Mind and Destiny

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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Jerry Kabat

Jerry Kabat’s letter in the Oneonta Star criticized James R. Koury’s earlier letter that noted: “It is quite unfortunate that our country is now being governed by those who wish to institutionalize even further their religious bias and impose their faith-based tales on a secular society.  Claims by those who hold their bibles close to their hearts and claim America has been and still is a Christian nation need to go back to history class.  They will certainly discover that many of our founding fathers frowned upon such religious zealotry and encouraged a complete separation of religion and state affairs.”

Kabat asserts: “Our faith calls us to discriminate or discern between right and wrong.  And we clearly see supporting homosexuality as wrong whether in our personal world or our business lives... Koury thinks our religious beliefs are not important.  Only the very reason for our existence!  Rejecting sin is not a choice.  Our country was founded by Christians who very much included their beliefs in government and society... He wants to rewrite history.” 

Actually, history has been rewritten.  Those founding fathers had approved of a Constitution that allowed only white, male, literate, land owners to vote.  To claim that our Constitution was a divinely inspired document is obviously inaccurate.

Kabat is entitled to his religious believes.  However, by insisting that his allegedly infallible religious view, that homosexuality is wrong and shouldn’t be questioned, could result in a theocracy.  Do we really want a Christian form of government, that is not unlike the Taliban?

Versions of golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” is shared by 21 world religions.  This rule is also referred to as the ethic of reciprocity and is arguably the most essential basis for the modern concept of human rights.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Shifting Demographics

On 2/25/15, at an MSNBC/Telemundo town hall hosted by José Díaz-Balart at Florida International University, President Obama took questions in English and Spanish regarding his immigration policy.  He pledged to overhaul the immigration system and promised to veto any legislation, that stood in his way.  
He insisted: “In the short term, if Mr. McConnell, the leader of the Senate, and the speaker of the House, John Boehner, want to have a vote on whether what I’m doing is legal or not, they can have that vote.  I will veto that vote, because I am absolutely confident that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.” 
Obama predicted as a result of the nation’s rapidly shifting demographics the Latino vote could potentially double by 2030, which would compel congressional Republicans to eventually to pass comprehensive reform that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants. 
He added: “Over, the long term, this is going to get solved because at some point there’s going to be a President Rodriguez or there’s going to be a President Chen.  The country is a nation of immigrants, and ultimately it will reflect who we are and its politics are going to reflect who we are.”
Obama’s immigration agenda is currently under pressure from the legislative and judicial branches alike.  Republican governors are suing to block executive action by Obama that would protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, and a federal judge in Texas halted the new program this month just as it was about to go into effect.
In Congress, Republicans are demanding Obama sign legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security that would also block the White House’s action and dismantle a 2012 program designed to protect young undocumented immigrants, commonly referred to as DREAMers.
Just prior to the town hall interview, the Senate passed a bipartisan bill 98-2 that would separate the immigration measure from the funding bill, and prevent a shutdown of DHS.

Obama argued: “Instead of trying to hold hostage funds for the Department of Homeland Security, which is so important for our national security, fund it, let’s get on with actually passing comprehensive immigration reform.”
Regarding, the judicial case in Texas, Obama announced: “We’re going to be as aggressive as we can because not only do we know that the law is on our side, but history is also on our side.”   

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Questions to Consider

Since 2013, 17 states have joined companies like The Gap and now Walmart to raise their minimum wage, so that employees, who are working full-time will be better able to support their families, without public assistance.  Many states are removing unnecessary licensing requirements so more workers can start filling those jobs that they already have the skills for.  California is leading the way by providing paid leave so that a parent can take a day off to care for a sick child or an aging parent without having to give up a paycheck.   
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 10 million Americans now have the peace of mind that comes with being covered.  Democratic and Republican Governors in 28 states have expanded Medicaid to millions of people over the past two years.  Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich has admitted: “It saves lives.  No question about it.” 
Can’t we agree that it’s a good thing when a family doesn’t lose a home just because a member of that family gets sick?  Can’t we agree that it’s a good thing when businesses have roads and bridges and ports and the kind of Internet connections that allow all every state to thrive.  Can’t we agree that when workers and management come together around helping families get ahead, that’s a good thing.  Can’t we agree, that it’s a good thing when workers and businesses can compete on a level playing field, with new agreements for fair and free trade in some of the world’s fastest-growing markets? 
Those issues will be part of President Obama’s agenda over the next two years.  And, he has promised to continue to urge Congress to move beyond those manufactured crises and self-inflicted wounds that our legislative branch of government has occasionally  become bogged down in over the last five years. 
For example, unless House Republicans acts immediately, more than 100,000 Department of Homeland Security employees, Border Patrol, port inspectors, TSA agents, will show up to work on March 1st. and not get paid.  Those federal employees are in every state, and if they don’t receive a paycheck, they’re not going to be able to spend that money.  It’ll have a direct impact on local economies, and it’ll have a direct impact on our national security, because those employees work every day to keep us safe.   Should we be playing politics with our national security?   

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Private Sector Jobs

The income gap keeps growing.  Middle-class household’s income grew by less than 20 percent from 1967 to 2012 grew, while the top 5 percent saw their incomes grow by 88 percent.  In 2012, the top 20 percent took home more than half of all incomes.

President Obama noted: “Over the past five years, we’ve seen the longest stretch of private-sector job creation in American history.  Businesses added nearly 12 million new jobs.  And is perhaps the single most hopeful sign for middle-class families in a very long time, wages are beginning to rise again.  So America is coming back.”

Recently, Walmart announced that it will raise their employees minimum wage to $9 an hour.   

However, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders points out: "The Walton family which owns Walmart is the wealthiest family in America and it is absurd that thousands of their low-wage workers are forced to use programs like food stamps.  Walmart should not be paying starvation wages, while this is a step forward and a response to grassroots activism across the country, this is nowhere near enough."

Last year, Walmart reported $16.4 billion in profits.  They can do better, than $9 an hour, because that wage increase comes out to be about $18,700 a year.  The poverty line for a family of three is at $19,790 a year.

Walmart executives consider their minimum wage increase an opportunity to improve their public image or just a cost of doing business.

In fact, public pressure forced them pay their employees more.  The public knows, that Walmart can afford to pay their workers a lot more than $9 an hour.  Walmart’s increase in their minimum wage is an admission of guilt, because their executives knew all along, that they could do better.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

One America

The motto on the great seal of the United States is: "E Pluribus Unum", which translates from Latin as: "diversity with unity"; or "out of many, one."  Our nation has always been one of religious diversity.  The present animosity and division will continue until religious extremist comprehend that strict separation of church and state is essential to healing any divided country.
Over a decade ago, President Obama gave a speech in Boston in which he said, that there wasn’t a liberal America or a conservative America; a black America or a white America, but a United States of America.
In the State of the Union, he explained: “I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs; because I made Illinois my home -- a state of small towns, rich farmland, one of the world’s great cities; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.
“Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision.  How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever.  It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws -- of which there are many -- but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, naïve, that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
“I know how tempting such cynicism may be.  But I still think the cynics are wrong.  I still believe that we are one people.  I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long.”
An example of our values is that we respect human dignity.  It’s the reason, that we speak out against the anti-Semitism.  It’s also the reason, that we should reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims, the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.
Tolerant Americans have defended free speech, condemned the persecution of women, religious minorities, and persons, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Those Americans, who stand for those values do so not only, because they believe its the right thing to do, but because ultimately it will make us all safer.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rudy Giuliani

“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
In an attempt to save us from President Obama, who has already been in office for six years, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said: “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America.  He doesn’t love you.  And he doesn’t love me.  He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” 
Giuliani insisted that his remark weren't racist because Obama:"was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people.  This isn’t racism.  This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism."
Senior Editor at the New Republic Jamil Smith wrote: “The irony, of course, is that Obama’s childhood and family background perfectly fit the conservative fantasy that Giuliani promotes.  Obama was the child of an immigrant and a woman from the heartland, raised partly by a grandfather who helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp while serving our country and a Rosie-the-Riveter grandmother who worked on the Boeing assembly line during World War II.  By any Norman Rockwell-ish estimation, that’s about as American as you get.
“But if we simply dismiss Giuliani's latest remarks as a joke and then move on, we'll miss an opportunity ourselves.  His words were ‘un-American’ in the sense that they were an ad hominem attack on a sitting president.  In another sense, though, they were quintessentially American.  Our country’s history is full of agents like Giuliani who provoke racial strife and spew stereotypes that benefit the privileged class.  Obama wasn’t raised with the same kind of ‘love of country’ that Giuliani was because the president grew up as a member of a group whose social mandate from birth, for survival’s sake, is to engineer change in a society—to correct the very systemic disadvantage that Giuliani is desperate to save.”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Demonizing American Muslims

Former Republican Congresswoman, Michele Backman said: “What we need to do is defeat Islamic jihad.  Sadly, our President has a wrong prescription.  He even fails to acknowledge their motivations for bringing about jihad.  Yes, Mr. President, it is about Islam.”

President Obama met privately with 15 American Muslim leaders to discussed anti-Muslim discrimination, and ways to counter violent extremism.  At that meeting Obama noted: “As people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion, any religion for their own nihilistic ends.”

One of the American Muslim at that meeting was Dean Obeidallah, a columnist for the Daily Beast.  He explained that the meeting came about after six years of pushing by Muslim-American organizations.  The meeting also included minority communities representatives not just Muslim advocates.  The Muslim-American Civil Rights organization had spearheaded the push for a meeting, because they felt alienated and marginalized after comments by some people on the political right.

According to Obeidallah, President Obama brought every person that attended the meeting into the conversation.  He wanted to hear from various members of the community, from business leaders, the media, and people who were involved in the Muslim-American organizations.

In his column, Obeidallah had talked about the need for Democrats to speak out against hateful remarks directed at the Muslim community, and at the meeting he asked President Obama to urge Democrats to push back against some of the Republican anti- Muslim bigotry.

If an elected Republican official made an anti-Semitic, homophobic or racist remark, prominent Democrats would condemn those remarks.  Therefore, Mr. Obeidallah finds it very troubling, that when Republicans make anti-Muslim comments there is silence.

Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal has repeatedly claim that there’s Muslim no go zones of Europe.  Actually, even Fox News has reported four times, that there are no such zones and it’s not true.  Jindal has also insisted Muslim-Americans are attempting to impost Sharia law in America.  Obeidallah considers those remark irresponsible, because Jindal demonized the entire Muslim community, which could lead to more violence.   An Islamic Center in Mississippi was burned down, and hate crimes have increased against Muslim- Americans.  

If you’re going to hate someone for their religion, you’re going to hate them for their race, and you’re going to hate them for their sexual orientation.  Hopefully, President Obama will inspire Democratic leadership to stand up.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Dumbing of America

A recent poll shows that 54 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy.
Over the past five years, our businesses have created more than 11 million new jobs.  Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.  Our unemployment rate is lower, than it was before the 2008 financial crisis.  More of our children are graduating than ever before.  Last year, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.  The health care inflation rate is at its lowest in 50 years.
We’re as free from the grip of foreign oil as we have been in almost 30 years, and have reduced our dependence on foreign oil, while protecting our planet.  America is now number one in oil and gas production, and we’re also number one in wind power.  Every three weeks, we are bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.  Lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, means that the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump.
Our schools have prepared our children for a more competitive world.  Today, our younger students have earned the highest math and reading scores on record.  Our high school graduation rate has hit an all-time high, and more Americans have finish college than ever before.
The Dow Jones average has been above 18,000.  By comparison on the day President Obama was sworn into office, the Dow closed at 7,949.  We’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, and the stock market doubling is great news, because many Americans have 401Ks.
This remarkable record was accomplished in spite of Republican obstruction, which started on the night Obama was inaugurated, and continues to this day. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Discriminatory Tactics

If the Ferguson, Missouri police department doesn’t agree to make changes on its own, the Justice Department is preparing to bring a lawsuit against that police department over a pattern of racially discriminatory tactics used by officers.
Attorney General Eric Holder expects to announce the results of the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown and a broader probe of the Ferguson Police Department before he leaves office.   
Brown's shooting death by Officer Darren Wilson has thrust Ferguson into the center of a nationwide debate over race relations.  The Justice Department is expected to announce it won't charge Wilson for the shooting, but it will outline findings that allege a pattern of discriminatory tactics used by the Ferguson police.  If they don't agree to review and revise those tactics the Justice Department would sue to force changes in the department.
Among the issues expected to be part of the Justice Department's lawsuit are allegations made in a recent lawsuit filed by a group of low-income people who claimed officers in Ferguson and a suburb targeted minorities with minor traffic infractions and then jailed them when they couldn't pay fines.  
The Justice Department action would ask for court supervision of changes at the Ferguson Police Department to improve how police deal with the minority communities they’re supposed to protect. 
During an appearance at the National Press Club, Attorney General Holder revealed plans to announce the outcome of the dual investigations.  
He note: “I think everybody will see when we announce our results that the process that we have engaged in is, as I said back at the time when I went to Ferguson, independent, thorough and based on all the facts.  And I am confident that people will be satisfied with the results that will be announced.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Greatest Challenge

No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.  The National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announced 2014 was the Earth's warmest year on record, with an average temperatures 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit above the previous high.  The average temperatures over land and oceans were higher in 2014 than any year since 1880, when record-keeping began.
According to the the National Climatic Data Center, last December was 2.45 degrees Fahrenheit above average.  Globally, last December was the third-highest average land temperature for any December in the past 135 years.   
Although, 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record, one year doesn’t make a trend, but 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century. 

Scientists at NASA, NOAA, and at our major universities are telling us that if we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that could trigger increasing migration and hunger around the globe.  The Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.

For over six years, the Obama administration has combated climate change, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it.  More public lands and waters has been set aside by this administration, than any in history.

President Obama has pledged: “I will not let this Congress endanger the health of our children by turning back the clock on our efforts.  I am determined to make sure that American leadership drives international action.

For the first time, China has committed to limiting its carbon emissions.  The world’s two largest economies have come together, so there’s hope an agreement can be reached to protect our planet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Building on Success

The focus of President Obama’s State of the Union Address was middle-class economics.  He stressed the idea that our country does best when everybody gets a fair shot, everybody does their fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules.
His budget is a broader blueprint for America’s success in a new global economy.  This has been a breakthrough year for our country, because our economy is growing, wages are starting to rise, and our businesses are creating jobs at the fastest pace since the 1990s.
Today, we’ve got fundamental choices to make about the kind of country we want America to be.  Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well?  Or are we going to build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead?

Obama’s budget helps working families’ paychecks go farther by recognizing that things like paid sick leave and childcare are economic priorities for working families.  The budget gives Americans of every age the chance to upgrade their skills so they can earn higher wages, and includes a plan to make two years of community college free for responsible students.  It keeps building the world’s most attractive economy for high-wage jobs, with new investments in research, infrastructure and manufacturing, as well as expanding access to faster Internet and new markets for goods made in America. 
Nothing helps families make ends meet more than a higher minimum wage, but House Republicans refuses to allow it to even be debated.  The ideas President Obama has suggest won’t make anybody rich, and won’t relieve every hardship, but it will give working families a fair shot.

It’s unlikely that congressional Republicans will give any of President Obama’s proposals serious consideration.  However, their most dangerous partisan obstruction could be refusing to funding Homeland Security.

President Obama believes that people in Homeland Security work hard to keep America safe, and are vital to our national security.  They stand ready to respond to any emergency at a moment’s notice, by safeguarding our ports, patrolling our borders, inspecting chemical plants, screening travelers for Ebola, threat from terrorist networks, microscopic viruses, cyber-attacks, and weather disasters.  It’s a critical job, and they do it without a lot of fanfare.  Every American has an interest in making sure that the Department of Homeland Security has what it needs to achieve its mission.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Resolution to Congress

As part of an international coalition of 60 nations, that include Arab countries, our military continues the fight against ISIL in Iraq and in Syria.  

President Obama announced a strategy against ISIL in September, and pointed out. that we’re strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together.

Recently, his administration submitted a draft resolution to Congress to authorize the use of force against ISIL.  That resolution supports the comprehensive strategy that we’ve been pursuing with our allies and partners:  A systemic and sustained campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.  Support and training for local forces on the ground, including the moderate Syrian opposition.  Preventing ISIL attacks, in the region and beyond, including those foreign terrorist fighters who try to threaten our countries.  Regional and international support for an inclusive Iraqi government that unites the Iraqi people and strengthens Iraqi forces against ISIL.  Humanitarian assistance for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Syria, who are suffering so terribly under ISIL’s reign of horror.  

Obama’s resolution doesn’t call for the deployment of our ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria.  The 3,000 American troops presently in Iraq largely serve on bases.  Although, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment, they don’t have a combat mission.  Their focused is to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces.  

This President has repeatedly insisted, that having combat divisions on the ground is not in our national security interest and not necessary for us to defeat ISIL.  Local forces on the ground who know their countries best are best positioned to take the ground fight to ISIL.

The draft resolution sent to Congress repeals the 2002 authorization of force for the invasion of Iraq and limits this new authorization to three years, because we need to periodically ask the difficult questions regarding when, why and how we use military force.  It’s our troops who will bear the costs of our decisions, and we owe them a clear strategy and the support they need to get the job done.  Obama’s resolution would give our armed forces and our coalition the continuity they need for the next three years.  

President Obama wants Congress to revisit the issue at the beginning of the next president’s term.  It’s conceivable that the mission would be completed earlier, but the people’s representatives, with a new president, should be able to have that discussion.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Around the Globe

We cannot separate the work that needs to be done at home from challenges beyond our shores.  For example, in West Africa, our troops, scientists, doctors, nurses, and health care workers are stopping the spread of Ebola, and saving countless lives.

Diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, negotiations have halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.  The Obama administration has a chance to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that would prevent nuclear-armed Iran, secure America and our ally Israel, while avoiding another Middle East conflict.  There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed, but all options to prevent a nuclear Iran remain on the table.

Unfortunately, the new sanctions passed by congressional Republican will very likely guarantee that diplomacy will fail and making it harder to maintain the sanctions all ready in place.  Thereby ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again.

President Obama has therefore promised to veto any new sanctions, that threatens to undo the progress that has been made.  Most Americans expect our government to go to war only as a last resort.

The Obama administration is looking at issues that will determine our national security in the coming century.  No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families.  He’s urged Congress to pass legislation, that will meet the evolving threat of cyber attacks, combat identity theft, and enables our government to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.

If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable.  If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed opportunities for people around the globe.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

On the Record

Today is the deadline for signing up or renewing enrollment in the Affordable Health Care Act.  Our government recently announced that roughly 9.5 million Americans have signed up, so the original goal of 9.1 million enrollees has already been passed. 

On 2/3/15, House Republicans voted for the 67th time to repeal, defund or change Obamacare.  They wanted to get new members of the House on the record concerning the repeal of that law.  They have no plan to replace Obamacare, and if they actually cared about Americans, they’d put something on the table.

House Republicans have told their radical right-wing constituents that, they would go to Washington and vote to totally repeal Obamacare.  They did that, by a 239 to 186 vote, and not a single Democrat voted for repeal.  That vote could eventually blow up in the face of every Republican, who voted to repeal Obamacare.

Mitch McConnell leader of the Senate also called for vote to repeal a 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices such as catheters, pacemakers and MRI machines, which is intended to help to finance Obamacare coverage for the uninsured that starts next year.  The Senate vote was 79-20 to repeal the sales tax after 33 Democratic Senators joined Republicans in a vote that will have little effect.

President Obama has promised to veto any bill that actually repeals the ACA.  He pointed out: “The bottom line is that the Affordable Care Act is not an abstraction.  The debate is about making sure that every person in America is able to get basic, high-quality, affordable health care is not some political, ideological bet.  It’s about people.”

The Congressional Budget Offices reported Obamacare will cost 20 percent less over the next decade than originally projected, because lower than expected health care inflation has lead to lower premiums.

Republicans oppose a government take over of health insurance, but the private sector insurance stocks have seen double-digit increases over the last six months.  In fact, UnitedHealthcare Group is up 32 percent, Humana is up 25 percent, Anthem is 23 percent, and Aetna is up 19 percent.

If congressional Republicans succeed in repealing the ACA stockholders of UnitedHealthcare will be very concerned about loosing the 32 percent increase in profits, they’ve seen over the last six months.  The insurance industry, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies are doing quite well financially under the ACA.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

James R. Koury

The Oneonta Daily Star recently published the following letter to the editor, that was submitted by James R. Koury.

“In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to review a marriage equality case, the battle for equity in America is about to take a huge step forward with the court’s expected concurrence that same-sex marriage bans are indeed unconstitutional.  Will such a decision change people’s minds and what they harbor in their hearts? 

“Unfortunately not, since racism and prejudice still run rampant in our country despite implementation of momentous civil rights legislation and other Supreme Court decisions that overturned decades of institutional bigotry.

“Since the Hobby Lobby decision handed down by the Supreme Court there has been a revolting movement by the religious right and those religious-based business owners to institutionalize their discrimination by claiming they do not have to serve gay people in their establishments because of “religious liberty.”  They say that doing so would compromise and violate their religious beliefs.  However, rational-thinking people KNOW it has nothing to do with “religious liberty” and everything to do with prejudice and discrimination.

“It is quite unfortunate that our country is now being governed by those who wish to institutionalize even further their religious bias and impose their faith-based tales on a secular society.  Claims by those who hold their bibles close to their hearts and claim America has been and still is a Christian nation need to go back to history class.  They will certainly discover that many of our founding fathers frowned upon such religious zealotry and encouraged a complete separation of religion and state affairs.

“It certainly is time for the voters to wake up and get to the polls and remove these nonsensical people from office.  Failure to do so assuredly will be a detriment to the American value of equality for all.” 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Motivated Hate

In his Cairo speech, Obama became the first president to addressed the 1953 CIA-backed coup against the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh.  Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh had insisted on a 50/50 split of the oil profits with the the British owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.  That company is now British Petroleum.

As a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, Rep. Ron Paul said: “I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about blowback.  When we went into Iran and installed the Shah, yes, there was blowback.  A reaction to that was the taking of our hostages and that persists.”

By installing the Shah to power, the CIA brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repression upon the Iranian people, which concluded with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution.  The staff of the American embassy were held hostage for more than a year and that covert operation helped convince many people throughout the Islamic world that America was its mortal enemy.

Most American’s don’t have a clue, as to what our government has been doing.  The Islamic extremists we’re now fighting are the children of fighters we supported and subsidized throughout the 1980s in the name of fighting communism in Afghanistan.

You don't have to be Muslim to understand the human experience that if you’re bullied and your native land is occupied the people affected are going to get angry.

In 2008, the national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, Mohamed Elmasry wrote: “Nearly five years after the American invasion, more than 20 percent of Iraqis have been killed, wounded, displaced within their own country, exiled as refuges abroad, or have lost one or more next-of-kin.  The rest of Iraq’s population exists with little or no security, clean water, electricity, or accessible education for their children.  But, their oil is looted every day by the Americans.  In the meantime, the Americans are busy preparing to attack yet another country, spreading more looting, more death, more suffering, and more destruction next door in Iran.”

Republican propagandist adhere to a doctrine identical to early colonialism, whereby looting oil, death, suffering and destruction are all justifiable.  Any measure of lying is also acceptable, along with the despicable tools of distorting the religion of Islam, war-mongering and hate speech.  They’ll do anything they can to lure a sadly misinformed public to their side.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

People of Faith

Faith is being twisted, by using it as a wedge, and even as a weapon.  We see violence perpetrated by those who profess to stand up for their faith, when in fact, they are betraying it.  ISIL is a brutal, vicious death cult that, in the name of religion, carries out unspeakable acts of barbarism, by subjecting women to rape as a weapon of war, while claiming the mantle of religious authority.
Christians would be wise to remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christianity.  In America, slavery was justified in the name of Christ.
There’s a tendency by many people of faith to be intolerant of religions other than their own.  They shouldn’t be too confident that they’re right and that God only cares about them, and doesn’t care about others, or that somehow they alone are in possession of the truth. 
Americans need to speak up against those who would misuse the name of an Almighty Being to justify hatred, oppression, or violence.  We must constantly reaffirm freedom of religion, and the right to practice it the way we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution, fear and discrimination.
Apparently, our Founding Fathers understood the need to uphold both freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, because to infringe on one under the pretext of protecting the other is a betrayal of both. 
Whenever, Americans defend the legal right of a person to insult another person’s religion, they are equally obligated to use their free speech to condemn that insult, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks.  Just because Americans have the right to say something doesn’t mean that they don’t have an obligation to question those who insult other religions in the name of free speech.  
Our government doesn’t sponsor a religion, nor should it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all.  This results in a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion.   
That’s not the case in theocracies, who restrict people’s choice of faith.  Neither is it the case with authoritarian governments that elevate an individual leader or a political party above democratic principles.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Andrew Mason

The Oneonta Daily published the following letter to the editor, that had been submitted by Andrew Mason of Jefferson, N.Y. 

“The recent Daily Star stories on the Constitution Pipeline’s moves to seize local residents’ lands through eminent domain point up the most disgraceful aspect of this misguided project — that the government is providing authority to a private, for-profit corporation to forcefully take citizens’ property against their will.

“This is not for a school or a firehouse or even for a highway, or any other public benefit — this is to further line the pockets of wealthy individuals who are ravaging our environment and exploiting our natural resources.  Resources that may well end up sold overseas to continue the march of climate change.

“It’s hard to imagine a more un-American scenario than that taking place in our own backyards.  And where is the touted tea party and the rest of our area’s conservative contingent in response to this outrage?  This should be red meat for them — over-reaching government, violation of property rights, the justice system and law enforcement coming down on innocent citizens — it’s got all their hot buttons.

“Yet we hear not a peep from The Star’s high-pitched conservative columnist and his Pink Patriots.  Evidently theirs is indignation of convenience.  These pro-frackers willingly turn a blind eye to the worst abuses of power, right under their noses — what hypocrisy!

“The original and authentic tea party members had the courage to take a stand against illegitimate government acts through civil disobedience.  Matters may yet come to that with the Constitution Pipeline.  But you can be sure none of the current batch of tepid tea-baggers will be laying down in front of the bulldozers.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Billion Dollar Settlement

In 2008, Standard and Poor’s sold the credibility of the stock market for a profit, by lying about the quality of what investment banks were marketing to the public, and the taxpayers had to pick up the tab.

Standard and Poor’s has agreed to a $1.5 billion settlement, that will allow the world’s largest ratings company to move beyond a humiliating legal battle over the top grades it gave to subprime-mortgage bonds.

It has agreed to pay more than a year’s profit to settle suits with the U.S. Justice Department, more than a dozen states and the biggest U.S. pension fund, who alleged the company inflated ratings on the subprime-mortgage bonds at the center of the 2008 financial crisis.  Standard and Poor’s sealed the deal without admitting wrongdoing.  By ending the costly legal battle it will help the company close a profit gap with its largest competitor, Moody’s Corp.

The $1.375 billion settlement will be split evenly with the Justice Department and 19 states and the District of Columbia concludes a two-year court battle during which S&P accused the Justice Department of cracking down unfairly on the company after its 2011 decision to downgrade U.S. sovereign debt to AA+ from AAA.

Standard and Poor’s stepped back from that position in the settlement, by acknowledging that it found no evidence to date that the U.S. had acted in retaliation, according to a statement of facts from the Justice Department.  S&P was the only credit rater sued by the agency, even though its competitors also issued top ratings for similar subprime-backed securities.

Standard and Poor’s reached a separate $125 million settlement with the California Public Employees Retirement System, to resolve claims over three structured investment vehicles.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced: “The company’s leadership ignored senior analysts who warned that the company had given top ratings to financial products that were failing to perform as advertised.  While this strategy may have helped Standard and Poor’s avoid disappointing its clients, it did major harm to the larger economy, contributing to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”

Standard and Poor’s admitted in the statement that its ratings decisions were affected by business concerns, a fact it disputed two years ago when the lawsuit was filed.  To win business, it had awarded top grades on bonds built out of risky subprime mortgages that investors thought were as safe as debt from the U.S. government.  When housing prices fell, the bonds defaulted, helping freeze credit markets and trigger the worse recession since the 1930s.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Bargain

The budget, President Obama sent to Congress is fully paid for, through a combination of smart spending cuts, and tax reforms.  Presently, our tax code is full of loopholes for special interests, such as the trust fund loophole that allows the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying taxes on their unearned income.  If Congress fixed that loophole, it would improve our economy, and those savings could be used to cut taxes for middle-class families.
Most congressional Republicans have clearly demonstrated, that they disagree with Obama’s approach to building our economy.  However, if they have different ideas on how to keep America safe, grow our economy, while helping middle-class families feel some sense of economic security, they should let voters know the details of those ideas.  Their numbers have to add up, because we shouldn’t play math games with America’s economy, or national security. 
Every day, our country counts on approximately 143,000 employees of Homeland Security to keep our country secure, but those employees are counting on members of Congress to uphold their end of the bargain.  They’re counting on Congress and the President to make sure that they have the resources to do their jobs safely and efficiently.  But those employees also need to be able to look after their families while they’re working hard to keep us all safe.
President Obama promised those Homeland Security employees: “I’m going to keep on fighting to make sure that you get the resources you deserve.  I’m going to keep fighting to make sure that every American has the chance not just to share in America’s success but to contribute to America’s success.  That’s what this budget is about.  It reflects our values in making sure that we are making the investments we need to keep America safe, and keep America growing.”

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Smart Leadership

President Obama considers that his first duty as Commander-in-Chief is to defend our country.  However, the question is how should we go about leading the world.  In the past, some of our Commander-in- Chiefs made rash decisions, by reacting to the headlines instead of providing smart leadership.  Often, the first response to any danger was to send in our military.  
We’ve often ended up getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and sometimes that was exactly what our enemies wanted us to do, because it provided  them with a convenient opportunity to kill Americans.  Regardless, of what Republican fear mongers in Congress claim, ISIL doesn’t have enough rowboats to cross the Atlantic Ocean to storm the beach at Coney Island.  We shouldn’t allow our fears to blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.
President Obama is providing smarter leadership, that recognizes that by combining military power with strong diplomacy, we can leverage much greater power with coalition building.  Coalition building doesn’t exclude the right to act unilaterally, and we’ll continue to hunt down terrorists like Osama bin Laden, whenever they pose a direct threat to us or our allies.
Presently in Iraq and Syria, our military power is stopping ISIL’s advance.  Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we should continue to lead a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy terrorist groups.  By supporting the moderate opposition in Syria, who can help us, we’re assisting those Syrians to stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism.
After Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, our diplomats worked with our allies to impose sever sanctions on Russia.  The Obama administration is upholding the principle that more powerful nations shouldn’t be allowed to bully smaller ones.  By opposing Russian aggression, and supporting Ukraine’s democracy, we are also reassuring our NATO allies.

Today, America stands strong and united with our allies, while Russia is isolated and its economy is in shambles.  Instead of rhetorical bluster, we have continue to lead with steady resolve.

In Cuba, we’re trying a new policy, because the 50 year old policy hadn’t worked.  Obama’s new Cuban policy has the potential to end a legacy of mistrust in our hemisphere.  It stands up for democratic values, and extends the hand of friendship to the Cuban people.  It’s time for Congress to begin its work to end the embargo.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

National Security Jeopardized

President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security has been “selectively choosing,” from 11 million undocumented immigrants to deport criminals, not families with children.  Gang members, not hard working mothers who are provide for their children.  They’ve been prioritizing, just like law enforcement agencies do every day throughout our nation.
Deportations of criminals are up 80 percent.  President Obama’s administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than Bush's ever did.  The number of deportations each year has more than tripled.  During the first year of Obama’s presidency, 387,790 immigrants were deported, which was 100,000 more during the last year of Bush’s presidency.

In a few weeks, funding for Homeland Security will run out, but it’s not because of anything the department did, it’s because congressional Republicans refused to funded that department through September, when they funded every other department.  Now, they’re threatening to let Homeland Security funding expire because of their disagreement with President Obama’s executive order to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and safer. 
President Obama is confident that what his administration is doing is compassionate and constitutionally legal.  If Republicans don’t agree with him, they should pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, because that’s how our democracy is supposed to work.  Congressional Republicans shouldn’t be jeopardize our national security over this disagreement.

Until Congress passes a Homeland Security funding bill, tens of thousands of frontline workers will soon have to work without getting paid.  Over 40,000 Border Patrol and Customs agents.  Over 50,000 airport screeners.  Over 13,000 immigration officers.  Over 40,000 men and women in the Coast Guard.  Those government workers aren’t just working to keep us safe, they also have to take care of their own families.  The notion that they would get caught up in a disagreement around policy that has nothing to do with them doesn’t make much sense.  
President Obama has pointed out: “The men and women of America’s homeland security apparatus do important work to protect us, and Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics with that.

“We need to fund the department, pure and simple.  We’ve got to put politics aside, pass a budget that funds our national security priorities at home and abroad, and gives middle-class families the security they need to get ahead in the new economy.  This is one of our most basic and most important responsibilities as a government.  So I’m calling on Congress to get this done.”

Friday, February 06, 2015

A New Foundation

Our economy is expanding, deficits are shrinking, and energy production is booming.  But, are voters ready to write their own future by choosing what kind of country they want for decades to come?
Will they want to accept an economy where only a few citizens do extremely well, or will voters insist, that our government build a new economic foundation that generates rising incomes and opportunity for every hard working American?
Will we allow ourselves to be turned against one another, or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that in the past has moved America forward?
The economic crisis of 2008 resulted in millions of Americans losing their jobs and homes, and having to scrimp, sacrifice, and retool their job skills.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have demonstrated that trickle down economics is a myth, and that sensible regulations can prevent another financial crisis, shield families from bankruptcy, and encourage fair competition.  Meanwhile, every step of the way congressional Republicans claimed, that their goals were misguided, would eliminate jobs and explode deficits.
Now, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region, that would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage.  President Obama insists that he should be involved in writing those rules, in order to ensure a level the playing field.  He’s asking both parties to give him trade authority to protect American workers, with new trade deals with Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are also fair.
Since, 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, it would be unwise to close ourselves off from those opportunities.  More than half of manufacturing executives claim, that they’re considering bringing jobs back from China.  And, new trade deals with Asia and Europe could give them another incentive to do so.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Dollar for Dollar

The budget, President Obama sent to Congress, recognizes that our economy flourishes when our citizens and businesses are safe.  It invests in protecting our Information Technology networks.  It supports our troops and strengthens border security.  And, it provides the resources to confront global aggression.  The budget recognizes, that when the economy is doing well, and we’re making smart investments, our deficits will remain low.
At the end of 2013, Obama signed a bipartisan budget agreement that helped his administration end some of the arbitrary cuts known as “sequestration.”  Part of the reason our economy grew faster in 2014 was that our government was no longer being burdened by mindless across-the-board cuts.  His new budget will end sequestration and reverse the cuts to domestic priorities in 2016.  It will match the investments that are made domestically, dollar for dollar, with increases in our defense funding. 
Recently, top military officials told Congress that if they don’t stop sequestration, there could be serious consequences for our national security, at a time when our military is stretched thin.  President Obama wants to work with members of Congress to replace austerity with fiscally responsible investments that strengthen America. 
Obama has warned Congress, that he won’t accept a budget that locks in sequestration, because it would weaken both our national security and our economic growth.  There are some congressional Republicans, who claim, that they would be willing to increase defense spending but will refuse to increase investments in infrastructure and basic research.  
President Obama reasoned: “Well, those two things go hand in hand.  If we don’t have a vital infrastructure, if we don’t have broadband lines across the country, if we don’t have a smart grid, all that makes us more vulnerable.  America can’t afford being shortsighted, and I'm not going to allow it.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Road Ahead

The midterm election, that transferred control of the Senate to Republicans has usher in a dangerous time.  The Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce invested very heavily in that election, and they’re going to expect a return on their investment.
The midterm election made a mockery of our democracy with more spending of outside money and more influence by a small group of very wealth individuals and powerful corporations than our nation has seen since the age of the Robber Barons.
Congressional Republicans will go through the motions of repealing the Affordable Care Act, but that attempt will be filibustered by the Democrats in the Senate or vetoed by President Obama in the event a filibuster is overcome.
Congressional Republicans have already been adding “riders” (measures unrelated to the larger proposal to which they are attached).  In December, we saw 18 Senate Republicans joining 21 Senate Democrats and Independent Senator Sanders in voting against the 1.1 trillion budget bill, because they opposed a provision written by Citigroup design to weaken Dodd-Frank, and thereby again making taxpayers responsible for bailing out banks for risky derivative trades.
Republicans have already rushed through legislation intended to force President Obama to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and to promote exports of oil and natural gas.
About $1 billion of the $4 billion spent on the election came from outside groups.  However, the true impact of the outside money spent by the Koch Brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as big spenders on the Democratic side was greater; because the outside spending was concentrated in a relatively few closely contested races.
Somewhere between a third and half the money spent in the midterm election was channeled through Dark Money groups, which don’t reveal their donors.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Obama’s Solution

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.

In 2001 and 2003, congressional Republicans passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history.  The richest 1% of Americans saw their income go up an average of more than 10% each year between 2002 and 2007.  As the rich got richer, middle class incomes stay about the same, and poverty increased.  Those tax cuts resulted in the slowest job growth in half a century.

During the Obama administration our economy has dramatically increased job growth, but the average income of middle class families has remained the same.  Our economy would benefit the middle class more, if hardworking families were given the tools to qualify for the good-paying jobs in a global economy.  The role of government should be to ensure our economy enables its citizens to avoid becoming dependent upon their government.

However, under Republican administrations we have historically ended up with massive numbers of people needing help.  For example, after 3 Republican presidents, we experienced the Great Depression of 1929, and after 2 terms of George W. Bush we endured the Great Recession that started in 2008.

There used to be bipartisan support in Congress for investing in infrastructure and research, but the problem is how to pay for those investments.  Most people don’t mind paying their fair share of taxes as long as everybody else does.  For too long, lobbyists riddled our tax code with giveaways that the super-rich don’t need, while denying a break to middle-class families who need a helping hand. 
Since, President Obama took office, our deficits have been cut by about two-thirds.  That’s the fastest period of sustained deficit reduction since the end of World War II.  Certainly, we can afford to make infrastructure investments while remaining fiscally responsible.
The ideas Obama suggested in his State of the Union Address will make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of families.  They include paid sick leave, affordable childcare, equal pay for women, lower mortgage premiums and a higher minimum wage
Congressional Republicans don’t want a solution, because increasing corporate profits requires hardworking families continue to struggle at low wages.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Nebraska Lawsuit

In the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union Address, Senator Joni Ernst called the Keystone XL pipeline the Keystone Jobs Bill.  In fact, after the pipeline is constructed there’s only going to be 35 permanent jobs left.

President Obama noted: “As a policy matter, my government believes that we should judge this pipeline based on whether or not it accelerates climate change or whether it helps the America people with the their energy cost and their gas prices.  And I have to constantly push back against this idea that somehow the Keystone Pipeline is either this massive jobs bill for the United States or is somehow lowering gas prices.

“Understand what this project is, it is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else.  And it doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

Three days before Senator Ernst made her deceitful remark, 40,000 gallons of oil leaked from a 12-inch steel pipe into the Yellowstone River.  The Keystone pipe will be about four times that size.  The spill occurred near Glendive, Montana, and oil has been reported 60 miles down the stream near Buford, North Dakota.  Health officials warned people not to use tap water in Glendive and the surrounding towns, because traces of benzine from the spill we’re discovered in a water treatment plant.  Montana Governor Bullock visited the spill site and declared a state of emergency for Dawson and Richland Counties.  Montana State officials we’re sending in truckloads of drinking water for the towns.
Congressional Republicans are ignoring the possibility that the Keystone pipeline could damage the Ogallala Aquifer located beneath portions of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. 

Oil pipes rupture all the time and the oil in the Keystone pipeline would be flowing over an aquifer which provides clean water for corn, soybeans, and cattle.  Once crude oil is in the earth and aquifer it can’t be clean up.

Legal action has been taken by a 100 landowners in Nebraska, who have filled a lawsuit regarding property rights and imminent domain.  There are 100 landowners and most of them farmers, who are very worried about a secure source of water for their agriculture, and ranching businesses.

Basically, our country would take all the risk and gets none of the rewards.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Twenty-first Century Economy

We owe the new generation of veterans, who are coming home, every opportunity to live the American Dream, that they defended.  Although, we’re making strides towards ensuring that every veteran has access to the highest quality care, too many veterans have been waiting years to get the benefits they need. 
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama reminded every CEO in America: “If you want somebody who’s going to get the job done and done right, hire a veteran... Since 2010, America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined.

“Our manufacturers have added almost 800,000 new jobs.  Some of our bedrock sectors, like our auto industry, are booming.  But there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn’t even exist 10 or 20 years ago -- jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.”

It’s impossible to knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future, but you would assume, that our President and every members of Congress would want those jobs to be in America.  Therefore, part of Obama’s middle-class economics plan is to build the most competitive economy on the globe, a place where businesses want to locate and hire.

Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure, which means improved ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet.  This used to be a bipartisan position that both Democrats and Republicans agreed on.
Rather than setting our sights a single oil pipeline, that would only benefit Canada’s mega energy company, TransCanada, who could make $2 billion a year in revenue from the pipeline, Congress should pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that would create millions of American jobs per year, and make our country stronger for decades to come.