Mind and Destiny

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

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

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Equality for Women


Since, the early 1960’s the number of women in the workforce has increased by more than 50 percent, but the gap between men’s and women’s earnings only closed by 17 percent over the last 50 years.  By the age of 65, the average woman will have lost $431,000 over her working lifetime, because of that earning gap.  A woman loses on average $11,000 in salary per year.

Injustice is even greater for African- American women, who earn 66 cents on the dollar, and Latinas, who earn 55 cents.  It’s shouldn’t be surprise, that women are twice as likely to live out their old age in poverty.  By the way, women are 5 times more likely to become a victim of domestic violence. 

The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act.  The Fair Pay Act made it easier for women to demand equal pay for equal work.  More recently, Obama announced: “Women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment.  Women deserve equal pay for equal work.

“She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship.”

Today, 49 million children depend on women’s salaries.  Obama encourages companies to make workplaces more flexible so women don’t have to choose between being a good employee or a good mother.

Women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they're not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages.  Most Americans agree that no one who works full-time should have to raise a family in poverty.  Nevertheless, congressional Republicans oppose a minimum of $10.10 an hour.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

South Florida


The Vice Mayor of Miami Florida, Walter Harris believes that state officials in Tallahassee aren’t doing enough to protect South Florida when it comes to rising sea levels.

Florida Governor Rick Scott isn’t sure about rising sea levels, because he’s not a scientist, and won’t even acknowledge the reality of climate change and rising sea levels.

Harris insists: “Well, for the last 60 years we’ve been talked of separating from the North and South.  South Florida is urban, North Florida is a rural, South Florida is liberal, North Florida is conservative, very conservative.  And most of the population and most of the revenue to run the state comes from South Florida and it’s not equally distributed back.  And more importantly North Florida does not legislate in the favor of South Florida on a regular basis.  That would be grounds enough.

“But now with the reality of the sea level rise, everything has changed.  The lower South Florida is less than five feet above sea level.  And this includes the Everglades, this includes a nuclear power plant that is 42 years old, that’s only 4.5 feet above the sea level and it’s got 2.5 million pounds of nuclear waste buried along side of it.  And, with no plans to do anything about it and they renewed this nuclear power plant for 20 more years.”

Although, $200 million worth of drainage pumps drain the streets of Miami Beach after high tide, the water is being pumped into Biscayne Bay.

The Union of Concerned Scientist have estimated that by 2030, Miami could flood eight times more frequently.  By 2045, the city could flood 230 times per year, almost two-thirds of the year.  In Key West, the estimate is 45 floods per year by 2030.  That’s more than three floods a month.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Soak the Rich


During the administration of Republican President Eisenhower, a 92 percent marginal income tax rate for top earners remained from the previous administration of Harry S. Truman.  At the time, the highest tax bracket was for income over $400,000.
This was nearly the highest tax rate for top earners in that century, just under the 94 percent rate for income over $200,000 initiated during World War II under Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency.
Presently, the top rate of 39.6 percent is paid on income above $406,750 for individuals and $457,600 for couples.
Recently, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman was asked about a new working paper by economists Fabian Kindermann and Dirk Krueger, which found that a top marginal income tax rate of 85 to 90 percent would improve all Americans’ wellbeing, reduce inequality and bring in more revenue for the government.
Krugman responded: "What you really should want to do is to soak the rich as much as possible.  So the top tax rates should be whatever it is that collects the most revenue, and now the question is, how high is that?"
The term “soak the rich” was the nickname given to the increase in taxes to fund President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs.  The Revenue Act of 1935 introduced the Wealth Tax, a tax that took up to 75 percent of the highest incomes.  Many wealthy people used loopholes in that tax code, until the Revenue Act of 1937 cracked down on tax evasion by revising the law."
Krugman conceded that “soaking the rich,” which established a post-Depression wealth tax on top earners is “not going to happen” due to today’s political climate.  He added: “Any increase in top tax rates is almost certainly a move in the right direction starting from here.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alan Sessions


The Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter, that was submitted for publication by Alan Sessions. 

“Congressman Chris Gibson is no friend to the environment.  He continues to send postcards that applaud his environmental voting record.  In reality, his record of supporting polluters and environmental derogation is nothing to be proud of.

“He has voted against the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, a vote that adversely impacted millions of Americans, and voted to dirty the air by allowing increases in the amount of toxic coal dust released into the environment.  His votes have been irresponsible, as he sided with BP and other big oil companies when he voted to expand offshore drilling and weaken the drilling environmental review process.  Congressman Gibson fails to support effective environmental protection by voting against clean water measurers and even voting against legislation for protecting sea turtles.

“The future calls for ongoing protection of our natural resources, something that Congressman Gibson is unwilling to do.  Vital environmental decisions concerning fracking, clean air and water, wildlife and wilderness protection await this next Congress.  These decisions will affect the quality of our day-to-day lives.  We need a representative who will stand up against polluters, not side with them, and will fight for protection of our natural resources.  Mr. Gibson’s voting record shows that he is not that representative and will not protect the environment.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

What’s the Price


In a January 2007 speech, Senator Kennedy advocated for an increase in the minimum wage, when he asked Republicans: “What is the price that you want from these working men and women?  When does the greed stop?  We ask the other side.”

We’re not going to address the wealth gap unless the minimum wage is increased.  The Senate had a chance to give 28 million Americans a raise, but the minimum wage vote failed 54 to 42, because Republicans insisted on a sixty vote super-majority.

President Obama wonder: “Republicans in Congress have found the time to vote more than 50 times to undermine or repeal the healthcare bill for millions of working families.  Earlier this month they voted for a budget that would give the wealthiest Americans a massive tax cut, while forcing deep cuts to investments that help middle class families, but they won’t raise wages for millions of working families when three quarters of Americans support it?  It makes no sense.”

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

The richest 1 percent owns 34 percent of our country’s wealth, and the top one-hundredth of 1 percent makes an average of $27 million per household per year.  The average income for the bottom 9o percent of Americans is $31,244.

The Economic Policy Institute reports 20 percent of the growth in the wage gap between high school educated and college educated men can be attributed to de-unionization.  Not only did unions protect lower and middle-class workers from unfair wages, they established practices that were then adopted by non-union employers.  Two prime examples are employee pensions and healthcare. 

Actually, 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.  To put that into context, as of 2013 there were an estimated 316,128,839 people living in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Just 400 Americans have more money than over 158 million of their fellow citizens.  Their net worth is over $2 trillion, which is approximate to the Gross Domestic Product of Russia.”

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Eliminating 15,000 Jobs


On January 5, 2015, United States Postal Services is slated to lower service standards again.  Overnight mail could be a thing of the past, because 82 mail processing facilities across 37 states are scheduled to be consolidated.  The Postmaster General estimates this will eliminate up to 15,000 more jobs in 2015.  This comes on top of the 140 mail processing facilities being closed or consolidated in 2012.

Congressional Republicans justify these cuts by reporting, that billions of dollars are being losses by the Post Office.  Actually, this is a manufactured crisis, because in 2006, President Bush signed into law legislation passed by a Republican controlled Congress, that mandated the Postal Service to pre-fund future retiree health care cost, for 75 years in advance over a 10 year period. 

That mandate cost the Postal Service $5.8 billion a year, and no other private or public entity has to deal with that kind of financial burden.  Congress can still act, by seeking a moratorium on those closures.
Vermont’s Independent Senator Bernie Sanders insists: “Deep in their hearts they (Republicans) want to privatize Social Security, privatize Medicare, privatize part of the V.A. and now they are all going after the Postal Service.

“Well first of all, they’re going to impact businesses and citizens all over this country.  It is going to slow mail delivery.  And there are many businesses who depend upon getting quick delivery.

“Second of all, we’re talking about 15,000 workers who are earning a middle class pay check right now.  It’s going to significantly impact those people.”

“I have legislative language backed by 51 Senators, 45 Democrats and 6 Republicans, who are going to try to get an omnibus bill passed which says, do not shutdown these 82 processing plans.

“What we need to do in this country is create millions of decent paying jobs.  We damn well do not need to destroy 15,000 good paying union jobs.”

“There is no other government entity.  There is no other private sector entity that is require to raise 75 years of future retiree health benefit in a 10-year period.

“This $5.8 billion a year is what is killing the Postal Service, without that mandate in the last two years, the Postal Service has earned an operating revenue of about a billion dollars.  All, 100 percent of the losses are attributable to this mandate which we’ve got to alleviate.”

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What Happened?


Many Americans have been wondering, whatever happened to President Obama’s high approval rating that dominated the political stage in 2008, and the first term of his presidency.
Obama’s slump isn’t all that unusual, since every two term president in recent decades has suffered a dip in approval halfway through his second term.
Although, he’s not often seen campaigning alongside Senate Democratic candidates, who are in close races, they are eager to receive the money Obama helped raise to get them elected or reelected.
Former defense secretary and CIA director under Obama, Leon Panetta has fuel the low approval ratings situation in recent interviews to promote his new autobiography.  Panetta told Bill O’Reilly: “Barack Obama does not like that process of engaging in politics, and I think that hurts his presidency.  It hurts him in terms of getting things done.”
Actually, what has hurt this president in terms of getting things done has been the relentless use of the filibuster by Senate Republicans, and obstruction by Speaker Boehner and House Republicans, who won’t even allow the immigration reform legislation passed by the Senate last year to come up for a vote. 
A fair historical accounting of the things that President Obama did get done would include reversing the recession with a stimulus that injected billions into the economy.  Low-wage workers have not benefited as much as upper-income earners, but unemployment and the deficit are down, and the stock market has hit record highs.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act still suffers at the polls, but not enough for congressional Republicans to continue their plans to make “Obamacare” a central theme of their midterm campaigns.
As for social issues, the Obama era has reversed the conservative culture wars, particularly regarding women’s rights, same-sex marriage and reproductive rights.

Friday, October 24, 2014

P. Jay Fleisher


P. Jay Fleisher of Oneonta recently had the following letter to the editor of the Daily Star published.

“The Daily Star reported that the U.S. Geological Survey submitted a report that alludes to potential environmental problems related to fracking.  As a geologist, I see the most basic aspect of fracking to be the depth of the shale to be fracked and its proximity to the surface. 

“Out west, where fracking is done successfully, the Bakken Shale is 10,000 feet beneath the surface.  The targets in New York state are the Marcellus and Utica shales.  Both rise to shallow depths and are at the surface in Otsego County and the Mohawk Valley.  What are the chances of ground water contamination here?

“Consider this.  We know that radon, a naturally occurring gas, is found in ‘hot spots’ where it leaks to the surface locally from depths of 4,000 feet to 5,000 feet along naturally occurring, pre-existing rock fractures.  The same would be true of fracking fluids, no matter how good the methods for containment.  To compound the problem further, maps indicate all the valleys here are underlain by municipal aquifers and are, therefore, at risk.

“It’s simple physics — fluids and gases move toward zones of lower pressure, which in this case is up toward the surface where groundwater contamination is inevitable.  So, what to do?  When oil companies proposed an 800-mile pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska required them to establish a fund to pay for any unforeseen environmental issues that might arise.  I suggest New York State do the same and require the establishment of a similar fund as a prerequisite to drilling. 

“Let those who stand to benefit the most assume the greatest responsibility.  Not in case problems develop, but rather when they occur — and they will.  In geologic terms, the unforeseeable future is right around the corner.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wealth Inequality


After World War II, our country’s economic future began to looked brighter.  Most blue-collar job would enable a worker to buy a home, car, and have a reliable pension.  For some, it meant being the first in their family to go to college, and not graduate with a lot of debt.  

Although, the top 10 percent of Americans took home about one-third of our national income.  However, that inequality took place in a dynamic economy where everyone’s incomes were growing.

By the late ‘70s, technology made it easier for companies to eliminate certain occupations.  A more competitive world allowed companies to ship jobs overseas.  Union workers lost their leverage, jobs paid less and offered fewer benefits.  

Businesses lobbied Congress to weaken unions and decrease the minimum wage.  As a trickle-down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthy, and investments in schools and infrastructure were allowed to shrink.  More families began to relying on two earners as women entered the workforce. 

Since 1979, our productivity is up by more than 90 percent, but the income of the typical family has increased by less than eight percent.  Our economy has more than doubled in size, but now the top 10 percent take half of our national income.  In the past, the average CEO made about 20 to 30 times the income of the average worker, but today the average CEO makes 273 times more.  A family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family.  It’s worse than at any time since 1928 before the Great Depression.

Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair announced: “The past several decades, we’ve seen the most sustained rise in inequality since the 19th century.  After more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression.  By some estimates, income and wealth inequality are near at their highest levels in the past 100 years, much higher than the average during that time span and probably higher than for much of American history before them.”

A recent analysis by the Economic Policy Institute provides solid evidence as to why the minimum wage should be raised.  If the minimum wage was set at $10.10 per hour, more than 1.7 million Americans could stop relaying on public assistance programs in our country.  Thereby, our federal government would be able to save $7.4 billion every year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Food Security


Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor is in a tough race against Tea Party Congressman Tom Cotton.  Pryor has made ending poverty a priority, and tried to keep food on the table of every person in Arkansas, while Senate candidate Tom Cotton has painted them as addicts.

Rep. Cotton announced: “I don’t think we should be using farmers as a way to pack more welfare spending into Barack Obama’s government.  Nor should we have a food stamp program that isn’t reformed.  That doesn’t have job training, and work requirements. That doesn’t have drug testing requirements.”

Actually, 48 million Americans are on food assistance and Rep. Cotton advocates drug testing all of them.  Drug testing would infringe on privacy and unfairly penalize our poor.  Food assistance has been large part of the farm bill since 1973 and had been traditionally bipartisan. 

Except for one year, since 1995 until the present, Tom Cotton family’s farm or his father’s family farm has taken farm subsidies.  Apparently, handouts are okay for those receiving farm subsidies, but it’s not okay to help hungry people unless they agree to drug testing.

We want farmers to work the land.  We want food security and independence for the same reasons, that we want energy independence.  We do not want to have to rely on other countries.  Unfortunately, tax payer dollars are primarily supporting Big agriculture, and not smaller family farms.  

Of the $25 billion that goes into subsidies in the form of crop insurance, 85 percent of that money goes to support Big agriculture farmers, and only 1 percent goes into specialty crops, that we know as fruits and vegetables. 

Food stamp recipient spend food stamp dollars on sodas and chips, because it’s the cheapest food available.  They’d like to purchase a fruits and vegetables, but it’s more expensive.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Boots on the Ground


In September, President Obama announced: “Our objective is clear  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

“We will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq.  As I’ve said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission - we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.”

Back in September an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll found that a majority of Americans wanted U.S. action against ISIL to be limited to air strikes only.

According to a poll conducted this month, 41 percent of Americans now believe both airstrikes and combat troops on the ground are necessary for the missions against ISIL.  The reversal is fueled mostly by groups that make up the GOP base.  There’s been virtually no change among Democrats.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Former Chief of Staff Secretary of State Colin Powell explained: “What we’ve got right now is we’ve got bombing that now is hitting targets that don’t matter much because ISIL has gone into urban areas and into hiding.  They’re smart, they know what to do when we bomb.

“Let’s keep them in those areas.  Let’s cord them off and let’s dare them to come out.  And when they do come out, let’s bomb the heck out of them.  Let’s don’t put troops on the ground and let’s don’t do indiscriminate bombing.” 

Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California is on the House Armed Services Committee.  He warned a month ago to watch out because the slope is being greased, and the drum beat for war out there.  Garamendi has pointed out: “There’s a place for Special Forces we’ve already seen that in Syria and probably some places in Iraq.  The bombing campaign is stabilizing the situation.  The President laid out four specific things to be done.  None of them included boots on the ground.”  

Congressmen Garamendi insists: “We do not want to go back for another decade of war in that area.  We have to have boots on the ground.  Those boots have to come from the neighborhood not from America.”

Garamendi reminds us, that we spent a decade in Iraq and we’ll eventually spend well over a $3 trillion.  We sacrificed more than 3,000 American lives, and thousand of our soldiers came home badly wounded in many different ways. (The official count is 3,528 Americans killed in combat, and 32,021 wounded.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Poll Tax


Before the 24th Amendment outlawed the poll tax in 1964, it was $1.50.  Adjusted for inflation, the tax would be less than $12 today, which makes it significantly cheaper and easier to obtain, than the right documentation to cast a ballot under some new state laws.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman called the Wisconsin law a parade of “practical obstacles,” because collecting the documents, standing on line at state offices that are open only during business hours is a major undertaking even for a high income person with flexible work hours.  It can be prohibitive for others.
There are those calculated choices majority Republicans made in Texas about what kinds of ID to accept and reject.  They’ll accept gun permits and military IDs, but they’ll reject student IDs, state government employee IDs and federal IDs, that are commonly held by African-Americans and Hispanics.
In his opinion on Wisconsin’s voter ID law, Judge Richard Posner, a conservative appointed by Ronald Reagan to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals cited a Harvard Law School report that found the cost of documentation, travel and waiting time to get an ID to be $75 to $175.  That’s 50 to 100 times more than the $1.50 poll tax, you would have had to pay at the polling station prior to voting in 1963.
Judge Posner wrote that since voter-impersonation fraud is virtually non-existent, the only motivation for such requirements is “to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens.”  He used charts to show that of the nine states with the strictest ID requirements, eight laws were passed by all Republican legislatures and seven of the eight also had Republican governors.
The new voter ID laws reveals a flawed political strategy, that will result in a backlash, in the form of higher minority turnout.  Eventually, it will make it much harder to repair relations with African-Americans and Hispanics when the demographic reality sets in and Republicans need their votes.
The Supreme Court has decided to rule on the merits of voter ID laws.  Poll taxes were declared constitutional in 1937, but it wasn’t until 1966, two years after the 24th Amendment banned them in federal elections, that the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in all elections.  Hopefully, we don’t need 29 years to recognize that voter suppression is wrong.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ebola Diagnosis


After a second health care worker in Dallas was diagnosed with Ebola, President Obama brought his team together to discuss ramping up their efforts.  The following excerpt is from his remarks at the end of that meeting.
“As a consequence, what we’ve been doing here today is reviewing exactly what we know about what’s happened in Dallas and how we’re going to make sure that something like this is not repeated and that we are monitoring, supervising, overseeing in a much more aggressive way exactly what has taken place in Dallas initially and making sure that the lessons learned are then transmitted to hospitals and clinics all across the country.
“First of all, what I’ve directed the CDC to do is that as soon as somebody is diagnosed with Ebola, we want a rapid response team, a SWAT team, essentially, from the CDC to be on the ground as quickly as possible -- hopefully within 24 hours -- so that they are taking the local hospital step by step through exactly what needs to be done and making sure that all the protocols are properly observed; that the use of protective equipment is done effectively; that disposal of that protective equipment is done properly.
“The key thing to understand about this disease is that these protocols work.  We know that because they’ve been used for decades now in Ebola cases around the world, including the cases that were treated in Emory and in Nebraska.  So if they’re done properly, they work.  But we have to make sure that, understandably, certain local hospitals that may not have that experience are walked through that process as carefully as possible and we’re going to make sure that this rapid response team can do that.
“In addition, we are reviewing every step of what’s happened since Mr. Duncan was initially brought in to the hospital in Dallas so that we understand exactly where some of the problems may have occurred, and doing a thorough canvass and inventory of all the workers who had contact with Mr. Duncan, including those who engaged in some of the testing that took place.  We are now communicating all these various lessons to hospitals, clinics, first-responders around the country.  And obviously given all the attention that this has received, we’re going to make sure that that provision of information is constant, ongoing, and being updated on a real-time basis.
“In addition, we are working very carefully with the Mayor of Dallas, the Governor of Texas and others to make sure that in the event any other cases arise from these health workers, that they are properly cared for in a way that is consistent with public safety.”

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Wall Street Regulators


Most people would agree that the people paid by our government to regulate Wall Street have had their difficulties.  They would probably also agree on the reasons those difficulties seem only to be growing.
First, a more complex financial system that regulators must have explained to them by the financiers who create it, and secondly the increasingly common practice among regulators of leaving their government jobs for much higher paying jobs at the very banks they were once meant to regulate. 
In early 2012, Carmen Segarra was installed by the Federal Reserve inside Goldman Sachs to regulate it.  From the start the job seemed very different from what she had imagined.  In meetings, Fed employees would defer to the Goldman people; if one of the Goldman people said something revealing, the other Fed employees in the meeting would ignore it.  For instance, in one meeting a Goldman employee expressed the view that “once clients are wealthy enough certain consumer laws don’t apply to them.”  After that meeting, Segarra turned to a fellow Fed regulator and said how surprised she was by that statement to which the regulator replied, “You didn’t hear that.”
In 2012, Goldman Sachs was rebuked by a State of Delaware judge for its behavior during a corporate acquisition.  Goldman provided advise to one energy company, El Paso Corp., as it sold itself to another energy company, Kinder Morgan.  Goldman actually owned a $4 billion stake in Kinder Morgan and a Goldman banker had a big personal investment.  The incident forced the Fed to ask Goldman to see its conflict of interest policy  It turned out that Goldman had no conflict of interest policy, but when Segarra insisted on pointing that out in a report, her bosses tried to get her to change the report.  Under pressure, she finally agreed to change the language in her report, but she couldn’t resist telling her boss that she wouldn’t be changing her mind.  Shortly after that encounter, she was fired.
Many of us suspected that bank regulators were controlled by the banks, but the only reason that we know is that Carmen Segarra was brave enough to fight the system.  She has paid a great price. She has lost her job, undermined her career, and could endure a lifetime of lawsuits.
The Fed is probably telling itself that like the 2008 financial crisis, this, too, will just blow away.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Midterm Elections


Usually, the party of the President in the White House loses congressional seats in the midterm elections.  That was the case for Obama’s first midterms in 2010.  The Republican success in 2010, became a big deal, when Republicans gain a large majority  in the House of Representatives, and John Boehner became the Speaker .

Republicans also took over state government’s across our country.  They picked up six governorships and changed 20 state legislative chambers from blue to red.  In six states, they changed both chambers in the state legislature from blue to red.  Actually, they picked up more legislative seats in the 2010 election than any political party had since the 1920’s.

After Republicans gained control of state governments, they use their power to enact the policies they wanted on economic, agricultural and educational issues.  They also use their power to tilt the playing field for future elections.  They gerrymandered Congressional districts, so there is little chance of the Democratic Party taking back the House of Representatives in the foreseeable future.  For the most part, its become structurally impossible for Democrats to pick up House seats, because state Republicans changed the map of the congressional districts to ensured control the House.  For example, Congressman Gibson’s congressional district was gerrymandered from Republican strongholds in 11 counties.

Another thing Republicans decided to do was to embarked on a nationwide crusade to change voting rules.  Since the Republican takeover, 18 Republican controlled states have changed the rules to make it harder to vote.  Some of those rule changes are still being litigated.  The Supreme Court recently stopped the Republican Wisconsin voter ID law from going into effect. 

The Government Accountability Office is a non-partisan research arm of Congress.  Once Republican started changing voting laws, five senators wrote to the GAO to ask them to study what the effect would be of what those states were doing.

Not surprisingly, it worked as intended.  Voter turnout went down.  Voter turned out dropped most in Kansas and Tennessee, who implemented the strictest voter ID laws during that time period.  Voter turnout was specifically down among young and black voters.  The drop in voter turnout included people who were legally registered to vote, and those without a driver license or passport. 

Cheating Republicans change the rules to make it harder for a specific group of people to vote so their political candidates would have an advantage.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dear White Racists


Dear White Racists
After receiving the following letter, I dumped it in my trash.  Today, I’ve decided to retrieve it and post it on this usually puritanical website.  It was written by Chauncey Devega.
“Dear white racists and your fragile fee-fees:
“Relax, I'm white, too.  Look, I can do the secret handshake and nudge-nudge, wink-wink.  Lemme whitesplain something to you, fellow white men: no one buys your bullshit.
“That's because your bullshit runs like this: For historically- and presently-oppressed black people to be treated decently, they must carefully avoid doing anything that could be remotely twisted into behaving like a white racist, even if you're squinting and looking at it from five hundred meters away in a thick fog.  Because that would be racist, and therefore hypocritical, and if that's the case, they deserve to continue to be oppressed.
“Here's the thing you thick-headed assholes totally fail to get: NO ONE DESERVES TO BE OPPRESSED, PERIOD.  You can talk all you want about how it's okay for black people to be mistreated if--- but get this, there is no ‘if’.  It's not okay, ever.  That's why we call it mistreatment.  Your error is to think that it's ever justified, and your active misdeed is to constantly search for a justification.  Black people, collectively, are not guilty of anything.  In fact, a basic principle of civil society is that we reject the notion of collective guilt.
“Some individual black people, like individual white people, have done bad things, and in those cases, may deserve judicial punishments.  But even those people don't deserve mistreatment from some random white guy on the street.  And black people in general don't owe anyone anything as a prerequisite for being treated decently.  No one does.
“Now I know there are a bunch of you in the back of the room waving your hand and getting ready to launch the argument that it's racist to complain about white privilege.  No, it is not.  Complaining about white privilege is not the same as assigning collective guilt to white people.  White privilege is a pervasive feature of our society and our legal system.  It's hard to see if you're white (and you're not looking or actively trying not to look), but it is real, it is powerfully destructive, and if global warming had the kind of statistical support that evidence of white privilege has, Bill O'Reilly would be haranguing FOX News viewers to install solar panels.
“And here's the subtle point that you folks either can't or won't grasp.  White privilege is especially the responsibility of white people to fix, not because we're all racist schlubs like you are, but because white privilege itself means that we're the ones who have the power to change it.  Black people don't have that power, again because of white privilege, and not because they aren't sufficiently careful in the way they phrase their complaints about being mistreated.  It's our problem and our responsibility as white people to fix not because whites are collectively guilty, but because it is the responsibility of ALL PEOPLE to fight for decent treatment for ALL PEOPLE.  It just happens that, because of our shithead ancestors and a helping handful of historical accident, we white people are the ones who can do something about it.  When the finger on the trigger is white, it's pointless to ask a black guy to lower the gun.
“And quite frankly, given all the shit that our black fellow citizens have put up with, and all the shit they have to deal with every fucking day.  If some of them lose their tempers and say things that aren't carefully calibrated to kiss your privileged, hypersensitive asses, well, is that actually surprising?  You lose your minds when black people just complain verbally about being kicked.  Imagine how tough it would be for you to keep your cool if someone was actually doing something to you instead of just talking.
“Finally, yes, I know this is pointless.  You want to be offended to fluff your fragile egos, and you want black people to please shut the fuck up and stop harshing your mellow.  I hate to break it to you, but as long as people are being murdered by the state, given draconian sentences for crimes that in many cases they haven't even committed, and being held in poverty and privation and a constant state of fear, those of us who actually give a shit about our fellow citizens are going, at the very least, to make some noise about it.
“In the meantime, if you can't be bothered to do your duty as an American to protect your fellow Americans with the considerable power at your disposal, at least shut the fuck up and stop making an ass of yourself.
“Regards, Your fellow privileged white guy”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wind Power


At his Kansas ranch Pete Ferrell pointed out: “Wind is my most drought-resilient crop.  The wind blows even during a drought, even when I can’t have livestock on the ranch.  I don’t know of a single land owner that has a wind farm that isn’t grateful for it.  I know that there’s been thousands of jobs created that would not have been there, otherwise.

“I’ve heard as high as 60,000 homes being serviced by this wind farm, basically because of the quality of the wind.  It tends to blow here all the time.  We put power in the grid every day, since this project was built.  If you’ll notice over there, those trees are actually leaning.  They’ve never had a windless day in their lives.  The grass and the wind are inexhaustible and if treated properly, we can be doing this centuries from now.”

Wind energy supports an estimated 50,000 jobs across America and is presently the fastest growing source of power in the United States.  Our country has about 15,000 wind turbines.  GE started manufacturing wind turbines in 2002, and now makes 40 percent of all wind turbines.

The LM Wind Power plant in Grand Forks, North Dakota employs 630 workers and runs seven days a week.  It’s expects to produce 1800 wind turbin blades this year.

Just 255 miles away, from Grand Forks is the new Oak Tree Energy Farm.  Since blades are 50 meters long, a drive that normally takes four hours takes almost twice as long, down the freeway through small towns until finally reaching the farm.

The Oak Tree family farm is branching out into wind.  It’d been farming wheat, corn and soybeans, and thought they’d try wind farming.  When their 11 turbines are running, the wind farm is expected to power 5,000 homes. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Solar Replacing Carbon


 By examining the ice core records in Antarctica, scientist discovered that 800,000 years ago the level of carbon in the atmosphere, for the most part stayed under 300 parts per million.  Since humans appeared on the planet, about 200,000 years ago, carbon levels continued at about 300 parts per million until level of carbon suddenly began going up, after we began harnessing fossil fuels during the industrial revolution.

According to readings from Maura Loa Observatory in Hawaii levels of the carbon in the atmosphere has reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million.

Last month, the International Energy Agency reported that solar could be the number one source of energy across the entire world by 2050.  That’s partly because the price of solar electricity keeps dropping at an astonishing rate and the installation of solar, keeps growing.

In nearly 80 different countries around the globe, solar is as affordable as electricity from the grid.  That’s also happening in at least ten of our states.

In Hawaii, residential solar is so cheap that Barkleys Bank warned that traditional utilities are looking like a bad investment saying there are near term risk to credit from regulators and utilities falling behind the solar adoption curve.

In California, solar is growing at an unparalleled rate, because it installed more rooftop solar last year than in the last 30 years combined.

Georgia is home to one of the biggest solar farms east of the Mississippi, the 150-acre Simon Solar Farm near the town of Social Circle. 

The cost of solar has dropped 80 percent in the last five years.  That is similar to the price drops of flat panel TVs and cell phones.  In the last decade, cell phones have become so cheap that some telecom companies are dismantling their land lines.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Integrity of Supervision


Carmen Segarra’s lawyer disclosed the fact that she had made a series of audio recordings while at the New York Fed, because she was concerned about what she was witnessing, and wanted a record in case events were disputed.  She purchased a tiny recorder and began recording what was taking place.
Ultimately, Segarra recorded about 46 hours of conversations with her colleagues.  Many of those conversations document key moments leading to her firing.  Those recordings confirmed some of the same cultural obstacles, that professor David Beim had outlined in his report.  They portray a New York Fed as reluctant to push against Goldman Sacks and struggling to define its authority while integrating Segarra and the new corps of expert examiners.
Segarra became a polarizing personality inside the New York Fed, and a problem for her bosses in part because she was too outspoken and direct about the issues she saw at both Goldman and within the Fed.  Some colleagues found her abrasive and complained about her unwillingness to conform, which set her on a collision course with higher-ups at the New York Fed and, ultimately, led to her firing.
In a tense, 40-minute meeting recorded the week before she was fired, Segarra’s boss repeatedly tries to persuade her to change her conclusion that Goldman was missing a policy to handle conflicts of interest.  Segarra offered to review her evidence with higher-ups and told her boss she would accept being overruled once her findings were submitted.  It wasn’t enough.
Near the end of the grueling session, her boss Michael Siva asked: “Why do you have to say there’s no policy?”  Segarra responded: “Professionally, I cannot agree.”
The New York Fed disputes Segarra’s claim that she was fired in retaliation.
In a two page statement responding to an extensive list of questions from ProPublica and This American Life, the Fed claimed: “The decision to terminate Ms. Segarra’s employment with the New York Fed was based entirely on performance grounds, not because she raised concerns as a member of any examination team about any institution.” 
That statement defends the bank’s record as regulator, saying it has taken steps to incorporate Beim’s recommendations and “provides multiple venues and layers of recourse to help ensure that its employees freely express their views and concerns.”  The statement concluded, that it: “categorically rejects the allegations being made about the integrity of its supervision of financial institutions.”

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Highlighting The Problem


Barely a year after the devastation of the 2008 financial crisis, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank faced a crossroads.  Congress had set its sights on reform, and wanted more safeguards.  The largest banks in the nation had shown that their failure could threaten the entire financial system.
The Federal Reserve, by way of its location off Wall Street, the New York Fed, was the logical choice to head that effort, even though it had failed miserably in preventing the meltdown.
New York Fed President William Dudley had to answer two questions quickly: Why had his institution blown it, and how could it do better?   Therefore, he called in an outsider, Columbia University finance professor David Beim, and granted him unlimited access to investigate.  In exchange, the results would remain secret.
After interviews with dozens of New York Fed employees Beim learned the most daunting obstacle the New York Fed faced in overseeing the nation’s biggest financial institutions was its own culture.  The New York Fed had become too deferential to the banks it supervised.  Its examiners feared contradicting bosses, who sometimes forced their findings into an institutional consensus that watered down much of what they did.
The report not only highlighted problems, but Beim suggested a path forward.  He urged the New York Fed to hire expert examiners who were unafraid to speak up and then encourage them to do so.  He insisted, that it was essential to prevent another crisis.
A year later, Congress gave the Federal Reserve even more oversight authority.  And the New York Fed started hiring specialized examiners to station inside the too big to fail institutions, those that posed the most risk to the financial system.
Carmen Segarra was one of the expert examiners selected.  She appeared to be exactly what Beim wanted.  Passionate and direct, schooled in the Ivy League and at the Sorbonne.  She was a lawyer with more than 13 years of experience in compliance, and  specialized in helping banks conform to rules and regulations.  The New York Fed placed her inside one of the largest and most controversial banks in the country, Goldman Sachs.  She was fired after only seven months.
Last year, Segarra sued the New York Federal Reserve Bank claiming she was retaliated against for refusing to back down from a negative finding about Goldman Sachs.  The judge threw out the case without ruling on its merits.
Tomorrow, I’ll post more information concerning Carmen Segarra’s controversy with the New York Fed.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Struggle Continues


Regardless of the results of the next election, we must continue to promote clean, safe, affordable energy in order to slow climate change.
The Environmental Protection Agency will need to strengthen its proposed rule to limit carbon emissions, because the leading contributor to global warming is from our nation’s coal plants.
Contrary to alarmist claims by the dirty energy industry, limiting carbon pollution will benefit consumers and the economy.  It should eliminate manipulation of electricity markets by utility companies and Wall Street firms using deceptive tactics that drive up consumer prices.
Promoting clean, safe and affordable energy won’t be easy because dirty energy interests have continue to use their power and wealth to gain undue political influence through campaign contributions, and lobbying.
After the election, implementation of the landmark Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law must continue.  It’s important that, we stand in the way of attempts to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Some Wall Street Banks are larger and much more powerful now, than they were before their greed set off the Great Recession.  The notion that they were “too big to fail,” seems to have progressed to “too big to jail.”
Congressional Democrats should continue to promote a financial transaction tax as a check on Wall Street’s risky trading schemes.  They must promote legislation to limit corporate tax deductions that incentivize deceitful executive compensation.
Democrats need to continue working to close corporate tax loopholes and prevent corporate “inversions.”  Inversions are one of the many devious tax avoidance tricks used by corporations that allow them to take advantage of taxpayer-funded benefits, without paying their fair share of the cost.
Corporations can acquire smaller companies abroad resulting in them doing “paper reincorporations” and creating a new company in a tax-haven country to escape paying taxes in our country.  Billions of corporate tax revenue are lost as companies race to reincorporate in the country with the smallest tax rate.
The same group of CEO’s who are responsible for these tax-avoidance schemes use a lack of U.S. tax revenue as an excuse to lobby for cutting consumer protections, and dismissing job-creating proposals like infrastructure investment.
Passing the Stop Corporate Inversions Act (S. 2360, H.R. 4679) would ensure that companies that desert our country, and reincorporate in another country will more easily be classified as "inverted" and still be treated as a domestic company for tax purposes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Rate of Poverty


In 2008, Congress voted $700 billion to bail Wall Street Banks out, and the Federal Reserve also provided $16 trillion in very low interest revolving loan funds.

Today, the middle class is collapsing, hundreds of thousands of young people can’t afford to go to college, millions are coming out of college deeply in debt, and our country has the highest rate of children in poverty of any major country on earth.

If Congress would respond to those crises, we’d have a better educated workforce, we’d be more competitive internationally, and creating more jobs.  We need a grassroots movement to come together, and tell congressional Republicans to start paying attention to working families, who want a better future for their children.

In fact, 30 years ago, America spearhead the world in the percentage of college graduates.  Now, we’re in 12th place in terms of percentage of our children who graduated from college, because they’re dropping out of college, or can’t afford to go to college.

Consequently, it makes sense to significantly lower interest rates for student loans, and small businesses.  And, since the Fed Reserve was able to charge every major financial institution, corporations and banks all over the world, almost nothing for loans, why can’t they do the same for young people with student loans and small businesses in our country?  Why can’t we invest $1 trillion to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure to put 13 million people back to work?

Making college more affordable by significantly lowering the college interest rates is just one of several remedies.  Although, a majority of American support this idea, voters can’t seem to get congressional Republicans to listen.

The reason they won’t listen is obvious.  When the rich and powerful on Wall Street talk, Republicans listens because they want campaign contributions. 

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Stronger Economy


The following is an excerpt from recent remarks made by President Obama.
“Last month, our businesses added 236,000 new jobs.  The unemployment rate fell to under six percent for the first time in more than six years.  Over the past 55 months, our businesses have added 10.3 million new jobs.  That’s the longest uninterrupted stretch of private sector job creation in our history.  And we’re on pace to make 2014 the strongest year of job growth since the 1990s.
“This progress has been hard, but it has been steady, and it is real.  It is a direct result of the American people’s drive and determination, and decisions made by my administration.
“During the last decade, people thought the decline in American manufacturing was inevitable.  But we chose to invest in American auto industry and American workers. And today, an auto industry that was flatlining six years ago is building and selling new cars at the fastest pace in eight years.  American manufacturing is growing almost twice as fast as the rest of the economy, with new factories opening their doors at the fastest pace in decades.  That’s progress we can be proud of.
“What’s also true is that too many families still work too many hours with too little to show for it.  And the much longer and profound erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes isn’t something we’re going to reverse overnight.  But there are ideas we should be putting into place that would grow jobs and wages faster right now.  And one of the best would be to raise the minimum wage.
“We’ve actually begun to see some modest wage growth in recent months.  But most folks still haven’t seen a raise in over a decade.  It’s time to stop punishing some of the hardest-working Americans.  It’s time to raise the minimum wage.  It would put more money in workers’ pockets.  It would help 28 million Americans.  Recent surveys show that a majority of small business owners support a gradual increase to ten dollars and ten cents an hour.  The folks who keep blocking a minimum wage increase are running out of excuses.  Let’s give America a raise. 
“Let’s do this – because it would make our economy stronger, and make sure that growth is shared.  Rather than just reading about our recovery in a headline, more people will feel it in their own lives.  And that’s when America does best.  We do better when the middle class does better, and when more Americans have their way to climb into the middle class.” 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Bailout Proposal


Between September 26 and October of 2008, the Dow lost 2,700 points.  The market had dropped 24 percent in 14 days.  The country was in a panic, and confidence in our financial system was at an all time low.  In September of 2008, 159,000 jobs were lost.

Overseas markets tumbled after one of the world’s largest investment firms, Lehman Brothers announced that it was filling for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Investors worried about the ripple effect of the Lehman bankruptcy.

Criminal activity by Wall Street charlatans, and a lack of government oversight resulted in the 2008 collapse, and Americans experienced tough times.

On October 3, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, and our government bailed out the financial system.  That bailout provided $700 billion of our taxpayer money to Wall Street banks, and much more was spent in the following months.  Thankfully, it worked.

Unfortunately, middle class Americans aren’t feeling the recovery.  The medium household income is down from the beginning of the recession.  In 2007, it was $56,000, but in 2013, it was $51,000.  The medium incomes in households have gone down, but the incomes of the people, that we helped out on Wall Street have seen their incomes go up.

Student loan debt in the United States is currently sitting at $1.2 trillion.  Seven in 10 college students who graduate have a debt on average of $29,000.

How about a bailout of student loan debt across America?  In 2008, our government had no problem throwing over $700 billion of taxpayer money at Wall Street.  How about giving middle class youth with student loan debt a fresh start by throwing $700 billion at them.

If we do the same thing with student loan debt, young college graduates will have a better start in life.  They’ll stimulate the economy by purchasing homes and cars.

Germany abolished all tuition fees, for students.  In Germany a college education is free.  Education is no longer a privilege for the wealthy, but a right for everyone.

Of the 2.2 million students in the French higher education system, 80 percent attend the country’s public universities, which are funded by the national government and well distributed across the nation.  These universities include some of France’s oldest and most prestigious institutions, and offer academic, technical and professional degree programs in all disciplines and at all levels.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Overcoming Obstacles


Historian Heather Cox Richardson documents the Republican Party’s evolution, and examines what it can tell us about the GOP of tomorrow.  Can today’s party leaders revive the values of Teddy Roosevelt?  Or will they cling to a dogma of regressive taxes, weak government, and social exclusion?

The voters in the state of Wisconsin could help determine the future of the Republican Party.  Should Republican Governor Scott Walker be re-elected chances are that the national party will consider his approach to be a winning strategy.

At the start of his first term, Gov. Walker promised to create 250,000 new jobs, but that didn’t happen.  Instead, the state of Wisconsin ranks at number 33 in the country for job growth.

In order to get reelected Walker enacted a new voter I.D. requirements.  The new law was passed by Republican legislators, and signed by Governor Walker.

Attorneys for the ACLU have filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court asking it to block Wisconsin from enforcing its new voter I.D. Law.  The law requires nearly all voters in the state to have a driver’s license or a U.S. passport with a current photo.  Tens of thousands of elderly and low income voters in the state who don’t drive or travel abroad are expected to obtain the required IDs with less than five weeks before the election.

Student I.D,’s at the University of Wisconsin don’t count under the new voter I.D. law.  Students have to bring separate verification that they’re enrolled as a student.

Wisconsin Republicans are trying to steal another election.  However, in 2012, voters in Ohio and Florida waited in line well into the night to vote.  They were determined to overcome the efforts of the Republican governors and legislators of those states to discourage and prevent them from voting.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Don’t Forget


Republican politicians have been lying about a government takeover of our healthcare system.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, also known as ObamaCare has 10.3 million formerly uninsured Americans enrolled and receiving coverage since October 1st of 2013.  Plus, there has been a 25 percent increase in the total number of insurers selling health insurance in the marketplace. 

Republicans propagandist claimed the healthcare law was going to be huge government takeover.   However, in the past year the Unitedhealth Group saw their stock go up 16 percent.  Humana’s stock increased 34 percent.  Aetna experienced a 22 percent increase.  Cigna had a 13 percent increase.  And, Wellpoint witnessed a 37 percent increase in its stock. 

Per capita the growth of healthcare had dropped from 2010 to 2013.  Today, healthcare costs have grown at an annual rate of 1.1 percent, which is the slowest rate for any three year period on record.

This year, hospitals are projected to save $5.7 billion in uncompensated healthcare cost.  Hospitals are no longer picking up the tab for many freeloaders who could have afforded healthcare, but took advantage of free emergency rooms.  Approximately, 74 percent of those savings are coming from states that expanded Medicaid.  Unfortunately, in 23 states Republican governors haven’t expanded Medicaid.  If those governors had gotten on board, the hospitals in those states would’ve saved billions of dollars.

The next ObamaCare enrollment opportunity begins November 15th, however Republicans would prefer that voters forget the success of ObamaCare.  They also don’t want voters to recall the government shutdown that cost our economy $24 billion, because last year, the American people pinned the blame for that debacle solely on congressional Republican.

Fortunately, 8.2 million senior citizens saved over $11.5 billion on healthcare, and those savings have gone back into our economy.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Smart Snacks


Marcia Kozubek is a research assistant at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown.  The informative letter she submitted the to the editor of The Oneonta Daily was recently published.

“Kids will find healthier snacks in vending machines and the a la carte food lines this year, as school districts nationwide adopt strategies to meet new federal school food guidelines.  Peanuts, light popcorn, fruit cups, granola bars and no-calorie flavored water may be some of the new offerings.  They may replace sugary chocolate sandwich cookies, fruit flavored candy, salty chips and colas.

“That’s right.  The federal government has been talking about the elephant in the room ... childhood obesity.  And if you have ever tried to move an elephant, you know it takes plenty of push.  Perhaps the biggest push came from Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who helped formulate the 2002 Farm Bill that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to millions of elementary school children.  To follow up, he sponsored the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, designed to promote nutrition and physical activity while reducing obesity.

“Snacks are important to give kids a quick energy boost.  Now they can select options that do not contain empty calories.  Schools have been asked to discourage snacks with high fat, sugar and salt content.

“The new ‘Smart Snacks in School’ standards only affect foods sold on school property during the school day.  Foods sold at after-school sporting events will not be ruled by the new standards.

“The changes will take effect in this school year and districts will have an entire year to make the changes.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers tool kits for schools, training and technical assistance to assist school districts in meeting new requirements.

“For more information on smart snacks in schools, visit www.usda.gov/healthierschoolday.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Crossroads


Our society stands at a crossroads.  Billionaire tycoons and corporate empires, who have already accumulated amazing fortunes are seeking even greater power.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told “The New Republic,” that she would like to overrule several of the current Court's decisions, and topping the list is Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed corporations and unions to give and spend unlimited sums of money on independent political activity.  She emphasized: “I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.”
Before election day voters be will exposed to misleading and deceitful ads purchased by the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other dark money outlets.
So far 16 states have called for an amendment to our Constitution to overturn Citizens United.  On election day, Democrats must begin building the momentum for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, by winning greater support in the Senate and in the state legislatures.
The Corporate Reform Coalition has pledged to continue to build on an unprecedented one million comments submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission urging the agency to issue a rule requiring corporations to disclose their political spending.

There will be a record amount of spending on this midterm election, but the Corporate Reform Coalition will continue to be a voice for public financing of elections so that the candidates with the best ideas can compete against the candidates with the richest funders.

Everyone needs to remain a vigilant monitor of corruption by corporate lobbyists and ethics transgressions by government officials.  Congress needs to begin by making sure that the IRS rules about political activity by nonprofit organizations are crystal clear.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Eric Holder’s Tenure


Throughout Eric Holder’s tenure as a Attorney General, he made Republicans angry.  For the first time in history House Republicans held a cabinate officer in contempt of Congress. 

The contempt vote against Holder was 255 to 67, because the vast majority of the Democratic members of the House simply walked out in a giant group in protest and refuse to have any part in the spectacle.

The history of our nation’s first black Attorney General will go down in history as one of the more consequential attorneys general of the modern era.  He rebuild the Department of Justice that was a dysfunctional mess when he took over.

In 2012, he called the incredibly restrictive Texas voter ID law a poll tax, and successfully sued Texas and South Carolina to stop their discriminatory voter ID laws.  Then, he successfully sued Florida to stop them from getting rid of their early voting, and after the conservative majority on the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act, he sued Texas and North Carolina.  He had the Justice Department join lawsuits against Ohio and Wisconsin to put the Justice Department squarely on the side of voting rights as it became mainstream Republican politics to attack voting rights.

Holder rolled back the sentencing disparities and the sentencing hysteria that turned our nation’s war on drugs into the largest prison population on earth.  He allowed two states to legalized marijuana even though it’s illegal according to federal law.

He refused to defend the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, thereby putting the Justice Department on the side of equal marriage for the first time ever.

Holder insisted the FBI to start taping their interrogations for the first time ever in the history, and initiated unprecedented federal investigation and oversight of local police departments with discriminatory policing.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Filibuster Rules


It’s true that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn’t been able to pass significant legislation very often.  He was able get a Senate immigration reform bill passed, but for over a year House Republicans haven’t allow it to come up for a vote, or produced alternative legislation.  Republicans have embarked on an unprecedented obstruction campaign against President Obama’s agenda.

There has been more filibusters during Obama’s administration than in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s combined.  In the 230 plus year history of our country, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations.  Half of them have occurred during the Obama administration. 

Our Constitution provides for five specific instances where a Senate supermajority is required.  A two- thirds majority vote is required to impeach a president, to ratify a treaty, to expel a senator, to overcome a veto, and to amend the Constitution.

The word ‘‘filibuster” didn’t exist in the Constitution.  The term was introduced by Vice President Aaron Burr, who changed the Senate rules to allow endless debate.

In 1975, the Senate rules were changed to make it easier  for senators to simply announce their intention to filibuster rather than actually delivering a speaking filibuster.  Thus, the procedural filibuster was born.

The filibuster has become a routine 60-vote hurdle that allows a minority with 41 votes to frustrate any effort of the majority party.

Republicans decided on day one they weren’t going to negotiate on anything.  They decide to make it Obama’s economy, so they wouldn’t have their fingerprints on it.  

Voters tend to blame the majority, for outcomes that are determined by minority obstruction.  Without the filibuster, Americans would have had more stimulus, and a different health care bill.

Obama will continue to use executive orders.  He’s made sure more women got the protections they needed for fair pay in the workplace.  He took action to give millions of Americans the chance to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their incomes.  Obama acted to make sure companies that receive federal contracts, pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour, because if your working full time in America, you shouldn’t be trying to support a family in poverty.

Executive orders are part of every president’s job, and President Obama has issued the fewest number of executive orders in recent history.  Ronald Reagan used 380 executive orders, while Obama has used less than 185.