Mind and Destiny

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

Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Novel Idea

President Obama has weighed in on the Republican presidential primary race by saying attempts to blame him for the rise of Donald Trump’s popularity in the polls is "novel," but insisted, that it’s actually the Republican establishment and media who created an environment that a Trump candidacy could thrive in.
Our President got laughs during a joint press conference at the White House with Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau, when the he was asked about some Republicans blaming him for the rise of GOP presidential front-runner Trump.
He joked: "I have been blamed by Republicans for a lot of things, but being blamed for their primaries, and who they're selecting for their primary is novel.  Objectively, it's fair to say that the Republican political elites, and many of the information outlets, social media, news outlets and television stations have been feeding the Republican base for the last seven years."
Trump’s rivals to be the Republican party’s candidate for president Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz aren’t that different from the business mogul, when it comes to their policies on immigration.
Obama noted:"It's not as if there's a massive difference between Mr. Trump's position on immigration.  Mr. Trump just may be more provocative in how he says it, but the actual positions aren't that different.  Despite the fact that their (Cuban and Canadian) families are the products of immigration and the openness of our society."
Obama intends to defend his legacy by pointing to his most significant domestic achievement.  He’s proud that the Affordable Care Act has provided 20 million Americans with insurance coverage, which congressional Republicans have voted about 60 times to repeal. 
Many congressional Republicans oppose his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.  Nevertheless, he decided to become the first president to visit Cuba in almost 90 years.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Trump's False Claim

Responding to a question during at a Republican presidential debate about his plan to cut taxes,  Donald Trump said: "If you look at what's going on, we have the highest taxes anywhere in the world.  We pay more business tax, we pay more personal tax."
Actually, America is ranked 17 out of 34 Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development member countries for total tax revenue per capita in 2014.  OECD's 34 member countries are advanced, industrialized nations, which makes their data valuable in comparing the United States to similar countries.  
In America, the tax revenue per capita is $14,203.90.  In Luxembourg, the country with the highest tax revenue per capita, that rate is almost $50,000.  Norway's tax revenue per capita is more than $38,000.  Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland round out the top five countries with the highest tax revenue per capita.
China, Russia and India are not included in the OECD's list because they are not member countries.
America ranks even lower, when compared to the total tax revenue as a percentage of the country's gross domestic product.  Our country ranked 27th out of 34 OECD member countries in 2014.  America's tax revenue is 26 percent of the country's GDP.  Denmark tops the list, with its tax revenue being equal to 50 percent of the country’s GDP.
It's true our businesses face the highest official corporate tax rate, but that's not what many companies actually pay.  The Government Accountability Office found that large, profitable American corporations paid an average effective federal tax rate of 12.6 percent in 2010, thanks to things like tax credits, exemption, and offshore tax havens.
According to the OECD, our corporate tax collection totaled 2.6 percent of GDP in 2011.  That was the 11th lowest in a ranking of 27 wealthy nations.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Old Document

Our constitution is an old document and has been repeatedly updated.  The original concepts our forefathers had in mind was that only white males, who were land owners should vote.  Having two Senators for a state with about the same number of voters as Staten Island is not actually a representative democracy. 

Our Constitution provides for a separation of powers, whereby the federal government is divided into three branches: the legislative; the executive consisting of the President; and the judicial, consisting of the Supreme Court and other federal courts.

The 1960, Supreme Court decision in Engel vs Vitale ruled it unconstitutional for public schools to allow prayer, even though the prayer was non-denominational and students were allowed to abstain from the exercise.  President Kennedy announced, that he understood many people were angered by the ruling, but that there was “a very easy remedy - not a constitutional amendment but a renewed commitment to pray at home, in the churches and with their families.”

On January 22, 1973, with a 7-to-2 majority the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Roe.  The Court deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, thereby subjecting all laws attempting to restrict it to the standard of strict scrutiny.

The Court asserted that the right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, or the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Many Americans don’t recognize “God’s Supreme Laws,” just as reasonable Muslims throughout the world don’t recognize the tenets of Sharia law.  Please, don’t insist that your religious beliefs become law, because that isn’t treating others the way you would want to be treated.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Federal Government and Education

School taxes don’t go to our federal government, but our federal government invests in educating our youth.  Federal funds are sent directly to states and local school districts.

For example, the 2006 budget provide $37.6 billion for K-12 education.  The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title 1 provided $13.3 billion.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Part B, provided $11.1 billion in grants to states.  Improving Teacher Quality received $2.9 billion.  The 21st Century Community Learning Centers received $ 991.1 million.  English Language Learners received $675.8 million and those schools impacted by military bases received $ 1.2 billion.

The GI Bill of 1944 was the first important federal effort to provide financial aid for military veterans to attend college.  In addition, federal civil rights laws require all schools and colleges to conform to national standards of educational equality.

Our federal governments commitment to improve and finance public schools expanded enormously when Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  With those two statutes, Congress addressed for the first time such broad problems as expanding educational opportunity for poor children and improving instruction in pivotal but usually neglected subjects, such as science, mathematics, and foreign languages.

Real opportunity requires everyone 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 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 should continue building 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 effective teachers.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Like Abortion

Actually, none of our presidential candidates like abortion.  Democratic  candidates believe that women should have a choice, and that every young women and teenage girls should have access to the most reliable contraceptive method.  

Teen birth rates go down when people are given information and access to contraceptives.  Unfortunately, Republican religious zealots have focused on social issue instead of health issue, and aren’t looking at what is in the best interest of individual children and the community.  Republican politicians want to eliminate that choice by forbidding abortions, and limiting women’s reproductive choices.

Colorado reduced unintended pregnancy and the abortion rate of teenage girls, by making it convenient for young women to get the most reliable contraceptive method, namely IUDs, irrespective of their ability to pay.  In five years, Colorado was able to drop their teen birth rate by 40 percent, and teen abortion rate by 35 percent.  For every dollar spent on the contraceptives, Colorado’s Family Planning Program saved $5.68 cents in Medicaid costs.  Colorado taxpayers saved $42.5 million in healthcare expenditures associated with teen births in 2010.

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

Most Americans believe that the heart wrenching decision regarding abortion should not be decided by the Supreme Court.  If the law is change, wealthy woman will have the option of taking a trip to Mexico, but dangerous back room illegal abortions will again be the only option for most women.

Emily’s List is an organization committed to electing Democratic women has doubled in size.  Lately, they’re hearing from women that the Republican war on women’s reproductive rights has got to stop.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Socialism Isn’t Communism

The traditional definitions of socialism includes the government taking control of huge chunks of the economy and allocating resources.

After the 1929 stock market collapse Republican President Hoover insisted on a spending freeze during the Great Depression.  By 1933, nearly 24.9 percent of Americans were unemployed.  Therefore, Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt began taking control of huge chunks of the economy by allocating resources in order to end the Great Depression and eventually win WW II. 

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain insisted Obama’s tax plan seems to be socialism, because the idea of increasing taxes on people making more than $250,000 and giving a tax cut to lower income earners was socialist ideology.  However, McCain voted for a $700 billion bailout of banks, which was actually much more socialistic than Obama’s tax policies.

The Bush administration had transformed America into a country where there was socialism for the rich, but no health care for those on Main Street.  Wall Street profits remained privatized, but losses were socialized.

When Obama took office, we were loosing 700,000 jobs a month.  Consequently, he and congressional Democrats passed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act on February 13, 2009. 

Initially, President Obama has able to reverse the job losses, but congressional Republicans, who gained control of the Senate and House obstructed further progress.  The Republican party has always been about the wealthy elite designing schemes, which their representatives in Congress and the White House use to put more wealth into hands of a few.

In 2009, Economist Jeffrey Sachs wrote in “Fortune” magazine: “America can pull through the current economic crisis with a dose of political maturity and a bit of luck.  Success will mean the end of the Reagan era, of an ideology that has brought the country to its knees.”

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ken Williams

The Oneonta Daily Star published a unique “Local Commentary,”column that was submitted by Ken Williams, who lives in Maryland.  I’ll be rebutting his comments and sending at least one of those rebuttals to the Star for publication.

I agree with those, who feel parents should explain to their children the reason our country was in so much debt, when President Obama took office.

Of the 12 presidents, prior to Obama taking office, the top six in terms of job creation were all Democrats.  At the bottom of the list was Bush the younger, Bush the elder and Hoover.  Since 1989, only Clinton had led the country in the direction of creating more jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus.

According to U.S. Treasury Department statistics, when Reagan took office in 1980, the national debt stood at $930 billion.  During Reagan's eight years, our debt increased by $1.692 trillion dollars.  When he left office, the debt stood at over $2.6 trillion - triple what he inherited.

The national debt increased by $1.587 trillion under four years of the first President Bush, reaching $4.2 trillion.  Under Clinton’s eight years $1.54 trillion was added.  The debt was roughly $5.7 trillion, when George W. Bush was sworn in.  His eight years increased the deficit to roughly $10.6 trillion.

During the 28 years from January 1981 to January 2009, (from Reagan's presidency to the end of George W. Bush's), our national debt went from $930 billion to $10.6 trillion, an increase of $9.67 trillion.  If you subtract the $1.54 trillion added during President Clinton’s administration, there was a $8.13 trillion increase under Reagan and the two Bushes.  Hence 85 percent of the debt incurred from Reagan to Obama occurred under Republican presidents.

For 73 consecutive months America has witnesses private sector job growth, but by listening to Trump and Republican propagandist you wouldn’t know that, or that our deficits have been cut by almost three-quarters.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Your Water

Residents of Flint, Michigan began getting ill and dying in the summer 2014 in one of the worst outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in our history.  Genesee County Health director, Jim Henry attempts to find the source were hampered when the state government wouldn't request federal assistance.
The Genesee County Health Department couldn’t get help from the state of Michigan or the Centers for Disease Control, and eventually 87 people acquire Legionnaire's and nine died.
Henry said state officials purposely kept the CDC away once the county wanted to look at the highly corrosive Flint River as the Legionnaire's uptick began.  The state of Michigan had decided to switch the water supply source to the Flint River, and soon brown water began flowing from taps in the city.  
He insists that his county reached out to the CDC. "We expected that we'd have a team of people that would help us identify the source of this bacteria, the source of this illness, to stop it.  The CDC never showed up, because Michigan state officials purposely kept them away.  Frustration is an understatement.  You could see that it was an intentional, deliberate method to prevent us from doing our job."
According to CDC protocol, a state must "invite" the CDC to investigate an outbreak, and Michigan didn’t do that.
Henry alleges: "The state stopped our investigation by prohibiting us to communicate.  They prohibited communication between the Centers for Disease Control and Genesee County Health Department.  They prevented that team to come here and help us find the source."
The CDC official said: “I felt that a comprehensive investigation was warranted and offered to further assist Michigan.  In this case, Michigan felt that they had the skills and resources needed to perform the investigation themselves."
Michigan never found the cause of the outbreak.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Our Land and Air

On a business trip to Oklahoma our son purchased a T-shirt for me with the title of Woody Guthrie’s hit song “This Land Is Your Land.”  I’ve been waiting for some 7o degree days, so that I can wear it without a coat. 

In my opinion the lyrics to that song does not support the actions of people like Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who has been raising his cattle on federal lands and refusing to pay land fees, because he “doesn’t believe in the federal government.”

He was first ordered by a federal court to remove his cows from federal lands in 1998.  The land belongs to “our” federal government and the Bureau of Land Management is responsible for collecting grazing fees on public land.  Grazing cattle on private land would have cost Bundy about $25 to graze a cow and calf per month.  For 20 years, Bundy had been a government freeloader, who put 500 head of cattle on federal land, and refused to pay the $1.35 per month fee.  That subsidy, eventually amounted to over $1 million dollars.

More recently, three of Cliven Bundy’s sons were among dozens of people occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  Their protests were on behalf of Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son Steven Hammond, who were convicted of setting fires that they claimed were intended to protect their property.

In 2005, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision of Kelo vs City of New London ruled the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development was permissible.

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

President Obama outlined actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce dangerous carbon pollution, and build a clean energy economy.  We should continue to transition away from fossil fuel, because it isn’t just about energy, it’s also about pollution that is affecting people’s health.  We’re continuing to subsidize fossil fuel companies to the tune of billions of dollars every year.  We need to invest in renewable energy by making sure that there are benchmarks for all states and all local communities to reach.  Unless they have goals, they’ll continue with the status quo.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Courage and Solution

The Bush administration deregulated Wall Street, and then bailed out those, that were gambling with stockholders money.  When the time came to help the blue collar workers, Republicans as usual didn’t care.

The Republican Party constantly encourages anti-government feeling.  They had an opportunity to pass health care reform, which would have improve the conditions of people’s lives for generations to come.  They didn’t because it has never been about big or small government, it has always been about more effective government, which only the Democratic Party has deliver. 

By June 2010, General Motors was able to turn a profit for the first time since 2004.  They had repaid the money it was loaned five years ahead of schedule.  As many as 240,000 General Motors employees kept their jobs because Obama wouldn’t allow the American auto industry to go under and was willing to give American workers a chance.

After the credit markets dried up on Wall Street, GM and Chrysler couldn’t get any money from financial institutions so our government stepped in.  Millions of jobs would have been lost, without help from the Obama administration.  GM and Chrysler would have been liquidated and we would have lost a major component of our manufacturing base.  We had already lost many of the manufacturing jobs in our country, and we needed to preserve a strong auto sector.  Without manufacturing jobs, we wouldn’t have good paying middle-class jobs for hundreds of thousands of families.  

The Party of “No” didn’t support the auto bailout and Tea Party supporters have continue to complain about government takeovers, socialism and government intrusion.  However, the families that have jobs today have a more secure future, and it’s getting brighter every day, but that wouldn’t have been the case had our government not stepped up. 

The automobile industry supports jobs all over the country.  If Democrats hadn’t saved the auto industry, we would have allowed the credit crisis to bring down the American auto industry.  Congressional Democrats demonstrated a lot of courage by stepping forward and making investments to protect good-paying jobs in our manufacturing sector.  America can’t have a strong democracy if we don’t actually make tangible products that we can sell here in our country and export to other countries.

President Obama put together an auto task force to come up with solutions and then stepped aside and allowed them to make it happen. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Wall Street Bailout

In 2008, the Bush administration insisted Congress immediately give them $700 billion virtually unrestricted.  Their arrogant request to Congress stated: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

It soon became apparent, that the $700 billion the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) received from Congress was not being spent the way many members of Congress had intended.  The money that Paulson gave the banks wasn’t being loaned by many of those banks to enable people to by cars and homes, or save our auto industry.

Consequently, Congress insisted that no money be used in the second half of the TARP program until they got assurances that money put into the banks was going to be recycled back into the economy in the form of reasonable loans.

In January of 2009, before Obama became president, the Bush administration negotiated a deal with Congress, that provided loans to restructure our the auto industry.  President-elect Obama had authorized a letter, asking Democrats to support efforts to save the auto industry.

Given the terrible pressures that the auto industry and the middle class of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri were facing, Senator Clinton believed loaning the money was the right decision to do. 

In the Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, Senator Clinton admitted, that there were things in it that legislation she didn’t necessarily want.  “But when it came down to it, you were either for saving the auto industry or you were against it.  I voted to save the auto industry.  And I am very glad that I did.”

Senator Sanders didn’t support President- elect Obama’s efforts to save the auto industry.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rock Solid Support

So far, Hillary Clinton has won more primary votes than any other candidate.  She has accumulate over 2.5 million more votes than Sanders, and over 1.1 million more votes than Trump. 

The following excerpt is from a New Republic column by Eric Sasson. 

“So perhaps Clinton voters don’t show up at rallies so much.  Perhaps they are a bit less passionate on Facebook, share fewer articles, give less money to their candidate (she does have a super PAC, after all).  But what they are doing is perhaps the only thing that actually matters in an election.  They are showing up to vote.  In numbers that no other candidate can boast. 

“It’s certainly curious to presume, as many do, that Clinton’s supporters are somehow less enthusiastic than Sanders’s are.  How is enthusiasm measured, if not by actual vote count?  And they are doing so despite the media narrative surrounding their candidate, despite hearing very little about themselves in the media, despite her ‘damn’ emails, despite Benghazi, despite her low Gallup favorables, and despite how everyone else is ‘Feeling the Bern.’  If anything, Clinton might need to thank the press for consistently underestimating her.  Perhaps this is why her supporters are coming out for her in such strength: to assert their existence in the face of a narrative that both overlooks them and disparages their candidate.

“This, then, is the one thing the Clinton voter has in common with the Trump voter: a refusal to buy into the prevailing wisdom about their candidate.  We always hear about how Trump supporters have remained loyal to him no matter what Trump says or does; their support is rock solid. We never hear that about Clinton, even though she has survived more scandals and accusations than the rest of the presidential field combined.  It may very well be that Hillary voters are the most stubborn of all.  Because they’ve heard it all for decades—and they are still showing up.”

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Carrots and Sticks

Reportedly, 75 percent of Flint, Michigan manufacturing jobs were lost in the last 25 years.  During that same period the state of Michigan lost 230,000 manufacturing jobs.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton thinks using both carrots and sticks approach will work.  The carrot approach to solving the problem would include a very clear set of proposals and incentives for manufacturing so that the way companies think about making investments in America will change.  Her administration would have a comprehensive manufacturing plan that would include more investments in infrastructure, and put a lot of people to work.  She wants to do more to help small businesses, because they are the source of two thirds of our jobs and more can be done to help them start and grow, particularly minority and women-owned small businesses.  Hillary also wants to do more to help create clean energy as a source of jobs that can’t be outsourced to other countries.

The stick part of her approach to solving the problem of loosing jobs would be to go after companies like Nabisco, who decided to leave after having gotten tax benefits from Chicago and Illinois to stay.  They would have to pay those tax benefits back to the city or state that had invested in them.  She would also go after companies like Johnson Controls in Wisconsin, who got part of the bailout funds, because they were an auto parts supplier and have recently decided to move their headquarters to Europe.  She’d require them to pay an exit fee.  Those are her proposals to put a stop to exporting jobs and start growing jobs again in America.

Another way to grow jobs is through the Export-Import Bank.  It’s a federal agency, that gives loans to help businesses that export American products around the world. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Do Your Job

Regarding Senate extremist, Senator Elizabeth Warren explained: “Their response to one of the most solemn and consequent tasks that our government performs, the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, will be to pretend that the nominee and President Obama himself simply do not exist.
“At the same time, that they are blocking all possible Supreme Court nominees, Senate Republicans are in panic because their party seems to be on the verge of nominating one of two extremists for president – two candidates who think nothing about attacking the legitimacy of their political opponents and demeaning millions of Americans, two candidates whose extremism, Republicans worry, will lead their party to defeat in November.
“These are not separate issues.  They are the same issue.  If Republican senators want to stand up to extremists running for president, they can start right now by standing up to extremists in the Senate.  They can start by doing what they were elected to do right here in the Senate.
“Since the first day of the Obama presidency, Republicans senators have bowed to extremists who reject his legitimacy and abuse the rules of the Senate in an all out effort to cripple his administration and to paralyze the federal courts.  No matter how much it damages the nation.  No matter how much it undermines the courts.  No matter whether it cripples the government or it lays waste to our Constitution.
“Senate Republicans do pretty much everything they can to avoid acknowledging the legitimacy of our democratically elected president.  For too long, the Republicans in the Senate have wanted to have it both ways.  They want to feed the ugly lies and nullify the Obama presidency while also claiming that they can govern responsibly.
“Candidates motivated by bigotry and resentment, candidates unable to govern, candidates reflecting the same extremism that has been nursed along for seven years right here in the United States Senate are on the verge of winning the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
“Republicans senators must make a decision because here’s the deal.  Extremists may not like it but Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 by nine million votes.  He won re-election in 2012 by five million votes.
“There were no recounts and no hanging chads.  No stuffing the ballot box or tampering with voting machines.  No intervention by the United States Supreme Court.  President Obama was elected the legitimate president seven years ago, and he’s the legitimate president right now.
“So, if it is true that some Republican senators are finally ready to stand up to the extremism that denies the legitimacy of this president and of the Constitution, I say to you, do your job.  Vote for a Supreme Court nominee.  Do your job.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Consensus Candidate

Yesterday, in an effort to find a “consensus candidate,“ President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, the chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by Antonin Scalia.
Judge Garland is a graduate Harvard Law School.  As a Justice Department lawyer, he supervised investigations in the Unabomber case as well as the Oklahoma City bombing. 
Obama addressed the threat by Republican leaders in the Senate to even consider a Supreme Court nominee made by him.  Obama pointed out that he had chosen "a serious man and an exemplary judge.”  And,"the one name that has come up repeatedly from Republicans and Democrats alike” in discussions about Supreme Court vacancies.”  He argues that with 10 months left in his term, there is plenty of time for the Senate to take up and confirm a new justice.
CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the pick of Garland, who is well-respected in legal circles "takes the issue of qualifications off the table," but noted the fight now is all about politics."
Pointing to his wife, Judge Garland said: "This is the greatest honor of my life, other than Lynn agreeing to marry me 28 years ago."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced: "The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration.  The next president may also nominate someone very different.  Either way, our view is this:  Give the people a voice in the filling of this vacancy.”
The people have already had a voice.  In 2012, president President Obama’s popular-vote win was by a margin of 5 million votes.  Furthermore as of today, Hillary Clinton has already accumulated 2.5 million more votes for becoming the Democratic presidential candidate than Bernie Sanders.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Upward Trend

The United States added a healthy 242,000 jobs in February, which is far better than the 172,000 job gain in January.   For 73 consecutive months our country has witnesses private sector job growth.  If you’ve been listening to the Republican presidential debates you would never know it.  I’m quite sure that March 2016 will continue to show private sector job growth.

Unemployment stayed at 4.9 percent, which is the lowest its been since February 2008.  It’s at a level that many economic experts consider to be “full employment.”  Earlier this year, some pessimists were predicting that our economy would fall into recession in 2016.  However, February's gains are the latest sign of good new, because retail sales were solid in January and in February growth appears to be picking up.  Furthermore, job gains in December and January were revised up by a combined 30,000 jobs.

Surprisingly, the participation rate increased in February.  It has been trending upward since September even though it's near historical lows.  The participation rate is a measure of the active portion of an economy's labor force.  The participation rate refers to the number of people who are either employed or are actively looking for work.  The number of people who are no longer actively searching for work would not be included in the participation rate. 

Unfortunately, February’s job news wasn't all good.  Jack Kramer, co-founder of MarketSnacks, a daily financial newsletter warned: “Other parts of the world, from China and India to Europe and Latin America are suffering from slowing growth.  The U.S. economy isn't immune to the headwinds from abroad.   Although, our manufacturing sector is in a 5 month recession, our economy has shown signs of strength early in 2016 amid many red flags from overseas and the negative talk from U.S. presidential contenders.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Our Education System

Until the 1840s the education system was highly localized and available only to wealthy people.  Reformers wanted all children to gain the benefits of education.  Horace Mann started the publication of the Common School Journal, which took the educational issues to the public.  Reformers argued that schooling could create good citizens, unite society and prevent crime and poverty.

Free public education at the elementary level became available to children by the end of the 19th century.  Massachusetts passed the first compulsory school attendance laws in 1852.  By 1918 all states had passed laws requiring children to attend at least elementary school.

During the 20th century participation in higher education increased.  At first only about 2 percent of our students from the ages of 18 to 24 were enrolled in a college.  By the end of the century more than 60 percent of that age group were enrolled in four and two-year colleges.  By the 1990s, virtually all states have given unprecedented attention to their role in raising education standards. 

The GI Bill of 1944 was the first important federal effort to provide financial aid for military veterans to attend college.  In addition, federal civil rights laws require all schools and colleges to conform to national standards of educational equality.

The federal commitment to improve and finance public schools expanded enormously when Congress passed the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.  In those two landmark statutes, Congress addressed for the first time such broad problems as expanding educational opportunity for poor children and improving instruction in pivotal but usually neglected subjects, such as science, mathematics, and foreign languages.

Real opportunity requires everyone 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 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 should be building 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 effective teachers.

Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that.  Democratic politicians are committed to keep fighting to make that a reality.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Carla Kraus

The Oneonta Daily Star published the following letter to the editor, that was submitted by Carla Krase of Berkeley, California.
“When my mother and father retired they built a simple house on a beautiful piece of property in Sidney.  After my father passed away, my mother continued to enjoy the property with its beautiful views overlooking farmland down the hill and lovely mountains in the distance.  My parents were very fortunate to live in such beauty and tranquility.  When my mother’s health declined and she moved to assisted living, we sold her house.
“The beautiful Catskills should be preserved.  They are a treasure.
“Unfortunately, there is a threat that two gas pipelines and compressing stations will be built in the area.  Not only will they ruin the peace, tranquility and beauty of the rural communities by industrializing them, but they will pose a serious environmental and safety threat.  Please note the explosion of an underground pipeline in San Bruno, California, which blew up an entire neighborhood, and the recent gas leak in Porter Ranch, California, which spewed methane of unprecedented proportions into the atmosphere for months.  It is not responsible to build pipelines to ship fracked gas to Canada for export overseas.  We need to move to renewable energy sources and stop our reliance on fossil fuels.
“‘This Changes Everything’ by Naomi Klein gives hope that communities can work together to fight the exploitation of the land.  ‘Dark Money’ by Jane Mayer shows how corrupt the system has become that allows such projects to proliferate in support of special interests despite community opposition.  I hope Gov. Cuomo’s administration will take the high road and show people it is possible to have their interests represented.  We need to believe we have a democracy.”

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Price of Oil

On February 11, investors around the world were very concerned, when oil prices plummeted to a 13-year low of $26.05 a barrel.  However, 11 trading days later, they were up to $34 a barrel.

The world still has too much oil and our country’s production hasn't slowed enough to ease the epic supply glut.  Hope that the price would continue to go up was fueled (no pun intended) by Saudi Arabia, Russia and other producers agreeing to a tentative deal on February 17 to freeze output.

However, that freeze deal requires the participation of other producers like Iran.  Officials from Iran criticized the oil production deal as a joke.  They pointed out, that their country still plans to significantly ramp up output now that sanctions have been lifted.

Barclays reported: "The recent output freeze talks are unlikely to have any immediate impact on market balances."  Furthermore, analysts pointed out that the countries that have agreed to freeze production are already producing close to their full capacity.

Despite the recent rally, oil prices are down by nearly half from a year ago when they were sitting at $62 a barrel.  It's hard to become too enthusiastic about oil's prospects given the enormous supply glut in our country.

According to the Energy Information Administration crude oil inventories in this country increased by 3.5 million barrels in a single week to nearly 508 million barrels.  Exceptionally high inventories are raising concerns that certain storage facilities will soon run out of room to store all that crude.

Despite the crash in prices, we pumped 9.26 million barrels per day last December, according to government figures.  That is only 4.5 percent below the April 2015 peak.

It’s believe that oil production will fall sharply in the second half of this year when many oil drillers will be forced to switch off production due to the cheap prices.  Our oil rig counts have declined for 10 straight weeks and are down 25 percent this year alone.

If U.S. output does take a big hit, that could mean the February 11 low of $26.05 a barrel may have been the bottom.  That doesn't mean oil prices are going to skyrocket back to $80 a barrel.  Higher oil prices in the $40 to $50 range is expected encourage shale producers to start pumping aggressively again, thereby renewing the oversupply problem.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Recently, Oneonta Star columnist Chuck Pinkey referred to a gossip item regarding former Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, that was passed on by his son ten years ago.  The son worked security on Nantucket Island.  The owner of an establishment told Chuck’s son: “Nobody else allowed in!”  Because they were understaffed and overcrowded.  A limousine pulled up, and an apparently drunk man got out.  The son stepped into the man’s path and said: “I'm sorry, but we're full.  I can't let you in.”  After, the man staggered back to his limo.  The boss ran out screaming: “Do you know whom that was?  That was Senator John Kerry!”
Lies about John Kerry was the reason that I started writing and sending letters to the Oneonta Star in 2004.
In Vietnam, Kerry killed the enemy up close and personal, which very few in Congress have done.  Nobody has demonstrated greater compassion for those that have had to killed up close and personal than John Kerry.  He was assigned to the U.S.S. Gridley, and served in the Gulf of Tonkin, but upon returning to the U.S., Kerry requested service as a Swift boat commander.  Swift boats, were heavily armed aluminum patrol boats, carrying a 5 man crew.  While patrolling the rivers of the Mekong Delta, they often hit mines and came under rocket, mortar and machine gun fire.
Admiral Elmo Zumwalt calculated sailors on Swift boats had a 75 percent chance of being killed or wounded while on duty.  That explains how Kerry was able to earn a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts in 4 months.
In 1971, Vietnam veteran John Kerry famously asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “How do you ask a man to be the last to die in Vietnam?  How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake?”

Friday, March 11, 2016

Nicholas Burns

Nicholas Burns is a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and a former under secretary of State who served presidents of both parties during a 27-year diplomatic career.  The following is an excerpt from an article he wrote.
“What kind of president do we need to face arguably the most dangerous set of international crises since World War II?  After watching a marathon of raucous debates, town halls and interviews, a reasonable observer might conclude that just a very few of the remaining Republican and Democratic candidates have the depth of international experience, maturity and judgment to handle the most difficult job in the world.
“And if a candidate with little understanding of global politics and national security actually wins in November, what are the real world consequences for the U.S. and our many allies who depend on a competent American leader in the Oval Office?
“These are not idle questions when the two victors in the New Hampshire primary, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, would likely have a difficult time, given their lack of professional experience and modest grasp of global issues, handling crises in the news this week — North Korea’s nuclear threat, the Middle East wars and the Zika pandemic — much less many more like them in President Obama’s foreign policy inbox.
“A Trump victory would be disastrous for America’s reputation and leadership of the international order.  His gross bigotry toward Mexico and the Muslim world, and open admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, have made him a scandalous figure internationally.  He is a bully who is loose with facts and short on discipline.  He lacks the dignity, decorum and maturity that we should want our presidents to have on the international stage.
“On the other hand Sanders is everything Trump is a man of decency, intelligence and purpose.  In his long career in public service in Vermont and the Congress, however, he has demonstrated little interest in global politics, and it shows in the debates.  His foreign-policy focus seems cast backwards almost exclusively on the Iraq War.  But he has not developed a coherent strategy for what we should do about Iraq in 2016.  When he has made specific policy suggestions.  One telling example was his recent suggestion that the way to defeat the Islamic State terror group is for Iran and Saudia Arabia to join other Muslim nations in a military coalition.”

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Invested Millions

Robert Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.
He wrote the following: “Powerful corporations and Wall Street billionaires have been the backbone of the Republican Party for decades.  They’ve invested millions in politicians in order to get lower taxes, wider tax loopholes, larger subsidies, generous bailouts, less regulation, lengthier patents and copyrights and stronger market power.  They’ve been allow to raise prices, weaken unions and make trade deals, that allowed corporations to outsource jobs abroad, and reduce wages.  It’s easier for businesses to file for bankruptcy, but harder for homeowners and student debtors to file for bankruptcy.  Some Judges allow insider trading, and won’t prosecute corporate executives for white-collar crimes.
“Although, billionaires have become enormously wealthy, the average Republican voter is earning less and paying more in taxes.  Sales are diminishing, because they’ve forgotten that their workers are also consumers.  They’ve pushed real wages down, so that some can’t afford to buy what their business is to selling.
“Consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the American economy.  However, the typical family is earning less today than it did in 2000, in terms of real purchasing power.
“Profits of many companies have been artificially inflated by borrowing money at low interest rates and using that money to buy back shares of their own stock.  Interest rates are starting to rise, so that game could be over.
“Businesses are finding they can no longer rely on government to build and maintain highways, bridges, tunnels, and other physical infrastructure; produce high-quality basic research; and provide a continuous to supply well-educated workers.  If those trends continue, our economy will get worse.
“For the most part Republican politicians are ripping America apart by race, ethnicity, and religion. The moral authority that our country once had as a beacon of democracy is in jeopardy.
“All that money powerful corporations invested in Republican politicians have reaped short-term gains.  They’d have done much better with a smaller share of the economy, because it would have produced a strong middle class.  They should have been less selfish and not thought only about short-term gains.
“They have forgot the values of a former generation of the Republican establishment that had witnessed the devastations of the Great Depression and World War II, but helped Eisenhower build the great post-war American middle class.  That generation of powerful corporations understood that broad-based prosperity would be good for them and their businesses over the long term.”

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Pious Hypocrites

It’s getting increasingly difficult to find anything Christian about the Republican party.  They seem to have no interest in treating people, especially the poor, with compassion or respect.  Congressional Republicans and those who voted for them have repeatedly demonstrated their opposition to helping the less fortunate.  Poor communities such as Flint, Michigan need clean water, job training, and a social safety net like every other community.  Compassion is about providing opportunity. 

A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that disadvantaged youths were 43 percent less likely to commit a violent crime if they had a summer job.  I suspect, that some Christian Republicans actually believe the poor deserve to live in poverty, but are smart enough not to say it.

President Obama’s State Department used diplomacy to shaped a deal to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  The deal is designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons is working.  Iran has already dismantled thousands of centrifuges that enrich uranium.  A true Christian wouldn’t want to see that deal fail.

The unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 percent, that’s the lowest it’s been in over eight years.  Nevertheless, Christian Republicans won’t admit that they were wrong to not support the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the automobile loan program that enabled General Motors and Chrysler to avoid bankruptcy.

By a 6-3 Supreme Court decision the Patient Protection and Affordable Healthcare Act has survived.  Although, many Christian Republican voters still oppose the Affordable Care Act, some Republican leaders feared that news stories of seriously ill or dying people going without health care because of the loss of their plans would hurt Republican candidates on Election Day.  

Facts don’t seem to matter to Christian Republicans in Congress, who haven’t present a plan to deal with heath care, or climate change.   

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Above Us Only Sky

Baptist minister Francis Bellamy wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance in 1892, when he was the chairman of a committee of state superintendents of education in the National Education Association.  Rev. Bellamy structured a public school program around a flag raising ceremony.  He had considered placing the word “equality” in his Pledge, but knew some state superintendents on the committee were against equality for women and the negro.

During my elementary and high school education, we recited Bellamy’s Pledge which didn’t include the words “under God.”  In 1954, Congress added those words, after a vigorous campaign by the Knights of Columbus.  After that the Pledge became both a patriotic oath and a public prayer.

The effort to undermine the separation of church and state doctrine reached a peak in the so called “religious revival” of the 1950’s.  Eisenhower inaugurated the prayer breakfast.  Congress created a prayer room in the Capital and added the words “In God we Trust” to all paper money.

I understand why people of faith don’t embrace the lyrics of John Lennon’s: “Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try,  No hell below us, above us only sky,  Imagine all the people, living for today.”

Belief and knowledge aren’t the same.  Atheism connotes what a person does or does not believe, agnosticism connotes what a person does or does not know.

Religious teachings correlate to higher rates of suicide among homosexuals,  Revealed truth from Scripture is subjective truth predicated by one’s faith.  By definition faith is belief in a God, and in the teachings of that religion.  Faith is the antithesis of skepticism, distrust, objective truth, and knowledge.  I’ve become distrustful of most religions, because they stifle freedom of thought, and blind the faithful to the role faith plays in perpetuating human conflict.  Christianity, Islamism and Judaism tend to be intolerant of religions other than their own.

Conflicts exists worldwide between those who believe in logic, and the faithful, who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and that the religious dogma of their beliefs should prevail.

Although, our founding fathers signed a Constitution that allowed only white, male, literate, land owners to vote, some people actually believe our Constitution was divinely inspired.

You shouldn’t become too confident that the God, that you worship only cares about your religions interpretation of Scripture; and not homosexuals, undocumented immigrants, the working poor, desperate refugees and religious minorities.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Irresponsible Voters

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” pointed out: “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

People, who fail to recognize the consequences of not voting will certainly get a government, that they dislike.  If they vote without fully understand all the issues, they’ll most likely make poor decisions, and also endup with a government that their unhappy with.  Angry people rant about politicians, but their emotions need to be tempered by reason.  If emotional people ignore their capacity to reason, we’ll all suffer sever consequences.

I’m concerned that many voters tend to over- generalize regarding politics and politicians.  Instead of expressing distain for politics and politicians, people need to recognize the historical value of what our early persuasive and civil politicians were able to accomplish, when they negotiate instead of obstruct.

It’s a historical fact, that the 55 delegates who attended the Constitutional Convention were a distinguished body of men who represented a cross section of 18th-century American leadership.  As a whole, the group had extensive political experience.  At the time of the convention, 41 had been members of the Continental Congress.  Practically all of the 55 delegates had experience in colonial and state government and the majority had held county and local offices.  Furthermore, delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 left a deity out of the picture, by refusing to follow Ben Franklin's suggestion that their daily sessions be opened with a prayer for divine guidance.

The 1960, Supreme Court decision in Engel vs Vitale ruled it unconstitutional for public schools to allow prayer, even though the prayer was non-denominational and students were allowed to abstain from the exercise.  President Kennedy announced, that he understood many people were angered by the ruling, but that there was “a very easy remedy - not a constitutional amendment but a renewed commitment to pray at home, in their churches and with their families.”

Politicians aren’t all the same, many are authoritarian bullies, who ignore the Golden Rule, and use religion to manipulate public opinion.  Religious terminology is very common from Republican political leaders.

We have one of the worst voting records in the free world.  In our last national election, 63 percent of eligible voters didn’t vote.  That means about 144 million Americans, which is more than the population of Russia, didn’t vote.  Every eligible voter has a responsibility to make wise choices and vote.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

A Historical Record

Democratic Presidents have been dedicated to helping people in need.

Woodrow Wilson supported the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, thereby giving women the right to vote.

Franklin Roosevelt signed the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Act, (FDIC) which successfully secured the bank deposits for generations of Americans.  In 1935, he signed the Social Security Act.  FDR became president in 1933, and unemployment had reached 24.9 percent, by 1936 it had dropped to 17.0 percent.  The Republican policy of less government and tax cuts wouldn’t have end the Great Depression, develop the atomic bomb or win WW II.

Truman’s Fair Deal expanded Social Security, instituted a full-employment program, and signed a Fair Employment Practices Act.  He urged Congress to approve the Marshall Plan, a plan that reduced communist influence in Western Europe.  The popularity of the communist parties faded and the trade relations forge in North Atlantic alliance persisted throughout the Cold War.

In 1969, the first humans landed on the Moon.  Thus, fulfilling President Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s.  LBJ completed Kennedy’s term and was then elected president by a large margin in 1964.  He was responsible for designing the “Great Society” legislation that included laws that upheld Civil Rights, Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, and aid to education.

The 10 principles Carter proposed for a national energy plan was opposed by the oil and gas industry.  The Reagan administration ignored the 10 principles Congress had approved and gutted or terminated Carter’s programs.

Clinton created jobs, significantly reduced unemployment and brought about a budget surplus.  Republicans haven’t produced a president in the past 40 years that balanced a budget.

Obama has been making the lives of all Americans better, which is a highly cherished tradition for Democratic presidents.  He signed the Recovery and Reinvestment Act that prevented a terrible financial crisis from getting worse and turned the economy from contraction to expansion.

For the past 72 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.  That has been accomplished, while our deficits were cut by almost three-quarters.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Teach Our Children Well

Before he was assassinated, JFK called for a civil rights bill on June 11, 1963.  Eventually, a landmark piece of legislation that outlawed discrimination against blacks, women, and ended racial segregation in America was signed into law by President Johnson.

That law ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that serve as public accommodations.

Its effects were far-reaching on the country and had an immediate impact on the South.  It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment, invalidating the Jim Crow laws in the South.  It became illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Vice President Johnson had pushed for the introduction of the civil rights legislation.  LBJ predicted that the Democratic Party would lose the south.

In general, it’s true that the KKK and the Old South was solidly Democratic in the years following the Civil War.  The Civil War was prosecuted by Republican President Lincoln, and Southerners couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the party that defeated the South.

By signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson was fully aware that it meant the Democratic Party would lose the South, but he pushed the  legislation through anyway.  Led by Senator Strom Thurmond, of South Carolina, the south turned solidly Republican.

Today, many Southern Republicans are the heirs of the Confederate States, and apparently the national Republican Party has become a party that welcomes racist.

Republicans have passed laws that suppress minority voter turnout in crucial swing states.  The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than 5 million voters will be affected by those laws.

At the 50th anniversary of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act, President Obama pointed out:  “What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression.  It required the presence of economic opportunity... An economy where hard work is rewarded and success is shared, that was his goal.  And he knew, as someone who had seen the New Deal transform the landscape of his Texas childhood, who had seen the difference electricity had made because of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the transformation concretely day in and day out in the life of his own family, he understood that government had a role to play in broadening prosperity to all those who would strive for it.”

Friday, March 04, 2016

Greed and Deceit

Lt. Gen. Wm. Boykins appeared in uniform before fundamentalist Christians to announce: "Bush was not elected by the majority of voters, he was appointed by God."

George W. Bush claimed: "God told me to strike al Qaeda and I struck them and then he instructed me to strike Saddam, which I did..."

Apparently, it isn't considered blasphemy for Bush to suggest God directed him to use the most powerful military in the history of mankind to deliver death and destruction on the people of Iraq.

In 2002, Nancy Pelosi was the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, both she and Democratic Senator Bob Graham the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee were briefed extensively on the intelligence leading up to the vote to give President George W. Bush the power to invade Iraq.

At the time, Pelosi said there was nothing in that intelligence, which indicated that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States.  Both Pelosi and her Democratic counterpart Senator Graham voted against the Iraq War Resolution. Thus, the two Democrats, who had the most operational intelligence at their disposal, as well as, 22 other Senators voted against the resolution.  

Republican propagandist convinced Congress with the threat of a mushroom cloud.  Some in Congress wouldn't risk being labeled weak on defense, and others foolishly trusted Bush to explore all options before going to war.

Chief UN arms inspector Hans Blix explained: “The White House maintained 100 percent certainty that the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction existed based on zero percent evidence.”

Michael Scheuer author of “Imperial Hubris,” and the former head of the bin Laden unit, made it clear that the invasion of Iraq wasn’t a mistake.  He wrote: "We must recognize that our invasion of Iraq was not preemptive; it was an avarice, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages." 

Those economic advantages included control of the second largest oil reserve in the world.  The invasion wasn’t a mistake, it was greed.  Sadly, it isn’t politically correct to be honest and accuse the Bush/Cheney regime of greed and deceit.

Bush acknowledged that he’d have gone to war knowing the intelligence for invading Iraq was wrong, because he considered Saddam Hussein a bad man.  Over 4,000 Americans died to remove a bad man.  In 2007, a study confirmed an estimated one million violent Iraqi deaths.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Fighting ISIS

Presently, there are more than 4,000 American troops in Iraq as part of the fight against ISIS.   America's military families have borne a disproportionate burden for 15 straight years of wars and multiple deployments.
Hillary Clinton agrees with what Obama is trying to do, by supporting Arab and Kurdish fighters on the ground who are prepared to take back territory from Raqqa to Ramadi and Mosul.  She wouldn’t send our ground combat troops back to either Syria or Iraq.
Clinton would continue to use special forces as trainers, and our military personnel who direct airstrikes that have been taking out ISIS infrastructure and their leadership.  She insists that it’s important to keep the Iraqi army on a path so that they can continue to take back territory, and work with the Sunni tribes in Anbar province.

Clinton would continue Obama’s policy of cutting off the flow of foreign fighters and funding, while combating ISIS online.  They’re spread propaganda and instigating violent attacks online.

Homeland Security will continue to coordinate federal, state, and local law enforcement, but we need the best possible intelligence not only from our own sources, but from sources overseas.

Americans need to understand that American Muslims are on the front line of our defense.  They are more likely to know what’s happening in their families and their communities, and they need to feel not just invited, but welcomed within the American society.

Regarding a theoretical question regarding our military sending an increasing number of Americans to Iraq and possibly Syria, Clinton said: “I am against American combat troops being in Syria and Iraq.  I support special forces.  I support trainers.  I support the air campaign.  And I think we're making some progress.  I want to continue to intensify that, and that's exactly what the president is doing.”

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Melinda Gates

The following is an abridged version of a speech delivered by Melinda Gates as part of a gender equality initiative from The Clinton Foundation.

“The most rewarding part of my job is meeting women and girls from all over the world who are striving for the same goal: a good life for themselves and their families.  Their courage and ingenuity against long odds is all the evidence I need that equality for women and girls must be my top priority.
“I turned 50 last year.  Milestones are good times for reflection, and I spent a lot of timing thinking about what I wanted to accomplish with the rest of my life.
“Like you, I want to make sure I'm doing the things that will help women and girls the most.  This report can help each of us answer that question for ourselves.
“By studying the areas where women and girls have made the most progress in the past 20 years, we can learn to replicate those successes in other areas.  And because the report identifies where the biggest gaps are, we have what amounts to a blueprint for action.
“This is good news for mothers and good news for families and children as well.  The Gates Foundation has focused on health because we believe that a productive life begins with health.  Research has shown that healthy mothers are the linchpin for healthy families.  Healthier mothers mean healthier children, stronger families, and more prosperous communities.  Tragically, the inverse is also true -- for instance, children born to mothers who die in childbirth are more likely to die in the first two years of life.
“Even though we've made great strides, there's still work to do.  Every day, 800 women continue to die from largely preventable complications related to pregnancy and childbirth.  More than 220 million women who don't want to be pregnant still don't use modern methods of family planning.  Family planning is vital to building better societies because when women and their partners have access to contraceptives, everyone benefits.
“Maternal mortality rates drop, children are healthier and better educated, and incomes rise.  I'll never forget a conversation I had with a women's group outside Nairobi, Kenya.  I asked them what they thought of family planning, and a woman named Marianne said: ‘I want to give every good thing to one child before I have another.’  That single sentence expresses perfectly why family planning is so important.
“On a macroeconomic level, studies have shown that if we can close the labor force participation gap between men and women, then economies will grow.  Across high-income countries, closing this gap could lead to average GDP gains of 12 percent by 2030.  In countries such as Japan and Italy, potential growth rates are as high as percent.
“There are still many challenges: In more than 150 countries, women still lack the protections critical to economic participation --for example, the legal right to own or purchase property or to take out a loan. Women everywhere still are denied equal pay for equal work.
“Entrepreneurship is vital to women's economic participation -- but so is their ability to advance into leadership roles in the corporations that play such a big role in the global economy. Just 5 percent of the Fortune 500 is led by female CEOs today.  This is an improvement from 20 years ago, when the number was zero. But it is far from where we need to be.
“It is up to all of us -- governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector, civil society, and all of us here today -- to commit to the work of full participation and ensure a promising future for us all.”