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The Mission of the 116th Congress

January, 2019

“I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentleman will question it.”

― John Stewart Mill

[John Stuart Mill, in a Parliamentary debate with the Conservative MP, John Pakington, May 31, 1866.]”

 

Introduction

 

The voters of the 2018 mid-term elections have spoken and have made an important move toward restoring democracy in America. It is now time to focus on an agenda for the new 116 Congress. This Congress will convene on January 3, 2019 perhaps even before noon.

It is one thing for candidates in a campaign mode to make promises in order to get elected; it is quite another thing to now face the reality of actually having to govern. Now that the Democrats will be in control of the House of Representatives, everyone is anxiously awaiting the results of the Mueller investigation. As they say, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

A wrench was thrown into the Muller investigation on November 6, 2018 when interim Attorney General Mathew Whitaker was appointed by Donald Trump to replace fired Attorney General Sessions. Unfortunately, the new interim A.G. possesses a strong ideological tie to Donald Trump.

It terms of legal precedent and the United States Constitution, Whitaker’s beliefs about established law make him something of an odd-ball. His fitness for the job has yet to be determined, although there is the strong suspicion he is not qualified and should not be appointed permanent Attorney General. He is also currently under F.B.I. investigation. This is about his involvement as a member of an advisory board for World Patent Marketing (WPM). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently shut down WPM for fraud and scamming people. Some of these people were disabled veterans who were scammed out of their life savings. Whitaker also made legal threats against litigants wishing to sue WPM. Whitaker’s lack of professionalism and history of this company will likely end his position as the interim United States Attorney General.  We’ll just have to wait to see how all of the interactions between Mueller and Whitaker play out during the weeks ahead. I’m hoping that Whitaker too will be indicted by the Mueller team for obstruction of justice if he makes any move to undermine the future indictment of the President of the United States, or any in his administration or family members.

Now What?

In the meantime, the 116th Congress needs to develop and carry out specific goals and objectives to achieve over the next 2 years and beyond. I am going to suggest in the pages ahead what their platform ought to be. They need to be successful in order to convince the American public that they are capable of real change. They need to convince the American public that voting Republican in 2020 would be as catastrophic as it was in 2016. Aside from differing value judgments this is because Republicans seldom succeed at what they undertake.

Why did Republicans nearly always fail during the last 20 years? What is holding back Republicans more than anything else are the groups within the party known as the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus. Belonging to these groups must be a “sweet job.” They get paid for putting up roadblocks to everything, then sit back and collect their paychecks all for doing nothing.

Conservatives as a group are historically almost always on the wrong side of history. Just consider at a minimum the issue of Integration back in the 1950s and putting up roadblocks to enactment of the Social Security Act in 1935. On August 14, 1935 The Social Security Act established a system of old-age benefits for workers, benefits for victims of industrial accidents, unemployment insurance, and aid for dependent mothers and children, the blind and the physically handicapped.

This was a monumental piece of legislative reform the likes of which the world could only imagine. It was a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress who spearheaded the creation and passage of the Social Security Act of 1935. Republicans could have been part of this landmark historical achievement. Instead, they sat on the sidelines during this whole event in American History.

The following should be the goals and objectives of the 116th Congress:

Goals

Return Democracy to America

Improve the Over-all Well Being of Americans

Regain International Status and Respect as a Nation

 

The Nature of Goals

Goals tend to be end states, the thing one wants to aim for, achieve and bring about. Granted, the above goals need to be more specific, and measurable. Otherwise, goals are simply value judgements and lacking concrete steps and specificity to know when one arrives at the final destination. However, life is seldom clear-cut and well-defined. Ambiguity, normlessness and vagueness are all-to-often our reality when setting goals.

Nevertheless goals, however nebulous at times, can still provide a direction and be something to work for and move toward when trying to achieve that “end state.”  Not to burden my reader with the complexities of goal setting, let me give an example: I want to buy a new jaguar car in January, 2019. This goal is specific, has a time line, and is measurable (either you buy it or you don’t). Compare this goal to one that is more diffuse or vague in nature. “I want to save the world.” This goal is terrible. How does one define “save”? There is no time line and measuring it is not defined or specified, and there is total ambiguity; that is, what does that goal really mean in the first place?

In the world of American party politics goal planning can be very unwieldly, especially when parties are constantly re-defining themselves. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the real motivations and values underlying the goal planning process.

Objectives

Objectives lead one to the strategies or methods developed to achieve one’s stated goals. In January, 2019 the 116th Congress will convene to begin the difficult process of governing by undoing certain things that have been implemented by the Trump Administration. In addition, they will need to simultaneously forge ahead with their own agenda for change and their own set of goals, objectives (including methods and strategies). It is a job of great importance and awesome responsibility. And, leadership will be crucial at every step.

The purpose of this Blog is to explain what I think their goals and objectives ought to be. As a progressive with ultra-liberal values [90% of the time] yet sometimes conservative on national defense and military issues [10% of the time] the following are the objectives I think this new Congress should work on, support and achieve.

 

Goal

Return Democracy to America

Objectives

Impeach Trump

As the late Howard Cosell used to say, “Tell it..Like..It is” Well, enough has already been written about Donald Trump. But I do have something to say about his immoral character. Cutting to the chase, he is a psychiatrically and intellectually challenged individual. He is naïve, dishonest and a gifted liar. He is a classic ego-maniac, narcissistic insecure white racist, and a misogynistic degenerate. He is a sociopathic bully, a phony, a con man, a charlatan who lies every time he opens his mouth. Donald Trump of course only does two things wrong in life: everything he says and everything he does.

To say that he suffers from feelings of inadequacy or inferiority is to point out the obvious. More importantly, he is a criminal, a traitor to his country and deserves to be behind bars. Said another way; he is a menace to civilized society. If that wasn’t enough—just consider the following. He is also the most incompetent, unknowledgeable buffoon to ever be elected to public office in the United States. (Now, I’d like to tell you what I really think of him, but civility demands that I not use any expletives and/or rhetorical commentary). From my perspective as an artist (color me blue) he needs to be in an orange jump suit or a white straight jacket.

The late Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” As we all know, Will Rogers never met Donald Trump. Impeaching Donald Trump is the most important objective for the 116th Congress to address. His removal from Office of the presidency is long overdue.

Eliminate Gerrymandering in the United States

Gerrymandering is the manipulation of voting boundaries to benefit a particular political party. Both gerrymandering and cheating are perpendicular in definition. Although Gerrymandering provides benefits by packing district votes, the method utilizes dishonesty.

In an article by  the AP on June, 25, 2017 a very convincing argument was made that gerrymandering helped the Republican Party in 2016 more than it did the Democrats. It was achieved by political cheating and voter disenfranchisement all in deference to political party. Here is an abbreviated part of this article:

“Analysis: Partisan gerrymandering has benefited Republicans more than Democrats

The 2016 presidential contest was awash with charges that the fix was in: Republican Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, while Democrats have accused the Russians of stacking the odds in Trump’s favor.

Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of U.S. and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage.

The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering.

The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.

Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.

The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.”

Reverse Trump’s Executive Orders

His entire barrage of Executive orders need to be (on day one) reversed and an assessment report undertaken to report all damages done to people and resources. Go to court if necessary to get this objective done.

Create Laws to eliminate all Money from Politics

If this objective is achieved, it will help to finally elevate the status of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate to a status like that of the United States Supreme Court. No more will Americans be able to say, “We have the best politicians money can buy.” Money has tainted politics in America from the very beginning. If politicians ever want to achieve any degree of respectability, they need to eliminate all money in politics.

Eliminate the Electoral College in deference to popular vote only

The Electoral College is a process, not a place. The Electoral College is an arcane process for electing a president. The election of 2016 is filled with irony. It is incredibly ironic because the Founding Fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. Why? Because they feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power. So, the Electoral College, no matter how originally perceived, has now failed in the 21st Century to prevent a tyrant from becoming President of the United States.

The Electoral College also created the primacy of its own electoral process, over that of the popular vote. It renders popular vote more symbolic than real or significant. In the 2016 election some 3 million voters were disenfranchised by this arcane Electoral College system. The popular vote should have made Hillary Clinton President of the United States.

The time has arrived for a new Constitutional Amendment on electing presidents. If we pay lip service to the idea that every person’s vote count, then we as a nation ought to damn well mean it. The Electoral College flies in the face of any notion of a true democratic process. Real democracy is not static or immutable; real democracy is capable of counting every vote and making every vote count.

Initiate a new Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

It’s been nearly 100 years since women first earned the right to vote. It was called the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As a nation we are long overdue for an Equal Rights Amendment.

Make sure 50% of the leadership roles such as Heads of Committees are held by women

Given the opportunity to show the country just how much more capable Democrats are than Republicans it’s time to set in stone a new egalitarian standard for the nation. Women are truly equal with men. What differences there are between men and women such as height, weight, and muscle mass or “perceived privilege” has absolutely no relevance when compared to innate intelligence, thinking ability or leadership qualities.

Reopen the case against Supreme Court associate justice Brett Kavanaugh. This time a real investigation will be conducted

Although I am in favor of liberal judges rather than conservative ones, the real issue here is trust. During the early part of his confirmation hearing Nominee Kavanaugh said some things that convinced me, when he talked about how he analyzes judicial cases, he seemed very reasonable and objective. He was on point.

It must be pointed out that judicial or legal reasoning is not like any other way of thinking. Legal thinking and analysis needs to be fact-driven and respectful of legal precedent. Highly intelligent judges tend to put their biases aside when analyzing data and the law. I would direct you to previous blogs where I discussed various theories of judicial reasoning and analysis, especially with respect to how the United States Constitution is interpreted.

Sometimes judges on the U.S. Supreme Court change political stripes. And it is true that historically more conservative judges leaned to the liberal side once they were on the highest court, much more than the reverse where a former liberal Court of Appeals judge turned conservative once they were elevated to the highest court.

The following is an interesting article written by Jon D. Hanson and Adam Benforado,

For the Boston Review, dated April 9, 2016.

It is titled, “THE DRIFTERS: Why the Supreme Court makes justices more liberal.”

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Boston Review. At the time of original publication, Antonin Scalia was still alive. Scalia died this year.

“When Justices William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O’Connor left the bench last year, conservatives were in an anxious mood: though pleased at the prospect of shifting the Supreme Court to the right, they were worried by the record of past Republican appointments. The refrain in conservative commentary, repeated with special intensity during the Harriet Mires affair, was: Not another Souter. Not another Kennedy. Not another O’Connor. And they might have added: Not another Blackmun. Not another Stevens. Not another Warren.

They were right to be concerned. While there have been a number of relatively reliable conservative justices over the years—Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Rehnquist being prime examples—and some important right-shifting exceptions—notably Felix Frankfurter, appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Byron White, appointed by John F. Kennedy—the tendency in recent decades to drift leftward has been strong enough to gain both popular and scholarly attention. Indeed, Larry J. Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, has suggested that about one quarter of confirmed nominees over the last half century have wound up “evolving from conservative to moderate or liberal.”

 

Richard Nixon, for instance, thought he was getting solid right-wingers when he appointed Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell, only to find, several years later, Blackmun authoring Roe v. Wade and Powell swing-voting to permit affirmative action in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Coincidentally, in Bakke, Justice John Paul Stevens—then a recent Gerald Ford appointee—wrote a dissent joined by the court’s most conservative members, though a few decades later he would emerge as the most consistently liberal voice on the bench.

Justices O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy—though they remain tied to their conservative mainstays on certain issues, such as federalism—both seem to have embarked on similar leftward journeys, particularly with respect to individual rights and liberties. Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981, O’Connor struck a resoundingly conservative chord in her early opinions on women’s and racial-minority rights, only to join with liberal colleagues in cases touching on the same issues over the last 15 years—most strikingly in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld Roe’s central holding, and Grutter v. Bollinger, which vindicated a law-school affirmative-action program. Kennedy, also a Reagan appointee, was initially celebrated by conservatives as “Bork without the beard.” Yet he later provided key votes to knock down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and overturn the death penalty for juveniles in Roper v. Simmons—prompting Dr. James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, to rechristen him “the most dangerous man in America.”

There is no doubt that the presidential nomination process greatly influences the large-scale jurisprudential trends in expected directions. Still, that a Supreme Court appointment is both so important—in President Bush’s words, “one of the most consequential decisions a president makes”—and so scrutinized, casts the many examples of unpredicted drift as a real mystery. Why are presidents, and other backers, so often disappointed by the eventual performance of their nominees? And why do so many Supreme Court justices drift to the left, especially on matters of individual rights?

One fashionable theory is that, in our post-Borkean world, presidents must put forward nominees who can survive the contentious confirmation process—thus, ones who have shorter paper trails and less ideological baggage. This “advice and consent” bottleneck allows through only candidates with unpredictable judicial dispositions.

While this has some validity, presidential buyer’s remorse is as old as the process itself and may develop even when a president nominates a lifelong ally or a well-known public figure. By the time of his nomination, Earl Warren had established himself as a dedicated conservative: he had been the attorney general and three-term Republican governor of California and Thomas Dewey’s running mate in the famously narrow loss to Harry Truman and Alben Barkley. In short, Earl Warren hardly seemed an unknown quantity when Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed him as Chief Justice in 1953; and yet it was Earl Warren—the same Earl Warren who as attorney general during World War II backed the internment of Japanese citizens —who as chief justice inaugurated a liberal revolution on the court and became a champion of minority rights.”

To read the full body of the article just go online and use the article’s title as your search term.

Now, back to judge Kavanaugh:

That having been said earlier I still think it is important to know if Judge Kavanaugh has any skeletons hanging in his closet. The testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was very compelling to say the least. In this situation a real investigation needs to be carried out if not by the FBI then perhaps in conjunction with a Congressional investigating committee. Perhaps then either Judge Kavanaugh will be vindicated or he won’t. As Sgt. Joe Friday said in Dragnet long ago, “Just show me the facts, ma’am.”

After the 2020 election install new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court for a total of 15 justices. It’s also important to require a 2/3 vote in the Senate in order to confirm and approve any nominee for the highest court in the land

Rationale

When Roosevelt was reelected in 1936 he had to deal with a Supreme Court that wouldn’t pass his New Deal legislation. He did this by getting passed the 1937 Judicial Procedures Reform Bill. What this bill did was to require all justices on the court to retire at age 70.

The U.S. Constitution says nothing about how many justices can compose the court. The number of justices we have now is simply based on prior arbitrary decisions of the U.S. government. In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t necessarily have to be composed of just 9 justices.

Roosevelt’s “packing the court plan” worked and a host of New Deal legislation was subsequently approved by the highest court. One could argue that Roosevelt’s political interference to subvert the highest court in the land isn’t any different than current Republican attempts to pack the court with ultra-conservative tainted judges. They’ve done everything they can to subvert an honest process by having no real investigation done by the FBI, hiding Kavanaugh documents during his time with the Bush administration, and only half-heartedly, if at all, showing respect toward witnesses and victims of sexual battery, lewd licentious behavior, and attempted rape.

Goal   

Improve the Over-all Well Being of Americans

Objectives

Create a New Tax Plan for the Country

All individual tax rates should be 10%. All Corporate tax rates should go back to 35%. Since January 1, 2018 corporate tax rates are a flat 21%. We can thank the Trump tax plan for that boondoggle. If one adds corporate tax monies that are hidden overseas a lot of tax money is lost by the American people.

All small businesses’ tax rates should be 10%. However, a corporation or small business could reduce their tax burden conditional upon the number and percent of new hires over the number and percent of new hires in the previous tax year. The greater the number and percent of new hires—the greater the tax relief provided.

In these two types of business entities taxes are conditional on results, not promises. In this way all businesses would be incentivized because of conditionality. I recommend small business owners bear a much smaller tax burden since they employ the vast number of workers in this country. Simultaneously, the minimum hourly wage should become $20 an hour, effective January 1, 2020.

Enact a Brand New Immigration Policy with an Ellis Island Approach to integrating non-citizens into society and help them become American citizens.

Under this plan racial or religious profiling as criteria for admission to the United States is dead. Unlike Ellis Island in New York during the early 1900s and before, the 21st Century will require one Processing Center to be along the Canadian border, another in El Paso, Texas, and a third Processing Center near Los Angeles, California.

Develop a Proven and Effective Ground to Air and Sea to Air Missile Defense Program

There is a great need for the 116th Congress to play a leadership role with respect to a viable effective Missile Defense Program. This issue has been a bi-partisan issue that both Democrats and Republicans have worked toward.

The new Congress needs to stay on top of this issue. Given the importance of protecting the nation during an actual nuclear strike by a foreign power, efforts must proactively be implemented including the once defunct Star Wars Program originally proposed by President Reagan. However, it’s time to come into the 21th Century. Call such a program the new Strategic Missile Defense Program or NSMDP. A broader title might be SHIELD, which could apply to all systems directed at countering incoming missiles.

Create a One-Payer Health Care System for all Americans

Currently, Medicare is a single-payer national health insurance program in the United States, begun in 1966 under the Social Security Administration and now administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. federal government.

It provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older who have worked and paid into the system through the payroll tax. It also provides health insurance to younger people with some disability status as determined by the Social Security Administration, as well as people with end stage renal disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Medicare is currently funded by a combination of a payroll tax, premiums and surtaxes from beneficiaries, and general revenue.

Under this objective the Bernie Sanders model should be enacted into law. It will include a viable and enriched health care benefit system and put every citizen under Medicare. In addition, affordable supplemental insurance could augment anyone’s Medicare program especially for long term care and in-home health care services.

A new enriched Medicare program must provide all medical services from Surgery to Psychiatry. In addition, all drugs, especially ground-breaking experimental cancer drugs will be free-of-charge to everyone covered under Medicare or Medicaid. The federal budget for all medical research should also be quadrupled over current governmental allocations. This is America; therefore we ought to have the best healthcare in the world bar none

Now money is realistically always an issue. I recommend a very first time ever federal national sales tax of 5 percent. Why? The GDP in 2020 will be an estimated 22.23 trillion dollars. Using a 2020 time frame a 5% sales tax would annually raise 1.1115 trillion dollars. But as everyone knows, health care costs are estimated to be 17.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product.

That 17.9 percent would represent about 3.3 trillion dollars in 2020. Said another way, health care in this country is astronomically expensive. However, mandatory spending cuts by the Trump administration had eliminated a net $2,033 billion (B) over the 2018–2027 periods. This included reduced spending of $1,891B for healthcare, mainly due to the proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare). Republicans failed to repeal the ACA.

Doing the math 1,891 billion is actually 1.891 trillion dollars. When you add this amount to my sales tax plan, we now have 3.002 trillion dollars which comes close to the 3.3 trillion in healthcare costs. Last year under the Trump administration corporations paid only approximately $400 billion in taxes when corporations still had a tax rate was 35%.  Going back to a 35% tax rate for corporations would close the gap or short-fall. Theoretically, the 3.4 trillion in revenues could be dedicated exclusively to healthcare.

However, obviously my “steal from Peter in order to pay Paul” idea does need a lot of work. Anyone with viable ideas would be welcome to express them in some kind of forum. But this is getting to the heart of what politics is really all about—making hard decisions about scarce resources; it is an ominous responsibility.

Whether one is a Democrat, Republican or Independent, we all need good quality healthcare. Therefore, the 116th Congress has got its work cut out for it. I wish I had better more definitive answers for my readers on the issue of health care and its cost, but I don’t. It is a hard nut to crack. It is doable but will require really tough resource and tax decisions.

Institute a New National Call-in Center for Identifying Hate Groups and White Nationalists

This Call-in Center needs to be directly under the Control of the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. The “eyes and ears” of 300+ million citizens is much better than a simple string of agency generated leads or criminal acts or events after the fact. In particular, people in rural areas of the country will be pivotal to detecting and reporting hate militia groups hiding in the forests or mountain areas of the U.S. landscape.

Pass a New Law for all 50 states to adopt the Gun Law Restrictions of California and/or Massachusetts

As a registered gun owner from California I can say I had to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to buy my guns. I use my guns primarily for target practice and home protection.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with strong gun laws. Guns should not be in the hands of everybody. And safety is job one for me. Massachusetts has the best most restrictive gun laws in the nation; California is second. Guns are never going to disappear as they are protected by the Second Amendment. You should read former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia’s case response to District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008). This was a landmark case that made a lot of sense. The Associated Press reported the following back in 2015 following Scalia’s death:

“Opponents of a ban on the kinds of military-style weapons often used in spree killings – most recently in San Bernardino – often say that denying civilians the right to own such guns would violate their Second Amendment rights, or that it is not possible in any case to define such weapons in law.

So let’s turn to an undisputed conservative – one who opposes abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action and so many other liberal agenda items. Is it possible to define the kinds of weapons that should not be in civilian hands, and does regulating them violate the Second Amendment?

Here is Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court reversed a long-held position and ruled that the Second Amendment did give Americans individual right to own firearms. The court said the District’s ban on handguns in private homes went too far, but that regulation of gun ownership was compatible with the Second Amendment:

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. ‘Miller’ said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U.S., at 179, 59 S. Ct. 816. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

 

Justice Scalia also wrote:

 

“It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like — may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.”

The prefatory clause, to which the justice refers, of course, is the one about “a well-regulated militia.” The AR-15, used in San Bernardino, is an M-16 knockoff. unusual’ and subject to regulation or an outright ban under the Second Amendment.” So rather than saying “assault weapons,” in the future perhaps we should say “the kinds of weapons that Justice Antonin Scalia has defined as ‘dangerous.

The Mission of the New 116th Congress will be to bring suit where necessary when dangerous weapons are involved. This tact of specificity when creating regulatory legislation (with citations referring to District of Columbia vs. Heller) just might bear fruit.

 

 Double or triple the resources of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in order to investigate all civilian shootings by a Police Officer in the United States

Nearly 1,000 people are killed by police every year in the United States. Putting local police or local district attorneys in charge of investigating their own is like putting a fox in charge of the hen house. It makes no sense at all. All investigations of these killings need objectivity and impartiality. The FBI has several thousand agents nationwide. If they need more agents to investigate killings by police officers—then so be it!

 

Goal

Regain International Status and Respect as a Nation

Objectives

Make a Formal Apology to our Allies

In addition, after Trump is removed by the 116th Congress it needs to make an unprecedented gesture to the world—a heartfelt apology to all our allies around the world for our countries colossal error in judgment for electing a total buffoon to the White House. Both a verbal and written proclamation of regret needs to be promulgated to the entire world, and in a timely manner.

Institute a strong policy of coordination among the Congressional Judiciary Committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in order to surveil all U.S. Congressmen, Senators, and Federal Court Judges for any corruption.

In conjunction with this, a new Cabinet level Czar of Government Ethics needs to be created with powers of investigation, promulgation of facts, and the authorization to censor, terminate employment, or otherwise convene a grand Jury to charge those whose ethics violations rise to the level of criminality.

In addition any current statutes on Moral Turpitude would now include crimes of omission as well as crimes of commission. As an example of moral turpitude involving crimes of omission consider the example of Representative Jim Jordan failing to report sexual abuse of young collegiate wrestlers at Ohio State University during his tenure there as a wrestling coach.

Convince the United Nations to eliminate all countries to the UN that are based on a dictatorship. Work to destroy all dictatorships in the world and their leaders (tyrants)

The United Nations is an institution that needs to defend its own Declaration of Human Rights, a landmark post-World War II proclamation that was passed back in 1948. It was one of the  most prodigious accomplishments of this multi-nation organization. The HR Proclamation laid out what the world needs to stand for. The United Nations stands as a beacon for the world in spite of the fact some countries are unwilling or unable to adopt the explicit Human Rights Declaration that was promulgated to the world.

It is from the pulpit of the U.N. that it needs collectively to stand up for what it believes in. As a world body of nations, it needs to demonstrate real courage. They could make a too long overdue commitment to oust dictatorships from the United Nations, to isolate and topple them from the rest of humanity. That is the goal. One objective that would follow would be to eliminate all dictators and dictatorships altogether from the face of the earth.

Final Thoughts

Having the power to make societal change is an awesome responsibility especially during an era of so many attacks on Democracy and democratic institutions. I can only hope that the gravity of the situation in American, with its utter lack of leadership in Washington D.C. will soon change course. I hope that the new 116th Congress will show real courage, and act quickly, decisively and responsibly.

 

 

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A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both—Dwight David Eisenhower

Some of the objectives I’m about to describe are my political hopes for 2018 are tongue-in-cheek. But some items I am deadly serious about. One hint: I really do want President Trump impeached early in 2018. Some of the other objectives follow from this. It’s up to you to decide whether the ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are something you’d like to see happen in 2018.
This holiday season each of us sees the future as we would personally like it to be. Here are my wishes and hopes for 2018:

Goal: A Better Country and World

Donald Trump is impeached in early 2018 for Obstruction of Justice and other crimes.

The Freedom Caucus is utterly destroyed in the November, 2018 mid-term elections
After November, 2018 Republicans will cease to exist as a viable political party in the United States.
There will be no war with North Korea.
Black Ops from the CIA will be put in charge to do diplomacy with North Korea: Like the Gambino crime family, Black Ops will make Kim Jong-Un “an offer he cannot refuse.”
The people of Russia will overthrow Vladimir Putin.
The people of Iran will overthrow its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The United Nations 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights will become World Law for all nations to adhere to.
The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will put forth the effort to investigate all police shootings in the United States.
Betsy (Elizabeth Dee DeVos), the educational Czar in the Trump Administration, will be fired.
Jim Jordan, the Republican Congressman from Ohio will be impeached along with his other Freedom Cauca’s cronies for Obstruction of Justice.
Core diehard Trump supporters will be deported from the United States for treasonous acts of disloyalty, lack of voter competence and outright un-American values that are anti-thetical to our country’s laws, the United States Constitution, and the principled institutions of our democracy.
The United States government in 2018 will no longer accept the now defunct “Trickle-Down-Economics Theory” of job creation. Instead its Guiding Principle will be [not promises of job creation] but stipulating and connecting tax breaks to actual jobs created. Otherwise, the tax cut money will be treated as a loan to be repaid to the United States government. Said another way No Business or Corporate welfare or gifts allowed. We want results not promises.

If all of these hopes and wishes were to come to fruition in 2018 it would indeed make America Great Again. Below is a little humor to entertain you as we enter 2018.

  • “So enjoy your victory, Trump voters! Because when you’re dying because you don’t have health insurance to treat the infection you got from a back alley abortion you had to get because of fetal lead poisoning, you can say to yourself, ‘At least I didn’t vote for someone with a private email server.'” –Bill Maher
  • “As you know, Trump is being accused of sexual misconduct by a slew of women. Of course, that is a case of ‘he said’ and ‘she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.'” –Jimmy Kimmel
  • “Trump denied the (groping) allegations, calling them ‘ludicrous’ at a rally today. But here’s the problem for Trump: There’s very good reason to believe he did what he’s accused of. Why? Because an irrefutable, inside source told us so: Donald Trump. Donald Trump is his own Deep Throat. He’s Creep Throat.” –Seth Meyers

Enjoy 2018 everyone!!!

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The Growing Conflict in America

Muslim Americans Living in a Secular Democracy and a Predominately Christian Country

 [A five-part series]

Part II

In Part II, I will answer the questions of what it means to be an American, and how well do Muslim Americans identify with being an American? The majority of Muslim Americans are moderates—as the Pew research data will show. However, it is also true from their survey data that a small minority of particularly younger Muslims and native-born African Muslims may put the country at risk by adopting an extremist jihadist viewpoint.

These latter groups may need to be under local, state and national surveillance in order to prevent another Paris or San Bernardino violent attack. Under normal circumstances, such surveillance might be characterized as racial, ethnic, or religious profiling.

However, we are no longer living under normal circumstances. The threats that have been perpetrated on the home front are too many. The nation cannot and will not ignore these threats. There will always be a need to balance civil or legal rights on the one hand, with the need to protect our citizens from harm on the other.

Now we move on to answering the first question above. A good starting point in answering the first question is to discuss what it means to be an American. One standard that’s been around for 109 years comes from our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt.

What it means to be an American

In 1907, one of our greatest presidents laid out what it means for immigrants of any origin to come to America and be an American. Nothing less than that will suffice. The standard set by Teddy Roosevelt was indeed high, as it should be.

Whether most groups of immigrants coming to America today are meeting this standard has yet to be determined. So what is this high standard set by President Theodore Roosevelt? In my estimation it is all about value judgments and that translates to where one’s sincere loyalty lies.

The Standard for Being an American

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American and nothing but an American … There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag … We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language … and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”                                                                                    Theodore Roosevelt, 1907

In one of the previous Republican debates Senator Rick Santorum made the statement that “not all Muslims are jihadist, but all jihadists are Muslim.” Because of the open-ended suspicion generated by that statement, fear of Muslims overseas and Muslims here at home is causing increased tension between the Muslim world and those of non-Muslim populations worldwide. At the same time on the Home front, Islamophobia is running rampant here in the United States. This is very similar to the reaction against Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. That, of course, led to the round-up and incarceration of Japanese American citizens in internment camps based on nothing more than race. Individuality, loyalty, or proven disloyal conduct were never part of the equation to incarcerate American citizens who were presumably as protected by the U.S. Constitution as any other citizen. History has showed that such hypocrisy subsequently brought shame and dishonor to the country that presumably ignored what Theodore had said about immigrants coming to this country. But these were not immigrants—they were American citizens.

Muslims in America

What is needed is a fresh factual look at the Muslim community, particularly a comprehensive review of their demographic characteristics, religious beliefs and practices, education and income levels, identity, assimilation and community, political and social values, attitudes toward foreign policy, terrorism and concerns about extremism.

First up is a summary from Pew Research’s 2007 study. Here are their findings: In a 2007 survey titled Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, the Pew Research Center found Muslim Americans to be “largely integrated, happy with their lives, and moderate with respect to many of the issues that have divided Muslims and Westerners around the world.”

However, forty-seven percent of respondents said they considered themselves Muslims first and Americans second. However, this was compared to 81% of British Muslims and 69% of German Muslims, when asked the equivalent question. A similar disparity exists in income; the percentage of American Muslims living in poverty is 2% higher than the general population, compared to an 18% disparity for French Muslims and 29% difference for Spanish Muslims.

Interestingly, Pew Research in 2007 found that 42% of Christians see themselves as Christians first, and as Americans second. An additional 7% of Christians see themselves as both equally.

Politically, American Muslims were both pro-larger government and socially conservative. For example, 70% of respondents preferred a bigger government providing more services, while 61% stated that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. Despite their social conservatism, 71% of American Muslims expressed a preference for the Democratic Party. The Pew Research survey also showed that nearly three quarters of respondents believed that American society rewards them for hard work regardless of their religious background.

The same poll also reported that 40% of U.S. Muslims believe that Arab Muslims carried out the 9/11 attacks. Another 28% didn’t believe it, and 32% said they had no opinion. Among 28% who doubted that Arab Muslims were behind the conspiracy, one-fourth of that claim the U.S. government or President George W. Bush was responsible. Only 26% of American Muslims believe the U.S.-led war on terror is a sincere effort to root out international terrorism. Only 5% of those surveyed had a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of the terrorist group al-Qaeda. Only 35% of American Muslims stated that the decision for military action in Afghanistan was the right one and just 12% supported the use of military force in Iraq.

In 2011, a Gallop poll found that 93% of Muslim Americans considered themselves loyal to the United States.

The 2011 Pew Research Survey

Like Christians and non-Christians alike, religious and secular populations are very diverse. Between groups and within groups people are quite different. The Pew research below demonstrates such diversity among American Muslims. The following (It was written by Michael Lipka) is a precise and detailed summary of the Pew Research from 2011. Below are its major findings:

Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the World

By Michael Lipka

“Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world. The growth and regional migration of Muslims combined with the ongoing impact of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other extremist groups that commit acts of violence in the name of Islam, have brought Muslims and the Islamic faith to the forefront of the political debate in many countries.

Yet many facts about Muslims are not well known in some of these places, and most Americans – who live in a country with a relatively small Muslim population – say they know little or nothing about Islam.

Here are answers to some key questions about Muslims, compiled from several Pew Research Center reports published in recent years:

How many Muslims are there? Where do they live?

There were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world as of 2010 – roughly 23% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate. But while Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), it is the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.

Although many countries in the Middle East-North Africa region where the religion originated in the seventh century are heavily Muslim, the region is home to only about 20% of the world’s Muslims. A majority of the Muslims globally (62%) live in the Asia-Pacific region, including large populations in Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population. With more than 300 million Muslims, Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population, but Pew Research Center projects that India will have that distinction by the year 2050.

The Muslim population in Europe also is growing; it is projected that 10% of all Europeans will be Muslims by 2050.

How many Muslims are there in the United States?

According to estimates, Muslims make up just less than 1% of the U.S. adult population. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study (conducted in English and Spanish) found that 0.9% of U.S. adults identifies as Muslims. A 2011 survey of Muslim Americans, which was conducted in English as well as Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, estimated that there were 1.8 million Muslim adults (and 2.75 million Muslims of all ages) in the country. That survey also found that a majority of U.S. Muslims (63%) are immigrants.

Pew research estimates that Muslims will make up 2.1% of the U.S. population by the year 2050, surpassing people who identify as Jewish, on the basis of religion as the second-largest faith group in the country (not including people who say they have no religion).

A recent Pew Research Center report estimated that the Muslim share of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) increased from about 5% in 1992 to roughly 10% in 2012, representing about 100,000 immigrants in that year.

Why is the global Muslim population growing?

There are two major factors behind the rapid projected growth of Islam, and both involve simple demographics. For one, Muslims have more children than members of other religious groups. Around the world, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, compared with 2.3 for all other groups combined.

Muslims are also the youngest (median age of 23 years old in 2010) of all major religious groups, seven years younger than the median age of non-Muslims. As a result, a larger share of Muslims already is, or will soon be, at the point in their lives when they begin having children. This, combined with high fertility rates, will fuel Muslim population growth.

While it does not change the global population, migration is helping to increase the Muslim population in some regions, including North America and Europe.

What do Muslims around the world believe?

Like any religious group, the religious beliefs and practices of Muslims vary depending on many factors, including where in the world they live. But Muslims around the world are almost universally united by a belief in one God and the Prophet Muhammad, and the practice of certain religious rituals such as fasting during Ramadan, is widespread.

In other areas, however, there is less unity. For instance, a Pew Research Center survey of Muslims in 39 countries asked Muslims whether they want sharia law, a legal code based on the Quran and other Islamic scripture, to be the official law of the land in their country. Responses on this question vary widely.

Nearly all Muslims in Afghanistan (99%) and most in Iraq (91%) and Pakistan (84%) support Sharia law as official law. But in some other countries, especially in Eastern Europe and Central Asia – including Turkey (12%), Kazakhstan (10%) and Azerbaijan (8%) – relatively few favor the implementation of Sharia law.

How do Muslims feel about groups like ISIS?

Recent surveys show that most people in several countries with significant Muslim populations have an unfavorable view of ISIS, including virtually all respondents in Lebanon and 94% in Jordan. Relatively small shares say they see ISIS favorably. In some countries, considerable portions of the population do not offer an opinion about ISIS, including a majority (62%) of Pakistanis.

Favorable views of ISIS are somewhat higher in Nigeria (14%) than most other nations. Among Nigerian Muslims, 20% say they see ISIS favorably (compared with 7% of Nigerian Christians). The Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, which has been conducting a terrorist campaign in the country for years, has sworn allegiance to ISIS.

More generally, Muslims mostly say that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam are rarely or never justified, including 92% in Indonesia and 91% in Iraq.

In the United States, a 2011 survey found that 86% of Muslims say that such tactics are rarely or never justified. An additional 7% says suicide bombings are sometimes justified and 1% says they are often justified in these circumstances.

In a few countries, a quarter or more of Muslims say that these acts of violence are at least sometimes justified, including 40% in the Palestinian territories, 39% in Afghanistan, 29% in Egypt and 26% in Bangladesh.

In many cases, people in countries with large Muslim populations are as concerned as Western nations about the threat of Islamic extremism, and have become increasingly concerned in recent years. About two-thirds of people in Nigeria (68%) and Lebanon (67%) said earlier this year they are very concerned about Islamic extremism in their country, both up significantly since 2013.

What do American Muslims believe?

Our 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.

Living in a religiously pluralistic society, Muslim Americans are more likely than Muslims in many other nations to have many non-Muslim friends. Only about half (48%) of U.S. Muslims say all or most of their close friends are also Muslims, compared with a global median of 95% in the 39 countries we surveyed.

Roughly seven-in-ten U.S. Muslims (69%) say religion is very important in their lives. Virtually all (96%) say they believe in God, nearly two-thirds (65%) report praying at least daily and nearly half (47%) say they attend religious services at least weekly. By all of these traditional measures, Muslims in the U.S. are roughly as religious as U.S. Christians, although they are less religious than Muslims in many other nations.

When it comes to political and social views, Muslims are far more likely to identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party (70%) than the Republican Party (11%) and to say they prefer a bigger government providing more services (68%) over a smaller government providing fewer services (21%).

As of 2011, U.S. Muslims were somewhat split between those who said homosexuality should be accepted by society (39%) and those who said it should be discouraged (45%), although the group had grown considerably more accepting of homosexuality since a similar survey was conducted in 2007.

What is the difference between Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims?

Sunnis and Shias are two subgroups of Islam, just as Catholics and Protestants are two subgroups within Christianity. The Sunni-Shia divide is nearly 1,400 years old, dating back to a dispute over the succession of leadership in the Muslim community following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. While the two groups agree on some core tenets of Islam, there are differences in belief or practices, and in some cases Sunnis do not consider Shias to be Muslims.

With the exception of a few countries, including Iran (which is majority Shia) as well as Iraq and Lebanon (which are split), most nations with a large number of Muslims have more Sunnis than Shias. In the U.S., 65% identify as Sunnis and 11% as Shias (with the rest identifying with neither group, including some who say they are “just a Muslim”).

How do Americans and Europeans perceive Muslims?

A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2014 asked Americans to rate members of eight religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 to 100, where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating. Overall, Americans rated Muslims rather coolly – an average of 40, which was comparable to the average rating they gave atheists (41). Americans view the six other religious groups mentioned in the survey (Jews, Catholics, evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons) more warmly.

Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party gave Muslims an average rating of 33, considerably cooler than Democrats’ rating toward Muslims (47).

Republicans also are more likely than Democrats to say they are very concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the world (83% vs. 53%) and in the U.S. (65% vs. 38%), according to a December 2015 survey. That survey also found that Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers (68% vs. 30% of Democrats) and that Muslims should be subject to more scrutiny than people of other religions (49% vs. 20%). Overall, most Americans (61%) say Muslims should not be subject to additional scrutiny solely because of their religion, while U.S. adults are closely divided on the question of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. (Note: This paragraph was updated Dec. 17 to reflect a new survey.)

In spring 2015, we asked residents of some European countries a different question– whether they view Muslims favorably or unfavorably. Perceptions at that time varied across European nations, from a largely favorable view in France (76%) and the United Kingdom (72%) to a less favorable view in Italy (31%) and Poland (30%).

How do Muslims and Westerners perceive each other?

In a 2011 survey, majorities of respondents in a few Western European countries, including 62% in France and 61% in Germany, said that relations between Muslims and Westerners were bad, while about half of Americans (48%) agreed. Similarly, most Muslims in several Muslim-majority nations – including Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan – agreed that relations were bad, although fewer Muslims in Pakistan (45%) and Indonesia (41%) had this view.

The same survey also asked about characteristics the two groups may associate with one another. Across the seven Muslim-majority countries and territories surveyed, a median of 68% of Muslims said they view Westerners as selfish. Considerable shares also called Westerners other negative adjectives, including violent (median of 66%), greedy (64%) and immoral (61%), while fewer attributed positive characteristics like “respectful of women” (44%), honest (33%) and tolerant (31%) to Westerners.

Westerners’ views of Muslims were more mixed. A median of 50% across four Western European countries, the U.S. and Russia called Muslims violent and a median of 58% called them “fanatical,” but fewer used negative words like greedy, immoral or selfish. A median of just 22% of Westerners said Muslims are respectful of women, but far more said Muslims are honest (median of 51%) and generous (41%).

Do American Muslims meet the Standard for American Citizenship?

This actually is a complicated question. If one uses the standard set in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, then it’s very clear American Muslims do not meet the American standard for citizenship. Forty-seven percent of Muslims surveyed see themselves as a Muslim first before identifying themselves as an American. However, the Pew Research Center found that in 2011 that 93% of Muslims considered themselves loyal to the United States. It appears from the Pew data that the lion’s shares of American Muslims (approximately 93% if we extrapolate from a sample to the entire population of Muslims) is not a threat to the country, and are supportive of the United States.

The data also showed that Muslim Americans by and large are no friend of either al-Qaeda or ISIS. People who target Muslims in general are engaging in Islamophobia of the worst kind, actual discrimination. The picture that emerges from the Pew data is that, by and large, Muslim Americans are a diverse group within the religion of Islam and identify with being an American reasonably well considering acts of mistreatment by the general public. The most poignant findings of the 2011 Pew research data are as follows.

Muslim Americans appear to be highly assimilated into American society and they are largely content with their lives. More than six-in-ten do not see a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, and a similar number say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt an American way of life rather than remain distinctive from the larger society.

By overwhelming margins, Muslim Americans are satisfied with the way things are going in their own lives and rate their local communities as good places to live. And Muslim Americans are far more likely than the general public to express satisfaction with national conditions.

Assimilation and Identity

     A majority of Muslim Americans (56%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. today want to adopt American customs and ways of life. Far fewer (20%) say that most Muslims coming to the U.S. want to be distinct from the larger American society, with a similar number (16%) volunteering that Muslim immigrants want to do both. Native-born and foreign-born Muslims give similar answers to this question.

The U.S. public as a whole is less convinced that immigrant Muslims seek to assimilate. An April 2011 Pew research survey finds that just a third of American adults (33%) think that most Muslim immigrants want to adopt American ways, while about half (51%) think that Muslim immigrants mostly want to remain distinct from the larger culture.

National Identity

     When asked whether they think of themselves first as an American or first as a Muslim, about half of Muslims (49%) say they think of themselves first as a Muslim, compared with 26% who think of themselves first as American. Nearly one-in-five (18%) volunteer that they think of themselves as both Muslim and American.

A May survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that 46% of Christians in the United States think of themselves first as a Christian, while the same percentage says they consider them first as an American.

Among both Muslims and Christians, people who say religion is very important in their lives are far more likely to view themselves primarily as a member of their religion.

     Among Muslims who say that religion is very important in their lives, 59% say they think of themselves first as Muslims. Among those for whom religion is less important, only 28% identify first as Muslim. Similarly, among Christians who place great personal importance on religion, 62% say they are Christians first, compared with 19% among those who view religion as less important.

Pew Global Attitudes Project surveys conducted this year found substantial differences in views of national identity across Muslim communities. Nearly all Pakistanis (94%) consider themselves first as Muslims rather than as Pakistanis. By contrast, just 28% of Muslims in Lebanon say they consider themselves Muslim first – far fewer than the number of U.S. Muslims expressing this view (49%).

Many Muslims report having friendship networks that extends beyond the Muslim community. About half of U.S. Muslims say that all (7%) or most (41%) of their close friends are Muslim; about as many say that some (36%), hardly any (14%) or none (1%) of their close friends are Muslim.

More women than men have a close circle of friends consisting mostly or entirely of other Muslims. And Muslim Americans who are highly committed to their religion are much more likely than those with medium or low commitment to say that all or most of their close friends are Muslims.

More than six-in-ten American Muslims (63%) see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, twice the number who do see such a conflict (31%).

A 2006 Pew Research survey found a nearly identical pattern among American Christians who were asked about a possible conflict between modernity and their own faith. Nearly two-thirds of Christians (64%) said there is no conflict between being a devout Christian and living in a modern society, compared with 31% who did perceive a conflict.

Muslims of all ages express similar views on this question. Similarly, there are only small differences between native-born Muslims and immigrants, as well as between those who are personally religiously observant and those who are less religious.

There are, however, sizable differences between men and women in views on this question. More than seven-in-ten men (71%) say there is no conflict between Islam and modernity, but fewer women (54%) agree. The view that there is no conflict between Islam and modernity is also much more common among college graduates than among those with less education.

 

Final Comments

The Pew Research organization has provided a valuable service to everyone in terms of good social research. There was lots of interesting data on Muslims living abroad and those living here in the United States.

Nevertheless, I detected many unanswered questions from the data they presented from their 2011 study that should be looked into. Such questions relate to degree of assimilation, legal questions regarding religious belief from religious practice, and finally, prejudice and discrimination among Muslim Americans.

Questions about Assimilation

The first question is what percentage of Muslim Americans wants Sharia Law in the United States rather than following our legal system of a U.S. Constitution as well as state constitutions and all other federal, state and local laws and regulations?

Related to this is the question of whether Muslim Americans prefer sending their children to Muslim schools instead of integrating them into the general educational system in the United States? While those who follow Catholicism have church schools in the U.S., by and large, the children from these schools are nonetheless highly integrated into a secular society. To what extent is this true for the Muslim American child population?

Another unanswered question not asked in the Pew data relates to inter-faith marriages and marriage itself. What proportion of Muslim Americans marries non-Muslims? Are such marriages forbidden by Islamic law, culture, or the scriptures of Islam as well? It has been reported that anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 of the American Muslim population (2008 estimate) engage in polygamy. Women under Islamic law are forbidden to have multiple husbands, but men are permitted to have two, three or four wives.

Questions about Religious Belief versus Religious Practice    

Another area for questions has to do with general differences between religious belief and religious practice. In the future will a legal brief dealing with Sharia Law be brought before United States Supreme Court as a violation of separation of church from state? Since Sharia Law is an integral part of Islam’s scriptures, will there be a separation of religious belief from its practice?

For example, the Mormon practice of having more than one spouse did separate belief from practice. Today, neither in Utah nor elsewhere in the United States is bigamy or polygamy allowed under the law. Was religious practice separated from religious belief in this case? Another example is where religious cults engage in human sacrifice. There is no doubt that belief is separated from practice in that case. Anyone can believe whatever they want; however, once belief crosses the line into actual behavior, American Law has something to say about that. Human sacrifice is viewed as murder, and is prohibited under all U.S. law.

The acceptability of foreign law (religious or otherwise) in the United States has yet to be decided by the United States Supreme Court. To my knowledge the U.S. Congress has yet to act against Sharia Law. Less clear is why?  Sixteen states have already passed state laws to forbid Sharia Law or foreign law. The legal issue, whether Muslims can be allowed to impose Sharia Law within the United States, a law that violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution that are concerned with the separation of church and State, is one the high court needs to address.

Questions about Prejudice and Discrimination

Islamophobia is real and has caused many Muslim Americans to complain about it. But what isn’t known are the racial, ethnic and religious prejudices held by Muslim Americans.

No group in society is immune from this aspect of life. Sociologists back in the 1950s found that there was as much prejudice and discrimination caused by minorities as there was among majorities in U.S. society. Its character was sometimes different, such as minorities’ prejudice and discrimination against other members of minorities. As then as it is now—nobody wants to confront this type of social phenomena.

Given that Sunni and Shia Muslims in the Middle East have never been fond of the citizens of Israel, would such attitudes be prevalent among Muslim Americans living in the United States? Are there attitudes among the Muslim population that promote anti-Semitism and discriminatory behavior against people of the Jewish faith, or directed against Jews living here or abroad?

What’s needed is a comprehensive sociological study of racial, ethnic and religious attitudes (prejudices and discrimination) by Muslim Americans.

As one can see, many questions remain unanswered.

In Part III, I will discuss Sharia Law in more detail, and discuss if there is a plot underway to replace American Law with Sharia Law.

The most troubling aspect of all is that Sharia Law, as a religious practice, is a 7th Century set of religious rules that are barbaric, discriminatory, homophobic, misogynist, and intolerant of all non-believers, as well as those from other religions.

Adolf Hitler and Genghis Khan had the dream of world domination. World domination by any group in the past failed, and will fail in the future. Any group that intends, surreptitiously or otherwise, to dominate the United States and convert it to a non-democratic country will ultimately experience the wrath of the American people. Any real threats from abroad will also experience the wrath of the most awesome military power on the face of the earth. We will be all over such threats “like a fly on you know what.”

Our values here in the United States reject Sharia Law as it is a serious threat to all civil and human rights. It is an extremist set of religious laws that are currently practiced in many (but not all) Muslim countries around the world. Stay tuned for Part III.

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President Obama’s Real Accomplishments in Office   Introduction Where politics is concerned there always seems to be a real disconnect between facts on the one hand, and political rhetoric espoused by the media and the various political parties on the other. Citizens expect the media to decipher fact from fiction. But since the media is often biased in favor of one political party over another, the voting public is actually left to their own devices to determine fact from fiction. As a consequence, the average citizen is left out in the cold where unbiased evaluation of a candidate for political office is concerned. As we all know, politicians talk more about values, not facts. Facts are often used to measure results of a politician’s programs, while values are used to make promises and to encourage the public to vote for a particular candidate. Facts are too dangerous for politicians while values are safer when interacting with the public.   Purpose of Blog The purpose of this Blog is to present to my cyberspace public a factual review of the real accomplishments of the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I will review his accomplishments in two ways: Review the two most important promises the President made back in 2008 which were to lower the unemployment rate and create middle class jobs for Americans. The second way is to list the accomplishments of Barack Obama. When it came to the President’s promises, both related to economics. This was important since the country came close to a financial disaster and collapse during President Bush’s last term in office. At the time he made his promises, little did he know that his vision for America would be met by a recalcitrant and often times obstreperous Congress, particularly the House of Representatives. Despite the juggernaut of destructive gridlock offered up by the Republican Party and its Tea Party members, achievements were made in the last 6 years by the President. The Promises of President Obama The first promise was to lower the unemployment rate, and the second was to create jobs for middle-class Americans. I will present data that supports these promises, and I will carefully review actual achievements. The Unemployment Rate The President took office in January 2009. At that time the unemployment rate had been climbing during the previous year under the Bush Administration from 5.0 percent in January 2008 to 7.8 percent in January, 2009. The rate of unemployment continued to rise to a high of 10 percent in October 2009 as a lagging effect of the recession and near financial collapse in 2008. It continued to drift from 9.9 down to 9.4 percent during the rest of 2009, and continued through to the end of 2010. By this time the policies of the President and the Federal Reserve Board (primarily the economic stimulus packages) were starting to have an effect on the unemployment rate. In January 2011 the unemployment rate dropped to 9.1 percent. A year later it was 8.2 percent. By January 2013 it was 7.9 percent. In January 2014 the unemployment rate had dropped to 6.6 percent. In June 2014 the unemployment rate dropped again to 6.1 percent. During the President’s watch, the unemployment rate declined 39 percent. As of August 2014 the unemployment rate still stayed at 6.1 percent. It would, of course, be simplistic and rather naïve to either ascribe total credit or total blame to the person holding office of the presidency for the lion’s share of any economic change. The reality is economic cycles and the economy itself each have a life of its own (see my previous Blogs on economics and economic theories).  Nevertheless, fiscal and economic policies of any President do matter.  So from a policy standpoint, President Barack Obama has very much helped impact the unemployment rate in a positive way, thus achieving his first promise. Unemployment Rate (January 2004 – June 2014)

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
2004  5.7 5.6 5.8 5.6 5.6 5.6 5.5 5.4 5.4 5.5 5.4 5.4
2005  5.3 5.4 5.2 5.2 5.1 5.0 5.0 4.9 5.0 5.0 5.0 4.9
2006  4.7 4.8 4.7 4.7 4.6 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4
2007  4.6 4.5 4.4 4.5 4.4 4.6 4.7 4.6 4.7 4.7 4.7 5.0
2008  5.0 4.9 5.1 5.0 5.4 5.6 5.8 6.1 6.1 6.5 6.8 7.3
2009  7.8 8.3 8.7 9.0 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.6 9.8 10.0 9.9 9.9
2010  9.7 9.8 9.9 9.9 9.6 9.4 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.5 9.8 9.4
2011  9.1 9.0 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.1 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.8 8.6 8.5
2012  8.2 8.3 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.2 8.1 7.8 7.8 7.8 7.9
2013  7.9 7.7 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.3 7.2 7.2 7.2 7.0 6.7
2014  6.6 6.7 6.7 6.3 6.3 6.1

  Source: Department of Labor Statistics     Job Creation and Growth   It is a fact that, since President Roosevelt, the average amount of private sector jobs created during Democratic Presidential terms is 1,463,220 and the average amount during Republican Presidential terms is a paltry 642,000 jobs.     Obama’s Second Promise

52 Straight Months of Private Sector Job Growth

July 3, 2014 Under President Obama’s leadership, the economy has added private sector jobs for 52 straight months. During this span, 9.7 million private sector jobs have been created. In the Senate,    Democrats are fighting to continue this positive trend and help speed along the economic recovery.   President Obama’s Major Accomplishments What follows is a PARTIAL list of Obama’s accomplishments so far.

 

Despite the characterizations of some Republicans, Obama’s success rate in winning congressional votes on issues was an unprecedented 96.7% for his first year in office. Though he is often cited as superior to Obama, President Lyndon Johnson’s success rate in 1965 was only 93%.

Fiscal Responsibility

Within days after taking office, Obama signed an Executive Order ordering an audit of government contracts, and combating waste and abuse. The President created the post of Chief Performance Officer, whose job it is to make operations more efficient to save the federal government money. On his first full day, he froze White House salaries. He appointed the first Federal Chief Information Officer to oversee federal IT spending. He committed to phasing out unnecessary and outdated weapons systems, and also signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to stop waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting system. Through an executive order, he created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Improving the Economy, Preventing Depression

Obama pushed through and signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “the stimulus package,” despite the fact that not one Republican voted for that bill. In addition, he launched recovery.gov, so that taxpayers could track spending from the Act. In his first year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy 3.5%. Obama completed the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, and recovered virtually all of its costs. He created the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan. Obama oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.  He oversaw a bailout of General Motors that saved at least 1.4 million jobs, and put pressure on the company to change its practices, resulting in GM returning to its place as the top car company in the world. Obama also doubled funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership which is designed to improve manufacturing efficiency. He signed the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act giving the federal government more tools to investigate and prosecute fraud in every corner of the financial system. It also created a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial fraud that led to the economic meltdown. Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which was designed to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices. He increased infrastructure spending after years of neglect.  Obama signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding on the Making Home Affordable Program to help millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures. The bill also provided $2.2 billion to help combat homelessness, and to stabilize the housing market. Through the Worker, Home Ownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, Obama and Congressional Democrats provided tax credits to first-time home buyers, which helped the U.S. housing market recovery. He initiated a $15 billion plan designed to encourage increased lending to small businesses. Obama created business.gov, which allows for online collaboration between small businesses and experts remanaging a business. (The program has since merged with SBA.gov.) He played a lead role in getting the G-20 Summit to commit to a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the global financial crisis.  Obama took steps to improve minority access to capital.  He created a $60 billion bank to fund infrastructure improvements such as roads and bridges. He implemented an auto industry rescue plan, and saved as many as 1 million jobs.  Many are of the opinion that he saved the entire auto industry, and even the economy of the entire Midwest. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Obama saved at least 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors that would have otherwise been lost. Obama dismantled the Minerals Management Service, thereby moving forward to cut ties between energy companies and the government. He provided funding to states and the Department of Homeland Security to save thousands of police and firefighter jobs from being cut during the recession. He used recovered TARP money to fund programs at local housing finance agencies in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan. Obama crafted an Executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to assist in financial education for all Americans.

Wall Street Reforms and Consumer Protection

Obama ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money. He pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.  Dodd-Frank also included the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama made it so that banks could no longer use YOUR money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers’ interests. He supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation.  Obama wholly endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that would close offshore tax avoidance loopholes. He made a deal with Swiss banks that permit the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and tax evaders. He established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses. Obama oversaw and then signed the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.

Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination

Obama advocated for and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. He pushed through, signed and demanded the Pentagon enact a repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that forced soldiers to lie to fight for their country, and put our troops at risk by disqualifying many qualified soldiers from helping. Obama appointed Kareem Dale as the first ever Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy. Helped Congress pass and signed the Civil Rights History Act.  He extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Obama has appointed more openly gay officials than anyone in history.  He issued a Presidential Memorandum reaffirming the rights of gay couples to make medical decisions for each other. He established a White House Council on Women and Girls. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007. Only 5 Republican Senators voted for the bill.    Obama wrote and signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies evaluate the effect of their policies and programs on women and families. He expanded funding for the Violence against Women Act. Under Obama’s watch, National Labor Relations Board has issued final rules that require all employers to prominently post employees’ rights where all employees or prospective employees can see it, including websites and intranets, beginning November 2011.

Fighting Poverty

Obama provided a $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps). He signed an Executive Order that established the White House Office of Urban Affairs.

Improved Foreign Relations and American Status Abroad

Obama visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any previous president during his first six months in office. As he promised, he gave a speech at a major Islamic forum in Cairo early in his administration. He did much to restore America’s reputation around the world as a global leader that does the “right thing” in world affairs, at least according to the rest of the planet. He re-established and reinforced our partnership with NATO and other allies on strategic international issues. Closed a number of secret detention facilities. Obama improved relations with Middle East countries by appointing special envoys. He pushed for military to emphasize development of foreign language skills. Offered $400 million to the people living in Gaza, called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence. He refused to give Israel the green light to attack Iran over their possible nuclear program. He worked to make donations to Haiti tax-deductible in 2009. He established a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Issued an Executive Order blocking interference with and helped to stabilize Somalia. He established new, more reasonable policies in our relations with Cuba, such as allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their families and send money to support them. He ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It was Republicans (and a smattering of Democrats) who prevented him from following through. Obama ordered a review of our detention and interrogation policy, and prohibited the use of torture, or what Bush called “enhanced interrogation.” He ordered interrogators to limit their actions to the Army Field manual. He ordered all secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere to be closed.  He released the Bush torture memos.   On his second day in office, he signed a detailed Executive Order that banned torture, reversed all Bush torture policies, and put the United States in compliance with the Geneva Convention. In response to the emerging “Arab Spring,” he created a Rapid Response fund, to assist emerging democracies with foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages in order to show that the United States stands with them. Obama passed the Iran Sanctions Act, to prevent war, and to encourage Iran to give up their nuclear program.  Obama ended the Iraq War. In response to current events with an ISIS invasion in Iraq President Obama ordered air strikes and offered humanitarian assistance to Iraq religious minorities under threat of death from ISIS. He has now created an international coalition through NATO to annihilate ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He authorized and oversaw a secret mission by SEAL Team Six to rescue two hostages held by Somali pirates. The importance of this international act of terrorism was later made into a movie with Tom Hanks.

Better Approach to Defense

Obama created a comprehensive new strategy for dealing with the international nuclear threat. He authorized a $1.4 billion reduction in Star Wars program in 2010. He restarted nuclear nonproliferation talks and built up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols to where they had been before Bush. He signed and pushed to ratification a new SALT Treaty. Negotiated and signed a new START Treaty that will last until at least 2021. Through the Defense Authorization Act, he reversed the Bush Administration and committed to no permanent military bases in Iraq. He developed the first comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to facilitate the defeat of al Qaeda and the withdrawal of most troops, as well as the rebuilding of Afghanistan. He returned our focus to Afghanistan, stabilized the country, and began the process of withdrawing our troops. Obama fulfilled his campaign promise and ended our involvement in Iraq in 2011. However, current events have altered a total and complete withdrawal from Iraq. Despite the current problems in Iraq the president, during his administration, has taken steps to severely weaken al Qaeda and limit their ability to terrorize the world. Many of the top al Qaeda leaders have been killed or otherwise neutralized. He negotiated and signed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with India. He took decisive action to use NATO to limit the slaughter of innocents in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple a despotic government and determine their own fate.   Veterans He made sure that families of fallen soldiers could be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB by providing funding for it.  He also ended the media blackout on coverage of the return of fallen soldiers. He funded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with an extra $1.4 billion to improve veterans’ services. He provided the troops with better body armor. He created the Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record program for military personnel in order to improve the quality of their medical care. He put an end to the Bush-era stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan beyond their enlistment date. He supported and signed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which made more money available to enable better medical care for veterans. He ushered through the largest spending increase in 30 years for the Department of Veterans Affairs for improved medical facilities, and to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities. He created the Green Vet Initiative, which provided special funding to the Labor Department to provide veterans with training in green jobs. He oversaw a $4.6 billion expansion of the Veterans Administration budget to pay for more mental health professionals.

Education

He has repeatedly increased funding for student financial aid, and at the same time cut the banks completely out of the process. He completely reformed the student loan program to make it possible for students to refinance at a lower rate. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he invested heavily in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education. This includes a major expansion of broadband availability in K-12 schools nationwide as well as an expansion in school construction. Also, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he put $5 billion into early education, including Head Start. He signed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, also known as GI Bill 2.0 He oversaw expansion of the Pell Grants program to expand opportunity for low-income students to go to college. He passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provided an extra $12.2 billion in funds.

Greater Transparency and Better Government

He signed an order banning gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the Executive Branch. He signed an order banning anyone from working in an agency they had lobbied in previous years. He also put strict limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House. He held the first-ever online town hall from the White House, and took questions from the public. The Obama White House became the first to stream every White House event, live. He established a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities. He provided the first voluntary disclosure of the White House Visitors Log in history.  He crafted an Executive Order on Presidential Records, which restored the 30-day time frame for former presidents to review records, and eliminated the right for the vice president or family members of former presidents to do the reviews. This will provide the public with greater access to historic White House documents, and severely curtails the ability to use executive privilege to shield them. He improved aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, and issued new guidelines to make FOIA more open and transparent in the processing of FOIA requests.

National Safety and Security

He’s restored federal agencies such as FEMA to the point that they have been able to manage a huge number of natural disasters successfully. He authorized Navy SEALS to successfully secure the release of a US captain held by Somali pirates and increased patrols off the Somali coast. Obama has repeatedly beefed up border security. He ordered and oversaw the Navy SEALS operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

Science, Technology and Health Care

He created a Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity in government decision-making. Obama opened up the process for fast-tracking patent approval for green energy projects. He eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. He also provided increased federal support for biomedical and stem cell research. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he committed more federal funding, about $18 billion, to support non-defense science and research labs. He signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first comprehensive attempt to improve the lives of Americans living with paralysis. He expanded the Nurse-Family Partnership program, which provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families, to cover more first-time mothers.  His EPA reversed research ethics standards which allowed humans to be used as “guinea pigs” in tests of the effects of chemicals to comply with numerous codes of medical ethics. Obama conducted a cyberspace policy review. Obama provided financial support for private sector space programs. He oversaw enhanced earth mapping to provide valuable data for agricultural, educational, scientific, and government use. He ushered through a bill that authorized the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products.  As a result, the FDA has ordered tobacco companies to disclose cigarette ingredients and to ban sale of cigarettes falsely labeled as “light.” Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he provided $500 million for Health Professions Training Programs. He also increased funding for community-based prevention programs. He oversaw a 50% decrease in cost of prescription drugs for seniors. He eliminated the Bush-era practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug companies on price. Two weeks after taking office, he signed the Children’s Health Insurance Re-authorization Act, which increased the number of children covered by health insurance by 4 million. He held a quick press conference, and urged Congress to investigate Anthem Blue Cross for raising premiums 39% without explanation. Rep. Waxman responded by launching a probe, and Anthem Blue Cross put the increase on hold for two months. He ushered through and signed the Affordable Health Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to 30 million more people, and ended many common insurance company practices that are often detrimental to those with coverage. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he allowed children to be covered under their parents’ policy until they turned 26. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he provided tax breaks to allow 3.5 million small businesses to provide health insurance to their employees; thereby 29 million people will receive tax breaks to help them afford health insurance. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he expanded Medicaid to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level. Through the Affordable Health Care Act, health insurance companies now have to disclose how much of your premium actually goes to pay for patient care. Provisions in Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act have already resulted in Medicare costs actually declining slightly this fiscal year, for the first time in many years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Last year’s increase was 4%. Compare that to the average 12% annual inflation rate during the previous 40 years. Strengthening the Middle Class and Families Obama worked to provide affordable, high-quality child care to working families. He cracked down on companies that were previously denying sick pay, vacation and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare tax payments through abuse of the employee classification of independent contractor. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he cut taxes for 95% of America’s working families. Under Obama, tax rates for average working families are the lowest they’ve been since 1950. He extended and fully funded the patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax for 10 years. He extended discounted COBRA health coverage for the unemployed from 9 months to 15 months, and he’s extended unemployment benefits several times.

Environment and Energy

Obama fast-tracked regulations to allow states to enact federal fuel efficiency standards that were above federal standards. His fast-tracked regulation increased fuel economy standards for vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. It was the first time such standards had been increased in a decade. He oversaw the establishment of an Energy Partnership for the Americas, which creates more markets for American-made biofuels and green energy technologies. His EPA reversed a Bush-era decision to allow the largest mountaintop removal project in US history. He ordered the Department of Energy to implement more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances. He ordered energy plants to prepare to produce at least 15% of all energy through renewable resources like wind and solar, by 2021. (As you can see, Republicans are trying hard to kill it.) He oversaw the creation of an initiative that converts old factories and manufacturing centers into new clean technology centers. Obama bypassed Republican opposition in Congress, and ordered EPA to begin regulating and measuring carbon emissions. His EPA ruled that CO2 is a pollutant. He doubled federal spending on clean energy research. He pushed through a tax credit to help people buy plug-in hybrid cars. He created a program to develop renewable energy projects on the waters of our Outer Continental Shelf that will produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents. Obama reengaged in the climate change and greenhouse gas emissions agreements talks, and even proposed one himself. He also addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference, officially reversing the Bush-era stance that climate change was a “hoax.” He fully supported the initial phase of the creation of a legally binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide. He required states to provide incentives to utilities to reduce their energy consumption. Following Bush’s eight year reign, he reengaged in a number of treaties and agreements designed to protect the Antarctic. He created tax write-offs for purchases of hybrid automobiles, and later he and Democrats morphed that program into one that includes electric cars. Mandated that federal government fleet purchases be for fuel-efficient American vehicles, and encouraged that federal agencies support experimental, fuel-efficient vehicles. Obama oversaw and pushed through an amendment to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizing advances from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  He also actively tried to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to eliminate the liability limits for those companies responsible for large oil spills. He initiated Criminal and Civil inquiries into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Through Obama’s EPA, he asserted federal legal supremacy, and barred Texas from authorizing new refinery permits on its own.  He strengthened the Endangered Species Act. His EPA improved boiler safety standards to improve air quality and save 6500 lives per year. Through the EPA, he took steps to severely limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, and to increase their efficacy in humans.  Obama increased funding for National Parks and Forests by 10%. He announced greatly improved commercial fuel efficiency standards. He announced the development of a huge increase in average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg to 35.5mpg starting in 2016 and 54.5 starting in 2025.

Other Accomplishments

Obama has expanded trade agreements to include stricter labor and environmental agreements such as NAFTA. He oversaw funding of the design of a new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015.  He protected the funding during the recent budget negotiations. He oversaw and passed increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice in the Court’s history, and these women represent only the third and fourth women to serve on the court, out of a total of 112 justices. He appointed the most diverse Cabinet in history, including more women than any other incoming president.  He eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only education, and he rescinded the global gag rule. Obama loosened the rules, and allowed the 14 states that legalized medical marijuana to regulate themselves without federal interference.  His FDA banned the use of antibiotics in livestock production.  Obama ushered through and signed national service legislation, increasing funding for national service groups, including tripling the size of the AmeriCorps program.     The material used for the list of accomplishments was obtained from the article below. It has been altered somewhat due to many of the current events that have taken place globally in last few weeks and months. Read the original article at http://pleasecutthecrap.typepad.com/main/what-has-obama-done-since-january-20-2009.html     Post Script It is clear that President Obama is one of the most successful presidents of all time. Despite a much fractured Congress and a very disruptive Republican/Tea Party, President Barack Obama has exceeded all expectations as a president. Whoever the next president in 2016 is—one thing is for sure—she/he will definitely follow in the footstep of a presidential giant. As an aside, I hope the voting public will evaluate the Republican/Tea Party in a fair and balanced manner. It should be based on the number of their accomplishments for the American people since President Bush left office. That evaluation should be very easy based on the overwhelming number of their accomplishments. At the last count Republicans/Tea Party have ZERO ACCOMPLISHMENTS. If you really want to know which party to support in the upcoming mid-term elections this fall, just ask yourself one important question based on the following. Twenty years ago the Republicans swept into office with their promise in 1994 of a Contract with America. A November 13, 2000 article by Edward H. Crane, president of the libertarian Cato Institute, stated, “…the combined budgets of the 95 major programs that the Contract with America promised to eliminate have increased by 13%.” President Bill Clinton often remarked that the Republicans had actually put forth a “Contract on America.” The question you need to ask yourself and answer is—What part of Contract with America, if any, was ever accomplished by the Republican Party? If the answer is none of it, then you should clearly know which party or candidates to support in the upcoming mid-term elections. Why, you ask? — Because history, including political history, has a habit of repeating itself. The government shutdown, and economic harm that was subsequently felt by the American people a year ago, was caused by Republican/Tea Party members in Congress. I think it is fair to say that any Republican/Tea Party members running in the mid-term elections in 2014 (who supported the government shutdown) should have no subsequent role in that government since they tried to “deep six” it in 2013.

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   Yes Folks! We’re heading for the midterm elections once again. I remember 1994’s midterm election when the Republicans swept into office with their Contract with America. That ended the sole control the Democrats had during Bill Clinton’s first term in office. Is it better when one political party has control of the Congress, or is it better when there is a stalemate or Gridlock? Gridlock, as you should recall, is where nothing gets done, everything gets tied up, legislation is always pending or in somebody’s desk top, and there is continuous bi-partisan bickering and an ongoing stalemate between Democrats and Republicans to the point where the American voter is wringing his hands in utter frustration.

     Traditionally, Wall Street does very well under gridlock in Washington—while Main Street gets screwed by gridlock. And, by the way, don’t target all your frustration on the politicians in Washington. They have value conflicts that pretty much reflect value conflicts in the general population. Perhaps democracy works best when one political party has an ironclad hold on the nation. This is because with an ironclad control by one party in Congress at least desired goals and objectives usually get done for the American people.

     The question the American people must constantly ask is—are the things being achieved in Congress what you want as an individual voter?  Because different voting blocks tend to have different values, and thus a different political agenda, the dilemma between having a Congress in Gridlock versus having only one party in absolute control isn’t going to be resolved any time soon.

 Does the Public Want to Relive 1994?

      The country appears to be headed for another 1994 type of election. But you have to ask yourself another question: What was the result of ending the gridlock in 1994? Was it good for the nation? First, let’s look at the promises made in Contract with America:

 THE REPUBLICAN CONTRACT WITH AMERICA

(Circa 1994, by Newt Gingrich & Co)

     On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:

  • FIRST, require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply equally to the Congress;
  • SECOND, select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;
  • THIRD, cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
  • FOURTH, limit the terms of all committee chairs;
  • FIFTH, ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;
  • SIXTH, require committee meetings to be open to the public;
  • SEVENTH, require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;
  • EIGHTH, guarantee an honest accounting of our Federal Budget by implementing zero base-line budgeting.

What Was The Impact of 1994 Contract with America?

 Not much really except a lot of Republicans got elected and there was a return to business as usual.  

However, it seems to me there were a few good ideas for legislation put forward by the Republican Party in 1994. So, what really happened as a result of ending Gridlock in 1994? Some observers cite the Contract with America as having helped secure a decisive victory for the Republicans in the 1994 elections; others dispute this role, noting its late introduction into the campaign.

Whatever the role of the Contract, Republicans were elected to a majority of both houses of Congress for the first time since 1953, and several parts of the Contract were enacted. Some elements did not pass in Congress, while others were vetoed by, or substantially altered in negotiations with, President Bill Clinton, who would later sarcastically refer to it as the “Contract on America.”

How Will You Decide in 2010?

     You will have to decide as a voter whether the last two years (2008-2010) was more successful under the OBama Administration in meeting the needs of the nation than the Republicans might be if they take back the Congress in 2010. If the Republicans win it will thus set a new agenda for the nation (Promise to America) for 2010-2012.

     The irony of this upcoming election is that the Republicans, while wanting to end gridlock in a similar fashion as 1994, has done everything in their power to  create Gridlock between 2008-2010. The Republican posture during the last two years has been to create or foster stalemates, block proposals, and maintain a constantly uncooperative, if not destructive, attitude toward getting things done. The Republicans basically created their own form of gridlock thus doing nothing to help a traumatized nation dealing with a severe recession and high unemployment. Rather than compromise or work closely with democrats—the Republicans preferred to be obstructionist.  Does the public in the upcoming midterm election of 2010 want to reward that kind of behavior?

     Much of your decision-making will rest, of course, upon whether you believe (ideologically or otherwise) the nation is going in the right direction or not, and whether in troubled economic times, you also believe one party rather than the other is better at achieving what you hold to be important for the nation as a whole. It will be a balance between how you value the accomplishments of the democratic party versus how you value the accomplishments of the Republican Party during the last two years. One doesn’t have to vote based on promises made; in this situation, one can actually evaluate each party’s accomplishments during the last two years.

     It is said that actions always speak louder than words. It’s fair to say that past actions of the Republicans, especially under the leadership of George Bush, spoke volumes about their failure to respect the wishes of the American voters, which is why they lost so badly to the democrats in 2008. The vast majority of Americans in 2008 felt the agenda of Barack OBama was the right course for the nation.

     Therefore, one needs to put the accomplishments of both parties during the last two years under the microscope again to see if it meets your criteria for the “Right Course for the Nation.” Is it an election about the Goals and Objectives of two differing political parties, or is it about the Methods used to achieve their respective goals and objectives. The public is usually quite good at articulating their personal goals and objectives for the nation. They are, however, usually unknowledgeable about how best to achieve those goals. That’s why the public elects others to Congress who are presumably more knowledgeable in matters of methods. One area the public is sorely unknowledgeable is in the area of Economics and Economic Theory.

      In addition, the voter brings to this entire process a lot of excess baggage. As I see it, the American people are extremely fickle, very impatient, have a short memory, and public polls indicate national preferences are once again for Republican candidates and a conservative agenda as reflected by the Tea Party movement. So, what in the world does an intelligent prudent voter do when the country is constantly fickle every 2-4 years bordering on a “Psychos-R-Us” mentality?  

     The year 2008 promised much change in Washington (just like 1994) following the public’s disgust with Republican Wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and an escalating national debt that knew no ceiling, and a financial meltdown that came inches close to putting the country into another 1930s type depression.

     So, now that the American people have had some experience with the OBama administration, the new democratic administration had a chance to control the congress thus ending once again (in theory at least) gridlock in Washington (sort of —but not really with Republican obstruction).

     It is the position of The Reasoned Society that the only intelligent way to approach the upcoming midterm election is to contrast the accomplishments of the OBama administration with the accomplishments of the Republican Party in Congress the last two years. It is not the position of The Reasoned Society that a democratic society works best when absolutely nothing gets done.

      Let’s look now at some of the accomplishments of the OBama administration first, followed by the accomplishments of the Republican Party. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide which political party or agenda, as reflected by their accomplishments, are worthy of your vote in the upcoming election. Here they are:

 OBama Administration’s Accomplishments

OBama had numerous accomplishments in his very first year in office.

Passing Stimulus, Generating Jobs

     On February 17, 2009, OBama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill into law. In December 2009, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report estimating that “in the third quarter of calendar year 2009, an additional 600,000 to 1.6 million people were employed in the United States” due to that legislation. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, CBO has increased its estimate to 800,000 to 2.4 million additional employed through the fourth quarter of that year. Moreover, a November 20, 2009, New York Times article reported that the “consensus” among “dispassionate analysts” is that “the stimulus package, messy as it is, is working,” citing nonpartisan analyses of gross domestic product and total employment figures by several companies specializing in economic forecasting. Further, a January 25 USA Today article stated that, according to its “quarterly survey of 50 economists,” “[u]nemployment would have hit 10.8% — higher than December’s 10% rate — without OBama’s $787 billion stimulus program,” adding, “The difference would translate into another 1.2 million lost jobs.”

Eliminating Wasteful Spending

     OBama was able to achieve some significant cuts to wasteful spending — most notably, the elimination of the F-22 fighter jet program after he successfully lobbied the Senate to vote to strip out financing for more jets from a defense funding authorization bill. The Washington Times reported on January 14 that OBama won “60 percent of his proposed cuts” and also managed “to get Congress to ax several programs that had bedeviled President George W. Bush for years.”

Sotomayor Nomination

     On May 26, 2009, OBama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court to replace the retiring Justice David Souter. She was confirmed by the Senate on August 6, 2009, and sworn in August 8, making her the first Hispanic justice, and only the third woman, on the court.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

     The first bill President OBama signed into law, on January 29, 2009, was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which expands the rights of workers to sue employers over wage discrimination claims.

SCHIP Expansion

     On February 5, 2009, OBama signed a bill expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover 4 million more lower-income children.

Public Lands Bill

     On March 30, OBama signed an omnibus public lands bill, which The New York Times reported “allows for 2 million more acres to be declared wilderness… [with] more than 1,000 miles designated as scenic rivers, and adds land for national trails.”

Credit Card Reform

     On May 21, 2009, OBama signed into law a bill providing what USA Today called the “most sweeping changes to the credit card industry in 40 years,” adding restrictions on interest rate increases and fees and restricting the marketing of credit cards to college students.

Transparency

     The Washington Post reported that moves by the OBama administration to improve government transparency “included a ban on lobbyist gifts; restrictions on the hiring of lobbyists; publication of White House visitor logs and other records; and a move to bar lobbyists from serving on advisory boards.” A report by Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters, and U.S. PIRG stated that: “The cumulative effect of the Administration’s actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities.”

Tobacco Regulation

     On June 22, 2009, OBama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which, for the first time, gave the U.S. Food & Drug Administration the authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing, and sale of tobacco.

National Service

     On April 21, 2009, OBama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expands the scope of AmeriCorps and provides opportunities for young people and senior citizens to join in service programs.

Stem Cell Research

     On May 9, 2009, Obama signed an executive order easing restrictions on the use of federal money for embryonic stem cell research.

— T.K.

Recent Accomplishments

The following was written by Eugene Robinson recently for the Washington Post.

      In less than two years in office, the Obama Administration has made some incredible progress, from passing historic health reform to reining in Wall Street and fighting to create new jobs. Even so, sometimes it can feel like all of the day-to-day news is focused on the negative, without much emphasis on the real changes the President has made with the help of supporters around the country. For a look at some of the great accomplishments in just the past few weeks—including troops leaving Iraq, bringing the auto industry back from the brink of collapse, and containing the oil spill in the Gulf.

     This is a radical break from journalistic convention, I realize, but today I’d like to give credit where it’s due — specifically, to President Obama. Quiet as it’s kept, he’s on a genuine winning streak. It’s hard to remember that the inauguration was just 19 months ago. Expectations of the new president were absurdly high. If Obama had done back flips across the Potomac River, when he reached the other side he’d have faced probing questions about why it was taking him so long to cure cancer, solve the Arab-Israeli conflict and usher in an age of universal peace and prosperity. But look at what he’s accomplished in just the past few weeks. Let me highlight four recent headlines.

     “Last U.S. combat troops leave Iraq”: Obama campaigned as an early and vocal opponent of the Iraq war, calling it a distraction from the more important conflict in Afghanistan. When he took office, there were about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq on the heels of George W. Bush’s combat surge. Obama said he would bring our combat forces home and he did — ahead of schedule…. “General Motors to launch stock offering”: One of the many crises Obama faced when he took office was the imminent collapse of an iconic industrial giant….Obama ended up pouring $50 billion into the company, acquiring a 61 percent ownership stake.

     Critics complained about the advent of “Government Motors” and raised the specter of bureaucrats in Washington holding public hearings to redesign the Corvette. But now, after making more than $2 billion in profits so far this year, the restructured company is confident enough to sell stock on Wall Street — and begin repaying the government’s investment. The company was saved, workers kept their jobs, and taxpayers are going to get their money back. That’s nice work.”Gulf oil spill contained”: When BP’s Deepwater Horizon well went rogue, the Obama administration was criticized for being slow off the mark. Some of the criticism was justified — the initial response did seem unfocused. But the administration managed to turn things around and quiet any talk of “Obama’s Katrina.”

     Obama persuaded BP to put up $20 billion as a guarantee that the Gulf Coast residents whose livelihoods were damaged or destroyed by the spill would be compensated….

     And finally, “President wades into mosque controversy”: Yes, I’m serious. Supporting the mosque in Lower Manhattan didn’t score any political points. But Obama saw his duty to uphold the values of our Constitution and make clear that our fight is against the terrorists, not against Islam itself. Instead of doing what was popular, he did what was right.

     He still hasn’t walked on water, though. What’s wrong with the man?

 Republican Party Accomplishments, 2008-2010

     Below are the accomplishments of the Republican Party in Congress during the last two years, 2008-2010.

 

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Summary

You should know that the economy and jobs are the nation’s principal issues this midterm election.

     You should also understand that economic cycles based on economic principals have a life of its own, and no administration (Democrat or Republican) can ever fully control it. Twenty-four months from now the economy will be booming again, and unemployment will be below 6 percent. The unemployment rate during the depression of the 1930s was 25% of the nation’s workforce. By comparison, we are already in good times, and soon we will return to great times. This is the real world folks and it is best if you understand that if you’re ever going to be a wise, sagacious and prudent voter.

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