Mind and Destiny

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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Colin Powell’s Warning

Recently, former Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Republicans that the strict voter identification laws they're pursuing will damage the party’s standing.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Powell pointed out: "You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message.  You say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it."
"The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote and then give them something to vote for that they can believe in."
After the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act, Republicans in North Carolina, Florida and Texas sought voter restrictions.  North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation that requires voter identification, rolled back early voting hours and ends a state supported voter registration drive.
Powell has pointed out that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, the very premise of the identification statutes.
He said: "You need a photo ID.  Well, you didn’t need a photo ID for decades before."  Is it really necessary now?  And they claim that there’s widespread abuse and voter fraud, but nothing documents, nothing substantiates that.  There isn't widespread abuse."
"These kind of procedures that are being put in place to slow the process down and make it likely that fewer Hispanics and African Americans might vote, I think, are going to backfire, because these people are going to come out and do what they have to do in order to vote, and I encourage that.
Powell also reflected on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, recalling times when he couldn’t eat in certain places due to the color of his skin, even though he’d just served his country.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Deficit Reduced

Yesterday, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter to the editor, that was submitted by Wayne Warner of Clarks Green, Pa.
“As an Oneonta native, I am compelled to respond to an Aug. 8 letter headlined ‘Obama Spending Money We Don’t Have.’
“The Wall Street Journal, which shares ownership with Fox News, broke the story that federal spending under President Obama is lower as a percent of gross domestic product than at any time in more than 50 years.  That finding was confirmed by financial magazine Forbes and fact-checking website PolitiFact.  That finding is not in doubt.
“The national media being what they are, I wonder how many Americans know that in the first 10 months of fiscal 2013, the deficit has dropped by 38 percent; that the deficit peaked at 10.2 percent of GDP in 2009 because of the 2008 crash; and that over the past four quarters it has shrunk to 4.2 percent of GDP.  The Congressional Budget Office predicts that the deficit will fall to a mere 2.1 percent of GDP in 2015 because of rising revenues from the recovery.  The GOP will press forward with the preposterous claim that the debt is our biggest economic problem, anyway.
“The only IRS scandal is that there are some political groups that have not lost their tax exemptions.  These 501(c)(4)s tried to hide their billionaire donors with the 501(c)(4), but published campaign attack ads anyway, blatantly and publicly violating the conditions of their exemption. 
“Those groups identify themselves as 501(c)(4) on their websites.  The IRS regulations that prohibit a 501(c)(4) from electioneering in exchange for the anonymity of their donors and the attack ads are readily available on the web.  See for yourself.  The IRS also ‘targeted’ liberal groups with ‘progressive’ or ‘occupy’ in their names.  The IRS was doing its job.”

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our Nation’s Shortcomings

The following excerpt is from the remarks delivered by Attorney General Eric Holder on 8/24/13.

“But today's observance is about far more than reflecting on our past.  Today’s March is also about committing to shape the future we will share – a future that preserves the progress, and builds on the achievements, that have led us to this moment.  Today, we look to the work that remains unfinished, and make note of our nation's shortcomings, not because we wish to dwell on imperfection – but because, as those who came before us, we love this great country.  We want this nation to be all that it was designed to be – and all that it can become.  We recognize that we are forever bound to one another and that we stand united by the work that lies ahead – and by the journey that still stretches before us.
“This morning, we affirm that this struggle must, and will, go on in the cause of our nation’s quest for justice – until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices.  It must go on until our criminal justice system can ensure that all are treated equally and fairly in the eyes of the law.  And it must go on until every action we take reflects our values and that which is best about us.  It must go on until those now living, and generations yet to be born, can be assured the rights and opportunities that have been too long denied to too many.
“The America envisioned at this site 50 years ago – the “beloved community” – has not yet been realized.  But half a century after the March, and 150 years after Emancipation, it is finally within our grasp.  Together – through determined effort; through a willingness to confront corrosive forces tied to special interests rather than the common good; and through devotion to our founding documents – I know that, in the 21st century, we will see an America that is more perfect and more fair.  I thank each of you for your continuing dedication to this cause, and your leadership of this important work.  And I look forward to all that we will surely achieve together – by advancing the cause that remains our common pursuit.  By preserving the legacy we are called to extend.  And by helping to realize the dream that still guides our every step.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pure Conservatives

If you look back from the end of the 2012 election, the Republican Party has been alienating the groups they most need to win over. 

Cory Booker the Democratic mayor of Newark, New Jersey is running for the U.S. Senate.  Steve Lonegan is the candidate that Republican primary voters have chosen to run against Booker in the state’s special election for the Senate seat.

Lonegan opposes marriage equality.  He’s against gun control.  He’s anti-abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  He wants to dismantle the IRS.  He’s a hard-liner on immigration and wants to make English the official language.  He rejects climate change.  He calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and advocates the destruction of Medicare and Medicaid.  He denounces Spanish language advertisements as racial profiling marketing, and he described Booker as a socialist who “just can’t wait to pull the race card."

There is an argument to be made that had the Republican Party ran more electable candidates in 2012, they might have gained a close minority, if not a majority in the Senate.  The Republican Party failed to take control of the primary process and prevent religious extremist such as Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock from becoming their candidates.  Now, Senate candidate Lonegan will most likely become another setback for an opportunity to win a majority in the Senate.

Actually, the more that the national Republican party pushes for more electable candidates, the more likely Tea Party candidates will claim: “Look, these are the people in Washington trying to come down and choose your candidates.  If we just run a pure conservative, we’ll win.”

Lonegan is exhibit A of a Senate race that Republicans are not going to win, because he’s not the most electable candidate they could have fielded against Cory Booker.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Humble Reasoning

Rush Limbaugh claimed: “In my humble opinion, folks, if you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.  You must be either agnostic or atheistic to believe that man controls something he can’t create.”

Dr. Michael Oppenheimer asserts: “What really hurts us and makes us vulnerable to the climate is not the average.  It’s the extremes.  And it’s the extremes that change a lot when the average just changes a little.  So even if earth only warms about five degrees Fahrenheit which is the average predictions for this century, we’re going to see sea level rising because of the warming by an amount of two, three, four feet.  And on a typical east coast beach, for instance, that takes away 200, 300, 400 feet of beach horizontally inland.”

The founder of 350.org Bill McKibben insists: “By now, for hundreds of millions of people around the world, this is an incredible immediate thing.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in January in a report that we’ve already raised the temperature enough that the ability of humans to work outdoors has been cut 10% and it will be 30% by mid-century. That’s about as basic as it gets.  The transition to the kind of world that works for everyone will be greatly aided by the transition to a world of renewable, dispersed spread out democratic energy, a world that doesn’t depend on the Koch Brothers and Exxons and everybody else to bring them their energy, that instead is set up so you that you can get it from the sun.  And if you want to understand why those guys hate that world so much, just remind yourself from their point of view what the problem with the sun is.  You can’t meter the damn thing.” 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Eve of Destruction

Recently, “Politico” reported that the Republican establishment sees the party on the national level as veering toward destruction.

The report said: "It’s almost impossible to find an establishment Republican in town who’s not downright morose about the 2013 that has been and is about to be.  They see this year as a disaster in the making.  Even if most elected Republicans don’t know the it or admit it, the party’s wounds are many, and they’re all self-inflicted.

"Threats of government shutdown and debt default have ended all hopes of proving that Republicans are not insane when it comes to governing.  Thanks to out-of-mainstream reactions on issues like immigration, voting rights, marriage equality and women’s rights, Republicans have done an excellent job of alienating an array of voting blocs they promised to court after the 2012 elections, Hispanics, blacks, gays and women.  And thanks to hyper-partisan districts, Republicans have less to fear locally, especially when it comes to their control of the House.  Nationally, however, it`s a different story, the Republican Party has continued to alienated Hispanics, African-American, and female voters.  Now, on the basic issues of governance, extremists in the party are threatening to shut down the government so that it can defund "Obamacare." 

These issues might not seem important in 2014, since all politics are local and hyper-partisan districts could have a very good year and give Republicans a false sense of bravado in 2014.

The tensions inside the Republican Party have been created by House Republicans who are attuned to the political winds of their own districts, that are much different than what the Republican Party needs on the national level.  A status quo strategy for 2014, could end up hurting the Republican Party chances for a win in 2016.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A College Education

Over the past three decades the average tuition at a public 4 year college has risen by more than 250%, while the typical family income has only gone up 16%.  As that gap increases, it becomes harder for young people and their families to afford college.
The average student who borrows for college now graduates owing more than $26,000, and many students end up facing a choice that they shouldn’t have to make.  Either they don’t go to college, which means that they’re going to be paying the price the rest of their lifetimes for not getting a degree, or they go to college, and take on so much debt that they’re not sure they’re ever going to be able to pay it back. 
In the past, Congress has done what was required to support the next generation succeeding, because they understood, that if they succeed then we'll all succeed.  They Obama administration has changed the system where student loans were going through banks, and banks were making billions of dollars.  They decided to give the loans directly to students, and saved billions of dollars, which enabled then to help to more students.  
Our government has capped loan repayments at 10% of monthly incomes for a lot of borrowers who were going into public service so that they could responsibly manage their debt.  These things make college more affordable and accessible for millions of students, but it's not enough.  The system is unsustainable, because if the cost of college tuition keeps going up, then no matter how much money is put into loans or grants, it's not going to keep up, and students are going to be even deeper in debt. 
Higher education is not a luxury.  It's an economic necessity, and Americans should be able to afford it.   

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Accomplishments and Intentions

There were a lot of important legislative achievements in President Obama’s first term.  Healthcare reform was something Democrats had been trying to achieve for 60 years.

Obama signed the Consumer Protection Act, which cracks down on corporate fraud and holds big banks accountable for reckless behavior.  Wall Street reform seeks to end the worst of the abuses, that led to the 2008 financial crisis.  It should preclude the possibility of another Wall Street bailout like we had at the end of the Bush presidency.   

He upheld the principle of equal pay for equal work, by signing into law the Fair Pay Act.  He fixed the student loan system that was giving billions of dollars of taxpayer money to banks.  Instead, the loans are given directly to students.  The START nuclear arms treaty with Russia was passed, and “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” was repealed. 

Those legislative accomplishments during Obama’s first term, occurred because he had Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.

In his second term, the president has been clear regarding what he wants to do.  He’s talked about taking action on climate change, and has already tried to get Congress to pass federal gun reform legislation.

Some Republicans have agreed that there is no excuse to not fix our broken immigration system.  Unfortunately, the previous Republican president couldn’t even get his own party in Congress to go along with his effort to fix the system.  

But in 2012, after again losing the presidency to Obama, who went from 67% of the Latino vote in 2008, to 71% of the Latino vote in 2012.  Things were expected to change after Mitt Romney got trounced in the 2012 election, and many Republicans began to concede, that it was time to fix our immigration system.

After a lot of negotiating, the Senate pass an immigration bill.  Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, but because of their 60 vote rule, it took 14 Republican senators to crossed over to get it passed.

Passing the Senate doesn’t mean it will become law, especially since the House is controlled by Republicans.  

Recently, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Republican Bob Goodlatte told a town hall meeting in the Shenandoah Valley, that he’ll do everything he can to ensure the House never takes up the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill, which includes a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Phony Christians

Michele Bachmann has used her faith to advance her celebrity more than anybody else in Congress.  The fact is that she is now using religion to try to steal health care from 30 million Americans. 

Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann claimed: “Let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.  Let’s not do that.  Let’s love people as people of faith.  I’m a born again believer in Jesus Christ.  And I believe that as part of my duty as a believer in Christ and what he has done for me, that we should do for the least of those who are in our midst.  That’s my personal belief and my personal conviction.”

In Matthew 10:8: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give.”  

In Luke 4:40: “At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.”  This is why churches have built so many hospitals.  Unlike Bachmann, they have been following the teachings of Jesus.

Obamacare won’t kill anyone, and Bachmann should be ashamed of herself for lying.  People like her are phony Christians.  They preach to the detriment of Americans who need help.  Denying 30 million Americans health care is morally wrong. 

If you want tangible evidence of the way the new health care law is already helping ordinary people, it’s worth having a conversation with one of the 8.5 million Americans who received rebates from their insurance companies this summer.  Just ask the folks who got checks in the mail. 
Affordable Care Act insurers are required to spend at least 80% of premium dollars on medical care, instead of overhead like salaries or advertising.  And if an insurance company doesn't meet that standard, it has to provide a rebate to its customers. 

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the new "80/20" rule, which requires insurers to spend 8o% of every dollar earned on medical services, helped saved American consumers $3.9 billion in 2012.

In the state of New York, health insurance rates are set to drop by at least 50% in the next year.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act lifts people out of poverty, and makes sure that they’re never going to go bankrupt because of a medical bill.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Autopsy Report

The Republican National Committee’s 2012 autopsy report warned: "The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself.  We’ve become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like minded people, but devastatingly, we’ve lost the ability to be persuasive with or welcoming to those who do not agree with us on every issue."

The Republican Party pledged to expand its appeal, but they’ve continued to offend the same groups that they lost votes from in 2012.  They’re highlight some of the more fringe positions of their party, which isn’t what they ought to be doing.

Dueling tensions exist inside the Republican Party, because most House Republicans very are attuned to the political winds of their own districts, which are very different than what the Republican Party needs to do on the national level. 

Republican Abby Huntsman Livingston insists: “That is our way forward.  In all honesty, I actually kind of want that to happen.  I think for many Republicans out there want the party to change, to move forward in a different direction, but it has to hit rock bottom first.”

At the RNC’s summer meeting, Chris Christie made a direct reference to Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, who called the party "stupid."  Governor Christie told his Republican colleagues: "I am not going to come and call you the stupid party.  The election is over, and we need to move on."  He added: "See, I’m in this business to win.  I don’t know why you’re in it.  I’m in this to win.  For our ideas to matter, we have to win because if we don’t win, we don’t govern.  And if we don’t govern, all we do is shout into the wind."

In fact, the sole purpose of political parties is to deliver election victories, not to be ideological vessels.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Ellie Kinnaird

Voting rights are under assault at in North Carolina and it’s much more than new statewide restrictions.  Republicans are systemically cracking down on the right to vote, county by county, across the state.

Eighty-one year old, Ellie Kinnaird is a Democrat, who has been a state senator in North Carolina since 1997.  In order to fight what is happening in her state, she recently announced she is resigning her seat.

Kinnaird explained: "What led me to this decision are the actions taken by the Republican majority in the legislature that has been a shocking reversal of the many progressive measures that I and many others have worked so hard to enact, measures that over the years have made North Carolina a model of moderate to progressive pro-business, but also pro-people public policy in the South.

"From the Republicans’ denial of health care security for our people, to their failure to promote a vibrant workforce through support for our education systems, from their tax cuts for wealthy and their tax increases for the poor and middle class, to their efforts to deny people their right to vote, they’ve been pursuing a divisive and, I think immoral agenda."

"I’m heartened, however, though, by the many grassroots efforts to fight and it is here that I want and need to put my energy and efforts. I’m working with others on a grassroots project to make sure everyone in the state has a proper voter ID so that no votes are denied, even though the voter ID bill is aimed at exactly that, repressing the vote.

"I’m going to work for candidates in the next election who reflect our values.  I look forward to working together to change this course and restore our state to the shining beacon it was for so long."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Appalachian State

Appalachian State University is in Boone, Watauga County North Carolina.  Watauga County just barely went for Mitt Romney in the presidential election.

The specific voter precincts in Boone, around Appalachian State, went for Barack Obama by such large margins that they almost dragged the rest of the county with them.

The students at Appalachian State are about to find out it’s going to be a lot harder to vote in North Carolina.  The new law signed by Governor McCrory is going to slash early voting, and cut same-day voter registration, but students will also be blocked from voting in the state unless they show a government-issued ID.  Even though they attend Appalachian State University a public university, and their student ID is provided to them by the state, that ID will not count for voting. 

When Pat McCrory was elected last year, he was the first Republican governor elected in North Carolina since the 1980’s.  He immediately appointed a Republican majority board of elections for the state.  That board has systemically been replacing members on the local elections boards all around the state.

The new Republican majority local board, where Appalachian State is located is telling students, that we’re going to make it even more difficult for you to vote.

In Boone N.C. early voting had taken place at two precincts in town and one precinct on campus.  The Republicans on the local board are getting rid of on campus voting. They’re combining all three of those polling places into one.

For voting on Election Day, Republicans are taking three precincts and rolling them into one.  The one polling place, where there used to be three polling sites, will be expected to serve more than 9,300 people at that one polling place, which has 35 parking spots.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Objective Evidence

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul claimed: "I don’t think there’s objective evidence that we’re precluding African-Americans from voting any longer."

Those comments came in the wake of new voting restrictions, coming out of North Carolina which now requires a government issued ID to vote, cuts early voting by a week, eliminates same day registration and canceled a state wide voter registration program for young voters.

Texas, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania have all passed similar voter ID laws, some of which have already involved the court system.  If those laws prevail, they could indirectly disenfranchise minority voters.

Senator Paul need not look any further than last November’s 2012 election for objective evidence.  According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis, black and Hispanic voters waited nearly twice as long to vote as whites.  

Plus, data collected by "The Orlando Sentinel," indicates, that the long election day lines across Florida may have turned away more than 200,000 frustrated would be voters who gave up and went home before casting ballots. 

Florida’s Governor Scott had early voting reduced from 14 days to 8, which many believe was the greatest factor contributing to those long lines.

In addition to the voter ID requirements, which disproportionately affect minorities, laws are being passed, that have the effect, if not the intent, of turning African-Americans away from the polls.

You’d think that there would be more instances of impersonation voter fraud, but actually we know of practically none.  It’s not a problem, and it’s not that Republicans haven’t been looking for examples of impersonation voter fraud to justify the passing of these new laws.  They have not found them because they aren’t there.  It’s not a coincidence that we have all of these measures coming at the same time that would disproportionately impact African-American voters.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

SNAP Benefits

Fraud in the food stamp program is at an all-time low, and less than 2% of SNAP benefits have gone to households that don’t meet the program’s requirements.  Contrary to what FOX News would have you believe, the program is actually underused.  A quarter of all the people eligible for food stamps don’t sign up, and less than 40% of seniors who are eligible signed up in 2010.

According to the Center on Budget Policy Priorities, roughly 91% of SNAP benefits go to households below the poverty line, which is about $23,000 for a family of four.  And, 55% of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below half of the poverty line, or about $10,000 for a family of three.

Many of those, who Republicans characterize as fraudsters live in counties that overwhelmingly vote Republicans.  "Bloomberg" reported that among the 254 counties where food stamp recipients doubled between 2007 and 2011, Mitt Romney won 213 of them in last year’s presidential election.

Republicans risk alienating people who have come to know this program.  Attacking the food stamp program is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, you’re promoting the image of an overweight welfare mother with eight children, who gets by on food stamps at our expense.  Thereby demonizing a sector of society who is trying to survive and cope.

On the other hand, you don’t know if your next door neighbor is paying for groceries with the SNAP program, because they lost their job two months ago and haven’t been able to put food on the table.

The face of poverty in this country is changing.  One in four children in this country is living in poverty.  We need to understand that these are more than black and brown people and they are not just the persistently poor.  These are formerly middle class people who lost their home during the last housing bust.

The average benefit is about $4 to $5 a day, but the actual amount SNAP benefits has grown in the wake of the great recession.  As many as 13 million people who qualify don’t receive SNAP benefits, because the hurdle of navigating the system is challenging, and it takes time to finish identification, income and household size checks.

Furthermore, there is the stigma of having to received this kind of assistance, and some people don’t even know that they qualify.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Alleged Voter Fraud

Republicans in North Carolina and many other states are determined to find a solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

In 2012, 6.9 million ballots were cast in North Carolina in the general and two primary elections.  The state Board of Elections said that only 121 alleged cases of voter fraud were referred to prosecutors, which means that of the nearly seven million votes cast, alleged voter fraud accounted for just .00174 percent of the ballots.

North Carolina Governor McCrory admitted: "Even if the instances of misidentified people casting votes are low, that shouldn’t prevent us from putting this non-burdensome safeguard in place.  Just because you haven’t been robbed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lock your doors at night or when you’re away from home."

According to that analogy, everyone should be going out to purchase an expensive security system, even if they don’t reside in a threatening neighborhood.

Many Democrats believe that this is a fight, they can win despite the ruling of the Supreme Court, that declared Section 5  of  the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional.  Section 5 was considered to be the heart of that law, because it required preclearance of any changes to the way elections are run in certain parts of our country.

Governor McCrory may have made a miscalculation, because the best way to get someone to vote who isn’t a regular voter is to tell them they can’t vote.  Many voters tend to get angry when someone is trying to take their votes away.

Some people don’t have photo ID.  A 91 year-old woman who had voted in 71 consecutive elections didn’t have voter ID.  She went to get it, and was told, she couldn’t qualify because the only identification she had was her marriage license, and her marriage license had her maiden name.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Prosecutorial Discretion

Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder announced, that the Justice Department will avoid charging certain low level and nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carry mandatory minimums.  This policy shift will allow defendants, who don’t have ties to large scale gangs or cartels to avoid what Holder is calling "draconian mandatory minimum sentences."
In a speech before the American Bar Association in San Francisco, Attorney General Holder also announce that the Justice Department is giving U.S. attorneys throughout the country a greater amount of prosecutorial discretion.
According to information provided by the Justice Department, Holder has announced: "Some issues are best handled at the state or local level.  And that’s why I have directed the United States Attorney community to develop specific, locally-tailored guidelines, that are consistent with our national priorities, for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not."
The "Smart On Crime" plan that Holder has announced intends to lower the overall federal prison population.  As part of that measure, he wants elderly prisoners who committed no violent crimes and have served a significant portion of their sentences to be eligible for early release.
Holder added: "Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities.  However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it."
Under this new Justice Department’s drug policy, defendants would be "charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins."
"By reserving the most severe penalties for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation, and at the same time make our expenditures smarter and more productive."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Defunding Obamacare

According to Texas Senator Ted Cruz: “There is no more important regulatory reform that we can do than to repel every single word of Obamacare.”  

President Obama responded: “The idea you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea.”

In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 15:11 states: "There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore, I command you to be openhanded toward your brother and the needy in your land."

In the New Testament, 1 John 3:17 states: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Let us love not with words but with actions."

The Republican Party has embraced the Christian faith when it applies to the unborn, but as soon as the infant is alive, compassionate conservatism seems to be nonexistent.  Libertarians are so anti- government that they won’t allow our government’s health care program to save lives.  The idea that the greatest thing their party can do is to defund Obamacare is pathetic.  

A budget is a reflection of a party’s value and principles.  Most congressional Republicans are hypocrites, and we’re witnessing a different kind of death panel.  We’re witnessing a circular firing squad inside a Republican Party whose leaders know, this is a cruel con game on the American people. 

A government shutdown isn’t going to defund Obamacare, and its mandatory spending will continue.  People of real faith in this country, have a lot of work to do to take back our country from right wing extremist.  That is why the elections of 2014 will be so important and why the polls are showing that white seniors are saying these people are too extreme.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Controversial Law

Government is the police officers who protects us and our military who defends us abroad.  Government ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them.

The debate between more government and less government continues.  Too much government can stifle competition, deprive us of choice, and burden us with debt, but we've also seen the dangers of too little government, when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy.

The American people have often been divided by the new health care reform, and with all Americans required to be covered with insurance by January 2014, uncertainties are up in the air.  Although, "Obamacare" is controversial, a new report shows that it has saved consumers billions of dollars.

Recently, President Obama pointed out: “Yesterday, despite all the evidence that the law is working the way it was supposed to for middle- class Americans, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for 39th. time to dismantle it.

“Maybe they think it’s good politics.  But part of our job here is not to always think about politics.  Part of our job here is to sometimes think about getting work done on behalf of the American people, on behalf of the middle class, and those who are striving to get into the middle class.”

People are already reaping some benefits from the law, in New York State, the premiums are set to fall by an average of 50% next year.

Republicans might be attempting to discourage young people from participating in the program, leaving only older, unhealthy people to participate, which is bad economics.  The reality is in order for the law to work, the American public, and especially young people, need to buy into it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

North Carolina Agenda

For 13 weeks, on Moral Monday hundreds on protesters have gathered outside the general assembly in Raleigh.  They’ve protested everything that legislature has done, from lowering the amount of money the state paid teachers, to the draconian change in unemployment benefits, to new abortion provisions, that will in effect, shut down most of the abortion clinics in the state.

Moral Mondays represent long-term coalition building in North Carolina, between groups interested in different issues.  Environmental issues, racial justice issues, women’s rights issues.  And the key to binding them all together is a recognition that the right to vote is critical to influencing those other issues.

North Carolina’s Republican Governor McCrory has signed bills to make voting more difficult.  These laws cancel same-day voter registration, decrease the period for early voting by a week, and eliminate a provision, that allowed preregistration for those under 18 years of age. 

The current attorney general in North Carolina is Democrat Roy Cooper, and Republican state legislators were worried, that he wouldn’t defend the state’s new Republican agenda in court, so they gave themselves the power to do it.  They wrote a special law to give themselves the powers to defend the laws that they has passed. 

The North Carolina "make it harder to vote" law may be the most drastic election law in the entire country.  The nature of this law is going to make North Carolina ground zero for the battle for minority voting rights and for voting rights of all citizens in general.  This bill is comprehensive in its attack on voting rights.  It’s going to make it harder for everyone in North Carolina to easily and fairly access the ballot box.  It’s going to have a disproportionate negative impact on voters of color on a number of different levels.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Number One

President Obama insists that his number-one responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, is to keep the American people safe.
Last May, at the National Defense University, he spoke of having to strike a balance between protecting our security and preserving our freedoms.  He called for a review of our surveillance programs, but unfortunately, rather than an orderly process by Congress to debate those issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate.
As a senator, Obama expressed skepticism about those programs, and as President, he’s taken steps to make sure they have strong oversight by all three branches of government and clear safeguards to prevent abuse and protect the rights of the American people.  Nevertheless, given the history of abuse by governments, it’s appropriate to ask questions about surveillance in every aspect of our lives.
It’s not enough for this President, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them, also.  Consequently, President Obama has consulted members of Congress, and has asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review where our counterterrorism efforts and our values become strained.  Obama has directed his national security team to be more transparent and to pursue reforms of our laws and practices.
First, Obama has pledged to work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms of the Section 215 of the Patriot Act, that authorizes the collection of telephone records.  For instance, we can take steps to put in place greater oversight, greater transparency, and constraints on the use of this authority.  And, he looks forward to working with Congress to meet those objectives.
Second, this President is committed to working with Congress to improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISC.  He believes, that steps can be taken to ensure civil liberties concerns have an independent voice in appropriate cases by ensuring that the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.
Third, he has directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible, and has already declassified unprecedented information about the NSA.  The Department of Justice will make public the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Fourth, a high-level group of outside experts is being formed to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Hijacked Agenda

Senator Ted Cruz and his Tea Party allies have hijacked much of the Republican Party’s  agenda.  This is evidence regarding the issues of immigration, the budget, and debt ceiling.  

Included in the fight is the defunding of "Obamacare."  Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio are urging their Senate colleagues to sign a pledge vowing to vote no on any spending bill that funds even a penny of this president’s health care law, and the threat of a government shutdown is the ultimate bargaining chip.

A vocal coalition of conservative groups, including the Tea Party Patriots, Heritage Action and Citizens United are determined to fight against the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.  Their argument to fellow congressional Republicans is "You fund it, you own it."

Senator Cruz  of Texas insists: “There is no battle more important than this opportunity right now to finally defund "Obama care."  "Obama care" is the biggest job killer in this country.  It is hurting the economy.”

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida claims: “It hangs over our economy like a cloud of uncertainty, and people don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring.”

In the House, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas asserts: “We’re standing for the people, and I hope the president understands that, and eventually, if we stand strongly enough, comes around and starts standing for his people instead of his party.”

Congressman Gohmert is a notorious birther, who believes the president of the United States is really from East Africa.

Are these extremist going to be able to take over the Republican Party and shut down the government or are they just trying to make a point? 

Does Senator Ted Cruz actually want to shut down our government over the issue of "Obama care," and end up defaulting on the national debt?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Free Market Fallacy

Paul Buchheit has listed 8 ways privatization has failed, and some news analysts have recognize the fallacy of the "free market."  Ted Koppel said: "We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another."  Fareed Zakaria admitted: "I am a big fan of the free market...but a little analysis reveals that privatization doesn't seem to work in any of the areas vital to the American public.”
#1. Health Care. “Our private health care system is by far the most expensive system in the developed world.  Forty-two percent of sick Americans skipped doctor’s visits and/or medication purchases in 2011 because of excessive costs. 
According to the Council fo Affordable Health Insurance, “Medicare administrative costs are about one-third that of private health insurance.”
#2. Water. A Citigroup economist insists: "Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals."
A 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80% more for water and 100% more for sewer services.  A more recent study confirms that privatization will generally "increase the long-term costs borne by the public."
3. Internet.  Buchheit reports: “It seems the whole world is leaving us behind on the Internet.  South Korea has Internet speeds up to 200 times faster than the average speed in the U.S., at about half the cost.”
4. Transportation. When it comes to transportation China surges ahead with a plan to create the world's most advanced high speed rail transport network.  Government run high speed rail systems have been successful in numerous other countries.
With privatization comes automatic rate increases.  Chicago surrendered its parking meters for 75 years and almost immediately faced a doubling of parking rates.  In Pennsylvania, an analysis of school busing by the Keystone Research Center concluded: "Contracting out substantially increases state spending on transportation services."
5. Banking. The Banking industry is bloated with deceit and depravity.  Goldman Sachs designed mortgage packages to lose money for everyone except Goldman.  Countrywide and Wells Fargo targeted Blacks and Hispanics for unaffordable subprime loans. 
6. Prisons.  One would think it a worthy goal to rehabilitate prisoners and gradually empty the jails.  With each prisoner generating up to $40,000 a year in revenue, it has apparently made economic sense to put over two million people behind bars.  Studies show that private prisons perform poorly in prevention of intra-prison violence, jail conditions, and rehabilitation efforts.
7. Education.  The notion that charter schools outperform traditional public schools is not supported by the facts.  A 2013 Stanford University study concluded that privatized schools were slightly better in reading and slightly worse in math, with little difference overall.  Charter school teachers have fewer years of experience and a higher turnover rate.  Non-teacher positions have insufficient retirement plans and health insurance, and much lower pay.
8. Consumer Protection.  Warning signs about unregulated privatization are becoming clearer and more deadly. The Texas fertilizer plant, where 14 people were killed in an explosion and fire, was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over 25 years ago.  The U.S. Forest Service, stunned by the Prescott, Arizona fire that killed 19, had been forced by the sequester to cut 500 firefighters.  The rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec followed deregulation of Canadian railways.
Regulation is meant to protect all of us, but anti-government activists have worked hard to turn us against our own best interests.  Among recommended Republican cuts is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which rescued hundreds of people after Hurricane Sandy while serving millions more with meals and water. 

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Radical Reformer

The Oneonta Daily Star published the following informative letter to the editor, that was submitted by Michael E. Lynch Jr.
“Martin Luther King’s birthday is one of only two recognized as a national holiday.  His name is honored by numerous schools, government buildings, streets and highways.  It is sometimes easy to forget that in his time, King was a radical reformer who was widely criticized.
“King should be remembered as the radical that he was.  King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” is a powerful and unapologetic defense of the strategy and tactics behind his movement.  His speech at Riverside Baptist Church in 1967 is one of the most eloquent and persuasive arguments in favor of ending the war in Vietnam
“His call for justice was based not solely on race but class.  King called for a “radical redistribution of economic and political power.”  King’s views evolved over time from a race-centered perspective to a class-based world view. 
“King was with the striking sanitation workers in Memphis when he was killed.  His next great project was to be the Poor Peoples Campaign, a movement including all races and religions.  King was building the campaign to take down the forces that were keeping millions of Americans locked in gut wrenching poverty.  Sadly the movement fizzled upon his death.
“If King were alive today he would be with the Walmart workers fighting for a living wage.  He would have been on the picket line with the Verizon workers and the Chicago teachers.  He would have been in Wisconsin when the workers rose up and he would have been in Zuccotti Park with the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  Remember Martin Luther King Jr. as the radical leader that he was.”

Friday, August 02, 2013

Judge, Jury and Executioner

Some have insisted that it was wrong of many people in the mainstream media and President Obama to express their opinions that Zimmerman was a racist murderer.

Actually, Obama simply said: “Obviously, this is tragedy.  I can only imagine what these parents are going through.  When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.  And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.

“I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen.  And that means that we examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.

“But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin.  If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.  And, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us, as Americans, are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.” 

Obama released a statement a day after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, explaining that the “death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy.  Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America.  I know this case has elicited strong passions.  And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher.  But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.  I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.

“And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.  As citizens, that’s a job for all of us.  That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin.”

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law set the stage for the outcome in the Zimmerman case.  It’s the reason police didn't arrest Zimmerman for six weeks after he killed Trayvon Martin.  The law was referenced by the judge in her jury instructions, and a juror cited "StandYour Ground" as the key reason they acquitted Zimmerman. 

Shoot first laws exist in 31 states and in those states, white people who kill Black people are 354% more likely to be cleared of wrongdoing than whites who kill other whites.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Race Baiting

A white Oneonta Daily Star columnist disapproves of race baiting by college professors.  He approves of the writings of Frederick Douglass, but complains about the “victimology” being preached by Revs, Sharpton and Jackson.
Frederick Douglass was far from being an Uncle Tom.  He was a close friend of John Brown, who wanted Douglass to join in the raid to captured the armory at Harper’s Ferry.  Douglass wrote: “A struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it maybe both.  But it must be a struggle.  Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”

Racial profiling occurs when white folks tend to jump to the conclusion that African American youth are going to commit a crime in their neighborhood.  But, when African Americans overgeneralize, and begin to suspect that all white people are racist, it’s sometimes described as race baiting.

I attended college in the 1950’s, and had a Sociology professor, who was a Franciscan priest.  Father Victor was demonstrating how various psychiatric tests work, and asked my friend Tim to respond to a sentence completion test.  As I recall everyone in the class was Caucasian, and Tim had attended a mixed school, and lived in a racially mixed neighborhood of Schenectady.   

The question was: The sight of a negro?  Please complete!  Without a pause Tom replied: “Is usually 20/20.”  Would that be consider race baiting? 

Frederick Douglass was not able to publish his own autobiography without affixing to it a letter from the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, as it were, vouchsafing Frederick Douglass’ literacy.  Every edition you get of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography has a letter from William Lloyd Garrison telling the white audiences, that this black man was not only literate, but literate enough to write a masterpiece. 

Today, we have the same kind of atmosphere in which the authenticity and the biography of a man’s life is questioned.  It’s not enough to disagree on with the agenda that Obama stands for.  Apparently, racist seek to undermine his credibility, and consider, the most radical thing about Obama isn’t his policies, but the fact that he’s the first African-American elected to the presidency.