A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Warning Signs

Found at the hilarious blog Atheist Cartoons.

Rip Torn Is Guilty


Let me preface my remarks by saying I think Rip Torn is a great actor, and he has left a lasting legacy in the movie industry. In fact, I like him so much that I will watch a bad movie just because I know he's in it. But being a great actor, even one with a distinguished career, should not be a defense in a criminal trial.

In January, the 79 year-old Torn was arrested inside a Connecticut bank hours after the bank had closed. He was stinking drunk and was in possession of a gun for which he did not have a permit. He was taken to jail and released on $100,000 bond (with the stipulation that he not drink any alcohol). Supposedly, he was so drunk that he thought he had broken into his own home.

Since then, he has been going to "rehabilitation" -- first in an inpatient program, and now on an outpatient basis (probably on the advice of his attorney). I imagine the attorney is planning to try to get him off using his alcoholism as an excuse. Personally, I'm sick of actors, athletes and other celebrities getting away with crimes by doing a little "rehabilitation", just because they're rich enough to hire a top-notch attorney.

Torn says, "I'm not a bank robber." Well, he's not accused of that. He has been charged with Burglary, Criminal Mischief, Criminal Trespass, Carrying a Gun Without a Permit, and Carrying a Gun While Intoxicated. The conditions surrounding his arrest show he is clearly guilty of all of those charges.

Neither his career, his age, his being drunk nor his attendance at rehabilitation are valid excuses for the crimes he committed. They wouldn't excuse these crimes if a poor person had done them, and therefore they shouldn't excuse the actions of someone rich and famous. In fact, these crimes make even less sense when done by someone rich -- because the rich can afford a driver, aide or bodyguard to keep them from screwing up like this.

Mr. Torn has pled not guilty and is due back in court on April 27th. He is guilty and should be punished for what he did. And I think that punishment should involve at least some jail time, because that's what would happen to someone without his money and fame.

Speaking Out (Sort Of)

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

Incompetent Oklahoma Legislators


Having lived in North Texas most of my life, I'm pretty familiar with our sister state to the north -- Oklahoma. The voters there are almost as crazy as Texas voters in the incompetent boobs they elect to political office. Just look at the latest bill passed by the Oklahoma senate.

Last October, President Obama signed The Matthew Shepherd Act into law. This new law extended the reach of the 1969 hate crimes law to "authorize the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability." It was a good law designed to prevent hate crimes against gays, lesbians or transgendered individuals.

But the Oklahoma legislature was having none of it. They wanted Oklahomans to retain the right to discriminate and commit crimes based on their homophobia. So they decided to pass a law that would interfere with the implementation of the federal law in Oklahoma. Their bill originated in and has been passed by the state senate.

The state senate couldn't outright overturn the federal law, so they passed a bill that would prohibit "local and state law enforcement agencies from sharing information about hate crimes with federal authorities." The bill specifically cited section 245 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code. They evidently thought that was the section that referred to gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals. It wasn't.

Section 245 of the hate crimes law actually outlaws hate crimes based on race and religion. That's right. They wound up authorizing racial and religious hate crimes. And the bill had already been passed and sent to the other arm of the legislature before anyone figured this out. They are now claiming it was a "typo". I always thought that one of the main purposes of their very well-paid staff members was to catch those kind of mistakes.

I'm sure they will correct the bill before it is finally passed, but it's still a stupid mistake. It won't matter in the final analysis, because the law is undoubtably unconstitutional. But a minor consideration like passing an unconstitutional law has never bothered the Oklahoma legislature before (or the Texas legislature).

After all, this is the state that sent Inhofe and Coburn to the United States Senate (which is almost as bad as sending Cornyn and Hutchison). I guess, like in Texas, legislative incompetence is a value that the voters respect.

The Flasher

Political Cartoon is by Patrick Chappatte in the International Herald Tribune.

Will Netbooks Soon Be Relics ?


In the last couple of years, the small portable computers known as Netbooks have been the rage. Although they don't have the memory of their larger cousins, the Laptops, they are smaller, lighter and significantly cheaper. This has made them the computer of choice for those who want to take a computer with them whenever they're away from home.

But the age of the Netbook may soon be coming to an end. The first blow came with Apple's introduction of it's new tablet computer -- the iPad (which will be available to buy in just a few days). This by itself would probably not have run Netbooks off the market. Although the new iPad is much less expensive than Apple's laptops, it is still fairly pricey -- it retails for between $499 and $699. You can buy a Netbook for less (around $300).

But now a couple of computer companies from Taiwan have decided to enter the tablet computer market. Sources say Acer and AsusTek are both in the process of developing their own version of the tablet computer. They plan to introduce these at a computer show in June, and have them on the market by Fall of this year. What makes this a serious threat to Netbooks is the fact that they will sell for under $400 (and they will use PC software).

Topoly Research Institute expects the sales of tablet PCs could top 50 million units worldwide by 2012, topping the sales of Netbooks.

(The picture above is of Apple's iPad tablet computer.)

Better Off Without Him

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Suspects

From the pages of the great BartCop.

2010 Census Mail-Backs Are Lagging


Are the right-wing nutjobs like Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) actually having an effect on the 2010 census? They have been telling a lot of lies about what the census will be used for. Or are the American people just lazier and procrastinate more than people did 10 years ago?

Something strange is happening, because the return of census forms is far behind where it was at this point 10 years ago. Nationally, only 46% of the census forms that were mailed out have been returned, compared with 72% have been returned nationally by this time in 2000. Here in Texas, only 39% of the forms have been mailed back, compared to 68% in 2000.

So far, there are only eleven states that have mailed in more than 50% of the forms sent out, and all of these states are still far behind the returns they had in 2000. All other states have less than 50% compliance. Here are the eleven states with more than 50% compliance and their percentages:

Idaho 53%
Montana 52%
North Dakota 57%
South Dakota 58%
Nebraska 57%
Kansas 52%
Minnesota 51%
Iowa 54%
Wisconsin 54%
Pennsylvania 53%
Virginia 51%

Here in the Amarillo area, the numbers are not very good either. Potter county has returned 43% of their census forms, and Randall county has returned 52%. Here are how some of the other large Texas counties are doing:

Lubbock 35%
El Paso 45%
Ector (Odessa) 43%
Midland 44%
Webb (Laredo) 26%
Nueces (Corpus Christi) 38%
Bexar (San Antonio) 38%
Travis (Austin) 34%
Galveston 38%
Harris (Houston) 35%
Fort Bend 41%
Walker (Huntsville) 34%
Bell (Temple) 37%
Bowie (Texarkana) 47%
Wichita 56%
Denton 43%
Collin (Plano) 45%
Tarrant (Ft. Worth) 45%
Dallas 39%
Taylor (Abilene) 50%
Williamson (Georgetown) 39%
Cameron (Harlingen) 26%
McLennan (Waco) 40%

These are terrible numbers. Almost none of them are within 20% of where Texas was in 2000. Texas is set to gain possibly 3 congressional seats if the census goes as expected, but if we have an undercount one or more of those seats could be lost. That means Texas would have less of a voice in the national government than it should have.

In fact, I am surprised by the low compliance rate nationwide. What is wrong with Americans in 2010? Do they not want their fair share of federal dollars? Do they not care whether they have the proper representation in Washington?

Let me be clear about a few things. The census information cannot be used by any other government agency -- not the IRS, not immigration, not Homeland Security, etc. The information given out is very broad-based. NO individual information is released to anyone. Therefore, there is no way the census can be used against any individual by the government (and the 10 questions they ask don't involve any sensitive information anyway).

And it is against the law to refuse to give census information. I doubt that anyone will actually be arrested for this, but it is still important for the government to know how many people are in this country and where they live. If large numbers of people refuse to cooperate, then it will just force the federal government to use mathematical formulas and other guesswork.

Come on, people. This is not political. Send in your census form. Today!

Suspicion

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Singer Strips In Dealey Plaza


On March 17th (St. Patrick's Day), R & B singer Erykah Badu (a Dallas native) took off all her clothes near Dealey Plaza in the West end of downtown Dallas. She did this for a video of her song "Window Seat" on her newly released album New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh.

The video shoot was very low key, using only one camera and one take. As she walks down the sidewalk, she removes all of her clothes. When she reaches the point on Elm street where JFK was shot in 1963, a rifle shot is heard, her head snaps back and she crumples to the ground.

Ms. Badu (pictured) said she was making a statement against "groupthink". She went on to say, "I was petrified while shooting this video. . .but liberation began to set in. I conquered many fears in that few moments. I been naked all along in my words, actions and deeds. That's the real vulnerable place."

The Dallas police said Ms. Badu would not be arrested or ticketed for the public nudity, because no one in that area at the time was upset enough to call the police. But now, a week later, it seems that city officials are getting upset. They are saying she broke a city ordinance by failing to get a permit to shoot the video.

That statement is more than a bit disingenuous, since they know full well that they would not have given her a permit to shoot a nude video in Dealey Plaza. The "guerilla shoot" was the only way the video could have been done.

Frankly, I just find the incident humorous. Our puritanical society makes far too much of being offended by nudity (and sex too). It happened and it's over. It's silly to try and make a big deal out of it a week later. I will admit though that even though public nudity doesn't offend me, there aren't many people I would really care to see naked, and I'm sure no one would want to see me that way.

What do you think? Were Ms. Badu's actions offensive and culturally horrible? Or is this just much ado about nothing and not worth worrying about?

Ignoring The Facts

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at United Feature Syndicate.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Want You

I can't argue with the sentiment expressed in this poster at Brian Kane Online.

November May Not Be Bad For Democrats


For a while now, many on the right (and some on the left) have been predicting that the coming election in November will be a disaster for Democrats. Some have even gone so far as to predict a return to power for Republicans. They say that the energized voters on the right and dissatisfaction with Democrats will propel the Republicans to victory.

But they may well be in the process of counting their chickens before they have hatched. A new poll suggests they might want to wait until November 3rd before planning any victory celebrations. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll was done between March 23rd and 26th (with a margin of error of 3 points), and it shows the Democrats have closed the "energized voter" gap.

While voters are currently split on whether the new health care reform laws are a good thing or not (well within the margin of error), the poll shows that the Democrats have now become as "energized" as the Republicans in anticipation of the coming election. While 76% of Republicans say they are enthusiastic about voting in November, about 74% of Democrats say the same thing.

This means the election is probably going to favor the party that can convince independents of their competence and vision for the future. But the poll didn't stop there. They also asked voters which party they thought could handle a list of issues better (and this question included independents). The Democrats came out ahead on nearly every issue. Here are the issues and numbers:

ISSUE.........................DEM................REP

The economy.............44%.................36%
Health care................47%.................34%
Immigration..............38%.................35%
Afghanistan...............43%..................33%
Budget deficit............43%.................35%
Taxes..........................41%..................39%
Terrorism..................37%.................43%
Energy policy............49%.................32%

Those figures look pretty good for Democrats. Although most voters are unhappy with Congress, people still think the Democrats would do a better job than Republicans on most things. When asked if the election were held now would you vote for a Democrat or Republican for Congress, 47% said they would vote for a Democrat and 43% said they would vote for a Republican.

It also doesn't look like the obstructionist tactics of the Republican party is working as they had hoped it would. About 63% of voters said the Republicans had not made a good-faith effort to cooperate with Obama and the Democrats, while 47% said Obama and the Democrats had not made such an effort.

Of course, the election is still seven months away, and lots could happen before then. I believe the driving force in the next election will be the economy. If the economy makes a turn for the worse, that would give Republicans the advantage. If it improves, Democrats will look even better.

Don't get me wrong. I believe the Republicans will probably pick up a few seats. It is normal (and almost traditional) for the party out of power to gain a few seats in an off-year election. But I don't expect the Democrats to lose their majority in either the House or Senate.

Trinity

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at United Feature Syndicate.

Think before Using Violence


Since the health care reform laws passed, the teabagger movement has seemed to become even more violent in its rhetoric, and for some, in their actions. And instead of trying to calm this volatile situation, some Republican politicians seem bent on making it worse. It's almost as if some would like to see some violence.

You have politicians like Rick Perry (Texas governor) talking of secession from the United States, Rep. Wally Herger (R-California) who praised a man who called himself a "proud right-wing terrorist", and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) who said "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous. . ." And then of course, we have the daily rantings of people like Glenn Bech and Rush Limbaugh, who's very purpose seems to be to rile up the right-wing nuts.

These politicians may as well be waving a red flag at a bull, because militia members and others on the right-wing fringe take this as justification and validation of their own desires to use violence to impose their own extremist views. These nuts see nothing wrong with killing people and maybe even engaging in a revolution.

But they'd better do some serious thinking before they act. These are not the kind of actions that can be taken back or apologized for -- these actions make a person a criminal and subject to many years in prison, or even death. Before they act, they need to read and seriously consider the words of this Marine Sergeant in his open letter to anyone considering violence or revolution:


It's been said that the military is always preparing for war. That is true. We prepare for combat every day. We ran 5 miles today to the rifle range and shot nearly 200 rounds a piece at targets and then ran back. However, we also pray for peace. I would love one day to be completely unnecessary. But alas, I am a realist, and I know that day will never come.

The headlines of the last week have reminded me more of glimpsing at the S2 Daily Briefing Sheets while in theater or the Al-Jazeera than the NY Times or the Washington Post. Think about that for a moment, let it sink in.

Before I get into the main premise of this article - I need to make two statements here.

First and foremost , when it comes to the back and forth of who did what to whom and why - I don't give a @!$%#. It doesn't change the action. In life we're judged by our actions, nothing more, nothing less. One of the greatest things of the military is when it comes to an enemy, the politics behind the situation - don't matter in accomplishing that mission. For the military , life is simple in that regard.

Secondly, Regardless of your political ideology, you've earned the right as US Citizens to say your piece - no matter how wrong it may be. That is your right, and I will give my life to protect it.

But this government of ours is a democracy. We vote for our representatives, and they vote in our interests. Sometimes, the votes don't go our way. That's life, better luck next time. Exhaust your legislative options, and then focus on gaining the required votes and/or seats to achieve your desired legislative vote next election time. That's the way things work.

But the SECOND you start committing acts of violence and vandalism, then you've usurped that Constitution. You in a way have assaulted it. And then you and I (I being every servicemember who has sworn to defend said Constitution) will have a MAJOR PROBLEM.

For those of you calling for a civil war, I implore you to stop and think about what you're saying. Look around your neighborhood and your city. Now imagine using that terrain to survive. Imagine dodging semi-automatic rifle fire as you scramble from cover to cover, dragging your wounded child behind you. Imagine the deafening report of a mortar as it strikes the ground a 150 feet in front of you, the overpressure enough to shatter your teeth and perforate an ear drum. Try and envision a Stryker rolling through neighbor's front lawn or a F/A-18 making lazy loops over your head in Close Air Support for the troops in the distance.

Now with that vision in mind, stop by your local Marine Corps base, being they will be the first military units you'd face in an all out 'civil war' . Look at them for a moment, examine their 'work environment' . They're running the track, they're climbing ropes, they're grappelling with each other in mock hand-to-hand combat, and shooting targets while moving in raid lines on a daily basis. Nearly everyone on that base, down to our 'secretaries' has a combat award of one type or another, they've faced some of the most stressful situations on Earth where succumbing to the stress can get you killed, and they flourished.

Now ask yourselves and be honest - when is the last time you've run anything other than late to work, climbed anything other than a flight of stairs, grappelled with anything other than a paper jam, and shot off anything other than your mouth? When's the last time you were in any situation more stressful than a traffic jam?

Now I'm not blaming you for your career choice, not in the least. I can't think of a single job that's not useful in some way or another. I just want you to simply compare and contrast your work environment with ours and ask yourselves "Who is better suited to win this battle ?" We both know the answer here, and if you doubt that answer, look at the results from Fallujah in 2004. Over 1200 of them 'lost' and we 'lost only 28. That's a 'win-ratio' of almost 60-1, and they've been fighting their whole lives.

Put this in another scenario. You and your officemates think your local pro football team sucks , so you put together your own team of the best your company has and challenge them to a game. Even if your team might be good, they're professionals. This is their job. Your job is to answer phones and type on a keyboard. In short, they've forgotten more than you will ever know about football. The result, will be a slaughter for you, and a practice for them. But at least you'll get a chance to sit at home, ice your wounds and say 'whew I never should've done that!'

Not so with combat. The results of combat are far...FAR..more permanent. There are no second chances, no time for regrets, and no do-overs. This is not Call of Duty.

Now I 'd like to disperse a myth here - many of you think that US military would not fight civilians. I can't speak for all, but in my case - the moment you declare civil war, you're no longer civilians. The moment you attack the constitution, you're now enemies of that constitution. And I swore to defend and support and if necessary give my life for that Constitution and utilize every tool, technique, and weapon at my disposal to do so. And trust me, I'm not alone.

I hope some of you heed my words and cool the rhetoric and focus on achieving your goals diplomatically instead of physically. It would never want to receive a frag order to Maryland, or North Dakota, or Texas, but it is an order I will follow no matter how much it pains me to do so.

Democrats ?

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at United Feature Syndicate.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Public's View Of Sarah Palin

Found at the blog The Immoral Minority. The figures are from a January 18, 2010 poll by CBS News.

Obama Starting To Play Hardball


President Obama was elected by a significant majority of Americans who wanted to see this country change. But ever since he took office the Republicans have done their best to obstruct his efforts. He has gone out of his way to try to involve them in a bipartisan effort to compromise and reach a consensus on how what that change should be and how it should be implemented.

In fact, the president has tried to involve Republicans in the change so many times and for so long that many progressives (like myself) became very frustrated. But it was all to no avail, because the Republicans have ignored his efforts and made a united effort to obstruct and delay everything he has proposed -- from new bills to political appointments. They have chosen to play politics rather than compromise for the good of the country.

Although I was frustrated by President Obama's lengthy and repeated efforts at bipartisanship, I can understand why he did it. He wanted to show the American people that he had made every effort possible to involve everyone in the process. He has done that. Now it looks like he has finally abandoned that hopeless approach and decided to play some hardball.

He has finally decided that it's time to stop begging the Republicans to step up to the plate and is just throwing some strikes -- hard and fast and right down the middle. If the Republicans want to stand there with the bat on their shoulders and strike out, that is their decision to make. But the Democrats have things to do and it's time to get them done. The game can no longer be delayed.

The president showed this new attitude by jumping in and fighting for the new health care reform laws, and they were passed. Now he's taking this new strategy to his political appointments. Since the Republicans have delayed a vote on Senate confirmation for his appointees for months, the president has decided to go ahead and put the appointees in their positions by a process called "recess appointment".

This is a legal procedure where the president has the power to go ahead and seat appointees vital to the functioning of the government while Congress is in recess (and was used several times by President Bush to put his more controversial appointees in office). Once this is done, it is very doubtful the Republicans will be able to vacate these positions. Yesterday, the president said:

"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove my nominees. But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis. Most of the men and women whose appointments I am announcing today were approved by Senate committees months ago, yet still await a vote of the Senate. At a time of economic emergency, two top appointees of the Department of Treasury have been held up for nearly six months. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government."

One of the most important of these nominees is Craig Becker who was appointed to the National Labor Relations Board. The other nominees are:

• Jeffrey Goldstein, under secretary for domestic finance, Department of the Treasury

• Michael F. Mundaca, assistant secretary for tax policy, Department of the Treasury

• Eric L. Hirschhorn, under secretary of commerce for export administration and head of the Bureau of Industry and Security, Department of Commerce

• Michael Punke, deputy trade representative - Geneva, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

• Francisco "Frank" J. Sanchez, under secretary for international trade, Department of Commerce

• Islam A. Siddiqui, chief agricultural negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

• Alan D. Bersin, commissioner, U.S. Customs and border Protection, Department of Homeland Security

• Rafael Borras, under secretary for management , Department of Homeland Security

• Jill Long Thompson, Farm Credit Administration Board

• Mark Gaston Pearce, National Labor Relations Board

• Jacqueline A. Berrien, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

• Chai R. Feldblum, commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

• Victoria A. Lipnic: commissioner, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

• P. David Lopez: general counsel, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Thank goodness the president has finally decided to get tough. Maybe now he can get on with making the changes he promised. I think I like this new "tough" Obama.

Riding The Tiger

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Suckers

From the pages of the Abstruse Goose.

Is The "Energy Star" Worthless ?


For the last 18 years, the government has had a program to designate energy saving appliances and products with a star -- called the "energy star". When a consumer sees this "energy star" on a product, they can be sure that the product will conserve energy and save them money. The program was supposed to save consumers money and help the nation in energy conservation. But does it really work that way?

Many of the products with the "energy star" cost the consumer a little more money (supposedly to pay for the energy saving technology), but the customer is supposed to more than make up for this with the energy savings the product will produce. And some of the "energy star" products even qualify for a tax cut when the consumers files their income taxes, thus producing more savings.

But recently it was discovered that two companies, LG and Kenmore, were selling refrigerators with the "energy star" logo but did not meet the energy conservation standards. In other words, the companies had jacked up the price of their regular old refrigerators and justified it by slapping on an "energy star" logo. The companies had to reimburse consumers and send them kits to make the refrigerators more energy-efficient.

But that incident got the General Accounting Office (GAO) to thinking. How many other products were being sold with the logo, but didn't meet the necessary specifications? Just how well did the program investigate products before authorizing the use of the "energy star" logo? The GAO decided to test the program.

The GAO went "underground" and created four ficticious companies (complete with web sites). They then asked for authorization to put the "energy star" logo on some of their make-believe products. Products like an air purifier (which was just a space heater with a feather duster glued to the top of it) and a four-and-a half foot tall gasoline-powered alarm clock. Fifteen of their products were awarded the "energy star" logo.

There may be some products who actually deserve the logo, but it is likely there are many instances where a company has received an undeserved authorization to use the logo as an excuse to jack up the price of their product. There is really no way for the consumer to know whether they're getting a product that conserves energy, or they're just being scammed out of their hard-earned money.

This is inexcusable. The government must do one of two things -- either test every product submitted to make sure it meets rigid specifications, or discontinue the program (and its tax advantages). Doing neither is not an option, because that just sets up the American consumer to get ripped-off and does little or nothing to conserve our nation's energy resources.

I am not usually a tax complainer. I don't mind paying my share for programs that are needed and work the way they're supposed to. But it makes me really angry to know that tax dollars are being spent on a worthless program like this. Fix it, or get rid of it.

Ignoring Reality

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

Hollywood Finally Honors Dennis Hopper


It's about time this happened. Even though they should have done it years ago, Hollywood finally got around to honoring Dennis Hopper with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hopper's star is located in front of the historic Egyptian Theater.

The 70 year-old Hopper (pictured) is in the terminal stages of prostrate cancer and currently weighs only about 100 pounds, but his doctors OK'd his attending the ceremony. The native Kansan, who came to Hollywood at 18 years-old, told the crowd, "Everything I've learned, I've learned from Hollywood. This has been my home and my schooling." The actor wore a shirt decorated with scenes from Easy Rider (probably his most famous film).

Starting with his role as a teenage hoodlum in Rebel Without A Cause, Hopper has appeared in over 100 films. He has long been one of America's finest actors. He has played heroes and villains, and done both leading roles and character roles. Few actors will leave a legacy as rich as his.

Producer (and friend) Mark Canton spoke at the ceremony and said Hopper was "the coolest guy on the planet. . .He is a force of nature. He is a world-class original, a legend in his own right, whose impact on the arts and people that he loves so dearly is second to none."

Congratulations Dennis! It was a long time in coming, but you richly deserve the honor.

Teabagger Revolutionary

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

This Is Why Reform Was Passed


Some people still seem to think that health care reform was not needed in the United States. They think everything was fine just the way it was. Well it wasn't, and the following story illustrates that very vividly.

Doug and Kim Tracy live in Crowley, Texas (near Fort Worth). They are self-employed and could not afford health insurance for themselves, but they had purchased private insurance to cover the health needs of their two children. Kim was pregnant, and a few days before she delivered the new baby, Doug applied for insurance to cover their third child.

But when the baby was born, it was quickly realized that he had problems. He turned out to have d-transposition of the great arteries, where the two arteries that carry blood away from the heart are reversed. Chances were great that the baby had very little time to live (it could be anywhere from a few days to a year at the most). He needed a major operation and he needed it quickly.

This is where the private insurance came in. Although they should have covered him starting at birth, they decided he had a pre-existing condition and denied any coverage at all. The insurance company would pay for nothing. As far as they were concerned, he could die.

Fortunately for the Tracys, the doctors at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth (pictured) were not that hard-hearted. This hospital and it's doctors routinely perform medical miracles for children, and without any up-front payment, they performed the vital surgery last Friday. The baby is now doing good and will be able to go home in a couple of weeks.

But the Tracy family is left with enormous medical bills for the delicate and complex operation. They had saved up for the delivery and paid for it in cash, but nothing was left to pay for the operation. This is the kind of treatment that many Americans get from private insurance companies each year (in this case it was Blue Cross).

The crazy part is that if the baby had been born in September, the insurance company could not have denied him for a pre-existing condition. That's when the new health care reform law begins outlawing denials for pre-existing conditions, and the company would have had to cover the newborn (and his operation).

This is just one of the badly needed changes that are included in the new health care reform law. There are many others. There may be many people that don't like the new law (until they need one of its provisions), but it will help millions of people.

Thank you Democrats! There are still more changes that are needed in our health care system, but you have made a very good start.

This Is Not Patriotism

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Puppet Master

From the great blog of BartCop.

Republican Health Care Lies


Since the start of the health care reform discussion last year, the Republicans have told us lie after lie. They have accused Democrats of perpetrating a huge government takeover of the health care system. The truth is that no doctor or hospital will be taken over or run out of business. What they will have is more customers with better insurance to pay for their services. And that insurance will be purchased from private insurance companies in the free market -- either directly or through health insurance exchanges.

They have accused the Democrats of creating death panels that will choose to kill off the elderly and disabled. This is one of the most scurrilous of the lies, because none of the proposed legislation or the legislation that was actually passed ever had anything even remotely close to this. The truth is that the elderly will still be covered by Medicare, and the disabled will be covered by either Medicaid or private insurance. And both Medicare and Medicaid have been enhanced to make them function better.

They have told Americans that the new health care bill will create enormous debt for our country. And they are still telling this lie, even though the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has reported the new laws will actually lower the government deficit by over a trillion dollars in the next ten years. It's funny how they swear by the CBO's numbers when those numbers agree with their position and ignore the numbers when they don't back up what they are saying.

They claim the new laws amount to a huge tax increase, and imply that this will apply to all Americans. It won't. There are some increases in Medicare and Medicaid taxes, but they only apply to those making more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for a married couple). Frankly, if you make more than that in a year, you can afford a small tax increase (and that's what it is -- a small increase). It also imposes a small tax on the most expensive insurance policies -- the so-called "cadillac" policies. You can be sure this will not affect the huge majority of working Americans with private insurance.

Now they are telling us that the new laws will cost many thousands of jobs, because the businesses will not be able to afford buying insurance or alternatively paying a tax for the employees they have. Ridiculous! This argument has the same flaw as their lie about raising the minumum wage costing jobs. The fact is that there is only one reason a business hires workers -- because that business needs those workers to meet the demand for their products or services, and they will hire only the amount they need regardless of the wage scale or need for insurance coverage.

If they hire less than the number that is needed, then their business will suffer because they cannot meet the demand. If they hire more than needed, then it will needlessly cut into owner profits (and no businessman will do that). A business may raise it's prices to cover costs, but it will always hire only the amount of workers needed -- not more and not less. When demand goes up, more workers will be hired. When demand goes down, workers will be laid off. That's just the way it is in a capitalist system (and all costs are figured into prices and expected profit margin).

Now they are telling Americans that the new law will force doctors to refuse to accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. This is already a problem in many places, but it has nothing to do with the new laws. Do you know who is to blame? THE REPUBLICANS -- because in their years in power they repeatedly cut the payments to doctors for Medicare and Medicaid patients. They have always hated these programs and the cuts were an effort to destabilize the programs. Hopefully the Democrats will fix this inequity if the new laws don't.

But the biggest lie, the most outrageous lie, they are now telling is that they are in favor of health care reform (just not the reform passed by Democrats). Well if they were really in favor of health care reform, why didn't they do it when they were in control (and had a Republican president for eight of those years). They had a golden opportunity to enact reform on their terms, but did nothing. They spent billions on unnecessary wars and corporate giveaways, but did absolutely nothing to fix the health care system.

It was obvious (and frustrating to many progressives) that President Obama reached out to the Republicans for bipartisan action on reforming health care. Every time he was snubbed. The Republicans had made a decision that they would oppose any effort at reform, because they believed if Obama failed to deliver on health care reform that would help them at the polls. They were more concerned with party politics than helping Americans access needed health care.

These are only a few of the more egregious lies the Republicans have told to try to stop health care reform and protect the profits of Big Insurance and Big Pharma. There were many others. I had hoped the lies and obstructions would stop now that "Obamacare" is law, but if Senator McCain is to believed it looks like that won't happen. McCain said the Republicans were so mad about the passage of these two health reform bills that "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year."

I really hope that is just another Republican lie, because important things remain to be done and Republican lies and obstructionism will just make it harder (though not impossible). Let me finish with an excellent quote I found on a friend's blog (a gal and her blog):

"In my life I've heard that: civil rights for people of color would destroy this country, Medicare would destroy this country, environmental protections would destroy this country. It must be indescribably horrible to live one's life in fear as these folks seem to be doing."

Now the Republicans are telling us that health care reform will destroy our country. Don't believe them as they try to spread fear. It's just another of their many lies.

Still In The Closet

Political Cartoon is by Lloyd Dangle at troubletown.com.

Teabagger Terrorists


I was trying not to comment on the ridiculous reaction of the teabaggers to the passing of the new health care laws. I thought it was just sour grapes, but I can understand that. There have been political battles that I didn't feel good about losing, and I did my share of complaining. But now certain elements in the teabagger movement (if it can be called a movement) have gone too far.

Consider some of the things that have happened:

-Bricks were thrown through the windows of Democratic congressmen in Arizona and New York.
-Black congressmen were called racial epithets and spit upon.
-A homosexual congressman was called a vile sexual epithet.
-Several Democratic congressmen were threatened with death.
-A Missoura congressman had a casket placed on his front lawn.
-In Virginia, someone tried to cut the gas line to a congressman's house (but had the wrong address and did it to his brother instead).

This goes far beyond political discourse -- even passionate political speech. This behavior has crossed the line into criminal behavior. It's political terrorism, reminiscent of al Queda-style politics. They lost a political battle, so they're trying to win that battle through threats and fear. That cannot be tolerated in a democracy.

I believe in free speech. People in this country have the right to demonstrate and put forth their views. They even have the right to do that in an offensive way. After all, if you've never been offended, then you don't live in a free country. But they don't have the right to behave in a criminal terroristic way, and anyone who does that should be arrested and punished.

Some Republicans have spoken boldly against this criminal behavior, while others seem afraid to make their teabagging base angry (or they agree with them). I have to think that some of them have fed into this unacceptable behavior with their over-the-top rhetoric -- "socialism", "Hitler", "the end of democracy", "government takeover", "death panels", "re-education camps", "return to slavery". None of these things are true, and they are used just to egg-on their followers.

Things have gone too far, and it's time to scale back the rhetoric. If not, there's going to be a tragedy somewhere. There's an element of the teabaggers who already think they can take the law into their own hands. They don't need any further encouragement.

In a democracy, it's just a fact of life that you'll win some battles and lose some others. That's the nature of the beast. But win or lose, we must keep the political discourse within the bounds of the law (and hopefully common decency). We live in a great country. Let's keep it that way.

Self-Destruction

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Strong Foundation

From the great blog of Unreasonable Faith.

New Ancient Hominin Discovered


It has long been thought that thousands of years ago, modern humans and neanderthals lived at the same time, and eventually the neanderthals (pictured) died out and left only humans. But that may be too simple an explanation. There is now some evidence that there may have been a third group of hominins (human-like) living as late as 30,000-48,000 years ago, and this previously unknown group may have had interaction with both neanderthals and modern humans.

A finger bone has been discovered in a Siberian cave. What makes this discovery exciting is it's DNA. Scientists were able to recover mitochondrial DNA from the finger, and when they compared it to the DNA of modern humans and neanderthals they found it didn't match either one, although it lived at the time when both humans and neanderthals existed.

Scientists are tentatively calling this third hominin "X-woman". The scientists who studied the DNA say these hominins had the same ancestor as modern humans, but diverged from the human line about 1,000,000 years ago. By comparison, the neanderthals diverged from the human line about 500,000 years ago.

Scientists also discovered an ancient bracelet on the same cave level as the finger bone. It has not yet been proven that they are connected, but if they are it would be proof that "culture" is not an exclusively human (and neanderthal) phenomenon.

In fact, some scientists now believe there may be more hominin lines besides these three, and the evidence has just not yet been found. Pretty exciting stuff!

Republican Waterloo

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in Roll Call.

California To Vote On Legalizing Marijuana


It's official now! California state officials announced yesterday that the initiative to legalize marijuana (the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010) has the required number of verified signatures to place it on the ballot this November. The initiative needed 433,971 signatures, and that was exceeded when the verified signatures from Los Angeles county were turned in this week.

If approved in the coming election, the initiative would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for people at least 21 years-old. It would also allow adults to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana per residence or parcel of land. Currently, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is punishable by a fine of $100 (a misdemeanor).

One of the most interesting aspects of the initiative is that it would allow cities and counties to authorize the cultivation, transportation and sale of marijuana, and to tax that marijuana. In this recession and jobless economy, most government entities are having trouble balancing their budgets, and this could be the idea that pushes the initiative over the top.

There is a real chance the marijuana legalization initiative could be approved by the voters in November. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Californians are in favor of marijuana legalization. It just depends on who shows up at the polls to vote.

This could be a boon for Democrats, because it could draw many young people to the polls (an age group that favors both legalization and Democrats). While huge numbers of young people went to the polls in 2008 to support President Obama, many have been turned off by the tenor of Washington politics and weren't expected to vote this year. This initiative could change that and offset the energized right-wing voters.

It's time for marijuana to be legalized in the United States. Too many lies have been told about the gentle herb, which is not addictive, has no lethal dosage, and has far less (if any) long-term medical problems than many legal drugs (such as tobacco and alcohol). The only reason it has not already been legalized is because the government has repeatedly lied to the American people. These lies allow them to keep soaking taxpayers for millions of dollars in the failed "war on drugs" (which is nothing but a modern version of prohibition).

The nation will be watching California in November. If they do approve the legalization of marijuana, we can expect this to start spreading to other states. Whatever happens, the vote will probably be close. For now, we'll just have to cross our fingers and wait to see what happens.

Exposing The Truth

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

Neugebauer Raises Money From Bad Manners


As you probably know by now, Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas) showed all of America his poor upbringing, lack of common decency and atrocious manners the other day. While one of his cohorts in the House of Representatives was trying to speak on the health care reform bill, it was Neugebauer (pictured) who yelled "baby killer" at him.

Regardless of what a person's politics are, this is inexcusable behavior. Neugebauer (who represents the district around Lubbock, Texas) embarrassed his constituents, his state and the nation with his inappropriate antics. He did offer a poor apology to his fellow congressman, saying he meant the bill was a "baby killer" and not the congressman.

Regardless of who or what he was referring to, his actions were our of order and out of place in the House of Representatives (and if he didn't know better, he should have). Neugebauer needs to learn to control his temper and vent his anger at a more appropriate time and place, instead of interrupting and name-calling on the floor of the House.

But evidently, that still has not sunk in to Neugebauer's thick skull. After his rather poor apology, Neugebauer quickly acted to let his constituents know that he really didn't mean it. In fact, he is now trying to make some quick campaign cash off of his poor behavior. He has put out a fund-raising video the very next day where he says, "I will continue to speak with the same passion that I spoke last night, maybe in a little bit different forum, but still with the same intensity."

Neugebauer should have been ashamed of his unbelievably boorish behavior. Instead, he is proud of it. So proud of it that he thinks he can turn it into instant cash. Sadly, he probably can. There are many teabagging right-wingers in Texas, whose own behavior is equally bad, and I'm sure they will be quick to reward his ill-manners with cash donations.

I am personally appalled by this. Whatever happened to good manners -- where ladies and gentlemen can disagree with one another politically and still act in a respectful way toward each other? My parents taught me respect and good manners, and I expect nothing less from my children. Obviously, that didn't happen in a lot of families, or we wouldn't have this kind of behavior.

Self-Radicalized ?

Political Cartoon is by Ted Rall at gocomics.com.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Truth About Incomes


Found at the excellent blog Lotus - Surviving A Dark Time.

Repeal Health Care Reform ? Impossible !


Health care reform is now law, and in a few more days the reconciliation bill will pass and be signed into law to make that reform even better (although not perfect). There is more to be done, but I don't want to minimize what has been accomplished. Many millions will be helped by this new law, and those who fought for it have good reason to celebrate.

But there are those who spent all their political capital to try and stop health care reform, and today their hopes are in shambles -- mainly Republicans, especially those on the far right like the teabaggers. They are pinning their fading hopes on the hollow assumption that the American public will be so outraged by the new law that they will once again return the defeated Republicans to power.

Many on the far right are now saying they will repeal the new health care reform law, and they are counting on the November elections to give them the power to do that. In fact, the queen of right-wing insanity in the House of Representatives, Michele Bachmann, has already filed a bill to repeal the new law. And soon, Senator Jim DeMint will introduce similar legislation in the Senate.

Both of them know they have no chance to pass this legislation. What they are really trying to do is keep their teabagging followers engaged in the politics of denial until November, in the hopes they will go to the poll in droves and elect right-wing Republicans. And I don't doubt they will re-elect some and elect a few new ones. It is a peculiarity of American politics that the party out of power will pick up seats in an off-year election, and that will probably happen.

But I seriously doubt they will pick up enough to challenge Democratic power in either the House or the Senate. One reason is that as the public learns more about the health care reform, they will like it (or at least most of it). They will realize that the new law changes things for the better. And the more that people understand the intricacies of the new law, the more unhappy they will be with those who tried to stop it -- the Republicans.

Of course this is the great fear of the Republicans. It is why they cannot drop their efforts to overturn the new law. And it is why they will continue to lie and demagogue about the law until the November elections. But can they overturn the new law? No.

Let us assume the worst case scenario -- that the Republicans somehow take control of both the House and Senate. I don't think that can happen, but if it did, can they then repeal health care reform? Again, no. They will still have a Democrat in the White House who will not sign any kind of repeal legislation. That means they would need not just a majority, but a two-thirds majority to repeal. Even the Republicans don't expect to do that good in November.

But there is another much better reason to not repeal the law. And all but the nuts on the right-wing fringe are very aware of this. What politician of either party is going to tell the American public the following:

-Pre-existing conditions are a good thing and the insurance companies should once again be allowed to deny insurance coverage on this basis.
-Government subsidies to help low and middle income families buy health insurance is a bad thing and should be stopped.
-Recission is a good thing and insurance companies should be allowed to drop the policies of people who become seriously ill.

If the Republicans repeal the new law, that is what they would be saying to the American people. I think most politicians, even Republicans, know it would be political suicide to take back these things. A huge majority, even of those generally opposed to some aspects of the reform, knew these things needed to happen, and they are not about to let any politician take them away now.

Although there were many people who didn't think the new law was exactly what was needed, there was never a majority of the people opposed to health care reform. That was just the teabaggers, and according to a recent poll, they only make up about 16% of the population. The other 84% knew that some kind of health care reform was needed. Now that it has been passed, they will not be willing to go backwards and give it up.

The river has been crossed, and there's no going back now. The health care law can, and probably will, be amended and improved, but it will not be repealed. And if the Republicans don't climb on board pretty soon, they will find themselves even further marginalized.

I hope the Republicans do campaign on repealing the health care reform law in 2012, because that would be disastrous for them. By then, the American public will understand the reform much better, especially the parts that apply to them -- and most Americans will be positively affected by the new law.

So bring on the repeal efforts Republicans. It would be a gift for Democrats.

Freedom

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

Michael Moore Adresses All Republicans


Dedicated progressive and health care reform advocate Michael Moore has written an open letter to all Republicans. In it, he assures them that the new health care reform laws are not just for Democrats, but everyone -- including Republicans. I thought the letter was so good that everyone needs to read it, so I am posting a copy of it below. Read and enjoy.


To My Fellow Citizens, the Republicans:

Thanks to last night's vote, that child of yours who has had asthma since birth will now be covered after suffering for her first nine years as an American child with a pre-existing condition.

Thanks to last night's vote, that 23-year-old of yours who will be hit one day by a drunk driver and spend six months recovering in the hospital will now not go bankrupt because you will be able to keep him on your insurance policy.

Thanks to last night's vote, after your cancer returns for the third time -- racking up another $200,000 in costs to keep you alive -- your insurance company will have to commit a criminal act if they even think of dropping you from their rolls.

Yes, my Republican friends, even though you have opposed this health care bill, we've made sure it is going to cover you, too, in your time of need. I know you're upset right now. I know you probably think that if you did get wiped out by an illness, or thrown out of your home because of a medical bankruptcy, that you would somehow pull yourself up by your bootstraps and survive. I know that's a comforting story to tell yourself, and if John Wayne were still alive I'm sure he could make that into a movie for you.

But the reality is that these health insurance companies have only one mission: To take as much money from you as they can -- and then work like demons to deny you whatever coverage and help they can should you get sick.

So, when you find yourself suddenly broadsided by a life-threatening illness someday, perhaps you'll thank those pinko-socialist, Canadian-loving Democrats and independents for what they did Sunday evening.

If it's any consolation, the thieves who run the health insurance companies will still get to deny coverage to adults with pre-existing conditions for the next four years. They'll also get to cap an individual's annual health care reimbursements for the next four years. And if they break the pre-existing ban that was passed last night, they'll only be fined $100 a day! And, the best part? The law will require all citizens who aren't poor or old to write a check to a private insurance company. It's truly a banner day for these corporations.

So don't feel too bad. We're a long way from universal health care. Over 15 million Americans will still be uncovered -- and that means about 15,000 will still lose their lives each year because they won't be able to afford to see a doctor or get an operation. But another 30,000 will live. I hope that's ok with you.

If you don't mind, we're now going to get busy trying to improve upon this bill so that all Americans are covered and so the grubby health insurance companies will be put out of business -- because when it comes to helping the sick, no one should ever be allowed to ask the question, "How much money can we save by making this poor bastard suffer?"

Please, my Republican friends, if you can, take a quiet moment away from your AM radio and cable news network this morning and be happy for your country. We're doing better. And we're doing it for you, too.

Yours, Michael Moore

A Teabagger Nightmare

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Hospital Gowns Re-Designed (About Time)


If you've ever been admitted to a hospital, then you know about the glaring inadequacies of a hospital-issued gown. The flimsy gowns open in the back and the only thing to hold them together are some cloth ties (which naturally are useless since you can't reach them to tie them). If you get out of bed wearing one of them, you can bet you'll be flashing anyone in the room.

And the nurses are adamant that you need to exercise by doing some walking. When you do, you wind up with one arm behind your back trying to hold the gown together and the other pushing your IV stand. Of course, if the IV stand hangs up on something and you need both hands to free it you find yourself exposing your rear (and maybe more) to anyone in the area.

I realize that the gowns are necessary because they give doctors and nurses easy access to your body so they can perform tests and check on your progress, but there has to be a better way to make these gowns -- one that will allow easy access and also protect a patient's modesty. Fortunately, the British government thought so too.

They gave several designers grants of $37,500 to design a gown that would both provide access to medical providers and would not compromise patient dignity. Yesterday they unveiled the fruits of those labors. It looks like the designers were successful and the government money well-spent. They hope to have the new gowns in all their hospitals by next year.

Instead of opening in the back, the new gowns (pictured above) open on the side and have snaps to keep it closed (something that can be easily done by the patient). One version even has a small pocket for a cell phone. And they come with a soft fleece blanket. As a former hospital patient, I'm impressed.

The Brits are eager to share the new design with President Obama in the hope it will help "in his efforts to overhaul U.S. health care practices." I don't know if it will help to reform health care, but I believe millions of hospital patients in this country would love to have the re-designed gowns. They are a huge improvement over the current gowns.

The only question now is how long will it take American hospitals to start using the new gowns? I hope it's not long.