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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Liberals


CNN host Fareed Zakaria claimed: "American universities seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity.  Conservative voices and views are being silenced entirely."
That remark is a flagrant overgeneralization.  Regarding liberal students attending so called liberal universities, Zakaria noted: “From the beginning, people understood that this meant protecting and listening to speech with which you disagreed.  It's an attitude of self-righteousness that says we are so pure, we're so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree”
He added:"Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren't.  No one has a monopoly on right or virtue.  In fact, it is only by being open to hearing opposing views that people on both sides of the political spectrum can learn something.  By talking seriously and respectfully about agreements and disagreements, we can come together in a common conversation.  Recognizing that while we seem so far apart, we do actually have a common destiny."
Zakaria insists that behavior demonstrates "an anti-intellectualism" on the left.  He is correct, but both liberal and conservative students at universities also understand that they have a right to change the channel on their T.V. and walk out of an assemble, or protest what the speaker at their graduation is saying.  Indeed, those who behave in such a manner are guilty of being ill-mannered by drowning or walking out on the graduation speaker they find offensive.
However, Martin Luther King explained: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Conservative students who choose to attend conservative colleges, are most likely to never have an opportunity to walk out on a controversial graduation speaker.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Filing the SF-86 Form


 Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t disclose meetings that he had last year with Russian officials when he applied for his security clearance.  He had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times, but failed to report those interactions on the SF-86 form, which requires him to list any contact he or his family had with a foreign government or its official representatives over the past seven years.

Sessions had already come under significant criticism from congressional Democrats following revelations that he didn’t disclose contacts with Ambassador Kislyak during his Senate confirmation hearing on January 10th.  At that confirmation hearing Sessions testified that he did not have communications with the Russians during the campaign.  He was sworn in as attorney general February 9th, and subsequently received a security clearance.

According to Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions initially listed a year's worth of meetings with foreign officials on the security clearance form.  But, he and his staff were then told by an unidentified FBI employee who assisted in filling out the form, that he didn't need to list those meetings with foreign ambassadors that happened in his capacity as a senator.

Mark Zaid is a Washington attorney who specializes in national security law disagrees with that Justice Department's explanation.  He insists: "My interpretation is that a member of Congress would still have to reveal the appropriate foreign government contacts notwithstanding it was on official business."

Sessions omission came after problems Trump adviser Jared Kushner and the President's ex-national security adviser, Michael Flynn had on their own issues with failing to disclose required information on their security forms. 

Sessions recused himself from overseeing the FBI's Russia investigation on March 2cd, the day after The Washington Post reported that he had undisclosed meetings with Kislyak during the campaign.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address


“Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.
“We are met on a great battle field of that war.
“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.
“It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground.
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
Memorial Day is an occasion for us to reflect on the patriotism and sacrifice made by those, who have served honorably in our military.
However, since Donald Trump became President and with the Republican party controlling the House, Senate and Supreme Court, we should be very concerned every day that our government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the Earth. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Robert Cairns


Delhi’s Bob Cairns is the sections editor of The Daily Star.  The following is an excerpt from his most recent column, that is entitled: “The First Amendment to the Constitution matters, as well.”
“Alex Jones, the blustery face of InfoWars, has admitted in civil court that his on-camera rants are all an act.  He was recently forced to publicly apologize for telling lies about the Chobani company.
“And yet, Trump, during an appearance on Jones’ internet show, said to the host, ‘Your reputation is amazing.  I will not let you down.’
“It seems Trump would like to toss out the First Amendment and have a state press, under his control, and a populace afraid to speak out against him.
“Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un — dictators for whom Trump has expressed admiration — enjoy those things. 
“For those who think the outcry against these actions (and this column, for that matter) are nothing more than liberal whining, I urge you to consider how you’d react if a Democratic president threatened to jail some of your favorites from Fox News or The Washington Times.
“A free press and a free-speaking populace aren’t a benefit to any one ideology.  They’re a benefit to all of us.
“It’s popular to dredge up quotes from Thomas Jefferson to support points of view these days.  So I’ll end with this one, from a 1787 letter Jefferson wrote to Virginia statesman Edward Carrington: 
“‘The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.’”

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Robert Mueller


After The New York Times reported on a memo FBI Director Comey wrote last February, that claimed President Trump asked him to drop the FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, congressional Democrats demanded the Justice Department appoint a special counsel or prosecutor to oversee the case. 

Consequently, former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to oversee a federal investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election, including potential collusion between Trump's campaign associates and Russian officials.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller to the position, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself from any involvement in the Russia investigation due to his role as a prominent campaign adviser.

According to the Justice Department order that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein signed, as a special counsel Robert Mueller is "authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters."  

In a brief statement, former FBI Director Mueller said: "I accept this responsibility and will discharge it to the best of my ability."

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters: "There’s, frankly, no need for a special prosecutor.  We've discussed this before.  You have two Senate committees that are looking into this, the FBI is conducting their own review.  And, I think if you even look at what Acting Director (Andrew) McCabe said last week, he made it very clear that they have the resources that they need and that the work continues."
Later, President Trump insists: "As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know, there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity.  I look forward to this matter concluding quickly.  In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country."

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hard To Believe


Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.  Regarding, President Trump’s claim that FBI Director Comey told him that he is not under investigation, Rep. Schiff noted: “It’s hard to believe honestly anything the President says on the subject of the Russia investigation.  But even if you accept him at his word, it’s breathtaking because Comey wants to keep his job, and in the context of Comey wanting to keep his job, he asked Comey, am I under investigation?  Comey supposedly tells him, no.  And when he wants to know whether he’s going to stay on as FBI Director, the President says, we’ll see.” 
Trump was asked by Lester Holt about involvement in Russia.  He responded: “I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever.  I don’t have property in Russia.  I am not involved in Russia.  No loans, no nothing.”
With respect to that quote, Congressman Schiff explained: “Look, I don’t think we can take the President’s comments on this at face value by any means.  And I think we need to do a thorough investigation into whether, for example, among other things, the Russians used tactics they have used in Europe where they try to financially entangle people.  I don’t want to read too much into the President’s comments.  He seems to be very focused in his statements and his tweets on the lack of his investments in Russia.  He seems to say very little about the Russians’ investments in him.  His own children have said publicly that the Russians were major contributors or leaders or participants financially in their business enterprises here.  So I think even taking the President for what he said, a very perilous thing to do, he has said very little about the Russian investment in he and his family.”

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Revised Version

Notably, President Trump praised Australia's universal health care system during a press conference with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.  He said: "It's going to be fantastic health care.  I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do.”

House Republicans' initial attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was named the American Health Care Act (AHCA).  House Republicans passed the AHCA before the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was able analyze it.  That bill was actually a corporate welfare bill disguised to be a health care bill.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act provides healthcare to more than 20 million low and middle- income Americans by having the very wealthy and very profitable healthcare corporations pay more in taxes.  Obamacare was specifically designed to decrease economic inequality and improve our the nation’s healthcare. 

House Republicans decided to revised the AHCA to improve its chance of being passed in the Republican controlled Senate.  The official analysis of the revised version of the AHCA by non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has been released.

According to CBO analysis the revised American Health Care Act, would reverse the progress that had been made under the Affordable Care Act.  Trumpcare would cost 23 million Americans their healthcare by 2026.  

Furthermore, Trumpcare provides a $663 billion in tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and powerful healthcare corporations. Those tax breaks would be paid for by slashing Medicaid and gutting financial support to help working families to purchase health insurance. 
 
Premiums would go up an average of 20 percent next year.  Costs could go up so high for individuals with pre-existing conditions that they would not be able to afford insurance at all, and 23 million more Americans would be uninsured.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Linda Chavez


Linda Chavez is a former official in the Reagan and Bush Administrations.  Recently, on national T.V. she said that President Trump is “endangering his own agenda.   He is endangering the Republican party, and ultimately he’s endangering the country.
She reminded us that the Trump famously said he could walk down 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and he wouldn’t lose support.  Chavez finds that worrisome because congressional Republicans, who are supposed to have courage as elected official, just don’t seem to have that kind of courage, and she’s concerned that it’s going to destroy the Republican party.
She wants the Republican party to stand for something and not just for Donald Trump, but for principles, one of which is the rule of law.  
Linda Chavez explained: “We (Republican supporters) believe in the resources of the FBI.  We believe that they’re going to get to the bottom of this investigation.  And we’re going to ignore it until they’re finished with that investigation, and we’re just going to move forward with our agenda.  If the President were capable of doing that, the country would be a whole lot better off and certainly, the Republican Party would be.”
In his first week in office, President Trump proved to be liar, and very eager to attack the fundamental institutions of our democracy.  We should all be concerned, that Trump lies repeatedly, in order to distract citizens from the real issues of health care, jobs, our fundamental civil rights. 

We have real issues with voting in America, that doesn’t include the lies that Trump made up.  The fact is that we have voter suppression laws in North Carolina, that have been declared as unconstitutional. 

Congressional Republicans and their supporters stand for the principle of rule of law only when it supports an agenda that benefits the very wealthy. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Backbone and Leadership


Dan Gomes of Schenevus wrote: “Where is the outrage?  Just like the monkeys in the ancient proverb, Congressional Republicans  — with few exceptions — continue to ‘see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.’
“Having hocked their souls to the devil for control of Congress and the presidency, Republicans now find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place.  Desperate and bereft of the political capital necessary to redeem their reputations, they are now showing themselves to be not only nebbish cowards, but unpatriotic hypocrites and an embarrassment to all conscientious Republicans.
“For months, bolstered by ongoing Russian dezinformatsiya, President Trump has been branding our mainstream media as fake news, undermining our intelligence agencies and firing anyone whom he judges to be a threat, offering one obvious lie after another as justification — especially when it comes to his administration’s ties to Russia and his opaque business dealings around the world.
“What is it going to take to convince Trump supporters that they made a mistake, that they’ve been betrayed?  If the Trump-supported shameful GOP Health Care proposal didn’t do it, legislation that would rob the poor to fund massive tax breaks for the rich, I can’t imagine what will.
“Nevermind that it was pushed through at Trump’s insistence, not because it was good, well-considered legislation, but because Trump needed a ‘win.’
“Nevermind that it would be a short lived dubious win that will prove very costly for those who voted for it and the Republican Party in general… House Republicans, as if to provide an alternative to the discredited lemming’s myth, all willingly and gleefully marched off to the cliff — their naked emperor well behind them (if they would only look).
“Thankfully, print journalists are doing their job and providing the backbone and leadership missing in our Republican Congress.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Jack Harmon Agreed


The following letter was submitted by Jack W. Harmon of Stamford to The Oneonta Daily Star and recently published. 
“Some weeks ago, Jim O’Leary wrote his opinion on the forever-discussed abortion issue.  There are very few of his opinions I agree with, however, this one was right on. 
“Only women should be the problem-solvers.  To my knowledge as of today, NO man has ever given birth to a baby and in my opinion has no business making or suggesting governmental or any laws restricting women’s rights and decisions to abort because of health, physical or a mental problem.  There are also too many children today leaving too soon after arriving because of, or lack of, proper care and supervision.  I believe, only women know and capable of knowing how to handle the abortion situation. 
“My observation over the years is there are also too many men who enjoy the manner in which babies are made but less enjoyment in the love and care required in raising them.
“I suggest our government spend more time, effort and money to teach some Americans how to use their firearms and end this un-necessary killing of both young and old!”
*** The letter to which Jack Harmon referred was posted on this website on 3/18/17 and is entitled: “Heart Wrenching Decisions.”
Furthermore, I don’t understand how learning to use their firearms would “end this un-necessary killing of both young and old!”  Violence isn’t a solution that I support, because our Constitution was specifically designed to settle our differences by the rule of law.  And, that is the reason that I wrote in yesterday’s post the: “Our Revolution” crowd can count me out.” 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fighting A Revolution


Zephyr Teachout  has asked us to share the following article that she wrote and was published in the “Boston Globe”.  The following is an excerpt from that article: 
“Firing Comey may be the most Trump-like thing Trump has done: His campaign, his rhetoric, it is all about destroying the legitimacy of government institutions.  He rails against courts, but he cannot fire judges; he rails against senators, but he cannot fire them, either.  Most of the time, he uses words; this week, he used action.  He fired the most powerful fireable man in the country, without good reason.  He struck with one blow to turn the FBI into an political institution.  As we’ve seen with the Supreme Court, once an institution becomes fundamentally political it is hard to turn back.
“Republicans in Congress have been anxiously sitting on the fence for four months, trying to decide whether Trump has gone too far, and they should flee from him.  But running away from him — as with all leaders with dictatorial tendencies — is dangerous; he will not hesitate to use whatever tools he has to punish those who are disloyal.  So instead of leaving him, they use complex sentences that call out, ‘Not yet, not yet!’  His firing ‘raises questions,’ and we ‘might’ need an independent investigation.  These are the cowards with enormous power over the future of our country.
“This may be bigger than Russia, bigger than the health care repeal, bigger than tax laws, because it attacks the heart of the promise of America: a nation ruled by laws and reason, a thoughtful, human nation.  We fought a revolution to free ourselves from arbitrary power and the whims of a monarch.  We now must fight a new revolution to protect it.”
As I recall Senator Bernie Sanders claimed our political process needed a revolution.  I find the word offensive, so the “Our Revolution” crowd “can count me out.”  Those word are from a song by the Beatles, that is entitled “Revolution.”  The words were written by John Lennon regarding the Vietnam War protests.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Missing Link


In the weeks before President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey the federal investigation into a potential collusion probe between Trump associates and the Russian government began to heat up. 
According to “The Wall Street Journal” FBI Director Comey became increasingly concerned by information showing potential evidence of collusion.  Therefore, he decided to ask for more resources to accelerate the FBI’s investigation.  He requested additional personnel from Rod Rosenstein who had recently been installed as the deputy attorney general.
FBI Director Comey was fired the day after he requested for more resources to boost the investigation.  However, until very recently the Department of Justice had been denying that the request had even occurred.  However, “The Wall Street Journal” also reported that Comey had briefed members of Congress that he had made the request of the Department of Justice.
We need to have a public airing of the facts about foreign influence into our elections and Trump's involvement.  He’s been stonewalling the American people when it comes to turning over his tax returns.  He admitted that he fired FBI Director James Comey in part because of the FBI’s probe of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump said: “And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.  It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
Trump’s tax returns are a missing link in getting to the bottom of this investigation.  It’s time that congressional Republicans stop postponing the release Trump’s tax returns.
If we are ever going to understand the full scope of Trump’s relationship with Russia, we need to understand his financial ties.

Friday, May 19, 2017

FBI Director Fired


Several top Republicans, including the Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, who is directing the Senate's Russia investigation are "troubled" by President Donald Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.   The North Carolina, Republican Senator announced: "I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination"
Senator Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee insisted: "It is essential that ongoing investigations are fulsome and free of political interference until their completion, and it is imperative that President Trump nominate a well-respected and qualified individual to lead the bureau at this critical time."
Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska pointed out: "Regardless of how you think Director Comey handled the unprecedented complexities of the 2016 election cycle, the timing of this firing is very troubling."
Congressman Justin Amash, who is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus tweeted that he would introduce legislation supporting the creation of an independent commission to investigate Russia's interference in the election.  Amash is one of only four Republicans who have signed on to legislation that would force Trump to release his tax returns.  Congress has the power to demand to see Trump's returns, but Speaker Paul Ryan refuses to bring the Presidential Tax Transparency Act up for a vote.
The large majority of congressional Republicans have come to Trump's defense or placed the blame for Comey's firing squarely on the shoulders of the former FBI director.
Trump has now fired three prominent Justice Department officials; Sally Yates, Preet Bharara, and James Comey, who were conducting very important investigations into his administration.
A majority of congressional Republicans lack the courage to oppose President Trump even though they have a constitutional obligation to determine to what extent Russia and President Trump’s cronies interfered in our 2017 election.  A fascist dictatorship remains a possibility? 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gun Silencers


According to Americans for Responsible Solutions there are 5 things you should know about the dangers of deregulating silencers.
1. Silencers reduce the sound of gunfire and mask muzzle flash. They make it difficult for people who are nearby, including law enforcement, to identify the sound of gunshots and locate an active shooter.
2. The National Firearms Act currently requires silencers to be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, a law that has been on the books since 1934.  As of Feb 2016, there are currently over 900,000 silencers registered.  If silencers were removed from the purview of the NFA, the owners of those silencers would be able to sell them in private sales, without a background check, at gun shows, on the internet, or in a parking lot. That means felons, domestic abusers, and people experiencing a mental health crisis could easily obtain them.
3. Gunshot detection systems — like ShotSpotter — rely on sound and provide police with real-time alerts about illegal gunfire.  This helps law enforcement officials more safely respond to and investigate gun crimes, whether they have been called in or not.  Silencers diminish the effectiveness of this lifesaving technology, which is being used in nearly 100 cities nationwide.
4.  Making silencers easier to obtain would increase the threat posed to law enforcement when responding to an active shooter event.  It’s easy to imagine how suppressed gunfire and muzzle flashes could help criminals elude law enforcement and would raise the risk of ambush attacks targeting cops.  Last year, attacks on law enforcement officials resulted in the highest number of ambush deaths in more than 20 years.
5. Effective regulation has made silencers extremely difficult for criminals to obtain, but when they have, the results have been devastating.  For example: Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer who had been fired, murdered four people and wounded several others using a gun with a silencer in February 2013.  He targeted law enforcement officers in what the Police Foundation described as a bizarre act of vengeance — a “gang-style hit” on innocent people sitting in a car.  Police were initially puzzled as to why no neighbors heard the 14 shots: it was because Dorner used a silencer.
Obviously, the sole purpose of the gun lobby’s push to deregulate silencers is to increase the profits of the gun industry at the expense of public safety.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hatred and Lies


Ann Landers warned: “Hate is like acid. It can damage the vessel in which it is stored as well as destroy the object on which it is poured.”
A Trump supporter has claimed liberal Democrats are: “neo-Nazi of the free-speech hating left.”  Actually, genuine liberals encourage freedom of speech.  Fascist do not.
Most people who write letters to the editors attempt to be persuasive, but it doesn’t seem to be the goal of President Trump’s angry supporters.  They’re ventilating their anger and appear to hate those who don’t agree with them.  Many indulge in deceitful over-generalizations and lies.
Republican presidential nominee Trump preached hatred and religious bigotry to eager listeners.  Cruel chauvinists want to restrict women’s rights, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.  Hatred goes much deeper today than many white Christian Americans want to admit.
This newspaper’s conservative columnist Chuck Pinkey boasted: “The Right has over 300 million guns and a trillion rounds of ammunition.”  What does the Right intend to do with that ammunition?  Could an armed rebellion be the reason they’ve opposed background checks all along?
Thomas Jefferson explained: “He who permits himself to tell a lie often finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, til at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him.  This falsehood of the tongue leads to the heart and in time depraves all its good dispositions”
President Trump is afflicted with the “falsehood of the tongue” syndrome.  Consequently, it’s crucial that genuinely liberal Democrats disclose the truth, practice the Golden Rule, and calmly carry on.
Until, congressional Republicans demonstrate compassion for the sick and poor, liberal Democrats must continue submitting civil, factual and persuasive letters.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ben Ferencz


At 97 years of age Ben Ferenez is the last Nuremberg prosecutor who is still alive.  He was the son of a poor Jewish family from Romania, who immigrated to America as a baby.

He became a Nuremberg prosecutor at 27 years of age after serving in the Army during World War II.  He was part of the legal team that prosecuted Nazi officers who committed genocide 70 years ago.  The very first trial of Ferencz’s career was about Nazi SS officers who slaughtered more than 1,000,000 people.  He spent every day in the court room with 22 guards who were later convicted of committing the largest number of Nazi murders outside of concentration camps.

In an interview on CBS’s 60 minuets, Ben Ferencz revealed how he proved the Einsatzgruppen guards’ guilt without calling a single witness.  They were the paramilitary death squads of Nazi Germany that were responsible for mass killings, primarily by shooting, during WW II.

He had obtained the officers’ own reports of the killings.  The evidence listed reports such as: “In the last 10 weeks, we have liquidated around 55,000 Jews.”

Although Ferencz, the son of a Jewish family exactly like those the guards had senselessly slaughtered, he insists that the 22 men who were found guilty had been changed by the war.  They are men, just like him.  He explained: “These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war.  These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite.  He’s not a savage.  He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.  No.  He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.”

Ferencz insists: “So the world is changing.  And you shouldn’t be despairing because it’s never happened before.  Nothing new ever happened before.”

Monday, May 15, 2017

James Clapper


James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence testified before Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.  He stated: "The Russians used cyber operations against both political parties, including hacking into servers used by the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen data to WikiLeaks and other media outlets.  Russia also collected on certain Republican Party-affiliated targets, but did not release any Republican-related data.  The Intelligence Community Assessment concluded first that President Putin directed and influenced a campaign to erode the faith and confidence of the American people in our presidential election process.  Second, that he did so to demean Secretary Clinton, and third, that he sought to advantage Mr. Trump.  These conclusions were reached based on the richness of the information gathered and analyzed and were thoroughly vetted and then approved by the directors of the three agencies and me."

Clapper believes the Russians have information on Republican Party, that they’ve decided not to release it.  He said that the information most likely was gathered because Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to harm Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and help Republican nominee Donald Trump.  Nevertheless, he has not dismiss the possibility that Putin could be blackmailing President Trump and Republican politicians.

The White House used Clapper's previous testimony, that he saw no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to argue that there is no evidence of collusion.  Clapper explained that he had no knowledge of the information disclosed by the former FBI Director regarding collusion to influence the election.

Clapper insisted that he always deferred to the FBI on whether the intelligence community ought to be notified of a law enforcement action.  He made it clear that he no longer can speak authoritatively about evidence of collusion.  By doing so, he took a major defense away from the White House.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bloomville’s Marthe R. Gold


Recently, Marthe R. Gold explained: “Rep. John Faso’s response to my op-ed piece of April 15 (deliberately?) missed the point.  Mr. Faso supported the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as it made its way through the Republican House; he is named as a core supporter of its final version.  Mr. Faso argues that he is not supportive of eliminating ‘essential health benefits.’  He neglects to add that these benefits would, under the AHCA, become unaffordable for many constituents who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 
“Mr. Faso’s fixation on shifting local Medicaid outlays to New York state (first through his amendment to the AHCA, currently through HR 1871), suggests that he is comfortable seeing state taxes rise or, that he is unbothered by curtailing needed services for New Yorkers who cannot afford them.  Rural New York is aging; 70 percent of NY state Medicaid spending goes to support the elderly and disabled.  Under the AHCA the costs of insurance for older individuals would have ballooned to five fold that of younger individuals. 
“In his April 7 weekly report Faso promotes his proposals to shift Medicaid funding to the state as saving ‘nearly $360 annually for every homeowner.’  There is a certain irony in Faso’s zeal to lower the ‘exorbitant taxes (that) are forcing seniors and others out of their homes.’  Unsubsidized private health care insurance — premiums, co-pays and deductibles — dwarf this relatively small savings.  Perhaps Mr. Faso has lost track of what insurance costs on the open market.  U.S. representatives are entitled, after all, to free and excellent health insurance all the days of their lives.
“Mr. Faso: if you’re serious about providing all essential benefits to your constituents, look to add a public option to the ACA.  Better yet, rally your colleagues to extend Medicare to all of us.”

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Profile in Courage


Recently, former President Obama explained: “And so by the time the vote came up to pass the Affordable Care Act, these freshmen congressmen and women knew that they had to make a choice.  That they had a chance to insure millions and prevent untold worry and suffering and bankruptcy, and even death, but that this same vote would likely cost them their new seats, perhaps end their political careers.

“And these men and women did the right thing.  They did the hard thing.  Theirs was a profile in courage.  Because of that vote, 20 million people got health insurance who didn't have it before.

“And most of them did lose their seats, but they were true to what President Kennedy defined in his book as a congressional profile in courage: the desire to maintain a reputation for integrity that is stronger than the desire to maintain office, a conscience, personal standard of ethics, integrity, morality that is stronger than the pressures of public disapproval or party disapproval, a faith that the right course would ultimately be vindicated, a faith that overcame fear of public reprisal.

“It was a personal sacrifice.  But I know, because I've spoken to many of them, that they thought and still think it was worth it.

“As everyone here now knows, this great debate is not settled but continues. And it is my fervent hope and the hope of millions that regardless of party, such courage is still possible, that today's members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth even when it contradicts party positions.

“I hope that current members of Congress recall that it actually doesn't take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential.  But it does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm, those who often have no access to the corridors of power.”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Shouldn't Have It


Congressman Adam Schiff  is a ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  On 5/4/17, Rep. Schiff told Rachel Maddow , that in 2014 he explain to a constituent why he had voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

Schiff had explained: "And I like the fact that tens of millions of people that can't get access to healthcare are going to get it.  And he said something after that Rachel, that I have to say shocked me, and I thought I'd heard everything, he said: ‘You really think that's such a good thing?’  And I said: Well yes, don't you?  And he said: ‘No, I don't.  If they can't afford it, they shouldn't have it.’

"And I knew the second he had said it, he was speaking for a great many of my colleagues in Congress, who at root believe that if you can't afford coverage, if you're, you know, you have pediatric cancer and your parents can't afford it or you are elderly and have diabetes and you can't afford it, that is your problem.

"And, at the heart of this is a conclusion that among a majority of my colleagues sadly today, they would rather give a big tax cut for people that are already doing well, than try to help people get access to healthcare.  And that made it a sad day, all the sadder to see people celebrating it."

Our Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  It ends with the words “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”


Thursday, May 11, 2017

House Republican Vote


In response to the recent vote by House Republicans to replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Heath Care Act, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wrote: “The Trump health care bill that passed today on a party-line vote is atrocious and must be defeated in the Senate.  Health care shouldn’t be about politics —it is about people — and this bill would harm people.  The only beneficiaries of this bill are big insurance companies and the wealthiest among us, with the price tag being paid by everyone else through higher premiums, less coverage, and millions of vulnerable Americans losing their insurance.
“Older Americans will be forced to pay more for their health care through an age tax that lets insurance companies charge those aged 50-64 higher premiums.  Up to 24 million Americans with insurance today could lose that coverage. Individuals with pre-existing conditions could lose their protections against premium discrimination granted under Obamacare.”
“Obamacare isn’t perfect.  Health insurance is still too costly for most Americans, and Congress should fix that.  There are two ways to do that. Subsidize insurance companies further with taxpayer dollars or create a not-for-profit public option that cuts insurance companies and their profits out of the equation to lower premiums, drug prices, and out-of-pocket costs for everyone.  I believe we should fight for that public option – but until then, I will work as hard as I can to defeat this misguided and purely political effort that will hurt New York families.” 
In 2010, Democratic Senator Baucus refused to allow advocates for a single payer national health policy to testify at the Senate Finance Committee hearings.  Consequently, President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recognized that single payer healthcare legislation wouldn’t get passed in the Senate.  Therefore, congressional Democrats wisely decided to be pragmatic.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Universal Health Care


After celebrating a victory to kill the Patient Protection and Affordable Heath Care Act, President Donald Trump praised Australia's universal health care system during a press conference with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Trump announced: "It's going to be fantastic health care.  I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia because you have better health care than we do."

After learning of Trump’s remark, Senator Bernie Sanders explained: "Well Mr President, you're right, in Australia and every other major country on Earth they guarantee health care to all people.  They don't throw 24 million people off health insurance.  So maybe when we get to the Senate we should start off with looking at the Australian health care system."

Australia has a universal health care system, known as Medicare, which provides their citizens with free access to doctors and public hospitals paid for by the government.  However, the House Republican bill plans to significantly cut the amount of government support for our Medicaid, which provides health care to many of our citizens.

Australian residents are able to see doctors, optometrists, as well as receive some minor surgeries, usually free of charge.  The partial cost of pharmaceuticals is also covered under the separate pharmaceutical benefits plan.  Residents get hospital treatment at no charge, although you can't choose your doctor.  It is partly funded by a 2 percent levy on all taxpayers, although that can be reduced or even waived for people earning low incomes.

In 2014, the Australian government spent 9 percent of its GDP on health care, compared to the 17 percent spent by our government in the same year.  In Australia Medicare doesn't cover all dentist visits, most physiotherapy and ambulance services.  Many Australians still need private health insurance for some or all of those services.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Shared Sacrifice


In 1982, the first year the Forbes 400 was compiled, those listed had a combined net worth of $93 billion.  At the time, the 400 had a combined net worth of $2.3 trillion, up 2,400 percent in 30 years.  Meanwhile, the median household income rose only about 180 percent during that time.  And, the percentage of Americans living below poverty level remained at 15 percent over that period.
According to a recent estimate by Bloomberg, Warren Buffett is the third richest person in the world.  In 2010, Buffett announced “The Giving Pledge” with Bill Gates.  The pledge was an initiative aimed at inspiring wealthy people of the world to give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy.
President Obama’s budget urged Congress to support the “Buffett Rule,” that was named after Buffett, who admitted paying a lower tax rate than his secretary.  He believed it was wrong that rich people like himself could pay less in federal taxes as a portion of income than the middle class and voiced support for increased income taxes on the wealthy.
Buffett pointed out: “In recent decades, our country’s rising tide has not lifted the boats of the poor...Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money.  But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office.  Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41percent and averaged 36 percent… My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress.  It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

Monday, May 08, 2017

Private Sector Job Growth


In February 2009, employers slashed 651,000 jobs.  The unemployment rate hit a 25-year high, with 12.5 million Americans were out of work.  The unemployment rate was at 8.1 percent, and eventually went down to 10.2 percent.

Less than a month after Obama took office, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed, because both Houses of Congress were controlled by the Democrats.  Not a single Republican member of the House voted for the $787 billion economic stimulus package.  

In it’s first year, the Recovery Act saved or created at least 2 million jobs, cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, and made loans to over 42,000 small businesses.  It also provided critical relief for state governments facing record budget shortfalls.  The stimulus included infrastructure investment, and assistance to the unemployed. 

On March 9, 2009, the Dow closed at 6,547, but by September 2012 the Dow had closed at 16,157.  Economists estimated that the stimulus had created up to 3.6 million jobs, and had boosted America’s annual economic output by $400 billion. 

Americans were experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market; a manufacturing sector that was adding jobs for the first time since the 1990; more oil produced at home than we purchased from the rest of the world.

The last jobs report before President Obama left office was that our country had already experienced 75 straight months of private sector job growth. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Obama administration turned over a significantly improved economy to president- elect Trump.  And, he has inherited an economy that added 80 consecutive months of private sector job growth, and an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent. 

Recently, President Trump signed an executive orders to start doing away with the Dodd-Frank Act. 

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Aristocratic Corporations


In 1816 Thomas Jefferson wrote: "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country."
                                                         
In 2009, most of the TARP losses were expected to come from the bailout of insurance conglomerate AIG, American International Group Inc.  Therefore, congressional Democrats proposed a bill to get Troubled Asset Relief Program funds back from bailed out banks, automakers and other financial firms.

The bill passed the House by a huge margin, 328 to 93.  Of the 93 Congressmen, who voted against it, 87 were Republicans, including the top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, and the number three Republican in the House, Mike Pence.  They voted to allow the AIG bankers keep their bonus money.

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan released an alternative Republican House Budget Committee’s plan to privatize Social Security as an alternative to Obama’s budget.  If Republicans had gotten their way Americans would have been able to invest a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into speculative funds consisting of equities and bonds.  Thereby, gambling their life savings on Wall Street.

On July 21, 2010, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  It was written to prevent another financial crisis from occurring.  Our financial system lacked oversight, resulting in an exploitative system that enabled banks to take risk without considering the consequences.  Hidden fees and misguiding borrowers had become a standard practice.

The law prevented taxpayers from bailing out financial institutions, and all banks were required to have a shutdown process in place if their company became insolvent.  The Consumer Protection Bureau required lenders to provide plain English documents for consumers and fees were limited.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Invitation Accepted


On 1/29/10, President Obama accepted an invitation from Congressman Mike Pence to address the Republican House retreat in Baltimore.

Pence asked: “Now last year, about the time you met with us, unemployment was 7.5 percent in this country.  Your administration and your party in Congress told us that we’d have to borrow more than $7.5 billion to pay for a so-called stimulus bill.  It was a piecemeal list of projects and boutique tax cuts.  All of which had to be passed or unemployment would go to 8 percent, as your administration said.  Well, unemployment is 10 percent now, as you well know.”

President Obama explained that when he was sworn in, everyone was hoping, that unemployment would remain in the 8 percent range.  That number was based on the estimates made by both conservative and liberal economists because at that point, all of the data wasn’t in.

America lost 650,000 jobs in December 2008.  Republicans wanted to hold Obama responsible for those lost jobs.  An additional 700,000 jobs were lost in January, the month Obama was sworn in.  Should he be held accountable for lost jobs, after being in office for only a week?  On February 13th, the Recovery Act was passed by Congress and the 650,000 jobs lost in that month were not a consequence of Obama’s policies.  The job losses from the recession prove to be much more severe in the first quarter of 2009, than anticipated.

Obama informed congressional Republicans: “I think we can score political points on the basis of the fact that we underestimated how severe the job losses were going to be.  But those job losses took place before any stimulus, whether it was the ones you guys proposed or the ones we proposed, could ever have taken into effect.”

Friday, May 05, 2017

Ten Years Later


In 1998, Citibank was allowed to merge with the insurance giant, Travelers, even though it was against the law.    

Billionaire Warren Buffett first noticed, that the “Gramm amendment” enabled the creation of a shadow banking system, which allowed the creation of financial “weapons of mass destruction.”  The Gramm amendment directly contributed to the 2008 mortgage foreclosure crisis, that resulted in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The Glass-Steagall Act had erected a wall between regulated Main Street banks and unregulated investment banks.  Without that wall, the stage was set for firms to merge until they were “too big to fail.”  Regulators allowed firms to hide risky investments off their books which meant they didn’t have to keep enough money on hand to cover possible losses.  Those practices were permitted by the Financial Accounting Standards Board in rules pushed for by bank executives.

In 2004, President George 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. 

That new rule was pushed by Henry Paulson, who eventually, became Bush’s treasury secretary.  In 2008, the $700 billion, Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was passed, and Paulson decided how the first half of that money would be spent.

Just as Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan had warned: “I think we will in 10 years time look back and say we should not have done that.”

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office TARP resulted in a net cost to taxpayers of $73 billion, and 5.5 million more jobs were loss than predicted in September of 2008.

According to the Federal Reserve, we lost $3.4 trillion in real estate wealth, and $7.4 trillion in stock wealth from July 2008 to March 2009. 

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Preventing Future Collapse


As a result of that Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress put in place the Glass-Steagall Act to prevent future collapse.  However, in 1999, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act was passed and essentially gutted Glass-Steagall.  It was advertised as historic legislation, which would enable American companies to compete in the new economy.  Nearly every member of the Senate voted to allow large financial holding companies to merge with banks and insurance companies.  The eight members of the Senate, who opposed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act couldn’t understand how their colleagues could have forgotten the painful lessons learned during the Hoover administration.

Not unlike the culture of the 1920’s, the predominate culture in Congress had again become: “Wall Street knows best.” Consequently, huge financial holding companies, were allowed to bring significant risk to banks, as they began to gamble with investors money. 

In its coverage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passing in 1999, the “New York Times,” quoted former Republican Senator Phil Gramm of Texas as writing: “We have a new century coming, we have an opportunity to dominate that century the same way we dominated this century.

However, when Congress repealed the original Glass-Steagall Act in 1999, Senator Byron Dorgan argued: “The fusing together of the idea of banking, which requires not just safety and soundness to be successful but the perception of safety and soundness.  To merge it with inherently, risky, speculative activity is in my judgment unwise.  We are with this piece of legislation moving towards greater risk.  We are almost certainly moving towards substantial new concentration and mergers of the financial services industry.  That is almost certainly not in the interest of consumers.  I think we will in 10 years time look back and say we should not have done that.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

A Progressive Idea


On May 4, 2005, Lou Dobbs interviewed Warren Buffett, who at the time was the second wealthiest man in the world.  Dobbs asked about Social Security.  Buffett replied: "I personally would increase the taxable base above the present $90,000.  I pay very little in the way of SS taxes." 

Dobbs commented: "What a progressive idea, the rich people pay more."

Buffett explained: "The rich people are doing so well in this county, I mean we never had it so good... It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be."

Buffett added: "The rich are winning.  Just take the estate tax, less than 2 percent of all the estates pay any estate tax.  We raise $30 billion from estate taxes.  I would like to hear a Congressman say who they are going to get the $30 billion from if they don't get it from estate taxes.  It's nice to say... wipe out this tax, but we're running a huge deficit, so who does the $30 billion come from?"

Today, the federal estate tax is only paid by estates worth at least $5.5 million.  Trump’s budget would result in the loss of an additional $174 billion, by eliminating estate and gift taxes, in order to boost the inheritances of millionaires and billionaires.  Assuming Trump is worth the $10 billion he claims, the change could give Trump’s heirs a tax break of billions of dollars.

America should spend less on its military, whose primary mission is to increase and protect the assets of the very wealthy.  We should stop giving tax breaks to the very wealthy, and most importantly stop electing deceitful politicians.

Trickle-down economics doesn’t work.  More money in the hands of poor and middle-class consumers has historically proven to work. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Roosevelt's New Deal


After the stock market collapsed, President Hoover and Republican Senators insisted on a strict spending freeze.

In 1932, a group of WW I veterans pressured their government to change the date their bonus certificates would be paid.  Hoover became angry after the protesters set up a large camp, they named Hooverville.  He ordered that the veterans be clear out.  Infantry and cavalry troops, under the command of Colonel Douglas Mac Arthur, fixed bayonets and hoisted sabers, and rolled over the Hooverville encampment using tear gas, and fire.  Two veterans and a baby died.

In 1933, when President Roosevelt took office the unemployment rate was 24.9 percent.  Veterans again pressed the issue of the bonus payment.  FDR didn’t agree, but offered a New Deal, that created the Civilian Conservation Corps which employed men.  The CCC was a public works project intended to promote environmental conservation and build good citizens through vigorous, disciplined outdoor labor. 

The Work Projects Administration, WPA was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency.  It employed millions of unemployed people to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads.   FDR signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, which created a public corporation to provide for flood control, reforestation, agricultural and industrial development in the Tennessee River Valley. 

In 1935, FDR signed the Social Security Act, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Act, (FDIC) which has been successfully securing bank deposits for generations of Americans. 

Federal employment increased dramatically following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  A Republican spending freeze would have been considered political suicide.  FDR was re-elected by very grateful citizens three times, by wide margins.

President Franklin Roosevelt initiated the development of top secret atomic bombs, which after his death enable our military to finally and decisively win WW II. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

Japan’s Preemptive War


With Europe busy fighting Hitler, our country remained the only obstacle to the establishment of a huge Japanese empire in East Asia.
By the end of 1940, we had ended shipments of scrap metal, steel, and iron ore to Japan, and began sending military hardware to Chiang Kai-shek ,the leader of the Chinese forces resisting the Japanese.
Negotiations with Japan began in early 1941, but there was little movement.  By midsummer, President Franklin Roosevelt froze all Japanese assets in our country and ended shipments of oil.  The United States was unwilling to accept Japanese expansion and Japan was unwilling to end its conquests.
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise preemptive air attack on Pearl Harbor.  Within two hours of the bombing, 18  ships were sunk or damaged, 188 of our aircraft were destroyed, and 2,403 Americans were killed.
The next day, FDR addressed a joint session of Congress to ask it to declare war on Japan and signed that declaration of war the same day.  Our government immediately began providing weapon and supplies to the Soviet Union and the British Empire. 
On December 11, 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, and we reciprocated, by formally entering the war in Europe. 
Adolf Hitler had learned that our military was making a contingency plan to get troops in continental Europe by 1943.  The information was made public by sources unsympathetic to Roosevelt's New Deal, and published by the Chicago Tribune on December 4, 1941.  Roosevelt had initiated a Neutrality Patrol, which escorted British ships, as well as orders for our Navy destroyers to first actively report U-boats, then to "shoot on sight."
In February of 1942, Japanese Americans from the West Coast were sent to internment camps for the duration of the war.