A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Anti-Republican


Gallup Releases Its Latest Survey On U.S. Alcohol Use

(This image is from alternativereel.com.)

The use of alcohol is as old as civilization itself, and the United Staes is no exception. The drink of choice has changed over time, but alcohol has existed in this country in some form since before its birth.

Each year the Gallup Poll does a survey on alcohol use in the United States -- both on the prevalence of alcohol use and the favorite drink through which that alcohol is imbibed. This year's Gallup Poll was conducted between July 7th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,013 adults, with a 4 point margin of error. The results of the survey for this year -- and for the 15 years in this century are illustrated by the two charts below.

One thing I found a bit surprising is that alcohol use by Americans has remained fairly constant throughout the last 15 years (the years of the 21st Century). I had thought that alcohol use might have gone up significantly because of the recession (to dull the pain caused by the terrible economy) or gone down (because of the lack of money with which to buy it). But that is not what happened. Alcohol use fluctuated between 60% and 67% -- a pretty narrow margin.

And beer is again gaining in popularity. In two of the last three years, beer was only one percentage point more popular than wine (and only four points higher in that other year). But 2014 has seen beer rebound -- and post a 10 point advantage over wine. Liquor is still a fairly distant third, and its use by alcohol users has remained pretty constant in this century (in the low 20's).



Two-State Solution ?

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

Perdue Wins GOP Primary - Trails Nunn In Early Poll

(This cartoon image is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

David Perdue and Jack Kingston have been trying for months to show the GOP base that they are the authentic teabagger in the race, and the other was just a poser -- and it looks like they were both successful to a certain extent, because the primary run-off was extremely close. But after all the votes were counted, Perdue squeaked out a win and is now the GOP's official candidate for the vacant Senate seat. Here are the final results:

David Perdue...............245,493 (50.9%)
Jack Kingston...............236,985 (49.1%)

Now the real campaign can begin, and amazingly, Perdue finds himself behind the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn (daughter of former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn). The Landmark Communications Poll (done on July 16th of 1,720 likely Georgia voters) shows that Nunn currently has a 6 point lead over Perdue (but Georgia Republicans may have made the right choice, since that same poll showed Nunn leading Kingston by an 8 point margin).

There's still a little over three months before the general election though, and that 6 point lead is not insurmountable. But several months ago the pundits were all predicting this would be a fairly easy Republican victory. Now it looks like the Democrats have a real chance to flip this seat -- and that would put a real crimp in GOp efforts to win control of the Senate.

Putin (And Pet)

Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Polish Rider Wins Difficult Stage 17


Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali once again proved he is the favorite to win the Tour de France this year. This time he did it by finishing third in stage 17, ahead of all his closest competitors. Fellow Italian Giovanni Visconti finished the stage in second -- and the stage winner was Polish rider Rafal Majka, claiming his second stage victory.

There are only four more stages -- another mountain stage, a flat stage for the sprinters, a 54 kilometer time trial, and then the ride into Paris. If anyone is going to challenge Nibali, they need to gain a lot of time on him in stage 18 (which finishes with two extremely difficult unrated climbs). Here are the current standings:

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Race Leader)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........5' 26"
3. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........6' 00"
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........6' 08"
5. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........7' 34"
6. Tejay Van Garderen (United States) BMC Racing..........10' 19"
7. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........11' 59"
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........12' 16"
9. Leopold Konig (Czech Republic) Team Netapp-Endura..........12' 40"
10. Pierre Rolland (France) Team Europcar..........13' 15"
11. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spain) Trek Factory Racing..........14' 26"
12. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium) Lotto-Belisol..........16' 08"
13. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) Team Sky..........18' 03"
14. Yuri Trofimov (Russia) Team Katusha..........28' 00"

GREEN JERSEY (Best Sprinter)
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Cannondale..........408 pts
2. Bryan Coquard (France) Team Europcar..........233 pts
3. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Team Katusha..........217 pts
4. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Team Giant-Shimano..........177 pts
5. Mark Renshaw (Australia) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........153 pts

POLKA DOT JERSEY (Best Climber)
1. Rafal Majka (Poland) Tinkoff-Saxo..........149 pts
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........118 pts
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) Team Katusha..........112 pts
4. Alessandro De Marchi (Italy) Cannondale..........66 pts
5. Thomas Voeckler (France) Team Europcar..........61 pts 
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........57 pts

WHITE JERSEY (Best Young Rider)
1. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR
2. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........1' 34"
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........30' 41"

TEAM STANDINGS
1. AG2R La Mondiale (France)
2. Belkin Pro Cycling (Belgium)..........28' 43"
3. Movistar Team (Spain)..........52' 30"
4. Team Sky (Great Britain)..........56' 55"
5. BMC Racing (United States)..........59' 33"

Governor Oops

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

Fight Back


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Contradiction Is Not Persecution


Obamacare Is Under Attack In The Courts Again

(The image above was found at nywcc.org.)

The die-hard opponents of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have not given up. This time they are attacking the provision of the law that helps those not making enough to buy insurance with a government subsidy -- and unfortunately, they have found some judges that agree with them. A three-judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has decided, in a 2-1 vote, that the federal government cannot give a subsidy to those who bought their insurance through the federal government exchange.

The two judges (both appointees of George W. Bush) based their decision on a section of the law that said tax credits can only be applied "through an exchange established by the state". The federal government disagreed with that interpretation, saying the intent of Congress was clear that the subsidies should apply to all citizens who qualify for it, regardless of what state they live in -- and in fact, that intent is why the federal exchange was created.

Further complicating this matter is the fact that a different appeals court, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (in Virginia), reached just the opposite conclusion -- that the subsidies granted through the federal exchange were legal and permissible. If both of these decisions stand, then this issue will have to go to the Supreme Court for a final decision. That might be avoided by an appeal to the full District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals (where 7 of the 11 judges are Democratic appointees).

This is a serious matter, and could gut Obamacare -- especially in the Republican-controlled states that refuse to create a state insurance exchange. There are currently 36 states without a state exchange -- and in those states about 5.4 million people signed up for insurance through the federal exchange (and about 87% of them received a subsidy to help pay for the insurance -- about 4.7 million people). If the decision is allowed to stand, it would mean these states would forfeit about $36 billion in subsidies (with Texas at $5.6 billion and Florida at $4.8 billion being the hardest hit states) -- and insurance premiums for those who needed subsidies would rise by an average of 76%. That means millions in those states could no longer afford insurance.

I don't think the House and Senate Democrats should wait for a court decision -- by either the full Distict of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals or the United States Supreme Court. They should immediately file a bill to fix this supposed "glitch" in the law -- and dare the congressional Republicans to block it.

If the Republicans did block it, which they would probably do to keep their teabagger base happy, then Democrats should make sure that blockage gets as much coverage in the media as possible -- and keep reminding voters of it until election day. It could be a difference-maker in November, because the millions who will lose their insurance, or have to pay a much higher premium, are not going to be happy voters.

Caught In The Middle

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

Plurality Of Republicans Say Obama Not Born In U.S.


If you still has any doubts that the Republican Party has managed to corral most racists and nut-jobs into joining their party, then the results of this Rasmussen Poll should remove that doubt. The survey was taken on July 16th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of 3 points.

It shows that more Republicans believe the president was not born in the United States than believe he was -- a plurality of 41% (and another 21% say they are not sure). Only 38% are honest enough to admit the truth. And they cling to this ridiculous belief in spite of these facts:

* The president has been elected to that office twice by the American public.

* The president has provided both short and long forms of his official birth certificate.

* Hawaiian authorities, from the governor on down to local officials, have verified that the president was born in their state.

* Both newspaper and hospital accounts from that time verify his birth in Hawaii.

* The president has not been impeached by Congress (even though the GOP-controlled House hates the president and would have loved to have a justifiable reason to impeach him).

There is only one reason to maintain this ridiculous belief at this time -- irrational racist hatred. And that seems to be something the Republican Party has in abundance.

A Tradition Of Violence

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe at intoon.com.

Elizabeth Warren's Eleven Tenets Of Progressivism

(This caricature of Senator Elizabeth Warren is by DonkeyHotey.)

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are the two most progressive members of Congress -- and they are proud to stand for progressive values. Recently, Senator Warren spoke to Netroots Nation and outlined what she believes are the 11 tenets of modern progressivism. I don't know that this is the definitive list of progressive beliefs, but if not, then it is certainly a good start -- and I believe these are beliefs that all Democrats should be proud to endorse and fight for. Here are Senator Warren's 11 tenets:

- "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we're willing to fight for it."
- "We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth."
- "We believe that the Internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality."
- "We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage."
- "We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them."
- "We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt."
- "We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions."
- "We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work."
- "We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America."
- "We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform."
- "And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturnHobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!"

Dummies

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at cagle.com.

Aussie Rides A Breakaway To Win Stage 16


The 2014 Tour de France has now completed 16 of its 21 stages. Stage 16, a difficult mountain stage in the Pyrenees, was a day for a breakaway to succeed. 21 Riders were in the breakaway and managed to stay away from the peloton, but the tough unrated climb near the race finish reduced the number in that breakaway to a leading group of five riders. With about 4.5 kilometers to go, Australia's Michael Rogers took off and finished about 9 seconds ahead of the other four. Thomas Voeckler of France finished in second, and Vasili Kiriyienka of Belarus finished third.

No one was able to make up any time on Vicenzo Nibali's overall lead in stage 16, but they get another chance to do so in stage 17 (which has four extremely difficult climbs -- three category 1 climbs and an even tougher unrated climb at the end of the stage). Here are the current standings:

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Race Leader)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........4' 37"
3. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........5' 06"
4. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........6' 08"
5. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........6' 40"
6. Tejay Van Garderen (United States) BMC Racing..........9' 25"
7. Leopold Konig (Czech Republic) Team Netapp-Endura..........9' 32"
10. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........11' 33"
8. Laurens Ten Dam (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........11' 12"
9. Michael Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........11' 28"
10. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........11' 33"
11. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spain) Trek Factory Racing..........12' 38" 
12. Pierre Rolland (France) Team Europcar..........13' 09"
13. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium) Lotto-Belisol..........14' 02"
14. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) Team Sky..........17' 37"
15. Yuri Trofimov (Russia) Team Katusha..........23' 06"

GREEN JERSEY (Best Sprinter)
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Cannondale..........402 pts
2. Bryan Coquard (France) Team Europcar..........226 pts
3. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Team Katusha..........217 pts
4. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Team Giant-Shimano..........177 pts
5. Mark Renshaw (Australia) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........153 pts
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) BMC Racing Team..........147 pts 
7. Andre Greipel (Germany) Lotto-Belisol..........143 pts
8. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........134 pts

POLKA DOT JERSEY (Best Climber)
1. Rafal Majka (Poland) Tinkoff-Saxo..........89 pts
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) Team Katusha..........88 pts
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........86 pts
4. Thomas Voeckler (France) Team Europcar..........61 pts
5. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........49 pts
6. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........40 pts 
7. Alessandro De Marchi (Italy) Cannondale..........38 pts

WHITE JERSEY (Best Young Rider)
1. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR
2. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........1' 34"
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........6' 22"
4. Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) Team Giant-Shimano..........55' 19"

TEAM STANDINGS
1. AG2R La Mondiale (France)
2. Belkin Pro Cycling (Belgium)..........26' 21"
3. Team Sky (Great Britain)..........39' 19"
4. Movistar Team (Spain)..........54' 56"
5. BMC Racing (United States)..........55' 46"

Crazy

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

Repeating History


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CFPB Celebrates Its 3rd Anniversary


Rick Perry To Spend Millions Playing Border Politics

Rick Perry is again showcasing his ignorance and naked political ambition. On Monday, he declared that he will be sending 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the border with Mexico. To excuse this action, he is seizing on recent reports of more than 50,000 children that have been captured trying to enter the United States on our Southern border.

This is a very bad idea for several reasons:

* We already have more patrol officers at the border than ever before -- about 5.4 Border Patrol officers for every mile of the border.

* Those officers are doing a very good job. After all, the children Perry is using as an excuse for his action did not get in the country. They were caught by the Border Patrol.

* The undocumented immigrant population is no longer growing (both because of the increased number of officers and because of the poor economy). There are currently as many (if not more) immigrants leaving the United States as there are entering it.

* Keeping 1,000 National Guardsmen at the border will cost the state of Texas about $12 million a month -- a silly expenditure after his own party has slashed state spending because they whine we don't have enough revenue to pay our bills (and want to cut more from the budget). That money could be put to a much better use by increasing the education budget (which is the lowest per capita of any state in the nation).

* The National Guard is trained to fight a war (and proved in Iraq and Afghanistan that they can do that well). They are not trained as border patrol officers (not should they be). Putting them on the border to do a job they have not been trained to do is just asking for trouble.

It would not surprise me if this crazy decision by Perry resulted in tragedy -- with innocent people, who just want to escape violence or provide for their families, being killed. And when that happens, I won't blame the National Guard. I'll blame Rick Perry -- because this action is nothing more than political. He wants to run for president in 2016 -- and to do that he needs to keep his name before the national public, and keep the anti-immigrant teabaggers happy (because they'll be the ones to pick the 2016 GOP nominee).

(The caricature of Rick Perry above is by DonkeyHotey.)

Keep Out

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Public Believes The United States Would Be Better Governed If More Women Held Political Office


I thought the results of this Gallup Poll (taken on July 12th and 13th of a random national sample of 1,023 adults, with a margin of error of 4 points) to be very interesting. I have thought for many years now that this country would be better served with more women in political office. Women politicians, with a few exceptions in the GOP, just generally care more about how government policy affects individuals and families (while most men, even some Democrats, seem to prefer policies that help businesses).

And it looks like a significant majority of Americans agree with me. About 63% of the general public says the country would be governed better if more women held political office. And that was the case with nearly every group polled. The only two groups that did not have a majority saying that were Republicans (46%) and married men (45%) -- and a plurality, nearly half, of those two groups agreed.

This is very good news for Hillary Clinton, because it is just one more indicator showing the country is ready for a female to be president. And it's also good news for the women running for a Senate seat in North Carolina (Kay Hagan), Georgia (Michelle Nunn), and Kentucky (Alison Grimes). And if you think these results might be different in the South, you would be wrong. About 60% of Southerners say the country would be better governed with more women in political office.

Ambulance Chasers

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

Elizabeth Warren Celebrates The 3rd Anniversary of CFPB

Yesterday was the third anniversary of the date the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) became an independent agency, and began working to protect Americans from the shenanigans of Wall Street and the giant banks. One of the chief architects of that bureaus creation was Elizabeth Warren, and she was originally destined to be its first agency head.

But the Republicans decided they couldn't allow the president to have his first choice leading the agency -- so they blocked the nomination of Warren. It turned out to be a huge mistake for them, because she then ran for the Senate in Massachusetts and got elected. She is now a constant thorn in the side of Wall Street and the giant banks, and is in a good position to protect the CFPD from Republican attempts to destroy or weaken it.

 Yesterday, Senator Warren send the following e-mail to her supporters, celebrating the anniversary of the CFPB. I thought it was excellent, so I reprint it here in case you haven't seen it.

Not long ago, I was at a McDonald's when a man came over, held out his hand and said he had been having trouble with a fee his bank had charged. It wasn't huge, but he said the bank should not have charged him. He called and argued, talked with customer relations, asked to speak to a manager -- and he got a big, fat zero.

Then he said he remembered about the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and told the bank he would file a complaint. They put him on hold and then came back and said they would reverse the fee. The agency worked.

Today is the fourth anniversary of Dodd-Frank, the law that established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- and the third anniversary of the date the CFPB became an independent agency. And in those three years, the agency has done a lot to help level the playing field.
  • The CFPB has forced big financial companies to return more than $4 billion dollars to consumers they cheated.

  • The CFPB has put in place rules to protect consumers from a whole host of dangerous financial products and to make sure that companies can't issue the kinds of deceptive mortgages that contributed to millions of foreclosures.

  • The CFPB has helped tens of thousands of consumers resolve complaints against financial institutions that cheated them. 
Sure, there is a lot of financial reform work left undone. The big banks today are dramatically bigger than they were in 2008 and they are taking on new risks, and I think that means we need a 21st Century Glass-Steagall law to break them up. But I celebrate the progress we've had so far: When big banks have to listen to their customers a little more, the playing field starts to level out just a little bit more.    

The big banks spent more than a million dollars a day lobbying against financial reforms, and top lobbyists said that killing off the consumer agency was their number one priority.  Even now, the Republicans continue the attack, introducing bills that would take the legs out from under the agency.

We didn't have the lobbying muscle or the money that the big banks had. But we got that agency because we fought for it. We joined forces online and through groups, and we made our voices heard. And now, after three years, it's starting to work.

I smiled at the guy who said he got his money back. I smiled because I love to hear how the CFPB works. But mostly I smiled because it reminded me of what we can do when we fight.  

Happy anniversary!
Elizabeth


Insulting

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

Tour Takes Its Second Rest Day


Stage 15 of the Tour de France brought the riders down from the Alps. Stage 16 will start the stages in the Pyrenees, so the riders were given their second and final rest day on Monday. Here are the current standings:

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Race Leader)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........4' 37"
3. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........4' 50"
4. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........5' 06"
5. Tejay Van Garderen (United States) BMC Racing..........5' 49"
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........6' 08"
7. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........8' 33"
8. Leopold Konig (Czech Republic) Team Netapp-Endura..........9' 32"
9. Laurens Ten Dam (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........10' 01"
10. Pierre Rolland (France) Team Europcar..........10' 48"
11. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium) Lotto-Belisol..........11' 02"
12. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spain) Trek Factory Racing..........11' 10" 
13. Rui Alberto Costa (Portugal) Lampre-Merida..........12' 57"
14. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) Team Sky..........14' 37"
15. Richie Porte (Australia) Team Sky..........16' 03"

GREEN JERSEY (Best Sprinter)
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Cannondale..........402 pts
2. Bryan Coquard (France) Team Europcar..........226 pts
3. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Team Katusha..........217 pts
4. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Team Giant-Shimano..........177 pts
5. Mark Renshaw (Australia) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........153 pts 
6. Andre Greipel (Germany) Lotto-Belisol..........143 pts
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........134 pts
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) BMC Racing Team..........115 pts 

POLKA DOT JERSEY (Best Climber)
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) Team Katusha..........88 pts
2. Rafal Majka (Poland) Tinkoff-Saxo..........88 pts
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........86 pts
4. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........49 pts
5. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........40 pts 
6. Alessandro De Marchi (Italy) Cannondale..........38 pts
7. Thomas Voeckler (France) Team Europcar..........34 pts

WHITE JERSEY (Best Young Rider)
1. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale
2. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........0' 16"
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........14' 34"
4. Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) Team Giant-Shimano..........47' 46"

TEAM STANDINGS
1. AG2R La Mondiale (France)
2. Belkin Pro Cycling (Belgium)..........12' 42"
3. Team Sky (Great Britain)..........38' 32"
4. Astana Pro Team (Kazakhstan)..........46' 10" 
5. Movistar Team (Spain)..........47' 44"
6. BMC Racing (United States)..........51' 01"

Russian Gift ?

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Chomsky On The TPP


Monday, July 21, 2014

Clinton On Cheney


Court Orders Texas To Allow Offensive License Plate


Texas sells a variety of "vanity" license plates. These plates identify the car owner as supporting a particular cause -- and the plates cost more, with the state and the cause splitting the additional money. The Sons of Confederate Veterans wanted one of these vanity plates produced and sold, but the state refused -- recognizing that a plate with the confederate battle flag on it (see image above) would be viewed as racist and offensive by many Texans.

Unfortunately, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. They said Texas must produce and sell the plate. The court decided that Texas had discriminated against the viewpoint of those who wanted the plate, and that the state had no right to decide for a car's owner what view was appropriate and what view was not appropriate.

This decision could well open the floodgates to any kind of opinion being on a plate. In the past, the state had allowed religious plates (christian), but not plates promoting atheism (or other religions). Will the state now have to allow plates supporting (and funding) atheist and muslim groups? How about support and funding for right-wing militias or communists? Is there any group that would be considered too offensive for a vanity plate in light of this court decision?

I find myself in a quandary over this court decision. On one hand, I agree with the court's idea that the state has no business deciding what ideas are appropriate and what ideas are not. On the other hand, I don't think the state should be forced to be a party to offensive speech or images being promoted to the public. I personally view the confederate battle flag to be an offensive symbol of racism and hate, but if other ideas can be promoted on a plate, then offensive ideas should be allowed too -- that's the basis of freedom of speech which is guaranteed in our Constitution.

But maybe it's time to remember why we have license plates. Their purpose is to allow law enforcement (and witnesses to crimes and accidents) to be able to identify a particular car. They were never meant to be tiny traveling billboards advertising ideas or organizations the car owner likes. That's what bumper stickers are for. All a license plate needs is the name of the state issuing it and a series of numbers (or a combination of letters and numbers) that identify the particular car. Anything else is extraneous, and in my opinion, just makes it more difficult to read the identifying state and numbers on the plate.

I think Texas (and other states) should go to using a plate with nothing but the state's name and identifying numbers and letters -- and nothing else. I know the state gets a bit of money from selling the vanity plates, but that revenue is minuscule when compared to the state budget -- and the state could easily do without it. Let the organizations and ideas be promoted on bumper stickers.

That's my opinion -- but if the state chooses to continue selling the vanity plates, then I want to be able to buy a vanity plate promoting (and helping to fund) some atheist organization. What do you think?

Goals - Then And Now

Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Super-PACs - Just Another Way To Break Campaign Rules

This cartoon image is by Scott Stantis in the Chicago Tribune.

When the Supreme Court made their terrible Citizens United vs. FEC decision, Liberals and progressives said it would result in candidates using the decision as a way to get around campaign laws -- laws which still limit the amount of money given a candidate. The court disagreed, saying there were rules in place that kept a candidate from coordinating with a Super-PAC.

It turns out that the court was wrong. A candidate for a federal office can't accept more than $2600 from anyone for a primary or general election campaign. But candidates have realized that all they have to do is get a friend, family member, or "former" employee to create a super-PAC which has only one purpose (to elect a certain candidate) and that super-PAC can accept unlimited donations from anyone (family members, corporations, friends, lobbyists, etc) -- and it is nearly impossible to prove that super-PAC is being directed informally by the candidate or his campaign staff.

According to USA Today, this is now becoming a popular way for rich family members to put unlimited funds into a family members campaign. In fact, there have been more than forty super-PACs raising at least $100,000 since January 1st that have fewer than five people who have donated. It has become the go-to way to get around campaign donation limits for families -- and for other entities.

And if you believe the candidate (or his/her campaign staff) is not directing how and when that super-PAC money is being spent, then I have some oceanfront property here in Amarillo that I'll sell you real cheap. No candidate really wants these super-PACs to truly be on their own -- because they could do something stupid, and turn the public against the candidate.

This is only going to get worse with each election. Soon, only candidates who can tap into large corporate or family or special interest donations through a super-PAC will be able to run, and the candidates who rely on donations by people directly to their campaign will not be able to compete.

The Republicans won't fix this, because the constituencies they represent are the rich and the corporations (the people who love super-PACs because it al;lows them to duck campaign donation limits). This is why the Republicans must be voted out of office. The campaign laws will never be returned to fairness until they are gone, and their rich buddies will continue trying to buy our government.

Putin's Kids

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

POEM

Arlington National Cemetery


"HAVE A NICE DAY"
by Brian McLaughlin

They told me to have a nice day
I barked at them NO!!!
my mood it was rotten
I just wanted to go
leave them behind me
be alone
by myself
where no-one would see me
bother or peeve me
find my own little corner
away from these bosses
just get away
and suffer the losses
our very world
going to hell in a hand-basket
and these smiling fakes
don't see the returning caskets
our sons
and our daughters
returning from war
their broken dead bodies
that's how politicians keep score
have a nice day
uh-uh, not for them
and as for their families
you've brought them mayhem
stolen their children
for an unneeded war
as if they were nothing but disposables
found in a store
and then there's the others
those coming home maimed
that we should care for
for life
why isn't the government ashamed
always passin' the buck
and tryin' to lay blame
when the truth is
it's all of 'em
it's the political game
so have a nice day
it's thought of too free
at least not today
oh no
not for me

(Russian) King Kong

Political Cartoon is by Rick McKee in The Augusta Chronicle.

Breakaway Is Caught 50 Meters From Finish In Stage 15


Stage 15 was a 222 kilometer descent out of the Alps, but rainy conditions made it a bit more difficult than expected. A couple of riders took advantage of the weather conditions and did a breakaway run -- and for nearly the complete 222 kilometers it looked like they might succeed. But they had their hearts broken as the peloton caught and passed them only 50 meters from the finish line. Alexander Kristoff of Norway crossed the finish line first, followed by Heinrich Haussler of Australia and Peter Sagan of Slovakia. The overall standings did not change, since the peloton of 69 riders all got the same time for finishing as a group.

The Tour will not take its second and final rest day. Then the Tour will enter the Pyrenees Mountains in stage 16 (which has two category 4 climbs, one category 3 climb, one category 2 climb, and an extremely difficult unrated climb near the end of the stage). Here are the current standings:

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Race Leader)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........4' 37"
3. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........4' 50"
4. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........5' 06"
5. Tejay Van Garderen (United States) BMC Racing..........5' 49"
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........6' 08"
7. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........8' 33"
8. Leopold Konig (Czech Republic) Team Netapp-Endura..........9' 32"
9. Laurens Ten Dam (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........10' 01"
10. Pierre Rolland (France) Team Europcar..........10' 48"
11. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium) Lotto-Belisol..........11' 02"
12. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spain) Trek Factory Racing..........11' 10" 
13. Rui Alberto Costa (Portugal) Lampre-Merida..........12' 57"
14. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg) Team Sky..........14' 37"
15. Richie Porte (Australia) Team Sky..........16' 03"

GREEN JERSEY (Best Sprinter)
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Cannondale..........402 pts
2. Bryan Coquard (France) Team Europcar..........226 pts
3. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Team Katusha..........217 pts
4. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Team Giant-Shimano..........177 pts
5. Mark Renshaw (Australia) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........153 pts 
6. Andre Greipel (Germany) Lotto-Belisol..........143 pts
7. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........134 pts
8. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) BMC Racing Team..........115 pts 

POLKA DOT JERSEY (Best Climber)
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) Team Katusha..........88 pts
2. Rafal Majka (Poland) Tinkoff-Saxo..........88 pts
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........86 pts
4. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........49 pts
5. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........40 pts 
6. Alessandro De Marchi (Italy) Cannondale..........38 pts
7. Thomas Voeckler (France) Team Europcar..........34 pts

WHITE JERSEY (Best Young Rider)
1. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale
2. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........0' 16"
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........14' 34"
4. Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) Team Giant-Shimano..........47' 46"

TEAM STANDINGS
1. AG2R La Mondiale (France)
2. Belkin Pro Cycling (Belgium)..........12' 42"
3. Team Sky (Great Britain)..........38' 32"
4. Astana Pro Team (Kazakhstan)..........46' 10" 
5. Movistar Team (Spain)..........47' 44"
6. BMC Racing (United States)..........51' 01"

Getting Squeezed

Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at Politico.com.

They Want To Stop History