Mind and Destiny

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

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

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Wealthy Special Interests


The economic and political systems in our country are obviously stacked against ordinary Americans.  The rich get richer and use their wealth to influence the results of elections.
Citizens United is one of the most disastrous Supreme Court decisions in our lifetime.  It hinges on the notion that money is speech, that corporations are people, and that giving huge piles of undisclosed money in support of politicians in exchange for influence does not constitute corruption.
That ruling handed millionaires and billionaires unlimited influence in our elections.  It gave billionaires like the Koch Brothers an even greater opportunity to influence the House, Senate, and the White House.
Super PACs are the result of the Citizens United decision.  That decision enables our wealthiest citizens and most powerful corporations to spend unlimited amounts on elections.
Recently, in a single election cycle, they committed to spend at least $750 million on political activities, which will corrupt our political process.  It’s time for us to acknowledge that a rapid movement is occurring towards a political system whereby a handful of very wealthy people and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected.  That isn’t what a representative democracy is supposed to be about, and it should concern all Americans, regardless of their political point of view. 
The need for real campaign finance reform is obvious.  However, that assertion assumes that most Americans wish to preserve the longest standing democracy in the world, which allegedly is a form of government that represents all Americans and not a just handful of very wealthy special interests.
The truth is that most of the new wealth and income in our country has been going to the top one percent while working families are struggling more than at any point since the Great Depression.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pragmatic


Today, I’m posting additional information, that will provide facts to further explain the last sentence of yesterday’s post. 

The Affordable Health Care Act strengthened Medicare by cracking down on fraud and keeping it solvent for decades to come.  It protects guaranteed benefits, eligibility and the right to keep your doctor for all seniors.

According to the Congressional Budget Office health care reform should cut the deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years, and as much as $1.2 trillion, in the following decade.  A report from Congressional Budget Office indicated that the Affordable Care Act is the most significant effort to reduce our deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s.

Furthermore, it should be noted, that Democratic Senator Max Baucus was the Chairman of Senate Finance Committee, when Congress was attempting to pass healthcare legislation.  The “Billings Gazette” reported: “In the past six years, nearly one-fourth of every dime raised by the Montana Democrat and his political action committee has come from individuals associated with drug companies, insurers, hospitals, medical supply firms, health service companies and other health professionals.  These donations total about 3.4 million, or 1,500 dollars a day, every day, from January 2003 through 2008.”

Senator Baucus refused to allow advocates for a single payer national health policy to testify at the Senate Finance Committee hearings.  He was corrupted by corporate health industry lobbyist.

President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act, that protect all Americans from the worst practices of insurance companies.  Coverage can’t be revoked, premiums won’t be arbitrarily raised and insurance companies won’t be allowed to use a pre-existing condition to deny coverage.

Obama and Nancy Pelosi recognized that single payer healthcare legislation wouldn’t get passed in the Senate.  Instead, congressional Democrats wisely decided to be pragmatic.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Obscene Profits


In 2006, congressional Democrats suggested allowing reimportation of safe FDA approved drugs from Canada, which would have lowered the costs of drugs in our country.  They also wanted to allow Medicare to bargain for lower prices on behalf of the 52 million Americans in that program.
Price-gouging and patent monopolies are costing sick Americans $16 billion a year.  Big Pharma's obscene profits contributes to nearly one in five sick Americans not filling needed prescriptions.
In 2003, a law was passed by Big Pharma's friends in Congress that prohibited Medicare, with its vast purchasing power, from negotiating drug prices.  Medicare's hands have remained tied by the 2003, law that the pharmaceutical industry and its legion of lobbyists in Washington D.C. rammed through Congress.
Today our nation's seniors pay at least $16 Billion more per year than they would if Medicare could negotiate fair prices with the drug companies.
When, President George W. Bush attempted to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in Congress raised concerns about the cost of the program.  Instead of an open debate on factual data, the Bush regime prevented Congress from hearing testimony from the administration expert, who had compiled information showing the cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given by President Bush.
The Medicare prescription drug law was designed for Republican special interests and much of it was written by pharmaceutical industry lobbyists.  Instead of looking out for sick people, congressional Republicans sided with powerful special interests.
A culture of corruption infected the Republican controlled Congress and the White House in 2003.  The drug and HMO industries had spent $141 million on lobbying.  Political contributions from the drug industry to Republicans in 2002 was $21.7 million.  At the time it was estimated that it would increase the drug industry profits by $182 billion.  A thousand pharmaceutical industry lobbyists worked on Capitol Hill, and they had spent more than $758 million on lobbying since 1998.
Reimportation of drugs from Canada, which experts have said are safe, have been kept illegal to ensure pharmaceutical industry profits.  And, Medicare is still barred from bargaining for lower prices like the Veterans Administration does for veterans.
We must keep fighting for lower prescription drug prices, and a single-payer, Medicare-for-All system until the day when sick people aren’t denied care for the sake of corporate profits.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Merchants of Death


On 1/5/16, President Obama announced executive actions to strengthen background checks and hire hundreds of ATF and FBI agents to ensure that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands.  He used the term “Iron Pipeline.” which refers to the I-95 corridor connecting New York City, which has strict gun laws, to the Southern states that have lax gun laws.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson is very familiar with the Iron Pipeline.  He explained to CNNMoney: "When there is a profit incentive, people will drive through the night on I-95 to bring these guns into our city.  Our problem is really the states down South, or in other parts of the country that have weak gun laws.  We have strong gun laws, but we're being overwhelmed with all the guns from these weaker states.  There is a significant financial incentive for these gun runners.  They're merchants of death."

District Attorney Thompson charged eight suspects in a 541-count indictment for smuggling 112 guns into his Brooklyn borough, including handguns and 20 assault weapons they allegedly sold to undercover police officers.  The traffickers smuggled the guns from Georgia and Pennsylvania on low fare buses that arrived in the city's Chinatown neighborhood.

Other guns brought in on buses were obtained through straw purchases at pawn shops in Atlanta and Pittsburgh for $150 to $300.  The DA said the alleged ringleader Michael Bassier resold them in a Walgreens parking lot to undercover cops, averaging $800 to $1,200 per gun.  Assault weapons could get up to $2,500.

Even airplanes have been used to smuggle guns into New York City.  In 2014, DA Thompson indicted a Delta Airlines employee for smuggling guns from Georgia to New York on commercial flights, including an AR-15, an AK-47 and Glock pistols.

In 2015, prosecutors in the Bronx charged nine suspects, including alleged Bloods gang member William "Wobbles" Soler, with a 367-count indictment for smuggling 93 guns into the city, including an AK- 47.  The 550-pound "Wobbles" Soler allegedly coordinated the sales by phone, while his underlings allegedly brought them by train from as far away as Maine.

It was estimates by CNNMoney, that William Soler's guns would have cost about $33,500 on the legal market outside the city.  He was going to double his money, according to recorded phone transcripts from Bronx County Supreme Court.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Diversity and Tolerance


After the 2008 election, Democrats had President Obama, a House with more Democrats than at any time since 1992, and their party held a majority in the Senate.
Republican lawmakers had a choice to make.  They could either embrace a younger, diverse and tolerant America of the 21st century, or attempt to disenfranchise those who had voted for a more representative democracy.
At private dinner in Washington DC on the day Obama was sworn in as president, top Republican lawmakers and strategists decided they weren’t going to negotiate on anything.  They were determined to make it Obama’s economy.  Today they still don’t have any interest in improving the lives of the average American. 
Then, a Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United transformed our politics by allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.
In the 2010 midterms, outside groups spent nearly 60 percent more than in 2006.  In 2014, the top 100 donors spent nearly as much as all 4.75 million small donors combined.  National networks of big-money donors funneled mountains of cash into targeted state races.  By 2014, one party controlled both the governor's mansion and the state legislature in 36 states, the most since the 1950s.
Republicans launched a campaign to restrict voting rights across the country.  After the 2010 midterms, lawmakers in 41 states introduced at least 180 measures designed to make it harder for people to vote.  Their effort got a boost in 2013 when the Supreme Court made another disastrous ruling, striking down hard-won Voting Rights Act protections.  Today, 21 states have new laws restricting voting rights.
Some of the greatest damage to voting rights has come in states with single-party control like North Carolina, which eliminated same-day voter registration and slashed early voting.  In Florida, the Republican party instituted such heavy restrictions on voter registration drives that the League of Women Voters had to shut down operations.  In Alabama, lawmakers passed a strict photo ID requirement and then closed dozens of driver's license offices across the state, making it much harder for citizens to get the IDs they now need to vote.
The flood of corporate money in our elections, the rise of single-party control of state governments, and the sharp increase in voting-rights restrictions has damaged our representative democracy.  The voices of a diverse and tolerant America has been muted.  Our democracy isn’t working.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Immigration Program Challenged


The Supreme Court has announce that it will listen to the dispute concerning President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.
Texas and 25 other states have challenged his decision to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for programs that could make them eligible for work authorization and some associated benefits.  Lower courts have so far sided with Texas and temporarily frozen those programs from going into effect.
The Obama administration hopes the Court will take up the issue this term, reverse the decisions of the lower courts and approve those programs before the next election.
In December, the court seemed divided on a major affirmative action case challenging the race-conscious admissions plan at the University of Texas, with supporters of the school fearful that the the justices are poised to curtail the use of race as one factor in admissions.
All eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy a Ronald Reagan nominee who is often the deciding vote in tight cases.  He supported a government interest in diversity but has yet to rule in favor of an affirmative action plan.  Kennedy displays thoughtful independence that fails to reflect any particular ideology.
Although, he was generally deferential to the government on criminals, he voted, along with Scalia and the court's liberals, to declare unconstitutional a Texas law that prohibited the desecration of the American flag, on the grounds that the Constitution protects such acts as symbolic speech.

He also wrote the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Romer v. Evans, which voided an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that prohibited state and local governments from enacting laws that would protect the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals and in Lawrence v. Texas, he declared unconstitutional Texas's law criminalizing sodomy between two 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Spilling American Blood


We should have learned a lesson, from Vietnam and Iraq, that spilling American blood and treasure will ultimately weakens us.   
Our country is the most powerful nation on Earth.  We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.  Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world.  No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that is a path to destruction.  Surveys show our standing around the world is higher now, than when President Obama took office.
This is a very dangerous time, but that's not because of our diminished strength or some looming superpower.  The Chinese economy is in transition.  Last year, China’s economy grew at its slowest rate in the last 25 years  Russia is pouring military resources to prop up Syria to prevent them slipping away from their orbit.  
Our number one priority is to protect the American people by going after terrorist networks, because a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage.
Our military is focused on destroying ISIL, who has fighters in Syria and Iraq on the back of pickup trucks, as well as, terrorist among us plotting in apartments or garages to kill civilians.  They don’t threaten our national existence, but that's the kind of propaganda ISIL is using to recruit.  We must not confirm their propaganda, that they represent of one of the world's largest religions, nor should we be pushing away vital allies.  We simply need to recognize that they’re religious fanatics, who kill innocent people and continue to hunted them down.  
The Obama administration has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL's financing, disrupt their plots, and stop the flow of terrorist fighters.  Over 9,700 air strikes in Iraq and Syria, have depleted their leadership, oil supplies, training camps, their weapons and a cash storage facility.  We’re training, and arming forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in those countries.  
Justice is being done.  Osama bin Laden, and the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen have been killed.  The perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks is in a prison cell.  It may take time, but we have long memories, and the reach of our military has no limit.
Tough talk like calling for carpet bombing of civilians doesn't enhance our standing on the international stage.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mandated Coverage


For the fourth time, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge targeting the Affordable Care Act.  The latest case concerns a challenge from religious nonprofit groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor.  The ACA calls for group health plans to provide a full range of contraceptive coverage to women at no cost.  
In the Burwell versus Hobby Lobby decision, a divided Supreme Court ruled five to four that corporations can’t be required to provide contraception coverage for their employees.  Hobby Lobby a craft supply store successfully challenged the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, on the grounds that it violated their religious freedom by requiring them to pay for contraception coverage, they found morally objectionable.  It was a victory for conservatives to block birth control, fought by five male justices, whose conservative ideology clearly demonstrated that they are commitment to waging war on women.

The decision was written to opened the flood gates for litigation enabling employers to deny other forms of healthcare to their employees on religious grounds.  Our founding father sought to create a government with a wall of separation between church and states, but that wall has been tumbling down, since the Eisenhower administration.

Conservative Republican governors have block Medicaid expansion thereby denying the working poor access to health care.  What this is really about is destroying a law designed to get people health insurance.

The Supreme Court ruling suggests that somehow religion can be used as a justification to block women from accessing birth control, which is basic healthcare for women.  Unintended pregnancy is highly correlated with infant mortality, maternal mortality and is a significant risk factor in domestic violence homicide.  Those five Supreme Court justices disregarded the welfare and lives of women and infants. 

Those conservative Republican governors have denied healthcare for the working poor.

(See 11/10/15 post entitled “Religious Zealot.”)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Relentless Fanatics


The Supreme Court will hear the first major case on abortion rights since 2007.  At issue are key parts of Texas' 2013 abortion law that requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and mandates that clinics upgrade their facilities to hospital-like standards.

Abortion rights supporters consider the law one of the strictest in the nation and that if the Supreme Court agrees with a lower court's decision and allows two provisions of the law to go into effect, the number of available clinics in the state is expected to fall to about 10.  Supporters of the law argue it's meant to protect women's health.  Other states have similar legislation percolating in lower courts.

Abortion is always an issue that can fire up base voters on both sides, and the ruling would likely come in late June, as the general election battle heats up.

Since September, the FBI has warned of increased attacks on abortion clinics, because attacks on clinics is common in the history of an extreme anti-choice movement.

Last, November, Robert Lewis Dear murdered three people, including police officer Garrett Swasey.  After Robert 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.”  Those murders were 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.

Most Americans believe that the heart wrenching decision regarding abortion shouldn’t be decided by arrogant men on the Supreme Court.  If the Texas law isn’t declared unconstitutional, wealthy women will have the option of a long trip for their abortions, but dangerous back room abortions might become the only option for poor women.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Spirit of Innovation


Over the past seven years, the Obama administration has nurtured the spirit of innovation.  They’ve protected an open internet, and taken steps to get more students and low-income Americans online.
Recently, Vice President Biden worked with Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they've had in over a decade.  Medical research should receive the same level of commitment as developing clean energy sources.
Anybody, who wants to dispute the science regarding climate change, will have to debate our military, most of America's business leaders, a majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who have agreed that climate change is a serious problem and needs to be solved.
In  2014, our planet was the warmest year on record, and 2015 turned out even hotter.  Seven years ago, our country made the single largest investment in clean energy in history.  Those investments have resulted in wind power becoming cheaper from Iowa to Texas than dirtier sources of energy.  On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar panels are saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more American workers than coal mining, at a better than average salary.  Steps have been taken to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy.  And, we've cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly 60 percent, and cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.
Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world.  That is the reason we have to answer the important question of how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there's a problem.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Secure Safety Net


American workers needs protections that provide a basic measure of security, because at some point in their careers, they may have to retrain.  They shouldn't lose what they've already worked so hard to build.  That’s the reason Congress should be strengthening Social Security and Medicare.
For those Americans, who are short of retirement, basic benefits should be as mobile as General Electric 's benefits have been by moving it’s headquarters from my home town of Schenectady, N.Y. to Fairfield, Conn. and most recently to Boston.
Security is what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is about.  It's about filling the gaps in employer-based care so that when you lose a job, or go back to school, or start a new business, they'll still have coverage.  Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far.  Healthcare costs are growing at a historically low rates.  Our businesses have create more jobs every single month since ACA became law.
Both political parties should be seeking to improve economic security.  When hardworking Americans loses their job, we should make sure that unemployment insurance is available, and encouraged them to retrain for new skills that employers are looking for.  If the new job doesn't pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that the employee can still pay her/his bills.  Even if they are going from job to job, they should still be able to save for retirement and take those savings with them.  That is the way our government can make a new economy work better for everyone, who is willing to work.
President Obama would welcome a serious discussion with members of Congress regarding strategies, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without children.  Both political parties should be able to find agreement regarding the role the government should play in making sure the system isn’t rigged in favor of the wealthiest and most powerful corporations.
A thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy, but there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and red tape that needs to be cut.  After years of record corporate profits, working families aren’t getting more opportunity or larger paychecks because congressional Republicans permit powerful banks, and international conglomerates to make their own rules at the expense of hard working citizens.  It's not the average working family that is avoiding paying taxes through offshore accounts. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Broadly Supportive


A new CNN/ORC poll found 67 percent of those polled are in favor President Obama’s executive actions regarding gun ownership, and 32 percent oppose them.  Support designed to expand background checks to cover more gun purchases made online or at gun shows will make it easier for the FBI to complete background checks. 
Approval came across party lines, with majorities of 85 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents, and 51 percent of Republicans in favor of the changes.
The American public is broadly supportive of the executive actions aimed at increasing the reach of federal background checks for gun purchases and improving existing laws.
Skepticism about the effectiveness of Obama’s executive actions is widespread, with almost 6 in 10 claiming the measures will not be effective in reducing the number of gun-related deaths That sentiment is particularly strong among gun owners, 75 percent of whom say they doubt the changes will reduce gun deaths.
Obama’s approval rating climbed 8 points for handling gun policy, since a late-December CNN/ORC Poll, with increases coming primarily among Democrats.
Despite a shift toward the positive in reviews of Obama's handling of gun laws, most Americans opposed his use of executive actions to make the changes, 54 percent oppose it, while just 44 percent support executive action.  
Indeed, the partisan divide is wide, with 78 percent of Democrats insisting they favor Obama's use of executive actions, while 79 percent of Republicans oppose it.  Independents generally oppose the move, 61 percent opposed to 37 percent in favor.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted January 5-6 among a random national sample of 1,027 adults.  Results based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, the margin for error in subgroups is larger.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Selfishness


The Oneonta Daily Star recently published the following letter submitted by Mark VanLaeys.  

“I’m concerned that Americans are losing the ability to scrutinize information or to think beyond their own needs and wants.  These abilities are crucial if society is to move forward from the understandably violent ways of our primeval ancestors.

“As a gun owner, I recently received another invitation to join the NRA.  The thrust of the three-page letter, and an issue of the NRA magazine ‘American Rifleman’ I recently read, was clear.  Virtually everyone except the NRA and their pawns is making a ‘war on the Second Amendment and every freedom we cherish.’  Any red-blooded American who believes that would understandably be terrified.  The knee-jerk reaction of any child or nonthinking adult is to stockpile more of something someone powerful threatens to take away. 

“How many firearms can a person shoot at one time?  How exactly would the government take away 300 million firearms when soldiers, police and a majority of Americans think they’re entitled to have them?

“Could the NRA be the mechanism by which the gun industry ensures it will sell tens of thousands of guns every time there’s a gun-related tragedy?  Nowhere in the two publications did I find a single word admitting that gun violence is a problem in the U.S. 

“On 9/11, 3,000 people died in a terrorist attack.  We fought two wars, sacrificing 5,000 Americans, to lessen the chance it would happen again.  In 2014, we lost 12,575 Americans from gun violence.  The NRA-sponsored Congress says it will oppose anything that would weaken the Second Amendment, which was ratified in 1791.  The NRA is too greedy, self-centered, and fear-filled to consider the rights or welfare of any Americans except itself.  The first of the Bible’s Ten Commandments is ‘Worship no God but me.’  The NRA has its god — the Second Amendment.” 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Endorsing Marco Rubio


Paul Singer is a leading Republican fundraiser and donor, who is now endorsing Marco Rubio in his bid for the presidency.  The endorsement is a boost for the Florida senator's campaign, but a setback for Jeb Bush.
Singer is able to easily invest millions of dollars into a super PAC.  He’s likely to make a large contribution to one of the outside groups allied with Rubio's presidential campaign.  A substancial donation will help Rubio's campaign, which only raised $6 million in the most recent fundraising quarter.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Paul Singer gave $11.5 million to conservative groups in 2014, more than any Republican in the country.  He’s the Republican party's most prodigious fundraiser, and his giving has been motivated primarily by two causes: protection of Israel and other Jewish causes, and support for the gay rights movement.  That position puts him at odds with other players in the Republican Party.
Paul Singer backed Rubio during his Senate campaign in 2010, and has praised the senator's positions on higher education and welfare reform, his pledge to replace Obamacare and his support for Israel.  Singer called Rubio "the best explainer of conservatism in public life today" and the candidate best positioned to defeat Hillary Clinton next fall.
Rubio told reporters at a campaign event in Iowa: "I'm grateful that, you know, when people donate to us they buy into our agenda, and I'm glad that he has and it will help us with resources.  But you know, resources alone are not enough.  You have to have the right ideas and the right principles and convince people that you're the right person for the job.  But we're grateful to have his help, obviously."
When will Senator Rubio make his plan to replace Obamacare known to the voters?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dodging the Question


The fourth Republican debate hosted by Fox Business Channel was billed by "The Wall Street Journal" as a chance for Republican candidates to speak with substance and specifics about business and the economy. 
Instead, the Republican candidates couldn’t come up with answers to questions regarding the direction of the economy under President Obama.  For instance moderator Gerard Baker asked Senator Marco Rubio how he’d assure American workers their jobs would not be replaced by machines.  Instead of answering the question, he pivoted to talking points, claiming that America was in an economic downturn.
The Fox Business Channel moderator asked: “How do you reassure American workers that their jobs are not being steadily replaced by machines?”
Rubio answered: “Well, you know, that’s an excellent question, because what we are going through in this country is not simply an economic downturn.  We are living through a massive economic transformation.  I mean, this economy is nothing like what it was like five years ago, not to mention 15 or 20 years ago.”
What economic downturn?  We’ve had 69 consecutive months of private sector employment growth.  Seven years after we were driven by a Republican president into a major recession, in which the economy was losing 800,000 jobs per month, a Democratic president brought us back from the precipice of another Great Depression disaster.
History shows that when FDR took office in 1933, unemployment was 24.9 percent.  Less government and tax cuts didn’t end the Great Depression.  It required massive spending on WWII to end it.
In 2001 and 2003, congressional Republicans passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history.  It resulted in the slowest job growth in half a century.  Most of the Republicans in Congress continue to refuse to take a hard look at corporate loopholes.  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The American Economy


In the State of the Union Address, President Obama pointed out that that our country has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  For the past 69 months, we’ve been adding private-sector jobs.  That includes more than 14 million new jobs in the past 2 years, which is the strongest two years of job growth since the '90s.  Since Obama took office the unemployment has been rate cut in half.  Our auto industry was had its best year ever.  Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  This was accomplished while our deficits were cut by almost three-quarters.
Claiming that our economy is in decline is untrue.  Many Americans feel anxious about the economy, because it started to change long before the recession hit and hasn’t stopped.  Technology is replacing jobs on the assembly line.  Many job can be automated, and this allows companies, who face tough competition in a global economy to locate anywhere.  Consequently, workers have less leverage for a raise, companies have less loyalty to their communities, and more wealth is being concentrated at the very top.
Those realities have made it harder for a hardworking family to pull themselves out of poverty, harder for young people to start their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to.  None of these trends are unique to America, however they conflict with the belief that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot.
For seven years, the goal of the Obama administration has been to grow an economy that works for everybody.  Progress is slowly being made.  Most Americans agree that real opportunity requires everyone to get the education and training, that they’ll need to land a good-paying job.  The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together we've been able to increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates, and increase the number of graduates in fields like engineering.  We can build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready, and recruit and support more effective teachers.
Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and President Obama is committed to keep fighting to get that started in 2016.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Respectful and Reasoned


The "Guns in America" town hall on CNN was moderated by Anderson Cooper.  President Obama faced critics of this executive actions, that included expanded background checks for gun sales.  Although, most of his critics believed, that he's determined to confiscate their weapons, it resulted in a respectful and reasoned discussion of the issues. 
The heated partisanship in Washington has resulted in Obama complaining that Republicans were obstructionist and unreasonable, while Republican leaders considered him as polarizing.
Obama fielded questions from supporters of his executive actions, including a priest, gun violence victims and a Chicago schoolboy who feared being shot, as well as, critics ranging from a gun company executive, a sheriff, a rape survivor and a murder victim's widow.
In an interview on Fox News, the NRA's Chris Cox had claimed Obama was "creating an illusion that he is doing something to keep people safe."
Obama noted: "The way it is described is that we are trying to take away everybody's guns.  Our position is consistently mischaracterized.  If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over-the-top, it is so overheated."
Obama acknowledged that he never owned a gun and had little experience with them in part from his upbringing in Hawaii, where sport shooting isn’t popular.  He asked citizens to come together: "At least let's figure it out.  Let's try some things.  Part of the reason, I think, that this ends up being such a difficult issue is because people occupy different realities... All of us can agree that it makes sense to do everything we can to keep guns out of the hands of people who would do harm to others, or themselves."
President Obama called on Congress to set up an efficient system that doesn't inconvenience lawful gun owners to create a background check system that would stem at least some illegal gun activity.
He admitted: "The fact that the system doesn't catch every single person has to be weighed against the fact that we might be able to save a whole bunch of families from the grief that some of the people in this audience have had to go through."
A CNN/ORC poll released prior to Guns in America town hall found that a majority of the public supports the measures that Obama outlined.  Polling showed 85 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of independents and 51 percent of Republicans support Obama's executive authority.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Gov. Paul LaPage


According to the Portland Press Herald in a response to a question about trafficking heroin, and other drugs in his state, Maine’s Tea party Republican Governor Paul LePage claimed that people from outside the state were coming into to Maine with the intention of selling drugs.
Specifically, Governor LePage claimed at a town hall meeting on 1/6/16, that: "These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty.  They are coming from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home.  Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave."
After the comments sparked an uproar, his spokesman, Peter Steele insisted the governor hadn't been talking about race.  "Race is irrelevant.  What is relevant is the cost to state taxpayers for welfare and the emotional costs for these kids who are born as a result of involvement with drug traffickers.  His heart goes out to these kids because he had a difficult childhood too.  We need to stop the drug traffickers from coming into our state."
Hillary Clinton's campaign called the comments “offensive” and "racist."  And added, that the remarks "try to cover up the very real epidemic of drug abuse facing people in his state and across the country."
LaPage’s offensive remarks also include: Jan. 14, 2011, in response to suggestions from NAACP members and others, that his decision not to attend ceremonies honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was part of a negative pattern.  Governor LePage told reporters: “tell them to kiss my butt.”
In September 2010, LePage told a crowd of fishermen that if Obama was re-elected: “As your governor, your going to be seeing a lot of me on the front page, saying: ‘Governor LePage tells Obama to go to hell.”’


On Jan. 25th, Gov. LePage said his state is too easy on drug crimes, and suggested it should bring back the guillotine for serious offenders.

Lead Poisoning

Yesterday, six months after Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder was notified of the spike in blood levels of children in Flint, he sent the National Guard our to distribute bottled water and water purification kits.

Lead poisoning causes health problems for children, and those exposed to too much lead permanently lose IQ points.  Furthermore, recently there has been a immense increase of 87 county residents developing Legionnaires' disease.  Ten have died.

In April 2014, state officials switched Flint's water source from Detroit's water system to the Flint River.  Immediately citizens began complaining about the quality of tap water.

According to Marc Edwards, a civil engineering professor at Virginia Tech,  Michigan state officials insisted that the water supply in Flint was safe even though they knew an unusual number of children had suffered lead poisoning.  He had uncovered a July 2015 memo warning of elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint’s children.

Edward’s revealed the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was warned that lead poisoning rates "were higher than usual for children under age 16, during the months of July, August and September, 2014."  However, in September of 2015, Brad Wurfel, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality dismissed those allegations in an interview with Michigan Radio, that the state's analysis of blood data didn't show any signs of a problem.

Michigan officials continued to insist that the water was safe until a Flint pediatrician with Hurley Medical Center reported, that the water source change corresponded with a significant spike in lead poisoning among children.

Mark Edwards noted:"They discovered scientifically conclusive evidence of an anomalous increase in childhood lead poisoning, but stood by silently as Michigan Department of Environmental Quality officials repeatedly and falsely stated that no spike in blood lead levels of children had occurred."

After, the county declared a public health emergency and told people to stop drinking the water in October 2015, Gov. Snyder signed legislation returning Flint to Detroit's water system.

Flint is an economically depressed city of about 100,000 people, that started getting its water from the Flint River in 2014.  It had previously bought Lake Huron water through the city of Detroit.  The crisis was created by a state-appointed emergency financial manager, who made that change to cut costs.  
Governor Snyder apologized for the state's actions, but residents are furious, that the state denied the problem existed for months.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Gabby Giffords


The following excerpts are from an e-mail that I received from Gabby Giffords a former Democratic member of the House.
“The New Year is a time of optimism and new commitments.  For me, it's a very powerful time: on January 8th, I think about how close I came to losing my life on a bright January morning five years ago, when a would-be assassin opened fire on me and my constituents, injuring 12 others and taking the lives of six.

“Even though I was shot in the head from three feet away, somehow I survived.  And I made a decision that my new life would be lived as my old life was: in service of our country.  One thing that means for me today is using my second chance to do everything I can to make this great country safer from the kind of gun violence that took the lives of those around me, and changed others', and mine, forever.”

“In the face of Congress' inaction in addressing our country's gun violence crisis, President Obama announced his administration is acting to significantly narrow the loopholes that let people buy guns without a background check.  It is the right, responsible thing to do.

“The president's reasonable proposal addresses a lethal problem: People in the business of selling guns avoid the current requirement to conduct background checks on their potential buyers by claiming not to be gun dealers, who are required under the law to do background checks.”

“The president's proposal makes another key improvement: it addresses the weakness in the background check system that allowed a dangerous man to buy a gun and murder nine innocent people in a Charleston, South Carolina church.  It does this by increasing the number of background-check examiners by 50 percent, overhauling the system itself, and revealing which states do and don't report essential background check records to the FBI.

“Other important provisions will require gun dealers to report lost and stolen guns, making it easier for law enforcement to crack down on the illegal gun trade, and to grow investment in gun safety technology and mental health treatment.  This is just common sense.

“Almost three years ago, when a minority of United States Senators caved to their fear of the corporate gun lobby (NRA) and blocked sensible, bipartisan background checks legislation, I said that those Senators had failed their constituents...” 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bruce Dunn


The Oneonta Daily Star recently published the following letter to the editor, that had been submitted by Bruce Dunn of Butternuts.

“Chuck Pinkey sure sounds like a tough guy, bet he and his Colt 1911A1 with the hollow point bullets could pretty near take on ISIS and protect the homeland with God on his side all by himself.  He probably has a lot of combat experience from his generation’s war.

“Chuck references Bernie Sanders as a media darling.  Facts are otherwise.  From January through November the networks devoted 234 minutes to Donald Trump and less than 10 minutes for Sanders.  ABC, in that time period, had 80 minutes of coverage for Trump and 20 seconds for Bernie Sanders.

“Chuck says Sanders wants to tax the rich to extinction.  Actually, he wants the extremely wealthy and large corporations to pay their fair share.  The economic divide in this country is huge and growing.  It is not good for democracy.

“Chuck thinks Obama should be paying more attention to terrorism than the guns people have.  In 2015 there were 21 deaths in the United States involving toddlers finding loaded firearms and killing themselves or others.  There were 19 deaths from Islamist terrorists.  The total deaths from firearms in this country last year was 32,000, yet the Centers for Disease Control is forbidden by law from investigating the effects firearms have on the country’s health.  The obsession with guns in this country has more to do with misplaced libido and fear of black people than it does about the Second Amendment.

“Regarding climate change,”There are none so blind as those who will not see.”  The Republican Party —  especially the tea partiers —  is the only political party in the world that doesn’t acknowledge climate change.  Science, anyone?  No, thank you, wouldn’t wanna get confused by the facts.

“Why so mean-spirited about people having health care?  Give it a rest, already.”

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Moving Forward


Early actions to rescue the economy by congressional Democrats and President Obama set the stage for the longest streak of private sector job growth on record.  The unemployment rate has been cut in half.  It is down to 5 percent.  Wages have grown faster than at any time since the recovery began.
Implementation of the Affordable Care Act has helped to drive the rate of the uninsured in America below 10 percent for the first time.  So far, 17 million more Americans have gained coverage.  Plus, six million people have signed up through HealthCare.gov for coverage that began on January 1st.  New customers are up one-third over last year.  The more people, who sign up, the stronger the system becomes.  Health care prices have grown at their lowest levels in five decades.  That’s good news for every American who no longer have to worry about being just one illness or accident away from financial hardship.
Early investments by in clean energy ignited rapid growth in a clean energy industry, and help reduce our carbon emissions.  At the Paris Agreement nearly 200 nations forged an historic agreement that was only possible because of American leadership.   
A deal was reached to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, and reached a landmark trade agreement that will make sure that American workers and American businesses are operating on a level playing field.  China will not be setting the rules for global trade. 
President Obama sign an education bill that should fix some of the challenges that we had with No Child Left Behind, and he promises to invest more in high-quality early childhood education.  A transportation bill will allow states and local governments to put people back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Unhealthy Anger


In the CNN Republican debate in Las Vegas, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham attacked the far right wing of his party a day after Donald Trump's proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country and warned against pushing more Muslims into the arms of ISIS.
Regarding President Obama, Senator Graham said: “To those people who think Obama's a Muslim who was born in Kenya, I lost you a long time ago.  There's a dislike of Obama in my party that's unhealthy.”
Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling has reported: “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 Republican voters are really gravitating towards Mr. Trump.”
According to Mark Potak of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the intense dislike for President Obama has a lot to do with his color.
It’s possible that Senator Graham understands, that the racist members of the Republican Party consider the most radical thing about Obama isn’t his policies, but the fact that he’s the first African-American elected to the presidency.
On the other hand, Graham might recall that years ago Ann Landers wrote: "Hate is like acid.  It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured."  Stored hatred could eventually destroy his party.
In the past 3 years, the hatred by Tea Party Republicans seems to have intensified, most likely because they cannot accept the fact that Obama was twice elected as leader of our country by solid majorities of our fellow citizens.
Some Republican adhere to a doctrine identical to early colonialism, whereby looting oil, death, suffering and destruction are all justifiable.  Any measure of lying is also acceptable, along with the despicable tools of distorting the religion of Islam, war-mongering and hate speech.  They’ll do anything they can to lure a sadly misinformed public to their side.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Liberal Successes

Congress should be looking into changing the health care laws in our country in such a way that it guarantees health care as a right and not a privilege, but that will never happen as long voters continue to send politicians to Congress, that have no real compassion for the less fortunate.

Many Republicans believe that Social Security was only the start of a cradle-to-grave dependency class.  

The political reality is that the burden of maintaining and improving the liberal successes of Social Security, Medicare, and the Affordable Healthcare Act has always fallen exclusively to the Democratic Party, who created those programs.  Years ago, Republicans opposed the creation of Social Security and Medicare.  Today, they’re not interested in figuring out better ways to keep them going.

Social Security has become a very popular program, because it has worked for 78 years.  It demonstrates that the Republican claim that "government is the problem," is untrue.  That is why many congressional Republicans want to have it fail.  George Bush wanted to privatize Social Security, so that Wall Street could gamble with our Social Security trust funds.

Social Security hasn’t contributed one nickel to the deficit, because it’s paid for by the payroll tax and will remain solvent through 2033.  Telling aging senior citizens, who are surviving on $14,000 a year, that they must shoulder the burden of reducing the deficit is unconscionable.

Warren Buffett has suggested: “I personally would increase the taxable base.  I pay very little in the way of SS taxes.”

We should lift the income cap so that people making more than $250,000 contribute more into the system.  The maximum amount of taxable earnings is $118,500.  Consequently, those making $1 million are presently being taxed on only $118,500 of their total income.  

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Four Reasonable Steps


The following excerpts include President Obama’s four reasonable steps to reduce gun violence. 
“Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show... 
“We’re also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations...” 
“Number two, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books, which means we're going to add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.  We're going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis.  We're working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence, where too often, people are not getting the protection that they need.”
“Number three, we're going to do more to help those suffering from mental illness get the help that they need.  High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others.  But the truth is, is that nearly two in three gun deaths are from suicides.  So a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting themselves. 
“The Affordable Care Act made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness.  And that’s why we’re going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country. 
“If we can continue to de-stigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care, and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.”  
“Number four, we’re going to boost gun safety technology.  Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally.  In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents, and that includes 30 children younger than five years old...  If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns? ... 
“And some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to finalize a purchase without a complete background check, or by refraining from selling semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines.” 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Gun Safety Initiatives


On 1/4/16, President Obama explained: “We have tens of thousands of people every single year who are killed by guns.  We have suicides that are committed by firearms at a rate that far exceeds other countries.  We have a frequency of mass shootings that far exceeds other countries in frequency. 
“And although it is my strong belief that for us to get our complete arm around the problem Congress needs to act, what I asked my team to do is to see what more we could do to strengthen our enforcement and prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands to make sure that criminals, people who are mentally unstable, those who could pose a danger to themselves or others are less likely to get them. 
“I’ve received reports from Attorney General Lynch, Director Comey, as well as Deputy Director Brandon about some of the ideas and initiatives that they think can make a difference.  These are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe. 
“We’ll be rolling out these initiatives.  We’ll be making sure that people have a very clear understanding of what can make a difference and what we can do.  Although we have to be clear that this is not going to solve every violent crime in this country, it’s not going to prevent every mass shooting, it’s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal, it will potentially save lives and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they’ve suffered as a consequence of a firearm getting in the hands of the wrong people.
“I’m confident that the recommendations that are being made by my team are ones that are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and people’s lawful right to bear arms.  We’ve been very careful recognizing that, although we have a strong tradition of gun ownership in this country, that even though it’s who possess firearms for hunting, for self-protection, and for other legitimate reasons, I want to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons.
“I appreciate the outstanding work that the team has done.  I’m looking forward to speaking to the American people over the next several days in more detail about it.”

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

New Driving Restrictions


Most smog-choked residents of New Delhi, India welcomed the new year by complying with controversial new driving restrictions designed to pull millions of cars off the roads and improve air quality.  A temporary measure allow private vehicles to operate only on alternate days until January 15.

On January 1st, additional traffic police were deployed to ensure only cars with odd-numbered license plates were on the roads.  Violators face a 2000 rupee ($30) fine if caught.  Vehicles with even-numbered plates were allowed to operate the next day.

By mid-morning government ministers insisted that carpooling had work, and declared the experiment a success.  On the first day the traffic was light in the city center, because many businesses were closed for the holiday.

In 2014, the World Health Organization released data on air quality levels in 1,600 cities around the world, and Delhi, India was found to have the highest concentration of particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers, also called PM2.5.   Those particles are exceedingly small, but go deep into the lungs and cause chronic health problems.  Scientists say coal-fired power plants, vehicles, construction dust, crop burning and cooking fuel use all contribute to high pollution levels in Delhi.

Delhi has an averaged PM2.5 readings of 153, compared to readings of 14 in New York City, 20 in Los Angeles, and Beijing, China with a reading of 53.

India’s capital city is home to more than 20 million people, and has had sharp rise in the use of private cars.  There are nearly 9 million registered vehicles in Delhi, and 1,400 cars are being added to the streets every day.  Consequently, bus ridership is rapidly decreasing.

This winter, the amount of PM2.5 in the air has regularly reached very dangerous levels, leading Delhi's High Court to compare conditions in the city to "living in a gas chamber."  The Supreme Court of India has been the most aggressive government bodies on pollution issues.  It banned large diesel SUVs, and hiked taxes on commercial trucks entering the city.

Limits on car use have upset some Delhi residents, who deride the government's scheme as ill conceived and impractical.  After the policy was announced, the government began making exceptions for high-ranking officials, motorcycles and women traveling alone.  If the policy is extended beyond 15 days, some residents threaten to by a second car, or use a fake license plate.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Deja Vu

On December 24, 1865, Confederate veterans form a secret society called the Ku Klux Klan, that was committed to terrorize former slaves and white Southern Unionists.  Their campaign of kidnappings, murders and lynchings escalated throughout Reconstruction.  Eventually, people claimed that the governments formed in the South under universal male suffrage were corrupt and that federal meddling in Southern affairs had compounded racial strife.

Outrages atrocity were committed against negroes and Unionists in the South, but the persons committing those crimes weren’t brought to justice.  Sheriffs didn’t arrest them, and if they did, juries wouldn’t convict them.

On March 23, 1872, the following excerpt appeared in The Nation Magazine: “Is there, then, no remedy for local disorder at the South?  If the State government does not protect a man, can he look nowhere else for redress?  We answer, that if there be any value whatever in the theory on which American polity is based, the remedy of Southern disorders must come from the Southern people, through their experience of the folly and suffering of disorder.  If this be not true, the whole American system is a mistake, and is destined ere long to perish.  Our business is now to leave every Southern State to its own people, first, because this is the only practicable course, and, secondly, because it is the only wise one.  If they are so demoralized that they go on robbing, and murdering, and ‘Kukluxing’ each other, we cannot interfere effectively, and had better not interfere at all.  The American punishments for a State which permits these things are two—impoverishment and emigration.  If a man cannot have freedom, security, and light taxation in New York, let him go to Virginia; if he cannot have them in either, let him go to Missouri.  Those who stay behind, on seeing capital and population steadily leaving their State, and their property declining in value, will gradually mend their ways.  This may be a slow remedy, but it is a sure one.  It goes to the root of the disorder, while under coercion from the outside no state of things can grow up, or ever has grown up, in which coercion ceases to be necessary.  Of course there is nothing in this theory to prevent the United States enforcing the Federal Constitution and laws.  This ought to be done, at whatever cost—that is, by officers, and not by bill and resolution.  If it be true that black men are kept from the polls by intimidation, we ought to see that going to the polls is made as safe as going to church; but to pass bills providing for this, without voting the men or the money to execute them, is a wretched mockery, of which the country and the blacks have had enough.”

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Bribing Congress


Pharmaceutical companies, and health insurance lobbyists have attempted to make national health care sound scary, but it isn’t.
A large single-payer system already exists in our county called Medicare.  Those enrolled give it high marks, and it has succeeded in providing near-universal coverage to Americans over age 65 in a cost effective manner.
Under the Affordable Care Act, 17.6 million people have health care, today who didn’t before the law was passed.  We must do better, because it’s a national disgrace that our country is the only major country that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right.  Today, 30 million Americans are still without health care.  Every year, 45,000 Americans die solely for lack of health insurance.  That’s one man, woman or child lost every 12 minutes.
Our representatives in Congress must recognize health care as a right, not a privilege.  Every America should be able to access quality care regardless of their income.  We must create a national system to provide care for every citizen in the most cost-effective way.  Attacking the cost of a plan without acknowledging the bottom line savings is irrational.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sander points out, that a single-payer health care system could lower the cost of health care for the average family making $50,000 a year by nearly $5,000 a year.  It would also expand employment by lifting a major financial weight off of the businesses burdened by employee health expenses.  Also, millions of Americans who are currently in jobs they don't like, because it provides health care, would be free to explore more productive opportunities if they so desired.

The truth of the matter is, that the insurance companies and the drug companies have been bribing members of Congress for many years.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

District of Columbia v. Heller


The 2008, Supreme Court ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller totally transformed the well-established meaning of the Second Amendment, when conservative justices made our country less safe and less free.
The 5–4 majority decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, was less in sync our founding fathers generation.  It was the result of National Rifle Association waging an intense 30-year campaign to secure an individual’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms by winning over members of the public, high-level politicians, and the Supreme Court.
For the first time, a decision declared, that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to a gun, at least for self-defense in the home.  It invalidated key parts of the District of Columbia’s strict handgun ban, which had prohibited the possession of nearly all handguns in the violence-prone city and required that firearms be stored unloaded and disassembled, or bound with a trigger lock.
In the process, those conservative justices engaged in “living constitutionalism,” that is a brand of outcome-oriented judicial activism, that they claim to loathe.  Richard Posner, the prominent Reagan appointed federal appellate judge and commentator on legal issues, derided Scalia’s flawed approach as “faux originalism” and a “snow job.”
The Second Amendment’s text: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Scalia treated that clause as having no significance.  A view that is at odds with history, the fundamental rules of constitutional interpretation for many decades.
In 2008, Justice John Paul Stevens correctly noted in his minority opinion: “The Second Amendment was a response to concerns raised during the ratification of the Constitution that the power of Congress to disarm the state militias and create a national standing army posed an intolerable threat to the sovereignty of the several states.  Neither the text of the Amendment nor the arguments advanced by its proponents evidenced the slightest interest in limiting any legislature’s authority to regulate private civilian uses of firearms.”
Justice Breyer also pointed out, that the majority opinion relied heavily on a guesstimate of what the Second Amendment meant more than 200 years ago, with no common-sense balancing test taking into account the real-world consequences for today.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Unprecedented Progress


In the past year our country has seen unprecedented progress, that should make every American optimistic. 
Homosexual have the freedom to marry the person they love, because marriage equality is the law in all fifty states.  
Congress passed a bipartisan budget that invests in middle-class priorities, keeps our military the strongest in the world, and takes the threat of shutdowns and manufactured crises off the table for 2016.  A bipartisan education bill has also been signed into law to help our students graduate prepared for college.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement guarantee our businesses can sell goods “Made in America” across the Asia-Pacific.  It’s the strongest, most pro-worker, pro-environment trade agreement in our history.  It means that America will write the rules of the global economy for the next century.
Our government is standing strong against terrorism, by leading a global coalition against ISIL.  In both Syria and Iraq, ISIL is losing territory, and we’re not going to stop until we’ve destroy that terrorist organization. 
Our economy has added 13.7 million new jobs over a 69 month period of continuous job growth.  Over the past 12 months, our businesses have created 2.5 million new jobs.  The unemployment rate has dropped to 5 percent, that’s the lowest it’s been in almost eight years.
More Americans are getting health coverage.  The rate of the uninsured in America dropped below 10 percent for the first time ever.  In fact, 17.6 million people and climbing have gained coverage as the Affordable Care Act has taken effect.  Let’s not forget that the uninsured can still sign up through January 31st at HealthCare.gov.
America has demonstrated global leadership on climate change.  A historic agreement of nearly 200 countries was recently signed in Paris should lessen the impact of climate change.  Nations came together to set the course for a low-carbon future.  That agreement was only possible because President Obama has been a leading advocate for clean energy at home and uses diplomacy around the world. 
Normalization of our relations with Cuba is occurring.  The Obama administration has re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and  reopening embassies in both our countries has been completed.
Diplomacy shaped a deal to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  The Iranian deal that’s designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons seems to be working.  Iran has already dismantled thousands of centrifuges that enrich uranium.