Sunday, June 24, 2018

Antidote


Some Pictures From The Texas Democratic Convention

The Texas Democratic Convention is over now, but it was a good one. The official delegate count was 7,569. It was wonderful to be surrounded by that many good Democrats.

I thought I'd share a few photos I took (and please forgive my poor photography).

The youth movement for saner gun laws and safer schools dropped by, and the convention attendees loved them.

The entrance to the exhibit hall welcoming us Democrats.

Demonstration outside the convention hall for justice.

The concessions area. Food was pretty good at this convention.

This is me with noted atheist Aron Ra at the secular caucus (which was once again overflowing). It was an honor to meet Mr. Ra.

Fort Worth Police had their mounted patrol protecting the convention.

And here are some of my favorite booths at the convention.

The Democratic Party booth.

The Beto for Texas booth.

The Moms Demand Action booth.

The NARAL booth.

The Medical Marijuana booth.

The Texas Freedom Network booth.

The Planned Parenthood booth.

The Stonewall Democrats booth.

The anti-death penalty (tcadp) booth.

Fashion Statements

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

The Trump/Kim Bromance Didn't Last Very Long

(The caricature of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un is by DonkeyHotey.)

Less that two weeks ago Trump was singing the praises of Kim Jong-Un, the dictator of North Korea. He called him a good leader, talented, and trustworthy -- and told Americans that they had nothing more to worry about from North Korea. He said the threat of a nuclear North Korea was over, and it was all due to the marvelous negotiating powers of Donald Trump.

Well, it seems the bromance didn't last very long. Trump is finally starting to realize he got played by the North Korean leader. Trump sent a letter to Congress last Friday. He told them that North Korea's "provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions . . . continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat", and that country continues it's "pursuit of nuclear and missile programs".

I'm glad that Trump is finally realizing what most Americans already knew -- that Kim Jong-Un is a vicious and brutal dictator, and cannot be trusted any more that his father or grandfather.

Fingers Were Crossed

Political Cartoon was by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

GOP Budget Cuts Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, More

(Cartoon image is by Clay Bennett at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.)

A few months ago, the Republicans accomplished their biggest goal -- tax cuts for the rich. They tried to call it a "middle class tax cut", but that was soon exposed as a lie since the richest Americans got over 80% of those cuts.

But the worst part of those tax cuts for the rich was that it is adding about a trillion dollars a year to the deficit and national debt. That's a problem for the GOP, since they have always called themselves the "fiscally responsible" party. They are now trying to lower their self-imposed deficit with their new budget -- and naturally, the burden of their new budget cuts will be put on seniors, the poor, and hard-working Americans. Once again they reward the rich and hurt regular American.

Here is how Erica Werner describes the new GOP budget in The Washington Post:

House Republicans released a proposal Tuesday that would balance the budget in nine years — but only by making large cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare, that President Trump vowed not to touch. . . .

The House Republican budget, titled “A Brighter American Future,” would remake Medicare by giving seniors the option of enrolling in private plans that compete with traditional Medicare, a system of competition designed to keep costs down but dismissed by critics as an effort to privatize the program. Along with other changes, the budget proposes to squeeze $537 billion out of Medicare over the next decade.

The budget would transform Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for the poor, by limiting per capita payments or allowing states to turn it into a block-grant program — the same approach House Republicans took in their legislation that passed last year to repeal the Affordable Care Act (the repeal effort died in the Senate, but the GOP budget assumes that the repeal takes place).  It also proposes adding work requirements for certain adults enrolled in Medicaid. Changes to Medicaid and other health programs would account for $1.5 trillion in savings.

Social Security comes in for more modest cuts of $4 billion over the decade, which the budget projects could be reached by eliminating concurrent receipt of unemployment benefits and Social Security disability insurance.

The budget also proposes a number of other cost-saving measures, some of which could prove unpopular if implemented, such as adding more work requirements for food-stamp and welfare recipients and requiring federal employees — including members of Congress — to contribute more to their retirement plans. It assumes repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act that regulated banks after the financial crisis 10 years ago, something Congress recently rejected in passing a banking bill into law that softened some of the key provisions of Dodd-Frank but left its overall structures intact. And the budget proposes $230 billion in cuts from education and training programs, including consolidating student loan programs and reducing Pell Grant awards.

The budget also relies on rosy economic-growth projections and proposes using a budgetary mechanism to require other congressional committees to come up with a combined $302 billion in unspecified deficit reduction.

In Trump's America

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

Man And Religion


Friday, June 22, 2018

A Critical Moment


In Fort Worth - And Ready For The Convention To Begin



Well, I made it to Fort Worth and got settled into my room at the hotel. Pretty nice room. The top two pictures were taken from my room window. Note that the Convention Center is just right across the street from my hotel.

I'm getting a bit older, and picked this hotel be cause I was trying to save myself some walking. I'll be doing enough of that the next two days anyway -- just getting around in the huge building.

Seems like a bunch of other Democrats had the same idea, as I've met a lot of them in the hotel. I even ran into Texas progressive leader Jim Hightower and my Facebook friend (and good Democrat) Art Pronin in the lobby. Art told me Sissy Farenthold (former candidate for governor) is also in the hotel.

As you can see from the picture at the left, I was able to get my press pass -- but it wasn't easy this time. Texas has drawn some interest from the national media this year, so the press secretary decided bloggers should not have a press pass this year -- because the press room would be too crowded.

I threw aa fit, reminding her that I had been issued a press pass for the last six conventions. After about two hours, they gave me the press credentials. I think she thought that was easier than dealing with me for the next two days.

The convention starts officially on Friday. I'm ready. I love this stuff!

Canada

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

Even Red State Texas Opposes Trump's Border Policy



The outrage over Trump's inhumane policy of separating immigrant children from their parents and sending them to detention facilities wasn't just among Democrats or in blue states. This policy went too far, and that's the verdict across the nation -- even in red states like Texas.

The charts above are from a new University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll that was done between June 8th and June 17th of 1,200 registered Texas voters, and has a margin of error of 2.83 points.

Note that among all voters, Independents, Democrats, and Republican women, most opposed Trump's ridiculous policy. Only one group supported it -- Republican men.

That should be a warning to Trump. He's not going to get votes for Republicans by doing these kind of things.

Forget? - Not A Chance!

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at darrinbell.com.

Trump's Inhumane Border Policy Is Not Over Yet

(Cartoon image is by Matt Wuerker at Politico.com.)

Is the inhumane tearing of children (even infants and toddlers) away from their parents at the border over now? Not by a long shot. His rather suspect executive order just put a temporary hold on the situation, and provides an out for Trump to resume the policy (by saying their would be no separation as long as space was available). He is now going to federal court to ask that children be allowed to be detained indefinitely and be detained in facilities that cannot meet the minimum state and federal standards for youth facilities. In other words, the abuse continues.

Here is part of an excellent article in Time Magazine by Molly Ball:

It is a crisis Donald Trump created and always had the power to solve. At detention facilities across the country, children are penned in cages, crying out piteously for the parents from whom they have been torn by border agents on orders from Washington. Some children may never see their mother or father again.
In a presidency marked by serial outrages, the scandal over family separations at the southern border has been unlike any other. The President didn’t just say something offensive, he intentionally turned the machinery of the state on some of the world’s most vulnerable humans. He applied his signature approach–brutal toughness–to his trademark issue, immigration. He greeted criticism of his policy with mockery, falsehoods and blame-casting. He handcuffed the Republican Party and hamstrung understaffed federal agencies. All the themes of Trump’s character and Administration were embodied in this wrenching calamity.
At first, Trump embraced the outrage, as he so often does. Even as the pictures, video and audio began to trickle out of the detention facilities, and awful stories spread–a woman deported without her son; older children changing younger ones’ diapers–supporters predicted that Trump would stand his ground. . . .
But the images of young children sobbing for their parents created an outcry that neither Trump nor his opponents anticipated. Recriminations poured in, some of them from unexpected quarters. Evangelical leader Franklin Graham called it “disgraceful.” Former First Lady Laura Bush wrote a scathing op-ed. Even Melania Trump issued an unusual statement deploring the situation and worked her husband behind the scenes, according to a White House official. The President and his party faced a toxic scenario in an election year that was already looking grim. “It’s political insanity,” a top Senate Republican aide told TIME. “It will kill us.”
And so Trump did something he has rarely done as President: he backed down from the fight. At the urging of advisers, he signed an Executive Order on June 20 in an attempt to end family separations and instead detain children and parents together. . . .
The inhumanity unfolding at the border has not just been a test for Trump. It has been, and will continue to be, a moment of reckoning for America. Trump has often bet that if he just rides out the current frenzy, the anger will fade and some new controversy will erupt. He thinks shock is a temporary condition, moral outrage is phony posturing and that the American people can be numbed to just about anything. If there is a Trump creed, it’s that there’s no such thing as going too far. That may have found its limit with putting children in cages. But as his “zero tolerance” policy heads toward a seemingly inevitable court battle, the jailing of kids may become the jailing of families–and we will see how much American hearts can withstand. . . .
What happens next for the parents and children detained at the border is just as murky. The President’s Executive Order calls for families to be detained together, ending the separation issue but creating new complications. It is likely to be challenged in court. Immigrants’ advocates fear that his move could defuse the public pressure as family separations give way to family internment camps. And there is still no system in place to reunite the thousands of children and parents already separated from one another.
Whatever misery this mess brings will lay squarely at the feet of the President. But what price he will pay remains unclear. Trump was elected on the strength of some searing truths about the American political system–that Washington was broken and politicians of both parties were hopeless lightweights–and also some searing falsehoods, including that a frightening, inhuman foreign threat was to blame for the nation’s problems. He placed a cynical bet on the American character, that our capacity for empathy only went so far. The outcome of the humanitarian crisis at the border will be a test of whether that wager was right.

How The World Sees Us Now

Political Cartoon is by Herbjorn Skogstad at cagle.com.

Undoing The Safety Net


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Science


It's Convention Time For Texas Democrats


I am heading to the state convention of the Texas Democratic Party today in Fort Worth. It's something I look forward to every two years. Living in a red state is tough, and it will feel good just to be surrounded by several thousand good Democrats.

I will do my best to keep posting as I enjoy the convention, and I hope to bring you some pictures and news from the convention.

Political Pawn

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at cagle.com.

Could Your Immigrant Ancestors Pass A "Merit" Test?


The following poem is on the base of our Statue of Liberty:

 "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


Donald Trump wants to change our immigration laws. He wants to allow only immigrants that can pass a Merit Test -- people that are wealthy, educated, or have marketable skills (and probably White). His merit-based immigration plan violates the spirit of the Emma Lazarus poem -- that America was a second chance for people who could not find jobs or get an education or feed their families in the country they immigrated from.

I doubt that my ancestor could have passed a merit-based test for immigration. While I have not studied my ancestry in detail, I suspect that most were Irish immigrants trying to escape the potato blight that killed millions of their fellow countrymen. They were likely not educated or skilled, and undoubtably were poor. But the United States accepted them anyway -- and through hard work, they made a better life for their children and descendants.

Could your immigrant ancestors have passed a merit-based test? I doubt it. The rich, educated, and skilled people did not come as immigrants. They were doing well where they were. America got the people who were not doing well -- the people who needed a second chance, and were willing to work hard for that second chance.

I suspect if most Americans were honest, they would admit that their own ancestors could not have passed Trump's merit test. Their ancestors, like mine, would have been rejected and sent back to a land where they had no chance to succeed or to feed and house themselves and their families. Their descendants would not be successful and thriving American citizens today.

Trump's idiotic immigration idea is a violation of the American Dream. America was not founded and maintained as a haven for the rich and powerful. It has grown and thrived because it accepted the poor and the disadvantaged, and gave them the chance they needed to better themselves.

Merit-based immigration is a terrible idea, and it is un-American. We must not let it become the law.

Following Orders

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

Trump Gives In To Public Pressure - Changes Border Policy

 Cartoon image is by Lalo Alcaraz.

Chart reflects the results in the new Economist / YouGov Poll done between June 17th and 19th of a national sample of 1,272 registered voters, with a 2.9 point margin of error.

Last Friday, Donald Trump was adamant about his policy of separating immigrant parents and children and sending children to detention facilities. He was beginning to realize that the policy was very unpopular with the public, and tried to pass off his horrendous policy as just following a federal law that had been passed by Democrats. He even said he could not change the policy -- even with a presidential executive order.

Of course, he was lying. There was no law (passed by Democrats or anyone else) mandating the separation of immigrant parents and children. The new policy had been ordered by Trump and carried out by Sessions -- and Trump could have rescinded it with just a simple phone call.

On Tuesday night, Trump met with congressional Republicans, and he evidently got an earful from them. They were horrified at having to run for re-election with the inhumane border policy in effect. It became clear finally that while many in Trump's base liked the horrific policy, most Americans did not (and that included congressional Republicans).

So, on Wednesday, Donald Trump did something he had never done before -- he knuckled under. He gave in to public pressure and rescinded his policy of separating immigrant parents and children at the border. He still didn't want to admit that it was his policy and a simple phone call would have changed it. Instead, he took the unnecessary step of issuing an executive order (which he had said was impossible just five days earlier).

He continued to lie even as he signed the executive order, claiming he was changing a policy that had been in effect for over 60 years. The inference was that other presidents had also separated parents and children at the border. NOT TRUE. If they were separated in the past (under both Republican and Democratic presidents), it was rare, unintentional, and immediately rectified.

The truth is that this inhumane policy was Donald Trump's, and his alone -- and the outrage of decent and caring Americans forced him to rescind it.

NOTE -- This is not necessarily over yet. The parents and children have not yet been reunited. And Trump's executive order is just temporary (meaning he could go back to separating parents and children). We must be vigilant, demanding reunification of those families, and insuring this policy doesn't happen again.

In A Perfect World

Political Cartoon is by Steve Nease at neasecartoons.com.

Trump Threatens To Shut Down The Government

(Caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

Donald Trump wants his ridiculous (and unneeded) border wall -- and he doesn't care who he has to hurt to get it. He tried to separate immigrant children and hold them hostage to get Congress to fund his wall. That just upset Americans, and it looks like he is rescinding that horrible policy.

He has tried the same thing with the Dreamers, saying he would protect them if Congress gave him his wall. But Congress has been unable to agree on immigration reform, and that won't happen before the November elections (if at all).

Now he wants the full funding (about $25 billion) in the budget that must be approved by the end of September. Upon learning that is not at all likely to happen, he is now threatening to shut down the government by refusing to sign the new budget (if it doesn't have full funding for the wall). He doesn't seem to care who would be hurt by a shut down (including Republicans running for re-election).

Here is how Burgess Everett at Politico describes it:

In a private meeting regarding the wall Monday, Trump fumed at senators and his own staff about the $1.6 billion the Senate is planning to send him this fall, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Trump wants the full $25 billion upfront and doesn’t understand why Congress is going to supply him funds in a piecemeal fashion — even though that’s how the spending process typically works. . . .

The president said at the meeting that if Congress doesn’t give him the resources he needs for border security, he will shut down the government in September, according to one of the people familiar with the meeting. He did not give a specific number, but has been fixated on getting the $25 billion in a lump sum. . . .

Senate Democrats offered to provide $25 billion in border wall funding earlier this year in return for giving 1.8 million young undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. But Trump and most Republicans rebuffed that proposal to salvage the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Democrats are unlikely to provide $25 billion for Trump's wall absent a much broader immigration deal. . . .

On Monday, GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Shelby both tried to explain to Trump that the Senate is merely meeting Mulvaney’s request and has to cut a bipartisan deal with Democrats. The Senate needs 60 votes to pass a spending bill, so Republicans would have to find at least nine Democratic votes. . . .

But Trump has not been mollified. He raised his voice several times in Monday's meeting with Mulvaney, White House staffers and the senators, insisting he needs the full $25 billion — an unlikely outcome in the narrowly divided Senate.

Space Patrol

Political Cartoon is by Bruce Plante in Tulsa World.

A History Of Hatred


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Challenge The Wrongs


U.S. Is Well Down The Road To Becoming A Rogue Nation


The United States has never been perfect. But it has been a beacon in the world for freedom, democracy, equal rights, and human rights. It has been a leader among nations in fighting for those ideals, and it has led by example. Unfortunately, that is no longer true. The United States is now on the road to becoming a rogue nation -- a nation that does not respect other nations or even care for human rights anymore.

Donald Trump started the move toward becoming a rogue nation shortly after being sworn into office. He has made it clear that the United States no longer respects agreements it has made with other countries, and doesn't care how violating those agreements affects other nations. He calls it "America First" -- a misnomer, since the violations don't just hurt other nations, but also hurts U.S. citizens and damages the reputation of this country.

Trump has:

* Withdrawn from the TPP.

* Has tried to re-negotiate NAFTA to favor the U.S., and failing that, says he would withdraw from it.

* Withdrawn from the Paris Accords on global climate change.

* Banned refugees (especially muslims), even though U.S. economic and military action created many of those refugees.

* Announced the U.S. would violate the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement (and imposed new sanctions on Iran than would affect many other nations).

* Damaging our relations with U.S. allies, and glorifying dictators (North Korea, Turkey, Russia, etc.).

* Placing tariffs on the products of other nations (Canada, Mexico, China, the European Union).

* Destroying any hope of Mid-East peace by moving U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

* Announcing the U.S. would withdraw from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

That last is because that commission had spoken up against Trump's deplorable policy of tearing children away from immigrant parents (both economic immigrants and asylum-seeking refugees) at the border and sending those children to detention facilities (or a tent city in the Texas desert).

This is just the latest human rights abomination by Trump. He has also rescinded protection for "Dreamers" (those brought to the U.S. as children, and have received an education here and also obeyed all U.S. laws -- many even serving in the u.S. military), making those young people subject to deportation from the only country they have really known.

He has also banned refugees, and wants to stop immigration from places he calls "shit hole countries" (African and Latin American countries).

He has called for harsher criminal penalties, even though the U.S. already has 25% of the world's total prison population.

Refused to keep his promise to provide all Americans with decent and affordable health insurance, and has actually taken actions that resulting in millions more people without any insurance at all.

Refuses to raise the minimum wage (currently $7.25 an hour), which keeps hard-working people in poverty.

Americans have always prided themselves on living in the best nation in the world. Is that still true? Only if you're looking through rose-colored glasses with blinders on. We are on the road to becoming a third-world style rogue nation, and Trump takes us farther down that road with each passing month.

It doesn't have to be this way. We have the power to make a change with our right to vote. But we cannot make that change by refusing to exercise that right. Make your voice heard this November -- by casting a vote for common sense economics, decency, and human rights. Cast out the Trump-supporting Republican officials.

"Legal" Child Abuse

Political Cartoon is by the inimitable Lalo Alcaraz.