A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, February 27, 2015

How Can Any Decent Person Disagree ?


Democrats Need To Formulate A Unified Plan For 2016

(The image above of the Democratic donkey is by DonkeyHotey.)

The Democratic Party did very poorly in the 2014 mid-term elections. Part of this was due to too many people staying home on election day (people who would have pulled the lever for Democrats, if they had bothered to vote). But there was another factor that had an effect -- the lack of a coherent and unified plan that could easily be understood by the voting public.

In 2014, Democrats were turned loose to campaign on their own personal issues. The thinking was that they could tailor those issues to their local or state priorities. That turned out to be disastrous. It just left voters unsure of where the Democratic Party stood on the issues important to them, and it's very hard to turn out voters when those voters aren't sure of where the candidates stand.

The sad part of this is that there is a range of issues supported by Democrats, and also supported by a large majority of the public. The Democrats need to combine some of these issues into a "Plan for Prosperity", and make that plan the centerpiece of their 2016 campaign -- with every Democrat, from the presidential candidate to congressional candidates campaigning on that plan. This will make it clear that Democrats support the issues that ordinary Americans want, and give those ordinary Americans a reason to go to the polls and vote for Democrats.

Toward that end, I submit the following plan for consideration. Polls have shown that every part of it is supported by most Americans.

PLAN FOR PROSPERITY

1. Raise the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour.
2. Protect Social Security and Medicare (and oppose cuts to either program)
3. Eliminate the special "capital gains tax" for the rich, and tax all income as earned income.
4. Eliminate the tax breaks that reward corporations for exporting American jobs.
5. Eliminate the subsidies that allow profitable corporations to pay no taxes.
6. Rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.
7. Create a small tax on stock trades (0.05% to 0.10%).
8. Eliminate the budget deficit.
9. Maintain a strong national defense.
10. Support equal rights for all Americans.

There are probably some other things that many would like (including many other things I would like to see), but I think the plan needs to be short so it can easily be understood and campaigned on. I think a substantial majority of Americans can get behind all of the 10 points listed above. What do you think?

Serving The Public ?

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

Clinton, Cruz, And Walker Top New Texas Poll



A new University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll has been released. The survey was done between February 6th and 15th, and has a margin of error of 2.83 points (with only Republicans having a margin of error of 4.19 points and only Democrats having a margin of error of 4.89 points). They questioned 1200 Texas adults (including 547 Republicans and 401 Democrats).

The survey didn't have any surprise when Democrats were queried on their current choice for a presidential candidate. Like Democrats in all other states, Texas Democrats are firmly supporting the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. She is the choice of 62%, while Elizabeth Warren (who has repeatedly said she won't run) is 50 points behind at 12%. Joe Biden is third with 6%, and Independent Bernie Sanders draws 5% support.

The two Republicans getting the most support (although far from a majority) are Ted Cruz (20%) and Scott Walker (19%). Cruz's showing is not a surprise, since Texas has a lot of teabaggers in the GOP base. But the support for Walker is somewhat surprising, and it shows he is becoming a real player in the GOP race for the nomination. Also somewhat surprising is the very poor showing of Jeb Bush (9%), in a state where his family has been very popular.

In a different part of that same survey, it seems that Texans may not be as far from supporting marijuana legalization as some think. Note in the chart below that a plurality of Texans (42%) would support, in at least small amounts, the legalization of marijuana use by adults, and another 34% say it should be legal for medical use. Only 24% of Texans think marijuana should remain illegal completely.


But while the views on marijuana are becoming more lenient, the view of Texans on the death penalty is not (see the charts below). A whopping 75% think the state should retain the death penalty, while only 19% oppose it (and 6% are unsure about it).

And the really scary thing is that 59% of Texans believe innocent people are executed by the state at least occasionally (and another 29% says it happens, but only rarely). That's 88% of Texans who accept the fact that the state executes innocent people at times -- and yet they want to keep on doing that.

We Texans are obviously a bloodthirsty lot -- willing to kill innocent people to satisfy our lust for killing. Frankly, I am appalled and ashamed at the lack of caring my fellow Texans display about the execution of the innocent.



Non-Partisan ?

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Senator Warren Challenges The GOP To "Put Up Or Shut Up"

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

Recently, some of the GOP hopefuls considering a run for the presidency have recognized the growing concern of a majority of Americans about the wealth/income gap in this country, and have stated this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, they have not offered any solution -- and like their GOP brothers, they continue to support more tax breaks for the rich and oppose raising the minimum wage. Here is what Senator Elizabeth Warren has to say about that:

So far in this new Congress, Republicans have spent weeks debating a pipeline that will mostly benefit a giant foreign oil company – and weeks more threatening a government shutdown of the Homeland Security Department. Meanwhile, millions of people who work hard and play by the rules are still getting squeezed to the breaking point.  

The Republicans prove once again how Washington works just fine for giant corporations, but not so much for working people.  

It’s time to make different choices – to stand up to the armies of lobbyists and lawyers to begin to make the government work for the middle class once again. That's why this week, Rep. Elijah Cummings and I have launched the new Middle Class Prosperity Project: to push this new Congress to take action to help working people.

Recently, Republicans seem to have discovered the struggles of America’s middle class. Out of nowhere, they’re talking about this problem.

That’s great, but talk is cheap. And when it comes to action, these Republicans seem to have amnesia about what they have actually done to hard-working Americans.

Republican trickle-down policies created tax breaks and loopholes for the wealthy while leaving working families to pick up the pieces. I’ll believe Republicans care about what’s happening to America’s middle class when they stop blocking legislation that would require billionaires to pay taxes at the same rate as teachers and firefighters.

Republican trickle-down economics blocked increases in the minimum wage that would have lifted 14 million people out of poverty. I’ll believe Republicans care about what’s happening to America’s working families when they stop blocking minimum wage increases and agree that no should work full time and still live in poverty.

Republican trickle-down economics squeezed billions of dollars of profit out of people who had to borrow money to go to college. I’ll believe Republicans care about what’s happening to America’s future when they agree to refinance student loans.

I could go on, but the point is the same: talk is cheap.

We know how to build a strong middle class. We’ve done it. And we know that the policies we put together here in Washington can make a big difference. That’s what our new Middle Class Prosperity Project is all about: bringing together leaders in Washington, economists and policy experts, and millions of voices of people across the country to get to work.

It’s time for action that will strengthen middle class families and build a strong future. It’s time to put up or shut up.

Punditspew

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

Fox News Stupid


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Disposable


Clinton Still Dominant (For Primary And General Elections)


It shouldn't come as any surprise, but Hillary Clinton still holds a dominant position in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. In this latest national survey, she holds a majority of 54% of Democratic votes -- 38 points better than second-place finisher Joe Biden, and 42 points better than Elizabeth Warren.

These numbers have to be discouraging for those organizations (Move On and Democracy for America) who have diligently been trying to drum up support for trying to get Warren to change her mind and run. Her number is only about 12% (and has been in the 12% to 16% range for several months now). It seems that most Democrats have taken her at her word, and don';t believe she wants to be a candidate.

But the more important numbers are in the chart below -- where voters were asked to choose between Hillary Clinton and the current leading Republican hopefuls. Clinton tops all of them by between 7 and 10 points -- a significant margin. There's still a long way to go until the next presidential election, but these numbers are very encouraging -- especially when you consider Clinton is likely to coast to the Democratic nomination, while there will be a political war for the Republican nomination (a war that could further weaken the GOP candidate).

Both of these charts were made from a new Public Policy Polling survey -- done between February 20th and 22nd of 691 registered voters nationwide (with a margin of error of 3.7 points). The margin of error for Democrats only is about 5.6 points.


Forecast

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Walker Is Gaining Support Among Iowa Republicans


It is now about 11 months until the Iowa voters meet in their caucuses to determine who should represent them as their party's presidential nominee. That makes it interesting to see where those voters stand on the nominees right now. The Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed Iowa Republicans between February 16th and 23rd. They questioned 623 likely caucus participants, and their poll has a margin of error of 3.9 points.

The survey shows that Scott Walker has made significant progress in the state, and currently has the support of about 25% of the GOP caucus voters. That's 12 points better than Rand Paul, 14 points better than Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee, and 15 points better than Jeb Bush. I hesitate to proclaim Walker as the GOP leader, because 25% is still a long way from a majority -- but it is now clear that he could be a serious player in the race for the nomination.

The survey may also signal some troubles for Jeb Bush. A few weeks ago, pundits were anointing him as the favorite -- but he seems to be having a problem in exciting the party's base voters. I wouldn't count him out yet though. He is the favorite of Wall Street (probably because he is one of them) and is the candidate who has raised the most money -- and we all know how big a help that money can be in these races.

Frankly, this survey should scare union members (and other workers). While all of these candidates are anti-union, none is more so than Scott Walker.

Questions Walker Might Be Able To Answer

Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in the Sacramento Bee.

Colorado Citizens Still Support Marijuana Legalization



In the 2012 election, the voters in Colorado legalized the recreational use (and taxation) of marijuana by adults. The measure won by a pretty significant margin (55% to 45%). The tax benefits have been very good -- exceeding the expectations of the state government. But what do the Colorado citizens think about legalization now that it has been in effect for a while?

A new poll shows they like what they did. In fact, support for legalization may have even grown since the election. A new Quinnipiac University Poll surveyed 1,049 Colorado voters between February 5th and 15th (with a margin of error of 3 points). That poll showed that currently 58% of those surveyed still support marijuana legalization. Even if you subtract the margin of error, it shows that the support has not declined since the election (and may have increased). The opposition has declined though -- from 45% to 38% (a decline of 7 points).

Colorado citizens now know what people in other states are just learning -- that marijuana is NOT a dangerous drug. In fact, it is much safer than other legal drugs. This has now been verified by yet another scientific study -- a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. The study verified what many of us already knew -- that marijuana is the safest of all drugs, and far safer than alcohol (see the chart below).

It is time to stop demonizing this gentle herb, and legalize its recreational use in all 50 states.


The Source

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

GOP ON Rape


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Real News Is Disappearing


All States Have A Decline In Uninsured Due To Obamacare



We learned last week that now 11.4 million Americans have private insurance due to Obamacare -- mostly people who couldn't afford health insurance before the Affordable Care Act was passed. And millions more have insurance through Medicaid now. The Republicans are loathe to admit it, but Obamacare has been even more successful than predicted.

And now there's more good news -- every single state in this country has experienced a drop in the number of their uninsured citizens due to Obamacare, in spite of Republican efforts to sink the program on both the state and federal level. That doesn't mean those GOP efforts haven't had an effect. They have kept millions from getting health insurance -- condemning them to do with important preventive care (and sometimes any care at all, causing about 17,000 a year to die unnecessarily).

Those states that have cooperated with health care reform (by creating a state exchange and expanding Medicaid) have experienced an average decline in the uninsured between 2013 and 2014 of about 4.8 points. But those states (mainly GOP-controlled states) that have not created a state exchange or have not expanded Medicaid, or both, have had a decline of only about 2.7 points. It is ridiculous of the Republicans to intentionally deny health care to millions of citizens -- just so they can show their displeasure at having an African-American president, but that is what they have done.

The numbers above are from a recently released Gallup Poll -- done between January 2nd and December 30th of 2014 of a random national sample of 178,072. The margin of error for each state is between 2 and 4 points.

Taking The High Road

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

Some Good News For Democrats

The National Journal is reporting that people close to Russ Feingold (pictured) are saying he's going to run for the Senate again in Wisconsin. That's wonderful news, because he was one of the most progressive senators in Washington before he lost to Ron Johnson in the 2010 election.

2010 was the year that Republicans took the House, and several Senate seats. Sadly, too many Democrats and Independents stayed home in that off-year election, while unhappy Republicans flocked to the polls. But 2016 will be different. It's a presidential election year, and we can expect Democrats and Independents to turn out in much larger numbers -- especially if Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket.

Feingold is currently employed as a State Department Special Envoy to central Africa, but he is expected to resign that position soon. Both Democratic and Republican consultants in Wisconsin are expecting Feingold to run in 2016. One Republican strategist said, "If he didn't run, there would be greater surprise than if he did."

I hope he does run. He could then take his place beside Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as the best senators in Washington.

GOP Hypocrisy - A New Low

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

A Troubling Poll About Republican Beliefs




If the results of this survey is close to right, and I believe it is, then the Republican base has a lot of very scary people in it. The survey is from Public Policy Polling, and was done between February 20th and 22nd of a random national sample of 316 Republican primary voters. It has a margin of error of 5.5 points.

It seems that science denial is rampant among Republicans. About 66% say they don't believe in global warming, and 49% say they don't believe in evolution -- even though more than 95% of scientists say both are true. It bothers me that these people think they can pick the parts of science they are willing to believe, and toss out the parts that don't necessarily agree with their religion.

But it is that third chart that bothers me most of all. A significant majority of Republicans (57%) are willing to toss out part of the First Amendment to our Constitution -- the part that guarantees religious freedom. They would like for our federal government to establish christianity as the official state religion -- which of course, would mean the government (and everyone else) would be free to discriminate against anyone who is not a christian. That is scary!

The poll also asked those Republicans who their presidential preference was, and the results are shown in the chart below. It shows that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has risen in the polls in the last few weeks. I hesitate to call him the leader though, since 3 out of 4 Republicans either want someone else or are unsure who they would want.


Racist Idiot

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

Most Terrorists In The West Are NOT Islamic Jihadists


The chart above was made from a series of Rasmussen Polls, done between February of 2012 and February of 2015. The latest was done on February 20th and 21st of a random national sample of 800 likely voters. All of the surveys were done with between 800 and 1,000 adults, and had margins of error of between 3 and 3.5 points.

The survey shows a remarkable drop in the percentage of Americans who believe we are winning the "war on terror" -- from 51% a couple of years ago to about 19% this month (a whopping 32 point drop). Obviously the media coverage of ISIS, al-Queda, and other islamic groups, combined with the fear mongering by many of our politicians is having a big effect on the public.

Unfortunately, this is a gross misrepresentation of the truth. While the media and the politicians are trying to whip up fear of muslims (and their extremists), the fact is that people in the West (North America and Europe) face far less danger from islamic extremists (jihadists) than they do from their own home-grown non-islamic terrorists.

Take for example an article written for The Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah. Here is part of that article, revealing the truth about terrorism in the West:

Obviously, there are people who sincerely view themselves as Muslims who have committed horrible acts in the name of Islam. We Muslims can make the case that their actions are not based on any part of the faith but on their own political agenda. But they are Muslims, no denying that.
However, and this will probably shock many, so you might want to take a breath: Overwhelmingly, those who have committed terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe aren’t Muslims. Let’s give that a moment to sink in.
Now, it’s not your fault if you aren’t aware of that fact. You can blame the media. (Yes, Sarah Palin and I actually agree on one thing: The mainstream media sucks.)
So here are some statistics for those interested. Let’s start with Europe. Want to guess what percent of the terrorist attacks there were committed by Muslims over the past five years? Wrong. That is, unless you said less than 2 percent.
As Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, noted in its report released last year, the vast majority of terror attacks in Europe were perpetrated by separatist groups. For example, in 2013, there were 152 terror attacks in Europe. Only two of them were “religiously motivated,” while 84 were predicated upon ethno-nationalist or separatist beliefs. . .
Back in the United States, the percentage of terror attacks committed by Muslims is almost as miniscule as in Europe. An FBI study looking at terrorism committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005 found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were committed by non-Muslims. . .
In fact in 2013, it was actually more likely Americans would be killed by a toddler than a terrorist. In that year, three Americans were killed in the Boston Marathon bombing. How many people did toddlers kill in 2013? Five, all by accidentally shooting a gun.
But our media simply do not cover the non-Muslim terror attacks with same gusto. Why? It’s a business decision. Stories about scary “others” play better. It’s a story that can simply be framed as good versus evil with Americans being the good guy and the brown Muslim as the bad.
Honestly, when is the last time we heard the media refer to those who attack abortion clinics as “Christian terrorists,” even though these attacks occur at one of every five reproductive health-care facilities? That doesn’t sell as well. After all we are a so-called Christian nation, so that would require us to look at the enemy within our country, and that makes many uncomfortable. Or worse, it makes them change the channel.
That’s the same reason we don’t see many stories about how to reduce the 30 Americans killed each day by gun violence or the three women per day killed by domestic violence. But the media will have on expert after expert discussing how can we stop these scary brown Muslims from killing any more Americans despite the fact you actually have a better chance of being killed by a refrigerator falling on you.

And then we have this unsettling bit of truth from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Currently, there are 939 known hate groups operating across the country, including neo-NazisKlansmenwhite nationalistsneo-Confederatesracist skinheadsblack separatists, border vigilantes and others.


Since 2000, the number of hate groups has increased by 56 percent. This surge has been fueled by anger and fear over the nation’s ailing economy, an influx of non-white immigrants, and the diminishing white majority, as symbolized by the election of the nation’s first African-American president.
These factors also are feeding a powerful resurgence of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement, which in the 1990s led to a string of domestic terrorist plots, including the Oklahoma City bombing. The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, skyrocketed following the election of President Obama in 2008 – rising 813 percent, from 149 groups in 2008 to an all-time high of 1,360 in 2012. The number fell to 1,096 in 2013.
This growth in extremism has been aided by mainstream media figures and politicians who have used their platforms to legitimize false propaganda about immigrants and other minorities and spread the kind of paranoid conspiracy theories on which militia groups thrive. 

The truth is that Americans face very little danger from terrorism. An American is far more likely to be hit by lightening than killed by any kind of terrorist -- and far more likely to be killed by a home-grown non-islamic terrorist than by an islamic extremist. The politicians, especially the Republicans, won't tell you this because that would anger many on the right who support them. These people want to believe that all terrorism comes from a different religion and a different country -- and have no desire to look at their own bigotry in the mirror.

And it's nearly as bad with the media. They only cover stories that people want to hear -- stories that will increase their readership or viewership. Looking too hard at home-grown terrorists or other violence in this country just brings criticism, and sadly, they are more in the business of selling advertisements than in telling the uncomfortable truth.

If you doubt what I am saying, just look at this long and rather frightening list of terrorism in the U.S. by the radical right since the Oklahoma City bombing. It was composed by the SPLC.

Eating The Dream

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz at Daily Kos.

Marijuana


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Capitalism


Why Is Equality So Distasteful To The Right ?


On Sunday night, As she accepted her Academy Award, Patricia Arquette made the above statement in calling for equal rights for women in this country. It sounded both reasonable and justifiable to me. It makes no sense that in the 21st Century women should be paid $0.78 for every dollar a man is paid for equal work (and $0.64 for Black women).

But heads immediately exploded on the right. One Fox News commentator said she was "appalled" at Arquette's statement, and others began picking it apart. What is the problem? Why is the concept of equality so hard for those in this country's right-wing? Are they so insecure in their own lives that they must have some group (women, minorities, LGBT, etc.) with less rights than they have to be happy?

To me, freedom means everyone has equal rights and equal opportunity. But freedom means something different to the right-wing. They think it means having the freedom to be better (i.e., more equal) than others. They think equality is a zero sum game, where when one group is given more rights, some other group must give up some rights. But that is false. Giving women, minorities, and the LGBT community equal rights takes nothing away from white men.

Their idea of freedom and equality is also anti-American. In the United States, our freedom and equality is determined by and springs from the Constitution. And our Constitution guarantees ALL citizens equal rights.

Patricia Arquette is right. It is time for women in America to be granted equal rights (and that includes equal pay for equal work). In fact, it is time for ALL citizens to be granted equal rights.

Wanted

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

"World Is Being Run By. . .Imbeciles Who Are Putting Us On"


The following article was written by Green Party Shadow Cabinet member David Swanson. I believe he has a valid point.

One of my favorite things that Mark Twain didn't really say but definitely should have said was "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." He left out the possibility of imbeciles who are putting us on.
On Thursday Comcast internet was not working at my house, just as Comcast's hired Congress members were introducing a bill to create a closed internet with fast lanes for the corporate crap we didn't need the internet for. And a good internet media outlet called TheRealNews.com wanted to do a video interview with me, which I didn't want to do in Java Java because I try not to be quite that rude. So I sat out on the Downtown Mall and did the interview. It was about 12 degrees out, and I think you can see me shaking. And what did they want to talk about? War? Peace? The climate?
They wanted to talk about Jeb Bush. Clearly he is an imbecile who is putting us on. He'd been talking on foreign policy, and of course he agreed with Obama on most everything but claimed not to. On NSA spying, for example, he disagreed basically with the fact that there has been public criticism of Obama's abuses. How he would eliminate criticism he didn't say. He didn't bring up Ukraine or Afghanistan or drone wars, because what would he disagree with? He did bring up the Korean War in order to claim it was a success and not the stupid pointless draw that everyone called it for decades, but of course the innovator in popularizing that ridiculous claim was ... President Obama.
Mostly Jeb focused on Iran, pushing the false claim that Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map and is threatening nuclear attack. Obama pushes all the same lines but then nonsensically and uniquely in this case arrives at the antiwar view that diplomacy is preferable to bombing. Jeb approves of Netanyahu stepping in on March 3rd to give Congress its war orders on the one war Obama doesn't want. I recommend going to SkipTheSpeech.org and urging Congress Members to skip it, as many have committed to doing -- even with Sheldon Adelson promising to pay for the unelection of each of them.
More broadly, Jeb pushed the idea that the Middle East is a disaster because it hasn't been bombed enough, and that the U.S. is disliked because it hasn't attacked enough countries. There are two problems with this. One, it's a disgusting and ridiculous lie that has been getting people killed for many years. A Gallup poll early last year of 65 countries found the U.S. to be considered far and away the biggest threat to peace in the world. The nations in the worst shape are the ones the U.S. has bombed. U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers has actually argued that we should stop paying attention to what bombing Libya did to Libya in order to be sufficiently willing to bomb Iraq and Syria. ISIS actually produced a 60-minute movie begging the United States to go to war against it because recruitment would soar. The U.S. obliged. Recruitment soared. This is how disliked the United States has made itself: organizations are willing to be bombed if it will show them to be the leading opponents of the United States -- a country that, by the way, puts over a trillion dollars a year into war when tens of billions could address world hunger, clean water, and other basic needs. For a fraction of war spending, the U.S. could address climate chaos, agriculture, education, etc., and become the most loved government on earth. But would that feel as good as screaming threats at ISIS?
ISIS, after all, kills people, cuts their throats like Saudi Arabia but on a smaller scale so it's more evil, and burns people to death, like U.S. drone strikes, but on a smaller scale so it must be stopped by using the larger scale killing to stop it.
It's amazing how Americans manage to think about violence. Why, we ask ourselves, don't cops need guns in London? Well, because the criminals don't have guns, but over here they do. So we have to fight guns with guns, and just to be safe spread some more guns around. But why, we ask ourselves, is the Middle East so violent? Well, that's easy: it's the result of millennia-old ethnic and religious hatreds that lie dormant for millennia and then burst into the open when we mistakenly provide freedom they're not ready for in the form of incendiary bombs and depleted uranium. And of course they have guns over there, it's part of their religion. Really? Because the U.S. State Department says that 79% of the weapons shipped to the Middle East are from the United States. That doesn't count the U.S. weapons, the weapons the CIA gives the moderate neck slitters, or the weapons the Iraqi Army abandons. In other words, the same geniuses who are selling drones to the world now have long been arming the global hotspots where they periodically seek to create peace by escalating war. I have a new theory: they are imbeciles who are putting themselves on.
The second problem with Jeb's prescription of more militarism is that President Obama has just proposed the biggest military budget ever and asked Congress for a free pass to launch new wars -- as he's doing anyway and says he'll do regardless -- and the American people are convinced that it's their duty to form opinions about Jeb and his brother and his father and Hillary Clinton and various other imbeciles or putter-oners or both. We're supposed to think that caring about such jack asses makes us good citizens. This is a disastrous distraction. It is actually our duty to engage in policy-driven activism, including activism aimed at fixing a broken election system, and to stop imagining that we're going to vote our way out of apocalypse by cheerleading the candidate for militarized corporate capitalism over the other candidate for militarized corporate capitalism.
Oh, but it's so much more fun to mock Jeb, isn't it? If we criticize Obama we have something in common with icky racists. Seriously? Which is more childish, the racism or the moronic notion that one must obey authority without question or become a racist? You don't have to "Approve" or "Disapprove" of Obama in some simplistic overall sense. There is no requirement in life or politics to be as stupid as a pollster's questions. You can encourage Obama's diplomacy on Iran and resist his warmaking in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promote the good, resist the bad. And avoid the desire to make it personal.
Jeb did try to find one other place to disagree with Obama, namely Cuba. As it happens, I just got back from Cuba last week and have a different perspective. The Republican line parroted by Jeb is that Obama did something for Cuba with nothing in return. Well, Obama is considering taking Cuba off the absurd terrorist list, since Cuba doesn't fund terrorism. But Cuba hasn't put the United States on a terrorist list to take it off of. There has been talk of ending the economic blockade, but Cuba has no blockade against the U.S. to lift. What is it Jeb wants of Cuba? Well, he wants it to stop supporting the popularly elected government of Venezuela and allow its overthrow. See, to get to Obama's right you have to go to overthrowing governments -- and then you'll discover that Obama pretty much agrees with you.
The U.S. is actually proposing to allow importing from Cuba limited items produced by private enterprise. This is an effort to privatize Cuba, to radically change or overthrow its government. By "opening" to Cuba, Obama has given himself new tools. The mission is unchanged. A few of us met with the staff of the soon-to-be U.S. embassy down there, and asked about the $20 million the U.S. spends propagandizing Cubans each year. I asked how they'd feel if Cuba funded activists in the United States. One of them told me there was no need, because the United States has freedom of speech and Cuba doesn't. OK, I said, but the United States has troops in 175 countries and more wars than it can keep track of, and Cuba doesn't. What if Cuba funded a movement against militarism in the United States? The U.S. diplomats said they'd have no problem with that at all. But of course the U.S. government would -- in fact working with Cuba on anything would constitute aiding "terrorists."
I suppose it's not very funny but it should be that if Cuba ever actually attacked the United States we would hear about it 24/7, but the United States and its terrorists living openly in Florida have for over 50 years blown up buildings and planes in Cuba, murdered in Cuba, and introduced human and animal diseases to Cuba, and the Cubans have museums full of the gear they've seized from the hapless CIA, but the Cuban people are delighted to meet Americans and don't blame us one bit for our government just as they'd no doubt like not to be blamed for their own.
Their government and many observers have a theory about why the U.S. government hates Cuba so much: it doesn't want us to see that even a poor country can provide universal healthcare, education, and a guaranteed income.
I'm thrilled with the victory of Jeff Fogel and others in the ruling this week that found a ban on panhandling unconstitutional here. But what if a nation with the resources of the U.S. were to start dreaming bigger? What if we were to do away with the need for panhandling? What if everyone had a full stomach, a good education, no debt, and some free time to pay attention to things?
I sat in a trial a few weeks ago in Alexandria of Jeffrey Sterling who had gone to Congress with the news that the CIA was giving plans for a nuclear bomb to Iran -- plans in which they'd introduced some obvious mistakes on the theory that the dumb Iranians would never notice and build their bomb wrong. Their Russian operative who took the plans to the Iranians was also not supposed to notice the flaws, but he did, immediately. The display of recklessness, stupidity, and imbecility putting itself on in this courtroom was beyond belief, and nobody was there, and the young all white jury found Sterling guilty.
One of the pieces of evidence in the trial discussed the next country the CIA was, in 2000, working on giving flawed nuclear bomb plans to after Iran. They blanked out the name of the country but showed how many letters had been blanked out. They also left it clear that the country's name began with a vowel. Only Iraq fit. These clowns were planning to give nuclear bomb plans to Iraq just before publicly making the case for invading Iraq before it nuked us.
But what else were they supposed to do? You can't do nothing, right? We must either love ISIS and do nothing or drop more bombs and create even more enemies. It's a tough counterproductive path to Armageddon but somebody's got to follow it. And somebody else has got to invent a bunch of lies to make it more palatable. When General Sherman raged through the South burning stuff he told himself that from here on out the South would know war so well that it would never want another one. And 150 years later, I dare you to just hint at taking down the statues of Southern war losers in Charlottesville. The South is the leading supporter of U.S. wars. Without the politics of the South, the U.S. might find its way clear all the way to respecting the rights of some other country. During World War II, the main newspaper in Atlanta, where Sherman had begun his march, editorialized in favor of burning every house in Japan. So, when Jeb-Obama-Hillary-McCain tell you that bombing Iraq will turn Iraqis against war, you can believe them or your own lying eyes. Have the past decades made Iraq more peaceful? Might ending slavery the way most nations did -- that is to say, without a war -- have produced something less than 150 years of resentment and displaced blowback?

Right-Wing Warrior

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

Income Taxes


Monday, February 23, 2015

Closer To Midnight (Doomsday)


How Could Anyone Vote For These Guys ?

(This caricature of the most mentioned GOP presidential hopefuls in by DonkeyHotey.)

I am a progressive. I freely and proudly admit that. But even if I wasn't, I would still have a hard time understanding how any decent American could vote for any of the candidates in the picture above. They are all candidates of the far-right, and the policies they support would be devastating for the country and millions of its citizens. Here are just a few of those reprehensible policies:

All of them oppose raising the minimum wage to a livable wage -- even a barely livable minimum wage of $10.10 an hour.

All of them want to weaken labor unions -- which results in a shrinking middle class, stagnant wages, and a growing wealth and income gap.

All of them want to give more tax breaks to the rich and corporations (both of which are currently enjoying record incomes and profits).

All of them want to take health insurance away from many millions of Americans.

All of them support giving corporations tax breaks to help them export good American jobs.

All of them would like to privatize Social Security -- and failing that, would like to cut benefits and raise the retirement age. And all of them oppose making the rich pay the same percentage in FICA taxes that all workers currently pay.

All of them would like to abolish Medicare (and put seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies).

All of them oppose taking any action to curb global climate change.

All of them want to cut funding for the EPA (to clean our air, water and soil) and support corporate polluters.

All of them support allowing corporations to hide money overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

All of them want to cut government social programs, in spite of the fact that over 20% of this nation's children live in poverty.

Those are just a few of the hard-hearted and mean-spirited policies that the Republican presidential hopefuls all support. But it's enough for me to ask -- How could anyone even consider voting for one of those candidates?

Liar

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

The Number One Military Power In The World ?


The is from a new Gallup Poll -- taken between February 8th and 11th of a random national sample of 837 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.

Frankly, I was a bit shocked at the results of this survey. It seems that nearly four out of 10 Americans (38%) don't think the U.S. has the number 1 (strongest and best) military in the world. How can that be? We spend the majority of our discretionary budget on the military (which is around 45% of the entire world's military spending). If we don't have the number 1 military, then we certainly have the most incompetent military and civilian leaders in the world.

Maybe these people are looking at our recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that would be a mistake. Our military, like all others, is designed to fight a war -- not to engage in nation-building in some foreign country (which no country's military can successfully do). No military can force people to have the kind of government we want them to have -- but in a combat conflict, I do believe our military is the best in the world.

And I have no problem with having a strong military. Like any other country, we have the right to a good national defense. My problem is that we have gone far beyond having an adequate national defense. We have built a military that is strong enough to bully most of the rest of the world into supporting our economic (corporate) empire -- with more than 800 military bases around the world.

There is simply no justification for having that many military bases in other countries. And there is no justification for the billions we waste in spending on the military-industrial complex (many times of weapons systems that don't work, or that the military says it doesn't need).

We could radically cut our military spending without damaging our ability to defend ourselves. We could do that by closing most of those foreign bases, and cutting out the wasteful spending that does nothing but fatten corporate bank accounts -- and still have the strongest military in the world.

There is nothing wrong with having a strong military -- but there is plenty wrong with spending so much on the military that we can't meet our social obligations to our own citizens. And that is what we are currently doing.

Do It Yourself Extremism

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

Right-To-Work Laws Hurt Workers And Increase Inequality


The states in red above have enacted "right to work" laws. These laws are couched as protecting workers, but what they actually do is allow employers to more easily abuse their workers and keep their wages extremely low (while hogging all of the increasing productivity produced by those workers). This results in a further shrinking of the middle class and a larger gap in wealth and income between the rich and the rest of America.

The article below is by Ralph E. Stone, and was found in the Fog City Journal. It should be read by anyone who thinks those "right to work" laws have any value for workers.

Much has been made about the shrinking middle class in the United States where the wealthiest 160,000 families own as much as the poorest 145 million families.  Income inequality is the gap in how much individuals earn from the work they do and the investments they make. Wealth inequality measures the difference in how much money and other assets individuals have accumulated. One of the contributing causes of wealth inequality is the labor movement’s diminished economic and political clout, as seen in the movement by states to enact right-to-work laws.
Thanks to collective bargaining, union members have higher wages and better benefits.  In addition, union membership actually raises living and working standards for all working men and women, union and non-union. When union membership rates are high, so is the share of income that goes to the middle class. When those rates fall, income inequality grows and the middle class shrinks.
Corporations did not all of a sudden give workers two days off each week, which we now call weekends, or paid vacations and sick leave, or rights at the workplace, or pensions, or overtime pay.  Virtually all the benefits we have at work, whether in the public or private sector, are because unions fought hard and long against big business who did everything they could to prevent giving us these rights.
Labor membership is shrinking.  According to the Bureau of Labor Standards, in 2014 the percentage of wage and salary workers who were members of a union was 11.1 percent, down from 20.1 percent in 1983. Consider that union membership peaked in 1954 at 28.3 percent.
And union popularity is down.  Last year, a Gallup poll found only a small majority, 53 percent, approve of labor unions, down from 75 percent in the 1950s.  Yet 71 percent of those polled support right-to-work laws.
Right-to-work, or as some have called such laws, a right to work for less laws, are being enacted by more and more states.  The 1947 Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act, permitted a state to pass laws that prohibit unions from requiring a worker to pay dues, even when the worker is covered by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement.  Thus, workers in right-to-work states have less incentive to join and pay dues to a union. As a result, unions have less clout vis-à-vis corporations.   Twenty-four states have right-to-work laws.
One study found “worker friendly [non-right-to-work] states are significantly healthier, are more productive, have less poverty, and with citizens who enjoy longer life spans. In four of the seven measures (GDP per capita, poverty, insurance and life expectancy rates) so-called ‘right-to-work’ states come out significantly (and statistically) worse.”
The study concludes saying “instead of pursuing laws that actually lower the standard of living in their states, policy makers should look for ways to elevate everyone’s standard of living. Enacting RTW laws is not only misguided, but in fact counterproductive to achieving such ends.”
Why do we need unions anyway?  Because they are essential for America. Unions are the only large-scale movement left in America that serve as a countervailing balance against corporate power, acting in the economic interest of the middle class.  But the decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition.  You may take issue with a particular union’s position on an issue, but remember they are the only real organized check on the power of the business community in this country.

Making Bigotry Sound Good

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