Monday, September 01, 2014


(Image is from Labor Day 2014.)

I want to wish all of my readers a very happy Labor Day holiday. This is one of my favorite holidays, because it honors the millions of Americans who work hard for their families, their communities, and their country -- and the labor movement which makes life better for those millions of workers.

Living In A "Campaign-Free Zone" ?

(The image above is from the website Novinar.me.)

We're just a couple of months away from an important election -- an election that will determine which party controls Congress for the next couple of years (which will determine whether anything is accomplished or we continue to have a federal government that is dysfunctional and refuses to compromise on anything). And in many parts of this country the two political parties are fighting tooth-and-nail for every vote they can get.

People all over the country have been inundated with political ads (TV, radio, newspapers, yard signs, etc.). It is estimated that over $1 billion has already been spent on political advertising for the 2014 election -- and much more will be spent before election day. Some estimate the final total will be around $4 billion. At least $84 million has been spent on just three senate races ($36 million in Kentucky, $28 million in North Carolina, and $18 million in Iowa) -- and that doesn't count the other senate races or the 435 House races.

In other words, in many parts of the country, an election ad will be the first thing a person sees when they open their eyes in the morning, and the last thing they see before closing their eyes to go to sleep. You might notice I said "in many parts of the country". That's because here in Amarillo (the largest city in the Texas Panhandle), we seem to be living in a campaign-free zone. While others are already sick of seeing campaign ads, it is rare in this part of Texas to see one of those ads (even though Texas has both a senate and governor's race this year).

I don't think this is because there aren't as many votes up here as in other parts of Texas -- because in a close election the Panhandle votes could be the deciding factor. I suspect it is because this is a very red part of Texas -- perhaps the reddest. The Democratic candidates seem to have written the Panhandle off as being a lost cause -- and the Republican candidates see no reason to spend campaign money in an area the Democrats aren't contesting. Frankly, I think this is a mistake.

While most people elsewhere would like to see less campaign ads -- I would like to see more. While Republicans outnumber Democrats about 3 to 1 here, there are a lot of Independents (probably more than both parties put together). And those Independents are not going to vote for anyone who has not asked for their votes (something I believe is true of voters anywhere). A few of them might go to the polls (and vote like their neighbor), but I suspect most of them will just stay home (because they have not been given a reason to vote for anyone).

Democrats have been trying to establish a get-out-the-vote campaign up here -- but that just identifies those who are Democrats (or leaning that way) and trying to get them to the polls. That needed to be done, but that will not end the GOP dominance in the Panhandle. We must reach out to Independents, and give them a reason to go to the polls and vote Democratic -- and that won't happen until Democratic candidates spend some campaign money here to ask for those votes.

It may sound strange to those of you in other states (or other areas of Texas), but I would like to see a lot more campaign ads in the Panhandle -- because that would mean the parties are actually fighting for the votes up here.

Labor Day

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at cagle.com.

A Bad Week For Abbott (Or Is It Several Bad Years) ?

(This image is from a political ad by the Texas Democratic Party.)

Both the media and many political blogs are saying last week was a bad week for Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott (the current attorney general in Texas) -- and they do have a point. Abbott embarrassed himself and his campaign by trying to back out of a statewide televised debate with Democrat Wendy Davis. And when he saw the bad publicity he got for that, he is now trying to arrange another debate through a different media outlet -- hoping to give the public the impression that he was not treated fairly by the media outlet that organized the debate (WFAA-TV). That's ridiculous, but he's just trying to save face after pulling a political blunder.

And that wasn't the only bad news for Abbott last week. As Attorney General, he lost two cases last week -- one in federal court and another in a state court. In the federal court case, Abbott was trying to defend an anti-abortion statute it took the Republican-dominated two special sessions to pass (and which would have closed almost all clinics in Texas that perform abortions). But Abbott lost the case, as a federal judge ruled that the two most onerous sections of that law are unconstitutional, and he must now try to defend this bad law in a higher federal court.

In the Texas court, a judge ruled that the school finance plan passed by that same GOP-dominated legislature violated the Texas constitution. The judge said the plan was not fair to all school districts, especially after the Republicans cut $5 billion in state funding from education. The solidly Republican Texas Supreme Court might save Abbott on this suit (since they never vote against corporations, and may be afraid a new plan might tax those corporations a little), but it won't happen before election day.

I can't argue that it was a very bad week for the Attorney General who thinks he should be governor. But I would like to remind folks that this is nothing new for Abbott. He has lost a whole series of cases he has taken to court while Attorney General.

Abbott tried to get federal education funds restored after Texas refused to abide by federal guidelines -- and he lost. Abbott tried to restore the right of the TCEQ to license Texas power and chemical plants after the EPA took over licensing (because the TCEQ was allowing too much pollution from those plants) -- and he lost. Abbott joined AG's from other states and tried to get Obamacare overturned -- and he lost. Abbott took the EPA to court to overturn their rule that polluting states like Texas must stop sending their pollution to downwind states -- and he lost. And those are just a few of the cases that Abbott has lost during his tenure.

Now you may be thinking Abbott must be an incredibly incompetent attorney (and that may well be part of the problem). But the biggest reason he loses almost all of the cases he's involved in is because he has no respect for the law -- either state or federal law. Abbott files or defends cases to please the teabaggers (since they control the Republican Party in this red state) -- and has little to no regard for whether those cases are justified under the law or not.

Greg Abbott hasn't just had a bad week -- he has had a bad several years. Do we really want someone like this to be governor?

"Out To Lunch"

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Latest U.S. Numbers On Global Climate Change Crisis

The numbers in the charts above are from the Rasmussen Poll -- the latest being done on August 26th and 27th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of 3 points.

Note that a clear majority of Americans (60%) now believe global climate change (more commonly referred to as global warming) is a serious issue. And since the beginning of 2012, a widening percentage of Americans think it is caused by human activity (rather than some planetary trend).

So, why isn't our government taking action to control this serious issue? Anyone who has been paying attention for the last few years should know the answer to that question. Any sufficient action would require corporations to stop polluting and clean up their act -- which would cost them some money. And they don't want to spend that money, so they have instead bought enough politicians (sadly, of both political parties) to make sure that doesn't happen.

This is just one more disadvantage of living in a corporate-controlled plutocracy.

The Unemployment Game

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at leftycartoons.com.

More Of Bernie's Wisdom

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Shameful! - The Obama Administration Helped American Corporations Abuse Poor Workers In Haiti

(This image of Haitian garment workers is from the website Haiti Chery.)

I am beginning to understand why the U.S. government was so upset at the secrets being exposed by WikiLeaks. It had nothing to do with any Americans being put in danger (because they just didn't happen). But it did expose some really shameful exploits engaged in by the government of this country. I would love to tell you that all of those shameful exploits were done by the Republicans, but sadly, that is not true. Consider the following example of an action by the Obama administration -- an action that should embarrass all true Democrats.

Back in 2012, the minimum wage for a Haitian garment worker was 24 cents an hour (about $1.92 a day, or $9.60 for a 40 hour week). Even in a poor country like Haiti, those are some dreadful wages. The Haitian government decided to help those workers by raising the minimum wage to a whopping 61 cents an hour (about $4.88 for an 8 hour day, or $24.40 for a 40 hour week).

Now that may sound like a huge raise in pay to some of you, but the truth is that it would still leave many of those workers in poverty. It takes $12.50 a day for a Haitian family with two children to meet their expenses. But the American corporations doing business in Haiti (like Hanes and Levi Strauss) showed they don';t care about their workers. They weren't happy with just keeping those workers in poverty -- they wanted to continue shamelessly abusing them. So they complained to the Obama administration.

And the Obama administration listened to that outrageous corporate whining -- and put pressure on the Haitian government to stop the minimum wage raise to 61 cents an hour. And that pressure worked. The Haitian government capitulated and granted a raise to only 31 cents an hour (about $2.48 for an 8 hour day, or $12.40 for a 40 hour week).

Frankly, I'm shocked. The United States government had no business interfering in the economic affairs of another country. We certainly wouldn't let Haiti (or any other country) tell us what our minimum wage should be, and we shouldn't be telling them. If anything, we should be encouraging them to mandate a wage that would lift workers out of poverty (and our government should be mandating a wage in our own country that does the same).

It just goes to show what many claim may be true -- that we no longer live in a democracy, but a corporatocracy. And both parties are to blame. The Republicans encouraged the outsourcing of these American jobs and even provided corporations with tax breaks to do it (tax breaks which are still in effect). Now we learn that Democrats are caving in to corporate wishes to help them continue their abuse of foreign workers. Is it any wonder that the American middle class is disappearing and American workers can't get an even break? It's because that's what our corporate masters want.


Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Senate Races In Arkansas And Michigan

Republicans thought they would have a pretty easy time taking the senate seat away from the Democrats in Arkansas. After all, Arkansas is a pretty red state. But the latest Rasmussen Poll (taken on August 25th and 26th of 750 likely Arkansas voters, with a margin of error of 4 points) shows this race has turned into a real dogfight. The race is currently a dead heat -- with 44% supporting Pryor (D) and 43% supporting Cotton (R). The Republicans could still win this seat, but I'm starting to think Pryor may actually hold on to it for the Democrats.

Meanwhile, a different poll shows the Democrats in good shape to win the open senate seat in Michigan. It is the EPIC-MRA Poll (taken between August 22nd and 25th of 600 likely Michigan voters, with a 4 point margin of error). That survey shows Democrat Gary Peters leading Republican Terri Lynn Land by a six point margin.

A Choice ?

Political Cartoon is by Lee Judge in the Kansas City Star.

The 40 Hour Work Week Is A Thing Of The Past For Many

Unions fought long and hard for the 40 hour work week, but with the decline of unions (thanks to Republican policies that make it harder to unionize and easier for companies to bust unions), that 40 hour work week is disappearing (see top chart for average hours). The average work week for a full-time worker in the United States is now 47 hours long (44 hours for workers paid on an hourly basis, and 49 hours for workers on a fixed salary).

The bottom chart shows the percentage of workers who must now work overtime. Note that half (50%) of full-time workers now work more than 40 hours a week (with 11% working 40 to 49 hours, 21% working 50 to 59 hours, and 18% working 60 hours or more a week).

With the many millions of unemployed people in this country, one would think employers would hire some more workers since they current employees aren't able to get the required work done in a 40 hour week. But they aren't doing that. Evidently they have decided it is cheaper to just work the workers they have more hours than to hire more workers.

Those who bear the brunt of this new extended work week are the salaried workers -- probably because hourly workers must be paid overtime, while in many companies salaried workers are not paid overtime for the extra hours. Note that only 38% of hourly workers work more than 40 hours, while a whopping 59% of salaried workers do so (with 9% working 41 to 49 hours, 25% working 50 to 59 hours, and 25% working 60 or more hours a week).

The only thing most workers have to sell is their labor --  the time they spend working for pay. It looks to me like employers have just found another way to steal the labor of their employees, especially the salaried employees. Republicans don't see anything wrong with this, because for them a company or corporation can do no wrong. In fact, many of them would be happy to abolish the minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor laws to please their corporate masters. I disagree. I think all workers should be paid a wage that keeps them out of poverty, and should be paid overtime for any work over 40 hours -- even salaried workers. Anything less than that is just theft -- and should be punished as severely as any other kind of theft.

These charts were made from information contained in a recent Gallup Poll. The survey was done between August 7th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,032 adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points.

Thing 1 And Thing 2

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in the Charlotte Observer.

He/She Just Isn't There

(The comic above is from the website Mimi and Eunice.)

The following post was written by Jared over at Atheism Resource.com. Those who think god can or will fix all the problems in their life won't like it -- but they are the very ones who need to read it the most.

Dear Christian,
I’m not there. I wasn’t in the operating room when your mother had cancer, I wasn’t in the car when your best friend crashed into the median, I wasn’t there when your favorite sports team won the big game. I didn’t show up to your son’s baptism, nor was I present when he was born. I didn’t stop thousands of children from being abused in my supposed house of worship, I didn’t prevent the genocide against my own people at the hands of Adolf Hitler.
I have never been present in the most disease-infested, impoverished continent on the planet. I don’t make it rain, regardless of how many people put their hands together and beg for it. I’ve never been in your schools, your homes, your churches, or your workplaces. I wasn’t there when a maniacal young man killed 26 people, many of whom were toddlers.
I never stopped any leader, in any part of the world, from waging war against others. I don’t care about people being executed, or fetuses being aborted, or gays being allowed to marry. Did it ever bother you that when randomly good things happen to people who live in civilized parts of the world, I always get credit – but when bad things happen in underdeveloped countries, it’s apparently going toward some sort of master plan of mine? There is no master plan. There never has been.
Have you really been convinced that I, the alleged sculptor of this complex reality, care about what human beings do? Did you convince your feeble mind that I care who a person chooses to love? You really think that I created the vastly confusing world of sub-atomic particles, but it bothers me when a woman menstruates?
Do you think I’m petty enough to only care about people who worship me? If I created the entire Universe, and gravity, and atoms, do you truly believe I’m ignorant enough to not recognize the fallibility of my own biological creations? Do you really think I created you, a mere human, in my image? Do you truly believe you’re the best I could have come up with? Do you think a parent who loves his children would allow them to senselessly murder, rape, and hurt one another every single day just so I could give you the ability to choose whether or not you spend an afterlife with me?
“You cannot conceive, nor can I, the appalling nature of the mercy of God,” said Graham Greene.
Do you know why you cannot understand it? Because I simply do not exist. I’ve never existed. I have never been there with you. I have never intervened on behalf of you. I have never helped you acquire a job, or meet that perfect match, or find your car keys. Young children die every single day from starvation, cancer, AIDS, and a slew of other things. If I do not care about the most innocent among you, what makes you think I would care about someone perfectly capable of taking care of themselves?
There is no place for children to go when they die. They cease to exist, much like you, one day, will cease to exist. Your grandmother is not seated next to the human version of myself that I sacrificed to create a loophole for rules that I designed. You will never see your loved ones again. I do not welcome the people you care about into some otherworldly place where everyone gets to sit around and worship me for all of eternity.
I’m not there, dear believer. I never have been.
The truth is, you always ask me to do things for you, but the only person who has the power to make the world a better place is reading this letter right now.
If you want to live in a world that’s peaceful, harmonious, and just – then it’s on you and the rest of your species to make it happen.
I have never had any power to make the world better. But, you do.


The God Who Wasn’t There

Not Like A Family Budget

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at leftycartoons.com.

No Answers In Religion

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Trickle-Down" Has Never Worked

Judge Tosses Two Provisions Of Texas' Anti-Abortion Law

(The cartoon image above is by Bill Day at cagle.com.)

It took two special sessions of the legislature to do it (because Wendy Davis filibustered it to death in the first session), but the Republicans finally got their onerous anti-abortion law passed. They claimed the law was to protect the health of Texas women, but that was a lie since it did nothing to protect women's heal -- in fact, it hurt women's health in the state by closing down many heal clinics (the ones offering women the option of an abortion). And that is exactly what the Republicans wanted -- to make it much harder for any Texas women to choose to have an abortion (which is their constitutional right).

The two worst provisions of the law made it mandatory for any doctor performing an abortion to have hospital privileges within a certain small area, and required the health clinics offering the procedure to meet the stringent requirements of an ambulatory surgical center. These requirements have already caused 21 clinics to close (from 41 in June 2013 to 20 in June 2014), and when it went into effect next month would cause the closing of another 15 clinics -- leaving only 5 clinics open in the entire state (and posing a terrible burden on women who do not live near a huge urban area (like Dallas or Houston). This would require some women to travel 300 to 500 miles to exercise their constitutional right to choice.

Fortunately, the women of Texas got a reprieve from this onerous law. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down both of these provisions of the law as unconstitutional. The judge said in his opinion:

The clinic closings attributable to the act’s two requirements will undeniably reduce meaningful access to abortion care for women throughout Texas…House Bill 2’s ambulatory-surgical-center requirement burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United State Constitution of the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. 

When viewed in the context of the other state-imposed obstacles a woman faces when seeking an abortion in Texas—including a sonogram requirement, a waiting period, the reduced number of abortion-performing physicians resulting from the admitting privilege requirement—the court is firmly convinced that the State has placed unreasonable obstacles in the path of woman’s ability to obtain a previability abortion. These substantial obstacles have reached a tipping point that threatens to “chip away at the private choice shielded by Roe”... 

This is only a reprieve though, and I'm sure the Republican-dominated state government of Texas will appeal the ruling. The good news is that since this is the decision of a federal judge, it can't be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court (made up entirely of right-wing Republicans). The bad news is that a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court could go either way on the matter. Both the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have small conservative majorities, and have drawn a very nebulous line regarding a woman's right to choice.

Summer Vacation Is Over

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.

Congressional Job Approval Numbers For August

These are the very latest job approval numbers for Congress. As you can see, the numbers have not gotten any better (and are unlikely to improve before election day). The voters are still very angry with Congress -- and their inability to compromise on anything. Any congressperson in an even slightly competitive district should be scared to death.

Teabagger Hypocrisy

Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at Politico.com.

Greg Abbott "Chickens Out" Of The Only Statewide Televised Debate With His Democratic Opponent

This is no surprise to many of us familiar with politics in the state of Texas. I was surprised that Abbott ever agreed to a debate with Wendy Davis in the first place. He is an incompetent, and has survived so far just because he caters to the wishes and fears of the teabaggers (who control the Republican Party in Texas). Now he is backing out of that one debate he agreed to participate in.

And Abbott wouldn't even face the media in doing that, but hands the job off to his aides. Those aides say he is backing out of the debate because of an "inability to agree on the specifics of a format". That's ridiculous. Here is what Mike Devlin, the president and general manager of WFAA-TV (who is the primary media outlet broadcasting the debate), had to say about Abbott dropping out:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Abbott campaign has not lived up to the commitment it made to participate in this important debate. WFAA has produced numerous debates which are balanced and fair to all the candidates. This debate would be no different. The citizens of Texas deserve to hear from the candidates for the most important office in the state.”

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/08/29/6077600/abbott-backs-out-of-only-statewide.html#storylink=cpy

The Wendy Davis campaign was quick to pounce on Abbott's withdrawal, saying:

“It's no surprise that Greg Abbott is pulling out of a long planned debate the day after he was defeated in court for protecting billions in public education cuts that have led to overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and shuttered schools.” 
“Greg Abbott is clearly too afraid to defend his record of siding with insiders at the expense of Texans — whether it's defending funding cuts for classrooms, siding with a corporation against a victim of rape or letting his donors take tens of millions of taxpayer dollars intended for cancer research. This is nothing short of an insult to the voters of Texas."

That's a lot closer to the truth. Abbott started remembering his own record of incompetence and the rhetorical skills of his opponent -- and realized the debate would do nothing but cost him votes. The Lone Star Project calls him a coward for refusing to debate (and I have to agree with them). Here is what the Lone Star Project had to say:

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/08/29/6077600/abbott-backs-out-of-only-statewide.html#storylink=cpyThat's a lot closer to the truth. Abbott started remembering his own record of incompetence and the rhetorical skills of his opponent -- and realized the debate would do nothing but cost him votes. The Lone Star Project calls him a coward for refusing to debate (and I have to agree with them). Here is what the Lone Star Project had to say:
In Texas, we don’t call anyone a coward, unless we mean it and can back it up.

Greg Abbott is a coward.

For the first time in more than a decade, Texans have an open-seat election for Governor.  Every Texan, regardless of their party affiliation or ideological beliefs deserves to hear directly from the candidates - to see them exchange ideas and compare their visions for the future in a non–partisan debate.

Greg Abbott pledged to participate in only one statewide televised debate.  After giving his word to the debate sponsor, WFAA Television, Abbott reversed field and broke his promise to attend and participate.  No credible excuse involving his health, a family emergency or any other plausible explanation for backing out has been given. 

He may be afraid to face Senator Davis. He may be afraid to face the voters. He may even be trying to manipulatively "shop around" for a different debate venue where he feels he has a better chance of controlling the rules or the format, the questions or the size of the viewership.

Whatever the reason, Greg Abbott is backing out of the only this statewide debate because he knows that his appearance in a fair forum, comparing ideas and visions with Wendy Davis will cost him votes.  A debate risks exposing him as a career politician who has used his time on the public payroll to become nothing but another selfish insider - looking out for other insiders and doing damage to Texans who work hard every day to get ahead.

Strength, courage and honor are fundamental requirements to serve as Texas Governor.  Greg Abbott today demonstrated that he lacks all three.

UPDATE -- It looks like Abbott couldn't stand the criticism he got by backing out of the statewide televised debate with Wendy Davis. His campaign is now saying Abbott will participate in the September 30th debate from Dallas. In addition, they are also agreeing to statewide televising of a debate in McAllen earlier. He is getting one small face-saving move. The Dallas debate will not be officially held by WFAA-TV (even though there is no real reason to change the media). Evidently Abbott is more afraid now of being perceived as running away from a woman, than he is of being beaten in a debate by a woman.

SECOND UPDATE -- We now learn that Abbott has agreed to a debate on KERA-TV, but he did that unilaterally -- without asking Wendy Davis, or clearing it with her campaign. It looks like compromise and agreeing on rules is not part of Abbott's game plan (just like other teabaggers). It's his way or the highway. This makes me wonder just what kind of nefarious thing KERA-TV agreed to, and why something couldn't be worked out with WFAA-TV and the Davis campaign. The Davis campaign has now responded by saying:

"There have been reports that the Abbott campaign has 'committed' to another debate, but as we learned today Greg Abbott's commitments don't mean very much. Wendy Davis has already committed the evening of September 30 to a debate on WFAA. The station has asked to have a discussion on Tuesday, September 2, to discuss options given the recent developments and, as Wendy Davis is someone who honors her commitments, the campaign looks forward to having that discussion."


Political Cartoon is by Bill Bramhall in the New York Daily News.

Jim Hightower Blasts Businesses Paying A "Poverty Wage"

(This photo of Jim Hightower is from the Texas Tribune.)

I have made it clear many times on this blog that I believe the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a poverty wage -- and nothing more than wage theft. But Jim Hightower, one of the leading progressives in the Lone Star State, has a way with words (that I only wish I had) -- so I bring you his latest remarks on the minimum wage from his own excellent website:

The good news is that it's not all bad news these days.

Take the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – please! That's a poverty wage, a shameful stain on our extremely rich nation. But don't count on Washington to lift our wage floor – indeed, pigheaded Republican congress critters refuse to consider it, even declaring there should be no wage floor to sustain America's middle-class framework.

So where's the good news? Probably right where you live. Millions of low-wage workers themselves – from fast food workers to adjunct college professors – have been organizing and mobilizing, pushing local leaders to take action against the immoral inequality that's ripping our society apart and sinking our economy. Sure enough, local officials are responding – Seattle, Chicago, New York City, Austin, Providence, San Francisco, and even Oklahoma City, as well as other locales, either have raised their wage floors or are battling the corporate lobbyists to get the job done.

And here's a pleasant surprise: Breaking away from the McDonald's-Domino-Taco Bell herd of low-wage exploiters, several smaller fast food chains are acting on their own, raising their starting pay levels as high as $15 an hour, plus benefits. The Boloco burrito chain in New England, for example, has raised its minimum to $9 an hour, plus subsidizing its employees' commuting costs and contributing to their 401(k) fund. A Boloco co-founder says, "If we're talking about building a business that's successful, but our employees can't go home and pay their bills, to me that success is a farce."

Exactly! If you can't pay your workers a decent wage, then you don't have a legitimate business. The multimillion-dollar executives at poverty-pay outfits like McDonald's aren't running a business, they're running a labor extortion racket.

No Policy That Works ?

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at leftycartoons.com.

War For The 1%

Friday, August 29, 2014

The U.S. Creates Its Own Wars

The U.S. Has Problems Because It's Still Too Segregated

The United States Constitution guarantees equal rights under the law to all American citizens, and anyone with a bit of common sense knows that equal rights cannot exist until equal opportunity also exists. This is so important that the country passed a series of civil rights laws back in the 1960's. They did that because too many states (primarily in the South, where segregation was the law) were ignoring the constitutional guarantees.

Unfortunately, that did not solve the nation's racial problems -- either among people or under the law. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention has to know that Blacks (and other minorities as well) are not treated equally to Whites in this country. The past couple of weeks this has been shown by the actions in Ferguson, Missouri -- where the unequal treatment of Blacks by the police has come to a head. It's not just in Ferguson though. It occurs across the country, and in more aspects of our society than just the police (schools, workplaces, courts, etc.).

Of course this brings up the question -- why is this still true? If we have laws that eliminate discrimination, and most Americans believe people should be treated equally (and I think most Americans do believe that), then why does racism and discrimination continue to exist? Why haven't we put this sickness behind us by now?

A big clue to finding that answer can be seen in the results of a survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute in their American Values Survey. They came up with the chart above from the results of that survey -- and I have to admit the results they show are rather shocking. It seems that will segregation has been outlawed legally, it is still practiced by most Americans.

It shows that, on average, if Whites had 100 friends then 91 of those friends would be other Whites. And remember, this is an average, meaning far too many Whites would have no true friends of any other race or ethnicity (although I suspect many would try to counter this by claiming casual acquaintances as friends). Blacks do a little better, by having 83 of their 100 friends to be other Blacks.

To be blunt -- we still live in a segregated society. It may not be legal segregation, but it is segregation nonetheless -- a segregation of personal choice. And that is just sad. How are we to understand the problems faced by others when we don't socialize with them or spend much time around them? If we don't engage with people of a different racial or ethnic background, it makes it much easier to ignore the problems they face (and assume they have only the same problems we have). In short, it makes it easier for Whites to ignore the continuing realities of racism and bigotry in this country.

This self-imposed segregation is hurting us, both as individuals and as a nation. Our lives are enriched when we embrace people of other races, ethnicities, and cultures. It broadens our views and opens our minds -- and allows us to escape the tiny world we were born into.

This is not something that will be easy to change, since most people tend to hate change of any kind and are loath to try new things. There is hope though. Young people (the millennials) are breaking this pattern -- and because of that, by the time they become seniors the country could be very different. I certainly hope so. Racism and bigotry are evils, and have no place in a democratic society.

The Burden

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at leftycartoons.com.

The Best Countries For Gays/Lesbians

I thought this was interesting. The Gallup Poll did one of their global surveys, and this time they asked the residents of each country if they thought their country was a good place for gays/lesbians to live -- a country where they could have a good life, free of discrimination. It should be no surprise that the United States did not finish first on this list -- because there is still a lot of ill feeling toward gays/lesbians in this country (mainly from fundamentalists, who use their religion to justify their bigotry). It did finish higher than most other countries though -- coming in 11th in a tie with Denmark.

There are 31 countries on the chart. I picked that number to chart because those were the only countries with at least 50% of their population saying their country was a good place for gays/lesbians to live. All other countries finished below the 50% level (and some countries were down around 1% or 2%).

NOTE -- I believe you can get a larger image by clicking on the chart.


Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

America Is Losing It's Prudishness

For much of this country's history, the American public has been very prudish. Nudity was shocking to most, and sex was considered to be something dirty that could not be talked about (especially in a school health class). Most of Europe and much of Asia have been much more open-minded about nudity and sex -- probably because they don't let religion rule their society as much as we do in America.

But that seems to be changing. This YouGov Poll shows that most people in the U.S. think Americans are too easily offended by sex and nudity. This includes Democrats and Independents. Only the Republicans disagree (and think Americans should be prudish when it comes to sex and nudity) -- but that's understandable since that party has most of the nation's right-wing fundamentalists. And it turns out that both genders, all races, and most age groups also think Americans are too prudish -- with only those 65 and older not agreeing (they are split on the question).

I don't know about you, but I think this is a very good thing. It's about time that Americans grew up, and realized that sex (as long as it is consensual) is a natural thing, and so is nudity. I'm not saying we should all go around nude (I doubt many would want me to do that), but it's not the end of the world (or some kind of sin) to see someone nude.

The charts were made from a survey taken on August 2nd and 3rd of a random national sample of 1,000 American adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points.

Climate Change

Political Cartoon is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The GOP War On The Poor

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time For A Boycott

Black/White Gap Growing On Ferguson Police Actions

I am old enough to remember when segregation of the races was the norm in the South (including my home state of Texas). There were separate restrooms, water fountains, and schools for Blacks and Whites -- and Blacks were not allowed to sit with Whites on transportation vehicles or in restaurants. It was a terrible time, and I never understood why Blacks and Whites weren't treated equally (because, thank goodness, I was not raised by racist parents).

Then we had the turbulent sixties, when Blacks (and some Whites) rose up and demanded change. There were demonstrations throughout the South, and many of those demonstrations turned violent. But Americans in general understood that it was not the demonstrators but the police (spurred on by the White power structure) that was instigating the violence (through arrests of people exercising their constitutional right to assemble, through beatings, and by turning fire hoses and attack dogs on peaceful demonstrators).

That police violence played a big part in turning many Americans (including most Whites) against segregation, and everyone but the racists understood the need for the civil rights laws -- and were happy to see them passed. Unfortunately, too many Whites in America thought that had solved the nation's racial problems. It didn't solve those problems (although it did help some), but it allowed White Americans to once again put the nation's racial problems on the back burner.

But for Black Americans, many racial problems persisted -- especially in how they are treated by the police and in the justice system. And the statistics are there for anyone who wants to see. Blacks are stopped, harassed, beaten, and even killed by the police far more than Whites. And Blacks are sent to prison in far greater numbers than Whites -- even when convicted of the same crimes. But while Blacks must live with these racial problems, Whites don't (and that makes it easy to deny that the problems exist).

Then we had the shooting of an unarmed Black youth in Ferguson by the police -- shot six times while trying to surrender with his arms in the air. That was just one time too many, and the Black community reacted by holding demonstrations. And they were met with a militarized police force (with military uniforms, assault rifles, tear gas, and military vehicles) that treated them as an enemy, rather than American citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble and ask the government for a redress of their grievances. And the police provoked violence -- reminding me of the bad old days when Southern police turned on peaceful demonstrators with violence.

Sadly, the reaction to this police violence was different than it had been back in the sixties. The public (especially Whites) wants now to blame the demonstrators, instead of the police provoking the violence. Note in the charts above that 34% of Whites thought the police violence was reasonable, while only 32% said it was unreasonable -- far different from the 16% of Blacks saying it was reasonable to 48% saying it was unreasonable.

That was bad enough, but in the few days since that first survey the gap between the views on Whites and Blacks has grown wider. Now 45% of Whites see the Ferguson police actions as reasonable to only 14% of Blacks -- and 63% of Blacks see those actions as unreasonable to only 27% of Whites (a whopping 36 point gap).

This leads me to the conclusion that today many Whites don't see (or don't want to see) the racial problems that persist in this country -- and that means those problems will just continue. Problems don't heal themselves in this world -- they just grow worse by being ignored.

NOTE -- The charts above were made from information in surveys taken by the YouGov Poll. The surveys were taken August 14-17 and August 20-21 of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points.