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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Cherry Valley’s Karen Kremer

Regarding the Farmer’s Market in Delhi, Karen Kremer wrote: “I was troubled to read in The Daily Star on June 8 an opinion piece contributed by someone who had asked to be a vendor at the Delhi Wednesday Farmers Market in order to have a voter registration table.  Their request was denied because the rules for the market prohibited ‘specific political activity.’
“It is a said state of affairs in our country when registering to vote, or assisting someone else to register to vote, is seen as a ‘specific political activity’ instead of the responsibility and honor of all citizens to register and to vote.  It is the basis of our democracy.
“When people register to vote, it’s true that they can also register to be a member of a political party, but it is not required that they do so.  And, they have choices other than to register for the Republican or Democrat parties, the two that dominate our political culture and landscape.  Citizens are free to choose to NOT become a member of any party and remain independent.
“The act of registering and voting is not political.  It is a responsibility of citizenship and one that too many of our citizens are not exercising.  The Greater Delhi Chamber of Commerce should reconsider its decision and allow a voter registration table to be a vendor at its farmers markets.  You will be encouraging attendants at the market to exercise their right and duty as citizens to vote.”
*** In my opinion this letter published in “The Oneonta Daily Star” was one of the most factual, civil and persuasive letter’s that have seen in a newspaper.  Unfortunately, the Greater Delhi Chamber of Commerce could ignore the suggestion that they remedy the situation.
Tomorrow, I’ll post an opinion regarding why they’ll ignore it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017


President Trump called the House healthcare bill “mean,” but the bill Senate Republicans have released in many ways is even worse, than the one past by the House.

Congressional Democrats need the support of American citizens of both political parties to ensure that the disastrous Senate bill doesn’t become law.  If it becomes law millions of Americans will lose their healthcare to give a $660 billion tax cut to the wealthy, insurance companies and drug firms.  The Senate bill still contains the same $660 billion in tax cuts mostly for the wealthy and healthcare corporations.  Those tax breaks are paid for by slashing about $1 trillion from Medicaid and Medicare, and those cuts are even deeper than in the House-passed bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is planning a vote on Trumpcare late next week.  We need to make thousands of phone calls and send emails to Senate offices to let our elected officials know how devastating this bill would be to families and communities.

The most dangerous provisions in the Senate “healthcare” bill includes:

Ending Medicaid expansion in 2024 causing millions to lose  coverage.  (Medicaid insures 1 in 5 Americans, including two-thirds of nursing home patients.) 

Eliminating subsidies for expenses such as co-payments and deductibles. (This will be incredibly damaging for anyone with high out-of-pocket healthcare costs.) 

Setting a cap on the amount Medicaid pays per person.  (The cap is below the cost of providing healthcare, which means people will lose coverage and benefits.)

Allowing insurance corporations to charge older Americans 5 times more than younger people.  (This could bankrupt many older Americans not yet eligible for Medicare.)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act taxes on rich provide healthcare to 20 million more people.  Trumpcare will do the opposite.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Senate Healthcare Bill

President Obama has spoke out against the proposed Senate Republican’s bill that dismantles the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  He explained: “Our politics are divided.  They have been for a long time.  And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

“I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party.  Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did. 

“We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course. 

“Nor did we fight for it alone.  Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

“And you made a difference.  For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance.  Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years.  Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free.  Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past. 

“We did these things together.  So many of you made that change possible.

“At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it. 

“That remains true.  So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse. 

“But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite.  It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it.  That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

“The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.  It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else.  Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions.  Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again.  Millions of families will lose coverage entirely. 

“Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm.  And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

“I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage?  What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid?  What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles?  What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

“To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom.  But it’s what’s at stake right now.  So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need. 

“That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans.  But I believe that’s what people want to see.  I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines.  And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again.  If you’re willing to call your members of Congress.  If you are willing to visit their offices.  If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

“After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics.  It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be.  And that’s always worth fighting for.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Oneonta’s Michael Perry

Michael Perry wrote: “Donald Trump tweeted on May 12: ‘James Comey better hope that there are no tapes of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”  What was Trump worried about?  What was he afraid that Comey might say about our conversations which he felt warranted the threat of possible tapes? 
“Obviously he was afraid of exactly what James Comey said under oath to the Congressional Committee.  If Trump had nothing to hide, he would not have sent that tweet.  It wouldn’t even have occurred to him to do so.  It would seem that he thought he had something to hold over Comey’s head, something that compromised the former head of the FBI, and that this ‘something’ would prevent Comey from coming forward with the damaging information about Trump.
“Well, it didn’t work.  Comey testified under oath that Trump tried to persuade him to drop the Flynn investigation, and to pledge loyalty to himself (Trump).  Trump denies he said any such thing on both accounts.
“So now it comes down to who is more credible.  And that is laughable.  By now, everyone who has been paying attention knows that Trump is a pathological liar.  If you don’t know that by now, it’s because you don’t want to know.  Trump has no moral compass, he has no sense of right and wrong.  He is a bully and like most bullies, he is arrogant and incredibly stupid.  We’ve all known people like this; too stupid to realize how transparent their lies are.  Donald Trump is a stain on the presidency, an embarrassment to the USA, and a testament to the idiocy of the voting public.”
*** BTW, the American public is gradually becoming informed.  According to a recent CNN pole, Trump’s favorability rating is down to 36 percent.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Imam Mohammed Mahmoud

One person died and eight were wounded, after a vehicle rammed people leaving Ramadan morning prayers in London.  Eyewitnesses saw a group of bystanders drag the driver out of a white van, pin him to the ground and hit him.

Imam Mohammed Mahmoud stopped an angry crowd from seriously injuring the suspected attacker, by telling the furious mob: "Do not touch him."  The 48 year-old male driver of the van was found detained by members of the public at the scene and arrested by police.

Toufik Kacimi said that the imam "went quickly and grabbed the guy because the people there were trying to hit and kick the guy, but he saved him, and kept him safe until the police arrived."

Imam Mahmoud said: “I was in the mosque shortly after prayers when a brother came in, quite panicked, and that somebody had run over a group of people and tried to kill them so we rushed out.  We found about 15 to 20 people on the scene tending to the injured, administering CPR on the brother who is now deceased, and three people restraining the assailant.  They couldn't hold him down and push back the people trying to hit him, so we pushed those people back.  There were a group of brothers who were calm and collected and managed to calm people down and to extinguish any flames of anger or mob rule that would have taken charge had this group of mature brothers not stepped in."

Mahmoud added: “They feared the attacker's words and actions were intended to divide this country and divide this great city into influencing the vulnerable and the impressionable into thinking that we're barbaric and that we are people who like to shed blood and that therefore we must be exterminated."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

American Muslims

The following are excerpts from the speech President Obama made, when he visited an American mosque.

“So let’s start with this fact:  For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.  And the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam -- peace.   The standard greeting is as-salamu alaykum -- peace be upon you.  And like so many faiths, Islam is rooted in a commitment to compassion and mercy and justice and charity.  Whoever wants to enter paradise, the Prophet Muhammad taught, ‘let him treat people the way he would love to be treated.’  For Christians like myself, I’m assuming that sounds familiar. 

“The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are as diverse as humanity itself.  They are Arabs and Africans.  They're from Latin America to Southeast Asia; Brazilians, Nigerians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians.  They are white and brown and black.  There’s a large African American Muslim community.  That diversity is represented here today.  A 14-year-old boy in Texas who’s Muslim spoke for many when he wrote to me and said, ‘We just want to live in peace.’

“Here’s another fact: Islam has always been part of America.  Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim.  And even in their bondage, some kept their faith alive.  A few even won their freedom and became known to many Americans.  And when enshrining the freedom of religion in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, our Founders meant what they said when they said it applied to all religions...

“Generations of Muslim Americans helped to build our nation.  They were part of the flow of immigrants who became farmers and merchants.  They built America’s first mosque, surprisingly enough, in North Dakota.   America’s oldest surviving mosque is in Iowa.  The first Islamic center in New York City was built in the 1890s.  Muslim Americans worked on Henry Ford’s assembly line, cranking out cars.  A Muslim American designed the skyscrapers of Chicago.” 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Political Courage

Regarding the Senate's failure to pass the Manchin and Toomey bill in 2013, President Obama said: “A few months ago, in response to too many tragedies -- including the shootings of a United States Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, who's here today, and the murder of 20 innocent schoolchildren and their teachers -- this country took up the cause of protecting more of our people from gun violence.

“Families that know unspeakable grief summoned the courage to petition their elected leaders -- not just to honor the memory of their children, but to protect the lives of all our children.  And a few minutes ago, a minority in the United States Senate decided it wasn't worth it.  They blocked common-sense gun reforms even while these families looked on from the Senate gallery.

“By now, it's well known that 90 percent of the American people support universal background checks that make it harder for a dangerous person to buy a gun.  We're talking about convicted felons, people convicted of domestic violence, people with a severe mental illness.   Ninety percent of Americans support that idea.  Most Americans think that's already the law.

“And a few minutes ago, 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate just voted for that idea.  But it's not going to happen because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate just voted against that idea. 

“A majority of senators voted "yes" to protecting more of our citizens with smarter background checks.  But by this continuing distortion of Senate rules, a minority was able to block it from moving forward.

“I'm going to speak plainly and honestly about what's happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen.  We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with "A" grades from the NRA -- come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks.  And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that.  That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.”

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Father’s Message

Our Declaration of Independence ends: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” is the inscription on our Statue of Liberty: 
Republicans are concerned, that our nation’s shifting demographics suggest that the Latino vote could double by 2030.  Fortunately, our fourteenth amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.  No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Bigoted extremist insisted that we shouldn’t be celebrating our countries unique diversity.  They can’t tolerant those who are different than they are.  If we are all God’s children shouldn’t we be accepting of people, who have a different pigmentation to their skin, speak a different language, have different religious views, or who are attracted to persons of the same sex.
Our culture is unique, and it requires that we simply practice the Golden Rule.  We should be setting an example for the rest of the world by acclaiming our diversity of ethnicity and religious differences.  The liberal left must continue to advocate celebrating our diversity, because to do otherwise could eventually result in the human race being wiped off the face of the earth.  A nuclear war could actually result in the death of our entire planet.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Our Endangered Democracy

Conservative columnist Chuck Pinkey asked: “Whatever happened to ‘E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one)?”  The reason is that our country has never become one is that many people won’t accept the reality that America has been a very diverse nation from the very beginning.

Delegates to the Constitutional Convention dealt with the our religious diversity, by refusing to follow Ben Franklin's suggestion that their daily sessions be opened with a prayer for divine guidance.

In 1984, Ronald Reagan explained: “Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism.  We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever.”

At a private dinner in Washington DC on the day Obama was sworn in as president, top Republican lawmakers and strategists decided they weren’t going to negotiate on anything.

In the State of the Union, President Obama noted: “An example of our values is that we respect human dignity.  It’s the reason, that we speak out against the anti-Semitism.  It’s also the reason, that we should reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims, the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.

“Tolerant Americans have defended free speech, condemned the persecution of women, religious minorities, and persons, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  Those Americans, who stand for those values do so not only, because they believe its the right thing to do, but because ultimately it will make us all safer.”

Then, a Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United transformed our politics by allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.  The flood of corporate money in our elections, and the sharp increase in voting-rights restrictions has damaged our representative democracy.  The voices of a diverse and tolerant America has been muted.  Our democracy isn’t working.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Civility Suggested

On line “Had it up to hear” posted the following response to my letter that was published in The Oneonta Daily Star on 6/13/17.  
“The heartbreaking shooting this morning of Republicans playing in a baseball game by a Left Wing Liberal Radical nutcase helps to put the instability of the democratic socialist party into the proper perspective.  This is why conservatives don't want to use their real names when expressing their opinion despite being called ‘cowards’ for not doing so.  Liberals like Jim O'Leary and Andrew Reinbach can extol the supposed virtues of Liberals writing ‘civil letters’ but it's madness like this shooting, ISIS' cleansing of Christians, illegals committing crimes, black on black crimes, dictators using poison gas on their own people or threatening to wipe Israel off the face of the earth,and so much more that should be the topic of discussion.  Civility apparently actually meant nothing to this wacko who attempted to murder as many republicans as possible.  There is nothing ‘civil’ about this incredibly abhorrent event.  If this unhinged murderous neanderthal was a republican, I'd be saying the same thing.  Time to stop the pitiful calls for more civility.  Or more ‘diversity’.  Civility isn't stopping North Korea's dictator from threatening the USA with nuclear weapons.  Civility isn't helping the people of Venezuela survive in the face of nationalization (socialism at its finest).  Clearly they are not solutions.
“You loons on the left continue to make excuses for all of this.  It's unacceptable.  You lose.  Your ideals fail time and time again yet there you are still pitching the same game. 
“Civility?  Nothing more than a pathetic, dishonest, incompetent, hypocritical attempt at virtue signaling.”
BTW, my letter was posted on this website on 5/17/17, and I never anticipated the letter would upset any reader.  I ended my letter by suggesting, that 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.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

An Independent FBI

Recently, John Dean, who was the former White House Counsel to President Richard Nixon compared the current situation of FBI Director Comey being fired by President Trump to the Saturday Night Massacre, when Archibald Cox, was fired by President Nixon.  A president has the power to also fire a Special Prosecutor, which Nixon did by firing Archibald Cox.
Dean pointed out: “They could have told Comey, Listen, it’s just not working out.  We have difficulty with the way this is proceeding,’ and they could’ve done it in a way where he would have resigned, and it wouldn’t have resulted in the same kind of blowback.
Dean suggested: “So this could come up when he (Trump) appoints another director.   At some point he’s going to have to fill that chair and it’s going to be a real engine. 
“Is he going to put somebody in like, say, when the FBI was on shaky ground post-Watergate and they put somebody like a sitting judge from St. Louis.  Anyway, they could put somebody in like that and steady the FBI or they may just try to plow ahead and get control, even greater control than they just have statutorily.  That seems to be what is going on in Sessions’ mind.
“In fact, the statute that was created giving FBI directors a ten-year term was designed to somewhat insulate them and make it extraordinary to remove.
“That’s why they wrote out all those explanations in the deputy attorney general’s letter, so there was cause to remove him.  I don’t think anybody does believe that the cause they’re stating is the true cause.  I think it’s more than they really want to try to get control of the FBI, which they didn’t feel they had with Comey, who was a fairly independent person.”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cherry Valley’s Kathleen Taylor

In a letter published in The Oneonta Daily Star, Kathleen Taylor has pointed out: “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, just proposed new regulations governing long-term care facilities’ obligations to their clients.
“Another day, another Washington regulation, you think?  Think again.  This one hits home.
“These regulations mean people harmed by nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be forbidden from turning to the courts for remedies and justice.  When your loved one gets mistreatment at a long-term care facility, your hands will be tied. 
“Under the Trump administration, CMS is pushing for pre-dispute arbitration clauses binding residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.  CMS is prettying it up with language like ‘transparency’ and ‘supporting residents’ rights to informed decisions,’ but the impact is clear: facilities will be protected from liability, and the most vulnerable Americans — whose care is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid — will be harmed.
“Seventy-five percent of nursing home income comes from payments made by Medicaid and Medicare.  An ever-increasing number of nursing homes (currently 60 percent) are owned by for-profit groups.  Hedge funds and Wall Street groups see long-term care facilities as a quick way to turn a profit.  It’s far easier to make money when you aren’t held financially accountable for harm done on your watch.

“We know how important it is to keep our long-term care facilities safe for all.  Please urge your political representatives in D.C. to stand up to the president and his efforts to turn Medicare and Medicaid funding over to profiteers.”

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Money Grubbers

Legislation to break up investment banks and reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act was once backed by Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren.  The bill would have force banks to separate their traditional banking practices like saving and checking from very risky speculation practices and those investment banking practices historically associated with an economic meltdown. 

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.”

Actually the 2008 meltdown took only nine years.  In a 2016 speech, Senator Warren pointed out that in 2006, two years before the housing market collapsed and millions of Americans lost their homes, Donald Trump announced that he was hoping for a crash: "I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy...”

She questioned: "What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their houses?   What kind of a man roots for people to get thrown out of their jobs?  To root for people to lose their pensions?"

"I'll tell you exactly what kind of a man does that.  It is a man who cares about no one but himself.  A small, insecure, money-grubber who doesn't care who gets hurt, so long as he makes a profit off it."

Monday, June 12, 2017

Missing Billions

Reportedly, billions of dollars was lost in Iraq, between April 2003 and June 2004.  A tractor-trailer truck pulled up to the East Rutherford operation center of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and though accustomed to receiving and shipping large quantities of cash, the vault had never before processed a single order of this magnitude: $2.4 billion in $100 bills.  Twelve billion in US currency was shipped from the Federal Reserve to Baghdad, where it was dispensed by Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority.  At least $9 billion has gone unaccounted for, in a frenzy of mismanagement and greed.  

Alan Greenspan, who was head of the Federal Reserve claimed that he had no knowledge of the missing billions.

In “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” author Naomi Klein asked Greenspan whether the wars over resources in other countries are illegal.  Greenspan claims that it has not been publicly discussed, because it’s not politically expedient at this moment.

Apparently, Greenspan wasn’t aware that, according to the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, it is illegal for one country to invade another over its natural resources.  Greenspan pointed out the obvious, that the war was initiated because of our concern about weapons of mass destruction.

Naomi Klein reminded Greenspan: “I realize that, but Saddam was not simply deposed.  The US invaded Iraq, occupied it and took control over its resources.  And under international law, that it is illegal to wage wars to gain access to other sovereign countries’ natural resources....You have also advocated economic shock therapy and supported International Monetary Fund programs that have transformed economies very quickly.  And then, you say that you are in support of the rule of law.”

Absolute power corrupts, because the very powerful consider the rule of law irrelevant.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

More Dangerous

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 began allowing 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 1999, Republican Senator Phil Gramm was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.  He slipped the “Commodity Futures Modernization Act,” through Congress, which set derivatives free from virtually any regulation just as members of Congress were headed for vacation.

Billionaire Warren Buffett 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.

In 2004, George W. 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.  The 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.

Don’t forget that Wall Street deregulation resulted in millions of people's life savings being wiped out, and 800,000 jobs lost every month by the time President Bush left office. 

In 2015, 18 Senate Republicans joined 21 Senate Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders voted against the 1.1 trillion budget bill, because it was design to again make taxpayers responsible for bailing out banks for risky derivative trades. 

The Financial Choice Act is a more dangerous weapon of economic destruction. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Financial Choice Act

House Republican passed a bill, entitled the Financial Choice Act along party lines.  The the bill passed despite strong objections by Democrats to preserve the Dodd-Frank Act, which has prevented another financial crisis and is protecting American consumers.

House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling bragged: “Every promise of Dodd-Frank has been broken.  We will replace economic stagnation with a growing healthy economy."

House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed: “Hensarling's bill would keep the GOP's promise to cut onerous financial regulations in order to help create jobs and foster economic growth.  We see the Financial Choice Act as the crown jewel of this effort.  The Dodd-Frank Act has had a lot of bad consequences for our economy, but most of all in the small communities across our country."  The bill would allow President Trump to fire the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a consumer watchdog agency created under Dodd-Frank, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Congress would have the power to defund the CFPB's budget, and also bar the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from overseeing the so-called living will process, which requires banks to write up plans on how they would safely be unwound in the event of a collapse.  The FDIC and the Fed are the two regulators responsible for overseeing this requirement under the 2010 law.

Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House panel warned: "It's shameful that Republicans have voted to do the bidding of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and our economy."

The Financial Choice Act would gut consumer protections and allow banks to make risky investments that required taxpayers to again come to the rescue of the nation's largest financial institutions as it did a decade earlier. 

Friday, June 09, 2017

Otego’s Charles Pierce

Charles Pierce of Otego recently had the following letter published in The Oneonta Daily Star.
“A fascist, racist, serial liar, thief and molester lives in our White House. His billionaire cabinet is a group of the worst losers in our nation’s history.  My last letter spoke of Trump as a wannabe dictator who studies Hitler, and says warm things about current dictators.  Show me how I am wrong.  WWII was fought ‘To forever rid the Earth of fascism, a government of, by, and for corporations and the rich.’
“One of the most illiterate and uncaring ‘presidents’ ever is loved by the rich, the racists, and so-called religious leaders who care about forcing religion onto public school children, and to remain non-profit while being a political entity.  Our Constitution guarantees no religion in government, which is the very reason people hundreds of years ago left everything to get away from forced beliefs.  But bullies never seem to quit!
“The young, seeing phony Christians prevail, vocalize they do not want to be like Christians.  That may help understand why church attendance is way down.
“The pope seems to be the only leader with a backbone, strong enough to speak out to the masses.  How many local ministers have stood up to Trump supporters?  Under Eisenhower the GOP forced religion onto everyone by putting words onto all our money, contrary to our Constitution.  By the way, I believe in the teachings of Jesus, including the Ten Commandments.
“An Adirondack minister using the n-word about once every paragraph or two claimed he was a Christian.  Trump says he is, too, for he read about it in ‘Two Corinthians.’  Talk about losers!
“It angers me when fellow veterans gush over such lowlifes. If you honor those who gave all, be worthy of the oath you took to defend America and its Constitution!” 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Relevant Information

The following statement was sent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by former FBI Director James B. Comey yesterday.

“Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today.  I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you.  I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

“It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets.  The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts.  Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power.  Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked.  Sometimes it involves ‘turning’ the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.

“Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will ‘open an investigation’ on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.

“In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally.  That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him.  We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted.  During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President-Elect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

“I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo.  To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting.  Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward.  This had not been my practice in the past.  I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016.  In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions.  I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.

The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House.  He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time.  It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

“It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room.  Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

“The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to.  He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

“My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship.  That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

“I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten year term as Director.  And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not ‘reliable’ in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth.  I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.

“A few moments later, the President said, ‘I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.’  I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed.  We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.

“At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House.  I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because ‘problems’ come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

“Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others.  He then said, ‘I need loyalty.’  I replied, ‘You will always get honesty from me.’  He paused and then said, ‘That’s what I want, honest loyalty.’  I paused, and then said, ‘You will get that from me.’  As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase ‘honest loyalty’ differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further.  The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

“During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them.  He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen.  I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative.  He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.

“As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.

“On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President.  He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk.  The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National Counter Terrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs.  I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC.  There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

“The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone.  I stayed in my chair.  As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me.  The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me.  The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.

“When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, ‘I want to talk about Mike Flynn.’  Flynn had resigned the previous day.  The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President.  He added that he had other concerns about Flynn,which he did not then specify.

“The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share.  After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him.   The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly.  The door closed.  The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, ‘He is a good guy and has been through a lot.’  He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President.  He then said, ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.  He is a good guy.  I hope you can let this go.’  I replied only that ‘he is a good guy.’  (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.)  I did not say I would ‘let this go.’

“The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks.  I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

“I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership.  I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December.  I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign.  I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls.  Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

“The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President's request, which we did not intend to abide.  We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account.  We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations.  (He did so two weeks later.)  The Deputy Attorney General's role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role.  After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed.  The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members -- or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them -- aware of the President's request.

“Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President's concerns about leaks.  I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me.  I told the AG that what had just happened -- him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind -- was inappropriate and should never happen.  He did not reply.  For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI's potential investigation of General Flynn.

“On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI.  He described the Russia investigation as ‘a cloud’ that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia.  He asked what we could do to ‘lift the cloud.’  I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to our having done the work well.  He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.

“Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week -- at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.  I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation.  I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump.  I reminded him I had previously told him that.  He repeatedly told me, ‘We need to get that fact out.’ (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

“The President went on to say that if there were some ‘satellite’ associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn't done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren't investigating him.

“In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn't brought up ‘the McCabe thing’ because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe's wife) campaign money.  Although I didn't understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing ‘the cloud’ that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated.  I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

“Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance.  I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

“On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I ‘get out’ that he is not personally under investigation.  I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back.  He replied that ‘the cloud’ was getting in the way of his ability to do his job.  He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General.  I said that was the way his request should be handled.  I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

“He said he would do that and added, ‘Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.’  I did not reply or ask him what he meant by ‘that thing.’  I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General.  He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

“That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Trump’s Budget Proposal

President Trump’s promises to help those American workers, who got him elected president, are not reflected in his budget proposal.  His budget undermines the very social safety net upon which many of his supporters rely.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump told hardworking Americans that he would fight for them, but his budget proposal intends to break those promises.

According to Politico, Trump's budget cuts more than $600 billion in Medicaid funding over the next ten years.  His proposed budget also cuts farm subsidies, student aid, food assistance, and Social Security Disability Insurance.  Furthermore, his budget cuts tax for millionaires and billionaires, who certainly don’t need their taxes to be cut.

A budget that helps hardworking Americans would invest in communities, early childhood education, job training, small business development, and infrastructure.  Over the long term those kinds of investments will help create jobs and build a strong economy.

According to a report by CBS News, the cost of prescription drugs for Americans under age 65 is projected to go up 11.6 percent this year.  And, for older Americans, the costs are projected to rise 9.9 percent.  However, wages are only expected to rise 2.5 percent.

Trump and congressional Republicans need to address the issue of bringing down prescription drug costs.  When a child gets sick, and a parent needs to fill a prescription, they shouldn’t have to go without.  Millions of American families are being forced to go without lifesaving medication, because they can’t afford the medication.

Big drug companies are sucking up an ever-increasing amounts of Americans’ income.  Millions of families would like to save for their child’s college education, or make a down payment on a house.  Instead, a greater amount of their income is being used for bonuses and stock options of drug company CEOs.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Corporate Giveaway

Former Vice President Joe Biden said: "Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.” 
President Donald Trump’s tax plan would slash corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 15 percent, even though most profitable corporations pay an average tax rate of just 14 percent due to loopholes and deductions.  That’s less than many middle-class families pay, and less than half of what corporations should be paying.

Trump’s corporate tax plan would reduce federal revenues by $2.4 trillion over a 10 year period.  That’s the equivalent of five years of Medicaid funding, which provides healthcare to 70 million people each year―mainly seniors, children and people with disabilities.

House Republican’s version of Trumpcare and Trump's most recent budget would slash Medicaid a total of $1.4 trillion to help pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

Trump’s tax plan would cut the top tax rate on so-called “pass-through” businesses from 40 percent to 15 percent.  These business owners pay taxes at the individual tax rate, not the corporate rate.  Trump’s plan would create a giant loophole so that his 500 businesses, Wall Street money managers, lobbyists, corporate lawyers, and other real estate developers could avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

President Trump’s corporate tax plan is another example of Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s trickle-down economics that lines the pockets of wealthy corporate CEOs and shareholders while working people are left behind.

If we’re going to grow the economy, create jobs, protect our families and invest in our communities we’ve got to make sure that millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations pay their fair share.

The budget Trump has proposed is cruel and would inflict pain on millions of poor and middle-class families.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Shameful Act

In 2016, President Obama explained: “Scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air.  That wasn’t news.  But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable.  And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically.”

Two teams, one a Pulitzer Prize winning website “Inside Climate News,” and other the “Los Angeles Times” reach the conclusion, that ExxonMobil, the world’s largest and most powerful oil company, knew everything there was to know about climate change by the mid-1980s, and spent decades systematically funding climate denial and lying about the state of the science.

Hillary Clinton predicted half a billion more solar panels deployed during the first four years of her presidency.  Her goal was enough clean energy to power every home within four years. 

David Gergen advised former Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.  Recently, he accused President Trump of committing "one of the most shameful acts" in America's history.

In an interview with CNN's Erin Burnett, Gergen pointed out: “we're the largest contributor to carbon dioxide in the world, and for us to walk away as this carbon dioxide threatens the future of our grandchildren -- for us to walk away from that, it's grotesquely irresponsible."

He warned that decision "will widely be seen around the world as a terrible, terrible setback for the planet," and that poor nations will pay the greatest price for global warming, even though our country has contributed the most to global warming while poor nations have contributed the least.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Educating Our Citizens

The Oneonta Daily Star’s Sound Off opinion stance has published opposing arguments from their readers regarding conservative columnist Chuck Pinkey’s opposition to free college tuition in New York State’s university system.
In favor of free college tuition an anonymous writers stated: “This bill can provide New York with a young, educated workforce for the future.  It will also draw serious families to the state, which has been in population decline for years.  Why do so many people have problems with creating a generation of educated young people with health care that aren’t burdened with tens of thousands of dollars of debt over their head.  Seems to me to be the only way to move forward.”
“It’s called investing in OUR country’s future.  Many other countries do it.  It also helps our industries to be more successful.  The kids will have to keep grades up to a certain level and avoid wasting their lives away on the streets.”
“When any job that provides a marginally living wage requires a college degree, students need to be afforded the opportunity to have a college education.  All students, not just rich students!  Not rocket science.  Don’t like it, raise wages for those without college credentials.  You don’t get to have it both ways.”
Against free college tuition an anonymous writers pointed out: “What is irritating is that we do not have enough state/fed aid to properly educate our students in K-12, yet Cuomo wants to give free college?  Does anyone see how ridiculous this is?”
“This bill is not going to save everyone and give everybody free tuition.  It is extremely exclusive and almost the lotto of who is going to get it and who’s not.  While it’s a great thought, it’s not really going to help very many New Yorkers, honestly.”

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Paul Hager

The following letter to the editor was submitted by Paul Hager of Maryland, and published in The Oneonta Daily Star. 
“Before I turn to my concern, I wish to commend you on the general editorial stance of The Daily Star.  Given the political views of many residents of the area, it takes some courage and commitment to your principles to maintain as open a mind to non-right wing views as you do.  That said, I must register a strong complaint about the new ‘Sound Off’ opinion piece in the paper. 
“Clearly, it is appropriate to invite readers to share their points of view on almost any subject, BUT, not anonymous ones.  I firmly believe that our experience with social media allowing everyone to anonymously vent has done much to poison the political environment and increase the divisiveness we see all around us.  No one who is not willing to put his/her name to an opinion on any subject should be permitted to have that opinion published. 
“Such a practice merely encourages irresponsible behavior and views.  If people had to be prepared to defend their opinions or at least hear criticisms of them, they would be less inclined to express outrageous and indefensible ones, whose only purpose appears to be to vent rather than a serious attempt to work on providing helpful suggestions/solutions to problems.  The Daily Star should not be making such a practice possible, to say nothing of encouraging it.”
Although, Mr. Hager makes a very interesting point, I don’t agree.  The people that don’t agree with my political views need an opportunity to vent their anger, and it is important that they have that opportunity.  Let’s consider their outrageous comments, an opportunity to understand their frustration, and allow it to motivate our civil, persuasive rebuttals.

Friday, June 02, 2017


In an interview on Australian Broadcasting Corp television, Senator John McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee held security interview on his way to a defense summit in Singapore.
Regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said: "I think he (Putin) is the premier and most important threat, more so than ISIS. "
McCain warned that the Senate would push for sanctions against Moscow for its alleged interference in the U.S. election.  Although, he believes that there was no evidence the Russians succeeded in changing our election outcome, they were still trying to change elections, including the recent French vote.
Sen. McCain had previously taken a swipe at President Trump's attacks on the fourth estate, cautioning that "how dictators get started" is by shutting down the press.
In an interview on Meet the Press, McCain had half-jokingly said: "a fundamental part of that new world order was a free press.  I hate the press. I hate you especially.  But the fact is we need you."
His defense of the media came in response to a tweet from Trump in which he called certain news outlets "the enemy of the American People."
In Germany, where he had attended the Munich Security Conference, McCain said: "I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time.  That's how dictators get started."
Later, the Republican senator clarified that he wasn't referring to the president as a dictator, but that attacks on journalists who are questioning those in power are usually a hallmark of autocratic governments.  He explained: "When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.  And I'm not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator.  I'm just saying we need to learn the lessons of history."

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Fair Representation

The Supreme Court will be examining political issue that could change the way legislative lines are drawn across our country.

Gerrymandering is a term that arises from a district shaped like a salamander that was originally drawn during the 1810 term of Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry.  Today, legal experts are still divided on the racial and partisan considerations of that practice.

Recently, Justice Elena Kagan wrote an opinion for the majority of the Supreme Court regarding two congressional district maps in North Carolina, that holding those districts amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.  In reference to a 1993 court standard, she wrote: "A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason."

The ruling was a victory for Democrats and civil rights groups who had challenged the North Carolina maps arguing that they unnecessarily packed African-Americans into two districts, which made it easier for African-Americans to re-elect incumbents to those two seats, but diluted their votes in surrounding areas.

The Supreme Court has a standard limiting over-reliance on race in map-drawing except under the most limited circumstances. 

Justin Levitt, a professor of law at Loyola Law School noted that the Supreme Court has never been successful in developing a test concerning the issue of partisan gerrymandering.  He wrote: "The court has said that too much partisanship is illegal, but it hasn't yet decided how much is too much."

In most states, the maps are drawn after by the party in power after each census, meaning neither party has a guarantee of controlling the districts indefinitely.  Levitt and others believe that the legislators in charge of drawing the maps have gone to new extremes impacting voters' right to fair representation under the First and Fourteenth Amendment.