A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, April 30, 2010

Answering Arizona's Bigotry

This is a picture of a taxi in Cuernavaca, Mexico. It was found on Laura Martinez's blog Mi blog es tu blog. The English translation of the writing on the back window says, "There is no service available for gringos from Arizona." Looks like the Arizona legislature has created a lot of ill-will toward their state.

Democrat Gets Boost In Florida Senate Race


The senate race in Florida just got a whole lot more interesting. That's because the current governor, Charlie Crist, dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination and announced he will be running as an independent for Florida's U.S. Senate seat. He did this because the Florida Republican Party has been taken over by the teabaggers, and it was becoming more obvious each day that the Republican nomination will go to Marco Rubio (even though he is currently under investigation for credit card abuse).

This sets up a three-way race between Democrat Kendrick Meek (pictured), Republican Marco Rubio and independent Charlie Crist. Crist is not leaving the Republican Party -- just running as an independent in the senate race. The race is interesting because it could be a close race since all three candidates have a natural constituency. Rubio appeals to the right-wingers and teabaggers, while Meek appeals to progressives and Democrats, and Crist is hoping to attract moderate Republicans and independents.

I believe this improves the chances of Kendrick Meek to win the race. He is probably the least well-known of the three candidates, and it was going to be very difficult for him to get a clear majority of the votes -- but now he just has to get a plurality (a higher percentage of the vote than the other candidates).

It looks like the race hinges on Florida's independent voters. For Crist to win, he must get nearly all of the independents to add to his moderate Republicans. If a significant portion of the independents go to Meek or Rubio, then they will win. I really think Crist's move to run as an independent hurts Rubio, because the moderate Republicans will now have an option to voting for an ultra-right-wing candidate. It also gives independents two options to avoid voting for the teabagger candidate (and I believe most will choose one of those two options).

I was worrying about Meek's chances to win, but I now think his chances have dramatically improved. If he can just add 25-30% of the independents to his Democratic vote, then he will probably win, and I think that is very doable.

Fall Of Goldman Sachs

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Domestic Terrorist Threatens President Obama


Ever since Barack Obama became president, it seems like the right-wingers in this country have gone crazy. The racists have slithered out from under their rocks and the militants and other nutjobs have emerged from their windowless basements. They think that now the country has an African-American president, they can convince other Americans that their sick ideas are mainstream.

And sadly, Fox News, talk radio and fringe right-wing politicians like Michele Bachmann, Steve King and Sarah Palin are encouraging these nuts to take action against their government and the officials that represent that government. In an effort to take advantage of these miscreants for their own purposes (either ratings, money or re-election), these leaders have engaged in hate rhetoric and tried to label anyone who disagreed with them as an enemy of America.

Cooler heads have tried to counsel that this kind of hate rhetoric is dangerous and could encourage some troubled individuals to engage in violence, but to no avail. As long as these political and entertainment figures can get what they want from riling up the teabaggers, militant groups and racists, they are not going to stop their dangerous behavior. Instead, when it happens they will just deny any responsibility and carry on -- because facts are not as important as getting what they want.

Consider the case of Brian Dean Miller in Dallas. I sincerely doubt that Miller (43 years old) would have acted as he did without encouragement (at least in his view) from those he perceives as authorities. He may well be a nut, but his nuttiness was given legitimacy by the hate speech of the ultra-right.

Let me pause here and say that I am not condemning every conservative as a purveyor of hate speech. Many are not, and have a right to their conservative views. But there are enough on the ultra-right who do engage in hate speech that it gives some nuts the idea that they can follow hate speech with hateful actions and violence and it'll be justified.

Miller is a self-labeled domestic terrorist. He threatened the life of President Obama and all federal employees. He feels like he was justified in his actions by the passage of the health care reform laws, and I'm sure he thinks he's some kind of hero carrying out the right-wing agenda.

Miller went on-line and posted on Craigslist. He titled his post "Obama Must Die". Then he went on to say, "I am dedicating my life to the death of Obama and every employee of the federal government. This is war. Join me. Or don't. I don't care. I'm not laying down anymore. Today I become a terrorist."

He then went back on-line later and dared readers to turn him in to the authorities saying "feel free to notify them if it helps you sleep better tonight. You should tell them I threatened to kill the president and destroy the U.S. government. Maybe you would like to quote the post as your evidence." Fortunately a fellow Texan took him up on his dare and called federal authorities.

Miller was arrested at his home in Dallas (where he lived with his mother). When the federal agents asked him if he wanted to kill the president, he replied, "Yes, I would kill him, if I were a different person. I would kill them all."

Would Miller have tried to carry out his threats? Nobody can know. There weren't any guns in his home when he was arrested, but that doesn't mean much. Guns are very easy for anyone to get in Texas. I'm just glad he was arrested before he hurt a federal employee (or made an attempt on the president's life).

Unfortunately for Miller, it doesn't really matter whether he intended to carry out his threats or not. It is a federal crime to threaten the life of the president, punishable by five years in prison (and there is no federal parole) and a $250,000 fine. This right-wing jerk will now be doing some time in a federal prison, where I expect he can get his fill of teabagging (although not the kind he probably would like).

It's time to tone down the hate speech. Political foes are not enemies of America -- whether they be on the right or the left.

Sex Education ?

Political Cartoon is by Cameron (Cam) Cardow in The Ottawa Citizen.

Gilbert Speaks Out On Immigration Law


As almost everyone should know by now, the state of Arizona has passed a new law that would require citizens to carry identity papers and would force their police officers to start racially profiling people in the state. Yesterday, I posted about two Texas state legislators who are going to introduce a similar law in the Texas legislature next year (the legislature won't meet again until early 2011).

Now Hank Gilbert, Democratic candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, has decided that it is time for honest politicians to step up and oppose the idea of such a racist and unconstitutional law. Gilbert says the law is not only wrong, but it will hurt Texas financially. He's not talking about people boycotting the state (as is happening to Arizona). He's talking about the serious damage it would do to Texas agriculture, and thus to all Texans. Here is what Gilbert had to say:

"If you want to talk about driving up food costs, slashing tax revenues, and damaging our economy, then Leo Berman's bill is exactly what you want. I cannot imagine someone proposing something so irresponsible or damaging to Texas agriculture."

"The fact of the matter is this: undocumented immigrants make up a significant segment of the agricultural labor force in Texas. These men and women help Texas grow food not just for our state, but for the rest of the nation. If you take away their ability to move freely within our society and survive without being under constant threat of police action, they will go somewhere else for jobs."

"Now, I know that's probably what Representative Berman wants-he'd rather undocumented individuals go to Oklahoma or Louisiana to work. But the fact is that we have a vital ag industry in Texas, and we have work for people who come to Texas from Latin America and Mexico."

"While it may be good Republican politics to scream and shout about illegal immigration, it is both bad economics and tantamount to racial profiling. I personally do not want to live in a state where Hispanic Americans are constantly stopped and asked for their 'papers.' It is reminiscent of living in Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union where identity papers were required at all times. Texas doesn't need that. Human beings from south of our border who are coming and working in Texas-who contribute more in tax revenue than they cost the state in services -deserve some dignity. It is not the responsibility of the state to enforce or enact Federal immigration laws."

"At the end of the day, it's exactly the thing you'd want to do if you want to cause long-term damage to the economy in Texas."

Wall Street Ratings

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Teabagger Logic

This is teabagger logic. They oppose taxes while surrounded by many of the things that taxes pay for (and which I'm sure they would not want to do without). I'm surprised these people can walk and breathe at the same time. Picture found at the excellent blog Reconstitution 2.0.

Picking A New Justice - My View


I haven't posted on what I think President Obama should do with his next pick for the Supreme Court. I really thought it was obvious that putting another right-winger on the court would be disastrous for America. But a regular reader has asked me to comment on this, and I'm always happy to try and please one of my readers.

The current court already leans too far to the right. Conservatives like to say they don't want any "activist" judges on the court, but that's just not true. The right-wingers on the court have turned out to be the biggest activists of any of the justices, in that they're very willing to rewrite the Constitution to fit their own political views.

All you have to do is look at their campaign money decision to know that. They gave corporations, with their almost unlimited ability to fund their political favorites, the same rights that human beings have. That decision was a farce, and I believe the writers of the Constitution would be aghast to learn that their words would be interpreted that way someday. There is no way they meant for a purely legal and financial creation to have the same rights as a citizen.

That makes it very important for the president to nominate a liberal to the court -- the more liberal, the better. Doing this will do nothing more than maintain the status quo. I will go further. It should be a liberal that will protect the equal rights of ALL Americans -- including minorities, homosexuals and women. Especially important is getting a new justice that will protect the right of a woman to control decisions regarding her own body.

I would personally like to see another woman on the court, and my top choice for that position would be Hillary Clinton. I know she is doing a great job as Secretary of State and many would like for her to remain in that position (and she may well want to remain in that job). But I still think she would make a great Supreme Court justice, and personally, I think she could do more good for the country for a much longer time on the court.

Having said that, I could accept any good honest liberal regardless of race or sex (or even sexual preference). I think it would be a serious mistake for the president to try to pick a moderate for the court in the mistaken belief that it would be easier for him/her to be confirmed. The Republicans are going to fight his nominee tooth-and-nail no matter who it is, so he might as well go for the gold and pick a real liberal -- then fight hard for confirmation.

The really important choice will come after this one (and I hope that choice is to replace one of the right-wingers on the court).

Facts

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

Wall Street Regulation Bill Reaches Senate Floor





The Republicans have finally stopped their opposition to allowing the Senate bill re-regulating Wall Street financial firms to come to the Senate floor for debate. The Democrats had forced three votes in the last few days to get the bill to the floor, but Republicans had blocked every single attempt. It looked like they were trying to repeat their actions against the health care reform bill -- delay while spreading lies about the bill.

But Majority Leader Reid was having none of it this time. Having recently found his spine, Reid decided if the Republicans were going to filibuster to keep the bill from the Senate floor, then it was going to have to be a real filibuster (instead of just a parliamentary move). Reid said he would keep the Senate in session and ordered the Sergeant-At-Arms to bring in cots for an overnight session.

Reid said he would keep asking for quorum calls, which require members to come to the Senate floor. He also said he would keep making motions to bring the regulation bill to the floor by unanimous consent. Each time this was done, a Republican would have to be present to object and a vote would be held on the motion. Reid promised to do this for as long as necessary to get the bill up for consideration.

And of course, each time the Republicans voted to keep the bill from coming up for debate, there would be more headlines like those above -- headlines that point out that it is the Republicans blocking the much-needed regulation of Wall Street. With a clear majority of the American people in favor of new regulations to prevent another economic meltdown, this would just hand the Democrats a great issue for the upcoming election.

Finally, the Republicans folded and allowed the bill to come up for debate by unanimous consent -- a vote was not even needed. This makes it much more likely that a re-regulation bill will probably be passed, and it is unlikely that Republicans have the votes to weaken the bill with amendments. They could still filibuster to keep the bill from a final approval vote, but it would just result in more bad publicity and headlines -- and that is unlikely in this election year (because the longer they delay, the closer they get to the election, and the better the issue will be for Democrats).

I don't know how he finally discovered his spine, but I like this new Harry Reid who is not afraid to fight for his party and the American people. I have said in the past that Reid needed to be replaced as Majority Leader, but if he will maintain this new tough attitude, I may have to change my mind on that.

(The above headline pictures are from the blog of Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo.)

The Only Papers An American Needs

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

Will Texas Follow Arizona's Lead ?


Arizona legislators have passed a new law that will force their police to engage in racial profiling and force their own citizens to carry identity papers or go to jail. This has earned them criticism from both the left and the right, subjected businesses in the state to a growing boycott, and made the state state a joke in the eyes of the world. That seems to have made some legislators on the lunatic right-wing fringe here in Texas somewhat jealous.

I think they're upset that someone has outdone them in racism, ridiculousness and the championing of unconstitutional ideas, and they're determined to set the record straight. They want the world to know that no one is loonier than the GOP legislators in Texas.

The first of these right-wing Republicans is Rep. Debbie Riddle of Tomball. She is making it known that when the Texas legislature meets again early next year (it only has biennial sessions), she will introduce a measure copying the Arizona law. She wants Texas police to be forced into racial profiling. She also thinks it's a good idea for Texans to be forced to carry identity papers (like the East European nations under Soviet rule).

The second Republican nut is Rep. Leo Berman of Tyler. Berman (pictured), who is known for his racist and anti-immigrant antics, has made it known that he will also introduce legislation similar to the new Arizona law. At this time, it is not known whether the two will co-sponsor legislation or will each submit their own version of the unconstitutional law.

This is no surprise coming from these two legislators (and I use that term loosely). The legislative accomplishments of these two Republicans amounts to -- absolutely nothing, except a lot of ultra-right-wing rhetoric. Although both have submitted bills for consideration in the past, those bills were so scary and obviously unconstitutional that even their Republican cohorts would not support them.

I seriously doubt the bills will be able to pass the Texas legislature for a couple of reasons. First, the Texas House is almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats (and the Democrats would take control by winning only a couple more seats). Even if the Democrats fail to take control of the House, there are probably enough moderate Republicans to kill the bill.

Second is the political situation in Texas. It should come as no surprise that Texas has a large number of Hispanic citizens (and this number is growing every year). The only thing that has allowed Republicans to survive and retain state leadership is the fact that Texas Hispanics do not vote as a monolithic bloc (like the state's African-Americans do). But passing a bill like the Arizona bill could easily change that, and that would spell doom for statewide Republican candidates.

Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project said that kind of bill "would cause an enormous political transformation of the state a lot quicker than it's happening at this point. It would galvanize the Hispanic community astronomically." He's right. Texas is moving closer to Democratic rule with each election, and a racist bill like this would greatly accelerate that movement.

If you'll notice, right-wing governor and teabagger enthusiast Rick Perry has had little to say about the unconstitutional Arizona law. He's in the midst of a re-election campaign that's proving to be closer than expected. He needs to get at least a small percentage of the Hispanic vote to survive.

I have no doubt that Riddle and Berman will introduce their silly bills when the legislature meets, but I would be very surprised if either of their efforts even makes it out of committee.

A Matter Of Perception

Political Cartoon is by Joel Pett in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Is The "Hopey, Changey Thing" Working Out ?


One of Sarah Palin's favorite lines when she gives a speech is "How's that hopey, changey thing workin' out for ya?" Of course she is referring to President Obama's campaign promises to bring hope back to the American people and change the course of our country to make a better tomorrow for all citizens. Her implication in asking the question in that disrespectful way is that the president is failing in his efforts to bring hope and change.

But is that really true? Is President Obama failing to live up to his campaign promises? Not according to my blogger friend Adam over at Zero Energy Construction. He says the "hopey, changey thing" is working out very well, thank you (and I agree with him). To prove his point, he posts a long list of President Obama's accomplishments after just over a year in office. Here is that list:

Passed Healthcare Reform (ending preexisting conditions, giving small business subsidies for providing insurance, Creating 3.2M HC-related jobs over the next 10 years, closing the medicare donut hole in drug coverage, ensuring coverage for all kids up till the age of 26, covering 32 million americans, expanding medicaid to cover the rest, all while cutting the national debt by a 100 billion dollars) - Check.

Signed into law Tax Cuts for all middle income families, and 95% of all Americans - Check

Signed an Arms control agreement with Russia to dismantle nuclear weapons - Check

Reauthorized SCHIP to cover all Children - Check

Saved the entire stock market from collapsing (from a low point of a dow of 6000 within a month of Obama taking office, to close to 11,000 just an year later, basically preventing millions of retirement accounts from getting wiped out) - Check

Ended the ban on travel for people with HIV - Check

Stopped the dismissals of homosexual individuals serving in the military by the Pentagon (It's the first step to dismantling DA,DT completely) - Check

Ended the federal crackdown on Medicinal Marijuana centers in CA - Check

Passed into law Mortgage Fraud Protections - Check

Ended the ban on Stem Cell Research - Check

Passed Student Loan Reform, and Used The Savings to Significantly Increase Financial Aid Loans and Grants - Check

Engaged in diplomatic dialogue with Middle Eastern countries, instead of using language like "Axis of Evil" that achieves nothing other than to piss them off some more. - Check

Passed Credit Card Reform (Minimizing Predatory Lending, Making the terms of credit cards clear, eliminating arbitrary rate increases) - Check

Since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, have had the new job loss numbers from their peak right as Obama took office, go down steadily month after month, every single month like clockwork to the point that finally, this month is going to have job growth in the six figures (a trend expected to accelerate this whole year) - Check

Reversed the ban on sending foreign aid to countries with legal abortions (The Mexico City Policy) - Check

Signed the Expanded Hate Crimes Bill - Check

Helped stem down employment discrimination by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act - Check

Extended Unemployment Benefit, helping millions of Americans stave off bankrupcy until the economy recovers - Check

Drew down troops in Iraq for a 2011 withdrawl date - Check

Drew down Gitmo detainees and making prepartations to close it by 2011 - Check

Increased the forces in Afganistan and brought to justice 500+ major Al Queda senior leaders in the past year (more than the Bush Administration brought in all eight years combined) - Check

Saved the entire US Auto Industry (GM and Chrysler) from going bankrupt thus preventing dozens of major factories and hundreds of dealerships from closing their doors - Check

Saved banks from going bankrupt to the point that they're profitable again and have now paid back all of government loans and bailout funds in full and with interest - Check

Signed into law, new mileage and emissions standard for cars and suvs - Check

Working on Education Reform and Financial Regulatory Reform so banks can't pull this crap again - The very next thing on his list


Now I won't try to tell you that I've agreed with the president on everything, because I haven't. I think he should have already pulled our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and I would have liked to see a provision for a public option in the health care reform package. But I still think the president has done a good job in his short time in office -- much better than our last president did in his entire eight years.

So I guess I'd have to say the "hopey, changey thing" is working out very well so far, and I think it'll get even better in the future. It feels good to have a president that accomplishes what he promised, and that I can be proud of. Really good.

Show Me Your Papers

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Hunter

Found at the blog Pulp Friction. By the way, if you need a good laugh, check out the blog's list of things Sarah Palin must have when she agrees to make an appearance -- it's hilarious!

Even Republicans Think Arizona Law Is Wrong


As you probably know by now, Arizona has passed a new law aimed at taking over the federal government's constitutional mandate to control immigration. The law would force Arizona police to engage in racial profiling and would force Hispanics in Arizona to carry identity papers (failure to do so would result in a $2500 fine and six months in jail, with a second offense being a felony).

The racist and unconstitutional law was instantly met with outrage by liberals and Hispanic groups. It has also resulted in a warning issued by the Mexican government to its citizens planning to visit Arizona. Mexican officials called the law "discriminatory" and said it would create a "negative political environment" for Mexican visitors. They went on to say, "As long as no clear criteria are defined for when, where and who the authorities will inspect, it must be assumed that any Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time."

But now it's becoming clear that it's not just liberals, Hispanics and the Mexican government that believes the new Arizona law is wrong. Some Republicans and other right-wingers have also come out against the law. Here are some examples of opposition to the law from the right:

Former Bush Advisor Karl Rove -
"I think there is going to be some constitutional problems with the bill. I wish they hadn't passed it, in a way."

Right-Wing TV Host Joe Scarborough -
"It does offend me that when one out of every three citizens in the state of Arizona are Hispanics, and you have now put a target on the back of one of three citizens who, if they're walking their dog around a neighborhood, if they're walking their child to school, and they're an American citizen or a legal, legal immigrant, can now put a target on their back and make them think every time they walk out of their door, they may have to prove something. I will tell you that is un-American. It is unacceptable, and it's un-American."

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) -
"It doesn't represent the best way forward."

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Florida) -
"I strongly disagree with the Arizona immigration law."

Florida Republican Senatorial Candidate Marco Rubio -
"From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. . .I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with 'reasonable suspicion', are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens."

You know a law can't be good when it has people from both sides of the political spectrum opposing it. This is just a bad law, and the sooner it is taken to court and declared unconstitutional, the better for our country and all of its citizens -- regardless of color or ethnicity.

Unintended Consequences

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

The Race For Stupidest State Legislature


The race for the title of Stupidest State Legislature in the United States has really heated up in the last few weeks. I had thought this was a title that would belong to the Texas state legislature year after year, but a couple of other states have now made a bold bid to snatch the title away from Texas. And I have to admit, they are both leaving Texas in the dust this year. Of course, Texas has a disadvantage since its legislature only meets every two years.

The first contender is the Arizona legislature. They passed a racist and unconstitutional law which would force it's police to engage in racial profiling, and would force its own citizens (at least those who aren't white) to carry identity papers or go to jail. That looked like a sure winner, but then another state legislature jumped into the fray.

Oklahoma legislators decided that they could be even stupider. After all, the bill passed by Arizona would only take rights away from about a third of their citizens. Oklahoma decided they would infringe upon the rights of a majority of their own citizens -- women. They had to put those women in their place, lest they start thinking they had rights equal to men and began to believe they were smart enough to make their own decisions regarding their own bodies.

As everyone knows, women are just second-class citizens and need the wise males in the state legislature to make their decisions for them. So the Oklahoma legislators passed not one, but two laws to rein in the decision-making ability of those uppity women. They had to, because that's what god wanted them to do.

The first law would force all pregnant women to view a sonogram of the fetus, and then listen to a description of what the sonogram shows. This requirement is actually aimed at women considering an abortion. It evidently never occurs to these male legislators that this could actually psychologically damage these women if they do abort the fetus, or force women to have a baby they are not psychologically or financially able to raise. These legislators are only interested in protecting fetuses -- not real babies or women.

The second law would protect fundamentalist doctors, who through choice or negligence, do not notify a pregnant woman (or her spouse) about medical problems with the fetus she is carrying. The woman (or parents) would not be able to sue a doctor who kept those medical problems a secret. The legislators don't seem to care that those problems could create a lifetime of suffering for the baby after birth and create hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt for the parent(s). Once again, they only care about fetuses -- not people, and if told about the medical problems, the woman might choose to have an abortion.

But Oklahoma has a better governor than Arizona, and he chose to veto both of these obnoxious laws. Governor Brad Henry said the legislation "was an attempt by the Oklahoma legislature to insert government into the private lives and decisions of its citizens." The governor was right, but that wasn't about to stop the legislators.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives overrode the governor's vetoes on votes of 81-14 and 84-12. The Oklahoma Senate then approved both bills on a 36-12 vote. The bills will now become law, and like similar bills passed by Oklahoma in the past, will have to be tossed out by a court (as I'm sure they will be).

I believe this gives Oklahoma a slight edge in the race for Stupidest State Legislature. In fact, it may be a two-for, giving them not only the lead for stupidest legislature, but also the title of meanest legislature. But the year is still young, and I'm sure there will be some other states making their bid for the title.

No Worry Here

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Religious Logic

I found this hilarious (and true) cartoon at a gal and her blog.

Shocking Suicide Rate Among Veterans


We tend to hear about the United States soldiers that are killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and thankfully, that number has gone down in the last few months. That has given many Americans the false impression that these two unnecessary wars are not costing many American lives these days. Sadly, that is just not true.

It's just that the cost of these wars on the lives of American soldiers and veterans is more hidden now, because most of the lives lost now is in this country -- through suicide. But it is still directly attributable to service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These two wars are still costing this country a shocking number of American lives each and every day.

According to an article published in the Army Times yesterday, there is an average of 950 suicide attempts by veterans every month -- and about 7% of those attempts are successful. Among those who fail, 11% will make a second attempt within nine months. They say that about 18 veterans commit suicide every day (and five of those are receiving VA care).

The data shows that there is a lower rate of suicide among those who are receiving VA care than among those who are not. The VA is trying to strengthen it's suicide prevention programs and the VA figures they save about 250 lives each month through VA treatment. The VA suicide prevention hotline receives about 10,000 calls each month from current and former members of our military.

I commend the VA for their efforts and for the lives they are able to save, but obviously much more needs to be done. They not only need to increase their outreach to include many veterans not currently receiving care, but they also need to increase the quality and effectiveness of the care they are giving (because five suicides a day among those receiving treatment is just too many).

But the greatest need is to end these evil and unnecessary wars -- immediately! While deaths may have gone down on the battlefield (although there are still too many), at 18 suicides a day the wars are still costing us way too many American lives. And this won't stop until we stop putting our brave soldiers, both male and female, through the horrors of war (and will probably continue for months or years after the wars end).

The truth is that we are accomplishing nothing in Iraq or Afghanistan, and we are paying an awful price for these failures in nation-building. Let's end it. Now.

Temporary Tattoo ?

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

Farmers Branch Still On Racist Path


For over four years now, the city council of Farmers Branch (a suburb of Dallas) has been waging their own little private war against undocumented immigrants. They have passed a number of laws aimed at keeping these immigrants out of their city (and evidently the citizens of the city approve, because they haven't voted them out of office).

Each and every time, the racist laws passed by the city council have been struck down by the courts as being unconstitutional. But evidently the city of Farmers Branch has more money than they know what to do with, because they keep throwing good money after bad in these court fights. They need to let us know how they're coming up with all this extra money, since every other city in Texas is having trouble meeting their budget and most are having to cut city jobs.

The latest effort by these racists is a law that would require every landlord in the city to check the citizenship of a person before renting them a house or apartment. Any landlord that rented to an undocumented immigrant could be severely fined by the city. Last month, this ordinance was also struck down as being unconstitutional. The judge said the city was trying to enforce immigration laws -- a task reserved to the federal government by the Constitution.

But the city council has just met and decided to waste more of the city's money on their racist and futile quest to discriminate. They have decided to appeal the latest ruling to a higher court, where they will no doubt lose again.

I'll say one thing. Racists here in Texas sure are a hard-headed bunch.

Predicting The Weather

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Cowboys Sign Lots Of Free Agents


The Dallas Cowboys only drafted six players in this year's NFL draft. While they seem to be quality players (at this point), that's not a lot for the Cowboys. They usually have more picks than that, either through trades or compensation for players signed by other teams. Because of that, Jerry Jones said this year's class of free agents would be a large one.

It looks like Jones wasn't kidding. The Cowboys have signed at least sixteen players to free agent contracts, and they're giving two other players a try-out and may sign one or both of them. Here are the names of the Cowboys free agents (along with their position and school):

Matt Nichols, quarterback (Eastern Washington)
Alfonso Rashaun Greer, wide receiver (Colorado State)
Terrell Hudgins, wide receiver (Elon)
Verran Tucker, wide receiver (California)
Lonyae Miller, running back (Fresno State)
Will Barker, offensive tackle (Virginia)
Mike Tepper, offensive tackle (California)
Chet Teofilo, guard/center (California)
Phil Costa, guard/center (Maryland)
Nick Tow-Arnett, tight end (Minnesota)
Chris Gronkowski, fullback (Arizona)
Junior Aaumavae, nose tackle (Minnesota State-Mankato)
Barry Church, safety (Toledo)
Bryan McCann, defensive back (SMU)
Danny McCray, safety (LSU)
Lorenzo Washington, defensive end (Alabama)
Delbert Alvarado, kicker (South Florida) - try out
Simon Harris, tight end (North Carolina State) - try out

Of course, it's a real long shot for any of these players to still be with the team on opening day of football season. But who knows? One or two of these players may play their way on to the team in training camp and the pre-season games. It has happened before.

For now, these players will get to wear the blue and silver. We'll just have to wait and see if they can earn that star on their helmet.

Arizona Legislature As Wile E. Coyote

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

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Secular Last Supper

From the great blog of The Friendly Atheist.

What If The Teabaggers Weren't White ?


A certain segment of our population, the ones called teabaggers, have been making fools of themselves for months now. They call themselves patriots and defenders of the Constitution, but they have shouted down those who would disagree with them and refused to allow civil discussion of issues in town hall meetings. They have carried signs and made statements that were racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-immigrant.

They have spit on our elected representatives and called them names. They have even threatened government officials and others who dared to disagree with them. And all the while they claim to be just good Americans who are only doing what any American of any color or creed would do to protect their values and their country. Is this really true? Is their really no racial or racist component to what they are doing?

Tim Wise, an anti-racist writer and activist, doesn't think so. He's written an excellent post (and you can read the entire post here) -- and I encourage you to do so. It will make you think, and possibly open your eyes to the reality of what is happening with the teabaggers. Here is some of what he said:

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protester — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.


In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Historical Teabagger

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at caglecartoons.com.

Confederacy Not Deserving Of Honor


Recently, there has been a big hullabaloo made about Southern politicians honoring those who fought for the Confederate States of America in the Civil War. This is really nothing new in the South. For years there have been Confederate apologists who don't mind re-writing history to fit their own viewpoint.

These people always overlook the real reason the Confederacy was created and the Civil War was fought. They will tell you it was to protect Southern "heritage and values" or to defend "states' rights". But none of them, including the recent proclamations by Southern politicians, will mention slavery. They'd like for people to think their ancestors weren't traitors (as they really were), but defenders of the South.

Frankly, that's a gross and ridiculous misrepresentation of history. Here in Texas, the people of the state voted on whether to secede from the Union or not. At that time, there were 604,215 people in the state (30% of whom were slaves). The vote to secede was won by a 76% majority of Texas voters.

To learn the reason the people voted to secede, just look at this direct quote from a document the state published in 1861. It's called "A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union":

"That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states."

I don't see anything there about "states' rights". But it clearly states that Texas is leaving the Union because it believes that white men are the only ones that should have equal rights and the institution of slavery needed to be continued and protected. In fact, they even try to claim this is the "revealed will" of christianity's god, and slavery is good for both the slaves and slave-owners.

In my mind, the only saving grace is that not all Texans in 1861 (or now) wanted to defend slavery or leave the Union. The governor, Texas hero Sam Houston, resigned his office and left the state when the people voted to secede and join the Confederacy. There were also 24% of the voters who voted to stay in the United States. They did not support slavery or the traitorous actions of the secessionists. In four counties, a majority of voters voted against secession, and dozens of Union supporters were hanged by secessionists in one of those counties (Cooke county).

But the majority of Texans at that time voted to join the other Southern states in committing treason by seceding from and fighting against the United States. None of these states did this to protect their heritage or defend states' rights. They committed this treason for only one reason -- to continue enslaving and abusing their fellow humans.

Where is the honor in that? How can there be any honor in slavery or treason?

Protectors Of Wall Street Greed

Political Cartoon is by Rex Babin in the Sacramento Bee.

Beck's Popularity Is Waning


A couple of months ago, I posted about the problems Glenn Beck has been having. Here in America, more than 100 companies have withdrawn their advertising from his television show on Fox News. They simply don't want their company names to be associated with Beck's wacky views. In Great Britain, it is even worse. There they can't sell any ads at all for the show. Now it looks like Beck is having problems other than the loss of advertisers.

It seems that Beck is not only losing advertisers. Viewers are also abandoning the show in droves. As the chart above shows (from Nielsen data), Beck's Fox News show has lost nearly 800,000 viewers just in the first third of 2010. His viewership went from 2,913,762 in January to 2,118,200 in April -- that's a drop-off in viewership of over 27% in just four months.

Jolly Roger of the blog Reconstitution 2.0 believes this drop-off is due to Beck's criticism of the "birther" movement (who are convinced that President Obama was not born in the United States). Others think many are just tiring of his over-the-top views and outright lies. Either way, Beck cannot stand to keep losing viewers at this rate or he'll soon have no viewers at all.

New Recruit

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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Missionaries

Found at the blog of Texas' own Yellowdog Granny.

Have Democrats Learned Their Lesson ?


The Democrats finally got their health care reform package passed, but they made some mistakes with that bill that made it not only more difficult to pass, but also more unpopular with the public. One of the biggest mistakes was delaying passage of the bill in an effort to get Republican input and try to create a bipartisan bill. What they didn't seem to realize at the time was that the Republicans had absolutely no interest is bipartisanship.

Instead of creating a bipartisan bill, the delay only allowed the Republicans to crank up their propaganda machine. They told a multitude of lies about health care reform (such as the creation of death panels and the destruction of Medicare). And while claiming they wanted to talk about compromise, the Republicans just spread more lies.

Eventually, many people began to believe the lies (which weren't being adequately rebutted by Democrats) and the bill became more and more unpopular with the public (even though I think most people will eventually like most things in the bill).

The Democrat's mistake was in thinking the Republicans had the best interests of the American people in mind. That just wasn't true. The only thing the Republicans are interested in is demonizing President Obama and increasing their chances of regaining power, and if they have to lie and obstruct to accomplish that, so be it.

Now the financial reform bill, which would re-regulate Wall Street, is pending in Congress and the Republicans are trying to do the same thing with it that they did with the health care reform bill. They are making a play at talking about the bill while cranking up the propaganda machine again and filling it with outrageous lies. They are hoping that they can delay the bill long enough with talk to get a large segment of the population to believe their lies (like claiming the bill just amounts to another huge bailout).

But it looks like Democrats are in no mood to fall for the same trick twice. Senator Schumer (D-New York) said the lies will not go unchallenged this time. He said, "On the health care bill, we allowed too many lies to get out there without rebuttal because we thought they were so obviously untrue. But we've learned our lesson. The minute these things come out of the mouths of some of our Republican colleagues, we rebut them, and we rebut them again and again."

Majority Leader Reid (D-Nevada) agrees. He's decided that since the Republicans are putting out huge lies about the bill, the time for talk is over. He's scheduled a vote for Monday to close debate on the bill. It's not clear that the Democrats have the votes to close the debate, but win or lose the vote, it is the right thing to do. If they win, they are much closer to reforming Wall Street. If they lose, then they expose the Republicans as being opposed to reform and doing the bidding of the big banks and brokerages on Wall Street.

The American public is very angry with Wall Street right now, and they're not going to like the Republican attempts to kill reforming the financial industry. But the lie that the bill is another huge bailout must be quashed instantly, and one thing that must be exposed is the $1 million a day that Wall Street is spending lobbying against reform (much of it going into Republican campaign coffers).

Have the Democrats learned their lesson from the mess surrounding the health care bill? I certainly hope so. There's too much vital legislation that needs to be passed (Wall Street reform, immigration reform, energy reform, etc.). It's time for the Democrats to step up and start playing hardball. They must vigorously expose the lies and stop allowing the Republicans to play the delay game.

The people voted for change. It's time for Democrats to deliver it.

Unbelievable

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

Cowboys Have Good Draft


The three days of the NFL draft are finally over, and 255 college players have been drafted. Some of them will turn out to be great players, many will have a so-so professional career, and others may not even make it into the league by the time opening day arrives. It's hard to know how any team did in the draft until the players chosen get their chance to compete against current NFL players, and that won't happen for real until training camp opens.

But as of now, it looks like the Cowboys had a pretty good draft. Right now, I'd give them a grade of B+ (with the understanding that grade could go up or down depending on how the players taken 3 through 6 actually work out).

The first round pick (#24 in the draft) for the Cowboys was Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant (6'2", 225). Bryant was very probably the best wide receiver in this year's draft and the Cowboys were lucky to get him with the 24th pick. I expect Bryant to quickly become one of the team's top two receivers (along with Miles Austin).

This makes it very important for Roy Williams to step up his game. The Cowboys haven't given up on him yet, but if he doesn't show some improvement he could be seeing a lot of bench time. That's because Kevin Ogletree (signed as a free agent last year) has impressed everyone, and should get a lot more playing time this year. It's quite possible that he could be the #3 or #4 receiver early in the season. It's a good bet that either Patrick Crayton or Sam Hurd will be traded.

The second pick (#55 in the draft) was an inside linebacker from Penn State named Sean Lee (6'2", 236). If you're going to draft a linebacker, then Penn State is a good place to look (since they have a long tradition of producing great linebackers). ESPN calls him "arguably the most instinctive linebacker in this class." I expect Lee to be on the opening day squad, and that means someone else will have to go. Bobby Carpenter maybe?

In the fourth round (#126 in the draft) the Cowboys chose a cornerback from tiny Indiana College (in Pennsylvania) named Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (6'0", 207). Although he played cornerback in college, the Cowboys want to make him a safety, and he seems to have the size and speed to make that transition. The change in position will make him a bit of a project for the Cowboys, but if it works out he will fill a definite need on the team. At this time, it's just a "maybe" as to whether this was a good pick.

In the sixth round, the Cowboys chose two players. The first (#179 in the draft) was Sam Moore (6'8", 316), an offensive tackle from Notre Dame. The offensive line is one of the hardest positions in which to start as a rookie, but it speaks well for Moore that he started every game in his four-year college career (50 straight games).

Marc Columbo and Doug Free will probably be the starting tackles on opening day. Currently the backup is Pat McQuistan. Moore will be battling last year's pick Robert Brewster (who missed the year because of injury) for a backup spot right now. Hopefully, one (or both) of the two will turn out to be a really good player and work their way into the starting line up soon.

The other sixth round pick (#196 in the draft) was a cornerback from Texas Tech named Jamar Wall (5'10", 204). The Cowboys already have three very good cornerbacks (Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins) and they are just hoping Wall can show himself to be a quality backup at the position (since current backup Alan Ball will probably move to safety). We'll just have to wait and see if Wall can make the team.

The final pick for the Cowboys (#234 in the draft) was Sean Lissemore (6'3", 297), a defensive tackle from William & Mary. Lissemore wasn't invited to the NFL combine, but Coach Wade Phillips likes his athletic ability and high energy level. He compares him favorably to current Cowboy Jay Ratliff (and that ain't bad). Phillips said he could play either the tackle or end position on the defensive line. I hope he can live up to the hype.

In the next couple of days, the Cowboys will be scrambling to sign the best free agents they can find, and this is expected to be a large group of free agents. I hope they are successful, because it is not unlikely that a free agent or two could make the team. After all, Tony Romo and Kevin Ogletree were both free agents.

The draft picks and the free agents will have their first mini-camp next weekend, and we can start to see if they found some really good players or if it was all just hype. All I can hope for now is that none of the players are too hard to sign, and that some of them will be on the team on opening day.

A Helping Hand From Wall Street

Political Cartoon is by Brian Fairrington at caglecartoons.com.

Redneck Etiquette


Once again, one of my favorite bloggers has struck pure gold. Yellowdog Granny has a hilarious post up about "redneck etiquette". Here are the first five etiquette pointers she has for rednecks:

1. Never take a beer to a job interview.
2. Always identify people in your yard before shooting at them.
3. It's considered tacky to take a cooler to church.
4. If you have to vacuum the bed, it is time to change the sheets.
5. Even if you're certain that you are included in the will, it is still considered tacky to drive a U-Haul to the funeral home.

If you need a good laugh, go and read the entire list of etiquette suggestions for rednecks, including pointers about dining out, entertaining in your home, personal hygiene, dating, weddings, driving and theater etiquette. I promise it'll bring a smile to your face.

Enforcing Arizona's New Law

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Godfather

From the excellent blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Franklin Graham - Bigot And Hypocrite


Evangelist Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, has created sort of a furor recently by being asked to speak at the Pentagon on the upcoming National Prayer Day. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation has asked the Pentagon to cancel his appearance because of bigoted statements Graham (pictured) has made about muslims. After the 9/11 attack, he chose to blame all muslims by calling their faith "a very evil and wicked religion."

That kind of all-encompassing statement can to very hurtful to soldiers who are muslim, and there are currently over 3400 muslim soldiers serving in the United States Military. How can their leaders at the Pentagon turn their backs on these brave soldiers by inviting someone like Graham to speak? No religious figure would be invited to speak at the Pentagon that had made such bigoted statements about the christian or jewish religions, and it is just as wrong to invite someone who is bigoted against muslims.

Graham had the opportunity to apologize or at least soften his words yesterday. He appeared on Fox and Friends yesterday, and was asked about his views on islam. Instead of backing off his anti-muslim stance, he just made himself look like a hypocrite in addition to being a bigot. Here is what he said:

"First of all, I want Muslims to know that I love them …. They don’t have to die in a car bomb they don’t have to die in some kind of a holy war to be accepted by God … But when you look at Islam, I love the people of Islam but the religion I do not agree with the religion at all and if you look at what the religion does to women and the women alone it is horrid. And so yes I speak out for women, I speak out for people who live under Islam, who are enslaved under Islam, and I want them to know they can be free by Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone."

Those are amazingly hypocritical words for a fundamentalist preacher! Has he been wearing blinders when preaching in the fundamentalist christian churches? Can he not see that these churches are just as guilty of discriminating against women as the muslims? These fundamentalist churches do not allow women to be ministers, or in fact, have any position of authority within the church. In addition, they teach that women must be subservient to their husbands -- no equal partnerships in evangelical christian marriages.

He is right that the muslims treat their women as second-class citizens. But how can he not see that his own fundamentalist religion does exactly the same thing. The muslims are wrong whenever they do it, and so are the christians when they do it. You simply cannot condemn another religion for doing the same thing your own religion does.

It was bad enough when Graham offended muslims with his bigotry. Now he is also offending women with his misogyny. If the Pentagon cares about its muslim and female soldiers, it must rescind their invitation for Graham to speak.

Harming The Economy

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

This Is Why We Need Public Insurance


As everyone knows by now, the health care reform recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama did not contain an option for public insurance (insurance provided by the government -- like Medicare). This was a mistake, and leaves Americans at the mercy of private insurance companies, for whom the bottom line on profits is much more important than patient care.

Take for example Wellpoint, Inc. -- which is the largest private insurance provider in the United States. Wellpoint has a female CEO, Angela Braly (pictured), and many other females in high-ranking positions within the corporation. That fact might make someone think they would be vigilant in providing excellent health care for women. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Just ask Robin Beaton in Texas, Patricia Relling in Kentucky or Yenny Hsu in California. These women, like many others across the country, thought they had good private insurance coverage and were careful to make sure that all their premiums were paid on time. They thought they would be taken care of if they got sick and needed to use that insurance -- that is, until they actually got sick.

All three of these women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Soon after that, they were notified that their private insurance policy had been cancelled by the insurance company. It turns out that Wellpoint had a computer program that singled out women with breast cancer and then searched for a reason, any reason, to drop these women's coverage (although the company was happy to get the women's premium payments before they got sick).

This kind of action by an insurance company is called "rescission". Rescission occurs when an insurance company decides a person's illness might cost them too much money so they just drop the person from their insurance rolls (using erroneous or flimsy excuses to do so).

Now you may be thinking the new health care reform law has outlawed recission, and you would be right. But will that actually stop the practice of rescission? Probably not. Because while the new law forbids the practice of rescission, it has no real enforcement provision to back it up. And a law that has no provision for enforcement is no better than no law at all.

Many seem to think that private insurance companies exist to provide patients with medical care, but that is just not true. At best, that is only a secondary consideration. The primary purpose of a private insurance company is to make a profit -- and the bigger that profit is, the better. That is why we probably have not seen the last of rescission. It is simply too good a tool for the corporation to maximize their profits.

Even if the action causes them to have to pay a few fines, I expect the insurance companies will still find it more profitable to just pay the fines and go on dropping sick people from their insurance rolls. After all, their board and investors don't ask them how many sick people they helped each year -- only how much profit they made.

This is exactly why the profit motive must be taken out of health insurance. When a person gets sick, the only question asked should be how to make them well. How much that illness is going to cut into a company's profit should never be a consideration. And that is why we must have at least an option for government-provided health insurance.

Profit is never a consideration in a public health insurance program. The primary consideration is patient health. And it is insurance that can never be dropped -- for any reason. Since profit is not a consideration, public health insurance would be less expensive than private insurance (and would tend to drive down the cost of private insurance so they could compete).

The new health care law did a few good things, but it did not solve the problems inherent in our health care system's insurance coverage. The only thing that can do that is public health insurance. I hope it's not another 100 years before people realize that.