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.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tragic Reality

We live in the nation which is the wealthiest nation in the world, however that means very little for most of us because most of that wealth is owned and controlled by a tiny handful of individuals.  Our nation has more income and wealth inequality than any other major country on earth, and the gap between the very rich and the rest of us is growing wider every day.  The issue of wealth and income inequality is both the great moral issue and greatest political issue of our time. 

When the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when 99 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent, something is wrong.  Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages and our country has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country.  It’s wrong when one family owns more wealth, than the bottom 130 million Americans.

Wealthy inequality is immoral and unsustainable.  A thriving economy requires a  growing middle class.  The tragic reality is that for the last 40 years the middle class of our country, that was once the envy of the entire world has been disappearing.  Despite exploding technology and increased worker productivity, median family income is nearly $5,000 less today than it was in 1999.

We have 45 million people living in poverty, many are working two low-wage jobs.  Although, the Affordable Care Act has resulted in more people having health insurance, there are 35 million Americans, who still lack heath insurance.

As a result of the Supreme Court decision regarding Citizens United, our political system has been corrupted, and the foundations of democracy undermined.  That Supreme decision essentially said that billionaires can now own the federal government.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Faith-based Opposition

The citizens of Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in a national referendum, and became the first nation in the world to enact marriage equality through a popular vote.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland condemned same-sex marriage and urged their congregants to vote against LGBT equality.  A recent census had already shown a significant drop in the number of Irish Catholics, who were attending mass every week.  Although, more than 62 percent of the Irish, who voted in the national referendum supported same-sex marriage, a separate poll reported that 83.2 percent of the population still claimed to be Catholic.

Our Supreme Court is expected to rule next month on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  And, court observers have speculated, that the court is likely to expand the definition of marriage rights.  That decision would most likely result in evangelical conservatives looking for a champion of traditional marriage.

In an interview on the Christian broadcasting network, former Florida Governor, and 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush has proposed that opposition to same-sex marriage should continue regardless of how the Supreme Court rules.

Jeb Bush said: “I think, traditional marriage is a sacrament.  It’s talking about being formed by one’s faith, it’s at the core of the Catholic faith and to imagine how we are going to succeed in our country unless we have committed family life, a child-centered family system is hard to imagine.

“So, irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling because they are going to decide whatever they decide, I don’t know what they are going to do, we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage.

“A big country, a tolerant country ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote: "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."  The Supreme Court has repeatedly used Jefferson's metaphor of a wall of separation.

If you’re going to use religious camouflage to cover up your own hang-ups, you’ll need to prove the Bible actually denounces same-sex marriage. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Police Video Cameras

In Gardena, California, three police officers killed an unarmed man, shooting him eight times, and seriously wounding a second man.  They said the men were suspected of stealing a bicycle, but in fact they were friends of the man whose bike had been stolen, and were searching for the missing bicycle.  The City agreed to pay a $4.7 million settlement to the survivor.  The incident was recorded on a video camera mounted inside a police car.  The officers involved were allowed to view the video, but the Gardena police refused to release it to the public, claiming that making the video public would violate the privacy rights of the officers involved.
According to the Associated Press, 15 states are considering legislation to exempt video recordings of police encounters from release under state public records laws, or to limit what can be made public.  The Kansas state senate voted 40-0 to exempt police body-cam videos from the state’s open-records act.  In Minnesota, a state Senate committee approved a bill making most police body-cam videos off-limits to the general public.
The idea of videotaping the police is to deter excessive force and other forms of misconduct, and to provide a way of resolving disputes between victims of police violence and officers claiming they had just cause.
In Rialto, California police officers wore cameras for a year in 2012, and as The Guardian reported: “public complaints against officers plunged 88 per cent compared with the previous 12 months.  Officers’ use of force fell by 60 per cent.”
But, if the police get to decide what the public will see, the entire rationale for the cameras is undermined.  The police will release videos when they support the police version of violent encounters, and withhold the videos documenting misconduct.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Retaking Ramadi

As noted yesterday, the city of Ramadi is 70 miles from Baghdad, and has been taken over by the Islamic State after Iraqi troops gave up and fled.

Shortly there after, Secretary of State John Kerry pointed out: “Their communications have been reduced, their funding and financial mechanisms have been reduced.  And their movements by and large most certainly where there are air patrols in other capacities have been reduced.  But that’s not everywhere.  And so, it is possible to have the kind of attack we’ve seen in Ramadi, but I am absolutely confident in the days ahead that will be reversed.”

Former senior White House adviser on counterterrorism, Richard Clarke observe: “I think the terrorist victory in Ramadi over the weekend just points out the fact that they have a very large amount of territory.  And they’ve held a large amount of territory now for over a year; the city of Mosul, a city of over a million people, they’ve controlled that for a year.

“We used to say after 9/11 that we learned our lesson and we would never again let a terrorist group have a sanctuary.  Well, they have a very large sanctuary, much larger than anything al Qaeda ever had.  And we have no strategy at all that I can see, and no realistic strategy to deal with that.”

Richard Clark doesn’t share John Kerry’s confidence regarding the progress being made against ISIL, also known as, ISIS.  He admits: “I think it’s possible that in a week or two, the Iraqi forces might be able to retake Ramadi.  But they have no chance at all of retaking Mosul this year or Fallujah this year.  And no one is going into Syria and throwing them out of Ar-Raqqah.  So they control these large cities and a huge swaths of land in between.

“They have established the Islamic State, and just in Iraq and Syria, it crosses the border.  They’ve had it now for a long time.  It is a terrorist sanctuary.  And we as a nation have to decide whether that bothers us or not.  Do we think they are going to use it as a jumping off point to attack the United States at some point?

“If we do, then this is a worrisome problem that we should do something about.  If we don’t believe that, then we shouldn’t really care what goes on.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Defense Secretary Ash Carter

In his first comments since Ramadi fell to ISIS, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said: "What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight.  They were not outnumbered.  In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight, they withdrew from the site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.
"We can give them training, we can give them equipment -- we obviously can't give them the will to fight.  But if we give them training, we give them equipment, and give them support, and give them some time, I hope they will develop the will to fight, because only if they fight can ISIL remain defeated.
In the wake of ISIS advances, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator McCain called for more American forces on the ground in Iraq.  Currently, there are about 3,000 U.S. military personnel training Iraqi forces, but they are not near combat areas.
Some have called for putting some American forward air controllers who would be near the fighting to help better pinpoint the targets for coalition airstrikes. 
Carter emphasized:"If there comes a time when we need to change the kinds of support we're giving to the Iraqi forces, we'll make that recommendation.  But what happened in Ramadi was a failure of the Iraqi forces to fight.  So our efforts now are devoted to providing their ground forces with the equipment, the training and to try to encourage their will to fight, so that our campaign enabling them can be successful both in defeating ISIL and keeping ISIL defeated in a sustained way.”
Carter promised: “We’ll continue our efforts to provide equipment and training to enable Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his government to wage an effective battle against ISIS, but our support alone would be no guarantee of success.”
And, he again stressed: "That is why I think we need to redouble our efforts to hasten our delivery of equipment to them.  We can't make this happen by ourselves, but we can assist it to happen, and we are counting on the Iraqi people to come behind a multi-sectarian government in Baghdad.  But again, we can't make that happen.  We can only help create the conditions in which it will happen."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

An Alarming Rate

According to a new study from NASA, the ice shelf called Larsen B could disintegrate completely by 2020.  Scientists insist the collapse will undoubtedly contribute to the global sea level rise.

The Larsen B ice shelf has lasted for 10,000 years but 13 years ago it began to shatter, and in some areas, glaciers on the shelf have already thin by 72 feet.  Climate change has begun to alter our environment at an alarming rate, and over the next few years the entire ice shelf is expected to collapse.  Nevertheless, Republican lawmakers are continuing to drag their feet on climate intervention.

Regarding the Larsen B ice shelf, Senator Whitehouse said: “This big ice move is significant because it may accelerate the face of land base ice moving into the ocean which will raise sea levels even more rapidly.

“What’s interesting is that, a lot of my Republican colleagues in the Senate are starting to say: ‘Hey, Sheldon, I got to get right on this issue or, our party has to get right on this issue.  We can’t keep doing this denial non-sense.  We can’t be dragged back by the fossil fuel industry.’

“None of them want to say it publicly because the fossil fuel industry has some really big political artillery.  Thanks to Citizens United, they’ve made very clear that they’re going to punish anybody who crosses them.  But, the pressure is building among Republican Senators for a jailbreak out from the control the fossil fuel industry on this issue and when it happens, it will happen very fast.

“A lot of people are starting to have a second look at this.  And so I think optimistically perhaps, but I think that we’re going to see a big move by the Republican Party between now and November of 2016.”

Monday, May 25, 2015

Updated 12/10/14 Post

On November of 2012, a police chase in Cleveland, Ohio ended with the shooting deaths of two unarmed suspects.  Cleveland citizens and law enforcement officials, who watched the video tapes of that police chase were astonished by the number of police cars in pursuit of the couple, who were definitely speeding, and driving in a reckless manner.  Passenger Melissa Williams and driver Timothy Russell led the police on a chase, that lasted 25 minuets, through the streets of downtown Cleveland.  

Initially, the city of Cleveland wouldn’t release the actual numbers of officers and police cars involved in the chase, but eventually pressure from the African-American community forced them to admit, that 63 police cars were involved in the pursuit.  Police protocol is two cars, unless circumstances warrant more. 

When the chase stopped, 13 police officers had fired their guns at the car.  Both of the passenger, Melissa Williams and driver Timothy Russell had been shot more than 20 times each in the head and chest by police officers when it was moving or stopped.  

The 22 mile chase started after the car driven by Russell allegedly backfired and officers mistakenly thought the noise was gunshots.  The medical examiner ruled both deaths were homicides, but none of the 13 police officers, who fired a total of 137 rounds at the car, were brought up on murder charges.

Eventually, five police officers were brought up on misdemeanor charges, but only Michael Brelo was brought up on a charge of voluntary manslaughter.  Officer Brelo had jumped up onto the hood of the stopped car, and fired at least 15 shots down through the windshield into the two unarmed people.  He pled not guilty, and finally last month, Judge O’Donnell explained, that he could not be sure Michael Brelo fired the fatal rounds.

The following up date is that six Cleveland police officers have been fired in connection with a November 2012 car chase that ended with officers firing 137 bullets at a car, killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.  The officers were identified as Wilfredo Diaz, Brian Sabolik, Erin O'Donnell, Michael Farley, Chris Ereg and Michael Brelo.

Brelo was the only officer indicted in the incident. He allegedly fired 49 of the shots, including 15 from the hood of the car carrying Russell and Williams.  Six other officers were suspended without pay for up to a month and a 13th officer retired last year.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Malcolm X

Malcolm Little has born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska to a Baptist, minister who was a follower of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.  He told writer Alex Haley, that his mother looked like a white woman, and that he change his name to Malcolm X  to replace the white slave master name of Little that had been imposed upon his paternal forbears.  During a pilgrimage to Mecca, he converted to become a Sunni Muslim.

Malcolm X asked African- Americans: “Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair?  Who taught you to hate the color of your skin to such an extent that you bleach to get like the white man.  Who taught to you hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips?  Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?  Who taught to you hate your own kind?

He insisted: “The young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there has to be a time of change.  People in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change, and a better world has to be built, and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods.  And I, for one, will join in with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this Earth.”

At a press conference in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Malcolm X advocated support of Dr. King’s demand for black voter registration.  He gave his support for the jailed King and the issue of voting rights, by stating: "I think the people in this part of the world would do well to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King and give him what he’s asking for and give it to him fast before some other factions come along and try to do it another way" 

An FBI informant, who followed Malcolm X around reported: “Brother Malcolm is an expert organizer and untiring worker.  He’s fearless and cannot be intimidated.  He has most of the answers at his fingertips and should be carefully dealt with.  He is not likely to violate any ordinance or laws.  He neither smokes nor drinks and is of high moral character."

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dr. Mary Whelan

Dr. Mary Whelan of Cooperstown recently expressed her opinion in the Oneonta Daily Star. 

“Despite unequivocal video evidence that Freddie Gray's neck was broken by the arresting officers, the Baltimore City prosecuting attorney has failed to file these charges against them (the video may be reviewed by Googling "Moore Video Freddie Gray Arrest").  The media broadly accepts the van ride as being the appropriate focus. 

“Although the van ride may have exacerbated his injury, that is unprovable, and no medical report can establish the timing of the injury within such a narrow frame. 
Defense lawyers for the van officers and driver will use expert testimony, which will be readily available, to establish that his visibly paralyzed legs prove that his neck was broken prior to being stuffed into the van.  Because the arresting officers are not thus charged, ultimately no person or persons will be found guilty of his grievous injury and consequent death. 

“The prosecuting attorney has won approbation for filing charges against the police.  That was inevitable; but by failing to file appropriate charges, she has ensured that she will not be charged with racism herself (the arresting officers are both white), and that the most serious charges against black officers will be dismissed.  Ultimately justice will not be done.  And once that is realized, if the past is prologue to the future, Baltimore will burn — for which she may appropriately take the credit.

“In the widespread absence of responsible investigative reporting, I believe that particularly those persons in a position to authoritatively evaluate the videos have a professional, intellectual and moral responsibility to speak, through letters to the media — most especially, to the Baltimore Sun — and to the prosecuting attorney’s office.  The office address is mail@stattorney.org.”


I agree that Freddie Gray’s neck was broken before he was put in the van.  However, I also believe that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby strategy on how to get a convictions will be successful.

On the same day, Dr. Whelan’s opinion was published, State’s Attorney Mosby announced: “On May 1st our investigation revealed that we had sufficient probable cost to bring charges against six police officers.

“As our investigation has continued, additional information has been discovered and as is often the case, during an ongoing investigation charges can and should be revised based upon the evidence.  These past two weeks my team has been presenting evidence to a grand jury that just today returned indictments against all six offices for the following offenses.

“Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr, second degree depraved heart murder, involuntary manslaughter, second degree negligent assault manslaughter by vehicle and gross negligence, manslaughter by vehicle criminal negligence, misconduct in office for failure to perform a duty regarding safety of a prisoner, reckless endangerment.

“Officer William Porter, involuntary manslaughter, second degree negligent assault, misconduct in office for failure to perform a duty regarding the safety of a prisoner and reckless endangerment.

“Lt. Brian Rice, involuntary manslaughter, second degree negligent assault, misconduct in office for failure to perform a duty regarding safety of a prisoner and in illegal arrest, reckless engagement.

“Officer Edward Nero, second degree intentional assault, misconduct in office for an illegal arrest, misconduct in office for failure to perform a duty regarding safety of a prisoner and reckless endangerment.

“Officer Garrett Miller, second degree intentional assault, misconduct in office for an illegal arrest, misconduct in office for failure to perform a duty regarding the safety of a prisoner and reckless endangerment.

“Sgt. Alicia White, involuntary manslaughter, second degree negligent assault, misconduct in office for failure to perform a duty regarding safety of a prisoner and reckless endangerment.

“Now the grand jury has also some probable cause to charge the four mentioned officers based upon the evidence.  These officers who I presumed innocent until proving guilty are now scheduled to be arraigned on July 2nd.”

Although, the medical examiner determined the death was a homicide, the evidence indicates an indictment of involuntary manslaughter is appropriate.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Robin Hood Tax

 Student loan debt has become the fastest growing form of consumer debt.  It has climbed to an all time high of $1.2 trillion.

If we want our country to continue to be a leader globally, we need to make higher education more affordable.  Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation to make four-year public colleges and universities tuition free.  The cost would be paid through a new tax on Wall Street stock transactions.  His plan calls for a $0.50 tax on every $100 of stock trades.  A lesser amounts would be collected on transactions involving bonds, derivative and other financial instruments.

Every summer American families worry about how their child is going to afford to go to college.  It’s an embarrassment that a great country like ours has hundreds of thousands of intelligent young people giving up the dream of going to college.  Our country is losing out on all of that intellectual potential.

Countries around the world are capitalizing on the intelligence and energy of their young people, who because of their ability deserve to get a higher education, regardless of the income of their family.

It’s a fact, that 99 percent of all new income generated in America goes to the top 1 percent.  On Wall Street, hedge fund managers who trade in huge amounts of stocks, are becoming phenomenally wealthy.  The legislation that Senator Sander proposed could also puts a damper on some of the risky Wall Street speculation. 

Wall Street traders are making huge profits, but aren’t paying their fair share in taxes.  This “Robin Hood” tax addresses the major issue of income disparity that is facing our country, while making education affordable and lifting the burden of debt that many of our young people are having to deal with.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Recent House Votes

Recently, the Republican controlled House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit abortions in cases where the probable age of the fetus is 20 weeks or later and would impose criminal penalties on doctors who violate the ban.  It would provide exceptions for cases in which the woman’s life is in danger as well as for pregnancies that are a result of rape if, as amended, for pregnancies that are a result of rape against an adult woman, the woman received counseling or medical treatment for the rape at least 48 hours prior to the abortion.

The House passed a bill that would authorize $604.2 billion in discretionary funding for defense programs in fiscal 2016, including $89.2 billion for overseas contingency operations, of which $38.3 billion would be authorized for non-war base budget operations and maintenance.  Excluding the war funding, the bill would authorize roughly: $136.6 billion for operations and maintenance, $109.7 billion for procurement, $136.4 billion for military personnel, $7.3 billion for military construction and family housing, $68.4 billion for research, development, testing and evaluation, and $31.7 billion for the Defense Health Program.

The House has also agreed to a motion to suspend the rules and concur with the Senate amendments to the bill that would require that Congress be given an opportunity to review any final international agreement on Iran's nuclear program before the president could waive or suspend any sanctions on Iran that were imposed by Congress.  Under the bill, Congress would have an initial 30 days to review any final nuclear pact with Iran, during which time President Obama could waive executive branch sanctions against Tehran, but he could not use his authority to grant national security waivers for sanctions enacted into law by Congress.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Building Trust

The following excerpts are from remarks President Obama recently made in Camden New Jersey:
“It takes a special kind of courage to run towards danger, to be a person that residents turn to when they’re most desperate.  And when you match courage with compassion, with care and understanding of the community -- like we’ve seen here in Camden -- some really outstanding things can begin to happen.
“Violent crime in Camden is down 24 percent.  Murder is down 47 percent.  Open-air drug markets have been cut by 65 percent.  The response time for 911 calls is down from one hour to just five minutes.  And when I was in the center, it was 1.3 minutes, right when I was there.  And perhaps most significant is that the police and residents are building trust.” 

President Obama also announced: “Today, we’re also releasing new policies on the military-style equipment that the federal government has in the past provided to state and local law enforcement agencies.  We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them.  It can alienate and intimidate local residents, and send the wrong message.  So we’re going to prohibit some equipment made for the battlefield that is not appropriate for local police departments.
“There is other equipment that may be needed in certain cases, but only with proper training.  So we’re going to ensure that departments have what they need, but also that they have the training to use it. 
“We’re doing these things because we’re listening to what law enforcement is telling us.  The overwhelming majority of police officers are good and honest and fair.  They care deeply about their communities.  They put their lives on the line every day to keep them safe.  Their loved ones wait and worry until they come through the door at the end of their shift.  So we should do everything in our power to make sure that they are safe, and help them do the job the best they can.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Amtrak Funding

In 2008, Congress ordered the installation of what are known as positive train control systems (PTC), which can detect an out of control, speeding train and automatically slow it down.  However, lawmakers failed to provide the railroads access to the wireless frequencies required to make the system work.  Therefore, Amtrak was forced to negotiate for airwaves owned by private companies that are often used in mobile broadband.

Amtrak had finally got approval for the needed bandwidth in March, but the system was still being tested, on 5/12/15, when the deadly train accident occurred in Philadelphia. 

The Federal Railroad Administration asked Congress for extra funding to install the positive train control system, but it didn't get it.

House Speaker, John Boehner claim that it was stupid to ask if the crash was in part a funding issue.  He insisted: "Adequate funds were there, no money’s been cut from rail safety." 

Sen. Chuck Schumer responded to that comment by pointing out: “Speaker Boehner’s comments are patently false.  Experts have made clear that Positive Train Control could have prevented the tragedy in Philadelphia.  It is simply a fact that insufficient funding for Amtrak has delayed the installation of PTC, and to deny a connection between the accident and underfunding Amtrak is to deny reality.”

Boehner thinks it's “stupid” to talk about whether underfunding was a cause of the deadly Amtrak train accident that occurred on night of 5/12/15, that killed eight people and injured over 2 hundred more.  Mr. Boehner has reason to be defensive about funding issues, since the Republican controlled House of  Representatives was at that time in the process of cutting Amtrak funding.  Senator Shumer’s comment was accurate because there is a definite likelihood, that if Amtrak had the financial resources, the crash wouldn't have happened.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig

Staff writer for “The New Republic,” Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig wrote: “The rapport between Big Business and the religious right wasn't so much about businesses being aided by Christian rhetoric as not being inconvenienced by it.  On some issues, businesses are still willing to show up for the Christian right, so long as it doesn't damage their revenue.  But as society shifts on key moral issues, businesses are more than willing to shed the bonds of obligation to their Christian patrons in order to keep turning healthy profits.  Consider, for example, the rift unfolding between free marketeers and their formerly cozy Christian counterparts on the subject of gay marriage.

“Support for gay marriage has steadily grown, and opposition has steadily dropped: As of 2014, 52 percent of Americans favored allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry. Among millennials, the ascendant consumer class, the number was 67 percent, and among Gen-Xers, 53 percent.  White mainline Protestants and Catholics supported gay marriage at rates of 60 and 57 percent, respectively; both numbers were the highest on record for each denomination.  Among the unaffiliated, black and white Protestants, Catholics, and evangelicals, only evangelical support for gay marriage was found to have dropped between 2013 and 2014, from 23 percent to 21.  Evangelicals remain the only demographic group surveyed to remain staunchly opposed to same sex marriage.”

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig concluded: “Prosperity with a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness.  The idea was that if everyone were wealthy enough, we would spend our bountiful free time pursuing our idealistic interests.  And, as inequality has grown and the wealthy have enjoyed the benefits of pro-business policies, they have done precisely that—except that their ideals no longer match those of the Christian right, and their interests never really did.” 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gulf Cooperation Council

After the Gulf Cooperation Council summit at Camp David, President Obama concluded with the following comments regarding Iran:  “We spent considerable time discussing Iran.  I updated our Gulf partners on the negotiations towards a comprehensive deal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And I’m pleased that here at Camp David we agree that a comprehensive, verifiable solution that fully addresses the regional and international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program is in the security interests of the international community -- including our GCC partners.
“Of course, whether we reach a nuclear deal or not with Iran, we’re still going to face a range of threats across the region, including its destabilizing activities, as well as the threat from terrorist groups.  So we’re going to work together to address these threats.  And much of the enhanced security cooperation that I’ve outlined will allow us to do precisely that.
“But I want to be very clear.  The purpose of security cooperation is not to perpetuate any long-term confrontation with Iran or even to marginalize Iran.  None of our nations have an interest in an open-ended conflict with Iran.  We welcome an Iran that plays a responsible role in the region -- one that takes concrete, practical steps to build trust and resolve its differences with its neighbors by peaceful means, and abides by international rules and norms.
“As I’ve said before, ending the tensions in the region and resolving its devastating conflicts will require a broader dialogue -- one that includes Iran and its GCC neighbors.  And so a key purpose of bolstering the capacity of our GCC partners is to ensure that our partners can deal with Iran politically, diplomatically, from a position of confidence and strength.
“And finally, while this summit was focused on security cooperation, events in the Middle East since the beginning of the Arab Spring are a reminder that true and lasting security includes governance that serves all citizens and respects universal human rights.  So, in the Middle East, as we do around the world, the United States will continue to speak out on behalf of inclusive governance, representative institutions, strong civil societies and human rights, and we will work to expand the educational and economic opportunities that allow people -- especially young people -- to fulfill their potential.
“So, again, I want to thank all of our GCC partners for making this summit a success.  I believe that the Camp David commitments I’ve described today can mark the beginning of a new era of cooperation between our countries -- a closer, stronger partnership that advances our mutual security for decades to come.”

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Amtrak Train Crash

On 5/12/15, a deadly Amtrak train accident occurred in Philadelphia.  One locomotive and seven passenger cars were derailed.  Reportedly, one of the cars was completely mangle, three were overturned, and three were in complete disarray.  

There were 238 passengers and a crew of 5 for total of 243 occupants on the train.  Eight people have been confirmed dead, and more than 200 were treated at area hospitals for injuries.

Maximum authorize speed through the curved section of the track, where the accident occurred is 50 miles per hour.  According to information on the data recorder when the engineer induce brake application was applied, the train was traveling at approximately 106 miles per hour.

The train wasn’t equipped with any type of device that could have slowed it down to keep it within the appropriate speed limits. 

Robert Sumwalt is a board member with the National Transportation Safety Board.  The NTSB is an independent federal agency, that is charge by Congress to investigate transportation accidents, determine the probable cause and issue safety recommendations to keep accidents from happening again.

Mr. Sumwalt pointed out: “However, it is not installed for this area where the accident occurred, where the derailment occurred.  That type of the system, we call it a positive train control system -- that type of system is designed to enforce the civil speed to keep the train below its maximum speed.  And so, we have called for positive train control for many, many years.  It’s on our most wanted list.  Congress has mandated that it be installed by the end of this year.  So we are very keen on positive train control.

“Based on what we know right now, we feel that had such a system been installed in this section of track, this accident would not have occurred.”

Friday, May 15, 2015

Games Republicans Play

On 5/12/15, the Senate held a procedural vote on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) for the President, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  The vote was 52 to 45 to block the legislation.

Sixty votes were needed to advance the bill, but Democrats blocked the measure.  At the time it appeared to be a huge victory for opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

After the votes, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell announced: “What we’ve just witnessed here is the Democratic Senate shutdown the opportunity to debate the top economic priority of the Democratic President of the United States.  I suspect some maybe parking their vote rather than actually buying the outlandish rhetoric we’ve heard from the left.”

At a press conference Senator Chuck Schumer blamed Senator McConnell for compromising the deal at the last minute.  Schumer noted: “The Senate Democrats vote those who are for TPA and those who are against it banded together to block a move by a Republican colleagues to press forward with the trade deal while leaving critical worker protections behind.  Under the plans, Senator McConnell put forward at the last minute.  We didn’t know about it until 12:30.

“The Senate would have passed TPA and TAA but failed to pass enforcement provisions that would combat currency manipulation and other very important child labor and other enforcement provisions.  All of which has robbed the U.S. of thousands and thousands of jobs.”

Senator Sherrod Brown pointed out: “Just simply can’t do trade promotion without trade enforcement.  Even the most enthusiastic supporters of fast- track and the most enthusiastic supporters of TPP and free trade acknowledged there will be winners and there will be losers from trade agreements.  It could be a tragedy if we didn’t help those American companies and American workers and American communities who will inevitably be hurt by actions in Washington.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren has been very critical of fast-track and the TPP from the beginning.  She insisted: “The game is rigged and we are running out of time.  We cannot continue to run this country for the top 10 percent.  We can’t keep pushing through trade deals that benefit multinational companies at the expense of workers.”

Initially, it appeared that Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders had won, and the Senate had side with them over Obama’s trade deal.  However, there will be more congressional votes on TPA and TPP.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

IUD Contraceptive Program

For over five years, Colorado had great success in reducing the pregnancy, birth rate and abortion rate of teenage girls.  The state had a program that made it easy for young women to get IUDs, irrespective of their insurance, or their ability to pay. 

The premise of the program was that young women should be able to decide whether or not they wanted to be pregnant.   And, they should have access to the IUD contraceptive method.

Dr. Stephanie Teal, of the University of Colorado’s Denver School of Medicine, points out: “Try to take a pill at the same time, every day.  Forget about it.  And that’s why we see the failure rate of pills, patch and ring are actually twice as high for women under 21 as women over 21.  It’s not that the pharmacology is different.  And somehow the medicine doesn’t work in young people.  It’s that it’s complex to use.”

Colorado was able to drop their teen birth rate by 40 percent.  And, dropped their teen abortion rate by 35 percent, over just five years.  It was a very successful program that kept young women in Colorado from getting pregnant when they did not want to.

The National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association gave Colorado an award for having the premier public health program in the country on that issue.  Nevertheless, the day after Colorado got that award, Republicans in the state Senate voted to cancel the program. 

In the 2014 elections, Republican politicians did very well across our country.  In Colorado, Democrat Mark Udall lost his US Senate seat to Republican Cory Gardner.  The Colorado State Senate had been controlled by Democrats, but turned Republican. 

The national award-winning IUD birth control program in terms of public health, became a top priority for Republican to eliminate.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Progressive Agenda

Recently, Senator Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio teamed up to co-write an Op-ed in “The Washington Post.”  

They insist: “Government policies matter and can make a difference.  Strengthening the American Dream is about the basics:  Make work pay by increasing the minimum wage, empowering unions to bargain collectively, ending abusive scheduling practices for hourly workers, getting people the overtime pay they deserve, ensuring equal pay for equal work and making sure employers follow the law and respect the rights of workers.

“End the squeeze on working parents by passing a paid family leave requirement and investing in child care, after-school programs and extended learning days. Let families with children have a chance to balance careers with quality time together.

“Ensure everyone can get a great education without drowning in debt. Rein in the cost of college and allow families to refinance student loans at lower rates. Give every child access to full-day pre-kindergarten. Education is still the best ticket to the middle class.

“Focus on research and innovation needed to develop the technologies of the future. Investments in medical and scientific research let us build whole new industries and give us the chance to create good jobs right here in ­America.

“Invest in infrastructure — in roads, bridges, rail, water, power and broadband. Businesses can’t grow if the foundation crumbles beneath them. A 21st-century economy needs 21st-century infrastructure.

“Strengthen and expand Social Security, not just for today’s seniors but also for today’s young people. Work is changing. A strong Social Security system will ensure that all workers, no matter the number of jobs they piece together during their careers, can count on a secure retirement.

“Strengthen the rules of the marketplace. We don’t build a future by turning the biggest banks loose to do whatever they want, and markets don’t create value when corporations can cheat people or roll over their upstart competition.

“Promote fair trade by embracing only those trade policies that strengthen our economy, create good jobs with good wages and establish fair rules of the road for companies around the world. Our trade agreements shouldn’t help multinational companies gut environmental, health and safety standards here and abroad under the guise of promoting commerce.
“Reform the tax code by ending the billions in tax breaks for corporations shipping jobs overseas and big oil companies, while leveling the playing field so that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.

“Rebuilding our middle class won’t be easy, but real change rarely is. It’s time to be bold.  The American Dream depends on it.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Not Enough Information

We are in a race with China to secure a trade deal with Asian Pacific countries, which is the fastest-growing markets in the world.  The countries that would be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), received 62 percent of American exports in 2014.

Asia is currently 30 percent of global GDP, and we need to have a structured trade deal with them.  The reality is that American workers are competing in an international market against workers, who make $0.30 an hour.

There’s not enough detailed information, because the TPP is still being negotiated.  There are historically important labor and environmental standards in this trade deal, and our negotiators need to make sure China doesn’t dominate the Pacific region.  Most likely its going to be negotiated by the end of this month.

Making the case, that our government should be against TPP without even seeing what’s in the deal is a knee-jerk reaction.  The auto industry and manufacturing tend to be against the deal, but our agricultural business are behind a deal with Asian Pacific countries, because they believe it will open up a lot more markets for their goods.

Many factors come into play when jobs are lost after trade deals are enforced.  Opponents of trade deals claim Kodak workers lost their jobs because of NAFTA, when actually Kodak missed the boat on digital photography.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama have a lot more insight into what is in this deal than other politicians.  They certainly aren’t poorly informed, and they’ve been looking out for middle class America during their entire careers.  They’re not in the pockets of the wealthy, and Obama isn’t a puppet for big banking interests.  He has repeatedly proven that he’s looking out for the interests of American workers.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Economy Updated

In February our economy added 295,000 jobs, and our unemployment rate was 5.5 percent.  For the 5th straight year, our economy had produced 200,000 private sector jobs a month.  Since 2010, the manufacturing  sector of our economy added roughly 800,000 jobs.
In April, our economy added 223,000 jobs and unemployment ticked down to 5.4 percent.  Our unemployment rate is lower, than it was before the 2008 financial crisis.
According to a CNN/ORC poll, more Americans say they have a positive impression of how President Obama is handling the presidency.  Actually, 48 percent approve of the way he’s handling the job, while 47 percent disapprove.
Obama's numbers are on the rise at the same time the public gives the economy the highest ratings of his presidency.  The poll found 52 percent described our economy as very or somewhat good, while 48 percent call it very or somewhat poor.
A few months ago a poll had showed that 54 percent of Americans disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy.  Those polls suggest that many people were misinformed regarding our economy.  Last year, about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.  In fact, Obamacare provided 54,000 new jobs, and health care inflation rate is at its lowest in 50 years.
America is number one in oil and gas production, and also number one in wind power.  Every three weeks, we are bring online as much solar power as we did in all of 2008.
More of our children are graduating than ever before, and 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.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Carbon Admissions

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association reports that globally: “March 2015 was the warmest March since record-keeping began in 1880.  And the first quarter of 2015 was the warmest first quarter on record in those same 136 years.
The uninterrupted continuation of the warming trend is no surprise.  The 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the past 17 years.  NOAA established that the expanse of Arctic sea ice shrunk to an absolute low for any March on record, and snow coverage in the Northern Hemisphere was the seventh lowest on record.
In the not so distant future National Aeronautics and Space Administration predicts weather records unprecedented in at least the past 1,000 years.  If carbon emissions continue on course, further temperature rises should bring decades-long megadroughts to the western half of the United States in this century.  NASA has concluded that there is an 80% chance of megadroughts lasting 20 to 40 years.
Californians have noticed that a major source of their dwindling water supply is due to the lack of snow on their mountain peaks.  The warming trend has reduced snow coverage throughout the Northern hemisphere, especially reducing the amount of coverage in spring. 
In Florida, Alton Road in Miami Beach is consider to be ground zero for a rising sea level and flooding.  So far they’ve spent millions of dollars addressing the flooding, but its going to take a major infrastructure project to make it right for the future.
In south-eastern Florida local government officials are leading the charge to protect their communities from saltwater, that’s coming from the sea.  It’s estimated that Miami Beach alone will invest $500 million in state and local funds on flood prevention over the next five years.  Costs in the region could be in the billions.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Joe Marmorato

Recently, The Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter that was submitted by Joe Marmorato.

“What if all the law enforcement officers decided to take a night off, a week off or just quit? It would be anarchy.  The country would go into turmoil, like in Baltimore when they were ordered by their mayor to stand down. 

“Lately, each time a law enforcement officer is involved in a shooting with a perpetrator or a perpetrator dies in custody, the community is angered.  In some cases, the anger spreads across the nation, like in recent events.  When these unfortunate incidents take place, cities begin to look like a zombie apocalypse movie.  The crowds gather in the streets demanding justice.  Then they start to riot and burn down their own neighborhoods, setting relations and progress back decades.  Even the president has many times rushed to judgment.

“Why would anyone want to take the job?  Low pay, late shifts, split-second decisions, high-speed driving, stress, the public expecting non-lethal “RoboCop” precision shooting and a risk of serious physical injury or death would make anyone reconsider.

“Split-second decisions come too often and will live with you forever.  If you did not ever wear the uniform or patrol a community, you don’t know what ‘street-level’ law enforcement officers go through each day.  A cop can be called a hero today and a zero tomorrow. 

“People are rightfully encouraged to thank a veteran for their service to this great country.  People should also be encouraged to thank a police officer.  No one wants to see a cop until they need one.  When you have a crisis and dial 911, it is an officer that shows up.  The officer is always on call, 24 hours a day, both on- and off-duty, on vacation, active or retired.  They are only a phone call away and in some cases are there even when you don’t call.”

**** Rebuttal ****

I agree with Joe Marmorado, that we should thank veterans and police officers for their service, but we must also keep in mind that every occupation has its bad apples, and avoid over-generalizations.  It’s irresponsible to assume that all military veterans and police officers are honorable. 

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

Colin Powell’s "My American Journey" relates the My Lai atrocity, when American soldiers “herded 347 old man, women, children and even babies into a ditch and shot them.”

Cleveland police released a videotape following the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice, while playing with a realistic looking BB gun in the park across the street from his home. The police car pull up, and in less than three seconds an African-American child was fatally shot.

The officer that shot Tamir Rice had previously worked in the suburban town of Independence.  His file revealed: “Due to his dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage his personal stress, I do not believe the patrolman shows the maturity needed to work in our employment.  The pattern developing within our short time frame with the patrolman is that he often feels when he is told to do something, those instructions are optional.  In law enforcement, there are times when instructions need to be followed to the letter and I’m under the impression the patrolman under certain circumstances will not react in the way instructed.  I am recommending he be released from the employment of the city of Independence.  I do not believe time nor training will be able to change or correct these deficiencies.”

Friday, May 08, 2015

Climate Crisis

Scientific models are predicting 4 to 6 feet of sea level rise by the end of this century, that will put our coastal cities at risk of being flooded.  Local officials in Miami are listening to those warnings, but many prominent politicians are ignoring them.

University of Miami professor, Dr. Harold Wanless insists: “It’s man-made since 1950 or so, we have been driving climate change.  We have a real catastrophe coming on in our hands and we need the plan for it.”

Reportedly, 97 percent of climate scientists agree with Dr. Wanless, that human action is a contributing factor to climate change.  

According to Senator Whitehouse of Rhode Island, congressional Republicans are living in the shadow of threats of spending that Americans for Prosperity, Koch brothers fund said it was going to spend $889 million just in this election.

Whitehouse believes: “The real prevailing thought in the Republican Party is that the Koch brothers, and the oil industry, and the coal industry, have hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, threaten to spend it and have told them all that they’re toast if they don’t stick to the line on climate change.  Citizens United gave the fossil fuel industry, this colossal club and they’re using it to terrifying effect on Republicans in Congress.”

Fishermen, farmers, and foresters whose livelihood depends on the a stable climate are recognizing that the climate is changing.

In a densely populated state like Rhode Island a lot of housing is near the shore.  Families are watching homes that have been in their family for generations being washed away by big storms.

Purchasing real estate along the coastal line is becoming a high risk transaction.  The banking and the insurance industry will soon be driving a lot of thought processes on this climate change crisis.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Access to Education

In his weekly address, President Obama reiterated his commitment to expanding access to education, which could spread the joy of reading to more children.  Recently, he announced two new efforts that will challenge mayors, libraries, and school leaders to help every student get a library card, plus commitments from libraries and major publishers to provide more than $250 million in free e-Books for low-income students.  
President Obama previewed his upcoming commencement speech at Lake Area Tech, in Watertown, South Dakota, where he’ll discuss his plan to make two years of community college as free as American high schools are today.  He’s working to ensure every child has access to the education and resources they’ll need to be successful.
The following is an excerpt from a recent Obama speech: “We also issued a challenge to mayors, libraries, and school leaders to help every student get a library card, so they can expand their horizons in a place like this.
“It’s all part of our ConnectED initiative to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed Internet.  Because no matter who you are, where you live, or how much money you’ve got, you should be able to access the world’s knowledge and information just like anyone else.
“In a global economy, we’ve got to help ensure that everyone, of every age, in every zip code – urban and rural – has the chance to learn the skills that lead directly to a good job.
“That’s also why I’ve put forward a plan to make two years of community college as free and universal for every American as high school is today.  It’s something I’ll talk about in my commencement address next week at Lake Area Tech, in the small town of Watertown, South Dakota.  It’s a community college with a graduation rate that is nearly twice the national average.  They’re proving that a great education can be within everyone’s reach.
“All of us have a responsibility to not only make sure our own children have pathways to success but that all children do.  And a great education is the ticket to a better life like never before.  Making sure all our kids receive one is the surest way to show them that their lives matter.  And it’s the smartest way to prove to them that in communities like this, and in a country like ours, we believe in opportunity for all.”

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Former Conservative Republican

Yesterday, The Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter to the editor, that had been submitted by Orlo Burch of Hartwick, New York.

“I just read an Associated Press story as follows: ‘The House on Thursday adopted a compromise GOP budget that promises to speed repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law, while giving the Pentagon an additional $38 billion.’  God help us! 

“Taking the much-needed affordable health insurance from folks who now have access to it away and then spending more (billions) to fight unfunded wars proves it is time to replace our non-thinking and non-caring legislators.  Who are these folks working for? Not the ones who elected them. 

“What are these people thinking?  The GOP wants to spend BILLIONS on wars and then lower taxes for the wealthy, cut Medicare, cut Social Security and cut Medicaid programs to help fund it.  We are going in the wrong direction here as a nation and community of people living together.” 

A background check of my website disclosed that in 2006, I quoted Mr. Burch  as writing: “If being a liberal means being open-minded, respectful of others and their beliefs and willing to admit that others may have a better solution to a problem, then I am a liberal and proud to be one.”- former conservative Republican, Orlo Burch

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Living in Poverty

Although, America has more technology and increase productivity, our citizens are working longer hours for low wages with more people living in poverty than perhaps at anytime in the history of our country. 

Why is it that 99 percent of new income in our country goes to the top one percent, and one-tenth of that one percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent?

Senator Elizabeth Warren warned: “When 32 people can outspend 3.7 million citizens, our democracy is in real danger.”

In Jan. 2011, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission allow corporations unrestricted campaign spending to influence our elections. 

In Sept. 2014, every Republican Senator went on the record as having voted to block a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and other Supreme Court rulings dating back to 1976 that invalidated restrictions on money in politics.

The party line vote was 54 in favor, 42 against fell short of the 60 votes needed to defeat the Republican filibuster and proceed to a final vote.  

What made it hard for Senate Democrats to pass a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United and restore the right of Congress to regulate spending in elections is that although a majority of senators voted to support overturning Citizens United, 60 votes are needed to advance the measure, and 67 votes are needed to authorize a constitutional amendment.

Most voters want to see less corporate money in our elections.  A 2014 polls showed 73 percent of Americans want Congress to passes a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United.  Congressional Democrats will continue to fight for a constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to again regulate the dark money in politics.  We need fair elections in order to give the middle class and poor a fair shot.  

Monday, May 04, 2015

Criminal Justice Reform

Twenty-three years ago, Bill Clinton was running for president.  Leading up to the 1992 election our country was shocked by the riots in Los Angeles following the acquittal of police officers who beat African-American Rodney King on the side of an L.A. highway.

Rodney King’s beating was captured on tape, which was very unusual.  After no one was held accountable for that beating, L.A. rioted for six straight days, 53 people died, and thousands were arrests. 

Democratic Arkansas Governor Clinton became the tough on crime Democratic presidential candidate.

Regarding a 1994 crime bill, Vice President Al Gore boasted: “Americans said we want more police on the streets.  President Clinton heard you.  Now, there are gong to be 100,000 fewer bureaucrats and 100,000 more policemen in your communities.  You said violent criminals ought not to be free on the streets.  President Clinton heard you.  Now we have three strikes and you’re out for violent offenders.”

That crime legislation resulted in a huge increase in the number of police officers on the streets, and the number of inmates in prisons increased dramatically.  The three strikes you’re out law increase the number of death penalty-eligible crimes.

Today, there’s no longer a national fight between the parties, about who is tougher on crime.  The consequences of the tough on crime policies of the 90s, has been an immense prison populations, and poor outcomes in terms of the deterrent effect those harsh policies were supposed to have produced.  That legislation had a shockingly disproportionate effect on prison populations, especially for African-American men.

The national conversation has been driven in the past year by the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray.  Those deaths have again forced the topic of criminal justice onto the national stage.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Enough is Enough

Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has officially announced that he’s challenging Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for president of the United States.   

Regarding the riots and peaceful demonstrations taking place in Baltimore, Senator Sanders noted: “The good news is that the American people, not just the African- American community are saying enough is enough.  You can’t hold people in custody and suddenly find out that they are dead... 

“I’m a former mayor.  I know that being a cop is not an easy job.  But when police officers misbehave, they’ve got to be held accountable.  The other good news is that, all over this country when people are beginning to standup change is taking place.”
As president, Bernie Sanders insists: “Number one, we would fight hard for police reform, for body cameras, for the training that police officers need to know how to treat people who are in captivity with respect.  You can’t have every police officer in America being a Harvard Law School Graduate and you’re not going to address this issue unless we give people some hope, unless we give people some opportunity, that means jobs, that means education.  You can’t turn your back on the collective parts of America.

“We should invest a trillion dollars in our infrastructure to rebuild roads and bridges, water systems, and wastewater facilities, that would create 13 million new jobs.

“With Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, I’ve introduce a $5.5 billion bill for job training and job creating program for young people.  African-American youth employment is totally off the chart.  We have to put young people to work, we’ve got to give them an education rather than putting them in jail.”

I’m not convinced that Senator Sanders would be a better candidate for president than Hillary Clinton. 

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Police Officers Arrested

Yesterday, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that six police officers have been charged in the death of Freddie Gray.  Mosby told reporters that her office's investigation, coupled with a medical examiner's determination that Freddie Gray's death was a homicide, led her to determine there is probable cause to file criminal charges.
Officers Garrett E. Miller, Edward M. Nero, and Lt. Brian W. Rice were on bike patrol, when they approached Freddie Gray, who began running.  Gray eventually surrendered and was handcuffed.  It was at this time that Gray indicated that he couldn’t breathe and requested an inhaler to no avail.
Miller and Nero found a knife in Grey’s pants pocket.  The blade of the knife was folded into the handle.  It wasn’t a switchblade, and legal to carry under Maryland law.  According to prosecutor Mosby, the officers failed to establish probable cause for Gray's arrest.  No crime had been committed.  The arrest was illegal.
When the police van arrived, Miller, Nero and Rice loaded Gray into the wagon.  He was shackled, hands cuffed behind his back, and laid face down.  At no point was Gray secured by a seat belt.
Miller is charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of false imprisonment.
Lt. Rice is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of false imprisonment.

Edward M. Nero is also charged with two counts of second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and one count of false imprisonment.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr. had been directed to deliver Gray to the central booking facility.  He parked the van to check on his prisoner.  Goodson returned to the driver's seat and headed toward central booking with Gray still handcuffed, shackled and unsecured.  After several blocks, the officer called dispatch to say he needed to check on his prisoner.  He requested additional units.

Officer William G. Porter arrived, and with Goodson, went to the back of the wagon.  Gray requested help and said he could not breathe.  Porter asked Gray if he needed a medic.  Twice, Gray said he needed medical assistance.  Goodson and Porter lift Gray from the floor to a bench in the van.

Again, the officers failed to restrain Gray or request medical assistance.  Goodson then responded to a separate call for assistance in an arrest.  He picked up a new prisoner and drove to a police station to drop him off.  He had failed to restrain Gray for at least the fifth time.  Gray was no longer breathing.

Prosecutor Mosby argued:"Despite Mr. Gray's obvious and recognized need for medical assistance, Officer Goodson in a grossly negligent manner chose to respond with Gray still unsecured by a seat belt in the wagon, without rendering or summoning medical assistance.” 

Goodson is charged with one count of second-degree depraved murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and misconduct in office.

Officer Porter also was present later when Goodson picked up another prisoner, and Sgt. Alicia D. White and others discovered that Gray was unresponsive.  Porter is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Sgt. White was responsible for investigating two citizen complaints related to Gray's arrest.  She was present during one of the stops to check on Gray's condition.  She saw that Gray was unresponsive on the floor of the wagon.  When Gray didn’t respond, she allegedly did nothing.

White and two other officers attempted to remove Gray from the wagon.  He was no longer breathing.  A medic later determined Gray was in "cardiac arrest and critically and severely injured."  Gray was rushed to the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center, where he underwent surgery.  On April 19, Freddie Gray was pronounced dead from his injuries.  Officer White is charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office.

Mosby concluded:"Despite Mr. Gray's seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer."