the case of 9/11, the political critics polled with the president.  They put politics aside.
“In the case of that outpost in Libya, they make grounds for the biggest scandal in God’s creation, the basis for all out political warfare.

“Who is being reasonable here?  Who is being fair?”

Perhaps, Tea Party Republicans have forgotten, that the 9/11 Commission Report, determined, that President Bush was on vacation in Texas, when the controversial Presidential Daily Brief of August 6, 2001 titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” sought to informed him, that there were patterns of suspicious activities in this country, consistent with preparations for hijackings.

The FBI agent John O’Neil had repeatedly warned of the prospect of suicide hijackings, and got drummed out of the Bureau for saying it. 

CIA Director George Tenet admitted: “I was not in briefings at this time,” and “Bush was on vacation.”  He added that he didn’t see the president at all in August 2001, because Bush was at his ranch in Texas.  Furthermore, Tenet admitted that he was “on leave,” for much of August.

Tea Party Republicans don’t seem to care about what is reasonable and fair.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Closed for Repairs


According to former Republican Senator Bob Dole the National Republicans have shifted so drastically in the past decade that the party’s most vaunted figure, President Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have been able to find a home in today’s GOP.  Dole claimed: “Reagan couldn’t have made it.”                                                                                                                                                            
Bob Dole, a former Republican presidential candidate insists, that instead of operating day-to-day in a non-election year, the national Republican Party should focus on broader plans to rehabilitate itself after the losses of 2012.
On Fox News, Dole suggested: “I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year.  Spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”
At the RNC winter convention, Governor Bobby Jindal had insists: “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party.  And I’m serious.  It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.  It’s time for us to articulate our plans and our visions for America in real terms.  It’s no secret we had a number of Republicans that damaged the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments.  I’m here to say we’ve had enough of that.”

In the 2012 election, congressional Democrats made a net gain of eight House seats, and two additional seats in the Senate.  In total votes cast for their House candidates, voters preferred Democrats over Republicans by nearly 1.2 million votes.  President Obama's electoral vote total reached 332, well above the 270 required to win the presidency.  Romney finish with 206 electoral votes.  Obama also won the popular vote, with more than 60 million votes.  
Continuing to push moderates out of the Republican Party is a recipe for disaster, and if they continue on that path, they’ll continue to see fewer gains in national elections.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Privacy Protections


Another excerpt from a speech made by President Obama on 5/23/13.
“As I said earlier, this threat is not new. But technology and the Internet increase its frequency and lethality.  Today, a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and learn how to kill without leaving their home.  To address this threat, two years ago my administration did a comprehensive review, and engaged with law enforcement.  The best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence.  And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family.  Indeed, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam.
“Indeed, thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home.  That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, and build in privacy protections to prevent abuse.  That means that – even after Boston – we do not deport someone or throw someone in prison in the absence of evidence.  That means putting careful constraints on the tools the government uses to protect sensitive information, such as the State Secrets doctrine. And that means finally having a strong Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to review those issues where our counter-terrorism efforts and our values may come into tension.
“The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society.  As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field.  To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information.  But a free press is also essential for our democracy.  I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.
“Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.  Our focus must be on those who break the law.  That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach.  I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern.  So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review.  And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.”

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Job Creation


Thomas Frank's "What's the matter with Kansas?" seeks to answer the question:  Why do so many Americans vote against their economic and social interest?  Republican’s have skillfully promoted an agenda which works against the well-being of the average American family.  They have kept voters distracted with cultural issues, thereby diverting attention from issues related to their own welfare.  Frank a native Kansan and onetime conservative wrote:"They may talk Christ, but they walk corporate.  Values may matter most to voters, but they always take a back seat," to protecting corporate loopholes.

The Republican Party’s motto is smaller government, weak regulations and tax cuts for the rich.  The Democratic Party has stood for opportunity and responsibility.

During the 1920’s, Republican economic policies resulted in the Great Depression.  FDR took office in 1933, with the unemployment rate at 24.9%.  He increased spending on New Deal programs, and followed that by massive spending on WWII weapons.  

From Reagan's presidency to the end of George W. Bush's our national debt went from $930 billion to $10.6 trillion, an increase of $9.67 trillion.  If you subtract the $1.54 trillion added to the debt during the Clinton years, there was a $8.13 trillion increase under Reagan and the Bushes.  Therefore, 84 percent of the debt incurred from Reagan to Obama occurred in the 20 years under Republican presidents.  Clinton cleaned up after Reagan and the first Bush and left us with a surplus.  The second Bush got us into two wars, while borrowing money to lower taxes on the richest Americans.  He handed Obama a sever economic crisis, and a huge deficit.  Today, we’re experiencing the fastest deficit reduction since WWII.

Do we want to make the investments we need in things like infrastructure, 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?

When, 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.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lethal Action


An excerpt from a speech made by President Obama on 5/23/13.
“America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists - our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them.  America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty.  America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.  And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.
“This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties.  There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars.  For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss.  For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives.  To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold.  Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.
“Where foreign governments cannot or will not effectively stop terrorism in their territory, the primary alternative to targeted, lethal action is the use of conventional military options.  As I’ve said, even small Special Operations carry enormous risks. Conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage.  And invasions of these territories lead us to be viewed as occupying armies; unleash a torrent of unintended consequences; are difficult to contain; and ultimately empower those who thrive on violent conflict.  So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths, or to create enemies in the Muslim world.  The result would be more U.S. deaths, more Blackhawks down, more confrontations with local populations, and an inevitable mission creep in support of such raids that could easily escalate into new wars.
“So yes, the conflict with al Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy.  But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.  Indeed, our efforts must also be measured against the history of putting American troops in distant lands among hostile populations.  In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in a war where the boundaries of battle were blurred.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the courage and discipline of our troops, thousands of civilians have been killed.  So neither conventional military action, nor waiting for attacks to occur, offers moral safe-harbor.  Neither does a sole reliance on law enforcement in territories that have no functioning police or security services – and indeed, have no functioning law. 
“This is not to say that the risks are not real.  Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies, and impacts public opinion overseas.  Our laws constrain the power of the President, even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.  The very precision of drones strikes, and the necessary secrecy involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites.  It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism.
“For this reason, I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action.  After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress.  Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes.  That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.” (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Widespread Delusion


Edward Dowling wrote: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have democracy, second the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”

Our 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 get only two senators.  It’s not one person one vote in the Senate.  It is one state, two votes.

In the early years of our Republic, 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 is 66-1.  Wyoming has a population of 576,412.  However, the 632,323 citizens that live in Washington, D.C. don’t have a Senator.

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 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 deadlock a majority in the Senate.  Republicans resorted to filibustering over 400 Democratic bills in the past six years.  We’ve gone too far toward disadvantaging our larger states. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Restoring Confidence


President Obama pointed out: “The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.  What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.  It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film.  And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days.”                                                                                                                                                                      

Regarding 501(c)(4) tax breaks for social welfare organizations, that tax law was last update by Congress in 1954 to apply only to: "civic leagues or organizations, not organized for profit, but operated exclusively, for the promotion of social welfare." 

However, in a 1959 interpretation guideline the IRS stated that to operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare.  In 1959, with absolutely no legal authority to do so, the IRS changed the word exclusively to primarily.  And they never defined what they meant by primarily.          
Obama announced, that he’s going to hold the responsible parties accountable.  Treasury Secretary Lew accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it’s important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.  Obama will be working with Congress as it performs its oversight role. 
He has said, that he wants: “Congress to get this thing fixed.  Congress, Democrats and Republicans, owe it to the American people to treat that authority with the responsibility it deserves in a way that doesn’t smack of politics or partisan agendas because I think one thing that you’ve seen is, across the board, everybody believes what happened as reported in the I.G. report is an outrage.”                   
On Fox News, Bill O’Reilly warned: “You can’t connect it to him without gross speculation.  The reason President Obama can get away with saying all his troubles are caused by political attacks is that some on the right go way beyond established facts, and in fact they’re giving him cover.  The heavy odds are that the president did not directly order the IRS to pound conservative groups.  Down the road, the IRS and ‘A.P.’ stories might become nightmares for President Obama, but again, that has not yet been established.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Disaster Relief


Regarding the devastation in his state from a tornado, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma confirmed, that he’d want to offset any relief money with cuts to other parts of the budget, but added now was not the time do be discussing such matters.
Earlier this year Coburn and fellow Republican Sen. James Inhofe were two of 36 senators who voted against a large federal relief bill for Superstorm Sandy, by citing concerns regarding the price tag.  Coburn and Inhofe voted against the $50 billion portion of Sandy relief, as it was not offset by other cuts, but they did not object to $9.7 billion that was passed separately.
Coburn spokesman John Hart later added: "Many times he has seen aid not targeted towards disaster.  There is waste and inefficiency.  He is not against federal relief, he just wants to make sure it's spent right.  And yes, he has always said anything borrowed should be offset somewhere else in the budget."
Earlier in the day, Coburn said, that as "the ranking member of Senate committee that oversees FEMA, I can assure Oklahomans that any and all available aid will be delivered without delay."
Senator Inhofe claimed: "We do have both individual and public assistance already approved.  [Oklahoma Governor] Mary Fallin called in yesterday and obviously we qualify for everything, any type of emergency funding, in two categories - public, that's individuals, helping to rebuild houses and that type of thing.  And individual.  So that is there and we're doing well."
House Speaker John Boehner also faced questions over how Congress will respond in support of federal aid efforts, given that some in the GOP resisted previous relief legislation without spending cuts elsewhere.
President Obama signed a disaster declaration for tornado relief on Monday, making available federal funds for the area.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ignorant Bigots


Versions of golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” is shared by 21 world religions.  This rule is also referred to as the ethic of reciprocity and is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights.
Society draws the line on extremist, by voting for representatives in Congress, who aren’t pushing a religious agenda, and demonstrate wisdom and virtue, as opposed to intolerance and bigotry.

Based on the belief that homosexuality is a choice, many Evangelical Christians and Catholics insist same sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to enjoyed the benefits of marriage.  If it were a choice, people would have had to at sometime in their life made the decision to be “straight.”  In fact, homosexual were never provided an opportunity to make that choice, because a persons sexuality is not a choice, any more than a child makes a conscious decision to be pre-dominantly left handed.
Evangelical Christians and Catholics have nothing to fear.  They’re able to believe and practice whatever helps them make it through the night.  However, many of them don’t respect the rights of others to do the same.
Truth revealed through scripture is subjective truth predicated by one’s faith.  Faith is the antithesis of skepticism and objective truth.  Most religions blind their followers to the role faith plays in perpetuating human conflict, especially for homosexuals.  Logic suggests that a creator would expect us to acquire vast amounts of objective information and make maximum use of our ability to reason.

Most Catholics aren’t mean spirited, judgmental, and intolerant bigots.  Catholics are more supportive of recognition of same sex relationships than any other group of Christians and the general population.  Three quarters of Catholics support allowing gay marriage or same sex civil unions.  Only 22% say there should be no legal recognition of gay couples’ relationships.
Many Catholics don’t like the way the Catholic Church and other religions treat the issue of homosexuality.  Catholic is the largest single religion in the United States and 70% of them believe that America’s places of worship contribute to higher rates of suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered youth.

By the way, 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 the deity of the picture, even refusing to follow Ben Franklin's suggestion that their daily sessions be opened with a prayer for divine guidance.
Placing a hand on a Bible while reciting the presidential oath is a tradition started by George Washington. John Quincy Adams, didn’t use a Bible at his swearing-in ceremonies.  He wanted to demonstrate that he recognized a barrier between church and state and that his loyalty was to our nation's laws above all else.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Morehouse College


Yesterday, President Obama received an honorary doctorate and gave the commencement speech at historically black, all-male Morehouse College.

Obama noted: "We've got no time for excuses -- not because the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation have vanished entirely; they have not.   Not because racism and discrimination no longer exist; we know those are still out there.  It's just that in today's hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil -- many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did -- all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything that you have not earned."

"Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was.  Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination.  And moreover, you have to remember that whatever you've gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured -- and they overcame them.  And if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too."

Obama challenged Morehouse men to set examples for other groups that have been subjected to discrimination: Hispanics, gays and lesbians, Muslims, and women.

"It is not just the African-American community that needs you.  The country needs you.  The world needs you.  As Morehouse men, many of you know what it's like to be an outsider; know what it's like to be marginalized; know what it's like to feel the sting of discrimination.  And that's an experience that a lot of Americans share.”

Obama stressed: "There are some things, as black men, we can only do for ourselves.  There are some things, as Morehouse men, that you are obliged to do for those still left behind.  As graduates -- as Morehouse men -- you now wield something even more powerful than the diploma you are about to collect.  And that's the power of your example."  

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Operated Exclusively


Speaker of the House, John Boehner ranted: “Not who’s going to be fired, who’s going to go to jail.”  Talk about prejudging a situation.  There isn’t a whiff of criminal conduct anywhere.

On Fox News, Bill O’Reilly warned: “You can’t connect it to him without gross speculation.  The reason President Obama can get away with saying all his troubles are caused by political attacks is that some on the right go way beyond established facts, and in fact they’re giving him cover.  The heavy odds are that the president did not directly order the IRS to pound conservative groups.  Down the road, the IRS and ‘A.P.’ stories might become nightmares for President Obama, but again, that has not yet been established.”

The real IRS scandal was been going on for decades.  The Internal Revenue Service agents were trying to do their jobs, but an incorrect interpretation of the law made in 1959 made that impossible.  The language of the law was changed without any authority to do so.

In 1954, an update of tax law 501(c)(4) on social welfare organizations exemptions clearly stated: "civic leagues or organizations, not organized for profit, but operated exclusively, for the promotion of social welfare." 

No part of the tax code has to change to ensure this never happens again.  We simply need to enforce the tax code, which says 501(c)4 organizations are civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit, but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.  

That word exclusively would mean that no political organizations would ever be able to get 501(c)4 status, no Tea Party organizations, no Democratic party organizations, no Republican party organizations, no Libertarian organizations, no organizations of any kind.  In fact, no political organization should have gotten 501(c)4 status.  

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Solve the Problem


President Obama said: We’re going to have to make sure that the laws are clear so that we can have confidence that they are enforced in a fair and impartial way, and that there is not too much ambiguity surrounding these laws.

Melanie Sloan of “People for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington insists the problem with the IRS started in 1959, and the IRS has been well aware that this has been a problem for decades.  The issue was raised in the ‘60s, and 70s.   There has always been a problem between the statutory language, that Congress passed, which says exclusively, and the regulation enacted by the IRS which says primarily.  The IRS made matters worse by never defining what primary purpose means.
Many organizations view the primary purpose line as 50 percent of its budget, but groups like the American Action Network have spent well over 60 percent of their budgets on political activities, which is clearly a violation of the primary purpose test.

Former Congressional candidate David Gill sued the IRS over its failure to have a regulation that complies with the law last February.   It’s been hard to get people to talk about the issue of 501(c)4s until this scandal broke.

The Inspector General’s report recognized that this was an issue, and that IRS employees are having difficulty, because they don’t know how to enforce the law.  There’s never been any clarity provided for them. 

The IRS has been asked several times over the past few years to deal with this problem.  However, when asked about the issue, they say they’re aware of the problem.  But being aware of the problem isn’t doing something about the problem.

What needs to happen is for the IRS to go back and get rid of the 1959 regulation.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Exclusively/Primarily


President Obama announced: “I just finished speaking with Secretary Lew, senior officials at the Treasury Department to discuss the investigation into IRS personnel who improperly screened conservative groups applying for tax exempt status.  It is inexcusable and Americans have a right to be angry about it and I am angry about it.  I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS.

“So, here’s what we’re going to do.  First, we’re going to hold the responsible parties accountable.  Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it’s important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward.

“Second, were going to put in place new safeguards to make sure this kind of behavior cannot happen again. 

“Third, we will work with Congress as it performs its oversight role.  And our administration has to make sure that we are working hand in hand with Congress to get this thing fixed.  Congress, Democrats and Republicans, owe it to the American people to treat that authority with the responsibility it deserves in a way that doesn’t smack of politics or partisan agendas because I think one thing that you’ve seen is, across the board, everybody believes what happened as reported in the I.G. report is an outrage.”

Regarding 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, the tax law was update by Congress in 1954 to apply only to: "civic leagues or organizations, not organized for profit, but operated exclusively, for the promotion of social welfare."
However, in a 1959 interpretation guideline the IRS stated that to operated exclusively to promote social welfare, an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare.

In 1959, with absolutely no legal authority to do so, the IRS changed the word exclusively to primarily.  And they never defined what they meant by primarily.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Sideshow


Recently, Obama said with respect to Benghazi: “We've now seen this argument that's been made by some folks primarily up on Capitol Hill for months now.  And I've just got to say -- here's what we know.  Americans died in Benghazi.  What we also know is clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected.  The day after it happened, I acknowledged that this was an act of terrorism.   And what I pledged to the American people was that we would find out what happened, we would make sure that it did not happen again, and we would make sure that we held accountable those who had perpetrated this terrible crime.
“And that's exactly what we've been trying to do.  And over the last several months, there was a review board headed by two distinguished Americans -- Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering -- who investigated every element of this.  And what they discovered was some pretty harsh judgments in terms of how we had worked to protect consulates and embassies around the world.  They gave us a whole series of recommendations.  Those recommendations are being implemented as we speak. 
“The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.  What we have been very clear about throughout was that immediately after this event happened we were not clear who exactly had carried it out, how it had occurred, what the motivations were.   It happened at the same time as we had seen attacks on U.S. embassies in Cairo as a consequence of this film.  And nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first few days. 
“And the emails that you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees.  They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used.  And suddenly, three days ago, this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story.  There’s no ‘there’ there.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Impeaching Obama


According to Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, Benghazi was the biggest cover-up in American history, and a reason to impeach President Obama.

The attack on our diplomatic facility in Libya last fall resulted in our ambassador to Libya and three other Americans being killed.  There were a dozen attacks on the embassies during the Bush administration.  What are the grounds for impeaching this president, and not other presidents when it happened in the pass.

We know the answer to the question that have been raised.  Our intelligence community initially thought it was a spontaneous attack and have admitted that they were wrong.   The day after the attack, President Obama said in public and on tape: “No act of terror should ever shake the resolve of this nation, alter that character, or clips the value that we all stand for.”

Former Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta insisted, that the reason our military didn’t respond to stop the attack was: “There was not enough time given the speed of the attack for armed military assets to respond.”

An inquiry headed up by former chairman of the joint chiefs, admiral Mike Mullen and Tom Pickering reported: "a security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.  The report condemn the inefficiencies at the senior level of the state department.  And when that brutal report came out last September, secretary of state Hillary Clinton accepted all the report’s recommendations without reservation and full responsibility.  She said: “As I have said many times, I take responsibility, and nobody is more committed to getting this right.  I am determined to leave the state department and our country safer, stronger and more secure.”

But all of a sudden, for some reason, that they’ll figure out later, let’s just impeach!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Milestone

Scientists have reported, that the level of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a milestone.  Instruments show that CO2 had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million.  Evidence suggests the amount of CO2 in the air hasn’t been this high for at least three million years.  Scientists believe the rise foretells dangerous changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

Dr. Ralph Keeling, who runs a monitoring program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said: “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds.” 

Dr. Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, began carbon dioxide measurements on Mauna Loa in the late 1950s.   The elder Dr. Keeling found a level in the air then of about 315 parts per million — meaning that if a person had filled a million quart jars with air, about 315 quart jars of carbon dioxide would have been mixed in.
The new measurement came from analyzers atop Maura Lao, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide, or CO2.  Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.
Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle, and the level will dip below 400 this summer as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air.  However, experts insist that not withstanding that brief reprieve, the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth will produce a reading below 400.
From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that 800,000 years ago, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods.  The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are closely linked.
For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable.  But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41% increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution.  Scientists claim the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Treason


When the NRA convention convened in Houston, Vice President Biden greeted them by writing an op-ed in "The Houston Chronicle." 

Biden wrote: "In the end, I believe we will prevail and those who wrote off gun safety legislation last month will come to realize that moment was not the end at all, it was the turning point."

NRA President James Porter has call for training every America citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.  He’s advocating that NRA members prepare for an armed resistance to our government.
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy believes, that Porter has exposed what the NRA has become.  It’s morphing into a paramilitary group, that’s advocating for armed resistance to our government.

Alabama and Kansas has tried to nullify federal gun laws by saying if there is anything that happens federally that they perceive to be an infringement on the Second Amendment, those laws will be null and void in their states, and they won’t allow federal laws to be enforced.

Nullification was last used by Southern states to eviscerate civil rights legislation, and prevent states from basically enforcing desegregation.

The idea that the Second Amendment was put in the Constitution in order to allow citizens to fight their government is insane.  If that was the case, they wouldn’t have included treason in the United States Constitution.
 
Senator Murphy insists our government has demonstrated, that if you take arms up against the government, we’re going to knock your block off.   That ‘s what early presidents ended up doing in the Shay’s Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion.

The Second Amendment isn’t designed to allow the citizenry to arm themselves against the government and nullification is just another example of states not understanding the true nature of that amendment.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Money Rules


Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse took the floor of the Senate to rebut the remark of a fellow senator, who said God wouldn't allow humanity to ruin the planet with carbon pollution and climate change.  That remark was made by Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas.
Whitehouse explained:"The remark sweeps aside consequences, duty, responsibility and awareness of the issue of climate change.  It is less an expression of religious thinking than it is of magical thinking.  That is seeking magical deliverance from our troubles, not divine guidance through our troubles."  
Whitehouse argued the Bible has much to say about the consequences of actions, offering Revelations 11:18: "And thy wrath is come, and the time that thou shouldst destroy them which destroy the Earth."
He argued: "He gives us these powers that we, his children can understand Earth's natural laws, which he also gave us.”  And, that belief in God as the creator of the Earth also requires belief that he created its laws: gravity, chemistry, physics, as well as the gifts of human intellect and reason.  Why then would a tidy-up God drop in and spare us if we ignore what intellect and reason tell us are the consequences of carbon pollution?  
“Climate change denial is bad science, a falsehood, bad economics ignoring the cost of carbon pollution in its price, bad policy, bad religion, and bad morality.  We need to face up to the fact that there is only one leg on which climate denial stands.  Money,"
“Polluters give and spend money to create false doubt, buy political influence and to keep polluting.  That's it, that’s it.  Not truth, not science, not economics, not safety, not policy and certainly not religion, nor morality.  Nothing supports climate denial.  Nothing except money.   But in Congress, in this temple, money rules."

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Joe Manchin


Last month, the bipartisan proposal to expand background checks in the Senate failed with 54 senators, a majority of senators voting to support the bill.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, the Democratic sponsor of the bill, refuses to give up: “I truly believe that if we have time to sell the bill and people will read the bill, and I’m willing to go anywhere in this country, I’m willing to debate anybody on this issue, read the bill and you tell me what you don’t like.”

At the National Rifle Association`s annual convention,Wayne LaPierre, agreed that this fight is not over.  LaPierre: “While the Senate vote less than two weeks ago is significant, it’s but one skirmish in what can only be defined as a long war against our constitutional rights.  As we sit here this morning, we are in the midst of a once in a generation fight for everything that we care about.  We have a chance to secure our freedom for a generation, or lose it forever.”

Senator Manchin insists: “Let me show you the section that says if anybody tries to use it for a registry, it will be a felony with 15 years of imprisonment.  We made it much more difficult and challenging.  And no one has ever had a registry up until now and we made it even more difficult, and much more crime from that, as far as criminal actions.

“So every time they say something, I said, well, let me show you this section of the bill.  Let me take you to this section of the bill.  They say, well, you can’t do anything with your family.  I said, wait a minute, we don’t even touch personal transactions, private transactions.”

Gun shop owner Mike Weisser says: “I don’t think the issue of background checks really has anything to do with whether or not people are in favor or opposed to the Second Amendment.  I know a lot of people who aren’t gun owners, and, of course, I know many gun owners.  And all of us recognize that a background check is a very important tool for keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  The fact that you have a tool like that doesn’t say that you’re opposed to the Second Amendment or to the rights of gun owners to own their guns.  There’s no connection between those two things.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

Plastic Guns


A publicity stunt, that’s getting a lot of attention is the idea of manufacturing guns at home using 3D printers.

The gun is made of a kind of polymer material that a 3D printer spits out when it uses computerized design files to provide the specifications to build objects like a toy dinosaur.  They’ve demonstrated the successful firing of a gun that uses a nail as a firing pin.  Other than that, the whole thing is 3D printed.

Plastic guns have been illegal, since 1988, when President Reagan signed into law the “Undetectable Firearms Act, that bans any gun that doesn’t set off a metal detector.

In order to comply with the plastic gun ban from 1988, they’ve inserted a six ounce cube of nonfunctional steel into the body of the gun, which makes it detectable with a metal detector.  This means that those places that are presently protected by metal detectors, such as court houses, airplanes, or the White House are no longer protected from guns anymore.

A reporter from "Forbes" magazine watch promoters of the gun pull off their latest stunt.  But, they wanted to expound the political motivation behind what they’re doing.  They describe a radical libertarian anarchist agenda, and their goal is: "to demonstrate how technology can circumvent laws until governments simply become irrelevant.  This is about enabling individuals to create their own sovereign space.  The government will increasingly be on the sidelines.  It’s about creating a new order."

They want to make government seem impotent and irrelevant, so ultimately in an anarchist utopia, government will wither and die on the vine and we’ll all self-govern ourselves.  Allegedly, without government, we can move forward into a well-armed anarchist utopia where everyone fends for themselves with plastic guns that sometimes blow up after one shot.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Cultural Divide


Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a particularly negative figure for most conservatives in America, because they consider his brand of Republicanism, to be totally foreign to them.  Our current gridlock is as much a cultural divide as it is a party divide.

Bloomberg is leading the fight for gun restrictions, and although he is a Republican in some ways, he is also the mayor of New York City, which is a very foreign place for most folks who are living out in rural areas.

Currently, our political differences are not just about guns, nor are they just about Obama.  In part, it’s about regionalism, and about the lost cause of the Confederacy. 

It’s about the cultural differences between city and country life.  And this idea, that most conservatives are angry, and want to feel that they have been wronged.  They considers themselves populist, and they hate the elites.

It’s about being against Harvard.  Conservatives know that their conservative hero Ted Cruz went to Harvard, but they like the fact that he has lectured against Harvard.

It’s mostly about traditional American values 50 years ago, or even 100 years ago.  It’s about anything that looks like the future, because conservatives don’t like the looks of the future.

It’s all a blue plate special.  To be a genuine conservative you’ve got to be against gun restrictions, against Mayor Bloomberg, against Harvard and New York City, but mostly you have got to be against Obama, and buy into the entire blue plate special.

In the end these very conservative Republicans can stop legislation.  They can celebrate at the NRA convention, that they’ve done that.  Although, they can control what Congress can do, the larger question remains, can these conservative Republicans win a general election by obstructing legislation that most American want to see passed.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Paramilitary Groups


The new leader of the NRA is Alabama attorney James Porter.  He has called Barack Obama a "fake president," Attorney General Eric Holder "rabidly un-American" and the Civil War the "War of Northern Aggression.  Porter has repeatedly call for training every America citizen in the use of standard military firearms, to allow them to defend themselves against tyranny.

The NRA has announced, that they’re changing into a paramilitary group, and they seem to be advocating that members be prepare for an armed resistance to our government.

The gun manufacturers, who are a big part of the NRA’s constituency have been selling fewer guns.  They used to sell guns to about half of Americans, but now they sell guns to approximately a third.  A new citizen paramilitary force is a great business model for the gun industry.  They’ve got the new NRA president saying, that we need to arm Americans in order to fight our government.  That business model will sells a lot more guns and that means a bigger NRA budget to play with.

The NRA is no longer a primarily a gun safety organization.  It has become a pitchman for the gun industry, that needs more people to buy a lot more guns in order to stay solvent.  Their radical new leader has already indicated the new direction that NRA is permanently headed.

Since the Newtown massacre, we’ve seen a divergence in the direction the states have gone.  There has a been bipartisan effort in New York, Connecticut, and California to move forward on gun reform.

States like Alabama and Kansas are attempting to nullify federal gun laws by claiming that an federal laws, that they perceive to be an infringement on the Second Amendment will be null and void in their states and will not be enforced.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Exonerated


On June 28, 1993, Kirk Bloodsworth was the first person to ever be exonerated from death row due to DNA evidence. 
After nearly nine years, the state of Maryland released Bloodsworth, who had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a child.  DNA evidence had cleared him of that crime and helped identify the real perpetrator.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed Senate bill 276, which abolished the death penalty in that state, and made Maryland the 18th state in the country without the death penalty.

Since his exoneration, Kirk Bloodsworth had been on a mission to repeal the death penalty by telling his own story.  He has repeatedly explained: “At the time, I was newly married.  I was 22 years old.  I had never been arrested before, discharged out of the Marine Corps, I had attended a Christian high school.  I wasn’t an angel, but I certainly knew that I wasn’t that child killer.

“My mother passed away before the DNA results were announced.  That was in January of 1993, and she died of a massive heart attack when I was in prison.  I was allowed to see her for five minutes in handcuffs and shackles and I went back to prison.”

The DNA evidence that cleared Kirk Bloodsworth was a scientific breakthrough, that changed the way we think about capital punishment.  DNA evidence made it clear that others like Kirk might not be guilty of the crimes they’d been sentenced to death for.  It gave states another reason to reconsider their execution practices, and the racial equation of capital punishment.

In 1999, another Maryland governor had commissioned a study to figure out how race and jurisdiction factored into whether a defendant was sentenced to death.  The study found a racial component was determining life and death in Maryland.  It was a combination of the race of the assailant and race of the victim that was making a significant difference.  When the defendant is black and the victim is white, the likelihood of getting the death penalty became significantly higher.

When we talk about capital punishment in America, we talk about science, race, oversight, or guilt and innocence.  We rarely talk about whether or not we want to be a society that chooses to kill its own citizens.  

In fact, only China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia put more of their citizens to death than we do.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Movements for Change


If laws don’t pass on the federal level, movements for change often happen on the state level.  In a sense, states have become training grounds or laboratories for national legislation.

Romneycare, was passed in Massachusetts, and later a majority in Congress and Obama decided to implement a similar law across America. 

A Republican laboratory for change took place in Alabama, that has a Republican governor, and Republican majorities in both its Senate and House.  The Alabama legislation sought to nullify all federal gun laws.  Federal gun laws deemed contrary to the Second Amendment would be declared null and void. 

It didn’t matter to the Republican legislators in Alabama, that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had already sent a letter to Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, asserting that a Kansas state law that made guns produced in Kansas immune from federal regulations was unconstitutional.  

A Democratic laboratory for change has occurred in California, where we have a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities in both the Senate and House.  California Governor Jerry Brown signed into a law a measure that allocates $24 million to confiscate illegal weapons owned by convicted criminals and individuals with mental illness, in that state.  California is the only state in the country with this type of illegal weapons program.

Across America Democrats are taking an extremely aggressive approach to the gun regulation, and how the California law will work and what effect it will have remains to be seen.

Former Republican Senator, and Rhode Island Independent Governor Lincoln Chafee signed that state’s new marriage equality bill into law.  He signed it on the steps of the statehouse only minutes after the final version of the legislation was approved.  Starting August 1st, Rhode Island becomes the 10th state in the country to have legal marriage for all couples.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Suicide Rates


A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more attention needs to be directed at preventing suicide in adults.
During the 11 year period studied, suicide went from the eighth leading cause of deaths among middle-aged Americans to the fourth.  Between 1999 and 2010, suicides in the 35-to-64 age group increased 28.4%.  Suicides among people aged 50 to 59 years of age almost doubled during that time period.
Suicide rates were highest among American Indians and Alaska Natives.  Among American Indians and Alaska Natives, the suicide rate for women jumped to 81.4%; for men it was a 59.5% increase. 
The next greatest increase was seen among white men and women.  One theory is that the recession that started in late 2007 and lasted until mid- 2009 caused more emotional trama among the poor and whites.
More than 38,000 Americans killed themselves in 2010; that's more than double those who were killed in a homicide.  In 2009, the number of deaths from suicide in the United States surpassed the number of deaths from motor vehicle crashes for the first time.  The most common suicide method is to use a firearm.  There is a three-fold difference in firearm-related suicide between Massachusetts and Louisiana, which has few laws limiting the use of firearms.
Historically, job loss and other financial difficulties can lead to depression.  Over 225,000 of our veterans are unemployed, and Congress should have come together as a country to serve them, by passing the Veterans Jobs Corps bill.  
Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy has pointed out: “Every 80 minutes, a veteran in America commits suicide, the least we can do for those men and women, who fought for us overseas is not to force them to fight for jobs, when they come home.”

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Record Dow


Last week, for the first time ever, the Dow topped 15,000.  Last month our economy added 165,000 jobs.  But, about 11.7 million people remain unemployed, and although the unemployment rate fell to 7.5%, it’s still high compared to historical levels.

The strongest job growth in April came from restaurants and bars, which added 38,000 jobs; temporary services, which added 31,000 jobs; and retailers, which added 29,000 jobs.  Since the recession government has continued to be the biggest drag on the job market.  Overall, federal, state and local governments cut 11,000 jobs in April.  We need 
House Republicans to allow a vote on the American Jobs Act.

Republicans have refuse to give up on the economic philosophy they’ve peddled for decades.  That philosophy is to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, cut rules for special interests, while cutting hard working Americans loose to fend for themselves.  Republicans call it the ownership society, however, it boils down to: if you can't find a job, or afford college, you are on your own.

That philosophy hasn't work out very well for working folks, because it has racked up record deficits and resulted in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  President Bush’s economic policies were responsible for the worst private sector jobs record of any administration in 75 years.

When, Obama took office, we we’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  America had lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008.  An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in.  On February 13, 2009, twenty-four days after Obama took office the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, without a single Republican vote in the House and only 3 Republican votes in the Senate.  By doing so, they prevented the worst financial crisis from getting worse and turned the economy from contraction to expansion.

Historically, it has typically taken countries up to 10 years to recover from a financial crises of the magnitude, we witnessed in 2008.  Today, the economies of many European countries still aren’t growing, and their unemployment rate averages around 11%.  Recently, the unemployment rate in Spain was 25%.  In January 2009 the projected budget deficit was $1.2 trillion, more than 9% of GDP.  By 2012 the projected deficit had fallen to 7% of GDP.  Private sector job growth has continued to grow for the last 38 consecutive months.  

Friday, May 03, 2013

Exceptionally Informative


Andrew Reinbach is a regular contributor to the Daily Star’s on-line forum.  I found the following excerpt from this post exceptionally informative.
“Sequester arose because in August 2011, and entirely without cause, Congressional Republicans took the world economy hostage, and demanded the federal government cut spending by what they considered an appropriate amount.  They did this by threatening to allow the United States to default on its debt for the first time in history unless said spending was reduced by the amount they specified, and without raising taxes.
“The Administration did indeed propose cutting spending as part of a package to reduce the deficit; but not enough to satisfy Republicans.  They insisted on deeper cuts in Federal programs than the Administration had proposed, and refused to raise taxes to meet their own demands.
“The showdown lowered the US' credit rating and crashed financial markets worldwide, but Republicans were unconcerned, as long as they got their way--to shrink the government--and didn't care if they resorted to extortion to do it.
“That crisis was resolved by creating a committee to find ways to satisfy Republican demands.  Sequester was designed to be so draconian that it would force the committee to act responsibly, and Republicans agreed to it.  But committee Republicans kept beating the same drum, insisting on spending cuts without tax increases to meet their own goals, and the effort failed.  So did multiple Administration to solve the problem with its own proposals--each defeated by Republican filibusters.
“In the interim, the government went into surplus--the Treasury will actually begin paying down the debt this quarter.  And the entire premise of the Republican demands for austerity as a prescription for national prosperity--a prescription, which has, after all, provoked nothing but national defaults in Europe-- has been exploded as being based on poor-quality, cherry-picked data and incompetent use of Excel calculations.”

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Guantanamo


After 9/11, Congress authorized President Bush to use military force anywhere in the world as he saw fit to retaliate against the people who attacked us on 9/11.  That authorization is still in effect 12 years later, but some congressional Republicans want to make that authorization permanent.  They want the president, whoever it is to have permanent authority forever to use military force anywhere in the world.

We’re living in an era of radically expanded executive power, but not regarding the closing of  the Guantanamo prison.  An exasperated Obama insists: “It is expensive.  It is inefficient.  It hurts us in terms of our international standing.  It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts.  It is a recruitment tool for extremists.  It needs to be closed.  Now, Congress determined that they would not let us close it.”

Guantanamo is a national security matter on which Obama has no authority to fix the problem.

Obama reasoned: “I’ve review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interest of the American people and it’s not sustainable.

“The notion we’re going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in no man’s land, in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al Qaeda core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan, the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests and it needs to stop.”

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Obstruction


The filibuster requires a 60-vote super majority in the Senate, and it remains the greatest obstacle for Senate Democrats and Obama.  The constant threat of the filibuster against almost any piece of legislation makes it hard to build a coalition behind legislation and in most cases allows small factions within the Republican party to subvert every proposal that Obama makes.

Historically, presidents have need bipartisan support to get 60 votes in the Senate, but its been impossible, since Obama became president.  

In 2009, when Democrats started doing a stimulus bill, Dave Obey the chairman of the appropriations committee told the ranking Republican member of that committee Jerry Lewis: “We want to work with you.  Go to your members, let us know what things you like, what things you don’t like.”  Rep, Lewis laughed and said: “I’ve got orders from on high.  We are not going to cooperate.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader said that his number one goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. 

Throughout his presidency, Obama has had private interest groups exert enormous power over the legislative process. 

In order to get a health care law through Congress, Democrats needed to abandon important measures that would have imposed tough cost controls.  Democrats were forced to placate powerful interest groups in the medical industry.

Financial regulations imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act, were passed in response to the financial crisis of 2008, but special interest groups have continually undercut their effectiveness by persuading members of Congress to avoid any kind of tough implementation.

Issues, such as tax reform to close loopholes have been abandoned because of the power of K Street lobbyists and campaign contributors.  The power of money makes it extremely difficult for most politicians to do what is right for our country.