Saturday, February 16, 2019

What Dems Want


There Is A "National Emergency" In U.S. - It's Gun Violence



There is a national emergency happening in the United States -- a disaster that Donald Trump and the Congress could do something about. It is the epidemic of gun violence that continues unabated.

Last year, there were nearly 40,000 gun deaths (murder, suicide, accidents) in this country. And there was an average of about one mass shooting (where four or more people were shot) every day of 2018. This violence has continued this year.

It doesn't have to be that way. No other country has anywhere near the gun deaths or mass shootings that the United States has each year. The right-wing tells us that more guns in the hands of more people would solve the problem. But the experience of other countries which have initiated reasonable gun laws shows us the opposite is true. The U.S. already has more guns than citizens, and more people owning and carrying guns than in any other country -- but instead of making us safer, it has just produced more gun violence and deaths.

The public knows this, and they would like something done to reduce the gun violence.

The charts above are from the new CBS News Poll -- done on February 10th and 11th of a national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of 3.8 points. It shows that 56% of Americans would like to see stricter gun laws, and they are frustrated and angry about the situation. Why? Because 75% of them know that Congress and the president will just continue to do what they have been doing -- NOTHING!

Those in Congress who have been bought off by the NRA (and the gun manufacturers they represent) will tell you they are just protecting the Constitution (specifically the Second Amendment). That's disingenuous. The public is not asking for guns to be confiscated from honest citizens. They just want reasonable and constitutional laws the control who gets guns, what kind of guns and ammunition they can get, and where they may carry those guns.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that these reasonable restrictions do not violate the Second Amendment. People known to pose a danger may be restricted from buying a gun (criminals, terrorists, the dangerously mentally ill). Weapons meant for war may be restricted from being possessed by the general public. And even an honest citizen can be restricted from carrying a gun in certain places. Those are not anti-constitutional, but just common sense -- and they would prevent much of the gun violence.

The CBS Poll isn't the only one out recently. There is also the NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist Poll -- done between February 5th and 11th of a national sample of 880 adults, with a 3.9 point margin of error.

Some of the results of that poll are shown in the charts below.

The people want action, and if Congress refuses to act, they need to be replaced by those who will act.







One Year Later

Political Cartoon is by J.D. Crowe at al.com.

On The Popularity Of Possible Democratic Candidates



Things are already starting to get interesting in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. There are already 11 declared candidates, and several others who may enter the race soon.

What do Democrats think of their choices so far? Another poll asked this question. It is the Monmouth University Poll -- done between January 25th and 27th of a national sample of 805 adults, with a margin of error of 3.6 points. The charts above show what the 313 Democrats thought (with a 5.5 point margin of error).

The top chart shows the net favorable rating (favorable minus unfavorable) of each candidate. The second chart shows the candidate they would support if the primary/caucus was now.

Emergency!

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at ragingpencils.com.

Trump Is Trying To Grab Autocratic Powers For Himself

(Cartoon image is by Jimmy Margulies at jimmymargulies.com.)

Donald Trump envies the autocratic power of rulers like Kim Jong-Un, Putin, bin-Salman, Erdogan, and Duterte. That is obvious by the deference he shows them. He wants that same kind of power, and is frustrated by our constitutional system of government. He has defied Congress by refusing to impose sanctions they passed on Russia (and removing some of those sanctions), by refusing to act to punish a foreign government that brutally murdered a journalist working for a U.S. newspaper, by refusing to acknowledge Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and now by declaring a national emergency to bypass the wishes of Congress.

Here is how Robert Reich describes Trump's attempt to grab dictatorial powers:

A president who claims he has an absolute right to declare a national emergency and spend government funds that Congress has explicitly refused to appropriate for the ends he seeks, is assuming the role of a dictator.

A president who shuts down government in order to get his way on a controversial issue, such as building a wall along the border with Mexico, and offers to reopen it as a concession when and if his opponents give in, is treating the government of the United States as a bargaining chip. This, too, is the behavior of a dictator.
As is spouting lies over what Trump terms an “undeniable crisis” at the southern U.S. border, which is in fact no crisis at all.  
Donald Trump is violating the Constitution. He is negating our system of government based on the rule of law. He is violating a president’s core responsibility to protect American democracy. 
But the threat to American democracy is not just from Trump’s dictatorial moves. And real threat to American sovereignty is not coming from Trump’s fantasized hordes seeking to cross the Mexican border. 
It is coming from a foreign government intent on undermining our democracy by propagating lies, turning Americans against each other, and electing a puppet president.
We do not know yet whether Trump colluded with Vladimir Putin to win the 2016 election. What we do know so far is that Trump’s aides and campaign manager worked with Putin’s emissaries during the 2016 election, and that Putin sought to swing the election in favor of Trump. 
We also know that since he was elected, Trump has done little or nothing to stop Putin from continuing to try to undermine our democracy. To the contrary, Trump has obstructed inquiries into Russian meddling, and gone out of his way to keep his communications with Putin secret, even from his own White House.  
He has also done exactly what Putin has wanted him to do – threaten to pull out of NATO, pull out of Syria, and accept Russia’s presence in Ukraine. 
Perhaps Trump’s current attack on American democracy through his assertion of a fake national emergency is intended as to distract from this larger attack on America. No matter. Both threaten the essence of the nation. 
There is only one answer: Donald Trump must be removed from office. Impeachment should start immediately.  

The Little Chicken

Political Cartoon is by Keith J. Taylor.

Governments Need Enemies


Friday, February 15, 2019

Consequences


Congress Passes The Budget (And It's Veto-Proof)

There won't be a shutdown. The 116th Congress passed a budget for the rest of this year. Sources are saying that Trump will sign the budget, but it doesn't really matter.

The House passed the budget 300 to 128. The Senate passed it 83 to 16. Those are veto-proof margins. If Trump surprises Congress and vetoes the budget (which would shut down the government again), Congress will just override his veto.

McConnell, and others close to Trump are saying that he will now declare a national emergency, and use military and disaster funds to build his wall. Speaker Pelosi has already said she is considering going to court to stop that -- and the Justice Department has warned Trump that the courts are likely to stop the emergency order (at least temporarily).

I think he knows that he won't be able to get away with declaring a national emergency and using funds designated by Congress for other purposes. He just playing a public relations game. He wants to be able to tell his base that he did everything he could to build a wall, but Democrats (and the courts) stopped him.

The fact is -- Trump has lost this fight. There will be no wall -- not this year, and not next year.

Ignorance

Political Cartoon is by Mike Smith in the Las Vegas Sun.

1/4 Of Reg. Voters Say God Wanted Trump To Be President


The chart above reflects the results of a new Fox News Poll -- done between February 10th and 12th of a national sample of 1,004 registered voters, and has a margin of error of 3 points.

It shows a rather shocking result (at least for me it's shocking). It seems that about 1 out of every four registered voters (25%) thinks that god wanted Donald Trump to be president. If there is a god, which I doubt, I don't understand why anyone would think he/she would care who the leader of any country was.

Pluralities of Trump voters (46%) and Republicans (45%) believed god supported Trump. But the group believing that the most was White evangelicals (55%). That seems more than a little hypocritical to me. This is the group that yells the loudest about the need for morality in the nation, and yet they chose to back the most amoral man in the country -- Donald Trump --  man without any moral or ethical standard at all.

What this poll tells me is that about a quarter of registered voters are complete idiots.

Instead Of Acting

Political Cartoon is by Ed Hall at artizans.com.

British Writer Pens The Best Description Of Trump I've Read

(Caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

The following was found at LA Progressive:

Someone on Quora asked “Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?” Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England wrote the following response:
A few things spring to mind.
Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem.
For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed.
So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever.
I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman.
But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers.
And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface.
Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront.
Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.
And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist.
Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that.
He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat.
He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully.
That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead.
There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.
So the fact that a significant minority – perhaps a third – of Americans look at what he does, listen to what he says, and then think ‘Yeah, he seems like my kind of guy’ is a matter of some confusion and no little distress to British people, given that:
• Americans are supposed to be nicer than us, and mostly are.
• You don’t need a particularly keen eye for detail to spot a few flaws in the man.
This last point is what especially confuses and dismays British people, and many other people too; his faults seem pretty bloody hard to miss.
After all, it’s impossible to read a single tweet, or hear him speak a sentence or two, without staring deep into the abyss. He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum.
God knows there have always been stupid people in the world, and plenty of nasty people too. But rarely has stupidity been so nasty, or nastiness so stupid.
He makes Nixon look trustworthy and George W look smart.
In fact, if Frankenstein decided to make a monster assembled entirely from human flaws – he would make a Trump.
And a remorseful Doctor Frankenstein would clutch out big clumpfuls of hair and scream in anguish:
‘My God… what… have… I… created?
If being a twat was a TV show, Trump would be the boxed set.

Saddled Up For 2020

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

Grace And Class Personified


Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Shameful Statistic


Registered Voters Prefer Democrats Over Republicans/Trump


The chart above shows the results of the newest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between February 10th and 12th of a national sample of 1,283 registered voters, with a 2.8 point margin of error.

They questioned those registered voters on their opinion of Donald Trump, congressional Republicans and Democrats, and the Republican and Democratic parties. There is a lot of unfavorable opinion about all five entities, but the Democrats (both in Congress and as a party) fared much better than the Republicans or Donald Trump.

Here is the net favorability (favorable minus unfavorable) of each:

Democratic Party  +1
Republican Party  -24
Congressional Democrats  -5
Congressional Republicans  -36
Donald Trump  -18

Waiting For The "Trickle-Down"

Political Cartoon is by Gary Huck at huckkonopackicartoons.com.

Which Media Outlets Are The Most And Least Trusted?



These two charts reflect the results of the latest Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between February 10th and 12th of a national sample of 1,500 adults, with a margin of error of 3.1 points.

They questioned the poll respondents on which media outlets they trusted the most and which they trusted the least.

The outlets trusted the most are PBS (51%), Wall Street Journal (44%), CBS (43%), NBC (43%), BBC (43%), and Forbes (43%).

The outlets trusted the least are Fox (41%), InfoWars (38%), and Breitbart (37%).

MAGA Tolerance

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

In Defense Of Senator Elizabeth Warren

Let me start by saying I am a fan of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). Her economic policies make a lot of sense, and would greatly benefit most Americans.

She is now running for president on those economic policies. I haven't made up my mind who to support in the Democratic primary. It's far too early for that. But I like the fact she's running, because the issues she has spotlighted need to be discussed and addressed.

Is Donald Trump afraid of her possible nomination? Maybe, because he has ignored the important issues she is campaigning on -- and he has focused just on trying to slander her reputation (by referring to her as "Pocahontas", a reference to her claim that she had Native American blood in her ancestry). I'm getting a little tired of Trump vicious ethnic slanders.

So is former Labor Secretary Robert Reich (pictured upper right). Here is what he wrote on his own excellent blog:

Elizabeth Warren is one of the most talented politicians and policy leaders in America. We must not allow Trump or anyone else to “swift-boat” her because she identified herself as an American Indian three decades ago. 
At worst, Warren may have stretched the bounds of the definition of whiteness. That’s understandable. She grew up in Oklahoma, a state created from Indian Territory. She probably witnessed the disrespect and occasional brutality that Native Americans were, and still are, subject to. Her own genetic test showed at least one Native American ancestor. She has stressed that she is not a member of a tribal nation.
Warren didn’t call Mexicans rapists. She didn’t call nations populated primarily by black or brown people “shitholes.” She didn’t assume all Muslims are terrorists. She didn’t characterize black neighborhoods as war zones. She didn’t assert that an American president was born in Africa. She has not sexually assaulted anyone. She has not paid hush money to prostitutes. She hasn’t insulted Native Americans by calling a leading politician “Pocahontas” and joking about the Trail of Tears in the 1830s.
Warren got no career benefit from her self-designation. At every step of her exceptional rise in the legal profession, those responsible for hiring her saw her as a white woman. The fact that she claimed Indian descent on a Texas bar form that was meant to be confidential is further evidence that her identification arose from sincere belief. 
In a larger sense, our Native American heritage should be a point of national pride. Bill Clinton proudly claimed in 1998 that his grandmother was “one-quarter Cherokee.” I remember former Republican Senator Alan Simpson beaming proudly as he showed me an old family reunion photo in which several of the eldest attendees were Native Americans. 
It’s far better for a presidential candidate to err on the side of racial or ethnic inclusiveness than for a president to whip the nation into a dangerous and delusional frenzy of racial or ethnic divisiveness.

Failing To Assimilate

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

Thompson On Republicans


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Beto Outdraws Trump In El Paso Showdown


It's Another Win For Pelosi And Another Loss For Trump

(Chart on border walls is from The New York Times.)

The negotiations on funding the rest of the government has reached a deal. It is being touted as a compromise solution by both Republicans and Democrats, but the Democrats are just being nice. This is another huge win for Democrats, and another huge win for Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Trump lost the first showdown (the government shutdown) because he claimed credit for it. In doing that, he transferred all the power to Speaker Pelosi, and she used it to beat him badly. In the end, he had to agree to a continuing resolution that gave him nothing while a budget for the rest of the year was "negotiated".

He continued to threaten a government shutdown or declaring a national emergency, but those were baseless threats and both parties in Congress knew it. Trump again blew it -- this time by not participating in the negotiations. That put the power back with Speaker Pelosi. McConnell and Senate Republicans could not refuse to go along with Pelosi, because they would again be blamed (along with Trump) for shutting down the government.

The result was another Pelosi win. She threw Trump and the Republicans a bone by including $1.3 billion into the package for new wall. Trump had wanted $5.7 billion to start building the 1,000 miles of new wall that he wants. Pelosi gave him $1.3 billion, which will fund about 55 miles of wall (at a site in Texas to be determined by Border Patrol authorities). And the chance of getting any more wall money next year is nonexistent.

Trump is now expected to sign the new bill, without shutting down the government or declaring a national emergency. Instead, he is currently talking about using an executive order to shift funds from other areas of the government (like military construction spending) to build his wall. Will Pelosi push back, going to court to stop Trump from taking funds Congress passed for one function to do another? It wouldn't surprise me at all.

Through his own stupidity and incompetence, Trump has abdicated any power he had in dealing with Congress. That power now rests in the gavel of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That's a good thing for this country.

Not Gonna Happen

Political Cartoon is by Dave Whamond at cagle.com.

Who Does The Public Trust More - Trump Or Mueller?


Donald Trump has done his best to destroy the American public's trust in the Mueller investigation. He has called it a hoax, a witch hunt, and a Democratic effort to damage his presidency. But he has not succeeded in doing anything except make it look like he is terrified at what Mueller may discover in his investigation.

The public still thinks the investigation is proper -- and more important, they say they would believe Mueller over Trump. That trust of Mueller over Trump is by 23 points among all adults, by 76 points among Democrats, and by 28 points among Independents. The only group that would believe Trump over Mueller is the Republicans -- by 57 points.

Republicans remain out-of-step with the rest of the country. That's not going to help Trump in the next election.

The chart above is from the Washington Post / Schar School Poll -- done between February 6th and 10th of a national sample of 841 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.

Tax Refund Disappointment

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

The Amazing Double Standard Regarding The National Debt

(Cartoon image is by Gary Varvel in The Indianapolis Star.)

When Democrats proposed programs to help Americans (like Obamacare), Republicans loudly proclaimed the country could not afford it, because it would increase the national debt (which they claimed was already too high).

But after taking control of both Congress and the White House, the Republicans passed a huge tax cut bill for the rich -- a bill that has ballooned the national debt to a record amount (and will add a trillion dollars a year now to that national debt). And they don't seem to be worried about the national debt anymore (except as a way to attack Social Security -- which has never added a penny to that debt).

It's an obvious double standard. They only worry about the national debt when Democrats are in power. When they are in power, it is no longer a concern.

What is the public to think? Is the huge national debt a real problem, or not? Here are some thoughts about it from Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman (pictured) in his NY Times column:

According to ABC News, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, explained to G.O.P. members of Congress why debt wouldn’t get a single mention in the SOTU: “Nobody cares.”
And you know, he’s kind of right. It’s not just Republicans who suddenly seemed to stop caring about debt. For years deficit scolds dominated discourse inside the Beltway; much of the news media treated the urgency of fiscal austerity as an unquestioned fact, abandoning the usual rules of reportorial neutrality and plunging into outright advocacy. Yet since Trump’s election those voices have become oddly muted.
What we’ve just seen confirmed, then, is what some of us were trying to tell you from the beginning: All that wailing about debt was hypocritical. 
Republicans never actually cared about debt; they just pretended to be deficit hawks as a way to hamstring President Barack Obama’s agenda. And many centrists have turned out to have a double standard, reserving passionate concern about debt for times when Democrats hold power.
But while the about-face on debt has, as I said, been deeply revealing, there are still two big questions. First, how much should we care about debt? Second, will a double standard continue to prevail? That is, will the deficit scolds suddenly get vocal again if and when Democrats regain power?

On the first question: One surprising thing about the debt obsession that peaked around 2011 is that it never had much basis in economic analysis. On the contrary, everything we know about fiscal policy says that it’s a mistake to focus on deficit reduction when unemployment is high and interest rates are low, as they were when the fiscal scolds were at their loudest.
The case for worrying about debt is stronger now, given low unemployment. But interest rates are still very low by historical standards — less than 1 percent after adjusting for inflation. This is so low that we needn’t fear that debt will snowball, with interest payments blowing up the deficit. It also suggests that we’re suffering from chronic weakness in private investment demand (which, by the way, the 2017 tax cut doesn’t seem to have boosted at all).
So in the past few months a number of prominent economists — including the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund and top economists from the Obama administration — have published analyses saying that even now, with unemployment quite low, debt is much less of a problem than previously thought.
It’s still a bad idea to run up debt for no good reason — say, to provide tax breaks that corporations just use to buy back their own stock, which is, of course, what the G.O.P. did. But borrowing at ultralow interest rates to pay for investments in the future — infrastructure, of course, but also things like nutrition and health care for the young, who are the workers of tomorrow — is very defensible.
Which brings us to the question of double standards.
You don’t have to agree with everything in proposals for a “Green New Deal” to acknowledge that it’s very much an investment program, not a mere giveaway. So it has been very dismaying to see how much commentary on these proposals either demands an immediate, detailed explanation of how Democrats would pay for their ideas, or dismisses the whole thing as impractical. Was there the same pushback against Republican tax cuts? No.
Look, we’ve seen this over and over again — three times since 1980. Republicans rail against budget deficits when they’re out of power, then drop all their concerns and send the deficit soaring once they are in a position to cut taxes. Then when it’s the Democrats’ turn, they’re expected to clean up the Republicans’ red ink rather than address their own priorities. Enough already.
I’m not saying that Democrats should completely ignore the fiscal implications of their actions. Really big spending plans, especially if they don’t clearly involve investment — for example, a major expansion of federal health spending — will have to be paid for with new taxes. But if and when Democrats are in a position to make policy, they should be ambitious, and not let the deficit scolds scare them into thinking small.

It Might Be Easier

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbia Missourian.

Extreme


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Being A Humanist


Is The U.S. Public Ready For "Medicare For All"?


The charts on this page are from the Kaiser Family Foundation's Health Tracking Survey. They questioned 1,190 adults between January 9th and 14th, and the survey has a margin of error of 3 points.

The chart above shows a public option is very popular. About 77% would support allowing people between 50 and 64 to buy into Medicare. About 75% would support allowing anyone without insurance to buy into Medicaid. And about 74% would support allowing creation of a program like Medicare open to all, but allowing those who want to keep their private insurance.

The most exciting one is that 56% would support a Medicare For All program that would cover all Americans. Sounds good doesn't it? But there are still problems, and they are shown in the chart below.

When told it would eliminate private insurance, that 56% drops to 37%. When told it would raise taxes, it drops to 37%. And when told it might cause delays in some medical tests and treatments, it drops to 26%.

These are not arguments that can't be overcome. But they are arguments that Republicans will make, and the public is vulnerable to them. I believe Medicare For All is the best solution to this nation's health care problems, but it is a fact that the public is not quite convinced of it yet.

We will finally get there, but we are not there yet. More needs to be done to allay the fears of the public, and convince them that a single-payer program would be best for this country.


Heads Explode

Political Cartoon is by Randall Enos at cagle.com.

Most Countries See The U.S. As A Greater Threat Than Russia


The charts on this page are from the Pew Research Center. It is from their Global Attitudes Survey for 2018.

The chart above will probably shock most Americans. It shows how 24 countries surveyed view the threat from the two biggest powers -- the United States and Russia. Which one do they view to be the greater threat?

Note that 17 of the 24 countries view the power and influence of the U.S. to be a greater threat to them than the power and influence of Russia. Only 7 of the 24 view Russia as the greater threat.

The chart below shows that the view of the U.S. as a threat has grown significantly larger than it was in either 2013 or 2017. The next chart shows why. There is less confidence in the leadership of Donald Trump than there was when Barack Obama was president.




NOTE -- While most of the countries surveyed viewed the U.S. and Russia as a threat to their security and safety, it was not the greatest threat they saw. Overall, the greatest threat was global climate change -- followed by ISIS, cyberattacks, North Korea's nuclear program, and the global economy. U.S. power and influence was sixth, and Russian power and influence was seventh.