A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Undermining Marriage ?

Are Income Tax Records Confidential, Or Not ?


One of the biggest gripes the right-wing has against undocumented immigrants is that they take jobs and then pay no taxes. Of course, it's not true. Other than day-labor and agricultural workers, there are very few jobs in this country that don't take taxes out of each paycheck. Another thing that helps the government to collect taxes from immigrants is the confidentiality of tax documents.

Long ago, the United States government decided it wanted to collect as much tax from the underground economy (or "Black Market") as possible. It was obvious that if paying a tax could be used as incriminating evidence, then no tax would be paid. So the government passed a law making income tax documents confidential. Since then, no government or police department can subpoena tax records to be used in a criminal trial (except for non-payment of taxes).

The tax confidentiality provision has worked even better to allow immigrants to pay their taxes than it has with the Black Market. But in Greeley, Colorado, there's a local prosecutor that has decided the confidentiality laws don't apply to him. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck raided the office of a tax preparer popular with Hispanics, and seized some 4,900 records.

Weld has used those records to identify undocumented immigrants, and charge them with crimes such as Using A False Social Security Number. Fortunately two separate judges have ruled Buck's search warrant invalid.

Larimer County District Judge James Hiatt ruled the search of tax records violated privacy rights and was overbroad. Weld County District Judge James Hartmann Jr. said Buck's warrant was "nothing more than an exploratory search based upon suspicion that some unknown person or persons" committed a crime. But Buck has appealed these decisions.

Buck seems to think he had the right to search the tax records, because he got them from a tax preparer and not the Internal Revenue Service. Has Buck found a way around the tax confidentiality law? If so, then the law just becomes moot and unenforceable.

Some may think it's OK because this was just used against undocumented immigrants. But that's not true. Many of the 4,900 people whose documents were seized were legal immigrants or citizens. Their privacy was also violated.

If Buck's actions are found to be legal, then the offices of any tax preparer or accountant could be raided at any time on a "fishing expedition" for some kind of illegal activity. It would not matter whether they had immigrants as clients or not.

Confidentiality is like equality. If you can exclude any group, then the potential exists that all other groups can be excluded (and when the government is involved, that potiential will eventually become reality).

This prosecutor has gone too far, and it is my fervent hope that the state and federal appeals courts let him know that in no uncertain terms.

No Opposition Needed


Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Troll


From the web site of Destonio.

Cheney Is Telling LIES About Torture !

Dick Cheney has been on a tear lately, trying to convince the American people that he's not a torturer. Ever since the Bush administration memos were released showing Cheney ordered "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture), it seems like he's been on every radio and TV show that will have him. He's been trying to rehabilitate his image in hopes of warding off charges for ordering the torture. His three main points have been:

1. Waterboarding is not torture.
2. The purpose of the waterboarding was to save American lives.
3. Unreleased CIA memos show the waterboarding did save American lives.

Number one is ridiculous on it's face. Waterboarding has been recognized as torture since the end of World War II, when the Japanese were condemned for using it. After condemning it then, America cannot now claim it's not torture just because an American vice-president (and probably a president too) ordered it's use.

Everyone outside of America's right-wing clique knows waterboarding is torture, including a sizeable majority of the people in the United States. And anyone who has experienced it will quickly verify it is torture (just ask Jesse Ventura or radio commentator Mancow). Waterboarding is clearly torture, and Dick Cheney ordered it's use.

The only things up for discussion are whether it was used to save American lives, and whether it was successful in doing that. Sadly, it now looks like Dick Cheney was lying about both of those points also.

Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff for Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State, has been investigating the use of torture by America since he was asked to look into it by Powell in 2004. After a relentless search into the matter, Wilkerson says, "Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at preempting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Qaeda."

Cheney was never trying to protect Americans. Instead, he was trying to justify the Bush administrations illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq. And he was willing to torture prisoners until they said what he wanted to hear. The truth didn't matter as long as he could claim Iraq and al-Queda were connected.

He was able to fool some in this country for a while, but the rest of the world knew it was a lie. Muslims all over the world knew that Saddam and Obama were bitter enemies who couldn't agree on anything, let alone work together in a conspiracy.

Cheney's last claim is that the waterboarding produced information that uncovered conspiracies and saved American lives. He has been demanding the release of two CIA memos that he says would prove this. Another lie. Senator Carl Levin's Senate Armed Services Committee has read the memos in question. Senator Levin says the memos do not back up Cheney's ludicrous claims.

Levin says the documents "say nothing about numbers of lives saved, nor do the documents connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of abusive techniques. I hope that the documents are declassified, so that people can judge for themselves what is fact, and what is fiction".

All three of Cheney's claims are nothing but bald-faced lies. Lies designed to justify his own actions and protect his own ass.

The Decision


Political cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at msnbc.com.

Friday, May 29, 2009

As The Right Whines


Political Cartoon is by Mike Lane at caglecartoons.com.

The Choice - Kinky Or A Republican


The other day I got an interesting question from a friend of mine. Neil, who writes the excellent blog Texas Liberal, wanted to know "Why do you support Kinky Friedman for governor in 2010?" Let me see if I can collect my thoughts and coherently answer that question.

First, Kinky's talent and his belief in social justice are not new to me. I first heard of Kinky Friedman in 1973, when he put out an album named Sold American. You don't have to listen to very many cuts off the album to know this talented Texan is a fighter for civil rights and women's rights. And he didn't just do that in his music.

When he ran for governor in 2006 as an independent, there were some young bloggers who, in their zeal to support their own candidate, accused Kinky of being a racist. They should be ashamed of themselves for that. Kinky was on the streets in Austin protesting for civil rights before these bloggers were even a gleam in their parents' eyes. I'm talking about the sixties, when it took some courage to stand up for civil rights anywhere in Texas.

And in all those years since that time, Kinky has not really changed. He is still an independent thinker who wants to make the lives of ordinary Texans a little better. In his own words, Kinky says, "It’s time to end corporate handouts, get rid of the death penalty, get rid of the TAKS Test, and get rid of the Republican stranglehold on this state."

I believe the recent Republican dominance of Texas politics has been disastrous for ordinary Texans. They have virtually sold our state to the corporate interests. While the corporations get handouts and corporate-friendly laws, the ordinary citizens get nothing but higher taxes, dirty air and water, and urban blight. It doesn't matter whether Rick Perry is re-elected or is replaced by Kay Bailey Hutchison, the worship of corporate interests and abandonement of the citizens' interests will continue.

The only way to change things in Texas is to vote the Republicans out of power. Now, some of you may think there is a Democrat running besides Kinky -- Tom Schieffer. I would disagree. Tom Schieffer may call himself a Democrat, but he sure doesn't act like one! Just look at his record in recent years.

Schieffer comes from the corporate world, where he was a business associate of George Bush. In fact, he supported Bush when he ran for governor. Then he again publically supported Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 campaigns for president. He also served the Bush administration as an ambassador. I ask you -- does this really sound like a Democrat?

Tom Schieffer is a DINO -- a Democrat In Name Only. If elected, he would rule like a Republican. You would not be able to detect any difference between the current Republican corporatacracy and a Schieffer-led corporatacracy. It would just be more of the same, with Big Business getting the cake and everyone else scrambling for the crumbs.

Is Kinky perfect? No, but then I have never met the politician who was perfect. However, one big difference between Kinky and most politicians is his willingness to admit his mistakes and apologize for them. A few years ago, Kinky made some stupid and unkind remarks about Katrina victims in Houston. But when his supporters (and others) pointed out what a boneheaded statement it was, Kinky realized his error and apologized for his insensitivity.

Perfect or flawed, Kinky Friedman is the only choice for those who believe Texas is heading down the wrong path, and must change. All of the other candidates just offer more of the same (including Schieffer), but Kinky wants to restore the government to the benefit of ordinary Texans.

Kinky says his heroes have always been Democrats -- specifically Ann Richards and Barbara Jordan. Personally, if he wants to model his government service after these two Texas political giants, then he's off to a good start.

Why do I support Kinky? Two reasons -- I like him as a person, and I don't see any alternative for those who want to change Texas for the better. Isn't it time you climbed on board also?

Impressive ?


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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another One !


Political Cartoon is by Scott Stantis in The Birmingham News.

Burris - The Truth Is Coming Out

A few months ago, Illinois' criminal governor, Rod Blagojevich, appointed Roland Burris to fill President Obama's vacant senate seat. At the time, I (and many others on the left) said a man of honor would have turned down the appointment. We urged the senate Democrats to refuse to seat Burris.

But the press was quick to paint Burris as an ethical man, and soon Harry Reid and his cohorts in the senate folded like a deck chair. Reid has never been a man of much political courage, and he took Burris' word that he hadn't "bought" the seat and allowed him to be sworn in as a senator.

Now it looks like that was a big mistake. A federal judge has released a tape of Burris and Blagojevich's brother Rob talking on the phone before Blagojevich was arrested. Burris claims the transcript clears him of wrongdoing, but he must be living in a fantasy world. The transcript of the telephone call actually makes him look guiltier than ever.

The two are nakedly talking about Burris donating money, and possibly getting others to donate, to the governor. And Burris makes it clear a couple of times that he expects to be considered for the senate seat if he donates. He is worried that it might look like he's "buying" the senate seat, so he talks about hiding the donation by funneling it through his partner. Burris ends the conversation by assuring the governor's brother that he would "personally do something before the 15th of December".

Burris has got to be one of the most ethically-challenged men in the senate. At best, he lied under oath by denying he talked to Blagojevich's brother about the senate seat and a donation. At worst, he actually did purchase the senate seat. Either way, he's not fit to be a senator.

The ethics committe should expell him from the senate, and either let the current governor appoint a replacement or hold a special election. I would suggest the special election would be the best option.

It's time the people of Illinois got a say in straightening out this mess.

Talk Radio


Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The Cat With Wings


I've heard of a horse with a horn (unicorn) and a horse with wings (Pegasus), but those were mythical creatures that existed only in fables. In Chongqing (China), there is a cat with wings and it's very real.

The cat's family said he was very ordinary until he was about a year old. Then he started growing "wings" out of his back. As you can see in the picture above, they actually do look like furry wings. They don't hurt the cat, and the family said he enjoys all the attention he's been getting.

Scientists disagree about the cause of the cat's wings. Some say it's just a mutation. Others say it's mother drank something while pregnant that altered the cat's genes.

Whatever the cause, it's just downright weird.

Lead By Example


Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Whose Word ?


Found at the web site What Would Jack Do?

Obama Picks Sotomayor

President Obama has made his first nomination for the Supreme Court, and it looks like a good one. He has chosen Appeals Court judge Sonia Sotomayor. She was chosen for the federal bench by Republican George H. W. Bush (Bush I) and for the appeals court by Democrat Bill Clinton.

That shows the broad range of support she has had in her career. About the only people who don't like her are the right-wing Republicans. But then they wouldn't have liked anyone nominated by President Obama. They had already made up their minds to vote against his nominee before anyone even knew who the nominee was.

Screw them! Let them whine and bellyache all they want. They don't have the votes to stop the nomination, or even to slow it down. Obama wants her approved by the August recess, and I think that will happen -- whatever the party of No says or wants.

She will be the first Hispanic on the court, and that's not only a good thing but long overdue. Hispanics make up a significant and fast growing portion of the United States population. It's about time they had some representation on the Supreme Court.

Ms. Sotomayor also has more judicial experience (at the time of nomination) than any judge currently sitting on the court, or in fact,any justice in the last 100 years.

But will she be a great justice on the court? I hope so, but only time will tell. We won't know until she dons the robes of that lifetime position, and is guided by only her conscience and the Constitution. There have been some surprises in the past.

Take Earl Warren for instance. He was nominated because he was viewed as a "safe" conservative who wouldn't shake things up on the court. Then he became the driving force behind the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and wound up becoming one of the greatest of the liberal justices.

I believe she'll be a great justice, but we'll see after she takes her place on the bench.

Look Who's Talking !


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

A Great Cowboy Is A Cowboy No More


They say all good things must come to an end. That's especially true in the area of professional sports. No matter how good an athlete is, his career ends someday. There have been many great Dallas Cowboy players in the past, and even the greatest had to retire. Some accepted that time gracefully and others had to experience some humiliation to make them realize it was over.

It looks like the end is near for one of my favorite Cowboys -- Greg Ellis. Yesterday, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones made it official. Greg Ellis will not be on the Cowboys team in the coming season. If they cannot trade him, they will release him -- probably by next week.

Ellis was a great player for the Cowboys. The North Carolina ex played 11 seasons for Dallas, first as a defensive end, and then as an outside linebacker after the team went to the 3-4 defense. In that time, he got 77 quarterback sacks, four interceptions and scored a touchdown. The 77 sacks makes him the eighth-ranked sack artist in Cowboys history.

Whether he retires or goes to another team for a year or two, Greg Ellis can always hold his head high in Texas. Every time he stepped on the field, he gave Cowboys fans the very best he had.

I don't know if he'll make it into the ring of honor, but he holds a place of honor in this Cowboys' fan's heart. I wish him the best in the rest of his life.

Please, No !


Political Cartoon is by Jerry Holbert in The Boston Herald.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Scaring The Senate !


Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at caglecartoons.com.

The Republican Civil War


After their devastating defeat in the 2008 election, I would have thought the Republicans would see that their party was in trouble and start to steer it back to the center. After all, they were not brought to power by just the right-wing, but by a coalition of right-wing Republicans, moderate Republicans, independents and even conservative Democrats -- the so-called "Reagan Coalition".

But that is not happening. If anything, the party seems to be going even further to the right. With far less than 30% of the American population identifying themselves as Republicans now, it would seem obvious that the party needs to appeal to moderates and centrist independents. There are some Republicans who see this, but not many.

Those who want to expand the party and reach out to those in the center are currently being led by Colin Powell. As a left-winger, Powell scares the hell out of me. He is a moderate who is well respected by a large part of the American populace. He is the kind of person who could lead the Republicans back to power in a short period of time.

Fortunately for Democrats, the current powers-that-be in the Republican Party don't seem to be able to see that. In fact, they actually believe the Republicans need to move farther to the right and are actively trying to purge the party of all its moderates. They have already driven Arlen Specter our, and seem to be trying to do the same with Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

He may not be a politician, but the de facto leader of the Republican Party right now is Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh has a large radio audience, but that is all he has. And that radio audience is not nearly large enough to return the Republicans to power. In fact, he turns off the moderates, and drives independents away from the party.

But amazingly, it is Limbaugh that party leaders are lining up behind, including Michael Steele, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Many congressional Republicans have also chosen to back Limbaugh, or are too afraid to speak against him. This pretty much leaves Powell alone and swinging in the wind.

Although I think the current direction of the Republican Party is suicidal, I hope it continues. If they do remain the party of Limbaugh, it will mean many more good years for Democrats, and that's a good thing.

Cheney In A Nutshell



Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Little More Duct Tape


Found at the excellent site of Yellowdog Granny.

45 Years Too Late


The Texas Senate engaged in a bit of political showmanship last weekend, but they were just a little bit late -- about 45 years late. They ratified the 24th amendment to the United States Constitution.

In 1962, Congress passed the 24th amendment and offered it for ratification to the states. The amendment banned poll taxes in elections. In 1964, the amendment became part of the Constitution and the law of the land, after being approved by all but 12 states. Texas was one of those states that refused to ratify the amendment.

Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) said, "Better late then never." I have to disagree with him. The ratification would have meant something in 1963 or 1964. Today, it is little more than a sick joke.

But it's about right. Texas is usually about 50 years behind the rest of America.

Where Every Day Is Memorial Day


Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Another Rich Preacher

The man in the picture is David Cerullo. He may not be among the best-known of the TV preachers, but he is one of the richest.

Cerullo is one of the preachers pushing the "prosperity gospel". This very modern version of the gospel says if the viewer will just send the preacher a certain amount of money, God will reward them by making them economically successful. In Cerullo's case, the price tag on God's economic reward is $200.

I don't know if those who sent Cerullo their $200 checks have been enriched, but he certainly has. He now has a television cable network that beams broadcasts into 100 countries on five continents. This allows him to live in a 12,000 square foot lakefront home with an 1100 square foot garage and an elevator.

His $1.5 million personal compensation makes him the highest paid of any of the TV preachers (most let their church pay for their homes, cars and other bills to save on income taxes).

This kind of salary and lifestyle seems kind of incongruous for a religion based on the teachings of Jesus. Didn't Jesus say it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven, and didn't he exhort his followers to sell their belongings and give it to the poor?

It makes me wonder if Cerullo even cares what Jesus taught as long as the money keeps pouring in for his exorbitant salary and lifestyle.

Where Will They Go ?


Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

$70 Movie Causes Stir At Cannes

These days the making of a new movie is a multi-million dollar affair. Even an independent film by a new director that's made on a shoestring budget, will cost a couple of hundred thousand dollars. So you can imagine the shock caused by the new movie "Colin". The movie was made for $70.

The movie's director is Marc Price (pictured). Price, and a few of his friends, have wanted to make a movie, but realized they would never be able to raise the couple of hundred thousand dollars needed to do it. Price said, "A couple of friends were round a few years ago watching Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead'. And we were lamenting the fact that we could never make a zombie film -- we wouldn't be able to acquire a budget."
"Then I just woke up before everyone else -- I was probably a bit hungover -- and I wondered if a zombie movie from a zombie's perspective had been done before." That's when he decided to make a no-budget movie.
Price advertised for volunteer zombies on Facebook and MySpace, borrowed make-up from studio films and taught himself how to do special effects. They were able to get "50 brilliantly made up zombies" from volunteers. It took 18 months to shoot and edit the film.
So, what was the $70 spent on? Price said, "We bought a crowbar and a couple of tapes, and I think we got some tea and coffee as well -- not the expensive stuff either, the very basic kind. Just to keep the zombies happy."

The film is causing quite a stir at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The Japanese are already in negotiations for distribution rights, and several American companies are interested in the film. Price is hoping the film makes enough money to finance a new film.

He said, "Hopefully we'll be able to generate some interest and maybe try to get some kind of a budget for our next film -- maybe a bigger budget, £100, I don't know."

Losers


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

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Little Payback ?


Found at the website What Would Jack Do?

Cheney Is Running Scared !


During the eight years of the Bush administration, the American public heard very little from Vice-President Dick Cheney. He gave few press conferences and few interviews. More often than not, he was not only silent but out of sight, in one of his famous "undisclosed locations".

But now that he's out-of-office, it seems like Cheney is giving another interview every day. He going on every TV and radio program that will have him, and the other day, he even had dueling speeches with President Obama. What has happened? Why is he so high-profile and public these days?

It's certainly not because the Republican Party wants him out front. They know he is one of the most disliked politicians in America, and most Republicans just wish he would go away. They'd like for Americans to forget that he is a Republican, but they won't do that as long as he's pushing himself on every show he can.

Finally, we have an answer. It seems that Cheney is running scared. He's afraid he's going to be charged and tried for his war crimes, especially since the White House memos were released that showed he ordered the torturing of prisoners. How do we know this? His daughter says it's true.

Liz Cheney went on CNN the other day. She said, "I don’t think he planned to be doing this, you know, when they left office in January. But I think, as it became clear that President Obama was not only going to be stopping some of these policies, that he was going to be doing things like releasing the — the techniques themselves, so that the terrorists could now train to them, that he was suggesting that perhaps we would even be prosecuting former members of the Bush administration."

He should be scared. He has violated both American and International laws, and if he weren't an American, he would probably already have been charged as a war criminal. So he's pedaling as fast as he can right now, hoping to convince enough Americans that waterboarding is not torture, so it will be harder to bring charges against him.

I doubt if he has anything to worry about from the Obama administration. President Obama has already decided that it is in his political interest to ignore the war crimes of the Bush administration. But there are still those few brave souls in Congress who still want to do the right thing. I hope they are able to do so.

Cheney should already be serving a prison sentence, along with several others in the Bush administration.

Cheney Defends Himself


Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Van Os On The Trans-Texas Corridor


For all of you Texas patriots who have upraised your voices for the last three years against Slick Rick Perry's plans to sell off our public highway system to private interests so they can stuff their bloated pocketbooks with billions of dollars in predatory toll fees while devastating hundreds of thousands of acres of good Texas earth in massive land grabs - IT HAS COME DOWN TO THE NEXT FOUR DAYS.

The 2009 legislative session is nearing its end. The Texas Department of Transportation is facing legislative sunset this year. Various bills have passed one or the other of the two Texas legislative chambers, the Senate and the House, to reauthorize TXDOT's existence under different competing sets of values. Which will it be - democracy of the people, or despotism of the greedy?

In some of the pending versions of transportation legislation, the public will would finally be honored with the long-sought elimination of the Trans-Texas Corridor and the democratization of the Texas Transportation Commission. I want to take this opportunity to express special commendation for Rep. David Leibowitz, whose labors against the toll-building robber barons and the anti-democratic TXDOT bureaucrats are on the verge of success with the potential final enactment of his bills into law.

In other versions of transportation legislation, the use of private contracts to build and operate massive toll roads, particularly TTC-69 through the heart of East Texas, would be re-authorized. In one particularly ugly bit of backroom chicanery, a deal is already made to grant the building and operation of TTC-69 to a private company from Spain. We have been fighting the same spectre for years now, but as we know, the greedy don't give up easy.

It appears probable that the competing value systems will face off in House-Senate conference committee action on Tuesday, May 26. Long hours, days, and years of hard work for many thousands of grassroots Texans who have been fighting for democracy in Texas transportation planning may come down to making sure the legislators hear the voice of the people loudly and clearly over the next four days.

The TXDOT reauthorization bill is HB 300. The bad bills that the people have to defeat to nail the coffin shut on the Trans-Texas Corridor are SB 17 and SB 404. The latter bills would re-authorize CDAs (comprehensive development agreements); in other words, sell-out deals to put billions of dollars in toll fees into private pockets for operating toll roads that the people of Texas do not want.

If you want to do your part to make sure the people are finally rewarded with victory in this fight, CALL your Texas House Representative and your Texas Senator today through the Capitol switchboard at (512) 463-4630 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tell your Representative and your Senator, or their staffs, you are against SB 17 and SB 404 and anything else that allows comprehensive development agreements in highway construction. Tell them you expect them to GET RID of the Trans-Texas Corridor for good and to GET RID of private toll road development for good. Tell them you want a democratically elected Texas Transportation Commission.

We the People have been speaking for a long time. We want democracy, not corporate-governmental oligarchy. Now let's bear down. Two years ago some of the legislators who had pledged to support the people's will wavered at the finish line. This time we can't let them waver. Let them hear our voices in this moment of truth. NO private contracts for toll roads, NO Trans-Texas Corridor, NO comprehensive development agreements, and YES to a democratically elected Texas Transportation Commission.

Thank you for your attention.
Sincerely,
David Van Os

Gitmo Showdown


Political Cartoon is by Jerry Holbert in The Boston Herald.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

There For You


Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Liberty University Bans Democrats


Six months ago, a Young Democrats Club was formed on the campus of right-wing fundamentalist Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. A few days ago, the school officially banned the Democrats. A university spokesman said, “we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by (the university)."

Democratic Club president Brian Diaz said the club was notified by e-mail that they had been banned. The e-mail said the club could not use the university's name, could not hold meetings on campus and could not advertise their events. Any violations of those restrictions could result in one or more reprimands (and 30 reprimands would mean expulsion from the university).

Mark Hines, vice-president of student affairs, said,
“We are in no way attempting to stifle free speech.” But the Republican Club has not been banned. How can allowing only one side of the political landscape not be construed as stifling free speech?

But it gets even worse. The Democratic Club's sponsor, Maria Childress, and the club's secretary, Jan Dervish, met with Hines and asked for an explanation. They were told, "
You can’t be a Democrat and be a Christian and be a university representative."

Personally, as an ex-student at one of these fundamentalist colleges, none of this is surprising. I find it hard to believe the club actually lasted six months. Liberty University, and several other right-wing fundie schools, are not at all interested in free speech, fairness or academic freedom. In fact, I don't believe they are even deserving of using the terms university or college, since these terms generally mean the school provides a well-rounded and academically sound education.

These right-wing schools are not interested in educating their students, but only in propagandizing them. They know that if both sides of an argument are fairly presented, people with a functioning brain would be unlikely to adhere to the school's right-wing positions.

It's just sad when people cling to beliefs they know cannot survive the rigors of true academia.

Hiking Gear


Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Name-Calling


Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at msnbc.com.

Senate Dems "Wuss Out" Again


President Obama has been very clear about his plans for the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay. He says it has created far more terrorists than it ever held, and it must be closed down. Yesterday, he told Americans, "The record is clear: Rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it."

Guantanamo has become a symbol for torture and a flaunting of the rule of law. It is a continuing embarrassment for the United States. Obama is right -- it should be closed down as soon as possible.

Senate Democrats know this is true, but once again most of them show they don't have the courage to stand up and act on their beliefs. Most of them have joined the Republicans and stripped $80 million out of a war-spending bill that was requested by the President to help close Guantanamo.

The senators don't want the prisoners to be transferred to any prison facility inside the United States. Here is what the spineless Majority Leader, Harry Reid, said, "Let me be clear: Democrats will not move to close Guantanamo without a responsible plan in place to ensure Americans’ safety. And we will never allow a terrorist to be released into the United States.

“This amendment is as clear as day. It explicitly bars using the funds in this bill to ‘transfer, release or incarcerate’ any of the Guantanamo detainees in the United States. When the Administration closes Guantanamo, we will ensure it does so the right way.”

Frankly, I don't understand what they're afraid of. Do they think American prison guards and officials are not capable of dealing with the Guantanamo detainees? If so, that is just plain stupid. American prison guards and officials deal with prisoners every day that are far meaner and more dangerous than the "terrorist detainees".

This is just one more example of liberal Democrats who know what the right thing is, but are afraid to do it. This is just the kind political timidity that makes me (and many others) not want to identify as a liberal. When I was younger, we used to say a liberal was a leftist who didn't have the courage to follow through on his/her beliefs. It doesn't look like anything has changed.

While discussing liberalism on another blog the other day, a commenter reminded us of a song by the great Phil Ochs (pictured above) that summed this up nicely. It's called "Love Me, I'm A Liberal", and here are the lyrics:

I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I go to civil rights rallies
And I put down the old D.A.R.
I love Harry and Sidney and Sammy
I hope every colored boy becomes a star
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit too far
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I cheered when Humphrey was chosen
My faith in the system restored
I'm glad the commies were thrown out
of the A.F.L. C.I.O. board
I love Puerto Ricans and Negros
as long as they don't move next door
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

The people of old Mississippi
Should all hang their heads in shame
I can't understand how their minds work
What's the matter don't they watch Les Crain?
But if you ask me to bus my children
I hope the cops take down your name
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I read New republic and Nation
I've learned to take every view
You know, I've memorized Lerner and Golden
I feel like I'm almost a Jew
But when it comes to times like Korea
There's no one more red, white and blue
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

I vote for the democratic party
They want the U.N. to be strong
I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts
He sure gets me singing those songs
I'll send all the money you ask for
But don't ask me to come on along
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

Once I was young and impulsive
I wore every conceivable pin
Even went to the socialist meetings
Learned all the old union hymns
But I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in
So love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal

—Phil Ochs

The Leader And The Troops


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

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Republican Position


Political Cartoon is by Sandy Huffaker at caglecartoons.com.

Voter ID Bill Up For Vote This Week


Republicans have been running scared since their devastating defeat in the last election. Even in states like Texas that have recently been safe territory for Republicans, they are seeing their once safe lead disappear. There is even serious talk of Democrats taking control of the state House of Representatives and possibly even winning the U.S. Senate seat after Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns to run for governor.

This has resulted in the Republicans trying to suppress the Democratic vote by passing a new Voter ID bill. The bill would require all voters to produce a photo ID in addition to a voter's registration before they would be allowed to vote.

Republicans claim the bill is to prevent voter fraud, but they have been unable to come up with any proof that Texas has a problem with voter fraud. As Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) says, "More people have been struck by lightning than have been convicted or charged with voter impersonation or fraud."

The truth is that the bill is nothing but a desparate attempt by Republicans to suppress Democratic voters. The bill would primarily affect poor voters and the elderly, as those are the groups that are less likely to be able to produce the photo IDs. They are also the groups more likely to vote Democratic.

And the House Democrats are gearing up to fight the bill with everything they have. Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) says, "If anyone doubts our resolve to protect the voting rights of our constituents, they are sadly mistaken. It's a very serious issue, anytime you are trying to prevent people from voting."

The Texas House is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. There are 76 Republicans and 74 Democrats. It would only take one or two Republicans to vote against the bill to give the Democrats a victory and kill the bill. That is a possibility, according to Rep. Todd Smith (R-Euless).

But that is not the only weapon in the arsenal of the Democrats. If they cannot win the vote outright, there is talk of the Dems taking a little road trip, denying the House a quorum of members. Without a quorum, a vote cannot be taken on the bill. It's not as if the Democrats have never done that either. They went to Ardmore, Oklahoma in 2003 to try and stop congressional redistricting.

With only about 10 days left in this legislative session, a quorum-busting road trip would probably kill more than just the Voter ID bill. There are several other bills that sponsors are trying to get a vote on before the session ends, and a trip out-of-state would end the possibility those bills would get a hearing on the floor or a vote.

Just how bad do the Republicans want to suppress the vote? Are they willing to risk other bills? This hasn't been the most exciting session of the legislature so far, but it looks like it's coming down to an exciting last few days.

I just hope the Democrats are serious about pulling out all the stops to kill this terrible Voter ID bill.

Super Villain


Political Cartoon is by Mike Lane of Baltimore, Maryland.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Disclaimer


Found at the blog of Some Guy With A Website.

Joe Barton Is An Embarrassment

"Smokey Joe" Barton (R-Texas) has been an embarrassment to his home state for years, but lately it seems he's completely lost his mind. Never mind that scientists all over the world agree that global climate change is due to all the excess CO2 that man is pumping into the atmosphere. Never mind that even such conservatives as George Bush have finally admitted CO2 is causing global climate change. Never mind that the EPA has declared CO2 to be a pollutant.

"Smokey Joe" has decided that everyone else is wrong he is right, and don't try to confuse him with facts. Industrial polluters are filling his campaign coffers, so they can't be wrong. Just listen to the nonsense he's been spouting lately:

“I would also point out that CO2, carbon dioxide, is not a pollutant in any normal definition of the term. … I am creating it as I talk to you. It’s in your Coca-Cola, you’re Dr. Pepper, your Perrier water. It is necessary for human life. It is odorless, colorless, tasteless, does not cause cancer, does not cause asthma.”

“And something that the Democrat sponsors do not point out, a lot of the CO2 that is created in the United States is naturally created. You can’t regulate God. Not even the Democratic majority in the US Congress can regulate God.”

“If you think greenhouse gases are bad, life couldn’t exist without greenhouse gases. … So, there is a, there is a climate theory — and it’s a theory, it’s not a fact, it’s never been proven — that increasing concentrations of CO2 in the upper atmosphere somehow interact to trap more heat than the atmosphere would otherwise.”

Barton seems to think the voters in his district (just south of the DFW Metroplex) are idiots, and will return him to Congress no matter what he says or does. Maybe he's right. He's been protecting the corporations over his constituents for years and he keeps getting re-elected.

Texans should be ashamed of some of the nuts we send to Congress.

Thieves


Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in The New York Observer.

Texas Smoking Ban Is A Dead Issue


The anti-smoking forces tried to get a state-wide smoking ban passed this year in the Texas Legislature, and for a while, it looked like they might succeed. After all, they had cloaked the issue as a righteous crusade to protect the health of all Texans.

But it looks like their efforts have failed. One of the chief supporters of the bill, Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), now admits that there are not enough votes to get the ban passed in this session of the legislature. Ellis jokingly said, "I'll have to go back to the smoke-filled rooms to work on it. We put up a good fight."

Supporters of the measure tried to frame the argument as big tobacco versus the health of all Texans. One of the chief supporters of the bill was Lance Armstrong, and he said, "Big tobacco spent millions to kill smoke-free legislation and they got to enough of our legislators to win this round. As we've seen in states all over America, it's just a matter of time before our efforts succeed. We are not intimidated by big tobacco and we will not give up."

That argument is a bit disingenuous. First, the deleterious health effect of second-hand smoke has yet to be proven, regardless of what the anti-smoking crowd would have you believe. The American Cancer Society conducted a 40 year study in California, where they looked at thousands of non-smokers living with smokers.

That study concluded, "The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect. The association between exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and coronary heart disease and lung cancer may be considerably weaker than generally believed."

Secondly, while "big tobacco" may have opposed the ban, so did civil libertarians and businessmen all over the state. These people didn't see this as a health issue, but instead viewed it as a freedom issue. The freedom of a businessman to determine for himself whether his business would allow smoking or not.

That's also the way a majority of voters here in Amarillo see the issue. Twice in the last three years they have voted down an attempt to establish a smoking ban in all businesses. Currently it is up to each business owner to decide if his/her business will be non-smoking or not. Many businesses have chosen to be smoke-free and many have not. The citizens of the city also have the freedom to spend their money at a smoking or a non-smoking business.

That is the way it should be in a free country.

Tom Tomorrow Nails It


From the website Salon.com.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Atheists


Taken from the website Atheist Comics.

Michael Steele Is An Idiot

Barack Obama rose to the top of the Democratic Party on ability. He was not elected because he was an African-American, but in spite of it. He was elected because of his political acumen. But once he got elected, the Republican Party decided it needed to have an African-American figure-head at the top of their party to fool Americans into believing they are a "big tent and inclusive" party.

Now, you would think the Republicans would at least choose someone with intelligence and political talent, but you would be wrong. Someone like that might actually open the party again to moderates and start attracting some minorities, and no red-blooded right-winger actually wants that. They chose an idiot like Michael Steele because they wanted a figure-head and not a real leader. The real leadership of the party rests with the old white guys just like it always has. (And don't bother bringing up Sarah Palin -- she just repeats what the old white guys have told her is correct.)

But even though they just wanted a figure-head, I think the Republicans had hoped Michael Steele would sound like he had at least half a brain. Sadly, he doesn't. Just consider his latest argument against gay marriage, which he said he came up with while discussing the issue with a stranger on an airplane. Maybe he should have given it a little more thought before actually going public with this bit of nonsense.

He told delegates of the Georgia Republican convention that gay marriage is bad because it puts a burden on small business owners. Steele said, “Now all of a sudden I’ve got someone who wasn’t a spouse before, that I had no responsibility for, who is now getting claimed as a spouse that I now have financial responsibility for. So how do I pay for that? Who pays for that? You just cost me money.”

Does he really mean to say that equal rights are bad because they might pose a financial burden on business? Maybe he needs to be reminded that abolishing slavery posed a financial burden on plantation owners and Southern businessmen, but that didn't stop President Lincoln. It was still abolished because it was the right thing and the moral thing to do -- regardless of who was financially burdened.

But that is not the only problem with Steele's flawed reasoning. If gay marriages pose a financial burden by adding a spouse, wouldn't heterosexual marriages be guilty of creating the same financial burden? Actually they would be an even worse financial burden, because they would also have the potential of adding other financial burdens called children.

I don't expect Steele will last much longer as the Republican National Committee chairman. They can't shut him up as long as he's chairman, but he is an embarrassment every time he opens his mouth. When they do finally dump him, I'm sure some on the left will think it's a racial thing, but it probably won't be. It'll be because he's an incompetent idiot.

The racist part was choosing him to be a figure-head just because he's African-American, and then hoping he'd keep quiet while they used him. I was going to say they should have chosen a minority representative who wasn't an idiot, but that would have been impossible. Any minority person who says he/she is a Republican has got to be an idiot.