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.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Obama’s Second Term


When it comes to the basic governing value of compromise, congressional Republicans prefer the tactic of obstruction.  Back in early 2008, Democrats started doing a stimulus bill, Dave Obey the chairman of the appropriations committee told the ranking Republican member of that committee Jerry Lewis: “We want to work with you.  Go to your members, let us know what things you like, what things you don’t like.”  Rep, Lewis laughed and said: “I’ve got orders from on high.  We are not going to cooperate.”  Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader said that his number one goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.  

Fortunately, that didn’t happen, because nearly 66 million Americans voted to re-elect Obama in 2012.  He was re-elected to put forward a balanced approach of shared sacrifice.  Regrettably, after congressional Republicans took control of Congress, they refused to ask millionaires and billionaires to pay more.

Our country isn’t ever going to be able to cut it’s way out of a recession and towards prosperity by cutting taxes for the rich.  That is the fallacy, that congressional Republicans always promote during a deficit reduction debate.  Historically, our economy has continued to grown, when the middle class, and people who are striving to get in the middle class, do well.

When middle class consumers have less money to make purchases businesses will have fewer customers.  Consequently, those businesses would be less likely to hire and the whole economy would have again begin to slow down at a time when the economy was picking up and the employment numbers improving.

Eventually, a compromise was reached, and Congress prevent taxes from going up for the vast majority of Americans.   Although, the very wealthy are paying a little bit more, corporate loopholes and subsidies still need to be addressed, because one out of every four profitable corporations don’t pay any taxes.

Nick Hanauer is a technology entrepreneur, and a billionaire venture capitalist insists: “If there was no one around who could afford to buy what we had to sell, all those companies and all those jobs would have evaporated.  That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs.  Nor do businesses large or small.  Jobs are a consequence of a circle of life-like feedback loop between customers and businesses.  An ordinary consumer is more of a job creator than a capitalist like me.”

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Furthermore


Before Obama was reelected, our country had reduce carbon pollution, by doubling clean, renewable energy like wind and solar.  In 2012, America became less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in 20 years. 

Nearly 7 million young people had health insurance because they were able to stay on their parent's plans.  Senior citizens saved money on prescription drugs, and women gained access to free preventive care like mammograms and contraception.

General Motors was on the brink of bankruptcy and the ripple effect would have been disastrous for our economy.  Obama put a team together to fixed the problem.  It demonstrated, that government intervention can work.   Had our government not loaned G.M. the money, and it had gone under it would have been devastating to our economy.  That loan saved jobs in plastics, electronics, upholstery, tires and glass.  G.M. began seeing its strongest performance in years.  Senator Bernie Sanders didn’t support Obama’s efforts to save the auto industry. 

Obama urged Congress to take $30 billion of the TARP money Wall Street banks had repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they needed to stay afloat.  Many small companies had weathered the worst of the recession, but the banks on Wall Street were mostly lending to larger companies.

He had signed a credit card reform bill designed to protect consumers from surprise fees and sudden interest rate hikes, thereby helped consumers deal with the impact of mortgage fraud and predatory lending.

The economic policies of the Obama administration resulted in corporate profits as a percentage of U.S. economic growth reaching their highest level in the three decades.  Profits had plummeted to the lowest point ever, when the recession hit.  However, by January 2012 corporate profits reached their highest point ever as a share of GDP.  

On 3/13/12, the Dow closed at 13,178 points.  It was the highest for the Dow since 2007.  For the first time in 11 years, the Nasdaq closed above 3,000 points.

The Labor Department reported that our economy added 146,000 jobs in November 2012.  The unemployment rate fell from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent the lowest level in four years. 

House Republicans had done zilch to improve the unemployment rate or the economy since Obama took office.  They had hoped to take back the White House in order to impose their trickle down ideas upon our economy.



Saturday, February 27, 2016

Caring Politicians



When, Obama took office, we we’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  America had lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008.  An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in.  On February 13, 2009, twenty-four days after Obama took office the Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, without a single Republican vote in the House and only 3 Republican votes in the Senate.  By doing so, they prevented the worst financial crisis from getting worse and turned the economy from contraction to expansion.

Obama upheld the principle of equal pay for equal work, by signing into law the Fair Pay Act, also known as the Lilly Ledbetter Act.  He signed an expanded the Pell Grant program; and made the largest investment in clean energy in history, and the largest investment in education in decades.

Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, that protect all Americans from the worst practices of insurance companies.  Coverage won’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.  It strengthens Medicare by cracking down on fraud and waste and keeping it solvent for decades to come.  And, most importantly, it protects guaranteed benefits, eligibility and the right to keep your doctor for all seniors.

The Consumer Protection Act cracks down on corporate fraud and holds big banks accountable for reckless, risky behavior.  The financial crisis has taught us that the look-the-other way, hands-off deregulatory policies of the recent past can jeopardize not only private investments, but our entire economy.

That legislation has reformed Wall Street by creating a consumer financial protection bureau to regulate the trading of derivatives, one of the root causes of the current meltdown, while allowing small businesses to continue using them to mitigate risk.  It should end taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street institutions by establishing a new authority to wind down failing mega-firms outside of bankruptcy, so shareholders and creditors pick up the cost, not taxpayers.

Our Treasury Department implemented policies with real qualitative and quantitative impact on debt-burdened families.  Chief among them is a $2,500 tax credit to help offset the cost of tuition for those seeking a college education.  Nearly five million families are expected to save $9 billion, according to Treasury officials.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Bush Administration’s Legacy



The last polls taken before Obama became President gave him a favorability rating of 83 percent.  Bush’s favorability rating was 22 percent and Cheney’s was 13 percent.  That is their legacy, as determined by those Americans, who endured the last 8 years of Bush's presidency.

Marine General Anthony Zinni established his impeccable credentials during nearly forty years of military service.  After retirement, he served as Colin Powell's special envoy to the Middle East, before disagreements over the Iraq war caused him to resign.  General Zinni explained: "In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence, and corruption.  False rationales presented as justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats, and the unbearable strain dumped on our overstretched military, all of these caused me to speak out."

Counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan.  He reported that within hours of the 9/11 attack, Donald Rumsfeld suggested Iraq as a battlefield.  Not because al Qaeda was there, but because it offered "better targets" than the elusive bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Clark wrote: "We invaded and occupied an oil rich Arab country that posed no threat to us...We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable."

In "See No Evil." Robert Baer explained: "I knew enough about the way Washington worked to know that when it didn't like some piece of information it did everything in its power to discredit the messenger."  Baer was a CIA on-the-ground field officers in the Middle East.  Bush's surrogates sought to discredit the integrity of any professional with the courage to disagree with his decision to invade Iraq.

Michael Scheuer's "Imperial Hubris" noted: "The reality is that many of the worlds 1.3 Billion Muslims hate us for our actions not our values.  Bin Laden has been precise in telling Americans the reason he is waging war on us.  He could not enjoy his increasing level of success if Muslims did not believe their faith; brethren; resources and land were under attack by the U.S."  Scheuer was published under the pseudonym Anonymous, because he was a senior member of the intelligence community with two decades of experience in national security issues.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trump’s Accusations


Donald Trump has revealed the truth.  In 1993, President Bill Clinton ordered cruise missiles launched against Iraqi intelligence headquarters as a warning for an attempted assassination by Iraqi agents of former President George H. W. Bush while  on a visit to Kuwait.

Initially, career counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke, who served under four presidents was disappointed that the response had been too small.  However, ten years later he wrote: "U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities never developed any evidence of further Iraqi support for terrorism directed against Americans.  Until we invaded Iraq in 2003."

In 1998, Clinton sent 62 cruise missiles into Afghanistan, that were aimed at a site where Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants were reportedly holding a meeting.  Unfortunately, a few hours before they hit bin Laden escaped.  Clinton insisted: “I authorized funding for the CIA to kill him.  We contracted with people to kill him.  We got closer to killing him than anybody's gotten since.”

Clinton explained that he was hampered by inadequate intelligence, because the link between al Qaeda and the militants in Somalia in 1993 wasn't clear until years afterwards.  After the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, Clinton said that there was no consensus among law enforcement and intelligence sources that al Qaeda was behind it until after the presidential election.  That was substantiated in the 9/11 Commission report.

Former Deputy CIA Director for Intelligence John McLaughlin said that from his inside perspective: “President Clinton did aggressively pursue Osama bin Laden.  I give the Clinton administration a lot of credit for the aggressiveness with which they went after al Qaeda and bin Laden.”

Clinton argues that his efforts were undercut by critics who charged the cruise missile strike was a "wag the dog" stunt to divert attention from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

In “Against All Enemies” Richard Clarke noted that Clinton said: “If we thought this was the best time to hit the Afghan camps, he would order it and take the heat for ‘wag the dog’ criticism, that we all knew would happen.”

Clarke saw the imminent al Qaeda threat, but was disappointed by the Bush regime's inaction.  He wrote: “Secretary Rice told me that the Principals Committee, which had been the first venue for terrorism policy discussions in the Clinton administration, would not address the issue until it had been ‘framed’ by the deputies.  It meant months of delay.” 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Schools and Colleges


Leading up to the 1929 stock market collapse, Republican President Hoover occupied the oval office.  He insisted on a spending freeze during the Great Depression and by 1933, when FDR became president nearly 24.9 percent of Americans were unemployed.

Statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis clearly demonstrates that it was Roosevelt’s New Deal spending that got us out of the Depression.  After Roosevelt took office in 1933, unemployment dropped to 21.7 percent in 1934, 20.1 percent in 1935, and 17.0 percent by 1936.  Our Gross Domestic Product had dropped to 56.4, when Roosevelt took office, but by 1936 it reached 83.

FDR increased spending on New Deal programs, and followed with massive spending on WWII weapons.  The Revenue Act of 1935 introduced the Wealth Tax, a tax that took 75 percent of the highest incomes.  Many wealthy people used loopholes in that tax code, until the Revenue Act of 1937 cracked down on tax evasion.

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has claimed: “One of the good things about reading history is you learn a good deal.  And we know for sure that the big spending programs of the New Deal did not work.”

A new cycle of poverty for millions of Americans began during George W. Bush’s presidency, when tax cuts legislation was passed, which mostly benefited the very wealthy.  The richest one percent of Americans saw their income go up an average of more than 1o percent each year between 2002 and 2007.  As the rich got much richer, the middle class saw their income stay about the same, and the number of people in poverty gradually increased.

In late 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 777 points in one day, the biggest point loss ever.  Wall Street melted down, because irresponsible people who controlled a great deal of money were allowed to get away with breaking rules, that had been put in place to prevent Wall Street from creating a massive public risk in order to chase private gain.

Today, the median family income continues to drop, while the economic gains are going to the wealthiest Americans.  Congressional Republicans won’t be able to reverse this trend with their supply-side, trickle-down policies.  That was tried following the stock market crash of 1929. 

Schools and colleges teach our children well, because as philosopher Georges Santana wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Quoting Sam Pollak


Sam Pollak is the editor of The Oneonta Daily Star.  He wrote following commentary, that appeared in the most recent weekend edition of the newspaper.  It’s entitled “Trump only the symptom not the disease.” 
“I’ll start out by repeating my oft-stated, fervent belief that the United States is the finest, most-tolerant nation in the history of the world.
“As a Jewish American whose people have long been persecuted around the world, I truly believe that —  for all its problems and many notable exceptions — America has been a beacon of hope for those who are most vulnerable, with no other country so willing to judge people on their merits rather than their ethnicity. So, what the hell is going on?
“When did prejudice and bigotry and hate become not only tolerated, but popular?
“When did rejecting ‘political correctness’ become a ‘get out of jail free card’ for racism, xenophobia and misogyny?
“A lot of people who should know better are blaming Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, but Trump is a symptom, not the disease.
“Trump isn’t causing racism and intolerance in this country.  He’s revealing racism and intolerance in this country.
“When Trump called Latino immigrants criminals and rapists, that should have disqualified him from serious consideration by fair-minded Americans.
“But it didn’t. Trump is riding high in the polls going into today’s South Carolina GOP primary and is the odds-on favorite to be the Republican nominee for president.
“When he singled out blacks and Latinos for major crimes, that should have disqualified him.  But it didn’t.
“When he insulted women, calling them fat and ugly, referring crudely to their menstrual cycles and bodily functions, that should have disqualified him.  But it didn’t.
“When he called for ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’ he was advocating a religious test that goes against the Constitution and everything the United States stands for, and that should have disqualified him.  But it didn’t.  
“Want to know why?  Because, for at least the third of the Republican electorate that is supporting him — and perhaps a sizable number of Democrats who secretly feel the same way — Trump is an avenue to revolt against having to watch what they say all the time.
“One poll in September revealed that 66 percent of Trump supporters believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim, despite no evidence that he’s not a Christian.
“The numbers in South Carolina are just as scary, if not more so, according to a Public Policy Polling survey Sunday and Monday.
“Fully 38 percent of Trump’s supporters in that state said they wish the South had won the Civil War, compared with 24 percent who were glad the North won. Overall, 36 percent of Republican primary voters were glad the North won, compared with 30 percent who felt the other way.
“What does that tell you? Well, for one thing, had the South won, the slaves would not have been freed, at least not immediately. Does that make Trump’s supporters more racist that the others? Well … yes!
“Among Trump’s people, 31 percent said they would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States, compared with 17 percent for other candidates. Does that make Trump’s supporters more homophobic than the others? Again … yes!
“Fully 80 percent of Trump’s backers support banning Muslims from entering this country, and 40 percent are in favor of shutting down all the mosques in the United States. Only 44 percent of his supporters said they believe practicing Islam should be legal in America. Does that make them incredibly prejudiced? Well, you betcha!
“It would be sad enough to attribute Trump’s appeal just to ignorant and bigoted people. But for him to get the numbers he does — even if they are only about a third of the Republican electorate — a whole lot of educated and intelligent people have to be willing to ignore the hatred he spews.
“Offensive statements have been made by other candidates, among them Dr. Ben Carson, who said Muslims could only embrace the laws and values of the United States if they were ‘schizophrenic.’
And when a wingnut such as rocker Ted Nugent can come out as he did last week with blatantly anti-Semitic statements and illustrations — this after calling Obama a ‘subhuman mongrel’ — and still retain his place on the board of the National Rifle Association, something is terribly wrong in the country I love.
“‘American exceptionalism” is a subject often mentioned in the campaign. What makes America is the freedom it grants for a wide range of opinions. What makes it exceptional is the decency of its people, who have always ultimately rejected those who betray our values.
“But given Trump’s popularity, I can’t help wondering, ‘what the hell is going on?’”

Monday, February 22, 2016

Global Warming Continues

Last August, President Obama noted: "Power plants are the single biggest source of harmful carbon pollution that contributes to climate change.  Until now, there have been no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution plants dump in the air."  
He was referring to a new EPA rule that would require states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards based on their individual energy consumption. 
On 2/9/16, just four days before Justice Scalia died, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court moved to temporarily block the EPA’s rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.  An order to grant a stay on a rule whose legality hasn't been reviewed by a lower court is very unusual.  The four liberal justices on the court; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented from the order.
Reacting to a lawsuit from the energy industry, five conservative justices blocked the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan from going forward while the rule is challenged in court.
Obama has pushed action on global warming as a key part of his legacy, an effort that reached its peak with the deal at the U.N. led talks on climate change in Paris in December.
Supporters of the greenhouse gas emissions plan did not expect the high court to step in at this juncture, particularly since the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hold oral arguments in June and neither the industry nor the states would have had to come into compliance for at least two years.  That a divided Supreme Court stepped in at this juncture to block the program after a lower court declined to do so sends a signal that at least five justices are concerned with some aspect of the plan.
Bruce Huber, a professor of law at Notre Dame Law school has pointed out: "This is an exceedingly uncommon situation for the court to step in, and it jeopardizes the plan all together from going into affect while President Obama remains in office.  The Supreme Court's order signals serious misgivings among some of the justices about the legality of the plan."
Recently, Hillary Clinton has announced that she would like to see half a billion more solar panels deployed during the first four years of her presidency.  Her goal is enough clean energy to power every home in the next four years. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Nominating Strongest Candidate


In 1964, the Republicans nominated Barry Goldwater, who was the hero of the conservative movement, but he was too far to the right of most of the Republican Party.  In 1972, the Democrats nominated George McGovern, who was a hero of liberals in the antiwar movement, but he was to the left of his party's mainstream.
Both of those nominees for president cause their activist supporters to become very excited, but they both were thoroughly defeated in the general election.
Today, even Democrats who strongly support Senator Sanders are concerned about his fate in a general election.  Although, Bernie presently has good head-to-head polling numbers against Republican frontrunners.  That could change completely in the general election.
Bernie Sanders has pointed out: “I think I will be, if nominated, the strongest candidate.  Democrats win when there is a large voter turnout; when people are excited; when working people, middle class people and young people are prepared to engage in the political process.
“Republicans win when people are demoralized and you have a small voter turnout, which by the way is why they love voter suppression.  I believe that our campaign up to now has shown that we can create an enormous amount of enthusiasm from working people, from young people, who will get involved in the political process and which will drive us to a very large voter turnout.
“If there is a large voter turnout, not only do we retain the White House, but I think we regain the Senate.  We win governors' chairs up and down the line.  So I believe if you want to retain the White House, if you want to see Democrats do well across the board, I think our campaign is the one that creates the large voter turnout and helps us win.”

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Stay Focused


Early actions to rescue the economy by Obama, congressional Democrats, and 3 Republican Senators set the stage for the longest streak of private sector job growth on record.  The unemployment rate has been cut in half.  It’s down to 5 percent.  Wages are growing faster than at any time since the recovery began.

Claiming that our economy is in decline is untrue.  Our auto industry was had its best year ever.  Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years.  That was accomplished while our deficits were cut by almost three-quarters.

Our economy started to change long before the recession hit and hasn’t stopped.  Robotic technology has replaced jobs on the assembly line, and that situation allows companies, who face tough competition in a global economy to locate anywhere.  Companies have less loyalty to their communities, and more wealth is being concentrated at the very top.

These realities have made it harder for a hardworking family to pull themselves out of poverty, and harder for young people to start their careers, but this isn’t unique for our country.  The Obama administration goal has been to grow an economy that works for everybody.  He recognizes that real opportunity requires everyone to get the education and training, that they’ll need to land a good-paying job.  

Early childhood education has lifted high school graduation rates, but we must build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for every child, 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 responsible students is one of the best ways to improve our economy, and President Obama is committed to keep fighting to get that started in 2016.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sets Them Apart


Citizens United, Supreme Court decision hinges on the notion that money is speech, that corporations are people, and that giving huge piles of undisclosed money to support politicians in exchange for influence doesn’t constitute corruption.  It gave billionaires like the Koch Brothers a greater opportunity to influence presidential elections.

Senator Sanders has criticized Hillary Clinton because a total of about $10 million, or half of her financial sector donations appear to come from just two wealthy financiers, George Soros and Donald Sussman.  

Clinton insists that there’s no quid pro quo involved, and that the Sanders campaign is referring to a Super PAC that she doesn’t coordinate with, that was set up to support President Obama, that has recently decided that they want to support her.  

She is very proud of the fact that her campaign has more than 750 thousand donors, and the vast majority of them are giving small contributions.  However, she also believes that it’s great that Senator Sanders, President Obama and her campaigns have more donors than any three people who have ever run for the presidency, certainly on the Democratic side.  Because, that’s the way it should be, and she is going to continue to reach out to thank all those online contributors for everything they’re doing for her campaign, by encouraging them to help her do more just as Senator Sanders is doing.

Hillary points out that both she and Bernie Sanders have a lot of small donors, and that sets them apart from what’s happening on the Republican side.

The Koch Brothers have a clear political agenda.  It is an agenda, that would do great harm to our country, and Hillary’s campaign is committed to fighting as hard as they can against, whoever the Republicans nominate, that will depend on Koch Brothers contributions.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Over Two Decades Ago


At the Democratic presidential debate held on 2/11/16.  Hillary Clinton was reminded by moderator Judy Woodruff, that in the New Hampshire primary 55 percent of the women voters supported Senator Bernie Sanders.
Hillary explained: “I have spent my entire adult life working toward making sure that women are empowered to make their own choices, even if that choice is not to vote for me.  I believe that it’s most important that we unleash the full potential of women and girls in our society.”
I wonder how many of those women in New Hampshire, that voted for Sanders were aware that in 1995, incumbent President Bill Clinton was the candidate to beat in the presidential race.  But, the greatest political concern at the time was the press talking about First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, because of her decision to attend the United Nations Conference on Women.  The political concern of many conservative Republican was that the first lady of the United States was daring to give a high-profile speech about women’s rights in Beijing, China.
She was already under a microscope at home, after her unprecedented role in trying to pass national healthcare reform had suffered a disappointing defeat when it failed.  Plus, there were legitimate foreign policy reasons to cancel the trip.  
In Beijing, thousands of women from all over the world had converged to hear Hillary speak.  She told those attending the the United Nations Conference on Women: “It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food or drowned or suffocated or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.  It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Negotiating or Demonstrating


If, Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic nomination for president, she’ll begin to work immediately on putting together an agenda, by talking with members of Congress on how we can push forward a progressive agenda.  She wants that agenda get something accomplished regarding economic revitalization projects for manufacturing and infrastructure, income inequality, immigration reform, gun reform, climate change and the abuses of powerful interests groups such as the pharmaceutical industry.
She’d like to see half a billion more solar panels deployed during the first four years of her presidency.  Her goal is enough clean energy to power every home in the next four years.  She expects to be working with Congress on the Affordable Care Act in order to reach 100 percent coverage, while bring down the costs of prescription drugs and out of pocket costs.
Hillary anticipates signing legislation regarding paid family leave, and early childhood education.  She wants to help small businesses grow, and create more good paying jobs. 
On the other hand, Senator Bernie Sanders doesn’t believe much will be accomplished to help middle class working families unless there is campaign finance reform.  If, he’s elected president any nominee to the Supreme Court will be require to announce loud and clear, that they’ll vote to overturn Citizens United.
Sanders claims the only way to improve our health care system, broken criminal justice system, create millions of jobs by rebuilding our infrastructure, and a tax system that forces the wealthy to pay their fair share, is after millions of people become involved in the political process.
He doesn’t believe that Democrats will be able to negotiate with Mitch McConnell.  Sanders announce: “Mitch will have to look out his office window and see a whole lot of people yelling: ‘Mitch, stop representing the billionaire class.  Start listening to working families.’” 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Replacing Antonia Scalia


President Obama plans to nominate a new Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, despite Senate Republican leaders indicating that person will not get a vote this year.
There's always a short-list of potential justices that Obama would consider such as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States Srikanth Srinivasan, who was sworn in and testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 10, 2013.
Sri Srinivasan is 48, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which is a traditional launching pad for Supreme Court nominees.  Obama nominated him to that post in 2012, and the Senate confirmed him in May 2013, 97-0.  Republican presidential contenders Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio voted to confirm Srinivasan.
Srinivasan is an Indian-American, who graduated from Stanford University in 1989.  He was Obama's principal deputy solicitor general, most notably working on the successful fight against the Defense of Marriage Act.
Sri Srinivasan also has experience serving as an assistant to the solicitor general during the George W. Bush administration and as a clerk to Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Another possibility is Jane Kelly, who graduated from Harvard Law School.  She was an assistant public defender for the federal courts in Iowa.  She’s an Obama appointee who was unanimously confirmed in April 2013, when the Senate voted 96-0 for her confirmation.  The appeals court position is in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of Iowa.
Her nomination to the appellate court was accelerated by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is now the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Should a replacement for Justice Scalia not be determined by 1/21/17, former President Obama would be available to be appointed to fill the opening on the Supreme Court. :-) 

Monday, February 15, 2016

A Timely Vote


The following are excerpts from remarks made by President Obama and Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren regarding the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
President Obama pointed out:“Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy:  The rule of law.  Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.
“A devout Catholic, he was the proud father of nine children and grandfather to many loving grandchildren.  Justice Scalia was both an avid hunter and an opera lover -- a passion for music that he shared with his dear colleague and friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  Michelle and I were proud to welcome him to the White House, including in 2012 for a State Dinner for Prime Minister David Cameron.  And tonight, we join his fellow justices in mourning this remarkable man.
“Obviously, today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy.  I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.  There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.  These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone.  They’re bigger than any one party.  They are about our democracy.  They’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our Founders envisioned.”
Senator Elisabeth Warren posted on facebook: “The sudden death of Justice Scalia creates an immediate vacancy on the most important court in the United States.
“Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes.
“Article II Section 2 of the Constitution says the President of the United States nominates justices to the Supreme Court, with the advice and consent of the Senate. I can't find a clause that says ‘...except when there's a year left in the term of a Democratic President.’
“Senate Republicans took an oath just like Senate Democrats did.  Abandoning the duties they swore to uphold would threaten both the Constitution and our democracy itself.  It would also prove that all the Republican talk about loving the Constitution is just that, empty talk.”

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Islam


For over a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.  The word Islam, comes from salam -- peace.  The standard greeting is as-salamu alaykum -- peace be upon you.  Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy justice and charity.  Prophet Muhammad taught that whoever wants to enter paradise, “let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.” 
The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are very diverse.  They’re white, brown and black.  They’re found in Africa and include people from Latin America to Southeast Asia.
Islam started during colonial times, because many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim.  Even in bondage, some kept their faith alive.  When, our Founders enshrined the freedom of religion in our Bill of Rights it applied to all religions.
Muslims were often called Mahometans, and Thomas Jefferson explained that the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was designed to protect all faiths.  Jefferson wrote: “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan.”
Jefferson and John Adams had their own copies of the Koran.  Benjamin Franklin wrote that “even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.”
Muslim Americans built America’s first mosque in North Dakota.  Their oldest surviving mosque is in Iowa.  The first Islamic center in New York City was built in the 1890s.
In 1957, President Eisenhower dedicated the Islamic center in Washington, D.C.  He promised: “I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution … and in American hearts…this place of worship, is just as welcome…as any other religion.”
Muslim Americans are police officers, firefighters, in homeland security, and our intelligence community.  They’ve serve in our armed forces, and some rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
The overwhelming majority of the world’s Muslims embrace Islam as a source of peace, but a very small fraction of Muslims promote a perverted interpretation of Islam. 
Groups like al Qaeda and ISIL aren’t the first extremists in history to misuse religious Scripture.  KKK members were Christians.  Presently, an organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, have attempted to justify murder.  They combine it with false claims that America and the West are at war with Islam.  False claims creates tensions and pressure that disproportionately burden the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Muslim citizens.    

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Carpet Bombing


In December’s GOP debate, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Ted Cruz: "You have said you would, 'carpet bomb ISIS into oblivion,' testing whether: 'sand can glow in the dark.'  Does that mean leveling the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria, where there are hundreds of thousands of civilians?"
Senator Cruz answered: "What it means is using overwhelming air power to utterly and completely destroy ISIS.”  He pointed to the Persian Gulf War with roughly 1,100 air attacks a day, and claimed: "We carpet bombed them for 36 days, saturation bombing, after which our troops went in and in a day-and-a-half mopped up what was left of the Iraqi army."
The first Gulf War was the beginning of the growing use of precision-guided weapons.  Unlike today’s fight against ISIS, our military was going against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's large numbers of conventional armed troops in the field and readily detectable targets separate from civilian populations.
Lt. General MacFarland directs the coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and has firmly rejected the idea of "carpet bombing."  He explained: "Indiscriminate bombing where we don't care if we are killing innocents or combatants is just inconsistent with our values.
"We are the United States of America, and you know we have a set of guiding principles and those affect the way we, as professional soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines conduct ourselves on the battlefield.  We are bound by the laws of armed conflict...  Right now we have the moral high ground and I think that's where we need to stay."
Recently, Cruz was asked again about the idea.  He replied: "You know, you claim it is tough talk to discuss carpet bombing.  It is not tough talk.  It is a different, fundamental military strategy than what we've seen from Barack Obama."

Friday, February 12, 2016

Protecting Wall Street


In 1999, Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas sought to convince the American people, that we need to believe that government isn’t the answer, when in fact it’s the only answer.  Phil Gramm got legislation through Congress that set derivatives free from virtually any regulation.

In 1933, the Glass-Steagall was passed to prevent another Great Depression. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was passed to gutted Glass-Steagall.  It was advertised as legislation,which would enable American companies to compete in a new economy.  Nearly every member of the Senate voted to allow large financial holding companies to merge with banks and insurance companies.

Not unlike the pre-depression culture of the 1920’s, the predominate culture in Congress again became: “Wall Street knows best.”  Financial holding companies were allowed to take significant risk, as they began to gamble with investors money.

In 2004, Bush’s Securities and Exchange Commission scrapped a 20-year-old rule that made banks keep a certain amount of cash on hand to cover investment losses. 

In 2007, we again had an economic collapse, which required massive taxpayer bailouts.  Eventually Goldman Sachs chairman, became Bush’s treasury secretary and the person in charge of the bailout crisis.  He decided how the first half of the $700 billion in TARP funds were spent.

Once Wall Street executives could turn mortgages into derivatives, they had an incentive to engage in predatory lending practices.  Yet, no financial firm would buy a derivative based on a predatory mortgage, because they could be sued.

However, Congressman Bob Ney and his Republican colleagues blocked efforts to let the victims of predatory lending sue everybody who profited from it, which left Wall Street executives with virtually nothing to risk.

On 10/13/06, Republican Rep. Robert Ney of Ohio pleaded guilty to corruption charges arising from the influence-peddling investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, becoming the first elected official to fall in the scandal that resulted in Democrats winning back the House of Representatives, after 12 years.

The nonpartisan Wall Street Watch project revealed that deregulation was purchased by Wall Street executives, by paying politicians for unprecedented freedom from oversights of banks, security firms, private equity and hedge funds, insurance and real estate.  For 10 years, Wall Street lobbyists spent more than $5 Billion to influence regulators.  In 2008, a total of 2,996 lobbyists spent $1.7 Billion on direct campaign contributions.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Contrasting Differences


Senator Sanders and Hillary Clinton want to talk about issues.  At the MSNBC debate on 2/4/16, Sanders talked about reasons in the 1990s Wall Street got deregulated.  He insisted that it had to do with the fact that Wall Street spent billions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions.  
Sanders also noted that our sick people pay much higher prices, than other countries for prescription drugs, and that the cost of our medicine can be doubled overnight, and there's nothing that our government can do to stop it.  He believes it has a lot to do with the huge amounts of campaign contributions being made by the pharmaceutical industry. 
Sanders claims that the reason not a single congressional Republican recognizes that climate change is real, is that the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil are pouring huge amounts of money into our political system.  He believes the reason they’re putting huge amounts of money into our political system is undermining our democracy. 
Hillary Clinton points out that no one in political life today has been subjected to more attacks or had more money spent against them by special interests.
Hillary is proud that, when she took on the drug companies and the insurance companies for universal health care coverage aka Hillarycare in the 1990’s, they went after her with a vengeance.
Even today, she has hedge fund billionaires aligned with Karl Rove, running ads against her to try to get Democrats to vote for her Democratic rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.  Hillary is aware of the game, that is being played against her, and recognizes that Bernie isn’t behind those ads.
Nevertheless, she took the opportunity to remind Sanders about his House votes in 2000, that resulted in the deregulate of swaps and derivatives, which contributed to the over-leveraging, and eventual collapse of Lehman Brothers, which was one of the reasons our economy crashed in 2007.
Hillary Clinton insists that she isn’t impugning Bernie’s motive for his voted to deregulate swaps and derivatives.  She understands that people make mistakes and isn’t suggesting that there was any kind of financial advantage for Bernie’s vote.  Hillary wants Democrats to be united, and to actually solve those problems.  She believe that she has a better track record and a better opportunity to actually get the job done.
Tomorrow, I’ll post additional relevant factual information that led to the Great Recession of 2007.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

National Priorities


Senator Bernie Sanders is the longest- serving independent in the history of the United States Congress.  Vermont voters have sent him to Congress as an independent.
For the 16 years that Bernie was in the House, he caucused with the Democrats.  As a Senator, he’s been caucusing with the Democrats for the last 9 years.  Bernie expects to bring forth a major change in our national priorities.
In his opening statement at the Democratic Presidential debate on 2/4/16, he pointed out: “Millions of Americans are giving up on the political process.  And they're giving up on the political process because they understand the economy is rigged.
“They are working longer hours for low wages.  They're worried about the future of their kids, and yet almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent.  Not what America is supposed to be about. Not the fairness that we grew up believing that America was about.  And then sustaining that rigged economy is a corrupt campaign finance system undermining American democracy, where billionaire, Wall Street, corporate America can contribute unlimited sums of money into super PACs and into candidates.
“Our job, together, is to end a rigged economy, create an economy that works for all, and absolutely overturn Citizens United. “One person, one vote.  “That's what American democracy is about.”
Hillary Clinton explained: “I believe that America has the opportunity to once again live by our values, live up to our values in the 21st century, but I think that America can only do that if Americans can succeed.  And there are lots of reasons why Americans today are feeling left out and left behind.
“Yes, of course, the economy has not been working for most Americans.  Of course, we have special interests that are unfortunately doing too much to rig the game.
“But there's also the continuing challenges of racism, of sexism, of discrimination against the LGBT community, of the way that we treat people as opposed to how we want to be treated.
“I believe that we can get back on the right track.  I want to imagine a country where people's wages reflect their hard work, where we have healthcare for everyone, and where every child gets to live up to his or her potential.  I'm fighting for people who cannot wait for those changes, and I'm not making promises that I cannot keep.”

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Another Witch Hunt


Concerning Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman House Select Committee, that Donna J. Shaver of Laurens mentioned in yesterday’s post.
A former investigator with that committee on Benghazi, Major Bradley Podliska accused the Republican-led panel of carrying out a politically motivated investigation targeting former Secretary of State Clinton instead of the objective fact-finding mission it was set up to pursue.
Podliska is an intelligence officer in the Air Force Reserve who describes himself as a conservative Republican.  He insists, that the committee trained its sights almost exclusively on Clinton after the revelation last March that she used a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Podliska asserts that chairman Rep. Gowdy turned a broad-based probe of the attack on our consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, into"a partisan investigation."  As chairman of the committee, Rep. Gowdy pulled resources away from probes of other individuals and agencies to focus almost exclusively on Clinton and the State Department she lead for four years.  The committee had already spent $4.6 million.
After nearly 10 months as an investigator for the Republican majority, Podliska was fired.  He’s preparing to file a lawsuit against the select committee, alleging that he lost his job in part because he resisted pressure to focus his investigative efforts solely on the State Department and Clinton's role surrounding the Benghazi attack.  Furthermore he said, that he was fired because he took leave from the committee to fulfill his military service obligations, which would be an unlawful firing.
Nevertheless, Republican Trey Gowdy, who chairs the Benghazi committee rejected Democratic claims he was leading the investigation to a pre-ordained verdict with the intention of damaging Clinton.  Gowdy raised his voice to insist: "This is not a prosecution, I have reached no conclusions."

Monday, February 08, 2016

Irresponsible Ramblings


The Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter to the editor, that was submitted by Donna J. Shaver of Laurens.
“Chuck Pinkey’s Jan. 26 column inspires another response to his irresponsible ramblings.
“Washington politics is a disgrace because of the obstructionism by the Republicans.  He brings up a list of scandals against Hillary that have long ago been investigated and debunked.  Now, what is scandalous is that the CIA has investigated and proven that Trey Gowdy lied, altered and falsified evidence in the Benghazi and e-mail investigations!  He also proved the fool he is during Hillary’s testimony.
“And then we have Planned Parenthood. David Daleiden, the perpetrator of the video hoax, was just indicted by a grand jury on a felony related to making that false video that Trey Gowdy used in his hearings!  I believe these are classified as ‘scandalous.’
“Ted Cruz wanted to shut the government down again over a lie about Planned Parenthood.  When he did shut down the government before, it cost the taxpayers $25 billion to listen to him read Dr. Seuss!!
“So, what is the price tag of these phony investigations costing the taxpayers?  Tragically, it was the lives of innocent victims of a killer listening to the likes of Trey Gowdy, Carly and people like yourself who perpetrate these falsehoods.  But not one of you will feel remorse, shame or a guilty conscience over their deaths, for it isn’t in your DNA.
“Now we have two of the biggest Republican liars out front leading you delusional followers.  You claim “they know socialism and freedom are not compatible.”  Well, Chuck, this tells me that you aren’t educated to all the kinds of socialisms that exist and certainly don’t have a clue to the meaning of democratic socialism.  I haven’t heard of conservative Christians fleeing Denmark, Sweden, Norway, etc.
“You really need to become educated and not indoctrinated by charlatans!” *********************************************************************************************
I posted relevant information regarding David Daleiden 6 days ago, on this website.  It’s entitled, “Grand Jury Indictment.”  Tomorrow, I’ll post some interesting information regarding Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Top Secret


Three days before the Iowa caucuses, the State Department announced that 22 emails from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be released, because they contain "top secret" information, the highest level of government classification.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said the documents were not marked classified at the time they were sent, but are being upgraded at the request of the Intelligence Community because they contain sensitive information.  Kirby said:"All I can tell you definitively is it wasn't marked classified at the time it was sent."
Clinton maintained that she "never emailed anything that was considered to be classified" and has repeatedly said: "I'd love for people to see what I did and I hope that will happen."

Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Clinton's campaign, insisted that the  announcement was a case of "over-classification run amok" and reiterated Clinton's position that the emails be made public.

A spokesperson for the Intelligence Community's inspector general declined to comment.

Later, Fallon declined to say whether Clinton would ask Obama to declassify the emails when pressed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."  Blitzed asked: "The President easily could declassify all of these emails if she asked him and if he agreed, right?"

Fallon replied: "I'd really be surprised if this has risen to the President's level.  Because, again, this a mundane matter of fulfilling a FOIA (Freedom Of Information) request."

Asked if he had "certainty and confidence" that Clinton will not be indicted over the email controversy, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said any decision to prosecute Clinton would rest with the Justice Department.  That is a decision to be made solely by independent prosecutors.  But again, based on what we know from the Department of Justice, it does not seem to be headed in that direction."

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Our Female Workforce


The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill President Obama signed into law, but a lot more needs to do be done to close the pay gap between men and women.
Today, women account for almost half of the workforce.  But the typical woman who works full time still earns 79 cents for every dollar that the typical man does.  The gap is even wider for women of color.  The typical black working woman makes only 60 cents,  and the typical Latino woman makes only 55 cents for every dollar a white male earns.  Those statistics refer to women doing the same job, but being paid differently.  For the most part, women aren’t getting a fair shot that they deserve.
Women are increasingly the breadwinners in households, and paying them less makes it harder for families to cover important necessities.  Furthermore, what kind of example does paying women less set for our sons and daughters?
The Obama administration has proposed collecting and reporting pay data by race, ethnicity, and gender from businesses with 100 employees or more.  That information would help businesses get a better picture of how they can ensure their employees are being treated equally.  Better data would also help our government do a better job enforcing existing equal pay laws.  
More women should be encouraged to prepare for high-paying jobs in science, technology, engineering and math.  A raise in the federal minimum wage, guaranteed paid sick and family leave, fully protecting pregnant workers, and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would provide workers with more tools to fight pay discrimination.
The idea that we would be keep our daughters out of opportunity, by not letting them fully participate in every human endeavor is counterproductive.  It’s not the way to build a great future for America.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Exploring Diplomacy


Secretary of State John Kerry insists: “We will always stand by Israel and we continue to support Israel as firmly as any administration in history." 
The Obama administration and Israel continue to disagree over the growth of Jewish settlements on land Palestinians want for a future state.  Just before Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat down to discuss the potential for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, Israel announced it was seizing about 380 acres of land close to Jericho in the West Bank.  Reportedly, Netanyahu told Kerry the move was part of a "planning exercise" and there would be no settlement construction there.
Our Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro announced at a high-profile security conference: "Continued settlement growth raises honest questions about Israel's long-term intentions."  He was referencing Israel's stated desire for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.  At Davos, Netanyahu had reiterated his support for a peace deal with the Palestinians that results in a two-state solution, blaming Palestinian unwillingness for the lack of results.
Shapiro also pointed out:"too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities, too much vigilantism goes unchecked, and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians."  Netanyahu insisted: Shapiro's remarks "unacceptable and untrue."
Kerry travelled to Riyadh, where he met with Saudi and Gulf leaders who are nervous about warming ties between the Obama administration and Iran.  Kerry wants to secure Saudi support for Syria peace talks between regime officials and members of the Syrian opposition. Disagreements between Saudi Arabia on one side and Russia and Iran on the other about who should represent the opposition at the bargaining table threaten to delay the start of talks.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Our Perverted Democracy


Our political leaders have a responsibility to reclaim our democracy by reforming our corrupted campaign finance system and restore access to the ballot box in all 50 states.
That can only start by reversing Citizens United, and electing a Democratic president, that would by appoint Supreme Court justices who recognize that Citizens United undermines transparency in a representative democracy.
In the last three elections, more than $600 million in donations came from unknown, untraceable sources.  Congress should require federal contractors to fully disclose their political spending.  The Securities and Exchange Commission should require publicly traded companies to fully disclose their political spending.  Congress should pass legislation that requiring the disclosure of all significant political donations, no matter where they come from or who they benefit.  All politicians should have to identify their donors.
American citizens shouldn't have to be rich to run for elected office.  A small-donor matching system could enable people with a passion for public service to recognize that they can run for a national office without becoming a lackey for billionaire donors and special interests.
Nothing is more vital to our democracy, than protecting our citizens voting rights.  The protections of the Voting Rights Act must be restored.  We should be making it easier to vote, not harder.  We must offset the influence of money in politics, and fix our dreadful voter turnout rate.
In fact, 63 percent of eligible voters didn’t vote on our last national election.  That means about 144 million Americans, which is more than the population of Russia didn’t vote.
Americans should be automatically registered to vote on their 18th birthdays, unless they opt out.  Every state should have at least 20 days of early in-person voting.  No one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to cast a ballot.
Citizens United and its consequences has perverted our democratic system.  more than ever, the deck is stacked in favor of those at the very top.
Al Smith a New York City democrat, who once ran in a primary election against FDR said: "All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy."
We need more transparency, more accountability, and above all, more citizens exercising their right to vote.  We must show Republican voters that they made the wrong choice eight years ago, by restoring people's voices and votes to it’s rightful place at the center of our democracy.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

House Votes


The Republican controlled House of Representatives has scheduled votes on a Health Care Repeal Reconciliation - Veto Override bill.  The House is voting to override President Obama’’s veto of legislation that repeals or significantly modifies numerous major provisions of the 2010 health care overhaul law, including the individual and employer mandates, tax subsidies for individuals to purchase health insurance from exchanges, the expansion of Medicaid and the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  It also effectively eliminates more than a dozen taxes included in the law, including the medical device tax, the "Cadillac" tax on high-cost health plans, the net investment tax and the additional Medicare tax, and it blocks federal funding for Planned Parenthood for one year and provides alternative women's health funding for community health centers.

House Republicans are voting on Iran Sanctions legislation, that would restricts the president's ability to lift sanctions on Iranian and other financial institutions as called for by the Iran Nuclear agreement, by allowing sanctions to be lifted only if the president certifies that the institutions have not knowingly helped fund Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards, foreign terrorist organizations and other entities sanctioned in connection with Iran's weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missile programs.

The Affordable Housing bill is designed make changes to various housing laws to try to extend affordable housing options to more low-income families.  It allows Public Housing Agencies and the owners of private subsidized housing to verify the income-based eligibility of families through other needs-tested federal programs, changes requirements regarding the inspection of housing units and eases Federal Housing Authority requirements for mortgage insurance for condominiums.

If passed the Reduce SEC Regulation of Small Companies bill would requires the Securities and Exchange Commission to conduct reviews of its existing regulations to determine whether any are outmoded, ineffective or excessively burdensome, and to modify or repeal rules based on those reviews.

Republicans are again looking out for Wall Street, if they pass the Financial Institution Customer Protection.  The legislation prohibits federal banking regulators from requesting that financial institutions terminate their relationships with specific customers or groups of customers unless the agency has a material reason for requesting that termination, and it modifies the 1989 Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act to restrict the conditions under which the Justice Department may conduct investigations involving financial institutions and seek civil penalties, including by limiting the department's subpoena authority.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Grand Jury Indictment


A Texas grand jury investigating Planned Parenthood has decided to indicted the anti-choice extremists who tried to frame the organization instead.  The grand jury confirmed, that it was David Daleiden and the anti-choice Center for Medical Progress who broke the law, not Planned Parenthood.
After a two-month-long investigation, the grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, but indict David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for tampering with a governmental record, a second-degree felony, and Daleiden was also indicted on the count of prohibition of the purchase and sale of human organs, a class A misdemeanor, according to the Harris County district attorney.
Daleiden is a project lead for the group that produced a series of videos depicting Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue and appearing to talk about the price for such tissue.  He illegally recorded, maliciously edited videos sparked a wave of witch-hunt investigations in Congress and the states.
Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson explained: "We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.  As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us.  All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury.  I respect their decision on this difficult case."
Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America pointed out:"As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it's become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we're glad they're being held accountable." 
Planned Parenthood maintains that it does not profit from the sale of fetal tissue and only recovers its cost.  After the videos raised controversy, Planned Parenthood announced it would no longer accept any reimbursement.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Iran’s Frozen Assets


Secretary of State John Kerry believes that the public bitterness between Israel and the Obama administration regarding the Iran nuclear deal is over.  
He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, lifted U.S. sanctions on Tehran.  Kerry said: "The fight's over.  I think he recognized that the fight's over and we can move on."
Benjamin Netanyahu, who was one of the most vocal critics of the Iranian deal, seems to have accept that the nuclear deal, and that is the key to a successful implementation.
Israeli officials say privately that the nuclear threat posed by Iran has been eclipsed for the time being by the threat posed by Iranian-backed terror groups like Hezbollah, who some fear will receive increased funding from Iran because of the sanctions relief.
Kerry insists the amount of money Iran will receive due to sanctions relief will be $55 billion.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew explained: “There is a lot of discussion out there that Iran is going to somehow get $150 billion as soon as sanctions are lifted.  That is incorrect.”  Actually,  Iran won’t be able to access the money that has been locked up overseas due to sanctions because that money has already been committed elsewhere. 
Over $20 billion of Iran’s frozen assets has already been committed to infrastructure projects with China.  Lew estimated that it will cost Iran between $100 billion and $200 billion to restore production levels in its oil and gas sector. 
Our current 10-year defense pack with Israel expires next year.  Netanyahu has requested a boost in annual U.S. funding from $3 to $5 billion.  Israel offers a much better social safety net to its citizens, than we do.