A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Often Forgotten Civil Right

LeftWingConspiracy makes it clear that freedom of religion must include freedom from religion to have any real meaning.

Teabaggers Not Like Other Americans

We all know that Fox News would like for people to believe the teabaggers are just ordinary Americans -- representative of the vast majority of Americans.   Sadly, they are not the only media trying to pass this myth off as truth.   Too many members of the mainstream media have tried to tell us that this last election is indicative of the power of teabaggers in America.

It's just not true.   The teabaggers, as I have said in the past, are just the angry right-wing fringe of the Republican Party.   The voters in the last election were registering their displeasure with government at not doing more to pull this country out of the recession (via job creation).   It had nothing to do with teabagger beliefs.

The teabaggers are not at all close to mainstream thinking in this country.   While they may be in agreement with most Americans in being unhappy with the government right now, that is as far as it goes.   The huge majority of Americans think very differently from the teabaggers.   Consider the following:

* About 84% of teabaggers are unhappy with how President Obama is doing his job, while only 35% of other Americans feel that way.

* Four times as many teabaggers want to repeal the new health care law than other Americans.

* Twice as many teabaggers want to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy as other Americans.

* About 86% of teabaggers want less government in people's lives and business, while only 35% of other Americans feel the same way.

* Teabaggers are five times as likely to blame President Obama for the economy as other Americans.

* Teabaggers are three times as likely to believe President Obama's policies will hurt the country as other Americans.

* Teabaggers are twice as likely as other Americans to say the country is on the wrong track.

Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for the umbrella group Tea Party Patriots, says,   "We are ordinary Americans."   I disagree.   The teabaggers are a far-right fringe group, while most Americans are centrist.   They are not ordinary Americans, and are not representative of the vast majority of Americans.

Real Pork

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in the Charlotte Observer.

Gov. Should Disable Cell Phones In Cars

There's no doubt that one of the most dangerous things a driver can do these days is talk on the cell phone while driving.   I think most people realize that -- at least for other people.   For some reason, while people know this is unsafe many seem to think it is only unsafe for other people to do it -- but they are somehow magically immune to the dangers themselves.

An example of this is when teen drivers are asked what should happen to drunk drivers.   The vast majority says the law should penalize drunk drivers very severely.   However, these same teens don't think the law should ban texting while driving.   Most of them seem convinced that they can do it safely.   This is in spite of the fact that several studies have shown cell phone use while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving (and texting is even worse).

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Raymond LaHood, says that cell phone distracted drivers killed about 5,500 people last year.   In addition, about a half-million people were injured.   Those are minimum figures.   Paul Atchley, a scientist at the University of Kansas who has studied the phenomenon, believes the actual figures are probably much higher.

The sad part is that all of these deaths and injuries can be prevented.   If people would just stay off their cell phones and pay attention to their driving these needless deaths and injuries would not happen.

I know there are many people who think they must use their phones while driving.   They will tell us that their fast-paced life demands it, or their business demands it.   Nonsense.   Life went on and business got done before cell phones were invented, and it would if they weren't used while a person is driving.

Some states have outlawed hand-held cell phones while driving.   This makes it look like something is being done about the problem when nothing is actually being accomplished.   The danger from using a cell phone while driving is from the distraction it causes the driver -- not from the phone being held in a hand or not.

I have often thought something should be done technologically to stop cell phone driving.   Now it looks like the government is considering the same thing.   LaHood says the government is considering requiring cars to have a technology that would disable cell phones.   The cell phone would be disabled when the car reaches a certain speed (possibly as measured by cell phone towers).

I think this is an excellent idea.   This would still allow cell phone use in an emergency by just pulling over to the side of the road, but would prevent use while the car is moving.   I know there will be efforts to defeat this by some tech geeks, but I still think it is an idea worth trying.

Just remember, the life that is saved could be someone you love.

Ghost Of St. Ronnie ?

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

You Know It's A Myth

The picture above is a billboard that has recently gone up in New Jersey just outside of New York City.   It seems innocuous enough to me.   It just states a fact -- a fact that anyone who sees the billboard can accept or reject as they see fit.   But that's not how some people see it.   This billboard has a lot of christians bent all out of shape.

Many view it as an attack on their religion or a part of the "war on christmas".   Evidently these christians believe their god is a very weak god, and their religion is could fall over something as small as a billboard placed where people can see it.   If they were really convinced that their religion was the "truth" would they be so offended at this?

Even sillier is that some people are afraid that children might see the billboard, and seeing it would destroy their belief in christmas.   Really?   The billboard doesn't say anything about Santa Claus -- the real christmas myth celebrated by children (and most children even survive finding out Santa isn't real, as long as the presents keep coming).

The sad part of this story is that many christians actually believe Jesus was born on December 25th.   If Jesus really lived (and there is doubt about that), the fact is that no one has the slightest ides what day he was born on.   The December date was chosen in Rome because the early church couldn't get the population to stop celebrating Saturnalia -- a celebration of the god Saturn with feasting and gift-giving.   Since the church couldn't stop the celebration, they co-opted it.

But whatever a person believes, this is nothing more than a billboard.   It doesn't stop anyone from celebrating christmas or the solstice season any way they want to.   Even a lot of us atheists enjoy participating in a little Santa mythology and some gift-giving.

The billboard was more of an outreach to other (in-the-closet) atheists.   No one expects the billboard to turn a christian into an atheist.   The organization that put up the evidently controversial billboard, American Atheists, said they had three goals in mind when they put it up.   There goals are:


1) To address those atheists who “go along to get along”, and to encourage them to come out of their closets

2) To attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season

3) To raise the awareness of the organization and the movement.

The Inheritance

Political Cartoon is by Bruce Plante in Tulsa World.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Behind The Curtain

Republican Dirty Tricks reminds us of the ugliness behind the Republican curtain.

WikiLeaks - Traitor Or Hero ?

The internet site called WikiLeaks is in the headlines again, and once again they are embarrassing the United States government (and a bunch of other governments also, this time).   They are in the process of releasing hundreds of thousands of U.S. State Department cables, which the government is claiming is "classified" material.

Some of the material is just embarrassing, such as when government officials make unflattering remarks about other countries' officials.   Other cables show us some "secret" discussions between governments that could have serious reprecussions for American citizens, such as cables that show countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia have been putting a lot of pressure on the United States to attack Iran (and at least destroy their nuclear facilities).

The big question being debated right now is whether the release of these cables to the public (several news organizations are making them widely known to the public at large) poses a real danger to the United States government and the citizens, or does it just expose some things that probably should be public knowledge anyway in a democracy (regardless of whether some officials are embarrassed or not).

The Obama administration is taking the tack that the release of this information poses a danger.   White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says:

"To be clear, such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. These documents also may include named individuals who in many cases live and work under oppressive regimes and who are trying to create more open and free societies."


"By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals. We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information."


But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange counters that the United States is just trying to cover up its participation in serious "human rights abuse and other criminal behavior".   The New York Times, which is printing some of the exposed diplomatic cables, says "the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match."

After much thought, I have to agree with WikiLeaks and the New York Times.   This is information that the American people have a right to know.   Are there times when a government needs to keep a secret for national security?   Yes.   But I believe a Democratic government needs to keep as few secrets as is possible, and there is little doubt that our government keeps far too much from the voters (who have the right to know as much as possible to make intelligent decisions when they go to the polls).

If the government is just covering up embarrassing blunders or statements by government officials, then they are wrong -- that kind of thing should not be a "state secret".   If they are indeed covering up human rights abuses or criminal behavior, that is even worse.   The American people needs to know if its government is acting in such a way.

I also have to wonder just how secure these "secrets" were if an organization like WikiLeaks could get hold of them.   Frankly, any government that sends real secrets by cable or electronic transmission in this information age is pretty stupid anyway (and that is something else the people need to know).   I doubt if there's any established government on earth that can't access that kind of information, which means the only people these "secrets" are being kept from is the voting public.   The idea that WikiLeaks has been able to access information not available to any interested intelligence service is just ludicrous.

The most intelligent comment on this WikiLeaks mess that I've heard comes from Professor Michael Cox, associate fellow of Chatham House Think Tank.   He says:


"It's a great treasure trove for historians and students of international relations. It is a sign that in the information age, it is very difficult to keep anything secret. But as to whether it's going to cause the kind of seismic collapse of international relations that governments have been talking about, I somehow doubt."
"Diplomats have always said rude things about each other in private, and everyone has always known that. Governments have a tendency to try to keep as much information as possible secret or classified, whether it really needs to be or not. The really secret information, I would suggest, is still pretty safe and probably won't end up on WikiLeaks."

I seriously doubt that any of these released cables will hurt the security of the United States.   I do think that there will be officials of the U.S. government (and other governments) who will be embarrassed by exposure of stupid or criminal actions.   That is a good thing.   I just don't care if government officials are embarrassed, and I care even less if officials from other countries are embarrassed or exposed.   The American people need to know how these other countries are thinking and acting.   As for our own officials, they shouldn't be doing or saying anything they wouldn't want their fellow citizens to know about (and any real secrets should be sent in a manner that will assure their secrecy -- like a diplomatic pouch).

Are the folks at WikiLeaks traitors or heroes?   I'm voting for heroes -- albeit it minor ones.

The Republican Plan

Political Cartoon is by Bill Schorr at caglecartoons.com.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baggage

Whether god is real or not, the naked pastor believes we've loaded him down with a lot of unnecessary baggage.

Palin's New Book Is Faux Best-Seller

Sarah Palin has foisted another ghost-written book on the public.   Actually it is just another gripe session attacking the people who have supposedly done her wrong.   But it was not written to be a literary landmark -- it was written to make Palin some more money (which is, after all, her one true love).

I just checked Amazon.com and it looks like the book is another "best-seller" -- sort of.   Amazon has it listed at number 16 on the best-seller list so far.   But don't take that to mean that many thousands of individual Americans are rushing out to buy the book.   No, this new book is making the best-seller list the same way her other book did -- with bulk sales from conservative organizations (who will try to give the book away to people).

Godless Liberal Homo clues us in to one of these organizations trying to pump up Palin's book.   The ultra-right-wing Townhall Magazine has made a bulk purchase of the book, and is offering free copies to anyone who subscribes to their magazine.   I'm sure they're not the only ones who are doing this.   Several conservative magazines and other organizations did this for her first book.

Frankly this sounds like a cheap way to make the best-seller list -- sort of like cheating.   But I doubt that Palin (or the publisher) cares as long as the dollars roll in.   It makes me feel kind of sorry for the authors pushed down the best-seller list because of this -- the ones who are there because they actually wrote a good book that individuals are going to a bookstore to buy.

Outsourced

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

Barton Will Fix College Football (And Ignore The Country's Problems)

The toad-like fellow pictured above is Rep. "Smokey" Joe Barton (R-Texas).   Now that the Republicans have taken over the House of Representatives, Barton would like to be named chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.   That's because Barton never met a polluter he didn't love, and he would like to pay them back for the millions they've dumped into his campaign coffers.

Some politicians would want a committee chairmanship so they could accomplish something great or do something to help their country -- not Smokey Joe.   Barton wants to be chairman so he can make sure nothing gets changed.   He wants to leave the giant energy companies (oil, gas, electric, etc.) in charge of America's energy policies, and make sure they don't have to stop polluting the world (or have to pay for that pollution).   And he wants to let the corporations go on paying little or no taxes while they keep on exporting American jobs to Third World countries.

Well, he wants to keep most things just like they are, but there is one thing he wants to change.   He wants to use the enormous power of Congress to change college football -- specifically the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).   While Barton is fine with the recession, the lack of jobs, pollution, and corporate greed, he is upset with the BCS and he thinks what America needs most is to reform it.

Here's what Barton has to say about the BCS,   "It's a cartel.   It is extremely hypocritical.   It claims to be about a championship.   It is about maximizing revenue for a few entrenched, elite schools, and to heck with everybody else. . .This is all about control.   It's a playtoy for these college presidents.   They get wined and dined.   They have big parties.   It is not about the fans or the student-athletes."   Barton promises if he gets the House committee chairmanship that change is "going to happen."

Don't get me wrong.   Barton is right about the BCS, and I generally think it should be changed (or eliminated in favor of a play-off system).   But is this really what we want our Congress to be doing?   With the country mired in a deep recession and millions of people out of work, with the richest Americans amassing most of the country's wealth and income and leaving next to nothing for the rest of us, with two endless wars being fought and too many American soldiers dying, with racism and bigotry still affecting far too many people, can't our Congress find more important work than college football?

What a jerk!   Barton either doesn't understand or doesn't care why he was elected to represent the people in Congress.   It certainly wasn't to legislate college football (or any of his other personal peccadillos).   Any other Republican probably won't be much (or any) better, but it is obvious that Barton would be a disaster as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.   I hope he doesn't get the job.

Problem Solved ?

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Return On Investment

Republican Dirty Tricks reminds us of the great return on investment the richest Americans got in the last election.

Teens Not As Dumb As The Fundies Think

Throughout the eight years of the Bush administration there was a concerted effort by right-wing fundamentalists to destroy any meaningful sex education for teenagers in America's schools -- an effort that was supported and funded by the federal government.   Sex education teachers were generally forbidden to discuss condoms or any other methods of preventing pregnancies or sexually-transmitted diseases.   The only thing allowed to be taught was "abstinence".

This seemed to be based on the silly notion that teenagers were stupid.   The fundamentalists believed if kids were not told about sex, then they wouldn't find out about it or try it out for themselves.   Of course this was a stupid idea from the start.   While teens could use some guidance on preventing pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases, none of them need to be taught about the existence of sex or how to do it.   As anyone who has been a teen should know, that comes naturally and with plenty of encouragement from peers.

This misguided "abstinence only" teaching probably resulted in many unneeded pregnancies -- it certainly didn't lower the incidence of occurrence.   And it probably resulted in some teens getting diseases because they weren't taught prevention.   But it turns out that American teens are a lot smarter than the fundamentalists gave them credit for.   While schools refused to teach, the teens found ways to learn anyway (and I suspect the internet helped immensely in this regard).

An Indiana University study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine last month showed that kids seem to be learing about "safe sex" in spite of adult efforts to keep them in the dark.   The study showed that "80% of sexually active teen boys and 69% of teen girls' partners used condoms during their most recent sexual encounter."   Those are not only remarkably high numbers, but also very gratifying ones.

But while the "safe sex" message seems to be getting through to teens, the same cannot be said of older Americans.   They don't seem to be bright enough to protect themselves from the serious and well-documented danger of sexually-transmitted diseases.   It seems that 91% of men over 50 don't use a condom with a date or casual acquaintance, and 70% don't use condoms with someone they just met.  

Maybe these older people thought teens were so stupid that "abstinence only" would work, because they themselves are that stupid.   Whatever the reason, it looks like this generation of teens are a lot brighter than older Americans -- at least in sexual matters.

Feeding The Pigs

Political Cartoon is by Rex Babin in the Sacramento Bee.

Millionaires For Economic Justice

There's a myth that runs rampant through this country.   It is the myth of opportunity that says anyone can become rich in America.   It's not true -- most people will never have the opportunity to become rich (but belief in the myth may partially explain why so many poor and working Americans are willing to give the rich whatever they want, including seemingly endless tax cuts).

The truth is that out of over 300 million Americans less than 1% are millionaires, and that 1% has an inordinate amount of control over what happens in this country.   How can that be?   Well for starters, over half of Congress is made up of millionaires (and the other half know it's the rich that fund their campaigns for the most part).   By cutting taxes for the rich, Congress is cutting taxes for themselves (and their rich donors).   That's why the odds are very good that we'll probably see an extension of the massive Bush tax cuts for the rich, even though it is common knowledge that those cuts would increase the country's deficit.

But it seems that not all of the rich are so greedy that they demand an extension of tax cuts that would hurt America at a time the country can least afford it -- in the middle of a serious recession.   I posted a few days ago about billionaire Warren Buffett telling ABC News that the rich need to pay more taxes rather than less.   He thought it was only fair to expect those who have made the most to pay the most.

Now a group of 40 millionaires have stepped forward to say the Bush tax cuts should not be extended for those making $1,000,000 a year or more.   They call themselves the Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, and they have gotten together to send the following letter to President Obama.   The letter says:


We are writing to urge you to stand firm against those who would put politics ahead of their country.
For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you allow tax cuts on incomes over $1,000,000 to expire at the end of this year as scheduled.
We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more.
We have done very well over the last several years. Now, during our nation's moment of need, we are eager to do our fair share. We don't need more tax cuts, and we understand that cutting our taxes will increase the deficit and the debt burden carried by other taxpayers. The country needs to meet its financial obligations in a just and responsible way.
Letting tax cuts for incomes over $1,000,000 expire, is an important step in that direction.

I wish I could say this was a common belief among the rich, but it isn't.   This is only forty people out of nearly 3,000,000.   It looks like most millionaires care only about putting a few more dollars in their own bank accounts, regardless of the fact that their country needs the money much more than they do.   They're quite willing the leave their other 297,000,000 countrymen out in the cold (and that includes a bunch of rich congressmen).

The Four Horsemen Ride In Haiti

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Religious Tolerance

Another bit of cartoon truth from Atheist Cartoons.

U.S. Won't Support Children's Rights

I can't imagine that any decent person would think that recruiting or forcing children to be soldiers in a war, regardless of the reason or justification for that war, is proper.   It's not.   It's nothing less than child abuse -- as bad as any physical or sexual abuse.

Back in 2008, there was some hope that the United States would take action with other countries to stop the travesty of child soldiers.   Congress passed the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, and it was signed into law by President Bush.   This law would deny United States aid to any country where children served as soldiers.   The law wasn't a cure-all, but at least it did something.

When President Obama was elected, many of us on the left thought this law would be enforced, and maybe even more could be done.   After all, don't the Democrats pride themselves on protecting and expanding human rights (and surely children are humans)?   We were wrong.   It has now become apparent that the United States is not really serious about enforcing the law, and the Democrats (at least those currently in power) aren't really serious about rights when it comes to children.

Last month President Obama decided that four countries (who all have child soldiers) should be exempt from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act.   Why are these four countries (Chad, Congo, Sudan, Yemen) not required to eliminate child soldiers or lose American aid?   Because they support American foreign policy goals.   The president has ordered that military aid be continued to these countries.

It turns out that the government figures the law should only apply to our enemies, and not to countries we consider to be friendly to our policies.   This effectively neuters the law and makes it totally ineffective.   We already deny aid to our enemies, so if the law doesn't apply to our friends then it is useless.

I guess this shouldn't surprise anyone since the United States is one of only two countries in the world that refuses to recognize that children even have rights (and the other country, Somolia, doesn't have a functioning government).   Every country in the world, even those who normally aren't considered as guardians of human rights in general, has ratified and signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which guarantees certain basic rights to all children).

And it's not like the Convention is a recent document that the United States needs time to study.   It was written in 1989 -- 21 years ago.   There has been plenty of time during the administrations of both parties to ratify the Convention and nothing has been done.   Why doesn't the United States believe children should have rights like all other humans?

Scary

Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The 10 Truths Republicans Ignore (Or Lie About)

I wish I could take credit for this post, but I'll give credit where it is due.   I found this at cul's blog ratboy's anvil 2.   Cul gives us the 10 things that no Republican will admit, because to do so would expose their policies and rhetoric to be ridiculous.   He calls it the "10 Facts That Republicans Refuse To Believe".   Here they are:


1. President Obama cut taxes for everyone that earns a paycheck.
The first piece of legislation ushered in by the Obama administration was a stimulus package that contained almost $300 billion in payroll tax cuts. As Nate Silver calculated, that means 98.6% of working households received a tax cut once Obama took office.
2. TARP Worked
TARP worked. And it was a Republican policy. But it actually turned out to be a hugely successful program. The most successful policy of George Bush's two terms to be exact. The program earned the American government at least $40 billion. By far the most revenue any program has ever earned the government. In all, if it were to never make another penny, the program would now only cost tax payers $30 billion. That's dramatically cheaper than the near $1 trillion it was expected to cost. Pumping tax dollars into the the private sector helped ward off a complete financial meltdown. It worked. Plain and simple.
3. The Stimulus Worked
It warded off complete collapse. Stopped the flood of job losses. And boosted GDP back to positive territory. Economists agree the stimulus "raised GDP by about 3.4 percent, holding the unemployment rate about one-and-a-half percentage points lower, and adding almost 2.7 million jobs to U.S. payrolls."
4. Ronald Reagan Tripled the National Debt
This simple fact is regarded as pure fantasy by conservative and Republicans alike. But the truth is, if you turn down your Fox News teevee set that is, you'll learn that the national debt exploded under Saint Ronnie. Here's the scorecard:
After 8 years of Reagan the national debt went from roughly $900 billion to $2.6 trillion. That's a 186% increase, the most since WWII. That is an incredible amount of debt from the so-called small government, fiscally responsible party.
5. George W. Bush doubled It
Then without a second thought, or a single gripe from the fiscally conservative, deficit hawk crowd, George W. Bush and his GOP took a government that was running surpluses and created the largest deficits in human history. As a result, the national debt went from $5.7 trillion to more than $11 trillion when you add in all his bailouts including TARP.
6. Obama Inherited the Worst Scenario Any Elected President Ever Has
Simply and factually stated, no elected president in the history of America has ever inherited two ongoing endless wars with an economy on the verge of collapse. It's never happened before. But it did when President Obama inherited the country from Bush.
7. Obama Has Shrunk the Deficit
According to the U.S. Treasury, for the 2010 fiscal year that ended on September 30, the government had a budget shortfall of 1.294 trillion dollars, down 122 billion dollars from the previous year's record-setting high.
The 2010 fiscal year was President Obama's first federal operating budget. The previous year's budget was the final Bush budget which set a record for the largest deficit in American history. The budget deficit shrunk by $122 billion since Obama has taken office.
8. Obama Inherited a $1.4 trillion deficit, He Did Not Create It
It's amazing that some people believe American history began on Jan. 20th, 2009-- BUT IT DIDN'T. The day Obama took office the budget deficit was $1.416 trillion. He did not create it.
9. All the Bailouts Were Republican George Bush Policy
TARP was passed in October of 2008, over three months before Obama would become president. The original legislation was submitted to Congress by President George Bush and passed with both Republican and Democratic support of which Bush signed into law. Prior to TARP, the Bush administration had already committed $30 billion to Bear Stearns, $400 billion to Fannie and Freddie, $180 billion to AIG, $25 billion to the Auto industry, $85 billion to AIG, and billions more to the airline industry after 9/11.
Even the GM bailout in 2009 came from TARP funds and was structurally in place before Obama took office. It was the continuation of a Bush plan already moving forward, much like the surge in Iraq can't be credited to Obama either.
10. Republicans Have NEVER -- NOT ONCE IN MODERN HISTORY -- Shrunk Government, Cut Spending, or Reined in the Deficit
Is there anyone that still believes Republicans have ever governed with their so-called "principles" in mind? If so, consider this:
Since the ushering in of the modern Republican "Reagan Revolution," the GOP has never done any of the above. Frankly put, in the 20 years of modern Republican rule-- 8 years of Reagan, 4 years of Bush, and 8 years of Bush-- spending has never decreased, the deficit only grew by leaps and bounds (see #'s 4 & 5) and never did government shrink. There is no factual record they can point to that would in any way whatsoever suggest they are a fiscally conservative lot.

Church - Steeple - People

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at United Feature Syndicate.

Chisum's "Marriage Tax" Is A Failure

Those of you who live in Texas may know State Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) as the right-winger who is trying to unseat Speaker of the House Joe Straus (R-San Antonio).   Chisum doesn't like Straus supposedly because he is a "moderate" Republican.   That's ridiculous, of course.   While Straus is a fairer speaker than the Texas House has had in many years, he's definitely a conservative.

Those of us in the Panhandle know the real reason Chisum wants to unseat Straus, and this has recently come out in some of the dirty infighting for the speaker position.   It is because Straus is Jewish, and Chisum (a fundamentalist christian right-winger) just can't stand the though of anyone but a fundamentalist christian being speaker (preferably himself) -- even if the non-fundamentalist non-christian is a fellow Republican.

Chisum is the kind of nut that thinks he was sent to the legislature to save souls -- that is, push his brand of fundamentalist christianity on all his fellow Texans (whether they want it or not).   To see this, all you have to do is look at the kind of bills he introduces.   He was able to wrangle two bills through the legislature in the last session (although thankfully the worst aspects of them were removed or toned down by his fellow legislators before they were passed).

The first was a bill to require the teaching of a Bible class in all Texas high schools.   Chisum wanted this to be a required course that all Texas teenagers would have to take to graduate.   The bill was passed and all Texas high schools must offer a Bible course, but the course was changed to be an elective course and no one has to take it that doesn't want to.

The second bill that he got passed was nicknamed the "marriage tax", because it double the state fee for a marriage license to $60 -- unless the couple received pre-marital counseling.   This was a thinly-disguised effort to get people into religious counseling (since most pre-marital counseling courses are offered by churches and taught by ministers here in Texas).   Of course, the couple could opt to pay for a secular counselor (but that would cost at least as much, if not more, than just coughing up the $60 fee).

The new law has been a dismal failure.   The statewide figures for those who opted to take the pre-marital counseling instead of paying the increased fee are incredibly low -- less than 15%.   That's probably about the same number that would have taken the counseling without the new law and increased license fee.   And in some urban counties, the figures are even lower.   Tarrant County (Fort Worth) shows less than 10% of couples opted for the counseling, and in Harris County the number was only about 5%.

I'm sure some right-wingers will claim that even though the law did not get significant numbers of couples into marriage counseling, it at least increased the amount of money fed into the state's coffers.   That's just silly.   The amount of money raised by the state on marriage licenses is negligible when compared to the enormous state budget.

The fact is that the "marriage tax" law is as miserable a failure as Chisum is as a legislator.

Small Price To Pay ?

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Republican View Of Unemployment

Ampersand gives us the top ten reasons Republicans ignore unemployment.

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers and fellow bloggers a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.   I hope you have a wonderful day of family, friends, food (too much of it), and football.

And yes, even us atheists celebrate Thanksgiving.   I know some people think this is just another christian holiday, but it isn't.   Anyone of any religion (or no religion at all) can be thankful for the good things and good friends that have come their way.   I certainly am, and I like to take this day to be grateful for those.

Even when I look back at the first Thanksgiving, I see it more as the new settlers giving thanks to the Native Americans who taught them how to live in the New World.   Isn't that enough?

Won't Assimilate

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

Most Americans Over Their "Ideal Weight"

Today is the day that most of us Americans will eat far too much food.   It is kind of a tradition on Thanksgiving, at least for those who aren't poverty-stricken.   I usually eat so much turkey and trimmings that I have to take a nap before I can fit in the dessert, and I doubt I'm alone in that.   That's why I thought this poll by the Gallup organization was rather apropos for today.

According to the poll, more than 6 out of 10 Americans believe they weigh more than they should, while only 2 out of 10 believe they are currently at their ideal weight.   And that 6 out of 10 believe on average they are about 16 pounds overweight -- 12 pounds for men and 19 pounds for women.   Here are the numbers for those who think they are above their ideal weight:

ALL ADULTS
Over ideal weight...............62%
At ideal weight...............19%
Under ideal weight...............11%

MEN
Over ideal weight...............59%
At ideal weight...............22%
Under ideal weight...............15%

WOMEN
Over ideal weight...............65%
At ideal weight...............17%
Under ideal weight...............9%

Those numbers did not surprise me.   But the answers to the next question did surprise me.   The poll then changed the question a little bit.   Instead of asking if the people thought they were over their "ideal weight", they asked them if they were "overweight".   Here are the numbers for those who said they were overweight:

All adults...............38%
Men...............30%
Women...............45%

It's amazing that a change in wording produced such a change in numbers.   Frankly, if you are over your ideal weight then you are overweight.   You may not be grossly overweight, but you are overweight.   But a lot of people don't want to admit that -- probably because they would feel compelled to do something about it.

If you are overweight, do something about it.   And they only thing that will work is to limit your calorie intake to less than your body will burn.   If you want to eat more calories, then you'll have to exercise to burn off the excess calories.   The key is not what you eat -- it's how many calories is in what you eat.

But put that off for a day or two.   After all, you wouldn't want to break a Thanksgiving tradition would you?    

One In Six

Political Cartoon is by John Sherffius in the Boulder Daily Camera.

Guilty As Hell !

I must admit that I figured Tom Delay, former GOP House leader and poster boy for corrupt politics, would probably get off without being convicted of the crimes he had been charged with five years ago.   I'm happy to say I was wrong.   Yesterday a Travis County (Austin, Texas) jury, after 19 hours of deliberation, convicted Delay of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money.

Sentencing has been set for December 20th in Austin, and the judge in the case has a wide range of sentences he could impose.   The most serious of the two charges is money laundering.   The judge could sentence Delay to as little as five years or as much as a life sentence on that charge (parole is possible after 30 years on a life sentence).   I doubt Delay will get a life sentence, but 5 or 10 years is a distinct possibility.

This whole thing comes from Delay's believing he was so powerful that he no longer had to follow the rules and laws that applied to others.   Back in 2002, Delay tried to pull an end-run around the campaign laws in Texas.   The law said a corporation couldn't give money to a political candidate's campaign, so Delay took the corporate money and funneled it through the RNC and then to the campaigns of Texas politicians -- a clear violation of both the letter and intent of the law.

Now, years later, it is time for Delay to pay the piper for his corruption.   Delay was obviously shocked at his conviction and tried to pass it off as just politics.   He said,   "This is an abuse of power.   It's a miscarriage of justice.   And I still maintain that I am innocent.   The criminalization of politics undermines our system."

That's just nonsense.   The District Attorney was not playing politics, but bringing a criminal to justice.   To prove that point, the DA pointed out that they had just convicted another politician of corruption less than a month ago -- a Democrat (Kino Flores).   DA Rosemary Lehmberg said,   "This case is a message from the citizens of the state of Texas that the public officials they elect to represent them must do so honestly, ethically or they will be held accountable."

Delay is now being held accountable.   I don't know if it's possible, but I hope his sentence is not probated.   Giving him a few years of jail time will remind all politicians (of all parties) that they are not immune to the laws all other citizens must follow.   Besides, he'll look great in a prison jumpsuit.

Thanksgiving Parade

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Insanity

From the hilarious pages of Atheist Cartoons.

Health Insurance And Republican Hypocrites

Many of the new Republicans elected to Congress about three weeks ago (and a lot of the Republicans re-elected) campaigned on repealing the new health care reform law.   Some of them even made repealing health care a centerpiece of their campaign.   In a few short weeks, they will be taking office and they are already being schooled on House and Senate rules and benefits of being a senator or representative.   One of those benefits is that they get free health care -- the very thing they campaigned on denying to millions of ordinary Americans.

To some people, including myself, it seems more than a little hypocritical to campaign on a platform of repealing government health care for millions of Americans, and then turn around and accept free government health care for themselves after getting elected.   Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York) thought so and he challenged those opposed to government health care for ordinary citizens to be honest and refuse to accept it for themselves.

It looks like the American people agree with Rep. Crowley.   A Public Policy Polling survey taken from November 19th through 21st shows that a healthy majority of Americans think those senators and representatives who campaigned against health care should not accept the free health insurance offered to them by the government.

Now you may think this is just the feeling of some "sour grapes" Democrats trying to get back at those who want to repeal health care.   Not true.   The Democrats polled actually had a larger percentage that thought they should accept the health care than the general public or the Republicans.   In fact, it was the Republicans surveyed who had the biggest percentage thinking they should not accept the government health insurance.

It looks like these new (or old) Republicans might have campaigned themselves into being between a rock and a hard place.   Their own supporters believe they should stop the hypocrisy and opt out of government healthcare.   If they don't, they run the risk of irritating those who put them in office (and there could be a fringe teabagger opponent waiting for them when they run for re-election).   And if they do opt out, then they will have to pay thousands of dollars to buy their own health insurance.

Here is what the people said when asked if those who campaigned against government health care should accept or decline their own government-supplied health insurance:

GENERAL PUBLIC
Accept...............33%
Decline...............53%
Not sure...............15%

DEMOCRATS
Accept...............37%
Decline...............49%
Not sure...............14%

REPUBLICANS
Accept...............28%
Decline...............58%
Not sure...............14%

There have been a couple of the new Republicans that have decided to turn down the government insurance and buy their own.   I guess the hypocrisy was just a little too much for them to accept, and while I don't agree with their policy of denying health care to ordinary Americans, at least they are honest enough not to accept what they want others to do without.   The two Republicans who are turning down the government health insurance are Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Illinois).

But it looks like all of the other incoming and re-elected Republicans will be accepting the free government insurance.   I just have one word for them -- HYPOCRITES!   The government shouldn't provide anything for a senator or representative that it's not willing to provide to all Americans.

Meanwhile, it doesn't look like the Republicans have the mandate they are bragging about to repeal health care reform anyway.   A new McClatchy/Marist poll shows that a majority of Americans want to either keep the new health care law as it is or make it even stronger.   It's a minority of those polled who would weaken or repeal the law.

This may confuse some since many recent polls have shown a majority are not happy with the health care reform law.   But many of those who don't like the new law, like myself, are unhappy because it didn't go far enough, not because it went too far.   When you add those who think the new law didn't go far enough to those who like the new law, it is a majority of Americans.   This shows there is no mandate given Republicans to repeal the law.

Here are the poll numbers:

Keep it or expand it...............51%
Weaken it or repeal it...............44%
Unsure...............5%

Priority ?

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

The Myth That The Rich Need More Help

There is a huge lie being spread by right-wing Republicans.   They are trying to convince Americans that the richest Americans and corporations are taxed too heavily and are hurting. They want people to think that these rich investors and corporations need help in the form of massive tax breaks.   They further say that if more money is given to the rich, it will create more jobs for ordinary Americans and help the rich to compete with foreign investors and corporations.

This is not just a lie -- it is an outrageous lie.   A Commerce Department report released on Tuesday shows that American businesses (especially large corporations) actually earned record profits in the third quarter of this year.   For that quarter, American business show profits at an annual rate of $1.66 trillion -- the highest figure since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago.

And the third quarter figures are not an anomaly.   The profit figures for American businesses have grown for the last seven quarters in a row.   There seems to be little doubt that this recession (which is still raging for the vast majority of Americans) is not affecting the corporations and the rich at all.   They are doing better than ever.

The bad part is that the rich are getting richer on the backs of ordinary Americans.   One of the major reasons for the record business profits is due to either doing away with or outsourcing American jobs.   In other words, the rich are getting massively richer by making other Americans poorer.

This shows the Republican claim that letting the rich have more money will create more jobs. Even though their profits have gone up for the last seven quarters, there has not been any significant hiring.   This should not surprise anyone.   Businesses do not hire workers because they have a profit increase or a tax decrease.   They hire workers because they need more workers to meet the demand for their goods or services.   And the opposite is also true.   Businesses do not lay off workers because of higher taxes -- they do it because they don't need those workers to meet demand.   To hire or fire workers for any reason other than demand would be foolish and very bad business practice.

So it would be silly to believe that giving these people, who are making record profits, a massive tax cut would create jobs.   Study after study has shown that cutting taxes is a very poor job creator.   The only thing that will spur job creation in the private sector is an increase in demand for products and services.   Giving the rich more money will not create that demand, since they already have enough money to buy whatever they want.   The way to stimulate demand is to put more money in the hands of poor and working people, because that money must be spent and will boost the economy for everyone -- both creating jobs and fattening the profits of businesses.

The other reason given by Republicans for cutting taxes for corporations and the super rich is that they are more heavily taxed than corporations and investors in other countries.   The chart above shows that is simply not true.   The effective tax rate paid by American corporations is actually less than in many other developed countries when looked at as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

As for investors, they actually pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than even middle class workers.   That's because they pay a capital gains tax instead of income tax (and capital gains are taxed at a much lower rates than income received from actual work).

The rich and corporate entities are NOT being taxed at a higher rate than in other countries, and giving them even more money will not create significant job creation.   To be blunt, there is only one reason to give the rich further tax cuts -- greed.   And this greed, while it may fill Republican campaign coffers for future elections, will just further damage the economy for most Americans, by stunting job creation and increasing the vast gulf between the income and wealth of the richest Americans and the rest of America.

While it might make sense to continue taxing most Americans at a lower rate because they are still being hurt badly by the continuing recession -- such a case cannot be made for the richest 2% of Americans.   Giving them a further tax cut will just increase the deficit while doing nothing to help the economy.

The rich know this -- most are just so greedy that they don't care.   It doesn't matter to them that politicians are considering cutting programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and the minimum wage (programs that help Americans that really need help) as long as they can fatten their already bulging bank accounts.   I say "most" because there are a few of the rich who will admit the truth.

Billionaire Warren Buffett is one of the few rich men/women who is brave enough to tell the truth.   He knows that most Americans are hurting in this recession while the rich are not.   He also knows that the rich owe their society and their country more because they have been given or been able to make more.   Listen to what he told Christiane Amanpour in an interview that is to air on November 28th on ABC:

“If anything, taxes for the lower and middle class and maybe even the upper middle class should even probably be cut further. But I think that people at the high end -- people like myself -- should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we’ve ever had it.”


“The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”


As Buffett says, the "trickle down" theory of economics has already been discredited. It should be tossed into the trashbin of history.   The rich are being taxed at a lower rate than at any time since before World War II, and that would still be true if the Bush tax cuts for the rich were allowed to expire.   What this country needs is a lot of new jobs (and I don't mean minimum wage jobs).   Tax cuts for the rich will not accomplish that.

Don't believe the Republican lies!

Compromise ?

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Political Cartoon is by Dill Day at United Feature Syndicate.

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Has Sordid History

If there is a single organization that supports increasing the vast income and wealth gap between the richest Americans and the rest of us, it is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCOC).   The name of this organization would seem to make one think that they would be in support of policies that would favor all American businesses.   But that is not true.   They favor the huge corporations and the richest Americans over all others -- including America's small business men and women.

They have consistently opposed policies that would help ordinary Americans, both small businesses and workers, in favor of helping only the richest Americans.   And they get a lot of their money from foreign corporations, which is no surprise since they have actively supported the outsourcing of American jobs for many years now.   But that is just the beginning.   The USCOC has a long and rather sordid history of supporting policies and candidates that would hurt most Americans.   Here is a partial list of their activities that was composed by the blog Think Progress:


– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has long opposed women’s rights. For example, the Chamber lobbied against Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) bill to allow victims of rape to file a lawsuit against their defense contractor employers. The Chamber also lobbied against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and numerous other bills to address systematic gender inequality.

– The U.S Chamber of Commerce has been the driving force against consumer, worker, and public safety laws for nearly a century. This year, itlobbied against regulating BPA, a chemical found to cause birth defects and genital mutations. The Chamber has a history of fighting work place safety regulations, the Clean Air Act, the Mine Safety Act, and other fundamental programs used to strengthen American society.

— The U.S. Chamber of Commerce helped President Bush in his attempt to privatize Social Security and his drive to deregulate Wall Street. Even during President Roosevelt’s era, the Chamber lobbied against the New Deal agenda, especially the passage of Social Security. After its members helped cause the Great Depression, the Chamber still fought against regulating Wall Street as well as measures such as unemployment insurance. Chamber officials charged that Roosevelt was attempting to “Sovietize America.”

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is responsible for many of the policies that have made America the most unequal in terms of income/wealth distribution in the industrialized world. On tax policy, the Chamber has pushed efforts to repeal the estate tax while helping to pass the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Corporate tax loopholes promoted by the Chamber ensure that corporations like ExxonMobil pay zero corporate income taxes while regular American workers foot much of the Treasury’s bill. The Chamber also opposed the creation of a minimum wage, and has lobbied against nearlyevery increase in the federal minimum wage.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t even necessarily represent American businesses. As first reported by ThinkProgress, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently began a fundraising program soliciting foreign corporations to give to the Chamber’s account that in turn was used to run attack ads during the midterm elections. The Chamber admitted that it fundraises from foreign donors, but has refused to reveal how it finances its political campaign expenditures. ThinkProgress noted that the Chamber has aided its foreign members by lobbying this year to kill a bill to close tax loopholes for businesses that ship jobs overseas, and has even sponsoredseminars to teach businesses how to ship their jobs to places like China.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has consistently sided with polluters and the fossil fuel industry. Not only has the Chamber challenged the science of climate change, but after BP’s oil spill, Chamber CEO Tom Donohue said American taxpayers should pay for the clean up.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce practices the politics of division and hate when it serves their corporate interests. Throughout 2010, the Chamber worked closely with hate television star Glenn Beck, who calls President Obama a “racist” who has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” Top Chamber lobbyists met secretly with Beck at a meeting in June to plan the midterm elections, and Beck has sponsored on-air fundraisers for the Chamber. Similarly, the Chamber joined Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) to eagerly brand political opponents — like labor organizers and liberal intellectuals — as communists during McCarthy’s red scare.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has worked to give corporations unfettered control of government. For instance, the Chamber successfully filed an amicus brief in the Citizens United case to roll back nearly a century of campaign finance laws. Because of the Chamber’s efforts, corporations can spend unlimited amounts in American elections. Now the Chamber is attempting to repeal legislation aimed at discouraging American businesses from bribing foreign governments.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce fought every attempt at health reform, from Truman to Johnson to Nixon to Clinton to Obama’s efforts to help the American people gain access to quality health care. The Chamber eventried to stop the passage of Medicare under President Johnson.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce often places the profits of its member companies over American foreign policy objectives. Last year, the Chamberlobbied against President Obama’s efforts to place economic sanctions on Iran. In 1941, the Chamber was one of the most outspoken opponents of intervening in World War II (Chamber officials feared that war would give Roosevelt more power and wartime spending would lead to higher deficits, then higher taxes).

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a sordid history with civil rights. It opposed key planks of the Civil Rights Act, and lobbied against the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Recently, the Chamber paid for campaign advertising to help Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY), who told ThinkProgress he too opposed the ADA.