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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Republican Frontrunner

We’ve seen Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dropped out of the presidential race by announcing: “I will suspend my campaign immediately.  I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current frontrunner.”

The conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth created an attack ad that starts with a male voice asking: “Which presidential candidate supports higher taxes, national healthcare and the Wall Street bailout?  It’s Donald Trump.  Then it shows Trump saying: “In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat.”

The male voice continued: “Trump wants us to think he’s Mr. tell-it-like-it-is, but he has a record, and it’s very liberal.  He’s really just playing us for chumps.  Trump, just another politician.”

Subsequently, Donald Trump’s lawyers send a letter to Club for Growth demanding that it immediately stop running attack ads or face, "a costly litigation process".

Club for Growth, President David McIntosh responded: "Tough guy Donald Trump starts whining when his liberal record is revealed.  Trump has advocated higher taxes numerous times over many years, just like he’s advocated for universal healthcare, the Wall Street bailout and expanded government powers to take private property.  Trump’s own statements prove that our ads are accurate, they will continue to run.  We suggest that Donald grow up, stop whining and try to defend his liberal record."

Historically, the Club for Growth has stood for the proposition that very rich people should continue to get more tax cuts, and that most of our government services are unnecessary.  Club for Growth's policy goals include cutting income tax rates, repealing the estate tax, supporting limited government, free trade, tort reform, school choice, and deregulation.

In 2005, the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision gave government massive new power to take private property and give it to corporations.  In the case of Kelo vs City of New London the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision that the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development was permissible.

Conservatives opposed that decision, but Donald Trump said: “I happen to agree with it a 100 percent.”  Trump will continue to support what conservatives consider eminent domain abuse because he can make millions, and ordinary citizens lose their property rights.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Unfortunately for Republicans

This is the rest of Sam Pollak’s weekly column in the Daily Star, that was posted yesterday.

“The new heroine of the Republican Party, based on her strong debate performances, is former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

“At the recent debate, in a prosecutorial tone and with a resentful look into the camera that would have made a Fox News anchor proud, she claimed she had seen a video about Planned Parenthood showing ‘a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says: “‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’”

“Wow, what a powerful moment.  The GOP masses ate it up.  What a vivid, awful description.  Except for one thing.  She made it all up.  Nothing like that was on the video. 

“Called out on her lurid fantasy by Chris Wallace on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ Fiorina had a classic ‘Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?’ moment.

“WALLACE: ‘First of all, do you acknowledge what every fact-checker has found, that as horrific as that scene is, it was only described on the video by someone who claimed to have seen it?  There is no actual footage of the incident that you just mentioned?’

FIORINA: “No, I don’t accept that at all.  I’ve seen the footage.  And I find it amazing, actually, that all these supposed fact-checkers in the mainstream media claim this doesn’t exist.  They’re trying to attack the authenticity of the videotape.’

“So since she can’t show the fictitious scene from the videotape, she’s challenging ‘the mainstream media’ to prove it isn’t there?  Huh?

“Actually, when you get past the Trumps, Carsons and Fiorinas, and the fringe Jindals, Mike Huckabees, Ted Cruzes and Rick Santorums, there are some decent folks running on the Republican side who unfortunately get drowned out by the loonies.

“I think Ohio Gov. John Kasich is a mensch.  So, for that matter, are Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and even Chris Christie.

“Oh, on policy they’re wrong about most everything, too, and I wouldn’t care to see any of them be president.  But at least they’re from the relatively sane, smart, tolerant wing of the Republican Party.

“Unfortunately for them, however, being sane, smart and tolerant isn’t what Republicans seem to be shopping for this year.”

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sam Pollak

The following excerpt was written by Sam Pollak the editor of The Daily Star:

“Last Sunday, Republican presidential contender Ben Carson said on ‘Meet the Press’: ‘I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation.  I absolutely would not agree with that.’

“Dr. Carson is not a Muslim.  I am not a Republican, yet I fully support the right of any person of that persuasion to be president of the United States.  I might even vote for that person, except for the inescapable fact that the Republican candidates are wrong about everything.  I mean, everything.

“The environment, women’s reproductive rights, the economy, Obamacare, Iraq, the Iran deal, guns, evolution, climate change, the minimum wage, gay marriage, immigration … everything.

“When 43 percent of Republicans surveyed last month said the president of the United States is a Muslim, it’s obvious that the GOP has not gotten over being (as current candidate Bobby Jindal called it in 2013) ‘the stupid party.’

“Now, no one could accurately accuse Dr. Carson —  running second in most polling to Donald Trump among Republicans —  of being stupid.  The man was a neurosurgeon, after all, and by all accounts a gifted one at that.

“It just goes to prove that no matter how brilliant a person may be, he or she can still be a bigot who says idiotic things.

“While on the subject of bigots, let’s not forget Mr. Trump.  He can be forgiven for being a con artist, a huckster and an ignoramus when it comes to national and world issues, but not for how he has denigrated Mexican immigrants, Muslims and women.

“And yet, he’s leading the Republican field.  All those people who don’t seem to care how despicable his remarks have been are saying they intend to vote for him.  How does that make any sense?

“Well, a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 61 percent of Trump supporters believe President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and 66 percent believe he is a Muslim.

“Forgetting for the moment that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a Muslim, the overwhelming, easily available evidence to the contrary of what those people believe makes one shudder to think that a lot of those folks might vote.”

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sergeant Bergdahl

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed: “We get a traitor named Bergdahl, a dirty, rotten traitor, who, by the way when he deserted six young beautiful people were killed trying to find him.”

Bill O’Reilly admitted: “The reason I said that Robert Bergdahl looked like a Muslim is that he looks like a Muslim.

Allegedly, Sergeant Bergdahl is a traitor who got six soldiers killed when they were searching for him.  That would have occurred after Bergdahl walked away from the base in Afghanistan and into the arms of the enemy.  However, people like Trump and O’Reilly, who reached that conclusion did so without actually investigating.

Major General Kenneth Dahl did investigate the case by interviewing 57 witnesses, in the building that could be place where the court-martial of Sgt. Bergdahl takes place.  

General Dahl has testified at a preliminary hearing, that after interviewing Bergdahl and 56 other witnesses, he believes that Bergdahl has been truthful.  General Dahl said that Sergeant Bergdahl left his base with a plan to walk 18 miles to another base forward operating base Sharana.  Bergdahl wanted to complain to the commanding general at the other base about problems back at his base, problems that Bergdahl thought could endanger his platoon.

Sergeant Bergdahl believed he would be able to get a meeting with the commanding general if he arrived at the base.  General Dahl believes that Bergdahl probably would have been allowed to speak to a general if he had made it to the forward operating base, but instead, he was captured by the Taliban and held in captivity for five years. 

Also testifying at that preliminary hearing was Terrence Russell, one of the military’s top debriefers of prisoners.  Russell reported that Sergeant Bergdahl’s treatment by the Taliban was the worst that he had heard of any American prisoner of war since Vietnam.  He went on to say: "The level of wildly inaccurate speculation about Sergeant Bergdahl is outrageous.  He did the best job he could do and I respect him for it." 

General Dahl insists: "The six soldiers killed searching for Sgt. Bergdahl is the stuff of mythology.  No soldiers were killed in the search for Bergdahl, and Bergdahl did not desert to join the Taliban."
Regarding a court-martial, General Dahl predicted: "I do not believe there is a jail sentence at the end of this procedure.  I think it would be inappropriate."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Darkest Nights

I understand why people of faith don’t embrace the lyrics of John Lennon’s: “Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try,  No hell below us, above us only sky,  Imagine all the people, living for today.”
Belief and knowledge aren’t the same.  Atheism connotes what a person does or does not believe, agnosticism connotes what a person does or does not know.
I “know” that there isn’t a logical reason to oppose same sex marriage.  Marriage has helped me realize that it would be terribly unfair to deny the happiness that marriage can provide to those of a different sexual orientation.
Religious teachings correlate to higher rates of suicide among homosexuals.  The truth revealed through Scripture is subjective truth predicated by one’s faith.  By definition faith is belief in God, and in the teachings of religion.  Faith is the antithesis of skepticism, distrust, objective truth, and knowledge.  I’ve become distrustful of most religions, because they stifle freedom of thought, and blind the faithful to the role faith plays in perpetuating human conflict.
Conflicts exists worldwide between; those who believe in science and logic, and the faithful, who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma.
Although, our founding fathers signed a Constitution that allowed only white, male, literate, land owners to vote, some people actually believe our Constitution was divinely inspired.  They tend to be intolerant of religions other than their own.
Politicians shouldn’t become too confident that the God, they worship only cares about their interpretation of Scripture; and not homosexuals, undocumented immigrants, the working poor, or refugees and religious minorities.
Whatever helps you make it through the darkest nights must be respected, but ones religious “beliefs” shouldn’t become the lawEligible voters especially skeptics should become informed on the issues and vote in every election.

The post above was published by the Oneonta Daily Star on Dec. 1st.  The comment below, I found in the on-line version of the Star’s newspaper.
“I don't always agree with Mr. O'Leary, but this time he is imparting such wisdom that I can only hope others, who might often object to what he has to say, take the time to really read his entire letter.
“Religious freedom is imperative to the future of our country.  Every adult has the responsibility of voting his or her conscience, but and equal amount of responsibility to ensure that decisions, though colored by religious belief, are wholly thought out and are not simply meant to force a specific religious practice or behavior on other citizens.  When it comes to our laws there must be a civil reason to make a law, even if that law is inspired by a specific interpretation of religious doctrine or dogma.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

Liberty University

Bernie Sanders spoke at Liberty University, that was founded by the Reverend Jerry Falwell.  The majority in the audience disagreed with Sanders regarding abortion and marriage equality.
Sanders explained: “I spoke at Liberty University because I believe that it is important for those with different views in our country to engage in civil discourse – not just to shout at each other or make fun of each other.
“It is very easy for those in politics to talk to those who agree with us – and I do that every day.  It is harder, but not less important, to try and communicate with those who do not agree with us and see where, if possible, we can find common ground.  In other words, to reach out of our zone of comfort.
“I told the crowd at Liberty University that I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to them, and that we disagree on those issues. I get that.  But there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and the world and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t disagree on them.  And maybe, just maybe, we can work together in trying to resolve them.
Sanders told the audience: “In America today there is massive injustice in terms of income and wealth inequality.  Injustice is rampant.  We live in the wealthiest country in the history of the world but most Americans don’t know that because almost all of that wealth and income is going to the top one percent.  We are living at a time where a handful of people have wealth beyond comprehension – huge yachts, jet planes, tens of billions of dollars, more money than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes.  But at the same time, millions of people are struggling to feed their families or put a roof over their heads or find the money to go to a doctor.
“When we talk about morality and when we talk about justice, we have to understand that there is no justice when the top one-tenth of one percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.  There is no justice when all over this country people are working long hours for abysmally low wages, $7.25 an hour or $8 an hour, while 58 percent of all new income being created today goes to the top one percent.”

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Republican Stage Show

Recently on CNN, Hillary Clinton responded to questions about Planned Parenthood from Wolf Blitzer.  

She pointed out: “I know that there's a move on by some of the Republicans in the Congress to actually shut down the United States government over their demand that we no longer give federal funding to Planned Parenthood to perform the really necessary health services that they do for millions of women.

“So let's put aside for a moment here that there is no debate and there should be absolutely no argument that Planned Parenthood does cancer screenings, it helps provide family planning and contraceptive advice, it works to provide, some of the most difficult kinds of counseling when it comes to giving an HIV test, for example.

“What this is about is the fact that some of the Planned Parenthood facilities perform abortions, which is legal under the laws of the United States.

“I understand that the Republican Party and particularly the candidates we heard from last night, wish that were not the case, wish that abortion were illegal and they could turn the clock back.

“So I think we ought to be very clear that Planned Parenthood has served to provide health care, necessary health care for millions of women.  And I think it deserves not only our support, but the continuing funding from the federal government so that these women and girls who are seeking the kinds of services that are provided will be able to achieve that.

“Some people may not want to hear the answers, but they have certainly put those answers out there into the public arena.  And, the core issue that some on the stage last night or some in the Congress are trying to promote or trying to raise questions about has to do with the kind of research that is done legally in the United States, then that is an issue that goes far beyond any Planned Parenthood example.

“There's a lot of emotion.  There's a lot of accusations that are being hurled about.  I think it's important to sort out and try to actually figure out what is going on.  If it's the services that they are trying to shut down, like providing family planning or breast cancer screenings, that is just wrong and women deserve to be given support to get those services provided.

“If they want to shut down the legal provision of abortion services, then they've got a bigger problem, because, obviously, Planned Parenthood does not use federal dollars to do that.  And if they are more focused on the research that is going on, then that's a set of issues that certainly is not only about Planned Parenthood.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hillary’s Prepared

In an interview with Hillary Clinton on CNN, Wolf Blitzer noted: “Carly Fiorina, she said if you want to stump a Democrat she said ask them about Hillary Clinton’s accomplishments as Secretary of State.  If you were on that debate stage with her, what would you say was your number one accomplishment as Secretary of State?”
Hillary Clinton relied: “You know, Wolf, I didn’t get to see all of their debate.  But I saw enough of it to know that this is just the usual back and forth political attacks, the kinds of things you say when you’re on a debate stage and really don’t have much else to say. 

“I didn’t hear anything from any of them about how they’re going to make college more affordable or get down student debt or get equal pay for equal work for women, what they’re going to do to make sure that we deal with the challenges of raising incomes for hard working people. 

“So I don’t really pay a lot of attention to this kind of rhetoric that heats up the debate stage.  They’re all trying to vie for more attention from obviously the Republican Party. I’m going to let them decide how best to do it.  

“But if anybody’s interested, you know, there’s a long list about what I have done.  And I’m very proud of it.  You can read my book Hard Choices, read about how I negotiated a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.  You can read about how I put together the coalition that led to international sanctions against Iran.  You can read about what I did when I was First Lady, to get the children’s health insurance program or as senator working across the aisle on issues like getting better health care for our veterans.  You know, this is just the silly season.  I am looking forward to eventually debating on that stage whoever they finally nominate once they get around to doing that.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Mark VanLaeys

Recently, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter that was submitted by Mark VanLaeys. 

“I’m very discouraged by the media’s focus on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the exclusion of other presidential candidates.

“Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is stirring up enormous amounts of enthusiasm across the nation.  In an Iowa poll this past week he received 41 percent of the vote to Senator Clinton’s 40 percent.

“Sen. Sanders is one of a rare breed of politicians.  He’s sincere and will fight to increase the minimum wage — stating, ‘Nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty.’

“He has always strongly supported veterans and voted against going to war with Iraq. His position is, ‘If you can’t afford to take care of your veterans, then don’t go to war.’ More recently he stated.  ‘Maybe, just maybe, Saudi Arabia might want to take the lead in fighting ISIS, rather than having American troops and taxpayers do it for them.’

“This candidate assures us, ‘One trillion dollars of investment in our infrastructure would create 13 million jobs.’  One of his major concerns is the growing income inequality in the United States — describing how, ‘The middle class is collapsing at the same time that almost all the new income and wealth in our country goes to the top 1 percent’...‘what kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to the billionaires...’  He’s very concerned about PACs buying our democracy — stressing ‘our government must represent all of us and not just a handful of billionaires.

“Unlike most other candidates, he would expand Social Security instead of cutting it, by lifting the cap on the taxable earnings — currently $113,700.

“Our readership should look into this refreshing candidate since the corporate powers that be would prefer to keep him hidden.  To learn more, check out www.berniesanders.com.”  

I don’t concur with Mr. VanLaeys that the media is not covering Bernie Sanders.  The Republican Party is focusing their attacks on Hillary Clinton because she is Democratic front runner in national polls.  If Senator Sanders becomes the front runner in those national polls, he’ll be getting a lot more negative press from the Republican presidential candidates.    

Monday, September 21, 2015

Another Wrongful Arrest

Former tennis star James Blake's wrongful arrest by the New York Police Department resulted in the NYPD union releasing a statement addressing how its officers are framed in the media.
According to “Newsweek’s” Polly Mosendz, the statement from union president Patrick J. Lynch revolved around a perceived disconnect between officers in the field and journalists covering the wrongful arrest. 
James Blake was physically taken to the ground by James Frascatore, a plainclothes officer who was pursuing the subject of a credit card fraud investigation.
During an appearance on “Good Morning America” Blake said: "I was standing there doing nothing, not running, not resisting, in fact smiling."
Blake added that the officer "picked me up and bodyslammed me and put me on the ground and told me to turn over and shut my mouth, and put the cuffs on me."
Police Officer, James Frascatore has been stripped of his badge and gun. Blake had spoken out in support of those measures.  He said: “I think that that kind of police officer tarnishes the badge, which I have the utmost respect for and I believe that the majority of police officers do great work and they’re heroes.  So this person doesn't ever belong in the same sentence with the heroes that are doing the right kind of police work and keeping the public safe.”
The “New York Times” has reported that plainclothes officer James Frascatore has had several excessive-force complaints filed against him since 2012. 
In 2009, the city of New York invested $29 million in a reform initiative to retrain police officers and improve community relations.  Mayor Bill de Blasio and police commissioner William J. Bratton insist the NYPD has sought: “to vigorously implement these reforms that build trust and respect between police officers and the people they serve.”

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Issues that Matter

Raising the minimum wage to more than $7.25 an hour is what a majority of the American people want to hear about, but at the most recent presidential debate not a single Republican candidate embraced the idea with the any enthusiasm.
Possibly, the wealthiest people in America were delighted to have eleven candidates on that stage, who weren’t talking about an increase in the minmum wage for nearly three and a half hours.  The rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer, but all the Republican candidates wanted to talk about was defunding Planned Parenthood.  Veteran and military family member heard talk about more money for war, but there was no conversation about how the cost of war continues long after the last veterans return home.
I look forward to the Democratic candidates for president talking about issues that matter in the lives of all Americans, and not just wealthy campaign contributors, and anti-abortion Christians.
Today, we are fortunate to live in the richest country in the history of the world, but that means very little to people who work 40 hours a week and are living in poverty.  It doesn’t mean much to hundreds of thousands of young people, who are being forced to give up their dream of going to college because it is too expensive.
We have 51 percent of African-American young people, who are either unemployed or underemployed.  We have more people in jail, than any other country on earth.

The Republican candidates for president didn’t talk about racial justice, income inequality, or making college more affordable.  Nothing was discussed about child poverty, parental leave, or ensuring that every American can retire with dignity.  And, there was no discussion of the enormous amount of spending that is corrupting our political process.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Reckless Behavior

Bernie Sanders recommends: “It's time to break up the banks.  The greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street drove this country into the worst recession since the Great Depression.  Their casino-style gambling has helped divert 99 percent of all new income to the top one percent. And it has contributed to the most unequal level of wealth and income distribution of any major country on earth. 

“In the midst of all of this grotesque inequality sits a handful of financial institutions that are still so large, the failure of any one would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans and send the world economy into crisis.  If it's too big to fail, it's too big to exist.  That's the bottom line. 

“I introduced legislation in Congress that would break up banks that are too big to fail.
Banking should be boring.  It shouldn't be about making as much profit as possible by gambling on esoteric financial products.  The goal of banking should be to provide affordable loans to small and medium-sized businesses in the productive economy, and to Americans who need to purchase homes and cars.

“That is not what these financial institutions are doing.  They're instead creating an economy which is not sustainable from a moral, economic, or political perspective.  It's a rigged economy that must be changed in fundamental ways. 

“Let's be clear who we're talking about: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, and other institutions; they're all too big to fail.  So they must be broken up.

“Wall Street can't be an island unto itself separate from the rest of the productive economy whose only goal is to make as much money as possible.  I fear very much that the financial system is even more fragile than many people may perceive.

“Millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, while virtually all new income goes to the people who need it the least.  In fact, the top 14 wealthiest people saw their wealth grow more last year than the bottom 130 million have in total.

“I'm running for President of the United States because I believe that it is incumbent on us to try to take back our country from the billionaires and make it thrive again for the working and middle class.  Breaking up the banks is a critical part to making that a reality.”

Friday, September 18, 2015

Misperceptions Clarified

A recent CNN/ORC Poll found that although misperceptions about President Obama's religious beliefs and background persist, they’re not as widespread as reported by Public Policy Polling and posted on this website on 9/10/15 had suggested. 
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone between September 4-8 among a random national sample of 1,012 adults.  Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The CNN/ORC poll questioned: "Where was Obama born, as far as you know?”  Eighty percent of adults said, that they believed Obama was born in the United States.  Another 20 percent said that he was born outside the country. 
The CNN/ORC poll also found that among Republicans misperceptions about Obama's religious beliefs are more common than those about his birth.  Overall, 29 percent of Americans said they think President Obama is a Muslim.  That finding included 43 percent of Republicans.
Polling has suggested that substantial numbers of Republicans, particularly Donald Trump's backers, doubted that President Obama was born in the United States.  However, recent survey suggests most Republicans think he was born in this country.
In 2011, Donald Trump raised questions about the president's birthplace, and pushed for the release of his long-form birth certificate.  President Obama release a certified long-form birth certificate in April 2011, showing he was born at Honolulu's Kapiolani Hospital on August 4, 1961.  
Nevertheless, recently Trump told CNN's Anderson Cooper that he didn’t know whether Obama was born in the United States.
When asked an open-ended question of where President Obama was born, rather than was it in the United States or outside of it, 61 percent of Trump's supporters said he was born in the United States, as did 71 percent of all Republican and Republican-leaning voters.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Prescription Drug Costs

Last year, 35 million Americans could not get their prescriptions filled because they could not afford it.
Senator Bernie Sanders insists: “The time has come to say very loudly and very clearly that enough is enough.  The greed of the pharmaceutical industry is killing Americans.  It has got to stop... People should not have to go without the medication they need just because their elected officials aren’t willing to challenge the drug and health care industry lobby.”
When he was a member of the House, he took some of his Vermont constituents across the Canadian border in order to highlight the huge disparity between the cost of prescription drugs in America.
On their first trip he took a number of women, who were struggling with breast cancer.  He still remembers the tears in the eyes of women who were able to buy the breast cancer drug tamoxifen at one tenth of the price they were paying for the same drug in the U.S.  Americans pay 40% more per person than Canadians for prescription drugs.  Our citizens should be able to take advantage of those lower prices.
Sanders has introduced a bill in the Senate that is designed to stop the soaring costs of prescription drug prices.  There are presently provision in the law written by the pharmaceutical industry, which bars Medicare from using its purchasing power to lower prescription drug prices.
Although, some of the pharmaceutical industry’s research costs are funded by our taxpayer dollars, their allowed to arbitrarily set prices.  On average Brand-name drugs cost 10 times more than generics, and it’s a common practice for drug companies to pay their competitors to restrict generic drugs from the public.
Sanders also promises to introduce legislation to provide a single-payer system to provide health care for all Americans.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Workplace Democracy Act

Senator Bernie Sanders expects to introduce a bill in Congress whose sole purpose is to restore and encourage workers' rights to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.  It's called the Workplace Democracy Act, and if it is made law, it will help rebuild the middle class.
Bernie Sanders insists: “The surest path to the middle class for American workers is with unions.  The security and strength of a union job means that workers can have good pay, health care, and a voice at work.  The labor movement has propped up the middle class by ensuring a level playing field for workers.
“Among the many reasons for the growing inequality in our economy the most significant reason for the disappearing middle class might be that the rights of workers to join together and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions have been severely undermined.
“Workers need unions because there are people working for minimum wage, barely able to afford to put food on the table — if even that.  There are people whose jobs are dangerous, or even life-threatening, who can't speak up for workplace safety for fear of being fired.  And there are countless people working without sick days or even health insurance.
Unions change that equation.  When workers have unions, they are no longer afraid to speak up.  They have a clear path to getting health care, sick days, basic safety precautions, and better pay.  They don't have to live in fear of their employers, and they can work to provide for their families.
“That is unfortunately far from the reality that exists today.  Under the current law, it is incredibly easy for corporations to prevent workers from joining unions.  One in five workers who try to form a union today will be fired for doing so.  And half of all employers threaten to close or relocate their businesses if workers elect to form a union.
“But there's effectively no deterrence for when companies do break the law.  The penalties are far too weak, and there is no incentive to stop corporations from dragging their feet when workers want to negotiate contracts.
“The Workplace Democracy Act changes that equation.  Our bill would: Ensure companies can’t prevent workers from getting a first contract; make it easier for workers to form unions through a majority sign up process; and strengthen the enforcement when corporations break the law.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Linda Randall

Recently, the Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter, that had been submitted by Linda Randall.

“Bernie Sanders is fast gaining popularity in his presidential campaign in spite of being labeled a Socialist.  Sanders is, more specifically, a democratic Socialist, one who believes that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profit for the few.  Democratic socialism means taxpayer funds are used collectively to benefit society as a whole, despite income contribution or ability.

“In spite of the fact that the term ‘socialism’ strikes fear into American hearts, we already have many ‘socialist’ programs in this country.  Some programs that are funded by our tax dollars include the military, roads and highways, public libraries and schools, Social Security, Medicare, the G.I. Bill, public parks and museums, veterans’ health care, the postal service — even our government as an entity that operates and functions on our tax dollars through a socialist-structured funding system.  From the military down to the county dog catcher, socialism turns the wheels that make our society function.

“As American citizens, we enjoy freedoms that many in other countries do not.  Our government is not perfect, but it does serve its citizens and protects our rights and freedoms.  This is completely possible because of government, taxes and socialism.  Do you believe the private sector would do a better job of governing our country?  Do you think corporations would enact laws to protect and serve you and your family, or to benefit them and their profits?

“Bernie Sanders sees that corporations are gaining power over our government.  This is why his campaign will not take corporate money.  It is his goal to return the U.S. to the government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people,’ that it was intended to be. Let’s help him all we can.”

As already noted on this website, I believe Democrats must nominate a candidate for president, that has the best chance of defeating the Republican candidate for president.  

I’d like to be able to claim, that I voted for the first African- American and the first female president, however I’m advocating that voters of both political parties consider more than a single issue when making their decision.

Democratic voters have a multitude of  important issues to be considered.  I’m watching the polls and looking for specific issues on which Hillary and Bernie disagree on important issues before I commit to one candidate or the other. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Distorting Reality

In May of 2003, Iran made a proposal for negotiations, and Secretary of State Powell, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took that proposal to President Bush, but Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney dismissed that effort, by claiming that “We don’t speak to evil.”
On Fox News Chris Wallace told former Vice President Dick Cheney: "The Bush-Cheney administration, dealt with Iran for eight years, and I think it was fair to say that there was never any real, serious military threat, Iran went from zero known centrifuges in operation to more than 5,000."
Cheney replied: “There was a period of time when they stopped their program because they were scared that what we did to Saddam, we were going to do to them next."
Wallace insisted."But the centrifuges went from zero to 5,000."
Cheney claimed: "Well, they may have well have gone but that happened on Obama's watch, not on our watch.".
Chris Wallace argued: "No, no, no. By 2009, they had 5,000."
Last week, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, made the news with his endorsement of the Iran deal.

Col. Wilkerson was asked his opinion of the above exchange between Chris Wallace and Cheney.  He answered: “I’ve been searching for a single word that would describe Dick Cheney, and I’m afraid the only one I can think of is insanity.  It’s a deliberate.  It’s a methodical.  It’s a lucid, often lucid insanity.  But it’s insanity nonetheless.  He can’t recognize reality.  He can’t recognize the truth.”
In my opinion being unable to recognize the truth isn’t “insanity,” it’s simply lying.
When President George Bush left office, his approval rating was 22%, and Dick Cheney’s was 13%.  Former Vice President Cheney remains the personification of Republican radicalism.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Obama’s Legacy

No matter what else happens in his last 500 days in office, President Obama will always be the president who got health reform accomplished after decades of other politicians calling for it, but failing to get it passed.

He will be remembered as the president who reopened U.S. embassy in Havana after it had been shut down for more than 50 years.  He will be known as the president who allowed gay people to serve openly in the military, and approved the divided Supreme Court ruling of  5-4, that same-sex couples can marry nationwide, thereby establishing a new civil right.

He will always be known as the president who got bin Laden, and the president who got Syria to give up its arsenal of chemical weapons.

Barack Obama will go down in history as the president who brought our country back from the brink of a second Great Depression, rescued the auto industry when it was on the brink of extinction, and signed Wall Street, credit card, and student loan reforms.  

As he started his last 500 days in office another historically important accomplishment was taking place.  If the Iranian nuclear deal works, it will end the long standing global fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb without having to go to war to stop it.

It was very hard to negotiate the Iranian nuclear deal in Vienna, but it has been much harder to negotiate that deal within our own political system with a Republican-led Congress doing everything they could think of to undermine the deal.

Enough Senate Democrats voted to block a Republican resolution disapproving of the deal.  The vote on a procedural motion was 58-42; it needed 60 votes to pass.  President Obama’s veto will survive any congressional Republican attempt to overturn a veto.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Discerning What’s Important

In a column in the "The Washington Post," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is in the NBA Hall of Fame, criticized Donald Trump for menacing journalists and taking credit for his ability to bully the media.  

Kareem compared Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump by pointing out that the ways the two candidates have dealt with criticism on the campaign trail has “revealed the difference between a mature, thoughtful and intelligent man Bernie Sanders, and a man whose money has made him arrogant to criticism and impervious to feeling the need to have any actual policies.”  He also predicted Donald Trump’s candidacy will: “soon be lost forever.” 

Donald Trump responded to those comments with a note scrawled by a sharpie on the column that Kareem had written.  That note said: "Dear Kareem, now I know why the press always treated you so badly.  They couldn’t stand you.  The fact is that you don’t have a clue about life and what has to be done to make America great again.  Best wishes, Donald Trump."

In response to Donald Trumps remark, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar posted online the simple observation: "The bully proves my point."

Kareem’s column in "The Washington Post" had also argued that Donald Trump was trampling constitutional principles by menacing journalists.

He pointed out: “ The First Amendment is such an essential part of what our democracy is about.  And when you attack journalists in order to silence criticism, aren’t you really stifling the public discourse?

“The fact that we can engage in some critical analysis of what someone says and ask them questions, that makes our democracy work.  It makes us able to understand what the issues are and where people’s hearts are and what they’re going to do as our elected officials.  And when you try to suppress that, I think you’re trying to stifle criticism and avoid being accountable.”

“I think too many trivia aspects of the public life have become primary and all important.  Whereas getting programs that are going to benefit the average American person and keep our nation on its path of greatness, people don’t seem to be able to discern between those two issues.  And, you know, we have to constantly remind people what’s important and why.

“And that’s why educating ourselves about the candidates and what they have to offer and what they see as the best way to do things, that is so important.”

Friday, September 11, 2015

Justice Matters

Allegedly, the controversial deaths of people of color by a police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and another in New York City has fueled recent killing of police officers.  However, it seems reasonable to me that a long history of prosecutors, grand juries, elected officials and police benevolent associations covering up for bad police officers are also to blame.
Last year, "Black Lives Matter” became a rallying cry of protesters after white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson killed Michael Brown, and Eric Garner died while in a chokehold by Daniel Pantaleo a New York City police officer.
At the request of Michael Brown’s family, Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, flew to Ferguson, Missouri to conduct the separate autopsy.  Dr. Baden reported that the teenagers was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.  The bullets that struck Brown were not fired from close range, as indicated by the absence of gunpowder residue on his body.  A bullet that entered the top of Michael Brown's skull was "likely the last of bullets to hit him.”  It suggest that the head was bent forward when a bullet fired by Darren Wilson struck him and caused the fatal injury.

A witness testified: “As he runs the police get out of his vehicle and he follows behind him, shooting.  And the kid's body jerked as if he was hit from behind, and he turns around and puts his hands up like this, and the cop continued to fire until he just dropped down to the ground and his face just smacks the concrete.”

In New York City, the medical examiner released the results of the autopsy performed on Eric Garner’s body, that said the death was a homicide, and the result of compression applied to his neck and chest by police officers.  A video shows exactly what occurred when Eric Garner died.  The video doesn’t support the grand jury’s decision that, it was nobody’s fault.

Section 203-11 of the New York Police Department’s patrol guide states: "Members of the New York City Police Department will not use chokeholds.  A chokehold shall include but is not limited to any pressure to the throat or windpipe which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air."

Over the past four years, the civilian complaint review board for the police department have received more than a thousand citizen complaints of police using chokeholds.  But, of over 1,000 complaints regarding police using chokeholds, only nine officers have been disciplined for using chokeholds.  None of those officers received a harsher sanction than the loss of vacation days.

Recently, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a check to Garner's family for $5.9 million as part of a settlement agreement.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Public Policy Polling

Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted a survey of Republican voters.

It asked: "Do you think Barack Obama is a Christian or a Muslim?"  Fourteen percent of Republican voters said Obama is a Christian, but 54 percentage of Republican voters said he’s a Muslim.  The percentage of Republican voters who said they weren’t sure whether or not Obama is a Christian is 32 percent.

Obama is a Christian, but 86 percent of the Republican electorate either doesn’t believe that or they’re not sure.

Another question asked: “Do you think Barack Obama, president of the United States, was born in the United States?”  Only 29 percent of Republican voters answered yes to that question.  The percentage of Republican voters who answered no, he wasn’t born in the United States is 44 percent.  Another 26 percent weren’t sure.

President Obama was born in the United States.  However, 70 percent of the Republican electorate just don’t believe that or they say they don’t know.  Only 29 percent of Republican voters say Obama was born in the U.S.

PPP asked: “Do you think Ted Cruz was born in the United States?  Forty percent of the voters that had said that Obama was born in the U.S. said Ted Cruz was also born in America, when in fact Ted Cruz was not born in the United States.  He was born in Canada.
More Republicans voters think that Ted Cruz was born in the U.S. than think that President Obama was born in America, by a double digit margin.

Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling disclosed: “More than 60 percent of Donald Trump supporters think Barack Obama is a Muslim.  More than 60 percent think he was born in another country.  More than 60 percent of them want to deport children.

“And I think that these are attitudes that Republican voters and the country have had a long time, but they’re kind of things you weren’t allowed to talk about in public.  And now you have the Republican front- runner talking about all of these things in public and not apologizing for it one little bit.  It’s not surprising that these kinds of voters are really gravitating towards Mr. Trump.”

Obviously, most Republican voters wish to remain misinformed.  Only Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Chris Christie have a majority of supporters, who think Obama was born in the United States and that he’s a Christian. 

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Notable Achievements

It’s important that we remember what’s good about America.  Two wars are over, and the nearly 180,000 American troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reduced to 15,000.
Our economy started growing 6 months after President Obama took office.  We’ve witnessed 65 straight months of private sector job growth, and that’s the longest streak in our history.  More than 13 million new jobs have been created, and the unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent to 5.1 percent.
High school graduation rates are at an all-time high, and the deficit has been cut by two-thirds.  Obama and congressional Democrats fixed the student loan system that was giving billions of dollars of taxpayer money to banks.  Instead, they decided to give loans directly to students.  They’re able to double grant aid for millions of students.
Obama signed a credit card reform bill designed to protect consumers from surprise fees and sudden interest rate hikes and helped consumers deal with the twin plagues of mortgage fraud and predatory lending.

We’ve been able use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our planet.  We’ve doubled the generation of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar.  America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in the last 20 years, and we’re on track to emit fewer greenhouse gases this year than we have in nearly 20 years.  Furthermore, oil prices have been dropping.   
Nobody should go broke, because they get sick.  Nearly 7 million young people have health insurance because they're able to stay on their parent's plans.  Senior citizens are saving money on prescription drugs, and women have gained access to free preventive care like mammograms and contraception.  More than 16 million Americans have obtained health insurance over the past few years.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Structural Inequalities

When Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans 10 years ago, rising waters stranded families on rooftops, bodies floated in the streets, and children cried in the over crowded Superdome.  Thousands of people saw their homes destroyed, livelihoods wiped out, and their dreams shattered.  Citizens scattered to cities across the country, and many haven’t returned.
It seemed unimaginable that something like that could happen, but most Americans realize now that what started out as a natural disaster soon became a manmade disaster due to the failure of government to look out for its own citizens.  It’s important to understand that New Orleans, like many cities across America, had for too long been plagued by structural inequalities that left the poor, and people of color without resources to fall back on.
President Obama’s goal hasn’t been to merely rebuild New Orleans, but to construct a city where everyone, no matter what the color of their skin, or how much money they had, or where they are born have a chance to succeed.  
The African American citizens in hardest hit parishes such as St. Bernard are less likely to feel like there has been a recovery.  They know violence still scars the lives of too many youth in that city.  As hard as it was to rebuild the levee system, and as hard as it was to rebuild housing, lasting, structural change is much harder.  
Obama has pointed out that it takes courage to experiment with new ideas and to change the old ways of doing things.  It’s hard, and it takes time to make sure that everybody is included and everybody has a fair shot at success.  That's not unique to New Orleans, because those challenges exist all across our country.
The Obama administration has made the recovery and rebuilding of the Gulf Coast a priority.  They’re cutting red tape to help New Orleans come back even stronger.  They’ve taken the lessons learned from New Orleans and applied them in places like New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy.
Our federal government has delivered resources to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to rebuild schools and hospitals, roads, police and fire stations, restore historic buildings and museums. 
Hurricane Katrina was an example of what happens when our government fails.  Today, the recovery is an example of what’s possible when our federal, state and local government work together as true partners.

Monday, September 07, 2015

When a Crisis Hits

In the aftermath of Katrina there were questions about FEMA director Michael Brown, and his response to the disaster.  "Time" magazine investigated and found that there were serious questions about the management training that he had.   In fact, Michael Brown had almost no management training.  "The Washington Post" reported that the other top FEMA officials also had very little background in anything other than public relations.

There were serious questions about the delayed response to the hurricane disaster.  Two weeks after Katrina hit, a clearer picture about what went wrong began to emerge.  The public outcry was aimed at FEMA, the federal disaster agency.

President George W. Bush was quoted as saying: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”  Michael Brown was Bush’s political appointee, who previously was commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association.

A "Time" magazine investigative reporter announced: “The biggest discrepancy we found among several was the fact that the White House release listed him as an assistant city manager for the city of Edmond, Oklahoma, from 1975 to 1978, saying that during this time he had had oversight of emergency services division for that city and his vital experience to his charge as FEMA director.  Time reporters discovered  that FEMA Director Brown had actually worked in Edmond from 1977 to 1980 and wasn’t an assistant to the city manager, but in administrative role, that was on par with an intern.

As the Katrina tragedy unfolded, Brown seemed unaware.  Television viewers knew about the appalling conditions in the New Orleans convention center before he did.  Brown admitted: “I’ve got to tell you from the bottom of my heart how sad I feel for those people.  The federal government just learned about those people today.”

George W. Bush put Michael Brown in charge of our nation’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Hurricane Katrina was not a mistake, but it was an indictment of the people, who disparage government and think government can’t do anything right.  People who feel that way shouldn’t ever be put in charge of any important functions of government.  

Over 1,800 people died, and Michael Brown insists: "Stop blaming me for Hurricane Katrina.  The American public needs to learn not to rely on the government to save them when a crisis hits."  

When will we learn not to rely on people who don’t believe in government to run our government especially when a crisis hits?

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Examined Over Time

On 9/4/05, Tim Russert  told the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Shertoff on "Meet the Press": “Many Americans believe now is the time for accountability.  The Republican governor of Massachusetts said we are an embarrassment to the world.  The Republican senator from Louisiana, David Vitter, said that you deserve a grade of F, flunk.  How would you grade yourself?”

The Secretary of Homeland Security replied: “You know, Tim, again, I’m going to -- the process of grading myself and grading everybody else is one that we will examine over time.  We will in due course look at what we’ve done here and incorporate it into the planning.  But, first, we are going to make sure we are tending to the crisis at hand.”

Russert asked: “People are stunned by a comment the president of the United States made on Wednesday, Mr. Secretary.  He said: ‘I don’t think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees.’  How could the president be so wrong, be so misinformed?”

Chertoff answered: “I remember on Tuesday morning, picking up newspapers and I saw headlines, ‘New Orleans dodged the bullet.’  We had actually pre-staged a tremendous number of supplies, meals, shelter, water.  We had pre-staged even before the hurricane dozens of coast guard helicopters which are obviously nearby but not in the area.  So, the difficulty wasn’t lack of supplies.  The difficulty was that when the levee broke, it was very, very hard to get the supplies to the people.

Russert reasoned: “Mr. Secretary, you say pre-staged.  People were sent to the
convention center.  There was no water, no food, no beds, no authorities there.  There was no planning.”

Chertoff responded: “The only way to avoid a catastrophic problem in that Super Bowl is to have people leave before the hurricane hits.  Those who got out are fine.  Those who stayed in faced one of the most horrible experiences in their life.”

Russert noted: “But that’s the point.  Those who got out were people with SUVs and automobiles and airfares who could get out.  Those who could not get out were the poor who rely on public buses to get out.

“Your Web site says that your department assumes primary responsibility for a national disaster.  If you knew a hurricane three storm was coming, why weren’t buses, trains, planes, cruise ships, trucks, provided on Friday, Saturday, Sunday to evacuate people before the storm?”

Saturday, September 05, 2015

New Orleans

Before Katrina, New Orleans public schools were for the most part broken, leaving generations of low-income children without a decent education.  Thanks to parents, educators, school leaders, nonprofits, the city has seen gains with new schools, and more resources to retain and support better teachers and principals.  Data showed that before the storm, the high school graduation rate was 54 percent.  Today, it’s up to 73 percent.  College enrollment was 37 percent.  Today, it’s almost 60 percent.
Jobs have been created to rebuild the city’s transportation infrastructure, and expanding training programs for industries like high-tech manufacturing, and water management.   The city has a new VA Medical Center, and additional mental health facilities.  New Orleans has become the first major city to end veterans’ homelessness.
In Louisiana, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has built a $14 billion system of improved levees, pump stations and gates. 
Under the leadership of Craig Fugate, FEMA has been revamped, and is a more efficient agency.  Actually, our federal government has gotten smarter at preventing and recovering from disasters, as well as, serving as a better partner to local and state governments.
Unfortunately, in the mostly African-American lower Ninth Ward, a multi-million dollar community center, built with the help of federal funds sits only blocks from the abandoned cars and blighted lots that have become symbols of a slow recovery.
A Data Center tracked statistics in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.  Reportedly the population in 2010 was 80% smaller than before the storm.
Today, average household income in New Orleans stands at $33,557 per year, which is $4,000 less than it was five years before the storm.  Nearly one-third of the population lives below the poverty line, which is more than twice the national average.

Friday, September 04, 2015

A Wasteful Mess

The following post was made on 8/31/06.

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which would create a public, searchable database of all federal grants and contracts.  It would enable the public and press to see where money is being spent, and would be a huge step towards eliminating ridiculous, wasteful spending.

Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who waste taxpayer dollars to build a "bridge to nowhere” placed a secret hold on the proposal, which prevented it from being vote on. Ted Stevens, the most senior Republican in the Senate, doesn't want you to see the wasteful mess that Republicans have made of the federal budget.

In 2004, the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans.  The White House carved it to about $40 million, but congressional Republicans agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill which included a $231 million for a “bridge to nowhere” for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

Under this Republican Congress, the number of contracts awarded without competitive bidding had skyrocketed.  Democrat Henry Waxman, who sat on the House Government Reform Committee documented, the there were thousands of examples of money wasted, stolen or misspent.

From Iraq to our own Gulf Coast, dollars that could be saving lives are being held up, misspent, or wasted.  Troops didn't have the body armor they need, small businesses in New Orleans haven't received support, and across the country 45 million people go without health insurance.

Republicans have created the most expensive government in history through their corruption and out-of-control spending, and at the same time they've failed to meet the challenges of governing, like adequately preparing for disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Republican Choices

In 2009, a Federal Judge ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers was at fault for shoddy oversight of the Mississippi River - Gulf Outlet, which led to the flooding of New Orleans Lower 9th. Ward and St. Bernard Parish.

A year before, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for flood programs in New Orleans, but it was carved back to $40 million.  Instead, Bush and his Republican controlled Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill which included a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.

“Mitigation” programs are measures taken in advance to minimize the damage done by natural disasters and is a crucial part of the strategy to save lives.  Since 2001, federal disaster programs developed over many years have been slashed.  FEMA was deliberately downsized as part of Bush’s agenda to reduce the role of government.  After the Department of Homeland Security was created, FEMA’s mitigation budgets for New Orleans were slashed even though it was known to be one of the top three catastrophic disasters facing this country.  

In 2004, Pleasant Mann a 16 year FEMA veteran warned Congress: “Over the past 3 1/2 years, FEMA has gone from being a model agency to being one where funds are being misspent, employees morale has fallen, and our nation’s emergency management capability is being eroded.  Our professional staff are being systematically replaced by politically connected novices and contractors.”

Inexperienced cronies were installed to head FEMA, and ensured the slow federal response.  The catastrophic disaster in New Orleans wasn’t the fault of the Army Corps of Engineers or FEMA.  The devastation was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of competence.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

FEMA Not Prepared

I’ve started posting information on this website, that was previously posted in 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina struck.

A year ago, we saw how ill-prepared FEMA was for the unprecedented destruction of Hurricane Katrina.  A year later, we see little progress as thousands of victims still can't go home, find jobs, or place their children in school.  The Gulf Coast sits vulnerable to the next storm with schools and hospitals in desperate need of repair.

Twenty three percent of displaced Katrina survivors still face unemployment, but Republican leaders stand in the way of extending their unemployment benefits.  Colleges and universities on the coast struggle with $1 Billion in damage and try to make do with just $95 million in rebuilding assistance.  New Orleans educators are doing their best to pull their schools together, but still need 300 more teachers just to serve the students who've returned so far.

We owe them a plan to fix the federal levee system to withstand a category five storm, to rebuild schools and colleges.  We need to extend unemployment benefits to Gulf Coast workers, because displaced survivors have gone without unemployment pay since June.

Bush gave promises in a speech at Jackson Square a year ago, but Katrina debris still sits on New Orleans streets.  Forty percent of the city has no power, and half its hospitals and schools remain closed.  Down the coast in Mississippi, some towns are seeing as few as five percent of their homes rebuilt.

While these victims suffer, the aid that Congress finally approved is going to waste.  Last week, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) caught the Bush regime wasting parts of 19 rebuilding contracts worth $8.75 Billion.  Every one of those wasted dollars could have contributed to rebuilding peoples' lives.  Meanwhile, we’re wasting more than $450 Billion a year in Iraq.

Last year, Congress set aside $17 Billion in housing aid to Gulf Coast homeowners.  Only $100 million of that aid has been spent.  In Louisiana, aid checks reached Katrina survivors just last week; in Mississippi, a scant two dozen aid checks have gone out. Local governments that relied on federal promises of aid to rebuild their fire departments and sewer systems have found themselves mired in paperwork with little federal help in sight.

The same people who mismanaged Katrina passed on the cost of their incompetence to future generations.