A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Truth About Polls

Found at the humorous site of PhD Comics.

Public Television Excludes Public Candidates

I find this to be a rather shocking development -- a public television station that thinks it knows better than the voters who should be elected governor of Texas. There are seven people who have paid their fees and will be on the statewide Democratic primary ballot in the race for governor. But the Dallas public television station (KERA) has decided that only two of them are worthy of support and votes.

The seven candidates are educator Felix Alvarado (pictured), doctor Alma Aguado, professor Clement Glenn, home builder Star Locke, private investigator Bill Dear, ex-Houston mayor Bill White and hair-care magnate Farouk Shami. But in their infinite wisdom, KERA has decided that Texas Democratic voters only need to hear from the two richest candidates. Evidently, they subscribe to the modern notion that only rich men are qualified to run for public office in Texas.

The two candidates who are rich enough to run for public office in KERA's opinion are Farouk Shami and Bill White. Farouk Shami is a Houston businessman who made a fortune selling hair care products. He's willing to spend $10 million of his own money to buy his way into the governor's mansion, but refuses to tell Texas voters what religion he follows (if any). I guess he thinks it will cost him votes.

Bill White is a Houston businessman and ex-mayor, who is the "anointed" candidate of the party leadership (who tried to get all other candidates to drop out of the race so he could have an easy path to the nomination, and were successful in getting rid of progressive candidates). Sadly, White is a conservative "blue dog" Democrat who shares none of the ideas or ideals of the national party. But the state party leadership is willing to sacrifice those ideals to elect a candidate with the label "Democrat" (even if he is a DINO).

I would have expected this kind of slanted-opinion behavior from a privately-owned television station or network (like Fox News), but it is very disappointing when it comes from a station supposedly owned by the people. After all, KERA is supported by federal funds (that is, taxes paid by all of us) and donations from ordinary citizens. It seems traitorous for them to only allow the rich candidates to debate on their station (the candidates who already have the money to buy all the publicity they need).

Public television advertises itself as the station and network that brings the people programming they can't get on other privately-owned networks and stations -- quality programming that may appeal to only a minority of television viewers. Why then, do they change that mission when it comes to politics? Why do they allow in their debate only the rich candidates declared to be frontrunners by the privately-owned media?

It may be true that the other five candidates don't have nearly the funds of the two rich candidates, but does that mean they would have nothing to offer the people of Texas? In fact, their lack of funds makes it even more important for the people's public television to give them the opportunity to show they are (or aren't) a quality candidate, possibly with more to offer the voters than the rich "anointed" or self-funded candidates.

I think when the next fund-raising period comes around for the station the people of the Dallas-Fort Worth area need to ask themselves a couple of questions. Does KERA public television really deserve a contribution? Doesn't this terrible decision to limit their debate to only the richest candidates show they have failed their mission and the voters?

Miracle Technology ?

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Profiles In Timidity

Found at the site Internet Weekly. I wish it wasn't true.

Corporation Runs For Congress


Thanks to decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States, some very recently, corporations are now considered to be persons with the natural rights of a person, and money is considered to be speech (and therefore cannot be limited during political campaigns). As Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog says, "If anything, the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission conferred new dignity on corporate "persons", treating them -- under the First Amendment free-speech clause -- as the equal of human beings."

Because the Supreme Court now recognizes it as a person who can spend unlimited funds in a campaign, a Maryland corporation has decided to run for Congress. Murray Hill Incorporated, a Washington D.C. based corporation, has filed to run for election to the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland's 8th district. The corporation has chosen to run in the Republican primary, because Republicans are more "sympathetic" to corporations.

The corporation has opened it's campaign with a YouTube video, which can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/user/murrayhillcongress. They also have a Facebook page and a campaign website. Here are some quotes from the corporation's campaign press release:

"Until now corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves."

"The strength of America is in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America's great corporations. What we're saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you,who? If not now, when?"

"It's our democracy. We bought it, we paid for it, and we're going to keep it. . . .The business of America is business, as we all know. But now, it's the business of democracy too."

"We want to get in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store is bought by China."

The corporation has a "designated human", Eric Hensal, who "will help the corporation conform to antiquated 'human only' procedures and sign the necessary voter registration and candidacy paperwork." The company plans to use automated robo-calls, "Astroturf" lobbying and computer-generated avatars to get out the vote.

Of course, Murray Hill Incorporated is running this campaign as a form of political satire to show how ludicrous the new Supreme Court decision really is -- but they have a valid point. Corporations have also bought and paid for many members of Congress (in both parties). Why shouldn't they eliminate the "middle-man" and just buy the seat outright now?

The recent Supreme Court decision giving corporations the right to unlimited campaign spending is a prime example of why the activist conservative Supreme Court is bad for America.

Bipartisanship ?

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"Vaccines Cause Autism" Doctor Discredited


Dr. Andrew Wakefield (pictured), the British doctor who basically forwarded the myth that MMR (measles, mumps & rubella) vaccines can cause autism in children, has been discredited by the General Medical Council (Britain's medical regulator). They say he conducted his research in a "dishonest and irresponsible manner", and showed a "callous disregard" for children by performing tests that were not in their best medical interests.

In 1998, Wakefield published a medical article in the British medical journal Lancet. That article said his research had shown a connection between the MMR vaccine and autism. It was later learned that his "research" had been based on only 12 children -- not nearly enough to reach any kind of statistically significant result. The journal said they had made a mistake by publishing the article, and that the results claimed by Wakefield have not been able to be reproduced by any other researchers.

But his faulty research scared a lot of parents into not vaccinating their children, and measles jumped from only a dozen cases a year to over 1,000 a year in Great Britain. It is only just now beginning to drop. Then Wakefield appeared on the U.S. television show 60 Minutes spreading the same lie, and helped give rise to the anti-vaccine movement in this country.

The General Medical Council said he had taken blood from children at his son's birthday party and paid them $8 each. He gave spinal taps to children at a hospital without regard to how the medical procedure might affect those children. He also took money from lawyers representing parents who thought the MMR vaccine had hurt their children. That certainly doesn't sound like the actions of a responsible medical researcher. The Council could revoke his right to practice medicine in Great Britain.

But I doubt that he cares about that, because he no longer lives and practices there. He has moved to Texas, and now practices medicine in Austin. He is still pushing his faulty research and unprovable conclusions -- only now his victims are Texas children.

Texas has enough problems dealing with the recession and Rick Perry and the state Republican leadership that doesn't want poor children to have health insurance. We certainly don't need this quack to add to our problems, by either irresponsibly doing "research" on children or convincing their parents to not have them vaccinated.

Clearly

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Terrorist Found Guilty Of Murder

American women are a little more free, safer and more in control of what happens with their own bodies. That's because murderer and abortion terrorist Scott Roeder (pictured) was found guilty by a Kansas jury of killing Dr. Tiller as he attended church (a place most Americans would consider to be a safe haven).

It took that jury less than 40 minutes to find the sick bastard guilty -- after all, they did have to take a cigarette break and pick a jury foreman (and that probably took up most of that time). There was no doubt of Roeder's guilt. He even admitted from the stand that he put a gun to Tiller's head and shot him to death, and did it on purpose. And to this date, he has shown no remorse.

Tiller had wanted to put abortion on trial, and claimed he had the right to kill because his religion opposes abortion (although I have no idea where he finds that in his Bible -- his Old Testament god doesn't seem to mind the killing of children of all ages, especially if they aren't Jewish). But Roeder wanted to claim he had the right to kill a human to save fetuses.

The trial judge refused to allow Roeder to do that. It would have been a violation of Kansas law to allow that ridiculous defense. Then Roeder's attorneys tried to sell the jury the lame excuse that Roeder should be acquitted because he had killed over sincerely held beliefs. That's even more ludicrous.

I have a sincerely held belief that Republicans are killing Americans every day by blocking health care reform, but that doesn't give me the right to kill them (or physically harm them in any way). There is simply no way to excuse putting a gun to the head of an unarmed man, who is no threat to you, and pulling the trigger.

They even tried to get the judge to give the jury the option of finding Roeder guilty of voluntary manslaughter. That would have been a huge miscarriage of justice. Fortunately, the judge was not about to fall for that one -- it was either first degree murder or nothing.

The jury found Roeder guilty of first degree murder, and he will be sentenced in March (the law requires a pre-sentence investigation and report). I fully expect he will get a life sentence, and never get out of prison. At least, that's what should happen.

No Centrist Republicans

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Steaming Pile Of . . .

There are turds in both political parties -- enough said. Found at the very nice blog Pulp Friction.

"Snowed In" In Amarillo !


This is what the good folks of Amarillo are currently having to put up with. The top picture is right outside my front door. The bottom picture is our parking lot. The pictures were taken about 5pm on 1/28/10. It was still snowing heavily, and the weathermen are telling us it won't end for another 12 to 14 hours. Prediction is for 12 to 16 inches of snow!

I know that doesn't sound like much to you folks that live up north, but I'm a Texan and I grew up in a lower and hotter part of Texas. A place where it only snows about every five or six years, and then it's only two or three inches. Frankly, I don't know how to deal with more than a foot of snow! I know one thing though -- I won't be going anywhere for a couple of days.

My daughter says it's Judgement Day. I'm not so sure she's wrong.

New Senate Apparel

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at caglecartoons.com.

Will California Legalize Marijuana ?


It is well within the realm of possibility that marijuana could become legal in at least one state this year. And I mean completely legal -- not just legal for medical use. California will be voting on whether to legalize the gentle herb in the November election.

Yesterday, supporters of legalizing marijuana turned in petitions containing over 700,000 signatures. This pretty much insures that the proposition will appear on the November ballot, especially considering that only 433,971 valid signatures were required. Now it is up to the Secretary of State to validate the signatures and assign the proposition a name and number for the ballot.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "The iniative, known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, would make it legal for anyone 21 and older to possess an ounce of marijuana and grow plants in an area no larger than 25 square feet for personal use. It would also allow cities and counties to permit marijuana to be grown and sold, and to impose taxes on marijuana production and sales."

The proposition does have a chance to be approved. A Field Poll taken last April showed that around 56% of California's voters approve of legalizing and taxing marijuana (60% in the Los Angeles area). The only question now is who is going to show up to vote in November.

Fundamentalists, teabaggers and other conservatives are energized and probably will go to the polls in large numbers. But most of these people can be expected to vote against marijuana legalization. For the measure to pass, large numbers of liberals and independents must also vote. I hope they aren't so disgusted with the spineless Democrats that many of them just decide to stay home in November.

This makes a lot of sense, both socially and fiscally. Marijuana does not pose near the danger of other legal drugs (like tobacco and alcohol), and in this recession California (and other states) can certainly use the tax money. But someone has to go first, and if California can't do it, it is unlikely that anyone else will try in the near future.

For now, I'm crossing my fingers and putting my faith in California voters.

Jobs In Peril

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

House Members Still Support Public Option

It is clear the a large majority of the American people want real health care reform (about 78% of Americans), and a clear majority want that reform to include a public option. Fortunately, it looks like there are some good progressives in the House of Representatives that are still trying to deliver on their promise of real reform. They are now trying to revive the option for public health insurance.

Representatives Jared Polis (D-Colorado) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) have written a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid, asking him to consider reviving the idea of the public option and to pass it using the budget reconciliation process (which would only require 51 votes -- not 60). This is a far better idea than to continue working on the pathetic Senate bill (which probably couldn't pass the House anyway, and certainly wouldn't please most voters).

Polis (pictured) and Chingree realize that the best chance Democrats have in November is to have passed a real health care reform bill, including a public option for insurance. And they are not alone. At least 30 other House members have joined Polis and Chingree and signed the letter supporting the public option.

Here is the letter sent to Majority Leader Reid:

January 27, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid Office of the Majority Leader United States Senate S-221, The Capitol Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid:

As the Senate continues to work on health reform legislation, we strongly urge you to consider including a public option.

Here are the reasons for this request:

1) The public option is overwhelmingly popular.

A December New York Times poll shows that, despite the attacks of recent months, the American public supports the public option 59% to 29%. And a recent Research 2000 poll found 82% of people who supported President Obama in 2008 and Scott Brown for Senate last week also support the public option. Only 32% of this key constituency is in favor of the current Senate bill – with more saying it "doesn’t go far enough" rather than it "goes too far."

Support for health care legislation started to fall as popular provisions like the public option were stripped out and affordability standards were watered down. The American people want us to fight for them and against special interests like the insurance industry, and it is our responsibility to show them that their voices are being heard.

2) The public option will save billions for taxpayers, speaking to the fiscally-responsible sensibilities of our constituents.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the public option will save taxpayers anywhere from $25 billion to $110 billion and will save billions more when private insurers compete to bring down premium costs. The stronger the public option, the more money it saves. By including the public option, we can simultaneously reduce tax increases and the deficit. This is a common-sense way to temper the frustration of Americans who question whether Congress is spending their money wisely and fighting for the middle class.

3) There is strong support in the Senate for a popular public option.

It is very likely that the public option could have passed the Senate, if brought up under majority-vote "budget reconciliation" rules. While there were valid reasons stated for not using reconciliation before, especially given that some important provisions of health care reform wouldn’t qualify under the reconciliation rules, those reasons no longer exist. The public option would clearly qualify as budget-related under reconciliation, and with the majority support it has garnered in the Senate, it should be included in any healthcare reform legislation that moves under reconciliation.

As Democrats forge "the path forward" on health care, we believe that passing the public option through reconciliation should be part of that path. We urge you to favorably consider our request to include a public option in the reconciliation process.

Sincerely,

Jared Polis Member of Congress

Chellie Pingree Member of Congress

The Awakening

Political Cartoon is by John Trever in The Albuquerque Journal.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sheer Folly

Found at the blog of The Friendly Atheist.

Is Obama Over-Reaching ?


Last night, President Obama gave his second State of the Union speech. Once again, I have to give him credit for a great speech. When he puts his mind to it, he is without a doubt one of America's great orators. He even had the Republicans on their feet several times.

I am glad he put a premium on job creation and health care reform, but then he went into a long litany of things he wants to accomplish in this year. And he again appealed for bipartisanship. It's almost as though he hasn't learned anything from his first year in office. Bipartisanship is dead in Washington, and the Republicans are going to oppose and try to filibuster everything he tries to do.

Instead of trying to get a huge bipartisan agenda passed, he would be better served to light a partisan fire under Congressional Democrats and try to get a few very important things passed. In the interest of performing a public service, I have pared his long list of wishes down to a few things that must be accomplished in 2010 if the Democrats want to stay in power.

Here are the top 5 things to accomplish:

1. Create new jobs and stop job exporting
2. Pass real health care reform
3. Create new jobs and stop job exporting
4. Regulate the financial industry
5. Create new jobs and stop job exporting

Just do those things and he'll have a very good year. And did I say he needs to create new jobs and stop job exporting?

Number One Issue

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Time For Filibuster To Die


The Republican Party has decided to abuse the privilege of the filibuster in the Senate to stop everything the Democrats try to do in this session of Congress. There are 16 more Democrats in the Senate than there are Republicans, but the filibuster guarantees that the Republicans can block any bill, since it only takes 41 votes to block a bill and the Republicans have been voting as a block.

Their idea is that they will block every Democratic effort at reform, and then try to convince American voters that Democrats cannot govern. It might even work in this era when the recession has made most Americans unhappy with Congress as a whole (both parties). They might decide to change votes, because while Republicans made a lot of mistakes while in power, at least they could get a bill passed.

It is time for the Senate to either get rid of the filibuster or scale it back radically. I know there will be many (especially Republicans) who will scream that the filibuster is an honored tradition. That's not exactly true. The first filibuster didn't even happen until 1837 -- 48 years after the creation of Congress.

Furthermore, as the above chart shows, since that time the filibuster has only rarely ever been used. For the first 180 years, cloture (stopping the filibuster) never had to be requested more than 5 to 10 times a year. For the twenty years after that, it never had to be requested more than 50 times in a session. It is now necessary to request cloture more than 140 times a year, and I expect the Republicans will push that up even further this year.

The simple fact is that Republicans are abusing that "tradition". As David Axelrod said, "The Republican strategy in the Senate is to turn 50 into 60, in other words no longer do you need a majority to carry the day in the Senate. We need to call that out, and they need to explain to the American people whether throwing a wrench into everything at a time of national emergency is the appropriate policy."

There are even some people who think the filibuster is unconstitutional. Tom Geoghagen laid out three reasons in the New York Times why he thinks it has always been unconstitutional. It was just not misused enough until now to worry much about it. Here are Geoghagen's three points:

First, the Constitution explicitly requires supermajorities only in a few special cases: ratifying treaties and constitutional amendments, overriding presidential vetoes, expelling members and for impeachments. With so many lawyers among them, the founders knew and operated under the maxim “expressio unius est exclusio alterius” — the express mention of one thing excludes all others. But one need not leave it at a maxim. In the Federalist Papers, every time Alexander Hamilton or John Jay defends a particular supermajority rule, he does so at length and with an obvious sense of guilt over his departure from majority rule.

Second, Article I, Section 3, expressly says that the vice president as the presiding officer of the Senate should cast the deciding vote when senators are “equally divided.” The procedural filibuster does an end run around this constitutional requirement....

Third, Article I pointedly mandates at least one rule of proceeding, namely, that a majority of senators (and House members, for that matter) will constitute a quorum....It would be illogical for the Constitution to preclude a supermajority rule with respect to a quorum while allowing it on an ad hoc and more convenient basis any time a minority wanted to block a vote. Yet that is essentially what Senate Rule 22 achieves on any bill that used to require a majority vote.


Constitutional or not, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has a proposal to rein in the abuses of the filibuster rule. Harkin's new filibuster rules would still require a 60 vote majority on the initial request for cloture. If that failed, a second vote could be held two days later and would only require 57 votes. If that also failed, only a 54 vote majority would be required two days later. A fourth and final cloture vote could be held after another two days and would only require a simple majority.

Harkin's proposal should be adopted, but I doubt that it will be. The Republicans will oppose it en masse, and the Democrats are too gutless to make a real fight over it (especially the blue dogs).

2010 Congress Gets Down To Business

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

Do Property Owners Have Any Rights ?


There was a time in this country's history when the owners of private property could do pretty well what they wanted with their own property, as long as they didn't damage their neighbors (such as diverting a public water source to deny water to others that have traditionally had access to it). The owner could build on it, run a business on it, or do nothing at all with it. But those days are gone.

Now city ordinances, state laws, homeowner groups, and who knows what else have combined to limit what a property owner can do with his/her property. A homeowner is told what kind of house can be built and even what color it must be. A businessman is told not only what kind of building he can construct, but what his signs can look like and even what kind of business he can have in that location.

I know there are many who disagree with me, but I generally don't like those kind of laws and restrictions. They trample all over the rights of the property owner. The owner put up the money to buy the property and is solely responsible for paying any taxes due on that property, and should be able to do whatever he/she wants to do with the property. This continuing battle over property rights has popped up again -- this time in Arlington, Texas. And I think the city has gone too far with its greed this time.

The new Cowboys Stadium was built in Arlington right next to the baseball stadium that is home to the Texas Rangers. Together, the two facilities have 27,000 parking spaces. There are another 97 properties with city permits (costing from $150 to $400) that have another 12,000 parking spaces. And then there is Michael Anthony Caldwell.

Mr. Caldwell owns some property near the two stadiums, and he has been renting out parking spaces on his property during big events held at Cowboys Stadium (U2 concert, Cowboys games, etc.). This has upset the city of Arlington because Caldwell doesn't have a city permit to park cars on his property. They have issued him repeated tickets for the parking -- tickets that total to more than $120,000.

Caldwell has not paid the ridiculous fines, and the city is taking him to court. His trial will start today in Arlington Municipal Court for 40 of the over 390 citations he has received. Now you're probably asking yourself why doesn't he just get a city permit? He's tried, but the city has refused to sell him a permit.

To get a city permit, the property owner must have a business on the property, provide lighting, stripe the parking lot, have a sign showing the rates and have parking attendants. Caldwell cannot qualify because he does not have a business on his property, since an office building that was there burned down in 2008.

The city is afraid if they let Caldwell make money just off parking cars, the property might remain undeveloped and therefore be less valuable for tax purposes. In other words, their motive is "city greed". A commercial parking venture will not provide the city with as much tax money as another type of business would (even though commercial parking makes imminent sense near the two sports and entertainment facilities).

Personally, I think the city is way out of line in this matter. Caldwell owns the property and pays his property taxes (even if they are somewhat less than the city would like to have), and he should be able to make money off parking just like the properties all around his property. He provides a needed service, and is hurting no one. He even meets most city requirements -- the exception being he has no other business on his property.

I hope the Municipal Court jury chosen to hear his case has more sense than the city officials. A property owner should have at least some rights, even in our modern world. The city's desire for more taxes should not be able to trump this property owner's right to use his property as he sees fit.

The city of Arlington is in the wrong, not the property owner.

Little Stuff

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

America's Truth-Teller

From the marvelous web site of Pundit Kitchen.

Americans Still Want Health Care Reform


The Republicans, and even a few gutless Democrats, have been preaching that Americans don't want health care reform. They point to Brown's victory in Massachusetts as proof of that. According to them, the people voted against health care reform as much as voted for Brown.

But that is just not true, as a new CNN/Opinion Research poll shows. The poll was taken of 1,009 adult Americans between January 22nd and 24th. It is true that a clear majority of Americans did not like what the Senate and House had come up with and called "reform". A full 58% of the public did not like those bills -- and this includes both people from the right and from the left.

These people saw those two rather pathetic bills as a poor excuse for real reform. It shows that the American people are not nearly as stupid as Congress seems to think they are. The poll asked what Congress should do now, and gave three options -- pass bill similar to those approved by House and Senate, start over on an entirely new bill or stop trying to pass any kind of health reform. Here are the results:

Pass a similar bill..........30%
Start work on a new bill..........48%
Stop work on health care..........21%
No opinion..........1%

Health care reform wins hands down. Nearly half of Americans would like for Congress to start over with an entirely new bill, and a full 78% want to see some kind of health care reform passed. Only one in five Americans is actually opposed to health care reform.

And they're not talking about some kind of wimpy band-aid approach to health care reform. The poll then asked if the people would approve of Congress just passing some new regulations for the health insurance companies without increasing the number of people covered by some kind of insurance. About 51% of the respondents said that would not be good enough.

Americans elected the Democrats because they promised to deliver real health care reform, and they are still waiting on them to deliver on that promise. The Democrats need to find their missing spines and start over on health care reform using the budget reconciliation process. They need to rein in the excesses and wrongdoing by private insurance, and include a public option that would bring down premiums and insure that all Americans have insurance coverage.

The American people still want health care reform. They are waiting. How about it, Democrats? Can you deliver?

The New Free Speech

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It Is Just A Slice Of Cheese


The McDonald's corporation has just received a rude awakening in the Netherlands. Evidently, they thought they could abuse their European employees the same way they do their American employees. They were wrong.

It all started last March, when one of their waitresses sold a hamburger to a co-worker. Then the co-worker asked for cheese and she gave it to him (without charging extra for the cheese). McDonald's fired the waitress.

The company said the addition of that single slice of cheese made the hamburger a cheeseburger and the waitress should have charged more for it. They said the waitress had violated staff rules which prohibited free gifts to family, friends or colleagues.

The waitress sued the company over the termination. I think McDonald's was surprised when the Dutch court sided with the waitress (after all, it was one whole slice of cheese -- never mind the fact that they undoubtedly still made a profit on the burger).

The court agreed the waitress had done wrong, but said a written reprimand would have been more appropriate. But the beautiful part was the courts reasoning. They wrote, "The dismissal was too severe a measure. It is just a slice of cheese." The court awarded the waitress 4,200 euros ($5,900) for the remaining five months of her contract.

So the company gets to pay the waitress for her remaining time, but don't get a minute's worth of work out of her. And the worst part -- they're still out a whole slice of cheese.

Economic Recovery

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Grassroots ?

Found at the blog No Time For Trivia.

Teabagger Convention Is For-Profit Scam


Even though they've had their efforts publicized by Fox News and funded by large right-wing organizations like FreedomWorks, the teabaggers are still not a very organized group of people. They can't even agree on the best way to proceed now that they've made a name for themselves.

Some of them want to start a new teabagger third party. Others want to take over the Republican Party (which they rightly believe is owned by Wall Street). This has already happened in Florida, where establishment party leaders have been ousted and replaced by teabagger leaders.

Then there was word of a teabagger convention to be held in Nashville in February of this year. The organizer of the convention, attorney Judson Phillips, tried to pass off the convention as an effort to unify the teabaggers and provide direction for their future efforts. The fly in the ointment is that he has set his organization, Tea Party Nation, up as a for-profit organization.

In other words, if a profit is made off the convention, he's under no obligation to use those funds toward future teabagger efforts or campaigns. It would be perfectly legal (and very probable) for Phillips to just put the money in his own bank account, and congratulate himself on a successful money-making venture.

Consider the following. He is selling about 500 tickets to the convention for $560 each (and this does NOT include the cost of hotel rooms). That's a cool $280,000 right there. And don't forget that he's booked Sarah Palin for a speech that he's selling tickets to an additional 600 people for several hundred dollars each. That pushes the take up to around half a million dollars. And that doesn't count the sponsors Phillips has lined up for the event.

He does have to pay for a convention room, but not a very large one -- it only has to have room for 500 participants (and he can easily squeeze another 600 in for just one speech). This space probably doesn't even cost as much as he's paying Sarah Palin to make her speech. And I imagine details like sound system, security, etc. are probably included in the money he'll pay for the convention space.

That leaves him with the cost of Sarah Palin. Rumor has it that she will receive $100,000 for her (probably incoherent) speech. Neither Phillips nor Palin will confirm or dent that this is what she'll be paid, but that in itself confirms the amount. As sensitive as Palin is to bad publicity, I'm sure she would make it known if she was receiving less than that.

I'm betting that Phillips will clear at least $200,000 profit off the convention (probably more). And it looks like some of the teabaggers are finally waking up to the fact that they are being scammed by an unscrupulous lawyer.

Knoxville teabagger Antonio Hinton says, "I don't begrudge people making money, but that's not what the tea party is about. That convention has nothing to do with the tea party movement, as far as I'm concerned." A Nashville-based teabagger called Tea Party Nation "dishonest" and said it is "hijacking the tea party movement."

Conservative and RedState blogger Erick Erickson thinks it "smells scammy" and says, "I think it is a great con of people making money off the passions of others. . .A $500+ per person fee to a for-profit organization run by people most people have never heard of is neither populist nor accessible for many tea party activists."

At least three sponsors have also withdrawn their support after learning the event is a profit-making venture for Phillips. American Majority, a training group for teabagger organizations, withdrew and said, "Who is this guy? What are his motivations? And what gives him the credibility to try to step in and insert himself as a leader of the movement?"

And now it looks like the convention may suffer the greatest insult of all. Some teabagger organizations are saying they may actually picket the convention. Can you imagine teabaggers picketing outside of a teabagger convention?

Most readers of this blog will know that I have very little respect for the teabagger movement, but I also hate to see people being taken advantage of. I'm glad they are finally waking up and realizing that this convention is nothing more than a scam to separate them from their hard-earned money.

Apples And Oranges

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Was The Massachusetts Election Stolen ?


It's over in Massachusetts and soon they will be sending a Republican to the Senate to fill the seat of Edward Kennedy. But the excellent web site Black Box Voting has raised some questions about the accuracy of the election returns. It seems there is a significant discrepancy between hand counted ballots and electronically counted ballots.

This is a very unusual anomaly for a fairly held election. For instance, when the hand counted ballots and the electronically counted ballots were compared in Maine's recent election, they showed very similar percentages on the gay marriage question. This is the norm, but it is not what happened in Massachusetts.

That state had 71 hand counted location, 91 ES&S locations, 187 Diebold locations and two locations with some kind of optical scanners. Here are the results for the different kinds of locations:

HAND COUNTED
Coakley 51.12%..........Brown 47.77%
Coakley 32,247..........Brown 30,136

ES&S COUNTED
Brown 53.64%..........Coakley 45.31%
Brown 332,812..........Coakley 281,118

DIEBOLD COUNTED
Brown 51.42%..........Coakley 47.61%
Brown 791,272..........Coakley 732,633

When you add this to the locations that reported late (2 1/2 hours or more), it is cause for some raised eyebrows. The hand counted locations had 8.45% of their locations reporting late. The ES&S locations had 13.2% of it's locations reporting late, including two locations that were the last locations of any kind to report statewide. Diebold had 12.83% of their locations reporting late.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one of the main selling points for electronic voting the fact they they would be counted and reported much faster than hand counted ballots? Why didn't that happen in Massachusetts? Both types of electronic voting machines had a larger percentage of late ballots than the hand counted ballots.

All of the electronically counted locations should have been reported in less than an hour. What was happening in these precincts that made them take over 2 1/2 hours to report their results?

None of this actually proves that Brown did not win the election, but it is enough to raise some questions. Did Brown win the election? We may never know for sure, because Coakley wimped out and conceded before all the votes were even reported. Personally, I would feel better about the results if a hand recount had been requested.

Not A Surprise

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bible Story

From the hilarious site of Atheist Cartoons.

Osama's New And Rather Pathetic Message


Osama bin Laden has subjected the world to another of his ridiculous and unwanted audio messages -- the first since last September. The message was played on the Arabic-language news site of Al-Jazeera. The authenticity of the message has not been established, but in the past the CIA has confirmed tapes given to Al-Jazeera from bin Laden.

Osama once again tries to put forward his pitiful excuses for attacking innocent civilians. He says, ". . .the United States will not dream of enjoying safety until we live it in reality in Palestine. It is not fair to enjoy that kind of life while our brothers in Gaza live in the worst of miseries."

That part of the message is, as David Axelrod says, ". . .the same hollow justification for the slaughter of innocent people." For me, the surprising part of the message comes when bin Laden takes responsibility for the rather pathetic December attack on Delta flight 253 as it neared Detroit.

Is this now the best al-Queda and bin Laden has to offer in the way of terrorism -- an attack so poorly planned and executed that it resulted in an embarrassing and abject failure. I would have thought they would be too humiliated at the utter incompetence of the failed attack to want to claim any responsibility. They are truly grasping at straws now in their efforts to frighten Americans.

I really hope that Osama and his al-Queda buddies are equally as successful in all their future efforts at terrorism -- that is, that they blow up their own genitalia and fail to harm a single innocent person. That sounds like poetic justice to me.

Speaking For The Underdogs

Political Cartoon is by Stephane Peray in The Nation (Bangkok).

Finally - A Bipartisan Bill !


I was just beginning to think the current Congress was so divided that it would be impossible to actually have a bipartisan bill. But last week, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress proved me wrong. Of course, it took an unprecedented disaster to make it happen.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow contributors of cash to Haiti disaster relief to take that contribution off their 2009 taxes, instead of having to wait and take it off their 2010 taxes. The bill had been introduced by leaders of both parties, and passed by a wide margin. On Thursday, the Senate also passed the bill -- unanimously.

They bipartisan move was to encourage Americans to donate to cash to Haiti relief efforts (so far, over $200 million has been donated by Americans). Donations that are made between January 12th and February 28th can be used as a deduction on 2009 taxes. Text donations would also be deductible with a phone bill showing the contribution.

But don't get too excited, especially if you only made a small donation and will be filing either the 1040EZ or the 1040A form. The contributions must be a part of itemized deductions on the 1040 long form, and you'll need a significant amount of deductions to make it worth your while to file the long form and itemize.

But even though this deduction won't actually be available to most tax filers, it is nice to see that Democrats and Republicans can agree about something. Now if they could only carry this over to health care reform, climate change, energy policy, job creation and reform of financial regulations, we would all be better off.

But I'm just dreaming. That could never happen.

Lost And Found

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

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dream Team (For Democrats)

From the though-provoking web site of BartCop.

This Is Not Funny !


After all the trouble Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers put you through at an airport, how would you feel if they then made you the butt of a prank or joke? That's just what happened to a student at the Philadelphia airport.

Rebecca Solomon is a 22 year-old student who was returning to the University of Michigan on January 5th. As her bags were being screened at the airport, a TSA worker suddenly pulled a plastic bag of white powder out of the case holding her laptop computer. He demanded to know where she had gotten it.

The girl was horrified. Had a terrorist slipped some kind of explosive into her luggage? Had a smuggler slipped some drugs into her bags? She stammered for an explanation she did not have. Solomon later wrote in her student newspaper, "He let me stutter through an explanation for the longest minute of my life. Tears streamed down my face as I pleaded with him to understand that I'd never seen this baggie before."

Then the TSA worker smiled and said it was his. Solomon said he "waved the baggie at me and told me he was kidding, that I should've seen the look on my face. I had been terrified and disrespected by an airport employee. He'd joked about the least funny thing in air travel."

She's right. If she had been the one pulling the "prank", she would have been arrested and very possibly served significant jail time. But he thought it was really funny when he did it. Well, it wasn't funny. Ms. Solomon did the appropriate thing. She demanded to see a supervisor and filed an official complaint.

At least the TSA seems to have acted in an appropriate manner. TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis would not say whether the worker quit or was fired, but did say he no longer worked for the TSA. She went on to say, "TSA viewed this behavior to be completely inappropriate and unprofessional. The employee was immediately disciplined by TSA management at the Philadelphia airport."

That was the least they could do.

Out Of Touch

Political Cartoon is by Lee Judge in the Kansas City Star.

The 'Chupacabra' Is Still A Myth


Move over Bigfoot, because there's another mythical beast that's been stealing your headlines in recent years -- the Chupacabra. The name is derived from combining the Spanish words chupar (to suck) and cabra (goat). The story is that this beast likes to suck the blood from livestock, especially goats.

The Chupacabra is especially popular in Hispanic lore, but sightings of the beast have supposedly been made as far north as Maine and as far south as Chile. Sightings have also been made in Puerto Rico and, believe it or not, in Russia.

In Texas, strange-looking animals were found and thought to be Chupacabras in 2004, 2007 and 2009. But after genetic tests were done on the animals, they turned out to be coyotes with a kind of mange that caused them to lose their hair.

In the last couple of weeks, another "Chupacabra" was found in Wise county, Texas. The dead animal (pictured) was definitely not a coyote or a dog. It was hairless, but had died in good health. Naturally, the rumors began to spread that at last a Chupacabra had been found.

But it was not to be. State biologist Jennifer Barrow said, "It was a raccoon, no doubt about it. It's feet were a real giveaway. It had long toes, narrow feet. . .everything right for a raccoon. He didn't appear to be sick -- except that he was dead. But he wasn't skinny. He had real smooth skin."

Barrow didn't know how the animal had died, but theorized that it has fallen into the nearby lake during freezing weather and died. She said the extremely cold water preserved the body, and after a while caused the hair to fall out.

So the Chupacabra, like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, remains a myth. I suspect it always will.

Destroyed By His Dark Side

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Cause For Deep Concern

From the excellent site of Atheist Cartoons.

Why You Should Worry About Texas Education


The Texas State Board of Education is currently in the process of determining what the curriculum should include and exclude for students in Texas schools. Now some of you may be thinking "This doesn't affect the kid's in my state's schools", but you would be very wrong in thinking that. When the Texas State Board of Education meets, parents of children in most states should pay attention and be very afraid.

That's because Texas is such a large state with so many school children, that most school book publishers wait until the Texas curriculum is finished and then write or adjust their textbook offerings to meet the Texas standard. Most other states will then have to use textbooks written for Texas, or do without books.

If the Texas State Board of Education valued the education of its students above all else, that might not be such a bad thing. But they don't. The board is dominated by ultra-right-wing fundamentalists who think their personal politics and religion are much more important and they are determined to turn Texas education into nothing more than propaganda for those views.

They have already set the science curriculum, and science barely carried the day. They were within one vote of requiring the teaching of creationism in science classes. They still hope to get that one vote in the upcoming elections, and they well might do exactly that. If they do, you can expect the science curriculum to be reopened and altered to fit the views of fundamentalist christians.

They are currently in the process of setting the standards for the social sciences curriculum, including courses like history and political science. Some on the board have already proposed replacing some real heroes like Cesar Chavez with right-wing losers like ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich, anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and architect of "red scare" blacklists Joseph McCarthy.

Is this the kind of history textbook you want your children reading from? Don't think it couldn't happen, because these are not very bright people on this board. Consider their latest action which proves their stupidity and incompetence.

Some people wanted to put children's books author Bill White Jr. on a list with others like Laura Ingalls Wilder to be studied by elementary children as people who had made cultural contributions. Mr. White had written the Brown Bear series of children's books, including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? This was a very popular and successful series of books for kids, and certainly not controversial in any way.

But at their last meeting, board member Pat Hardy moved to exclude Mr. White from that list of cultural contributers because he had written some adult books that contained "very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system" (although she admitted she had not read those books). The board approved the motion by Ms. Hardy.

The problem is that the Bill White who wrote the children's books is not the same Bill White who wrote the adult political books. The author of the political books is Bill White, a philosophy professor at DePaul University. How could Hardy have made such a stupid mistake?

It seems she was acting on a memo another board member had sent out. Terri Leo had sent her memo to other board members earlier in the week accusing White of writing all the books in question. She also had not read the books in question and none of the board members had done any proper research on the question, including Terri Leo. The board had gone off half-cocked and acted without having the proper facts (or probably any facts at all).

This is the caliber of the individuals on the Texas State Board of Education. These folks make the Three Stooges look like genius doctoral candidates at an Ivy League school. They don't have the facts and are too lazy or uncaring to do the research to get the facts. They simply don't care as long as they can foist their right-wing political and religious views on students.

The board is currently in recess. But be very afraid, because in about three months they'll be meeting again. And whatever they wind up approving will wind up in textbooks used all across this nation.

The Owners Of American 'Democracy'

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

No Recession In Texas ! Not A Bit !


In case you all didn't know it, our illustrious governor, Rick Perry, has decreed that there is no recession here in Texas. The rest of the country (and world) may be having a serious recession, but we're immune to that in Texas.

For example, Texas just dumped another 23,900 jobs and saw its unemployment rate rise from 8% to 8.3%. Of course, when you add in the people who've given up on finding a job and the people who've taken a part-time job because they can't find full-time work, the real unemployment rate is around 15%. But that has to be an anomaly, because Gov. Goodhair assures us there is no recession.

Thanks guv! Thank you for keeping that nasty old recession out of Texas. I sincerely hope you get what you so richly deserve in the November election.

Toasting Higher Premiums

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