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.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

We Will Prevail

An extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities, and that reality can’t be denied and must be confronted.  Muslim leaders around the globe have to work with the government of Christian nations to reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda have been promoting.  They must speak out against acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.
It’s the responsibility of Muslims to root out misguided ideas that lead to radicalization.  It’s also the responsibility of every faith to promote mutual respect. 
Muslim Americans include men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country.  Therefore, our political leadership has a responsibility to reject religious tests on those who are admitted into our country.  We should be rejecting proposals that Muslim Americans should be treated differently, because that kind of divisiveness plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.
Our country was founded upon a belief in human dignity.  Hopefully, every American can at least agree that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what religion you practice, or don’t practice, you are equal in the eyes of the law.
President Obama reasons: “Even in this political season, even as we properly debate what steps I and future Presidents must take to keep our country safe, let's make sure we never forget what makes us exceptional.  Let's not forget that freedom is more powerful than fear; that we have always met challenges -- whether war or depression, natural disasters or terrorist attacks -- by coming together around our common ideals as one nation, as one people.  So long as we stay true to that tradition, I have no doubt America will prevail.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Realistic Strategy

Congress has passed legislation that requires individuals who have been in certain nations, such as Syria and Iraq, to get regular visas that involve in-person interviews with U.S. officials in order to enter our country.

Now, it should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.  It’s a matter of national security, that a terrorist suspect should not be able to buy a semi-automatic weapon.  It’s too easy for people to buy assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.  No matter how effective our intelligence and law enforcement agencies are they cannot identify every would be terrorist, whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some other hateful ideology.

If congressional Republicans believes that we’re at war with ISIL, they should vote to authorize the continued use of military force against those terrorists.  For over a year, President Obama has ordered our military to make thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets, and it's time for congressional Republicans to demonstrate that they’re committed, to this fight.

We must not be drawn into a costly ground war in Iraq or Syria, because that is what ISIL wants us to do.  They know they can't defeat us on the battlefield.  Many ISIL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq.  They know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, kill thousands of our troops, drain our resources, and use our presence to draw new recruits.

The strategy that the Obama administration has been using includes airstrikes, Special Forces, and working with local forces who are fighting to regain control of their own country.  This strategy will enable us to achieve a sustainable victory, and it won't require that we send another generation of Americans to fight and die on foreign soil.

We must not let this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam, because that is what ISIL wants.  ISIL is a cult of thugs and killers, who account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world, that includes millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.  The vast majority of terrorist victims are Muslim.  If we're going to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as our allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It’s Worth It

The Bible has been used to defend slavery, racism, segregation, and homophobia.
Tim Cook succeeded Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, after serving as acting CEO while Jobs was on medical leave.  He publicly supported LGBT rights, but initially chose to keep his personal life private.  In October 2014, Cook acknowledge: "I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me."
He insisted that he’d been open about his sexuality for years and, while many people at Apple were aware of his sexual orientation, he sought to focus on Apple's products and customers rather than his personal life.  He has concluded: “We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick.  This is my brick.”
Cook became the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to be identified as gay.  On CBS’s 60 Minutes, host Charlie Rose inquired about the personal details of his life, including the decision to come out as gay.  Cook explained that while he’s a very private person, he did it to help those who struggle with that aspect of their lives.
Cook, who was raised in Alabama announced: “I’m a very private person.  But it became increasingly clear to me that if I said something that it could help other people.  And I’m glad, because I think that some kid somewhere, some kid in Alabama, I think if they just for a moment stop and say ‘if it didn’t limit him, it may not limit me.’
“Or, this kid that’s getting bullied.  Or worse, I’ve gotten notes from people contemplating suicide.  And so if I could touch just one of those, it’s worth it.  And I couldn’t look myself in the mirror without doing it.”
“ Just to love and be loved in return.”- Eden Ahbez 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Tragic Shootings

In order to reduce the number of tragic shootings, Congress should pass legislation to addresses the reality, that every year, there are over 21,000 firearm suicides.  It is time to improve our mental health capabilities.  Let’s expand background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

Since 2004, over 2,000 people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list have legally purchased guns.  Renewing the assault weapons ban and ending the sale of high capacity magazines would make me feel safer. 

The intended targets of a majority of our mass shootings are intimate partners, and over 60 percent of victims are women and children.  A woman is five times more likely to die in a domestic violence incident when a gun is present.  Let’s close loopholes in our laws that allow perpetrators of stalking and dating violence to buy guns. 

How about closing the loophole that allows prohibited purchasers to buy a gun without a completed background check after a three-day waiting period expires; strengthening penalties for straw purchasers who buy guns from licensed dealers on behalf of a prohibited purchaser; and authorizing resources for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes and effects of gun violence.  Congressional Republicans must act to ensure completed background check, and reduce the number of tragic shootings.

If Congress had acted the Trafficking and Crime Prevention Act of 2015 would have made gun trafficking a federal crime, provided tools to law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets and away from youth gangs and terrorists.

Unfortunately, in 2014, the gun lobby spent over $30 million on political advertising and lobbying to influence legislators in Congress and state capitals.  And recently, the Koch brothers made a $5 million contribution to the NRA.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Destroy ISIL Strategy

Our country has been at war with terrorists since al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.  Under the Obama administration our government has toughened our defenses in airports, financial centers, and other critical infrastructure.  Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies have disrupted terrorist plots in our homeland and overseas, by working around the clock to keep us safe.  Our military and counterterrorism professionals have disrupted safe havens for terrorist networks overseas, killed Osama bin Laden, and decimated al Qaeda's leadership.
As groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of war in Iraq and Syria, terrorists began using the Internet to radicalize the minds of European and American Muslims such as the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino murderers. 
Without congressional authorization of military force, Obama authorized our forces to take out terrorists abroad, because he knows how real the danger is  He insists: “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.  Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values, or giving into fear.  That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for.  Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless, and by drawing upon every aspect of American power.”
In Iraq and Syria, our military has been conducting airstrikes to take out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, and infrastructure.  Since the Paris attacks, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have increased their contributions to our military campaign, which will help our effort to destroy ISIL.
Our military will continue to provide training and equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground, and we are deploying Special Operations Forces in both countries to accelerate that offensive.
We’ve been working with allies to disrupt ISIL's plots, by cutting off their financing, and preventing them from recruiting more fighters.  We're working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria.  We’ve been cooperating with Muslim countries, and our Muslim communities at home to counter the ideology that ISIL promotes online.
American leadership is pressing the international community is pursuing ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war. 
President Obama has ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa waiver program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino came to our country.  Obama’s strategy to destroy ISIL is supported by our military commanders and counterterrorism experts.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Transparent and Accountable

A critical component of the Paris Agreement is the transparency framework agreed to by parties ensures that all countries are on a level playing field with the United States, and  with flexibility for those developing countries with less capacity.  For the first time, the agreement requires all countries to report on national inventories of emissions by source.  This breakthrough will give unprecedented clarity to the public’s understanding of emissions and pollution in countries throughout the world.
Also for the first time, countries are required to report on information necessary to track progress made in implementing and achieving the targets and strategies countries have put forward.
To help ensure countries are meeting transparency requirements, countries are subject to a comprehensive technical expert review process that analyzes whether reporting is in line with the standards adopted.  Countries will also engage in a multilateral review with their peers to share their experiences and lessons learned.
The submission of ambitious national targets in five-year cycles gives investors and technology innovators a clear signal that the world will demand clean power plants, energy efficient factories and buildings, and low-carbon transportation not just in the short-term but in the decades to come.  This will make it far easier to draw in the largest pools of capital that need long-term certainty in order to invest in clean technologies.
Many developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable, came to Paris seeking reassurance that a global climate deal is not just about the big emitters but also supports their transition to a low-carbon growth path.  In this regard, we are already making strong progress towards meeting the existing goal to mobilize $100 billion from a wide variety of sources, including both public and private, by 2020.  The Paris outcome provides further confidence that this goal will be met and that climate finance will continue to flow.  For the first time, the Agreement recognizes the reality that countries like China are already joining the base of donor countries contributing to climate finance and encourages developing countries to contribute to climate finance, while reaffirming that the United States and other developed economies should continue to take the lead.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Mission Innovation

A Christmas gift to Mother Earth, and all of her future inhabitants, began on the first day of the Paris conference, when President Obama joined other world leaders to launch Mission Innovation, a landmark commitment to accelerate public and private global clean energy innovation, and dramatically expand the new technologies that will define a clean, affordable, and reliable global power mix.  Twenty countries representing around 80% of global clean energy research and development funding base committed to double their research and development investments over five years.
Plus, a coalition of 28 global investors led by Bill Gates committed to support early-stage breakthrough energy technologies in countries that have joined Mission Innovation.
Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States will double its grant-based, public climate finance for adaptation by 2020.  As of 2014, the United States invested more than $400 million per year of grant-based resources for climate adaptation in developing countries.  These investments provide vulnerable countries with support – through both bilateral and multilateral channels – to reduce climate risks in key areas, including infrastructure, agriculture, health and water services.
Furthermore, 117 of our mayors have signed onto the Compact of Mayors pledge.  The Compact establishes a common platform to capture the impact of cities’ collective actions through standardized measurement of emissions and climate risk, and consistent public reporting of their efforts.
States including California, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York have committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80-95% below 1990 levels, share technology and scientific research, expand zero-emission vehicles, improve air quality by reducing short-lived climate pollutants and assess projected impacts of climate change on communities.
Furthermore, 154 companies have signed the White House’s American Business Act on Climate Pledge.  These companies have operations in all 50 states, employ nearly 11 million people, represent more than $4.2 trillion in annual revenue and have a combined market capitalization of over $7 trillion.  As part of this initiative, each company expressed support for an ambitious Paris Agreement and announced significant pledges to reduce their emissions, increase low-carbon investments, deploy more clean energy and take other actions to build more sustainable businesses and tackle climate change.
The wide variety of commitments, includes 311 colleges and universities representing over 4 million students, who have demonstrated their commitment to climate action by signing the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Agreement

The Paris Agreement has set a goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius and for the first time agrees to pursue efforts to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  It acknowledges that in order to meet that target, countries should aim to peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.
The Agreement moves beyond dividing the world into outdated categories of developed and developing countries and instead directs all parties to prepare, communicate and maintain successive and ambitious nationally determined climate targets.  Countries will set non-binding targets for themselves, thereby forming the basis for a long-term, durable system to ratchet down emissions.
Under the Agreement, all countries will communicate their climate targets every five years, starting in 2020.  Targets must be submitted 9-12 months before they are finalized, creating time for other countries and civil society to seek clarity about the targets submitted.
Each target should reflect progress from the prior one, reflecting the highest possible ambition that each country can achieve.  This durable, long term framework will drive greater climate ambition as technologies improve and circumstances change.
To help inform further domestic and global efforts, the agreement puts in place a mechanism to assess collective progress on global mitigation action using the best available science.  This process will begin in 2018 and occur every five years to help inform countries’ future targets and strategies.
The mitigation components of the agreement, combined with a broad push on innovation and technology, will help significantly scale up energy investments over the coming years.  Investments that will accelerate cost reductions for renewable energy and other low-carbon solutions.  This set of actions will create a mutually reinforcing cycle in which enhanced mitigation increases investment and enhanced investment allows additional mitigation by driving down costs.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Two Options

Addiction to legal drugs, alcohol and tobacco kills half a million Americans every year.  
Michael Botticelli was told by a judge: "Michael, you have two options.  You can either get care for your drinking problem.  Or we can continue with criminal proceedings."
Shortly thereafter, he walked into a church basement, raised his hand to acknowledge that he was an alcoholic and had a problem.  According to Botticelli the miraculous thing that gives you great hope is having people rally around you declaring: “We will help you, that you're not alone, that we've been through it before, and you will get through it.”
Botticelli has been alcohol free for 27 years, and as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy oversees a $26 billion budget.

Actually, 120 Americans die of drug overdoses every day.  That’s more than car wrecks or gun violence.  Botticelli started an experiment with police Lieutenant Patrick Glynn who was the head of narcotics in Quincy, Massachusetts.  Botticelli helped arm every Quincy officer with Naloxone, a nasal spray antidote for an overdose.  Lt. Glynn has seen unconscious addicts, who within 45 seconds to a minute, start to move around, their eyes flutter, and they began to sit up and speak.

Under Botticelli's administration if someone is involved in drugs, and there is an overdose, 911 can be contacted.  No one will be arrested for having drugs on the premises.  Today, 32 states have similar 911 laws and Naloxone is carried by more than 800 police departments.

Botticelli doesn’t approve of the legalization of marijuana, because it's been associated with poor academic performance, exacerbating mental health conditions, and linked to a lower IQ.

I'm of the opinion that Botticelli’s approach to addiction is reasonable and compassionate.  I’m hoping that readers of this newspaper will agree.                                                                                                         

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Michael Botticelli

The Obama administration’s Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy is Michael Botticelli, who is a recovering addict himself.  In 1988, he was a university administrator, whose car slammed into a truck.  He was drunk, and had been for years.  He has been alcohol free for 27 years, and now oversees a $26 billion budget with over half of the money going to drug enforcement.
Half of all federal inmates are in for drug crimes.  Botticelli insists: “We can't arrest and incarcerate addiction out of people.  Not only do I think it's really inhumane, but it's ineffective...  We've learned addiction is a brain disease.  This is not a moral failing.  This is not about bad people who are choosing to continue to use drugs because they lack willpower.  You know, we don't expect people with cancer just to stop having cancer... the hallmark of addiction is that it changes your brain chemistry.  It actually affects that part of your brain that’s responsible for judgment... addicts should be patients, not prisoners.”
As Director of Substance Abuse Services in Massachusetts, Michael Botticelli's initiatives included a high school for teens in recovery and expanding drug courts, like the one in Washington DC, where offenders can choose treatment over jail, and the charges can be dropped.
He believes that closing our southern border won’t solve the drug problem, because a single strategy isn’t going to change drug abuse.  The heroin crisis was created here at home.  We know that one of the factors of heroin addiction has been the misuse of pain medication.  If we're going to deal with heroin use, we have to also focus on reducing the use prescription pain drugs, since they’re opioids, like heroin.  The number of opioid prescriptions has risen from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million today.
Botticelli has pointed out: “We have a medical community that gets little training on pain, gets little training on addiction, and quite honestly has been promoting and continues to promote the overprescribing of these pain medications.”
More than 120 Americans die of drug overdoses each day.  That’s more than car wrecks or gun violence.  According to Botticelli prescription drugs and heroin act in very similar ways on the brain.  Unfortunately, heroin is cheaper on the streets of some cities like Boston, than prescription painkillers.  A bag of heroin could be as cheap as $10. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Unintentional Deaths

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention deaths from drug overdoses reached an all-time high in 2014.  Unintentional death rose 14 percent from 2013 to 2014.  Deaths from overdoses of prescription drugs and heroin continue to be the leading cause of unintentional death for Americans. 
Last year, 47,055 people died from drug overdoses.  Opioids are involved in 61 percent of all drug overdose deaths.
CDC data found that deaths from natural opiates such as morphine, codeine and semisynthetic prescription pain killers like oxycodone and hydrocodone jumped 10 percent, while deaths from heroin overdoses rose 26 percent.
The largest increase in deaths was from synthetic opioids, which went up 80 percent.  The increase in synthetic opioid deaths coincided with an increasing number of reports by law enforcement of illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
Prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and morphine are derived from the same poppy plants as heroin.  It’s understood that most heroin users initially started by using prescription painkillers.
The chemical structures of prescription painkillers are similar to heroin, and they bind to the same receptors in the brain.  Using these drugs results in an increased tolerance to pain and a sense of euphoria, but at high doses, they can also slow breathing.
Since 2000, opioid drug overdose deaths rose 200 percent.  That amounts to nearly half a million lives being lost to opioid drug overdoses.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cautious Sunni States

Saudi Arabia was announced a joint coalition to fight terrorism, that will be based in Riyadh to coordination in their efforts.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the coalition will include Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, the Palestinians, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d'Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen.
Since 2014, our military has been the primary force leading the military campaign against ISIS.  About 8o percent of the coalition bombing has been by our military, with some support from allies in Europe, Canada and Australia.
The Arab allies fighting against ISIS have refused to say how many airstrikes they have carried out against ISIS.  However, a Pentagon statements reveal that half the Arab countries in the coalition have carried out no bombing in Iraq and Syria at all.
Fawaz Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the London School of Economics noted: "There's been the idea that ISIS is a bigger challenge for Iran and its allies than it is for the Arab states, even though this feeling is changing now.  ISIS has threatened not only Iran and the [Shia]-dominated regimes in Iraq and Syria but even the Sunni-dominated Arab states."
Professor Gerges emphasized: "ISIS doesn't just exist in Syria and Iraq -- it has major constituency supporters in almost all Arab countries, including Saudi, Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan.  So they want to really minimize the risks." 
Whether the new coalition amounts to any real change in fighting ISIS remains to be seen.  ISIS is something that has prompted many Arab states to take a low profile up to this point and could still suppress any response in the future even with the announcement of the coalition.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Middle Class Shrinking

According to a Pew Research Center report, middle class Americans make up 49.9 percent of the nation's population, which is down from 61 percent in 1971.

Pew used data from the Federal Reserve Bank's Survey of Consumer Finances, which defines net worth as all of a family's assets minus all their debts.  Pew reasoned that middle class Americans live in households earning between two-thirds to two times the nation’s median income.  In 2014, that ranged from $41,900 to $125,600 for a three-person household.

For years, politicians claimed that a healthy middle class kept America strong.  Today, an increasing number of citizens are struggling under stagnating wages and soaring costs. 

According to Rakesh Kochhar, associate director of research at Pew the steady decline of the middle class is a sign of economic polarization.  Not only are more Americans shifting into the upper and lower classes, but they’re moving into the higher range of the upper class and the lower range of the lower class.

Since 1971, senior citizens were most likely to have shifted into the upper.  The percentage of Americans age 65 and over moving into the upper bracket has increased nearly 27 percent.  Married couples with no children and black Americans also saw larger gains.

Those most likely to fall into the lower class were unmarried men, and those with only a high school degree or high school dropouts.

The rich aren’t only trumping the middle class in terms of income.  They've also seen their wealth soar over the past 40 years.  The median net worth of upper class families doubled between 1983 and 2013, up to $650,100.

Some politicians are campaigning on promises to increase opportunities to climb the economic ladder.  But, others are promising to make abortion and same sex marriage illegal. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Recalling Gun Violence

In 1989, Richard Schmidt was charged with murder and felonious assault after killing a Hispanic man and shooting two others with a semi-automatic pistol during a traffic dispute.  He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in prison. 
After his release, FBI agents arrested Schmidt, after finding 18 assault weapons, along with high-capacity magazines and more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition in his storehouse.
Agents also discovered evidence of Schmidt’s ties to the neo-Nazi movement.  According to the search warrants, among the evidence seized was a video of a national convention of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement; bumper stickers of the National Alliance party, another neo-Nazi group; a “Jewish 500” roster that lists Jewish-owned businesses.
FBI counterterrorism agents found evidence that Schmidt may have been planning attacks against Jewish and civil rights groups.  
It’s also historically significant that on February 28, 1993, a team of agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) launched an assault on the premises of a religious community called Mount Carmel, outside Waco, Texas, occupied by a sect called the Branch Davidians, led by a man named Vernon Howell, who had assumed the name David Koresh.  They sought  to serve a search and arrest warrant, the raid resulted in a shootout in which four ATF agents and six Davidians were killed.  This was followed by a takeover of the operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Hostage Rescue Team and a 51-day standoff, which ended in an assault on the premises on April 19, 1993, and a wind driven fire in which 76 of the occupants died, including many women and children.
On February 27, 1993, the Waco Tribune- Herald began "The Sinful Messiah" series of articles by Mark England and Darlene McCormick who alleged that Koresh had physically abused children in the compound and had taken multiple underage brides amounting to statutory rape.  Koresh was also said to advocate polygamy for himself and declared himself married to several female residents of the small community.  Koresh declared he was entitled to at least 140 wives, that he was entitled to claim any of the females in the group as his, that he had fathered at least a dozen children through the harem and that some of these mothers became brides as young as 12 or 13 years old.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A Cunning Politician

In Iowa, conservative evangelicals make up 57 percent of the Republican voter base.  Republican presidential hopefuls have recently begun sounding a call to arms to Christian conservatives, describing what they say is an urgent threat to religious liberty.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is rising in both state and national polls.  He claimed at a forum sponsored by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition: “In the past month, we have seen religious liberty under assault at an unprecedented level.” 
Establishment Republicans disappointment with Donald Trump is understandable, because he has tweeted inaccurate and racist statistics on black crime taken from a neo-Nazi Twitter account.  He defended the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester at a Birmingham rally by insisting the man “needed to be roughed up.”  He continues to entertain the notion of a database for Muslims in the United States, as well as the possibility of closing some mosques to deal with the threat of ISIS.  He’s also repeated the untrue claim that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Nevertheless, Trump’s hateful rhetoric hasn’t hurt him with voters.  He’s held steady in every poll since the Paris terrorist attacks.  There is clearly a lot of support within the Republican base for Trump’s brand of hate.
Even the politically savvy Ted Cruz has begun to criticize Trump’s remarks: “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump’s but I’m not a fan of government registries of American citizens.  The First Amendment protects religious liberty, I’ve spent the past several decades defending religious liberty.”
Regarding unnamed rivals, Cruz told the Associated Press: “Are there some in the Republican Party whose rhetoric is unhelpful with regard to immigration?  Yes.  I cannot help the language that others use.  I can only help the words that come out of my own mouth.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Unprecedented Participation

More than 190 countries have come together to adopt the most ambitious climate change agreement in history.  The Paris Agreement establishes a long term framework to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.  All those countries commit to putting forward ambitious, nationally determined climate targets and to reporting on their progress by using a standardized process of review.
The agreement provides assurance to developing countries that they will be supported as they pursue clean and climate resilient growth.  The deal builds on the participation of 187 countries that submitted post-2020 climate action targets in advance of the meeting, and establishes a framework to ratchet up ambition by driving down global emissions in the decades to come.
This global framework lays the foundation for countries to work together to put the world on a path to keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and sets an ambitious vision to go even farther.  The agreement sends a strong signal to the private sector that the global economy is moving towards clean energy, and that through innovation and ingenuity, we can achieve our climate objectives while creating new jobs, raising standards of living and lifting millions out of poverty. 
The agreement is also the culmination of a broader effort by nations, businesses, cities, and citizens to reorient the global economy to a path of low-carbon growth.
The agreement establishes a robust transparency system to help make sure that all countries are living up to their commitments.  This will send a market signal to the private sector and investors that countries are serious about meeting the targets they have set.
Tackling climate change will require shifting global investment flows towards clean energy, forest protection, and climate-resilient infrastructure.  Developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable, will need support from the global community as they pursue clean and resilient growth.
These components of the agreement build on steps the United States took in Paris to demonstrate its commitment to mobilizing finance from public and private sources for both mitigation and adaptation activities in developing countries.
The agreement should serve as a floor for future ambitious climate action outside of the agreement by sub-national governments, enterprising businesses, investors and entrepreneurs, and an enlightened global public, who are important complements to the Paris Agreement.  As part of these global efforts, many Americans have already demonstrated their dedication to climate action through a wide variety of commitments.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Alex’s Wake

Martin Goldsmith wrote “Alex’s Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance.”  The story is about Jewish people from Europe, who were fleeing Nazi persecution being turned away by our government.  They included Martin Goldsmith’s uncle, and his grandfather.

Goldsmith’s book tells about a ship named, the “St. Louis” that came to our country six months after Kristall- nacht, November 9th, 1938.  On board the St. Louis were more than 900 Jewish refugees turned away first from Cuba for political reasons and then from the United States and Canada.  The ship was so close to the coast of Florida, that the people onboard could see the lights of Miami during the time they were sailing in waters off the coast of Florida.

Film star Edward G. Robertson and other Hollywood movie stars sent telegrams to President Roosevelt asking him to allow the passengers to get off in Miami.  Permission was denied, and the ship sailed back across the ocean.

A recent poll shows that 53 percent of Americans are against allowing Syrian refugees to come into our country.  Ironically, a Roper poll in 1938 showed that 53 percent of Americans thought that Jews weren’t like the rest of our population, and that they should be treated differently.  Ten percent of the respondents to that poll said that the Jews living in America should be deported.

Martin Goldsmith’s grandfather and uncle sailed back to Europe.  They got off the ship in France, and spent the next three years being sent from one camp to another before being sent to their deaths in Auschwitz in August of 1942.

Regarding the debate about Syrian refugees Goldsmith said: “When I hear these ideas of registries and keeping track of Muslims, I think of cards that my grandfather and uncle had filled out.”

Monday, December 14, 2015

That’s Not American

Both Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush suggested that America should accept Christian refugees from Syria, but not Muslims.  Senator Cruz explained: "there is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror."
President Obama argued: “When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims.  That’s shameful.  That’s not American.  It’s not who we are.  We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”
The Obama administration efforts to settle Syrian refugees in America has become a major point of conflict in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks.  Republican governors are saying that their states will keep the refugees out.  And, the GOP presidential candidates are competing to take the hardest line.  Senators Rand Paul and Cruz introduced Senate bill to bar refugees from Syria.  Ted Cruz plans to introduce a bill specifically banning Muslims Syrian refugees.
Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, was born an raised in Brooklyn.  She observed: “We are trying to bar the very people who are running away from the same terrorism that we’re talking about.  The Syrian refugees left there country because of ISIS, because of the regime, and that’s why they flee to places like Europe.  And our country is known to be welcoming refugees.

“I mean, our Statue of Liberty continues to be a symbol of welcoming immigrants into this country.  I’m disturbed by the rhetoric of people who are in our leadership, and I’m grateful for President Obama to stand up to this rhetoric.
“It’s ludicrous to hear what these people are saying, and the majority of the refugees that we’re talking about are young children.  These are young children who have seen so much trauma, violence, potentially their parents massacred.  They have been displaced. Some have drowned on the way to Europe.  And we’re taking a drop in the bucket.
“To be the greatest nation in the world, one of the most wealthiest nations in the world, and for us to be debating over 10,000 Syrian refugees, we’re not making a dent.”
The inscription on the Statue of Liberty was authored by Emma Lazarus.  It says: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Great Relationship

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed that he has always had a great relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and in the fourth Republican debate insisted that the two had actually met.
Trump said: “As far as Syria, I like if Putin wants to go in, and I got to know him very well, because we were both on "60 Minutes."  We were stable mates and we did very well that night.  But, you know, that.”

In fact, "60 Minutes" is not a live show, where “stable mates” wait to be interviewed and sit in a green room together.  Actually, Putin was interviewed by Charlie Rose in Moscow while Donald Trump was interviewed by Scott Pelley in his New York City penthouse.

After complaining about how much the birth certificate story had distracted from Washington’s and the media’s ability to focus on the important issues of the day, President Obama said: “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”
One of the carnival barkers, that Obama was referring to was Donald Trump, who had insisted that it was impossible for Obama to write his own books.  Historical, there is a long precedent for that kind of degrading of literate African Americans.
Frederick Douglass was not able to publish his own autobiography without affixing to it a letter from abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, that vouched for Frederick Douglas’ literacy.  Every edition you get of Frederick Douglas’ autobiography had a letter from William Lloyd Garrison telling the white audiences, that this black man was not only literate, but literate enough to write a masterpiece.

Today, many racist consider, the most radical thing about Obama is not his policies, but the fact that he’s the first African-American elected to the presidency.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Reminder

Rep. Gabby Giffords noted: “We're on Sarah Palin’s targeted list.  But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun site over our district.  People do that they've got to realize there's consequences to that action.”
Giffords narrowly beat Tea Party-backed Republican Jesse Kelly a former Marine, who had served in Iraq by a margin of 49-47 percent.  On his website, Kelly was pictured in military gear holding his automatic weapon to promote a fundraising event, where he urged supporters to help remove Giffords from office by joining him to shoot a fully loaded M-16 rifle.
The gunman in Tucson, Jared Loughner, used a 9 mm Glock pistol with an extended ammunition magazine in the attack that wounded the former congresswoman Giffords and killed six.  The handgun wouldn’t have been illegal under a federal assault weapons ban that lapsed more than seven years prior, because the magazine held more than 30 bullets would have been prohibited.
Giffords’ husband is former astronaut and retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly.  Today, he has become a public advocate for gun control.  He testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, that the first bullet from Jared Loughner’s gun went into his wife’s head and the 13th. bullet killed 9 year old Christina Taylor Green before the killer had to stopped to reload.  It was only then that 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving more lives.
Polls have shown that 75 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats favor background checks for gun shows and private sales.  Everyday, 48 children are killed or injured by guns in America.  When a gun is present in a domestic violence situation the chances of a woman will die increases by 500 percent.

Friday, December 11, 2015

An Authoritarian Party

Some Republican politicians are calling Donald Trump a fascist.  That’s surprising, since the party is already an authoritarian party.  Their supporters believe in limited government, and they believe in restricting the right to vote.  Any political party which consistently attempts to restricts the right to vote, is a party that places their own authority above the authority of the electorate and above the values of a representative democracy.

Voter suppression has primarily been occurring on the local and state level. For example, college students voting in Delhi was suppressed by moving every voting districts 2 miles away from the college campus and population center.  
The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than 5 million voters will be affected by those types of actions.  That number is higher than the margin of victory in the 2000 and 2004 presidential election.  Voter suppression clearly demonstrate the Republican Party is anti-democratic, and inclined to be authoritarian.
Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid.  Opposition to abortion is high, as is xenophobia, homophobia, and anti-gay legislation.  Fascist governments tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion.  Religious terminology is very common from their political leaders.
In fascist countries, the industrial and business aristocracy often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, by creating a mutually beneficial business/government power elite.  Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
Donald Trump and his supporters scare many Republican politicians, because they know that their views are not going to be acceptable if revealed to the general electorate.  They’re afraid that Trump is boldly laying their real agenda out in language that everybody understands.
During World War II our troops ended fascist regimes in Germany and Italy.  Hitler’s Nazi Germany made the Jewish population their economic scapegoat.  Today, Republican presidential candidates are using undocumented Mexicans and peaceful Muslim as scapegoats.
Hermann Goering, who was Hitler’s designated successor, reportedly said: "Voice or no voice the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same way in any country."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Privatize VA Hospitals

The new Republican House Speaker, Paul Ryan plans to turn Medicare for seniors into a voucher system.
The best ways, that we can show our support for veterans is to stand with them in opposition of plans to privatize our Veterans Administration hospital programs and services.

According to polling conducted by the Vet Voice Foundation, 64 percent of veterans oppose privatization, and that includes both a majority of Republicans and Democrats.  Almost 75 percent of veterans who have used a VA hospital oppose privatization schemes.  And over 57 percent of veterans, including a majority of Republicans, would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported privatizing VA care.

These findings clearly indicate, that health care is a promise made to our veterans, and after two wars in 14 years, a record number of veterans need care.  The VA is where the experts are, and we need to strengthen, not weaken, this system.
This issue will certainly be a major issue in the coming election cycle, and the Vet Voice Foundation is prepared to send the above polling results as well as their petition of signatures to the campaigns and congressional offices of those who are considering putting the profits of private corporations over the care of our veterans. 
Despite the fact that the vast majority of veterans in the survey approve of the care they've received from the VA, the system does need some change.  The changes start with more doctors and caregivers who are equipped to provide the specialized treatment some veterans require, such as amputations and traumatic brain injuries, that local doctors or hospitals may not be able to handle. 

Veterans need real quality care from the people who are best equipped to provide it. They don't want vouchers which may not cover all the costs. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Important Warning

On 12/6/15, Lesley Stahl reported on CBS’s 60 Minuets that law enforcement has been using young confidential informants.

The following information is from transcripts provided by a 60 Minuets episode entitled: "Confidential Informants."  I strongly recommend that young adults, parents and especially college administrators watch both part 1 and part 2 of those videos.  See: cbsnews.com/videos/topics/60-minutes/ 

Lance Block is an attorney, who opposes using young people caught for relatively minor offenses as confidential informants.  On the video, he tells Lesley Stahl: “These kids are being recruited to do the most dangerous type of police work.  They’re going undercover, with no background, training, or experience.  They haven’t been to the police academy.”

Block was unaware police were using young people as confidential informants until he was hired seven years ago by the family of Rachel Hoffman, a recent college graduate who was caught with a large stash of marijuana and a few Valium and ecstasy pills. 

It was her second marijuana arrest, and the Tallahassee Police Department insisted that if she didn't become a confidential informant, she was looking at four years in prison.  She agreed to become an confidential informant, and a few weeks later was sent out to make her first undercover drug buy.  

Rachel drove alone to meet the dealers in a park with $13,000 cash from the police and a wire in her purse.  She was to be monitored by 20 officers, but the dealers changed the location of the deal, so Rachel drove away from the police staging area.  Out on the road, a drug dealer got into her car and the police lost her.

Rachel Huffman’s body was found in a ditch 50 miles away, the wire was in her purse, and she had been shot five times.

I've prepared the 300 words above to send to the Oneonta Daily Star for publication in January.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Young Confidential Informants

On 12/6/15, Lesley Stahl reported on CBS’s 60 Minuets that law enforcement has been using young confidential informants.

The following excerpts are from transcripts provided by 60 Minuets regarding an episode entitled: "Confidential Informants."  I strongly recommend that young adults, and parents watch both part 1 and part 2 of those videos.  See: cbsnews.com/videos/topics/60-minutes/ 

Lesley Stahl explains: “When many of us hear the term ‘confidential informants’ -- or as law enforcement calls them, C.I.s -- we think of mobsters wearing a wire to ensnare their bosses, and get themselves a better deal.  But there’s another kind of confidential informant out there that doesn’t quite fit the Hollywood image, and in reality may be far more common: young people -- many of them college students caught selling small amounts of marijuana, who are recruited by law enforcement to wear a wire and make undercover drug buys in exchange for having their charges reduced or dropped altogether.  It’s a practice we discovered that’s going on across the country, largely under the radar -- and in some cases, with tragic consequences.”

Narcotics officer, Jason Weber’s  jurisdiction includes the campus of the North Dakota State.  A police video shows Weber recruiting college student, Andrew Sadek to become a C.I.  Sadek was caught making two small marijuana sales, for a total of $80.

Stahl mentions: “Marijuana is legal in four states and the District of Columbia, but not in North Dakota.  Selling a small amount on a campus is a Class A felony, with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $20,000, or both.”

Officer Weber admits to Lesley Stahl: “confidential informants are really important to law enforcement across the country.  They make our jobs easier just because they are already the ones that are out there that know who the drugs dealers are and rely on them.”

Weber tells Sadek: “Obviously you’re probably not gonna get 40 years, but is a it good possibility that you’re gonna get some prison time, if you don't help yourself out?  Yes.  That’s probably not a way to start off your young adult life and career, right?” 

Andrew Sadek, an award-winning student of electrical technology, decides to become a CI.  He agrees not consult a lawyer, or say word to his parents, who were still struggling with the death of their older son in an earlier train accident.  Andrew is now their only child.

Two months after Sadek disappeared his body was discovered in a river near the campus, his backpack weighted down with rocks.  A year and a half later, his parents were told, that he’d been shot in the head.  No one has been charged with his murder and the gun that killed him hasn’t been found.  

Monday, December 07, 2015

Christian Terrorists

 In November 1994, Doctor Garson Romalis was at home in Canada eating breakfast, when two bullets from a high-powered rifle came through a sliding glass door and hit his thigh and severed the femoral artery.  He saved his own life by making a tourniquet out of the belt on his bathrobe in order to survived that assassination attempt.
A year later, Dr. Hugh Short a gynecologist was sitting at home watching TV, when a high-powered rifle round came through a window and struck him in the elbow.  He also survived an assassination attempt.
In November 1997. Dr. Jack Fainman, the head of obstetrics and gynecology at a Canadian hospital was at home, when a high-powered rifle round came through the window and hit him in his right shoulder.  He never worked as a doctor again.
All three shootings had the same MO, bullets from a high-powered rifle fired through a window.  A fourth shooting with the same MO occurred the following year and killed Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was standing in his kitchen.  He and his family had just returned from his father’s funeral, when a high-powered rifle round came through a window.
The sniper got away again, but an international manhunt was initiated that lasted for years.  Eventually, police discovered that the shooter had dozens of aliases, multiple passports and people helping him.  He was known to have spent time in Mexico, Ireland and France.
In early 2001, the perpetrator was captured in France and extradited to the United States.  He was a suspect in those three attempted assassinations, but was only convicted of Dr. Slepian’s murder.  The killer was locked up for life in 2003, thereby ending a nearly decade-long odyssey that spanned five countries.
In March 1993, Dr. David Gunn was killed by three shots in the back when he arrived at a clinic where he worked during an anti-abortion protest.

In July 1994, Dr. John Britten was killed along with a retired Air Force officer James Barrett, who was acting as a security guard for the clinic. His wife June Barrett was also wounded in the attack.

In December 1994, at two different clinics that performed abortions in Brookline, Massachusetts, the same gunman killed receptionist Shannon Lowney, and later Leanne Nichols at the second clinic.

The previous year, an anti-abortion activist named Shelly Shannon shot Dr. George Tiller through the arm in the parking lot of his Kansas clinic.  Dr. Tiller survived, and went back to work the next day.

In 2009 a different anti-abortion extremist went to Kansas, and killed Dr. Tiller, as he was serving as an usher at his church.
The Atlanta Olympics bombing occurred in 1996, and killed one person.  The perpetrator Eric Rudolph evaded capture for years.  He insisted the Atlanta bombing was to punish America for the sin of abortion.  
While, Rudolph was on the run after the bombing, he committed another fatal bombing at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.  That bomb killed off-duty police officer Robert Sanderson, who was working security at the clinic, and seriously injured nurse Emily Lyons, who worked at the clinic.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Women Deserve Dignity

During the second Republican presidential debate, Carly Fiorina claimed that a Planned Parenthood clinic video showed: “Watch 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.’”
Some conservative media outlets gave the Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina glowing reviews for her answer to a question about defunding Planned Parenthood.  Unfortunately, their praise ignored the fact that Fiorina's attack on Planned Parenthood was based on a fictitious scene from a series of deceptively-edited videos and no such footage exists.  
Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday actually confronted Fiorina by asking: “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.”
Unfortunately, Fiorina refused to acknowledge that she was wrong.  Had she done so, she might have prevented the murder of three people, including police officer Garrett Swasey.  After Robert Lewis Dear surrender to police outside a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado, a law enforcement investigators said that the 57 year old had made a remark about “baby parts.”

Although, we can't bring back those who died, and no one can promise there won't be more attacks on doctors and women.  Women deserve the dignity to decide when to end a pregnancy.  Their decisions should be free from judgement, and at the very least, free from the fear of violence and death.

The FBI had warned of increased attacks on clinics since September, and this type of attack is common in the history of an extreme anti-choice movement.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said it was a "crime against women receiving health care services," and she pledged the full resources of her office to investigate.

The President of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, Vicki Cowart said Robert Dear: "was motivated by opposition to safe and legal abortion."

In 2009, Scott Roeder was charged with first-degree murder for killing Dr. George Tiller in church.  That wasn’t the fault of one person, who decided to assassinate an abortion doctor, and neither was Robert Dear’s murders.  It is the inevitable result of over 4 decades of relentless anti-abortion fanatics offering hate speech, and suggesting that it’s OK to kill abortion providers.

Some politicians are campaigning on promises to increase opportunities to climb the economic ladder.  But, others are promising to make abortion and same sex marriage illegal.   Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid.  Opposition to abortion is high, as is xenophobia, homophobia, and anti-gay legislation.  Fascist governments tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion.  Religious terminology is very common from their political leaders.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Kevin Swanson

At the National Religious Liberties Conference in Iowa, Pastor Kevin Swanson preached that homosexuality should be punished with death.  The event drew more than 1,700 to his conference, including several Republicans presidential candidates.

After quoting the Bible, Swanson call for the death penalty for homosexuals.  Then he declared that killing homosexuals wasn’t a high a priority, and they should be given more time to repent.

In 1969, the Supreme Court case of Brandenberg v. Ohio, sets forth the following criteria to determine when government may curtail free speech.

"The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

Reasonable people think that the words of Pastor Swanson at the National Religious Liberties Conference meet the definition of incitement.  And some have called for his arrested under federal statutes, in order to determine whether his remarks qualify as incitement.  Courts may disagree, and that’s alright, because people begin to appreciate that incitement is an issue.

It could be only a matter of time before a follower of Swanson kills a member of the LGBT community.  Swanson is part of a fringe group of hateful Christian extremist.  It’s true that many Christians are also offended by Swanson’s remarks, and they should begin to speak out. 

A large number of Christians consider themselves an oppressed minority whose existence is under constant threat.  That kind of siege mentality can drives people to do terrible things.  If someone kills a homosexual person based in part on Swanson's remarks, that murder will be the act of the perpetrator, but also the responsibility of Pastor Kevin Swanson.

Friday, December 04, 2015


The most significant disagreement at the fourth Republican presidential debate was illegal immigration.  After Donald Trump called for deporting 11 million undocumented people, he endorsed President Eisenhower’s 1954 deportation program, that allegedly removed 1.5 million illegal immigrants.  It was named “Operation Wetback” a disparaging term for Mexican men who came across the Rio Grande. 
In the 1950s, "The Washington Post" reported that hundreds of thousands Mexicans were packed on buses, trucks, and boats and dumped into obscure areas of Mexico, with few possessions, no way to get home, and on many occasions, without resources to survive.  In one roundup 88 people died from heatstroke, and boats packed with migrants were compared to 18th century slave ships.

When Trump was pressed for specifics, he promised to put together a “humane deportation force,” that would succeed by using “good management practices.”
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro explained, that Trump’s deportation plan has: “remind folks who care about being reasonable on the issue of immigration just how impractical, how inhumane and really how dangerous his ideas are.”

Castro predicted: “And it’s going to be unfortunate in the general election for the Republican Party, because, as you know, they lost the 2012 election in part because Mitt Romney went out there and said he supported self-deportation.  The Republican Party did an autopsy of the 2012 election and the number one thing they said was that we need to get right by folks who care about that immigration issue.  And we need to get away from espousing policies like self-deportation.

“Now comes Donald Trump and other folks like Marco Rubio, who are just standing there, hearing this, and not standing up for something different, and they’re basically going beyond what Mitt Romney said.  So they’re going in the wrong direction.”

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Human Rights First

In response to questions asked by MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes, Senior director of “Refugee Protection Human Rights First,” Eleanor Acer noted: “Refugees are actually more closely vetted than just about any population that comes to the United States.
“First, they are identified abroad.  They are registered.  Information is taken by the U.N. refugee agency.  Then, before they can be resettled to the United States, they are interviewed one on one by a trained department of homeland security officer.  Then a barrage of checks are conducted, by U.S. intelligence agencies, by the FBI, the department of defense, the department of homeland security.

“They are so incredibly thoroughly vetted that, you know, they really present absolutely no risk to this country.  These are vulnerable refugee families who have been identified specifically to be resettled to the United States.

“U.S. is essentially hand picking these people and vetting them through a very very careful process.  The United States is a country with a diverse and rich religious population.  We should really be true to American ideals here.  This is a chance to really show what America values are and to really demonstrate U.S. leadership.

“The United States and the president has committed to resettle only about 10,000 Syrian refugees, and that’s a drop in the bucket compared with the millions that are being hosted by key U.S. allies like Jordan and Belize.

“The refugees who are resettling in the United States are actually coming from camps in the middle east, some are living in urban areas, these are refugees that have been monitored for years, their families, they’re torture survivors, children, women, the men are not some kind of Trojan horse.

“We also know a lot about them.  These are people who are interviewed over and over again.  We have biometric data from different points in time.  We got a lot of information about these people.  We do know who they are.

“Governors do not have the right to decide who can enter their state or not.  These refugees who are given status under U.S. law, they have absolutely valid status and governors can’t decide who can come in and out of there state.  That’s not what America is about.”

In fact, once our federal government under the powers granted by the Constitution to local immigration grants that status, they have freedom of movement inside the states just as anyone else would.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


The House passed a bill calling for tougher restrictions for Iraqi and Syrian refugees who hope to enter the America.  Three Republicans voted against the bill, and 47 Democrats voted for it.  President Obama vowed to veto it.
The House ignored the fact that none of the suspects in the Paris attacks were refugees, and that our current refugee policy prioritizes the most vulnerable: children, female-led households, victims of torture, and those requiring medical care.  Now, more lengthy checks adds to a processing time that currently averages two years will endanger people who are stranded in war zones.
House Republicans bragged that the bill cleared the House with a veto-proof majority.  The Senate will take up the bill, which would require that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to certify that potential refugees aren’t a national security threat.  This swift backlash isn’t a surprise, because anti-immigrant sentiment is now a defining characteristic of congressional politics.
There’s nothing new about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s refusal to move on immigration reform as long as President Obama is in office.  Refugees already face the most stringent background checks of any group hoping to enter the country through authorized channels.
Donald Trump said that he’s open to steps that would’ve been “frankly unthinkable a year ago,” including a database to register Muslims in the country and special identification for Muslims that “noted their religion.”  Trump seems to have forgotten that Nazis already did that to Jews.
Anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policy-making and posturing are one and the same.  Neither began with Paris, or ISIS, or on 9/11.  The people who are calling to shut down mosques, and shutting doors on Syrian refugees, are the same politicians, who have advocated rounding up and deporting all unauthorized Mexican immigrants.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Handful of Extremists

Six days after 19 militants associated with al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States, President Bush pointed out: “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam.  That’s not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  These terrorists don’t represent peace.  They represent evil and war.

“When we think of Islam, we think of the faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world.  Billions of people find comfort and solace and peace and that’s made brothers and sisters out of every race out of every race.

“America counts millions of Muslims among our citizens.  And Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country.  Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shop keepers, moms and dads. And they need be treated with respect.

“In our anger and emotion are fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.  Women who cover their heads in this country, must feel comfortable going outside their homes.  Moms who wear cover must not be intimidated in America.  That’s not the America I know, that’s not the America I value.

“I’ve been told that some fear to leave, some don’t want to go shopping for their families.  Some don’t want to go about their ordinary, daily routines because by wearing cover they’re afraid they will be intimidated.
“That should not and will not stand in America.  Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take at their anger don’t represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.”

Standing next to President Bush at the Islamic Center was Dr. Aziza al-Hibri, who is a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
Recently, on national TV, Dr. Aziza al-Hibri recalled: “It took a long time for everything to unfold and for us to understand the depth of it.
“But it was surprising for us that the president would come together to meet with a Muslim leadership in such a short time after the events and then to assure them and speak publicly to the American people about the fact that this country is about equality, it’s about the rights of every group within it in that we’re not going to be changed by the act of a handful of extremists.”