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.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Ludicrous Allegation


The Oneonta Daily Star recently published the following letter written by Richard Stinson of South Kortright.
“I appreciate the fact that Chris Gibson has served his country well in the military, but I find his statement that Sean Eldridge is an ‘out-of-touch candidate’ to be ludicrous. Gibson lost touch with our world when he went to college (age 17 with ROTC scholarship) joined the military, retired with a pension in 2010 and the same year became our representative (not much time for a normal job).  From college on to today, he has been living on taxpayers’ dollars and he wants to continue this career. 
“Was he ‘in touch’ when he suggested a string of nuclear power plants along the Hudson River would solve our energy problems?  Was he ‘in touch’ when he suggested that we move the downstate unemployed up here to work for our local farmers with no idea of how they might be transported, housed and fed?  How many local farmers do you know who could afford to hire these people, much less house or feed them?  The farmers in my area cannot afford to have their children work only on the farm.  Most of them do their chores early, go to a regular job and come home to do more chores. 
“Gibson is well-spoken, personable and shows concern when speaking to groups, but remember this: he has never held a normal job like the rest of us.  He hasn’t had to worry about being laid off or fired.  His paycheck is guaranteed.  I suggest you check his voting record. Gibson has voted against most of the bills that are most needed by the citizens in his district.  Check out Sean Eldridge. I think you will find that he is a candidate who will put us before party, and the big money that seems to drive everything.” 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Forty-nine Years


Today, will mark Medicare's 49th Anniversary.  It was passed into law in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson.

In contrast to ideological disputes over the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, also known as Obamcare, Medicare has offered 49 years of living proof that public, universal health coverage is superior to private insurance.

Medicare is more efficient than private health insurance, its costs have risen more slowly, and it has provided better access to care, better financial protection, and higher patient satisfaction.

Universal healthcare would not only extend coverage to everyone below the age 65, but it would also improve coverage for seniors.  For example, Canada’s universal plan covers 79% of seniors’ costs compared to 51% covered by Medicare in our country.

In 2009, both President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi favored a single payer healthcare system, but the votes weren’t there in the Senate.  Actually, the crux of the problem was Montana’s Democratic Senator Max Baucus, who was the Chairman of Senate Finance Committee.  He simply refused to allow advocates for a single payer national health policy to testify at the Senate Finance Committee hearings.  

The “Billings Gazette” reported: “In the past six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by the Montana Democrat and his political action committee has come from individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical supply firms, health service companies.  These donations total about 3.4 million, or 1,500 dollars a day, every day, from January 2003 through 2008.”  

Furthermore, the health insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry spend billions of dollars on public relations to deny Americans affordable health care.  The most significant reason, that we didn’t get truly affordable health care is the fierce opposition fueled by lobbyists, who used fear tactics to misrepresent efforts to achieve reform.

Obamacare is far from perfect, because it does little by way of controlling costs, and it still maintains the connection between employment and health care, which is a huge burden on American business.

American businesses pay tens of billions of dollars to provide health care for their employees and former employees while their German, Canadian, Japanese, and British counterparts pay nothing.  All of those countries provide universal health care at much lower costs than we do, because they cut out the insurance companies.

America has the most commercial enterprise health care system in the world, but also the most expensive and inefficient one.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Paul Ryan


The House Budget Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan has been attacking poor Americans for a long time.  In 2012, Catholic bishops called Ryan’s budget proposal immoral, and Ryan’s 2015 budget was even worse.  Nearly two-thirds of its proposed cuts came from low-income programs.
 Now, the Tea Party's favorite House member has released a plan to deal with the increasing systemic poverty in our country.  In doing so, Congressman Ryan has once again proven that that he and many House Republicans have absolutely no clue what it's like to be poor in America.
Ryan wants to turn programs like food stamps into grants to states, thereby taking power away from the federal government.  Our federal government needs to be able to exercise oversight because some states such as Mississippi, Alabama and Arizona can’t be trusted to distribute aid appropriately.  Turning over huge chunks of money that states could spend as they see fit is potentially dangerous for our most vulnerable citizens.

Ryan’s ideas are paternalistic, condescending and offensive.  For example, one of his recommendation is to require poor people to sign "life contracts" with the government that would subject every aspect of their lives to monitoring and potential "sanctions."
He would require “a contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success,” a “timeline” for meeting them, “sanctions” for breaking them, “incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract,” and “time limits,” for “remaining on cash assistance.”
We’ve never required middle-class families, businesses and powerful corporations to submit an “action plan” to justify tax credits, federal grants or subsidies.  Paul Ryan’s plan treats the poor as if they want to stay poor.  It appears to punishes our most unstable families for their poverty and instability.  Tying welfare to sanction like family caps could spark a downward spiral into deeper poverty.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Different Approaches


Some countries have taken a different approach to building a thriving economy, than we have.  For instance, Germany raised their minimum wage to $11.60 an hour, which is almost the highest in the world.  

Most Americans agrees with President Obama’s observation that states that have raise their minimum wage have seen almost a 1 percent increase in job growth, while those states that didn’t raise the minimum wage saw half that increase.

Last May, Walmart reported its smallest quarterly growth in five years. The truth is that millionaires don’t often stop at Walmart, but underpaid people do.  Reportedly, twenty percent of Walmart’s customers are on food stamps.

Our country is currently at a crossroads when it comes to income inequality.  The differences between congressional Democrats and Republicans on issues like increasing the minimum wage and reinforcing America’s social safety net is huge.  

That difference has recently become much more obvious, since failed vice presidential candidate Congressman Paul Ryan laid out his plan to combat poverty.  His new plan takes power away from the federal government and gives it to private companies.

Paul Ryan’s budget plan would make our social safety net into block grants to go to states.  He thinks the states will make better decisions.  Those block grants are just another way to dismantle our safety net.  Instead of joining the rest of the world in the 21st century with an economic safety net for it’s citizens, we would be returning to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Paul Ryan’s plan may be disappointing, but it certainly doesn't come as a surprise.  Time and again Ryan and his Republican friends have stood firmly on the side of the 1%, refusing to raise wages, voting to cut off unemployment benefits and supporting drastic cuts to vital programs for the poor.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Katherine Mario


The Oneonta Daily Star recently published the following letter to the editor, that was submitted by Katherine Mario of Delhi.
“The editorial of July 21 is easily commented upon: You say that Sean Eldridge “didn’t offer any solutions.”  But Mr. Eldridge IS THE SOLUTION!  He would vote YES on that bipartisan Senate immigration bill, should it ever make it to the House.  It only takes a few victories by reasonable candidates to make the House of Representatives work again.  If Boehner is the problem, why hasn’t Mr. Gibson or other Republicans done anything about it?
“Our congressman is part of his Republican pack: On campaign finance, he says he supports “transparency,” but he voted against requiring disclosure by corporations and foreign countries contributing to presidential campaigns.  He rejects the disclosure act, which would require reporting individuals who donated more than $10,000.
“On immigration reform, he received a 0 percent rating from America’s Voice, a pro-immigration reform group, and he stood against the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act.
“He signed the Koch Brothers’ pledge to take no meaningful action if it would hurt big oil.
“He has a terrible rating by the League of Conservation Voters.  Compare that to Kirsten Gillibrand and Maurice Hinchey and Scott Murphy, who were strong supporters of our air and water and wildlife and the tourism industry!
“Gibson has voted in favor of legal restrictions on choice. 
“On small business, he actually says we should close loopholes!  Seriously?  He voted for a budget that provides tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas, and five of the top corporations that benefit from that vote donated to his campaign.
“The congressman votes with his Republican House pack!  Don’t delude yourself into thinking otherwise.
“There IS a clear solution.  Give Sean Eldridge a try!  Remember what it was like to have a congressperson you were proud of.”

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Federal Minimum Wage


On July 24th, 2009, the federal minimum wage went from $6.55 an hour to $7.25 an hour.  That was the last incremental increase on a vote that was previously taken.  That raise provided an extra $12 per week.

Since that $12 a week raise took place in 2009, the price of gasoline has gone up 44 percent, electricity has gone up 9 percent, and milk is up 21 percent.  Nevertheless, congressional Republicans have made clear that they’ll block any minimum wage increase.

On the Senate floor in 2007, Senator Ted Kennedy asked: “For 10 years, Republican leadership have refused to let us get a vote on increasing the minimum wage.  What is the price that you want from these working men and women?  What cost?  How much more do we have to give to the private sector and the business?  How many billion dollars more are you asking, are you requiring?  When does the greed stop?”

American families are falling behind and Republicans have continue to make the bogus argument that raising the minimum wage would be a job killer.

President Obama announce: “Today marks exactly five years since the last time the minimum wage went up in this country.  That’s too long between raises for a lot of Americans.  I’ve done what I can by requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of $10.10 an hour.  And since the first time I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, 13 states and D.C. have gone ahead and raised theirs.  And here is something interesting, states that have increased the minimum wage this year have seen higher job growth than those who didn’t raise the minimum wage.  America deserves a raise.  It will be good for those workers and good for business.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

Crude Oil Ban


Texas Congressman Michael McCall claims: “You know, there’s a crude oil ban that he could lift tomorrow to allow Europe and Ukraine to have crude oil to get off this Russian dependence which strangles them and not only would that be good from a stability foreign policy standpoint, it would also create a lot of jobs in the United States.  And I think that’s the kind of things the president ought to be looking at.”

America has had a crude oil export ban in place for 40 years.  The ban goes back to 1973, when Arab oil producing countries proclaimed an oil embargo, that resulted in an oil shortage and record high gas prices at the pump.  Consequently, Congress passed a ban on exporting crude oil in 1975.  Eventually the ban worked, and gas prices came down and the global oil markets stabilized.  That export ban has kept our oil prices lower.

Republicans are looking to lift the ban because in recent years, our crude oil production has skyrocketed.  In 2013 we produce over 2.7 billion barrels of oil, and a large part of that increased production came from North Dakota’s oil fields.
 
In March, North Dakota produced a record of over 30 million barrels of oil.  We’re running out of refineries to process that crude, so instead of building more refineries, and employing more Americans, Republicans want to allow oil companies to export the crude oil.  Lifting the ban on exporting American crude oil would result in even more profits for oil companies.

The facts are simple, lifting the ban would be a short-term fix, that would increase global greenhouse gas emissions and could jeopardize stability of our oil market.

Some Republicans want to exploit the Malaysia Airlines tragedy in Ukraine to increase profits for international oil conglomerates.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Border Security Resources


In 2006, it was estimated that sending National Guard troops to the border would require a diversion $1.9 billion of funds, which the Senate had previously approved for border security.

Bush claimed the borders could be secured with technology, but technology proved to be ineffective in securing our borders.  A report by the Government Accountability Office issued in February 2006 found the sensors frequently gave false readings and of 11,000 motion sensors deployed in August of 2005, a thousand of them had stopped working three months later.

More than $340 million was spent on border surveillance technology.  Money was spent on lucrative corporate contracts, while additional border agents weren’t hired or trained to make the required arrests.  The funds for those jobs had been appropriated by Congress, but Homeland Security neglected to fill them.  Instead, the Bush administration had ask defense contractors how billions of dollars should be spent.

In 2006, immigration courts were overburdened, and backlogged for years.  There were only 214 immigration court judges in the entire country, with responsible for adjudicating all immigration cases.  In 2005, the number of cases rose by 31 percent to a total of 368,848, but that didn’t count the backlog from previous years.  Neither the congressional Republicans, nor the Bush sought to addressed those problems.

Under the Obama administration resources for border security have steadily increased.  More than 18,000 agents patrolled the border in 2013 compared to 10,000 in 2002, and the amount spent on border security has more than doubled.  The Customs and Border Patrol budget has jumped from $5 billion in 2002 to $12.4 billion this year.

The number of minors crossing the border has increased dramatically.  Nearly 60,000 have crossed since October, compared to 38,000 for the entire year in 2013 and 29,400 in 2012.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Political Deadlock


Apparently, congressional Republicans no longer want to invest in American infrastructure, but they love to spend our tax dollars on war.  The Iraq war cost taxpayers $1.7 trillion, and an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans.  Accounting for interest those expenses could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades.  By the way, the cost of the Iraq war was off budget until Democrats took control of the House in 2006. 

August 1st, will mark the 7th anniversary of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis which killed 13 people and injured 145.  Our nation’s infrastructure continues to crumble, but Republicans just don’t seem to care.

President Obama is promoting the Grow America Act, which is a $302 billion investment that would provide funding to fix roads and bridges.  It would also create a million jobs.  A $302 billon investment would have an impact, but it would only keep our head above water so that the problem doesn’t get worse.

Congressional Republicans criticize Obama about job creation, but at a time when we should be investing in our nation’s infrastructure, they’re only interested in continuing political deadlock.

Rebuilding infrastructure won’t get any cheaper if we allow our infrastructure to crumble.  The sooner we get started the better, since interest rates are presently historically low.

It takes a modern infrastructure to transport people to work, enable businesses to obtain goods and services from their supply chains, import goods and services from other countries, and export our goods and services to other countries.

It’s very hard to run a government, if you’re a congressional Republican, who hates government.  Ideologues don’t have any solutions, and don’t seem to want government to do anything except build bombs and get us involve in wars.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Malaysian Flight 17

Malaysian airline flight 17 was shot-down in the hostile region of Eastern Ukraine near the Russian border.  The Boeing 777 went down in territory held by pro-Russian rebels.  It was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with 295 people on board,   and the Ukrainian government said that there were no survivors.

The airline was hit at 33,000 feet while flying at over 490 knots per hour.  Immediately after the crash, a Ukrainian interior ministry official announced, that pro-Russian separatist shot down the plane with a Buk missile.  A Buk missile is Soviet-era surface-to-air missile that can reach altitudes of 70,000 feet.  The leader of the pro-Russian separatist deny they shot down the plane, and claimed Ukrainian armed forces shot the plane the down.

An “Associated Press” journalist reportedly saw a launcher similar to the BUK missile system near an eastern Ukrainian town which is held by separatist.

Intelligence analysts were working furiously to determine whether Russian officials had any direct involvement in the downing of the jetliner, an accusation Moscow has strongly denied.  Analysts have been examining phone intercepts, social media posts and information gathered on the ground to see what role, if any, Russian officials may have played.

Earlier in the day of the shoot - down, President Obama had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone regarding the new sanctions imposed on Russia.  At the end of the call they spoke about the downed Malaysian aircraft.  Reportedly, in that conversation Obama told President Putin that he wants to see Russia de- escalate the crisis in Ukraine.  

This all comes against the backdrop that the day before Obama had announced the stiffest round of sanctions so far against increasing military encroaching by Russia into Ukraine and increasing aid to the rebels.  Apparently, some of that military aid led to the downed Malaysian Airliner.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced: “There's no shortage of evidence that pro-Russian rebels shot down the jet.  There's video of a launcher with one surface-to-air missile missing, imagery showing the firing, and intercepted calls with rebels claiming credit for the strike.

"We know from intercepts, that those are in fact the voices of separatists. And now we have a video showing a launcher moving back through a particular area there out into Russia with at least one missing missile on it."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sorry


In 1988, near the end Iran/Iraq War in which our country sided with Saddam Hussein, the guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes was skirmishing with Iranian military speedboats in the Persian Gulf, when the crew notice a plane had taken off from a nearby airport in Bandar Abbas Iran.  The crew of the Vincennes decided that the plane was an Iranian military F-14 fighter jet.

Unfortunately, those responsible for identifying the aircraft got the size, speed and trajectory of the plane totally wrong.  In fact, the plane was an Iranian civilian Airbus with 290 people on board, and that Iranian Airbus was shot down on it’s way across Persian Gulf to Dubai.

Initially. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reported: “Military officials were certain that U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf had shot down an Iranian F-14 fighter jet.  Now they’re saying they’re not so sure, leaving open the distinct possibility that a U.S. missile may have been responsible for the crash of that Iranian civilian Airbus.”

In a statement released by the White House, President Reagan expressed regret and said he was deeply saddened over what he called a terrible human tragedy.

The commanding officer of the Vincennes was later award the Legion of Merit, one of the military’s highest service awards for his service.  And, our government even gave the Navy commendation medal to the ship’s anti- aircraft officer who was the officer in charge of recognizing real threats from hostile aircraft and directing and appropriate response.

The commanding officer and the ship’s anti- aircraft officer of the Vincennes got medals for their performance, and after Iran sued the United States in the international court of justice over that shoot-down, our government ended up apologizing and paying $62 million in restitution to the government of Iran.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Don’t Blame Obama


Speaker Boehner has decided to abandon immigration reform, and instead blame President Obama for the current immigration crisis.

The reason unaccompanied children are not being immediately deported is the William-Wilberforce Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act of 2008.

President George W. Bush signed the law in December of 2008, in order to protect children from countries who don’t share a border with our country.  It applies to children from Central America, such as Nicaragua and Columbia where thousands of children are fleeing violence.  It is a bipartisan law to protect children by giving them an immigration hearing,  Technically it applies only to unaccompanied minors, but it doesn’t provide automatic asylum.  It merely allows children to stay here while their cases work through the immigration system.  

However, because of the the flood of immigrants, the system is severely backlogged.  The solution is to simply follow the law, by extending the protections that are in the law that was passed in Congress in 2008.  The court decisions will further protected children, and do so in a way that honors due process.

Some House Democrats are concerned because Obama wants to speed up the deportation process.  He’s getting a lot disapproval from Republicans, but unlike them, Obama has a plan  The plan cost money, so he’s asking for $3.7 billion in emergency funding.  Half of the money would provide care for children, and the other half would speed up deportation hearings and increase border security. 

Polls show 53 percent of Americans support Obama’s plan, while 43 percent oppose it.   Although, 58 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Obama is handling the border crisis, the poll found 66 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the congressional Republicans are handling the situation.

Speaker Boehner prefers gridlock in the House, and triggering another major crisis.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fact Check


In his letter in the Delaware County Times of July 18th, Mike Spaccaforno tended to overgeneralize in his support of Congressman Gibson.

Last December, Congress passed a two-year budget deal that included a reduction in veterans’ pension benefits, but weeks later, Congress repealed many of those cuts.

Actually, Republicans voted to defeat the largest veteran spending bill in decades.  It failed in the Senate by a vote to 56 to 41 vote, with only two Republicans voting for the bill.  Supporters insisted the measure would have brought the most significant changes in decades to our veterans’ programs.  It called for 27 new medical facilities to help a healthcare system that has been strained by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

With Democrats pressing for passage, Senate Republicans attempted to attach controversial legislation calling for new sanctions on Iran that President Obama opposed.  A sponsor of that bill was Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, who pointed out: “The issue of Iran sanctions has nothing to do with the needs of veterans.”

Not all veterans are honorable men.  Former Army veteran Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb in front of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.  That bomb killed 168 people, and wounded were more than 500.

Furthermore, Senator Gillibrand announced: “We’ve got 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact, abuse and rape in the military today, but only 3,300 are actually being reported and only one in ten are going to trial.

Senator Boxer agreed: “Ninety percent of sexual assaults are not reported.  Only 10 percent are reported.  And the reason is very clear: over 20 years, the military has been promising to take action on sexual assault.  They’ve done literally very little to make it go away.  We have thousands of felons walking around the military, because frankly, they got off scot-free.  No one ever reported them.”

I’ve noticed that many Republicans are also very inconsistent with their praise of decorated veterans.  In 2004, Republicans questioned the patriotism of presidential candidate John Kerry, who had honorably served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star.

By the way, Sean Eldridge was indeed born in Montreal, but became an America citizen in 2006.  He grew up in the suburbs of Toledo Ohio and attended public school.  Both of his parents are medical doctors, and he graduated from Brown University in Rhode Island.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Idiot America


Charlie Pierce wrote a book entitled "Idiot America, How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free.”  It’s about the history of  conspiracy theory in this country because it’s so much easier for people to get worked up about a scheme than it is to look at the reality of the situation.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry claimed: “We have record high numbers of other than Mexicans being apprehended at the border.  Lists of people that are coming from states like Syria that have substantial connections back to terrorist regimes and terrorist operations.”

“The Austin American- Statesman” looked back to 2012, for the most recent numbers.  Reportedly, of the 643,000 individuals stopped at the border, only 56 were from Syria.  You have to wonder why Gov. Perry would make a claim like that when it’s so easily disapproved.

It’s perfectly acceptable for Republicans to hate Latinos and Arabs, who are trying to escape terrifying warfare by suggesting that they’re all terrorists.  There is no conspiracy theory needed for that, because for decades they have been constantly fear monger about Latinos, Arab-Americans and Muslims.

Not one member of the Texas Republican delegation has called for a vote on the border crisis.  They’ve conducted a lots of special hearings and fund raisers, but not a vote.                                                                                                                                                  

The reality of the situation is that Rick Perry republicans welcome policies like NAFTA and CAFTA and our failed war on drugs.  Those failed policies have contributed to poverty and violence in Central America, and are the reason a majority of immigrants from Central and Latin American countries come to our borders.  It has nothing to do with terrorist caliphates in Iraq and Syria.

If congressional Republicans don’t trust Obama on the border security that is a political argument with a firm expiration date.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

An Actual Solution


Congressman Chris Gibson called the current immigration crisis situation both “a humanitarian crisis and a national security challenge.”  He’d like to see the National Guard playing a role, but avoids explaining what kind of role. 
Gibson is opposed to the Senate’s immigration bill passed more than a year ago, and has been waiting for over a year to see the details of an alternative bill House Republicans are working on.
He claims that until he has seen the details, he won’t take a position on it, but then claims, that a solution is made more difficult by a lack of confidence that Obama will enforce any changes.  That is obviously the latest Republican excuse for doing nothing.
Gibson concedes: “While everyone who is here illegally can’t be deported, they can’t be given amnesty.  One possibility is to have those who broke the law plead guilty and face consequences that could include paying a fine, getting a background check, and learning English.
The House Republican conference have mostly white constituencies, who come from mostly rural districts.  When, those representatives go home their constituents are not calling for comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Consequently, the vast majority of House Republicans look at the bill that passed the Senate, and insist that there’s no way they’ll touch anything that approximates the Senate bill.  The’ll do something on border security, but they’re not interested in comprehensive reform or providing a path to citizenship.

Gibson claimed: “If he were president he would have gone to see the Texas border a trip Obama chose not to make when he recently visited the state.” 
Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge remarked: “On the issue of Pres. Barack Obama going to the border, what we don’t need are more photo ops.  What we need are actual solutions.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Past

Georges Santana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

President Jackson pushed through the Indian Removal Act, which approved ethnic cleansing that led to the Trail of Tears.  In one of the most shameful moments in American history, Jackson overruled the Supreme Court, and tens of thousands of Indians were forcibly removed from the South.

The Trail of Tears relocated Native Americans, that included members of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, and Choctaw nations, from their homelands.  They suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation. While being relocated to what is now Oklahoma, more that 4,000 people of the 15,000 Cherokee nation died. 

President Herbert Hoover boasted:“The fundamental business of a country that is production and distribution is on a sound and prosperous basis.“  Four days later the stock market crash of 1929 occurred.  During the Great Depression, Hoover’s only solution for the starving, homeless unemployed was private charity.  

A large group of WW I veterans decided to lobby to get their government to change the date their bonus certificates would be paid.  They set up a camp, named Hooverville on the Anacostia Flats not far from DC.  Hoover ordered the Army to clear out the protesting veterans.  Infantry and cavalry troops fixed bayonets and hoisted sabers, and rolled over the encampment using tear gas, fire, and forceful persuasion.  The lesson learned was that Hoover didn’t like to be presented with a constant eyesore that advertises his failure.  By the time, FDR took office the unemployment rate was at 24.9 percent.

George W. Bush acknowledged that he’d have gone to war knowing the intelligence for invading Iraq was wrong, because he considered Saddam Hussein a bad man.  Over 4,000 Americans died to remove a bad man.  In 2007, a study confirmed an estimated one million violent Iraqi deaths.

Propagandist convinced Congress with the threat of a mushroom cloud.  Some in Congress wouldn't risk being labeled weak on defense, and others foolishly trusted Bush to explore all options before going to war. 

After LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, the southern states turned solidly Republican.  The national Republican Party inherited racist.

Abolitionist Fredrick Douglass insisted: “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.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

True Compassion


During his 2005, State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush pledged that his administration would be focused on compassionate conservatism.  Obviously, the days of compassionate conservatives are over, because Republicans are doing all they can to prove that they’ve no compassion.

President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to help deal with the influx of minors from Central America.  As of May 31st. border officials had taken 39,000 adults with children into detention.  An Obama administration official reported, that as of June 15th, 52,000 unaccompanied children from Central America had been taken into custody on the Mexico border.

Obama has suggested: “If House Republicans are really concern about me taking too many executive actions.  The best solution to that is passing bills.”

Obama is following the law in an effort to help those undocumented children.  So-called compassionate conservative, George W. Bush, signed legislation in 2008, which passed both the House and Senate by unanimous consent.  That law dictates how children caught crossing the border without their parents must be treated.  A child must be turned over within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services to care for them until safe housing arrangements can be made.  Instead, some congressional  Republicans are calling for all of the children to be immediately deported.

In a 2011 debate, Texas Governor Perry expressed sympathy toward children who end up in this country illegally.  He said: “If you say, we shouldn’t educate children who have come in to our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault at their own.  I don’t think you have a heart.”  

Governor Perry apologized for those words one week later.  Republicans claim they hold the moral high ground, but don’t seem to comprehend what true compassion means. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Political Stunt


House Republicans are planning to sue President Obama and have announced that they’ll base their legal case on the sweeping health care law that he advocated and they despise.

Speaker John Boehner will attempt to make the argument. that Obama violated the Constitution by circumventing Congress by delaying the law's requirement for businesses to provide coverage.

According to Boehner: "In 2013, the President changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it.  That's not the way our system of government was designed to work.  No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.”  

The Republican controlled House is expected to vote on a resolution authorizing legal action against the President over the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act  at the end of July, just before lawmakers head home in August to campaign for midterm votes.  Boehner is expected to hire attorneys to file the suit in federal court.  But the timing of that is unclear.

The White House has expressed the opinion, that Boehner and Republicans are wasting time and taxpayer resources on a "political stunt."

A senior House Republican leadership aide has speculated that the health care case gives the House "the best chance of success in the courts.“  The Republican controlled House has passed two bills aimed at curbing executive orders, but neither has gone anywhere in the Democratic controlled Senate.

In order for the law suit to be formally considered by the courts, House Republicans must prove that the chamber was somehow injured as an institution.  Obamacare has been a partisan flashpoint since it's passage in 2010 with no GOP support, and the Republican controlled House has approved over 50 bills aiming to weaken or repeal it.

The Obama administration postponed a requirement that businesses with more than 50 workers provide their employees with health insurance.  Now, the so-called employer mandate won't take effect until 2015.

A year ago, the same Republican lawmakers, who are now pressing the lawsuit actually voted for legislation that would have delayed that mandate.  That legislation wouldn’t have passed the Senate.  In order to justifying the apparent contradiction of suing the President over taking action they actually supported initially, Republican aides insist it’s up to Congress to make those changes in law, not the President.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Christian Teachings


President Obama requested nearly $4 billion to basically provide resources both at the border and throughout our immigration systems that are processing children and families for deportation until they can be sent back to Central America.  However, there are mixed reports out of Washington regarding whether or not Republicans in Congress are going to vote for any of those resources.

Hopefully, President Obama and members of Congress can come up with a plan on how to deal humanely and fairly with the thousands of children that have been turning themselves in after crossing our southern border.
These children cannot be legally deported without first going through the courts because of 2008 legislation signed into law by George W Bush.  Nevertheless, Republicans blame Obama for the recent surge and the practice of placing minors with relatives, pending deportation hearings a process that usually takes more than a year.
Obama is complying with the law pass under the Bush administration, that actually prevents sending unaccompanied children back to their home country.  Consequently, the claim by some Republicans that "This is all the President’s fault," is inaccurate.

President Obama has reasoned: “There are a number of Republicans in Congress, including a number of the Texas delegation who are mad at me for taking these actions.  They actually plan to sue me.  The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years.  So, it’s not clear, how it is the Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did.

“Maybe it’s just me they don’t like.  I don’t know.  Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned.  That I haven’t figured out.  You hear some of them saying "sue him," "impeach him."  Really?  For what?  You’re going to sue me for doing my job?  OK.  I mean, think about that.  Use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job, while you don’t do your job.”

Recent studies supports the conclusion, that it’s violence in their home country that has caused these children to travel so many dangerous miles to our country.

Perhaps, the plight of these children will persuade Republican Christians to practice love and compassion that Jesus taught.  It’s disturbing that Republicans, who claim to be Christians aren’t trying to relieve the suffering these vulnerable children have experienced.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Teen Birth Rate


In 2009, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper started an initiative to address the teen birth rate, by providing more than 30,000 contraceptive devices to low-income women at a low or no cost. 

Recently, Gov. Hickenlooper announced that Colorado has seen a 40 percent drop in teen birth rates in five years.  Furthermore, the teen abortion rate has drop 35 percent from 2009 to 2012.  For every dollar spent on the contraceptives, their Family Planning Program has saved $5.68 cents in Medicaid costs.  Colorado saved $42.5 million in healthcare expenditures associated with teen births in 2010.

Sadly, in Texas where Governor Rick Perry has pushed abstinence only education programs, we find the 5th highest birth rate among teenagers in the nation.  Texas has  also reported the highest rate of repeat births among teenagers between to 15 to 19.  In 2010 teenage births cost Texas taxpayers $1.1 billion in healthcare, and foster care.

Many taxpayers wonder why its so difficult to broaden access to contraceptives when states have provided hard numbers to prove that it really does work.  Contraceptives have become a divisive social issue, because we have numerous conservative politicians like Governor Perry advocating teaching abstinence only programs.  

Teen birth rates go down when people are given information and access to contraceptives.  But unfortunately, it’s been demagogue as a social issue rather than as a health issue instead of looking at what is in the best interest of the individual children and the community.

The state of Colorado is saving millions of dollars, but fiscally conservative Republicans refuse to get on board.  In Colorado, the Family Planning Program is providing access to IUDs which is one of the most effective and expensive forms of contraceptives.  Perhaps cost could also be at the heart of the Hobby Lobby case.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Where are the jobs?


If you’re fortunate enough to have a retirement portfolio the good news is the Dow Jones has closed at over 17,000, for the first time in history.  Given that we started with the Dow Jones bottoming out at 6,600 points in 2008, we have made enormous progress, since the panic on Wall Street. 

Speaker of the Republican controlled House, Boehner claimed: “They’re tired of settling for this new normal under the Obama economy.  And frankly they’re tired of asking the question, ‘Where are the jobs?’”

Actually, we recently got a jobs report showing that we're witnessing the fastest job growth in the first half of the year since 1999.  That’s also the first time we've seen five consecutive months of job growth over 200,000 since 1999, and the quickest drop in unemployment in 30 years.  The unemployment rate has dropped to 6.1 percent, which is the lowest rate since September of 2008. 
In early 2009, we were loosing 26,000 jobs a day and lost 826,000 jobs in a single month.  Now, we've seen almost 10 million jobs created over the course of the last 52 months. 
President Obama has fixed the mess, that he inherited from George W. Bush and the charlatans on Wall Street.  He explain: “We could be making even stronger progress, we could be growing even more jobs if, those of us here in Washington were focused on them, focused on you, the American people rather than focus on politics.

“Now, what we also know is, as much progress as has been made, there are still folks out there who are struggling.  We still have not seen as much increase in income and wages as we’d like to see.  A lot of folks are still digging themselves out of challenges that arose out of the Great Recession.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy Again

The following words of wisdom were written by Steven Lane Taylor.

“Gift #1.  Forgiving is for giving yourself the freedom to be happy again.  As long as you bear a grudge against someone you will be unhappy—feeling frustrated, bitter, or angry. You will be suffering, while the person you resent might not even be aware that you resent him or her , or care!  When you forgive, you stop giving that person power over how you feel.  You break that negative emotional tie, and free yourself to be happy again.
“Gift #2.  Forgiving is for giving yourself the ability to be attuned to divine wisdom.  When you harbor resentments, you are in ego—that judgmental state of mind that not only causes you to feel separate from others, but also causes you to feel separate from any kind of Higher Power.  When you forgive, you reconnect with that Higher Power—returning to a state of mind that is once again open and receptive to divine insights, inspiration, and intuitive direction.
“Gift #3.  Forgiving is for giving yourself valuable insights about yourself.  Sometimes the person whom you need to forgive is actually “mirroring” a behavioral trait that you may have, but don’t want to consciously admit.  If you are willing to “look in that mirror,” you may see something within yourself that needs healing.  For instance, you may discover a long-neglected emotional wound that has been causing you to behave in unproductive ways.  But now that it’s revealed, you have the opportunity to heal that wound through a little self-love...as well as the opportunity to see that person who is your “mirror image” in a more compassionate light.
“Gift #4.  Forgiving is for giving yourself the ability to enjoy the peace that exists in the here and now moment.  Whatever it is that is causing you to feel resentful, happened in the past, right?  Perhaps it was only yesterday, but it still happened in the past.  By harboring those negative feelings, you are keeping the past alive.  Generally, the now moment is pretty peaceful.  But you rob yourself of that peace by dwelling on something that is not actually happening in the here and now.  If you want to be able to enjoy the peace of the present, let go of the past through forgiveness.
“Gift #5.  Forgiving is for giving yourself the power to create a different future.  The future is formed in the present, through the thoughts and feelings that you are having right this minute.  If you have dragged the past into the present through unforgiveness, then it is highly likely that you will create a future that is just like the past.  If you want a different future, forgive what happened in the past—let go of it—and open yourself up to the infinite possibilities that exist when your mind is free of all prior influences.” 

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Alternative Definitions


In 2008, Tom Sears wrote a column for the Oneonta Daily Star entitled, “On The Right Side.”  His confrontational style often motivate those liberals, who don’t usually express their views in letters to the editor.  In fact, it motivated my wife Karen to submit the following letter:

“After reading Tom Sears’ column of May 13, may I suggest several alternative definitions and thoughts on patriotism.

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

‘“Samuel Johnson quipped: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” (To which Ambrose Bierce famously added, ‘With all due respect. I beg to submit that it is the first.’)

‘“August Bebel- ‘In time of war the loudest patriots are the greatest profiteers.’

‘“George Bernard Shaw - ‘Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.’

‘“Bertrand Russell - ‘Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.’

“My personal favorite is from an 1847 speech made in Syracuse entitled: ‘Love of God, Love of Man, Love of Country.’  Abolitionist Fredrick Douglass a freed slave said: ‘I make no pretension to patriotism.  So long as my voice can be heard on this or the other side of the Atlantic, 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.’

“The looting of Iraqi oil violates the Geneva Convention, but continuing the occupation, by our government deserves our moral indignation.”

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Rebuild America


Usually, people talk about the Iraq war in terms of the tragic loss of life, and veterans coming home without arms, legs, brain trauma or suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  However, it’s also important to consider that we’ll eventually spend $4 trillion for the war in Iraq.  A lot of that money was to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, at a time, when we should have been investing that money to rebuild our bridges, roads, sewer systems, high-speed rail, and wastewater plants.  

The American Society of Civil Engineers believes that we should spend over $3 trillion investing in our infrastructure in order to become more productive and create jobs. 

An investment of $1 trillion in infrastructure would create 13 million jobs.  We have a rail system that is far behind Europe, Japan, and even China.  We could also be weatherizing millions of homes to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and save people money on their fuel bill.

There are some things we can only do as a nation, in order to keep pace with the times.  In our democracy, we have the power to choose our leaders, change our laws, and shape our own destiny.  Rebuilding our nations infrastructure will put construction workers back to work, and improve the quality of life in communities across America.

At current spending levels, it would take 80 years for our country to address all of the 70,000 bridges that are in need work.  Congressional Republicans shouldn’t wait until after the election to work with Obama to pass a $302 billion highway trust fund bill.

President Obama stressed: “There’s no reason for Republicans in Congress to stand in the way of more construction projects.”  Notably, Republican President Eisenhower launched the massive government undertaking known as the Interstate Highway System.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Hobby Lobby Decision


People laughed in presidential candidate Mitt Romney face in 2011 when he tried to convince a crowd, that corporations are people.  However, he must have convinced the five male justices on the Supreme Court.  They’ve ruled in favor of for profit businesses having the right of religious freedom under federal law.  By so doing, those justices extend first amendment protections to corporations.  Consequently, corporate personhood is no longer a laughing matter.

In Burwell versus Hobby Lobby, a divided Supreme Court ruled five to four that “closely held” corporations can’t be required to provide contraception coverage for their employees.  Hobby Lobby a craft supply store had challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, on the grounds that it violated their religious freedom by requiring them to pay for contraception methods, they found morally objectionable.

This ruling isn’t a victory for the millions of American who practice different faiths.  This is a victory for conservatives in their war on women, which is being fought by members of the highest federal court in our country.  The conservative ideology of five male justices on Supreme Court has clearly demonstrated their commitment to waging war on women.

No matter how narrowly this decision was written, it opens the flood gates for litigation enabling employers to deny other forms of healthcare to their employees on religious grounds.  Our founding father sought to create a government with a wall of separation between church and states, but some of that wall has come tumbling down.

Unintended pregnancy is highly correlated with infant mortality, maternal mortality and it’s a significant risk factor in domestic violence homicide.  The five men on the Supreme Court who ruled against women in the Hobby Lobby case have disregarded the welfare and lives of both the women and infants.  The ruling suggests that somehow religion can be used as a justification to block women from accessing birth control, which is basic healthcare for women.

The Supreme Court’s ruling isn’t based about logic, since it deprives women of forms of birth control that don’t cause abortion.  And, if you make it harder for women to have access to affordable birth control, we’ll have more abortions because there will be more unplanned pregnancies.

The ruling puts women’s bosses between them and their doctor.  It doesn’t protect employees from having their boss deciding: "Well I don’t like the LGBT community, I’m going to withhold healthcare from them." 

Three Women Justices


Recently, the three female justices on the Supreme Court were on the losing side of rulings involving women's reproductive health.  First, the Hobby Lobby decision, in which the court decided 5-4 that our government cannot force certain for-profit companies to offer contraception coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Then, a decision by the same conservative male justices in which an evangelical college won a temporary victory over the requirement in that law that religious non-profits provide contraception insurance to their workers.

Wheaton College objected to potential fines if it refused to provide coverage or sign a release form, and argued that doing so would be morally wrong.  The Supreme Court has ruled the college doesn't have to do either for now.

A dissent written by Justice Sotomayor said: "Those who are bound by our decisions usually believe they can take us at our word.  Not so today.  It is not the business of this court to ensnare itself in the government's ministerial handling of its affairs in the manner it does here."

Although, the Wheaton College ruling only gives the school a pass until the matter is decided by lower courts, it represents another victory for those objecting to the contraception coverage requirement.

The mandate was a negotiated compromise between the Obama administration and religious-based non-profits such as hospitals and faith-based universities that oppose birth control.  It made contraceptives available under the ACA with no co-pay, but gave those entities a work-around through health plans written by third parties.

The Supreme Court ruling in the Wheaton appeal said those who object only have to inform the government "in writing that it is a nonprofit organization that holds itself out as religious and has religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services," rather than sign government form.

The Hobby Lobby ruling authored by Justice Samuel Alito suggested the two for-profit companies could sign the same government form as the religious non-profits.

Justice Sotomayor noted: "The court's grant of an injunction in this case allows Wheaton's beliefs about the effects of its actions to trump the democratic interest in allowing the government to enforce the law.”

Democratic members of Congress are proposing fixes to the health care law to address the issue, since the chances of such legislation passing are considered low due to opposition by conservative House Republicans.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Wall Street Speculation


Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont insists: “The price of gasoline at the pump has gone up by more than a dollar of gallon in the last five years and yet there is more supply today than there was five years ago and less demand.  But, if we had a normal functioning market with supply and demand, the price should go down.”  

ExxonMobil made $9 Billion in profits, during the first quarter of this year, and oil companies do tend to raise prices if there is a disturbance any place around the world.  However, the airlines, trucking companies, and fuel oil dealers don’t control the market.  The oil futures market is controlled by people who don’t use oil.  It’s controlled by Wall Street speculator like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, whose function is to make as much money as they can by speculating on oil prices.

There’s been various estimates regarding how much more consumers are paying for a gallon of gas because of Wall Street speculation.  Some experts claim 60 percent.  Nevertheless, there is no question that oil speculation has driven up oil prices significantly.

In order to control speculation, Bernie Sanders introduce a bill in the Senate last year that is very similar to the one that failed in Congress in 2008.

Sen. Sanders points out: “What we have seen in recent years is that the percentage of the oil futures market controlled by Wall Street has increased by about 70 to 80 percent of the market.  Our legislation has 20 co-sponsors in the Senate, and has been introduced in the House. 

“What our legislation does is break up the amount of control that any one company can have.  In my view, that would drive speculation down significantly and result in lower prices at the gas pump.”

Friday, July 04, 2014

Custodial Protection


The inscription on the Statue of Liberty was authored by Emma Lazarus.  It says: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The reality is that undocumented workers have been coming to America to improve their economic situation.  Most of them are fleeing desperate situations in Mexico and Central America where there is no future.  Many times immigrants have become a strong part of our economy.  This is not unlike those Europeans, who came to our shores over the past 200 years.

In 2008, George W. Bush signed into law a bipartician bill that allows central American children to stay in the United States.  The law mandates protections for minors fleeing violence and poverty in South and Central America.

This problem has been taking place on our southern border for a long time, and if underage children end up within our borders, by law our government is required to process them and get them into families.

If a parent feels, that it’s more of a physical risk for their children to remain in their home communities, than to take a dangerous trip across our borders, they’re desperate. 

When the Bush administration carved out children for special custodial protection, they did so understanding the situation.  The law was there for the purpose, and the circumstances are worst now then they were then. 

President Obama inherited that law and he’s trying to deal with it.  He hasn’t been weak on illegal immigration.  Actually, there has been roughly 2 million deportations since Obama took office.  In 2012, our government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement.  That’s more than all the other law enforcement, federal agencies combined.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

A Show of Leadership


President Obama responded to House Speaker Boehner’s threat of a lawsuit by pointing out: “We take these actions and then, Republicans are mad at me for taking these actions.  They’re not doing anything and then they’re mad that I’m doing something.  I’m not sure which of the things I’ve done they find most offensive.  But they’ve decided they’re going to sue me for doing my job.”

The law suit is an attempt by House Republicans to shift the focus off the fact that the Republican controlled House has done nothing but obstruct.

Executive orders are part of every president’s job, and President Obama has issued the least amount of executive orders in recent history.  It’s clear that this president has not used executive orders as much other presidents.  Ronald Reagan used 380 executive orders.  George W. Bush used 291 executive orders, and Obama has used only 180.

President Bush went as far as trying to shutdown stem cell research with an executive order, and side-step the Geneva Convention with an executive order. 

Bush issued signing statements taking exception to hundreds of bills as he signs them into law.  In many cases, he actually refused to enact those laws.  The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan arm of Congress found that many laws had not been implemented as required.  The G.A.O. did not investigate some of Bush’s most infamous signing statements, like the challenge to a ban on torture.

Speaker Boehner said that there would be no vote on immigration reform this year.  Therefore, President Obama took him at his word.

Obama has turned the spotlight on how dysfunctional this Republican Congress has been.  House Republicans won’t do their job, and since voters elected Obama to a leadership position, immigration seems to be the perfect issue for him to show leadership.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Landmark Legislation


Today is the 50th anniversary of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act into law.

A civil rights bill was called for by JFK in a speech to the nation on June 11, 1963.  That landmark piece of legislation outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks, women, and ended racial segregation in America.

It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that serve as public accommodations.

Its effects were far-reaching on the country and had an immediate impact on the South. It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment, invalidating the Jim Crow laws in the South.  It became illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Vice President Johnson had pushed for the introduction of the civil rights legislation.  LBJ predicted that the Democratic Party would lose the south.

In general, it’s true that the KKK and the Old South was solidly Democratic in the years following the Civil War.  The Civil War was prosecuted by Republican President Lincoln, and Southerners couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the party that defeated the South.

By signing the Civil Rights Act, LBJ was fully aware that it meant the Democratic Party  would lose the South, but he pushed the Act through anyway.  Led by Senator Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, the south turned solidly Republican.

Historical facts suggest that today’s Southern Republicans are the heirs of the Confederate States, and that the nationally the Republican Party has become a party that welcomes racist.

Republicans passed laws that have the effect of suppressing minority voter turnout in crucial swing states. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than 5 million voters will be affected by these laws.