A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Opposites

Many people would like to believe these two things can go together -- but they don't.   Found at the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Another Year Gone

Today another year has gone from this joke I refer to as my life.   In other words, today is my birthday!   I won't give you the number of years I've been around, but I'll give you a couple of clues.   If I put one candle on a cake for each year, I'd have to have the Fire Department standing by because it would create an unacceptable fire hazard.   And according to the federal government, I have one more year to go before they consider me officially an old fart.

I'd love to take all my readers out for a night of wild drinking and carousing, but alas, I'm living on a fixed income and my creditors think I should send them the money instead (they're weird that way).   So I guess I'll just stay home and eat the birthday meal my son is preparing for me -- meat loaf, pinto beans, mashed potatoes and cheesecake (my favorite kind of "cake").

I know that sounds like a diet-buster, but isn't there some law somewhere that says diets don't count on your birthday?   If there isn't, then there should be.   I think my doctor and my daughter (a founding member of the diet police) can forgive me for one day of excess.   I promise I'll be good tomorrow (or at least the day after the cheesecake is all gone).

As you've probably noticed, I'm taking the day off from blogging (except for this silly post).   I don't want to think about Republicans or other mean people on this day.   I'll be back to posting what passes for wisdom in my rather abnormal brain tomorrow.

Birthday Guest

OK, I have a dark sense of humor, but it's still funny.   Found at the website SearchWarp.com.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Those Things Will Kill You

More brilliant satire from Pundit Kitchen.

Republicans Throw American Workers Under The Bus

The Republicans have once again proven that they simply don't care about American workers.   Their unanimous action in the United States Senate yesterday shows that.   President Obama and the Democrats were trying to make good on a campaign promise to stop the outsourcing of good jobs to other countries, but the Republicans refused to invoke cloture and limit debate on the bill so it could come up for a vote on final approval.

A few decades ago, the U.S. Congress passed a bad bill.   It gave tax cut benefits to companies that created jobs in other countries.   At the time, it was considered a good thing to allow American corporations to grow and prosper by taking advantage of poverty wages being paid in other countries.   Incredibly, the congressmen/women either could not see or didn't care about the effect this would have on American workers.

The effect was catastrophic.   It almost immediately had the effect of depressing wages for American workers.   Companies now had the advantage of being able to threaten workers who wanted their wages to keep up with inflation -- they could threaten to move those jobs to other countries if American workers didn't accept wages that feel further behind in buying power each year.   For those who refused to accept the declining buying power, they watched their jobs go overseas.

This depression of American workers' wages, along with the outsourced jobs that allowed corporations to bank ever growing profits, created over the years a division of wealth and income between the rich and the rest of America that had not been seen since the "Roaring 20s".   That vastly uneven division of wealth and income created the conditions that started the Great Depression, and today's equally uneven distribution is the reason the current deep recession happened and continues to hurt millions of Americans.

While the rich corporations and Wall Street bankers are doing well in the current economic mess (thanks to a huge bailout by American taxpayers), the loss of 12 to 15 million jobs in this recession continues to plague the rest of America.   America will not climb out of this recession until the uneven wealth and income distribution is brought into a much more manageable ratio, and many of the jobs lost are replaced by new good-paying jobs.

Even an idiot can understand that this country can no longer afford to ship good-paying jobs overseas and replace them with minimum wage jobs (or no jobs at all).   The Democrats understand that.   The bill they offered would not outlaw outsourcing, but it would remove the tax benefits of doing so, and hopefully convince some American companies to create new jobs in this country instead of some low-wage country.

But the Republicans long ago sold out to the giant corporations (and the huge donations these corporations funnel into their campaign chests).   They have decided that fattening the bank accounts of their corporate masters is more important than saving or creating jobs for American workers.   This policy of theirs is short-sighted and will result in the continuation of the economic recession for many more years, but they don't seem to care.

They are claiming that the bill would hurt job creation by making American corporations pay more in taxes.   What they won't tell you is that the jobs they are talking about are jobs to be created in foreign countries, and the American corporations can avoid the higher taxes by creating jobs in this country.

American workers need to remember this when they go to the polls to vote in November.   It is the Republicans who have thrown them under the bus.   It is the Republicans who want to continue the failed "trickle down" economic policies of Reagan and Bush.   It is the Republicans who think the status quo is acceptable.

The Republican Monster

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

More Incompetence From Todd Staples


During his campaign for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Democrat Hank Gilbert (pictured) has exposed several instances of the incompetence of the current Ag. Commissioner, Todd Staples.   Just last week I wrote here on this blog about service stations whose gas pumps had not been inspected for more than ten years, making it very likely that the pumps were not accurately dispensing the amount of gas that customers were paying for.   The pump inspections are supposed to be done regularly by the Texas Department of Agriculture.

It's bad enough that the people of Texas have been getting ripped off when they make purchases in the middle of a recession due to the incompetent leadership at the Department of Agriculture, but now we learn of an even more dangerous situation demonstrating that same incompetence -- a situation that easily could have cost lives.

Last Fall, a peanut farmer in Eastland County misused a neuro-toxic pesticide called Temik on his crop of peanuts.   The poison killed a lot of wildlife (including deer, dove, turkeys and other wildlife) and seriously injured a Department of Agriculture inspector.   It's just a miracle that the peanuts never made it to market where they could have killed unsuspecting members of the public, because the situation was mishandled and then covered up by Todd Staples. Here is what Mr. Gilbert had to say about the situation:

"It is a complete and total miracle that peanuts contaminated with a neurotoxin never made it into our state's food supply, but Todd Staples can't even take credit for that. Based on our research, it was an individual regulatory inspector with TDA and an individual DSHS inspector that managed keep these peanuts from being harvested while their superiors in Austin passed the buck, stalled, and tried to figure out who was in charge of what and who had the statutory authority to do what-if anything at all."

"TDA's Assistant Commissioner for communications is on the record telling a county judge in Eastland not to talk about some of the health risks associated with this. It is unconscionable to think that the top leadership of a state agency would tell an elected official not to inform his constituents of something so important."

"This pesticide is so toxic, it can kill a small child without the child even coming into physical contact with the pesticide. In 1990, a three-year-old in California nearly died from inhaling Temik that was on a tractor parked near where she was playing."

"Given these two incidents, I cannot imagine why Todd Staples allowed TDA officials to stand around and just say 'we don't have the authority,' or 'it's not our job,' when this became known to them."

"All he had to do is pick up his phone, call the Attorney General and ask him to seek an injunction from a state district judge in Eastland County to stop these peanuts from being harvested. The fact of the matter is that state statutes are weakly constructed in this area and don't give any state agency the authority over crops in the field in this situation. Although I'll be working with the Legislature to get that authority for TDA, if such an incident were to happen under current law, you can bet that I would work with the Attorney General to make 100 percent sure these peanuts never left the field on their way to market."

"You can only use this pesticide at certain points in the life cycle of certain food or fruit bearing plants. At the time this product was used, the risk of Temik residuals in the plants was very high. Letting these peanuts get to market could have been a catastrophe."

"TDA's top leadership was telling other agencies that they were working with TCEQ to clean this up. Then they were telling them that they had no statutory authority to clean it up. That's classic pass the buck politics."

"If TDA is going to regulate pesticides, then the agency needs to actually regulate the use of pesticides, not have to pass the buck from agency to agency. Under my plan, that will end. TDA inspectors will be able to order an abatement in a case like this and not have to worry about whether another state agency is going to drop the ball."

"We first heard about this case because people from all over West Texas-from Eastland county to Midland County-were calling our office to tell us that a TDA regulatory inspector was nearly killed after investigating this incident. These were people who don't work for TDA, but were people who are actually regulated by TDA that were calling us to tell us this had happened."

"How can you, in good conscience, send the underappreciated, underpaid regulatory inspectors that work for this agency into the field with nothing more than a box of Kleenex, some paper masks, and latex gloves to inspect a pesticide so toxic it can absorb through leather shoes and stay in the leather so long that if you continue to wear the shoes, you'll become severely ill."

 "This is like sending someone off to fight a war against a well-armed enemy with a toothpick and a Lawrence Welk album. That's how absurd this is."

"That Todd Staples allowed this to happen-and then fought with the Texas Department of Insurance when they tried to help these employees-is unbelievable. This goes beyond the political. This is immoral and an assault on human dignity."

"Through this case, you can see what happens when you have a state agency run by a professional politician using the post as a stepping stone--who has taken money from the manufacturer of this pesticide, and the manufacturers of dozens of others-stacking the decks with political appointees with no business running this agency. You can also see what happens when you have an multiple agencies that share different regulatory fruits of the same tree. It makes no sense to have this done in such a patchwork fashion that three or four state agencies are having to consult with each other just to see if any of them even possesses the authority to stop a crop tainted with a  toxic pesticide from coming to market."

"And, if Staples decides to play dumb like he did with the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board when he claimed that he didn't really know what happened to the inspector in the Plainview peanut case, and that he wasn't even involved in deciding what happened to that inspector or in that case, that's fine, because if he actually stands up and admits that he was sitting in his office with his hands over his eyes and cotton in his ears pretending to see and hear no evil, then he further proves his worthlessness as a public official. If you are in charge of an agency like this and something like this happens, if you say you didn't know about it, you either aren't paying attention to what's going on, or you are lying."

Pathetic

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

Can A Cupcake Really Be Gay ?


I've discovered a fairly new blog that it took me a very short time to become a fan of -- My Name Is Jujube.   This lady's blog was just born last May, but I like the way she writes and I think she'll be very successful.   She has a nice way of attacking the ridiculous and her post last Monday was about a baker who refused to cook "gay cupcakes".   I was going to do my own take on the story, but then I realized that I couldn't do it any better than Jujube did.   So I present her words here for your enjoyment:

"So, Just Cookies bakery in Indianapolis, Indiana received an order for rainbow cupcakes for National Coming Out Day. The owner of the baker refused, to fill the order, claiming that he had two impressionable young daughters and thought it would be best to decline. Now, mind you, there was no message on the cupcakes. The only request was the the cupcakes be multicolored, to represent diversity. But apparently, rainbow cupcakes are too "gay" for this bakery. The owner made a comment about his bakery being "family owned" and it being a matter of "values".

Ummmm.... I am not even going to comment on the idiocy that equates RAINBOW colored cupcakes with a lack of family values. Not only do I think it is ridiculous for this man to believe that he can shield his children from the truth that there ARE homosexuals living in this world, but I have to wonder WHY his children would even need to know that these cupcakes are a "gay rainbow" instead of just an ordinary every day rainbow, IF he is that opposed to homosexuality. 

Does he not allow his children to order rainbow sprinkles at the ice cream shop, for fear he may be encouraging them to develop homosexual tendencies? Does he shield their eyes after every rain storm because they might, God forbid, see a RAINBOW??

I have to laugh at this mentality. This had nothing to do with the design of the cupcakes. If the same organization had come in and ordered plain chocolate cupcakes, this man would have had some other excuse to not allow their order to go through. He simply DOES NOT like the idea of a group SUPPORTING diversity and ACCEPTING homosexuality, so he used the excuse. Plain and simple. 

I am sure if this man was approached with an order for the SAME EXACT CUPCAKES from a group proclaiming to be from a local church, he would have gladly filled them, and never worried for a second that his children may get the wrong message FROM A CUPCAKE DESIGN!!"

Congressional Casanova

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keep Government Out Of Medicare ?

Another dose of "reality" from a teabagger.   Silly me!   I had always thought Medicare was a government program.   From the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Next Generation Should Be An Improvement

I am a member of the post-war "Baby Boomer" generation.   It was a generation that lived through some exciting times and got a few things accomplished.   We were able to end segregation and legally institute civil rights for minorities.   We also helped the country to become more sexually liberated and helped women toward a more equitable role in American society.   We helped to end a disastrous nation-building effort in Vietnam (but sadly forgot pretty quickly the lessons learned from that).

But although my generation got a few things accomplished and helped with the rebirth of liberal left-wing thought in the United States, those with a liberal point-of-view were never in the majority.   And after the turbulence of the 60s and 70s, many "Baby Boomers" became more conservative.   This prevented many of the big changes that needed to be made in this country.   We have left this country in the hands of the greedy giant corporations and the special-interest groups.

However, a new poll done of the next generation by Eric Greenberg shows that there is hope that they will do a better job than the current generation.   The Millennial Generation, those born between 1978 and 2000, was once called "Generation Me" in the expectation that they were turning out to be a selfish generation.   It looks like that was wrong and they are turning out to be more a "Generation We".

Although they may be the first generation to think they may not be better off than their parents' generation, they are approaching that belief with a positive attitude and a belief that they can work together to get through it and make the changes to the American government, institutions, economy, environment and society that are necessary.   They are more liberal, more tolerant, and willing to sacrifice.

Here are some of the observations that Greenberg made from the survey:


>Self-aware and committed to generational solidarity. Millennials do not see themselves at odds with older generations of Americans, but they do believe their generation has a unique set of experiences that set them apart.

> Strongly progressive, socially tolerant, environmentally-con- scious, peace-loving, and poised to lead the biggest leftward shift in recent American history.

> Sober but optimistic in their assessment of the future. The Millennials worry about being the first generation in American history to be worse off than their parents—but they believe this fate can be avoided through shared effort.

> Enthusiastic about the power of collective social action. Millennials don’t see government as a panacea, but they believe in its potential and want to take it back from the special interests and the power elites.

> Unselfish and socially committed. The Millennials are not a “Generation Me” but rather a “Generation We.” They volunteer in record numbers and declare themselves ready to sacrifice their self-interest for the greater good.

> Incredibly tuned in to technology, having already played a major role in creating and shaping technologies (such as social networking) that are changing the world.

> Innovation-minded, seeing not a world of limits but one of pos- sibilities in which anything can be accomplished with enough creativity and determination.

>Post-ideological, post-partisan, and post-political. Millennials disdain rigidly “conservative” or “liberal” approaches, and they are fed up with the interest-group conflicts and identity- based appeals they see as dominating politics.


And here are some of the survey particulars that I found interesting:

Does your generation share specific attitudes, beliefs and experiences that separate you from previous generations?
Agree...............90%
Disagree...............9%
Don't Know...............1%

Do you believe that 20 years from now your generation will live in a country that is better off or worse off than today?
Better off...............34%
Worse off...............46%
About the same...............20%

Does America's security depend on building strong ties with other countries or on it's own military strength?
Strong ties...............69%
Military strength...............30%

Democrats and Republicans alike are failing our country, putting partisanship ahead of the country's needs and offering voters no real solutions to the country's problems.
Agree...............70%
Disagree...............30%

Individuals can't make a real difference in addressing the issues facing my generation.
Agree...............20%
Disagree...............80%

Businesses and corporate leaders have a responsibility to try to make the world a better place, not just to make money.
Agree...............74%
Disagree...............26%

Our current political and corporate leaders are abusing their power for selfish gains, wasting our nation's resources for their own short-term gain and threatening our long-term security.
Agree...............82%
Disagree...............18%

I am willing to personally make significant sacrifices in my own life to adress the major environmental, economic, and security challenges facing the country.
Agree...............78%
Disagree...............22%

Our nation's continuing dependence on oil has weakened our economy and stifled innovation, left us dependent on foreign countries, and dragged us into unnecessary wars.
Agree...............93%
Disagree...............6%
Don't know...............1%

The health care system in our country is broken and we need to make fundamental changes.
Agree...............96%
Disagree...............4%

We have an unequal education system where students in affluent areas have better resources and learning environments than students in rural and urban areas.
Agree...............92%
Disagree...............8%

Man-made causes are destroying our environment and the Earth's delicate ecosystem, and we could see massive, irreversible damage during our lifetime.
Agree...............91%
Disagree...............9%

America's civil rights are being undermined more every day.
Agree...............92%
Disagree...............7%

Government is dominated by special interests and lobbyists.
Agree...............95%
Disagree...............5%

The growing gap between the wealthy and the rest of us must be addressed, because no democracy can survive without a large and vibrant middle class.
Agree...............90%
Disagree...............9%

I am encouraged by the results of this survey.   I cannot believe my own generation (from which our current leaders come) would answer the same way.   Far too many of us have bought into the corporate and special interest lies.   The Millennial Generation seems to be able to see through those lies and actually see the mess this country is in (and the reasons for that mess).

I look forward to them assuming leadership in this country and I hope they are able to follow through and make the fundamental changes that are needed.   And I hope I can stick around long enough to see some of those changes made.

Here is the link to the full survey.

Under Control

Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies in The Record (New Jersey).

Health Care Is Not A Winning Issue For Republicans

The Republicans think they have a great campaign issue in their opposition to the health care reform signed into law by President Obama.   They are looking at polls that show more people were opposed to the law than were in favor of it.   A recent poll done by Stanford University for the Associated Press shows this.   It said that 40% were opposed to the law while only 30% supported it (and another 30% were neutral).

On the surface that would seem to favor Republican opposition to the new law -- and give them a great campaign issue.   They want to repeal the law and then make some minor changes to health care rules.   That might make their base of right-wingers happy, but the same poll shows it would not make the majority of Americans happy.   Only 25% of people think the health care system can be fixed with only minor changes.   A full 75% believe major changes were needed.

It turns out that of the 40% that said they were opposed to the law, many of them were opposed to the law because they didn't think it went far enough.   They wanted more change than the law offered.   In fact, 40% of poll respondents said they didn't think the law changed our health care system enough, while only 20% said they thought too much change had been made.

Now the Republicans can keep campaigning on opposition to major changes to the health care system, but it would be a real mistake -- almost as bad a mistake as their wanting to privatize Social Security, abolish Medicare, eliminate the Department of Education, and give millions of dollars in tax breaks to the richest Americans.   The fact is that a majority of Americans oppose the Republican positions on all these issues.

If the Democrats are smart they will pound the Republicans on all these issues until election day.   These issues may be popular with the teabagger element in the Republican Party, but they are not winning issues with the general public.

It's A Great Time For The Rich

Political Cartoon is by Bruce Beattie in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Perry Still Leads In Texas Governor's Race

It's starting to look like all Bill White's efforts to make the governor's race close is coming to naught.   He still is showing no real traction in the race.   White (pictured) still trails the current governor by several percentage points in the latest poll (commissioned by a group of Texas newspapers).   The poll was conducted September 15th through 22nd by the New York-based firm of Blum & Weprin Associates.   Here are the latest numbers:

Rick Perry (Republican)...............45.8%
Bill White (Democrat)...............39.1%
Kathie Glass (Libertarian)...............3.5%
Deb Shafto (Green)...............0.6%
Undecided...............7.7%
Refused...............3.3%

That's more than a 6% lead for Perry -- about the lead he has been maintaining for the last few months.   Some had thought that the fact that Perry has been in office for 10 years would work against him -- especially in this year of anti-incumbancy sentiment.   But that doesn't seem to be the case.   When asked whether that would make a voter more or less likely to vote for Perry, the following response was received:

more likely...............15%
less likely...............33%
no impact...............51%

Another thing that is working in Perry's favor is that 49% of the respondents think Texas is moving in the right direction, while only 36% say the state is on the wrong track.   About 48% also approve of the job that Perry has done, while 38% disapprove and 14% didn't have an opinion.

Election day is only five weeks away (November 2nd) and early voting starts a couple of weeks earlier than that.   Time is starting to run out for White.   It looks like the only real chance for him to win is for Republican voters to think they have the election in the bag and fail to go to the polls to vote, and there's not much chance of that.   The Republican voters are angry and energized (and 57.5% of Texas voters don't approve of President Obama's job performance).   That plays in Perry's favor.

Outsourcing

Political Cartoon is by Bruce Beattie in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Isn't Religion Fun ?

Found at the great blog of Proud Atheists.

Have Teabaggers Caused Republicans To Blow A Great Opportunity ?



Many Republicans, after listening to the pundits, have already started celebrating what many of them thought was going to be a big election day this coming November.   Some are even bragging that they might take back the U.S. House and Senate.   But that celebrating may be taking place too soon.   While things looked great a month ago, some races are tightening up and giving Democrats renewed hope.   

For a while it looked like Republicans might take the senate seats for California, Delaware and Connecticut, but it now looks like those seats have slipped out of their grasp.   Even though they have spent a ton of money, teabagger Republicans in California and Connecticut have been unable to catch up with their Democratic opponents.   And in Delaware, Republicans passed up an almost sure-winner in Rep. Castle to nominate a teabagger, Christine O'Donnell, who is double digits behind the Democrat.

Now it looks like Kentucky may also be in play for the Democrats -- a real surprise in that red state.   A month ago Rand Paul (pictured) looked to be an easy winner.   He was leading Democrat Jack Conway by 15 points in the Courier-Journal/WHAS 11 Bluegrass poll (done by Survey USA polling).   But this same poll nows shows the race to be virtually dead even.   Paul leads by only 49% to 47% -- well within the poll's 4% margin of error.

Conway already had the anti-teabagger vote, but the latest poll shows he is now taking a majority of those who are neutral toward teabaggers.   He is also building up a big lead among women (going from a 3% lead to a 16% lead).   And Conway is making inroads among voters who make more than $50,000 a year (where Paul's lead has shrunk from 14% to 5%).   It looks like many voters are having second thoughts about Paul, who is out on the fringe of the far right-wing.

The party out-of-power usually picks up some seats in an off-year election, and the Republicans will probably still do that.   But they had a golden opportunity this year because many Americans are upset with everyone in Washington over the economy and were poised to vote many incumbents out.   However, that was before the fringe teabagger nuts took over the Republican Party and began to purge moderates.

The teabaggers have moved the Republican Party so far to the right that many Americans are starting to have second thoughts about voting for them.   It looked like Majority Leader Harry Reid was probably a sure loser in Nevada.   But then the teabaggers  took over the Republican Party in that state and nominated Sharron Angle, who is so far to the right that even many of the state's Republicans cannot support her.   It nows looks like Reid has a good chance to be re-elected.

Even Alaska may be in play for Democrats.   While the teabaggers were successful in nominating their own candidate, Joe Miller, Sen. Murkowski has decided to run as a write-in candidate and could well pull enough moderate Republican votes to give the Democratic candidate a shot at winning (which was unthinkable a few months ago).

The teabaggers would like to think they are a large mainstream movement in this country, but they aren't.   They are just an angry (and largely racist) wing of the Republican Party, and they are far to the right of most Americans.   They are so far out of the mainstream of American political thought that they are starting to scare most Americans -- especially those moderate independents who decide most elections in the United States.

The Republican Party had a great opportunity to make big inroads in the coming election, but it is starting to look like the teabaggers have blown much of that opportunity for them.

The Republican Plan

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at caglecartoons.com.

Redistricting Hearing Coming To Amarillo


The Texas legislature has already started hearings across Texas on redistricting, even though the legislature will not meet to actually take action on the matter until January of 2011.   The results of the 2010 census is expected to give Texas three or four more U.S. House representatives than it currently has.   Population shifts within the state are also expected to require a redrawing the lines for state legislature House and Senate districts.

On October 4th, the residents of the Texas Panhandle will get their chance to make their views on redistricting heard.   That is the day that the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting, chaired by Senator Kel Seliger, comes to Amarillo.   The Panhandle hearing will be held at the Region 16 Education Service Center at 5800 Bell Street in Amarillo.   All interested citizens are encouraged to attend.

West Texas and the Panhandle gained over 4% in population since the 2000 census, but that pales in comparison to the rise in population in several urban areas (as much as a 57% jump in population).   This means the new congresspeople will go to the urban areas.   West Texas and the Panhandle will be lucky if they can just maintain the current representation they have (on both the state and federal level).

One interesting idea was floated in the hearing held in Lubbock -- the creation of a minority Hispanic district somewhere in the west or northwest part of Texas.   Currently all of the state and federal representatives in West Texas and the Panhandle (except for El Paso) are held by white male Republicans.   It was pointed out that 58% of the Lubbock Independent School District is already minority (Hispanic and African-American).   There are also 12 counties in the 26 county Panhandle that are majority Hispanic, and several more in West Texas.

It's good that this idea is already being considered, although it'll probably not happen until after the 2020 census (which undoubtably will show an even denser Hispanic population in West Texas and the Panhandle).   It is doubtful that after the 2020 census the federal courts will allow the Republicans to dilute Hispanic voting strength by gerrymandering districts.    

The Fat Lady Is Still Not Singing

Political Cartoon is by John Trever in The Albuquerque Journal.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Using Religion To Scam

It's not bad enough that these scam artists use pseudo-science and outright lies to get people to part with their hard-earned money.   Now they've added the power of religious myth.   Sadly, it'll probably work with many of the ultra-religious.   Found at the blog of The Good Atheist.

Back To The Police State


I'm an older guy and I remember well the government intrusions on private United States citizens back in the 1960s and 1970s.   Back then anyone who opposed the policies of the U.S. government and weren't afraid of airing those views were branded as un-American and were spied upon by the FBI and other policing agencies (at the federal, state and local levels).   But while the spying on American citizens was widespread, the most egregious violators of citizens' rights was the FBI.

I have been a left-winger since those times myself, and I have consorted with many activists who opposed U.S. government policies and engaged in some demonstrations also.   I wouldn't doubt if there was a file in the FBI archives with my name on it.   But those outrageous activities by the FBI were exposed and many believed they had been curtailed from repeating those same police state tactics.

But then a few fundamentalist religious nuts took out a couple of buildings in New York City and another in Oklahoma.   This has terrified many Americans -- most of whom have little or nothing to fear from terrorists.   This fear has caused the government to once again begin violating the rights of its own citizens.   It began with the Patriot Act, then went on to silly and unnecessary airport restrictions and regulations, and now it looks like the FBI is up to their old tricks again.

Americans like to brag about living in a free country, but with each passing day we are living more and more in a country that is starting to look like a police state -- where the government locks up their social and political problems and spies on citizens and conducts unwarranted raids on the homes of citizens.   We are once again letting our fears eat away our freedoms by letting the government assume powers our Founding Fathers never wanted it to have.

Last Friday was a prime example of how bad things are getting.   In Minneapolis and Chicago, several residences and at least one office were raided by the FBI.   While no one was arrested, the places were searched and computer equipment was seized.   The residents were given subpoenas requiring them to testify before a federal grand jury -- and subpoenas were also issued in Illinois and Michigan.

There is no evidence that any of the people raided or given subpoenas have broken any law -- if there was they would have been arrested and charged.   No, this is old-time government harassment of citizens who disagree with government policy.   All of the people were activists and connected to activist organizations such as the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, and the Students for a Democratic Society.

None of these are violent groups or promote violence in any way.   But that didn't matter in the 60s and 70s and doesn't seem to matter now.   And those on the right shouldn't be celebrating these civil rights violations, because groups on the right are being spied on also.   It is just a sad fact that the present government, like those in the past, will only allow disagreement within a very narrow limit.   That is not only un-American, but it is the definition of a police state.

Americans need to make a decision and act on it.   Do they want to be afraid and let the government control their lives and political beliefs, or do they want to be free.   You can't have both.   I choose freedom over fear.   What do you choose?

Reason ?

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Deb Shafto On Immigration

Since I cannot bring myself to support a big business conservative for governor, and both the Democratic and Republican candidates fit that description to a tee, I am supporting the only true progressive running for governor this year -- Deb Shafto of the Green Party.   I have already posted her views on the economy and education.   Today I give you my third in a series of posts about Ms. Shafto's views on the issues.   Here in her own words is her position on immigration:



A highly charged subject where the real issues are hidden and the stands taken are seldom for the reasons given. We are barraged with half truths and outright lies about those coming to our land. The facts are that our Spanish speaking immigrants come with little and create markets for every sort of goods and services. They are brought here to labor under conditions that citizens would not tolerate, to produce goods and services at a price that average citizens can afford to pay. They take jobs that others will not and essentially keep this society moving. Their children are motivated learners, respectful to school authorities and supported by parents who, for the most part, well understand the value of an education and try their best to help their children succeed.

The immigrant community has a lower crime rate than the population as a whole. The undocumented are not able to file tax returns so all taxes withheld, all sales taxes paid, add substantially to the public coffers, far more than the cost of services provided.

I believe that we need to recognize the cause of massive immigration has to do with the world domination of U.S. business and the corruption of governments almost everywhere by those businesses and by our government that supports their work. The third world was, indeed, created by first world greed. In country after country, the mineral, oil and agricultural wealth has been appropriated by mostly U.S. corporations with payoffs to the few in control, the oligarchy and little or nothing accruing to the people who live there. Loans to the population have been stolen by the aristocracy who abscond leaving the people to repay the banks. NAFTA has been as devastating to the economies of our southern neighbors as it has to the workers in the US. Who benefitted? US corporations. Many, perhaps even a majority, have walked and waded to our shores because the only way to feed their families was to find some work in the US. What have we become that their children’s hunger means nothing to us?

The free flow of capital is defended by the US Congress, why not the free flow of labor? What makes sense is the issuance of work permits which can be the first step toward citizenship after, say, a year of self support with no legal problems. It is important to remember that it is those with initiative and ambition who take the risks to come. Are they not the ones we want?

I fully support immigration reform that allows full integration into our society for those who have already established productive lives here.

The Surest Path

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

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Islamofascist Moon

Well, it makes as much sense as their economic policies do!   From the hilarious political satire on Pavlovian Obeisance.

Another Step Towards Equality


The United States Congress (and president) may be too gutless too vote for equal rights for all U.S. citizens, at least in an election year, but thank goodness for the court system.   It looks like the courts are doing the job that Congress doesn't have the political courage to do -- get rid of the odious "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy of the United States military.

Earlier this year a federal judge in California declared DADT to be unconstitutional.   He is currently considering whether to ban the policy altogether.   This would be good for future cases, but would not help those who have already been kicked out of the military for their sexual preference.

Now a federal judge in the state of Washington has gone a step further.   U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled last Friday that the United States Air Force must give a decorated flight nurse, Major Margaret Witt (pictured), her job back.   Major Witt had been kicked out of the Air Force after her commanding officers learned she had a loving relationship with a female civilian.

Judge Leighton said Major Witt was a "central figure in a long-term highly charged civil rights movement."   He went on to tell Major Witt,   "Today you have won a victory in that struggle, the depth and duration of which will be determined by other judicial officers and hopefully soon the political branches of government."

The Justice Department did not comment on the judge's ruling and have not said whether they will appeal the ruling or not.   If the ruling is not appealed, it will provide a path for those who have been kicked out because of their sexual preference to regain their military status and career.   It would also mean the end of DADT, regardless of what Congress does (or doesn't do), since the military would be taken to court each time they tried to kick someone out for being gay/lesbian.

President Obama has said he is in favor of doing away with DADT, even though he has been hesitant to actually do anything about it (like issue a presidential directive).   This is the chance for him (and Attorney General Holder) to make good on their promises.   All they have to do is nothing -- just don't appeal the judge's decision.   Let it stand as a precedent for future court actions until the Congress gets around to voting DADT out of existence.


Back in 2006, Judge Leighton had originally ruled that the government had the right to enforce DADT and dismissed Major Witt's case.   Fortunately an appeals court ruled that because of the Supreme Court decision outlawing sodomy laws in Texas, DADT might actually be a violation of Major Witt's equal rights.   The case was resurrected and sent back to Judge Leighton's court.

After a six-day trial, the judge ruled that Major Witt should be re-instated by the Air Force.   He found that the dismissal did not serve any legitimate military interest, and in fact, had hurt morale and damaged the ability of Major Witt's unit to perform.   The judge said,   "There is no evidence that wounded troops care about the sexual orientation of the flight nurse or medical technician tending to their wounds."

This is just one more small step forward in assuring that equal rights are provided for all American citizens.

Counting On Bigotry

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Texas SBOE Embarrasses Itself And The State


The Texas State Board of Education has once again demonstrated that it has no shame when it coming to injecting right-wing politics and fundamentalist christianity into the state educational system.   As if it wasn't bad enough that they wrote a creationist statement to be added to state science books (which has been delayed fortunately because of a lack of state funds) and rewrote state history books to reflect their own fringe right-wing beliefs, they have now passed another silly resolution.

This time, using out-of-date textbooks that are no longer used, they are accusing textbook manufacturers of favoring islam over christianity in history textbooks.   They had to use the old books as their example because the rules prevent them from discussing current books 90 days after they are approved.   But while they couldn't discuss the current books, some right-wing fundie board members claim the current books also favor islam.

Now anyone who has read a Texas history textbook can tell you, this is just a bald-faced lie.   But truth doesn't matter at all to this board.   Far more important to them is injecting their own personal political and religious views into the classroom.   I think they have felt a little left-out of the rampant islamaphobia sweeping the country right now and took this opportunity to jump on the "I hate muslims" bandwagon.

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network (a mostly christian organization that supports real religious freedom), said,   "It's hard not to conclude that the misleading claims in this resolution are either based on ignorance of what's in the textbooks or, on the other hand, are an example of fear-mongering and playing politics."   She is right on both counts.   It is fear-mongering political posturing and it is guided by ignorance.

There is only one saving grace in this whole silly affair.   The ridiculous resolution is not binding on future textbook decisions.   This makes the coming elections very important for education in Texas (and other states since by its size Texas dictates what is in textbooks sold in many smaller states).   For the sake of millions of school children, voters need to vote out as many of these right-wing board members as possible this November.

These right-wing fundamentalist board members have no conscience or shame, and they will continue to damage education until they are voted out of office.   

O'Donnell's Limo


Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Reasonable Request

I have to agree with this woman.   The Pope is doing damage to many people and it needs to stop.   From the blog Unreasonable Faith.

Democrats Wimp Out Again (Unnecessarily)

I provide the picture above for the enlightenment of all the Democrats in the United States Congress.   Most people would instantly recognize these as spines, but since congressional Democrats don't seem to have any of them I thought they might like to see what they look like.

I had begun to hope that the congressional Democrats had started to grow at least a rudimentary version of a spine.   After all, they did finally get a health care bill and a Wall Street re-regulation bill passed and sent to the president.   They let the Republicans bully them into watering down both of those bills so that they weren't nearly as strong as was needed -- but at least they got a little something done.

But it looks like my hopes were in vain.   The Republicans bellowed loudly about how unfair it is to consider eliminating the Bush tax cuts for the rich -- the richest 2% of Americans (and those who can afford to pay a little more).   So what do the Democrats do?   They run for the hills, terrified that they might be punished at the polls for expecting the rich to actually pay their fair share of taxes.

The Democrats, in both the House and the Senate, are now saying that the president's plan to extend the tax cuts for everyone but the richest 2% of Americans (mostly millionaires) will not be voted on before the election.   One of the cowards, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said,   "I believe a vote on taxes right before the election is a mistake."   She said the Republicans "will find a way to mischaracterize it."

What a gutless bunch of whiners!   They won't pass a bill to give a tax cut to 98% of Americans because the Republicans might talk bad about them not including the richest 2%!   Once again they are letting themselves be bullied by the Republicans.

And the really sad part is that their cowardice is totally unnecessary.   Poll after poll has shown that a substantial majority of the American people are in favor of the president's version of the tax extension (to eliminate that extension for only the richest 2%).   The Democrats have nothing to lose by bringing the bill up and voting on it before the election -- in fact, it could cost the Republicans some votes.

The Democrats are actually hurting themselves by their political cowardice.   They are not going to get any votes from people in favor of extending tax cuts for the richest Americans.   Those people will vote Republican no matter what the Democrats do.   But they could lose some votes among those waiting for the Democrats to keep their promises and change the country for the better.

There is already a belief that the Republican voters are more energized that the Democratic voters in the coming election.   This spineless display by the Democrats is certainly not going to energize anyone to vote who wasn't already energized.   It may actually convince some voters to stay home on election day because they can't stomach the cowardice.   Why should they take the trouble to vote for people who'll just be bullied by the Republicans?

This is a bad mistake and will only disappoint those inclined to vote Democratic.

Difference Between Party Candidates

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

More Christians Who Hate The Constitution

The city of King (North Carolina) wanted to honor the veterans of the United States military so they erected a memorial in one of their city parks.   It was a good idea that was marred when they went too far by putting one too many flags on the memorial.   In addition to the United States flag, the North Carolina flag and military flags, they also put up a christian flag.

This upset one of the city's veterans.   He had fought to uphold the Constitution of the United States -- not to dishonor that sacred document or the many American soldiers that were not christians.   He asked the city to remove the flag.   Since the memorial was on city property (government property) represented government approval of one religion over all others (since there were no flags representing islam, buddhism, taoism, hinduism, wicca, atheism, judaism, etc.).  

The veteran pointed out that for the city government to favor one religion over others was a clear violation of the United States Constitution.   Was the city government intentionally trying to violate the Constitution?   Was the city government intentionally trying to insult the many thousands of Americans soldiers who served this country but were not christians?   Did the flag mean that only christian soldiers were worthy of remembrance?   These are troubling questions in a free and democratic country.

At first the city council voted to keep the christian flag on the memorial.   After the North Carolina ACLU and the Americans United for Separation of Church and State both wrote letters to the city, the city attorney finally advised the council they were violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.   They gave in and removed the flag.

But this has caused an uproar among some in the community.   The city has received dozens of phone calls and e-mails demanding the flag be restored.   And about 200 demonstrators held a protest rally to try and convince the council to change its vote and put the christian flag back up.   I imagine all of these "christians" consider themselves to be good Americans.

But I'm left wondering why these "good Americans" can demand their government ignore and disobey the Constitution -- the basis of American law and democracy.   Or do they really believe that citizens are only required to obey those parts of the Constitution that they like (and these people obviously don't like the First Amendment)?  

Religious freedom (which the soldiers being honored fought for) doesn't mean christians have the right to force their religion on everyone else because they are in the majority.   It means each citizen has the right to worship (or not worship) any religion he/she pleases without interference or coercion from the majority (or the government).

The Afghanistan war veteran who complained about the flag told a local TV station that he had voiced his complaint "to bring attention to the fact that regardless of the form of government, it had no right to impose any type of religious belief upon its population."   This brave veteran is exactly right.   It is not just unconstitutional, it is downright un-American.

Now the fight has moved on to a second and smaller memorial placed near the city memorial -- and also on city property.   It was put up by the local American Legion and contains a cross (a symbol of only christianity).   One of the American Legion members said,   "We aren't going to lay down for this.   I don't believe in one person telling all of us what to do."

He is wrong.   It's not one person.   It's every person in America that believes in the Constitution.   It's every soldier that fought and died defending the Constitution.   And it's the Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution.   The American Legion has the right to put up their memorial and to put a cross on it -- but not on government property, because that government property is owned by all citizens, including non-christians.   They either need to move the memorial to private property or remove the cross.

This is not rocket science.   The Constitution is an all or nothing thing.   You cannot pick and choose the parts of it you want to obey, and when you violate one part of it you dishonor all of it.   That's just the way it is.

The Republican View

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

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sacrilege (Unintended?)

Do you think she understands what the street definition of "teabagging" is?   From the hilarious pages of Pundit Kitchen.

U.S. Prison Population Is Out Of Control


The citizens of the United States like to think of this country as a free country, but recent statistics regarding incarceration of its citizens in prison paint a very different picture.   The United States has more people in prison (both men and women) than any other nation on earth, including nations we regard as police states or nations that generally have little regard for human rights.

The United States currently incarcerates more than 2.2 million people -- a prison population that has exploded since 1980 (see above chart).   Some might think that is because we are a very populous country, but that would be wrong.   Compared to other high-population countries, the United States prison population is 153% higher than Russia, 505% higher than Brazil, 550% higher than India, and more than 2,000% higher than Nigeria, Indonesia or Bangladesh.

And when the rate of incarceration per 100,000 people is considered, the United States doesn't look any better.   Here are the top twenty countries with the highest incarceration rates:

1. United States...............738
2. Russian Federation...............607
3. Cuba...............487
4. Ukraine...............360
5. Singapore...............350
6. Botswana...............339
7. South Africa...............335
8. Taiwan...............259
9. Thailand...............257
10. United Arab Emirates...............250
11. Poland...............228
12. Israel...............209
13. Libya...............207
14. Iran...............206
15. Mexico...............196
16. Brazil...............191
17. Uzbekistan...............184
18. Lebanon...............168
19. Columbia...............152
20. Argentina...............148

Compare the 738 per 100,000 people of the United States to many other developed democratic nations:

United Kingdom...............145
Spain...............145
Australia...............126
Canada...............107
Italy...............102
Germany...............95
France...............88
Ireland...............78
Sweden...............78
Japan...............62

Even such countries as China (118), Iraq (60) and Pakistan (57) have much lower rates of incarceration than the United States.      

Why is the rate of incarceration so high in the United States?   Is the crime rate so much higher in the United States?   No.   According to criminologists Alfred Blumstein and Allen Beck, the rise in crime can only account for less than 12% of the rise in the prison population since 1980.   It is the extremely harsh and long prison sentences being given out in this country that accounts much of the other 88% of the prison population explosion.

Sadly, the long prison sentences and the rising prison population have not made this a safer country.   The violent crime rate, especially murder, remains one of the highest in the civilized world.   It has put a strain on this country economically though.   The most conservative estimate is that we spend over $42 billion annually to incarcerate our huge prison population (and we still generally have overcrowded and unsafe conditions in most of our prisons).

Currently there are about 9.2 million people incarcerated worldwide.   But if all nations followed United States incarceration policies and regulations, that figure would balloon to over 47.6 million people.

Another reason for our prison population explosion since 1980 is the failed "war on drugs".   The United States incarcerates more people for drug offenses than the European Union incarcerates for all offenses combined, and yet the drug flow into the country and drug use by citizens has not been abated.

Obviously, we are doing something wrong in this country.   A free country should not have a prison population so out-of-whack when compared to the rest of the world (the average rate per 100,000 people worldwide is only 166).   We need to take another look at our sentencing policies.   We also need to stop the failed "war on drugs" and treat drugs like the medical and education problem that it really is.   

For too long now the answer to our social problems has been just to "lock them up and throw away the key".   It isn't working.