Friday, October 09, 2015

You Have Power

Like It Or Not, Hillary Clinton IS A Progressive

(The photo above is from the website of ABC News.)

Supporters of Bernie Sanders like to say that their candidate is a true progressive, while Hillary Clinton is not. Some have even gone so far as to label her as a corporate dupe (and no different from Republicans). To back up their position, they like to point out that Clinton even referred to herself as a moderate recently.

She did refer to herself as a moderate -- and that was smart politics. I know that many on both the left and the right like to think that the majority of Americans agree with them -- but that simply isn't true. Being on the far left myself, I wish it was true. But the fact is that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have enough members to swing a presidential election. They must appeal to Independents to get elected -- and most of those Independents are moderates, and they prefer to vote for a moderate. They almost always vote for the candidate they perceive as being closest to the center.

Is she really a moderate? Is she someone progressives have nothing in common with? I say the answer to both of those questions is NO. She's a lot closer to the center than any of the Republicans, but she is a true progressive -- and her values and issue stands are ones that a progressive could be happy with.

Just yesterday, she announced a plan to take on Wall Street. Note this from CNN:

"The bottom line is that we can never allow what happened in 2008 to happen again," Clinton wrote, referencing the market crash that led to the Great Recession. "Just as important, we have to encourage Wall Street to live up to its proper role in our economy -- helping Main Street grow and prosper."
Clinton proposes a four-pronged approach to tackling Wall Street: Increasing accountability by punishing criminal behavior, instituting a fee on excessive leverage and short-term borrowing, more oversight on hedge funds and investment banks and a tax on short-term trading.
"People who commit serious financial crimes should face serious consequences, including big fines, disbarment from working in the industry and the prospect of imprisonment," Clinton wrote, responding to liberals who question why no Wall Street executives went to jail for seemingly criminal behavior during the 2008 crash.
And the day before that, she announced that she does not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Add to that her opposition to drilling in the Arctic, her endorsement of equal rights for all Americans (minority rights, women's rights, LGBT rights), her strong support of voting rights, her support for raising the minimum wage, her opposition to any kind of cuts in Social Security and Medicare, her plan to make college affordable for all who want to go, her support for measures to curb global climate change, and her opposition to tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

There is more, but that should be enough to prove my point. If Clinton could get something done (after being elected) in just a few of those areas, she would have a good (and progressive) presidency. And any person who refuses to vote for Clinton in a general election because they believe she's not a progressive (or not as progressive as Bernie) would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Bernie Sanders is a progressive candidate. Hillary Clinton is a progressive candidate. And Joe Biden is also a progressive candidate (should he choose to run). Democrats are lucky this time, because they will be nominating a candidate who believes in progressive values and policies (regardless of who wins the nomination).

Sanders supporters like to think they are backing the only true progressive in the race. They are wrong. Hillary Clinton is a true progressive -- and only die-hard Hillary-haters can deny that.

Where's The Head ?

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

Obamacare Is Working - But We Need More

The chart above is from a recent survey by the Gallup Poll. Between July 1st and September 30th, they questioned a random national sample of 45,615 adults, and because of the huge sample the poll has a margin of error of only 1 point.

The chart shows that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has been pretty successful in its primary goal -- to lower the number of uninsured Americans (thus assuring they can get the healthcare, especially preventative care, that they need). In the last seven quarters, the percentage of uninsured Americans has been reduced fro 17.1% to 11.6% (a reduction in the uninsured of about 32%).

That's good, and I applaud the law for that reduction. But we need to get that number much lower -- all the way down to 0%. Obamacare could be even more successful if the Republican state legislatures would stop playing politics, and expand Medicaid (which currently about half of the states are refusing to do). That 22.2% of uninsured making less than $36,000 could be significantly reduced by that.

But while Obamacare has significantly reduced the number of uninsured Americans, and with GOP cooperation could do even more, the truth is that Obamacare alone will never eliminate the uninsured citizens in the U.S. -- and was never designed to do that. Obamacare was a significant step forward in many ways, but it has not completely fixed the health care system in this country. More needs to be done.

While there is not the political will for it right now, if Americans are to accept that healthcare is a right (and not just a product to be sold), then we are eventually going to have to go to a better system. I believe what is necessary is a government-run, single-payer health insurance system -- like most other developed countries have done (including our neighbor to the north).

This would be something like a Medicare-for-all -- which would have the advantage of covering all citizens with health insurance, and would reduce the amount of money spent on health care in the U.S. (which is much higher than in any other developed nation). It has to come. The only question is how long it will take to finally do it.

Who's Next ?

Political Cartoon is by Gary Varvel in The Indianapolis Star.

In Defense Of Planned Parenthood (And Margaret Sanger)

The far-right-wing congressional Republicans came very close to shutting down the government again in September. It was averted only on the last day of the fiscal year by John Boehner and a minority of Republicans joining with House Democrats to pass a continuing resolution to fund the federal government until December 11th. That resolution did not include the defunding of Planned Parenthood (which was the issue that the far-right was willing to shut the government down over).

But Boehner knew that doing that would cost him his speakership, so he resigned before doing it. Now the Republicans are fighting among themselves over who the new speaker should be -- with the supposed favorite, Kevin McCarthy, withdrawing from consideration. That means it is likely that the new Speaker (whoever he or she might be) will probably be even farther to the right than Boehner was (which is a scary thought).

It also means we are likely to see the defunding of Planned Parenthood once again included in the proposed House budget on December 11th -- and this time there won't be a Speaker willing to give up his job to stop a government shutdown. And that makes it more likely than not that the government will be shut down in December.

The issue is a silly one. The Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood -- supposedly to prevent government money being spent to fund abortions. The crazy part is that there is already a law preventing government money being spent for that purpose -- and the Republicans know it, because they are the ones that passed that law. That means they are just playing a political game to please their evangelical/teabagger voter base -- and they are willing to let a huge number of women go without the health care they get from Planned Parenthood to play that electoral game.

Unfortunately for the GOP, while defunding Planned Parenthood may play well with many in their base, it doesn't go over so well with the general public. Most Americans don't want the government shut down over this issue. And as the chart above shows (from a Rasmussen Poll done on September 30th and October 1st of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a 3 point margin of error), a majority of Americans still have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood -- meaning a shutdown of the government over this issue could cost them in the next election.

They are trying to change the public's opinion. We already know they are telling scurrilous lies about Planned Parenthood, but they are going further. They are also spreading stories about the founder of that organization -- Margaret Sanger (pictured). The most odious of these stories is that Sanger was a racist. This was even claimed by GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson recently.

Of course this is not true. Here is what Politifact (by the Concord Monitor) has to say about Carson's (and the GOP's) claim:

Despite being dead for 49 years, Margaret Sanger, founder of the organization that became Planned Parenthood, has a way of turning up in the news. Her latest appearance came during  remarks by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carsonat a retirement center in Exeter, N.H.
Answering a question at RiverWoods Retirement Community, Carson said that "Planned Parenthood, as you know, was founded by Margaret Sanger. . . . Margaret Sanger was a eugenicist. She believed that people like me should be eliminated, or kept under control."
At a press conference later, he specified what he meant by "people like me."  He said he was "talking about the black race."
Claims like this have been examined by PolitiFact before. Back in March, New Hampshire Rep. William O’Brien claimed Sanger was an "an active participant in the Ku Klux Klan." That claim was rated false.
And in 2011, businessman and GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain said Planned Parenthood’s early mission was to "help kill black babies before they came into the world." That statement was rated Pants on Fire.
Carson’s statement pulls on the same threads.
Sanger was indeed a believer in eugenics, but the basic concept that humanity could be improved by selective breeding was an article of faith for many in the years before World War II. Winston Churchill, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells all supported the movement. African-American leader W. E. B. Du Bois backed many of its principles as well.
Although the eugenics movement included some who had racist ideas, wanting to create some sort of master race, "only a minority of eugenicists" ever believed this, according to Ruth Engs, professor emerita at the Indiana University School of Public Health and an expert in the movement.
At the time that Sanger was active, Engs wrote, "the purpose of eugenics was to improve the human race by having people be more healthy through exercise, recreation in parks, marriage to someone free from sexually transmitted diseases, well-baby clinics, immunizations, clean food and water, proper nutrition, non-smoking and drinking."
It’s a far cry to equate eugenics with advocating the elimination of black people.
For Sanger, her ideas were a matter a public health. As late as 1957, she put her views this way in an interview with Mike Wallace: "I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world -- that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they're born. That to me is the greatest sin -- that people can -- can commit."
Sanger was indeed a birth control activist, which means that she wanted women to be able to avoid unwanted pregnancies. She worked for women of all classes and races to have that choice, which she believed to be a right.
Quoted in an article about the false accusation that Sanger supported the Ku Klux Klan (she merely addressed a women’s auxiliary and later compared them to children because of their mental simplicity), Jean H. Baker, author of Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion, said Sanger actually opposed prejudice.
Sanger "was far ahead of her times in terms of opposing racial segregation," wrote Baker, a history professor at Goucher College, in an email. She worked closely with black leaders to open birth control clinics in Harlem and elsewhere."
Even authors who treat Sanger critically don’t believe she held negative views about African-Americans. Edwin Black wrote a comprehensive history of the eugenics movement, War Against the Weak, and is no fan of the activist’s beliefs. Ultimately, though, he writes, "Sanger was no racist. Nor was she anti-Semitic."
It’s also worth noting that Sanger died in 1966, six years before the Supreme Court established a nationwide right to abortion services in Roe v. Wade.
Those who point a finger at Sanger as a racist often cite a particular statement in claiming she harbored ill will toward black people. In a Dec. 10, 1939, letter, she wrote that "We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs."
But PolitFact Georgia debunked those who would read the statement as something sinister.
"Sanger’s correspondence shows this sentence advocates for black doctors and ministers to play leadership roles in the Negro Project to avoid misunderstandings. Lynchings and Jim Crow laws gave blacks good reason to be wary of attempts to limit the number of children they bore. In Harlem, she hired a black doctor and social worker to quell those fears," the article says.
She attracted an impressive roster of supporters, including DuBois; Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of National Council of Negro Women; and the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Eleanor Roosevelt also backed the effort.
"For Sanger to launch a genocidal plot behind their backs and leave no true evidence in her numerous writings would require powers just shy of witchcraft," the PolitiFact piece notes.
Finally, in 1966 Planned Parenthood gave its Margaret Sanger award to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights leader accepted, and sent his wife, Coretta, to accept. The speech he wrote for the occasion stated that ""There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger's early efforts."
Sanger was still alive at that point, and her history and statements were well known (she had published an autobiography in 1938 and was never shy about sharing her opinions). If she had, in fact, been a supporter of eliminating black people, it’s doubtful King would have accepted that award.
Our ruling
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said that birth control activist Margaret Sanger "believed that people like me should be eliminated." He later clarified that he meant African-Americans. While Sanger indeed supported the eugenics movement, substantial evidence shows that she was not racist and in fact worked closely with black leaders and health care professionals.
Carson’s statement bears no relation to historical reality. We rate the claim False.

NRA (And GOP) Plan For School Security

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

For-Profit Health Care

Thursday, October 08, 2015

No Moral High Ground

3 Out Of 4 Want Minimum Wage Raised To At Least $10

There is a debate right now over whether the minimum wage should be raised. That wage has lost more than 30% of its buying power since the late 1960's -- and it is no longer a livable wage. While we can debate how much it should be raised, it seems to me that whether it should be raised is a debate that has already been settled.

The Republicans are against raising the minimum wage -- and some of them would like to eliminate it altogether. They claim that raising it would cost jobs, because many businesses could not afford a higher wage. That is a false argument. All studies have shown that raising the minimum wage does not cause any job loss. In fact, raising the minimum wage would be as good for businesses as for workers -- because people would have more money to spend in those businesses (making their profits go up). And all businesses would be operating on a level playing field.

The position the Republicans have taken just puts them at odds with the general public on this issue. A new poll shows that about three-quarters of the public (74%) would like the minimum wage raised to at least $10 an hour -- and 43% would like it raised even higher (to $12 or $15 an hour).

These numbers are from a new Public Policy Polling survey. It was done between October 1st and 4th of a random national sample of 1,338 registered voters, and has a margin of error of 2.7 points.


Political Cartoon is by Tom Toles in The Washington Post.

Clinton Leads All Other Democrats In The "Swing States"

Bernie Sanders is doing very well in his neighboring state of New Hampshire (and possibly OK in Iowa), but he's having difficulty getting any traction in the other 48 states. I have recently brought you the presidential preferences of Democrats in some other states (like Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, etc.) -- and they all show Hillary Clinton with a substantial lead over Sanders.

Now a new poll has been released showing the preferences of Democrats in three "swing states" -- Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. It is the Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between September 25th and October 5th. They questioned 411 registered Democrats in Florida (moe of 4.8 points), 396 registered Democrats in Ohio (moe of 4.9 points), and 442 registered Democrats in Florida (moe of 4.7 points).

This new poll shows what polls have shown in other states -- that Hillary Clinton has a significant lead over Bernie Sanders in all three states (see chart above). In fact, Sanders didn't even reach the 20% in any of the three -- scoring 19% support in all three states. Clinton has a 24 point lead in Florida, a 21 point lead in Ohio, and a 17 point lead in Pennsylvania.

The chart below shows what the numbers look like without Joe Biden being considered (and he is not a candidate -- at least not yet). Not that without Biden, Clinton numbers top 50% in all three states -- about twice the support that Sanders draws.

This makes next week's debate critical for Bernie Sanders. He needs to score a big win to get his campaign going again -- since he seems to be stuck in the mid-twenties (or less) in most states. Can he do it? It'll be interesting to see.

GOP View Of Women

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

It's Time To Plug The Holes In The Background Check Law

I have to agree with the words of Hillary Clinton above. It seems that the Republicans, all of them have surrendered on the issue of trying to save American lives by passing some reasonable (and constitutional) gun laws. They have decided that the profits of gun manufacturers, and the campaign money they get from the NRA and those manufacturers, are more important than saving the lives of Americans -- even children.

I understand that "gun control" is a hot-button issue in this country, and many Americans have been frightened by the propaganda of the right claiming the government (i.e., the Black President) wants to take away all their guns. It's not true, but they believe it.

But their is one gun issue that is popular with almost all Americans (including gun owners and Republicans) -- that we should close the loopholes in our background check law for those wanting to legally purchase a gun. Americans want EVERYONE trying to buy a gun to have to pass a background check. They don't think terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous people should be able to legally purchase any firearm.

But currently those dangerous individual can legally buy any kind of gun they desire. They can do it at a gun show, over the internet, or from an individual. And currently, about 40% of all gun sales are done this way -- without any kind of background check. Why do we allow this to happen? Closing these loopholes wouldn't affect any decent and law-abiding individual. They could still purchase a gun. It would just make it much harder for those dangerous individuals to buy a gun.

This is an issue whose time has come -- and the beauty of it is that there would be no political price to pay for any politicians voting for it. I posted last week about a Quinnipiac University Poll that showed slightly more than 90% of Americans would support closing the loopholes in the background check law. Now there is a new survey (by Public Policy Polling) that shows virtually the same thing -- that 88% of Americans want anyone buying a gun to have a background check done.

We must start putting more pressure on our elected officials (of both parties) to close the background check loopholes. It wouldn't completely eliminate gun deaths, but it would save many American lives -- and that is definitely worth doing. We must not surrender!

Campus Carry

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

The Horrors Of War Continue

(This photo of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) Hospital is from ibtimes.co.uk.)

The following message is from the group called United for Peace & Justice. I agree with it.

The horror continues in Afghanistan with the deadly bombing of the Doctors Without Bordershospital in Kunduz killing 22 people - 12 staff members and 10 patients, some of them children, with dozens more wounded.
Bombing a hospital is a violation of International Humanitarian Law and a War Crime.
Afghanistan is our country’s longest war – entering its 15th year today, October 7th. President Obama can’t claim he ended combat operations in 2014 when we continue to bomb the country. Bombing is war!
The President and military leaders have repeatedly told us there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Why are the same failed policies that began under the George W. Bush administration still in effect?
Since the 2009 “surge”, things in Afghanistan have only gotten worse. The Taliban have launched more attacks every year. Rather than being diminished they have grown in size and capacity. For the 5th consecutive year Afghan civilian casualties have hit record highs. Some Afghan people, fueled by anger at foreign occupation and a corrupt government, have turned to the Taliban.
The government of Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt in the world – hundreds of millions of our dollars go into the hands of crooked officials, warlords, drug lords and the Taliban. 
The U.S. has spent $65 billion to build the Afghan Army and Police Forces. Despite the infusion of $110 billion in foreign assistance since 2001, Afghanistan’s only real economy is the poppy drug trade which has rapidly increased in recent years under U.S. occupation. America has supported a corrupt Afghanistan government at the expense of Afghan people American service members.
Now, President Obama has ordered a slowdown in U.S. troop withdrawal and we fear he may extend troop deployments beyond 2016.
U.S. military intervention is a proven failure. We invested in drones, bombs, soldiers, and night raids but did not invest in solutions. These failed military tactics have led to more enemies, more extremists and futile, endless war, while increasing suffering for the people of Afghanistan (2.5 million refugees and 700,000 displaced per UNHCR). 
How do we respond to those who say if the U.S. leaves there will be a bloodbath? Unfortunately a bloodbath has been underway for 14 years and the U.S. must take responsibility for its part in it. U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East is seen as a crusade against Islam and used by Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other extremist groups to attract recruits. There are no easy answers or fast solutions. But if we change course, take diplomatic methods seriously, backed by intelligence, money and our full, determined effort, we can achieve a political solution leading to stability instead of endless war.
The Afghanistan war is an abysmal failure. We must ask President Obama, our Congressional representatives, and the military two basic questions:
  • Why should U.S. forces stay one more day in Afghanistan? 
  • What is preventing a full, focused effort on diplomacy – in Afghanistan as well as in the Middle East?
We need to end military intervention and support a diplomatic process leading to a political solution. As long as there are U.S. forces in Afghanistan there will be no peace. As President Obama himself has said, a lasting solution will depend on Afghans and their neighbors reaching a political settlement.
Please share this message with others who want to end the war.

Enemy Of My Enemy

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

Where Your Taxes Go

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

We Must Talk About Poverty

New National Poll Shows Clinton Clearly In The Lead

Once again, a respected national poll defies the story the media wants to tell about the race for the Democratic nomination (that Clinton is fading and Sanders is rising). The truth is that Clinton (42%) has a substantial 18 point lead over Sanders (24%) -- and Sanders is still mired in the mid-twenties. He may be drawing large crowds, but it isn't translating into increased support (since he has been in the mid-twenties since entering the race).

Those numbers are with non-candidate Joe Biden treated as a candidate. If you remove Biden, then Clinton's advantage over Sanders increases to 23 points (51% to 28%).

It'll be interesting to see if these numbers change after next week's Democratic debate. I know Sanders' supporters are counting on that to happen, but I think they are underestimating Hillary Clinton -- who is a better debater than they give her credit for.

These charts were made from the results of the new Public Policy Polling survey -- done between October 1st and 4th of a random national sample of 551 Democratic primary voters, with a margin of error of 4.2 points.

And just to see if there was a well-known Democrat who could seriously challenge Clinton, they matched her head-to-head against five well-known Democrats (Sanders, Biden, Warren, Kerry, and Gore). Those results are in the chart below. Like it or not, Hillary is the clear favorite for the 2016 nomination.

Where's The "Good Guy" ?

Political Cartoon is by Matt Davies in Newsday.

Public Shows Little Respect For Their Own Congressperson

We've seen poll after poll showing the general public has a very low opinion of Congress (with support for the job they are doing resting in the low teens). This Gallup Poll (done between September 9th and 13th of a random national sample of 1,025 adults, with a 4 point margin of error) focuses in on some public beliefs about the members of Congress -- and they're not good.

It turns out that 52% of people believe members of Congress are corrupt, 69% believe they are beholden to special interests, and 79% believe they are out of touch with ordinary Americans.

That's not good, but voters only get to vote for their own member of Congress, so what do they think about their own congressperson? The charts above illustrate that. It turns out that about a third (32%) think their congressperson is corrupt, 47% believe they are beholden to special interests, and 48% think they are out of touch with their constituents.

That would worry me if I was a congressperson -- and if I was a Republican, it would worry me a whole lot (since most congresspersons are Republicans). Is this the recipe for another upheaval of Congress? It could be.

The Real Criminals

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in the Hartford Courant.

Hillary Clinton Is The Choice Of Maryland Democrats

This is the first poll from Maryland that I am aware of. And it shows once again that while Bernie Sanders may be doing well in New Hampshire, he's having a lot of trouble gaining support in other states. In Maryland, he trails Hillary Clinton by 26 points -- and in fact, finishes in third place, also trailing Joe Biden (who's not a candidate right now) by 6 points.

This is the Goucher College Poll -- done between September 25th and October 1st of a random sample of 300 Maryland Democrats, and has a margin of error of 5.7 points.

Revisionist History

Political Cartoon is by John Branch at branchtoon.com.

There Are Now More Guns Than People In This Country

I have been saying that there were nearly as many guns as people in this country. It turns out that I was wrong -- there are more guns than people in this country! The NRA and the gun manufacturers have used the racist hatred of President Obama to kill efforts to pass reasonable (and constitutional) gun laws, and to vastly increase the number of guns produced.

Here is part of an excellent article by Christopher Ingraham (pictured) in The Washington Post:

It's tough to know exactly how many guns we have in the United States. Most estimates of the number of guns in the U.S. use federal tallies of the firearms manufactured, imported and exported by U.S. gunmakers. A 2012 Congressional Research Service report published exactly one month before the Sandy Hook school shooting put the number of civilian firearms at 242 million in 1996, 259 million in 2000, and 310 million as of 2009.
If that 310 million number is correct, it means that the first year of Barack Obama's presidency was an inflection point: It marked the first time that the number of firearms in circulation surpassed the total U.S. population.
Data on gun manufacturing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives now goes through 2013. If we were to update the CRS numbers with the most recent data, we'd get a chart that looks something like this:
Regardless of the actual number of civilian firearms in circulation, there's no ambiguity around one crucial fact: U.S. gun manufacturers have drastically increased their output during the Obama years. In 2009, according to the ATF, gunmakers produced 5.6 million guns. By 2013 their annual production had just about doubled, up to 10.9 million guns that year.

Going From Bad To Worse

Political Cartoon is by Matt Davies in Newsday.

Forgotten Hero

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Exploding Wing-Nut Heads

Hillary Proposes Bold Plan To Curtail Gun Violence Epidemic

The chart above (from Vox.com) is for those of you who still stubbornly insist the gun violence in this country is not of epidemic proportions. Note that the number of firearm deaths between 2001 & 2013 outnumbers the number of deaths from AIDS and from illegal drugs (both of which have been called epidemics) added to all military fatalities and all deaths from terrorism. Not an epidemic? No action needed? Don't be ridiculous!

There are more than 33,000 gun deaths each year in this country (murders, suicide, accidents). And if you just want to talk about mass shootings (defined as at least 4 people getting killed or wounded), those numbers are horrible also. In 2015, there have been 294 mass shootings -- more than the number of days so far in this year. Is it acceptable to have more than one mass shooting for every day in this country? It's not acceptable to me, and I don't believe it should be acceptable to any decent person in this country.

The Republicans don't want to face this problem. Jeb Bush says "stuff happens". Mike Huckabee says it's because of "sin". And the other GOP candidates just want to scapegoat the mentally ill. Those are all ridiculous assertions. No other developed country has anywhere near the level of gun violence that the United States has -- and the U.S. has no more "stuff", "sin", or mental illness than those countries have.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we all know what the problem really is -- there are too many guns of all kinds in our society, and it is too easy for dangerous people to get any kind of gun they want. Anyone who cares about the unnecessary killing of American citizens knows that we must take action to halt (or at least slow down) this awful epidemic of gun violence.

Thankfully, the Democrats running for president understand this problem -- and they want to take action to stop it. On Monday, Hillary Clinton (the leading Democratic candidate0 unveiled a bold plan of action to stop the gun violence. I think it's a very good plan -- especially closing the loopholes in the background check law, and keeping the domestic abusers from owning a gun.

Here's Clinton's plan (as described at hillaryclinton.com):

  • Advocate for comprehensive federal background check legislation. Laws prohibiting dangerous individuals from buying guns are only as effective as our background check system is comprehensive. Background checks reduce gun trafficking,  reduce the lethality of domestic violence,  and reduce unlawful gun transfers to dangerous individuals.  It is reprehensible that bipartisan legislation supporting background checks failed in Congress after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But Clinton is not giving up – she will continue to fight for legislation to build on the Brady bill’s success.
  • Close the “Charleston Loophole.” Clinton will push Congress to close the “Charleston Loophole” that allows a gun sale to proceed without a completed background check if that check is not complete within three days. The alleged Charleston shooter had a federal criminal record but was able to purchase a gun precisely because of this loophole. This same loophole allowed over 2,500 prohibited gun purchases in 2014. Clinton will support congressional efforts to close the “Charleston Loophole” and provide sufficient time and resources to complete a background check before a sale is approved.
  • Tighten the gun show and Internet sales loophole if Congress won’t. If Congress refuses to act, Clinton will take administrative action to require that any person attempting to sell a significant number of guns be deemed “in the business” of selling firearms. This would ensure that high-volume gun sellers are covered by the same common sense rules that apply to gun stores—including requiring background checks on gun sales.
  • Repeal the gun industry’s unique immunity protection. The NRA lobbied Congress to pass the so-called “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” a dangerous law which prevents victims of gun violence from holding negligent manufacturers and dealers accountable for violence perpetrated with their guns. It is past time to repeal this law and hold the gun industry accountable just like everyone else. Clinton voted against this law in 2005 and will lead the charge to repeal it as president.
  • Revoke the licenses of bad-actor dealers. Clinton believes that because gun violence is the leading cause of death for black males aged 15-24 – responsible for more deaths than the nine other leading causes combined – we must do more to crack down on gun stores that flood our communities with illegal guns. Due to the NRA and their Republican allies, the agency responsible for ensuring gun dealers are following the law and keeping our communities safe has been underfunded and attacked. As a result, 58 percent of gun stores have not been inspected within the past five years. Further, while 38 percent of dealers that were inspected in 2011 were non-compliant with federal law, only 0.05 percent of inspected dealers had their licenses revoked. As president, Clinton will provide funding to increase inspections and aggressively enforce current law by revoking the licenses of dealers that knowingly supply straw purchasers and traffickers.
  • Support legislation to prohibit all domestic abusers from buying and possessing guns.  Women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns in the United States than women in other high-income countries, and more than half of them are murdered by intimate partners or family members. While federal law generally prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing guns, this protection does not apply to people in dating relationships or convicted stalkers. Clinton will fight for legislation to prohibit all of these domestic abusers and stalkers from buying guns.
  • Make straw purchasing a federal crime. When an individual with a clean record buys a gun with the intention of giving it to a violent felon – only so that felon can avoid a background check – it should be a crime. Currently, “straw purchasing” is a paperwork violation. This needs to change.
  • Improve existing law prohibiting persons suffering from severe mental illness from purchasing or possessing a gun. The ATF should finalize its rulemaking to close loopholes in our laws and clarify that people involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment, such as the Virginia Tech shooter, are prohibited from buying guns.
  • Keep military-style weapons off our streets. Military-style assault weapons do not belong on our streets. They are a danger to law enforcement and to our communities. Clinton supports keeping assault weapons off our streets.

Not Happening

Political Cartoon is by John Branch at branchtoon.com.

The Polls Show Clinton's Support Is Still Strong

The media seems determined to convince people that Hillary Clinton's support is "fading", and Bernie Sanders supporters want you to think that he is fast catching up with Clinton. Neither is true. The chart above shows the last 8 polls on the Democratic presidential race (from RealClearPolitics) -- and I venture to say that every other candidate (of both political parties) would love to have Clinton's numbers.

Clinton's numbers are remarkably consistent, averaging 41.5% in those last 8 polls. And Bernie's numbers have been pretty consistent also, averaging 25.4% in those same polls. That gives Clinton a 16.1 point advantage -- and shows that Sanders is having trouble getting out of the mid-twenties (where he has been since shortly after entering the race).

NOTE -- I included only these three people in the chart, because no other candidate was able to even average 1% in the 8 polls.

Indiscriminate Bombing

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Scapegoating The Mentally Ill Is NOT The Solution

After the recent school shooting, this time at a community college in Oregon, the Republicans (at the behest of the NRA) is once again floating the same old tired excuses and "solutions". They are calling for more guns (on campuses and everywhere else -- and they are again demonizing the mentally ill.

More guns is just stupid -- considering we already have more than 300 million guns floating around in our society (nearly enough for every man, woman, and child in this country to have a gun). And while I do believe we need to give the mentally ill more help in this country, it will not solve our epidemic of gun violence. We (actually the Republicans) have cut far too much from programs to help the mentally ill, but the truth is that very little of the gun violence in the U.S. is done by those with mental problems. Most are not violent -- and in fact, are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

Consider the following article by Amy Wolf, writing for Vanderbilt University. She discusses research done by Jonathan Metzl (above left) and Kenneth MacLeish (above right) at Vanderbilt on this issue. Their article, "Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American Firearms", was published in the February edition of the American Journal of Public Health. Here is part of what Ms. Wolf writes:

Mentally ill not violent

In the article, “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American Firearms,” Metzl and MacLeish analyze data and literature linking guns and mental illness over the past 40 years. They found that despite societal pre-conceived notions, most mentally ill people are not violent.
“Fewer than 5 percent of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness,” they write.

Four myths arise after mass shootings

Their research uncovered four central myths that arise in the aftermath of mass shootings:
  • Mental illness causes gun violence.
  • Psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crime before it happens.
  • U.S. mass shootings “prove” that we should fear mentally ill loners.
  • Because of the complex psychiatric histories of mass shooters, gun control “won’t prevent” mass shootings.
They stress that all four of these are incorrect, though understandable, assumptions.
“Our research finds that across the board, the mentally ill are 60 to 120 percent more likely than the average person to be the victims of violent crime rather than the perpetrators.”

Misdirected blame

Metzl and MacLeish find that the focus on mental illness after horrific, yet statistically rare, mass shootings misdirects people from the bigger issues tied to preventing gun deaths in the United States.
“There are 32,000 gun deaths in the United States on average every year, and people are far more likely to be shot by relatives, friends or acquaintances than they are by lone violent psychopaths,” Metzl said.
“We should set our attention and gun policies on the everyday shootings, not on the sensational shootings, because there we will get much more traction in preventing gun crime.”

Mental health screening can’t prevent gun crime

The presumed link between mental illness and gun violence has led to calls for mental health screening for gun owners. But the authors find that psychiatric diagnosis is in and of itself not predictive of violence.
“Even the overwhelming majority of psychiatric patients who fit the profile of recent U.S. mass shooters – gun-owning, angry, paranoid white men – do not commit crimes,” Metzl and MacLeish write.
“Basing gun crime-prevention efforts on the mental health histories of mass shooters risks building ‘common evidence’ from ‘uncommon things,’ all while giving mental health providers the untenable responsibility of preventing the next massacre.”

Signs to predict gun violence

The authors detail how focusing solely on mental illness ignores those factors that do predict gun violence more broadly:
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • History of violence
  • Access to firearms
  • Personal relationship stress
“People are far more likely to be shot by relatives, friends, enemies or acquaintances than they are by lone violent psychopaths,” according to Metzl and MacLeish’s research.

GOP Editing

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

Stewart On Policy

Monday, October 05, 2015


Hillary Leads In Iowa And Bernie Leads In New Hampshire

A new poll has been released concerning Democratic preferences in Iowa and in New Hampshire. It is the NBC News / Wall Street Journal / Marist Poll. It was done between September 23rd and 30th, and included a random sample of 348 Democrats in Iowa and 404 Democrats in New Hampshire. The margin of error for Iowa was 5.3 points, and for New Hampshire was 4.9 points.

The poll verifies what other recent polls in those states have shown. Hillary Clinton has an 11 point lead over Bernie Sanders in Iowa, and Bernie Sanders has a 9 point lead over Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. It'll be interesting to see if either of those state preferences are altered by the upcoming Democratic debate.

The charts below show how the races stand if Joe Biden becomes a candidate.