A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Corporatism - Destroying The American Dream

The sad part of this bit of uncomfortable truth is that corporatism and democracy have nothing in common. In fact, in spite of the lies being fed to us by the GOP, democracy must be diminished for corporatism to grow. Picture was found at the blog What Would Jack Do?.

GOP Voters Still Not Happy With Candidates

Approval ratings for President Obama are still hovering just below 50%, and when people are asked to judge how well he is doing with the economy the rating goes even lower. That might make some think that the president is vulnerable in the 2012 elections, especially since the biggest issues in that election will be the economy and the lack of jobs. And that might be true if the Republicans had a candidate with any solutions to those problems -- but they don't.

In fact, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll the Republicans are not much happier with the candidates they have to choose from than the rest of America is. Only 23% of Republicans said they were happy with the candidates in the current field, while more than 70% said they wished other candidates would enter the race.

Even worse, it doesn't look like any candidate has much enthusiastic support. When Republican voters were asked if there was a candidate they enthusiastically supported, no candidate was able to get more than single-digit support. Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann did better than the other candidates, but each could only muster 7% of voters who were enthusiastic about them.

And another poll shows that their unhappiness with the current candidates may be well-founded. A McClatchy/Marist poll done between June 15th and June 23rd shows that even though only 36% of the population say they will definitely vote for President Obama next year, when he is matched individually against any of the Republican candidates he comes out the winner. Here are those numbers:

Obama...............46%
Romney...............42%

Obama...............48%
Giuliani...............41%

Obama...............49%
Bachmann...............37%

Obama...............48%
Perry...............39%

Obama...............47%
Pawlenty...............33%

Obama...............56%
Palin...............30%

It's not hard to see why Sarah Palin finishes dead last in a matchup with the president. She has been steadily losing support for months now.In fact, a Hays Research Group survey done recently shows that it is doubtful that Palin could even hold her home state of Alaska (a very red state) against the president. Here are those numbers:

PRESIDENT OBAMA
Strong supporter...............34%
Moderate supporter...............6%
Leans toward...............2%
Total...............42%

SARAH PALIN
Strong supporter...............25%
Moderate supporter...............6%
Leans toward...............5%
Total...............36%

Just The Way They Like It

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Bachmann Told To Find Some New Music

What is it with Republicans and their use of other people's property. Sometimes they act like they own everything (even though they don't seem to want regular Americans to own anything).

A few years ago George W. Bush tried to use the song "I Won't Back Down" written and performed by Tom Petty (pictured). Petty objected and demanded that the Bush campaign stop using his song. Bush backed down, apologized, and stopped using the song.

Now another Republican is doing the same thing -- and amazingly they are appropriating the intellectual property of the same singer/songwriter, Tom Petty. After announcing that she was officially a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination the other day, Michele Bachmann's campaign played the song "American Girl" over the campaign loudspeakers. Petty was not amused.

NBC News has confirmed that Petty has asked his attorney to send Bachmann a "cease and desist" letter telling her to stop using his music. She'd better listen because Petty has the money to take her to court and defend his property, and she's just be wasting a lot of campaign money to defend a losing cause.

Republicans, including Bachmann would do well to stick to the music of singers supporting Republican policies. Of course that might restrict them to some Nashville artists and old Pat Boone records, but it would save them a lot of embarrassment and money.

GOP Campaign Suit

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

Obama Defends Unequal Treatment

When the president was elected back in 2008 the above poster meant something to many of us who supported him. It meant hope for a better world -- one in which all American citizens would enjoy equal rights and there would be no more second-class status for anyone in this country. Sadly though, the president has not lived up to his campaign promises in the area of citizen equality -- a fact that he recently reminded us of.

After the New York state government passed a new law giving gays and lesbians the same right to marry (with all the rights and privileges that come with marriage), the president said that was a good thing. But he stopped short of saying that all Americans should enjoy equal rights. Here is what he said:

What we’ve also done is we’ve said that DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act — is unconstitutional and so we’ve said that we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting our thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.What I’ve seen happen over the last several years and what happened in New York last week, I think was a good thing. Because what you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues. It was contentious, it was emotional, but ultimately they made a decision to recognize civil marriages and I think that’s exactly how things should work. I think it’s important for us to work through these issues because each state is going to be different and each community is going to be different.

I have to wonder if he really thought through the words he said. Does he really believe each state should determine the level of rights each group in that state should have? He's right that each state is different. They were also different in the 1960s, but that did not prevent the federal government from demanding that ALL states, even those in the South, give minorities the same right to accommodations and voting and education as all other citizens. It did not matter that at that time the South did not want to give African-Americans those rights.

The Constitution is absolute in guaranteeing equal rights to all citizens -- regardless of what each state or community wants. It's a little thing called the Fourteenth Amendment, and it demands that all citizens in every state and community be given equal rights.

I can understand why the president is reticent to guarantee equal rights to gays and lesbians. It is because he lacks the political courage to do the right thing (because he's afraid it would cost him some votes in 2012). That's disappointing, because when I voted for him in 2008 I had thought he was better than that. I had hoped he had the political courage of President Johnson (who knew the civil rights bills would cost him and his party many votes, but did the right thing in spite of that).

When this country was founded there weren't a lot of people with full rights -- only white men who owned property. Over the last couple of hundred years those rights have been extended to many others. Non-property owners, women, and minorities have fought for and been extended many of the same rights that were once the exclusive right of a few. The battle has not been completely won for all, but much progress has been made.

And the vehicle most used for that progress toward equal rights is the Fourteenth Amendment. There are those today who would say this amendment doesn't extend to those who have a different sexual preference than the heterosexual majority. But for the life of me I can't find that exception in the amendment (or anywhere else in the Constitution).

Equal rights means exactly that -- equal rights for all. You either believe in equal rights, or you believe that some in society should have more rights than others in that same society. Sadly, the president seems to be on the side of those who believe it is OK to deny equal rights to some in our society. That is extremely disappointing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Economic Truth

Found at the blog called What Would Jack Do?.

Bachmann Looks Strong In Spite Of Gaffes

Michele Bachmann, like her Republican cohort Sarah Palin, has committed a series of historical gaffes. A couple of months ago she told a crowd of New Hampshire Republicans that the shot that started the Revolutionary War had happened in their state (even though any school child knows it happened in Lexington, Massachusetts). She then compounded that by talking about how hard the Founding Fathers worked to eliminate slavery (even though they enshrined it in the Constitution by making slaves count as only 3/5 of a person, and half of them were actually slave owners).

Her gaffes were so egregious that a 10th grader challenged her to a debate or test on history, and many of us figured the high school sophomore would win if it had taken place. George Stephanopoulos (ABC News) gave Bachmann the opportunity to correct herself about the Founding Fathers and slavery the other day. Instead, she just made it worse by committing another historical gaffe. She named John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father who worked against slavery. She was evidently ignorant of the fact that John Quincy Adams was only 9 years old during the Revolutionary War (and was not a participant in founding this nation).

And she's not much better with more modern history. She tried to make herself look better the other day by comparing herself to John Wayne, saying they were both born in Waterloo, Iowa. The problem with that is that actor John Wayne was not born in Waterloo, but Winterset. The only John Wayne who lived in Waterloo was serial killer John Wayne Gacy. It might be time for Bachmann to hire a historian for her staff to check her speeches for obvious errors (or at least someone with the ability to "google" facts on the internet).

But Bachmann's rather obvious lack of knowledge about American history doesn't seem to have hurt her with her supporters. Maybe those teabaggers don't want a candidate who's smarter than they are. A recent Gallup Poll (done June 13th through June 26th of 1,500 Republicans nationwide, with a margin of error of 3 points) shows her support remains strong among her supporters.

This poll doesn't try to guage where the candidates stand in a percentage of the vote, but instead it tries to guage the strength of a candidates support. It does this by gauging voter familiarity with a candidate (name recognition - NR) and the Positive Intensity Score of each candidate. The Positive Intensity Score (PIS) is figured by subtracting the unfavorable percentage from the favorable percentage of those who are familiar with the candidate. The higher the PIS number is, the stronger the candidate's support is. Here are the numbers for each candidate:

Michele Bachmann
PIS...............24
NR...............69%

Herman Cain
PIS...............24
NR...............46%

Sarah Palin
PIS...............17
NR...............95%

Mitt Romney
PIS...............15
NR...............85%

Rick Santorum
PIS...............10
NR...............49%

Tim Pawlenty
PIS...............8
NR...............57%

Ron Paul
PIS...............6
NR...............77%

Gary Johnson
PIS...............3
NR...............21%

Jon Huntsman
PIS...............2
NR...............39%

Newt Gingrich
PIS...............2
NR...............86%

Taking It Back From Who ?

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

Texas Democratic Party Needs To Change

I've been saying for years now that the Democratic Party is in pitiful shape in Texas. It has weak leadership and keeps coming up with weak candidates -- mostly "blue dogs" who aren't very different from the Republicans they are trying to beat. The party has a proud past of progressivism, with past elected officials like Ann Richards, Lyndon Johnson, and Ralph Yarborough. But the current party has abandoned its progressive principles in the ridiculous belief that they must be like the Republicans to beat the Republicans.

The great Juanita Jean (owner of the world's most dangerous beauty salon) has written a post on this very subject. As usual she puts it better than I ever could, so I decided to repost her words here in the hope that more Texans will read it and demand the change that is needed. Here is what she had to say:


There’s an idea floating around that I want to share with you.  It may not be an electric light idea, but it’s an idea.  This idea might help the Texas Democratic Party get some folks to the polls and charged up.
Now, this is long and only mildly interesting to Texas Democrats.  But, if you folks from foreign states have anything to add to help us, jump right in.
In the last election, Texas Democrats did badly.  Even for a party that holds no statewide offices, we embarrassed ourselves.   We would not have done worse if our candidates had been caught red handed tweeting pictures of Debbie Riddle’s private parts.
The Texas Democratic Party hasn’t had any new ideas since before Elvis died.  Basically, it’s hold your head down, don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself, and hope voters think you’re a Republican.  All we have stood for is election.  There is no longer a core set of beliefs and a clear consistent message coming from the Texas Democratic Party.
Good Lord, take Bill White for example.  He spent over ten million dollars and ended up flopping around like a catfish on a hot pier.  Honey, for ten million bucks I could get elected Queen of Idaho.  If I lived in Idaho.  And, admittedly, was a nicer person.
The Texas Democratic Party added  an old white guy on payroll to be in charge of messaging.  He’s been a paid political adviser since 1969.  He hasn’t had a winning message in a decade or two, so I seriously doubt that throwing more money at him is gonna help at all.  And if more money does help, I’m hacked-off about the money we paid him to fail pathetically in the past.
So, there is some basic reassurance that no matter what we do, it couldn’t be worse.  There is no down from where we are.  We have to look up to see bottom.  We keep doing the same damn thing over and over and over and we have a heaping pot of diddle squat to show for it.
So, here’s the idea:  put referendums on the Democratic primary ballot.
Not world shaking, huh, but new and revolutionary for Texas Democrats.
Maybe putting referendums on the primary ballot would (1) get people interested in issues to the polls, and (2) help define what Democrats want for Texas.
For example, how about a referendum saying that we strongly reject the Ryan plan for Medicare vouchers?  Or that privatizing social security is dog dump dumb?
How about a referendum to decriminalize marijuana?  And we could throw in medical marijuana because it’s just the humane thing to do.
We have to let Texans know that the Dream Act is a core value of Texas Democrats.  So, let’s let every Democrat who votes – the grassroots –  send a message about it.
It would make me stand tall to vote for turning minimum wage into a living wage.  I would feel like my voice is being heard.
Now some folks in the State Party are already loudly objecting to this.  One old fella who has been around longer than Noah sarcastically tossed the idea aside by saying, “Oh great.  Republicans will vote in our primary to vote on these referendums and then pick the weakest candidates.
Well, in short, no.
They have their own hotly contested primary next year.  They won’t care about ours.  Plus, what weak candidates are you talking about?  Nick Lampson?  Charlie Stenholm?  Martin Frost? Aaron Pena?   Chet Edwards?  If we get weaker candidates than we are already getting, we might as well turn our party over to Ross Perot and Kinky Freidman because as least they’re entertaining.  It seems to me that letting Ben Barnes pick our candidates by whether or not they support his corporate interests isn’t working all that dandy.  Remember:  this is Barnes’ take on an exciting candidate website.
Another old timer said that we don’t want to tie our candidates to radical ideas that come out of these referendums.
That hurts.  No, seriously, that is painful.
Maybe, just maybe, our candidates lose because all they stand for is election.  What’s wrong with standing for a woman’s right to chose?  What’s wrong for standing for the middle class with fair wages for a fair day’s work?  Should Democrats turn their back on a common sense drug policy or the Dream Act?  Cripes, we’re not asking them to grant sainthood to Saul Alinsky.  We’re asking them to be Democrats.
These referendums are designed to get young folks, older folks, labor, women, African Americans, and Hispanics to the polls.  If that happens, we will get the best candidates. You can bet on it.
The people who are objecting are the same folks who said that a contested primary would tear our party apart.  Bullcorn.  Barack Obama would not the president today without the rigors of a contested primary.  Our party’s finest hour in the past decade was the Clinton / Obama debate in Austin.
The Republicans actually spit at each other during their primaries and they win all over Texas in November.
The Democratic big tent is deflated.  This is one, tiny, maybe even insignificant idea to kick start the air pump.
.
NOTE: If you think this is a good idea, call or email your State Democratic Executive Committee Member.  The list is here.


NOTE -- If you're interested in Texas politics and you're not reading Juanita Jean's blog, then you're missing some of the best writing and most astute political thought in the state. I suggest you add it to your reading list.

Justice !

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Destroying Marriage ?

Another bit of wisdom found at the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Supreme Court Votes Again To Favor The Rich

Since the administration of Ronald Reagan the Republican Party has made a concerted effort to favor the rich and the corporate interests over all others in this country. They have done this through their "trickle-down" economic policy that basically says if we give the rich enough money they'll eventually share some of it with the rest of America. But instead of enriching everyone, this policy has just made the rich substantially richer while actually decreasing the buying power of everyone else.

This has resulted in a vast and ever increasing gulf between the super rich and ordinary Americans. And since money equals political power in the United States, this increasing ability of the rich to own most of the country's wealth and income has significantly moved this country away from democracy and toward plutocracy (rule by the wealthy class). But there is an American institution that has done even more than the Congress to turn this country into a plutocracy -- the Supreme Court.

It all started when the Supreme Court gave corporations the same rights as individual American citizens. Then the court decided that money was the same as speech. This culminated in a decision (in United Citizens vs. FEC) where the court said Congress couldn't limit the amount of money organizations could spend in elections. This gave the corporations and the wealthiest Americans a distinct advantage in elections, especially national elections, where a huge advantage in funding can turn an election.

Now the Supreme Court has gone even further in giving the richest Americans an electoral advantage. Arizona had a law that would give candidates who opted to take public campaign financing a little extra money when they faced a super-rich candidate who was self-financing (or being financed by private organizations like corporations). This was a good law since it would allow candidates who weren't rich to compete on a more equal footing with rich candidates.

But the Supreme Court decided the law wasn't fair to the rich candidates. They decided in a 5 to 4 decision that the rich had a right to outspend their poorer opponents -- a right that couldn't be abridged by the state trying to equalize funding and give poorer candidates an equal electoral chance. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, said the Arizona law was unconstitutional because it "imposes a substantial burden on the speech of privately financed candidates and independent expenditure groups. . .'Leveling the playing field' can sound like a good thing. But in a democracy, campaigning for office is not a game. It is a critically important form of speech."

In other words, free speech is money and the Arizona law infringed on the right of the rich to free speech -- the right to outspend their opponent. This is another shockingly bad Supreme Court decision, which gives the rich and candidates supported by huge corporate donations an unfair advantage in electoral politics. It shoves the country a lot further down the road to plutocracy, or rule by the wealthy class of the country (just like third-world countries).

The four justices who voted for democracy (Kagan, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor) were all appointed by Democratic presidents. The five who voted for plutocracy (Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy) were all appointed by Republican presidents.

This should end any discussion of how important it is for a party to hold the White House when a new justice must be appointed -- it is critical. It should also remove any doubt that the Republicans favor the rich.

Super Slow-Motion

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Religion & The GOP Go Hand In Hand

The good folks at the Gallup organization have decided to play Captain Obvious. A recent poll they completed tells us something that most people in this country already knew -- that the more religious a person is (in christianity), the more likely they will be a Republican. The poll was conducted between January 2008 and May 2011 of 30,000 adults nationwide, and has a margin of error of only 1 point.

Now one might think this would give Republicans a big advantage since most Americans claim to be christians. But that's not necessarily true. It is only the very religious that show more of a propensity to be Republican. Both those who call themselves moderately religious and those who claim to be not religious are more likely to be Democrats. Here are the numbers for all three groups:

VERY RELIGIOUS
Republican...............48%
Independent...............13%
Democrat...............38%

MODERATELY RELIGIOUS
Republican...............37%
Independent...............16%
Democrat...............45%

NON-RELIGIOUS
Republican...............29%
Independent...............16%
Democrat...............54%

My only surprise with this poll is that only 48% of the very religious call themselves Republicans and 54% of the non-religious call themselves Democrats. I would have expected both of those figures to be higher.

Out Of Character

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

Jimmy Carter Opposes The War On Drugs

Jimmy Carter has always been one of our most honest politicians, and he is not afraid to take a position he believes is right -- even if that position might not be a popular one. And his latest position might not be too popular with either party in Washington. He has come out against the War on Drugs.

It's pretty obvious that the War on Drugs has been a miserable failure, even though over a trillion dollars has been wasted on it in the last 40 years. And after all that money was spent, drugs are just as plentiful as they ever were. But it's going to be hard to change the drug policy in this country -- because there are too many people on both sides of the law that are making far too much money by keeping the current policy in place.

Here is what President Carter had to say:


In an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.
The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.
These recommendations are compatible with United States drug policy from three decades ago. In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”
These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.
This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin. One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries.
The commission’s facts and arguments are persuasive. It recommends that governments be encouraged to experiment “with models of legal regulation of drugs ... that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.” For effective examples, they can look to policies that have shown promising results in Europe, Australia and other places.
But they probably won’t turn to the United States for advice. Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about anexplosion in prison populations. At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. There are 743 people in prison for every 100,000 Americans, a higher portion than in any other country and seven times as great as in Europe. Some 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole — more than 3 percent of all American adults!
Some of this increase has been caused by mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” laws. But about three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons are for nonviolent crimes. And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980.
Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that, in 1980, 10 percent of his state’s budget went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and only 7.5 percent to higher education.
Maybe the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help to bring about a reform of America’s drug policies. At least the recommendations of the Global Commission will give some cover to political leaders who wish to do what is right.
A few years ago I worked side by side for four months with a group of prison inmates, who were learning the building trade, to renovate some public buildings in my hometown of Plains, Ga. They were intelligent and dedicated young men, each preparing for a productive life after the completion of his sentence. More than half of them were in prison for drug-related crimes, and would have been better off in college or trade school.
To help such men remain valuable members of society, and to make drug policies more humane and more effective, the American government should support and enact the reforms laid out by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

Calling Apple

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at msnbc.com.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Real Architect Of U.S. Mideast Policy

There's too much truth in this picture from Pundit Kitchen.

Des Moines Register Polls Iowa Republicans

Mitt Romney has said he will not be competing in the Iowa Straw Poll coming up in early August, and may actually skip the Iowa caucuses early in 2012 to concentrate on the New Hampshire primary. He is thinking he would have a better chance to do well in New Hampshire because the Iowa caucuses is better suited to one of the fundamentalist social values candidates.

But a recent poll by the Des Moines Register shows that could be a mistake for Romney. This poll shows if the caucuses were held right now, Romney (and Bachmann) would come out of it with nearly a quarter of the delegates from that state (about 23%). And that's about what he would do in New Hampshire (with a recent poll showing him at 27% there). Here are the current Iowa numbers:

Mitt Romney...............23%
Michele Bachmann...............22%
Herman Cain...............10%
Ron Paul...............7%
Newt Gingrich...............7%
Tim Pawlenty...............6%
Rick Santorum...............4%
Jon Huntsman...............2%

Sarah Palin was not included in the poll because she has not announced as a candidate or done anything yet that would make it seem she was about to announce. The real loser in this poll is Tim Pawlenty. Even though he is from a Midwest state and has campaigned heavily in Iowa (having been there more than 20 times already), he could not get above 6% (even finishing behind the imploded candidacy of Gingrich). He just doesn't seem to be able to get any traction in this campaign, and I'm starting to wonder just why he's still considered a serious candidate by many of the pundits.

Lost And Forgotten

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

An Honest Republican Talks About The Debt

There is no doubt that our national debt is currently very large -- much larger than any of us would like for it to be. The current Republicans in Congress want Americans to believe that the reason for this huge debt is the spending of Democrats (even though the Bush administration took a budget surplus left by his predecessor and turned it into a huge deficit, driving up the debt). The GOP now tells Americans that this debt must be handled only through budget cuts without raising taxes, because the tax burden on the rich is already too high.

This is all nonsense, of course. I think anyone who is honest would have to admit that while some cuts are needed, the government also needs more revenue (and at the very least the Bush tax cuts for the rich need to be eliminated). The following article from the Los Angeles Times backs this up, and amazingly enough, it was written by a Republican -- Mike Lofgren, who retired as a Republican congressional staffer on June 17th. If there were more Republicans this honest (and more Democrats with a backbone), the deficit and the national debt could be controlled without hurting regular Americans. Here is what Lofgren says:

The failure of our leaders to offer realistic budget proposals was a major reason I decided to retire after 28 years in Congress, most of them as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees. My party talks a good game, railing about the immorality of passing debt on to our children. But the same Congressional Budget Office that punctured Obama's budget also concluded that the major policies that swung the budget from a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion in 2001 to the present 10-year deficit of $6.2 trillion were Republican in origin.

Consider the two signature GOP policies of George W. Bush's presidency: the wars and the tax cuts. Including debt service costs, Bush's wars have cost about $1.7 trillion to date. Additionally, as part of being "a nation at war," the Pentagon has spent about $1 trillion more than was expected in the last decade on things other than direct war costs, which has been a bonanza for military contractors but a disaster for the federal budget. And finally, there has been another trillion dollars spent domestically in response to 9/11, including spending on such things as establishing the Homeland Security Department and increasing the budgets for the State Department and the Veterans Administration.

The Bush tax cuts have added another $3 trillion in red ink. While Republican leaders wail that Americans — particularly their rich contributors — are overtaxed, the facts say otherwise: U.S. taxpayers, particularly the wealthiest, pay far less in taxes than they would in most other developed countries. Today, the 400 wealthiest Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 125 million. The GOP insists that those wealthy people use their money to create jobs, and that taxing them more heavily would ultimately hurt the economy. But, if that's so, why was the rate of job creation in the decade after the Bush tax cuts the poorest in any decade since before World War II?

Like a drunk swearing off hooch for the hundredth time, Republicans are now trying to show they are serious about controlling the deficit by saying they won't raise the debt ceiling unless they get through some of their cost-saving projects, like privatizing Medicare. Meanwhile, they want revenue increases "off the table," even though, at 14.8% of GDP, revenues are at their lowest level in 60 years. And the budget passed by the Republican-controlled House further cuts taxes on the wealthy, a fact it glosses over with optimistic growth forecasts.

Raising the debt ceiling isn't, as the GOP tries to say, Congress giving itself permission to continue excessive spending: It's something that's necessary to pay for past congressional decisions on taxes and spending, and those decisions were made primarily when Republicans were in charge.

Democrats should not be let completely off the hook. They rolled over and gave in to the Bush administration far too many times (and even voted to extend the Bush tax cuts after Obama took office). It's time for both parties to wake up and do what's necessary to fix both the economy and the national debt. What can be cut without hurting Americans already hurting from the recession should be cut, and revenues should be raised (especially by taxing the rich and corporations more, because they are currently making record incomes and profits).

Frightening To The GOP

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Looks Like "Sanctuary City" Bill Is Dead

A sanctuary city is a city where the police department has been ordered to not question the immigrant status of people they come into contact with. There are no cities in Texas where the police department has received orders like that from the city government, but nearly all police departments in the state virtually ignore the immigrant status of the people they must deal with.

They do this for two reasons. First, immigration is a federal problem that should be dealt with the same in every state by the federal government. Second, by ignoring immigration status of the people they deal with, the police departments of cities and counties have been able to build a relationship with the immigrant community. This relationship is a big help in dealing with crime, since the immigrant community more readily reports crime and acts as witnesses to help the police (and courts).

But the teabaggers in the Republican Party don't care about this. They just want ever harsher laws to deal with the undocumented immigrants, even if it drives these people back underground and makes it harder for the police to fight crime. That is why Governor Rick Perry included a Sanctuary City Bill in the current special session of the Texas legislature. He was trying to pander to his base of voters. It didn't matter that law enforcement leaders in nearly every Texas city opposed the bill.

But it looks like the bill is dead. Not only that, but there probably isn't time to try and attach it to some other bill. Why has it died? Did the Republicans come to their senses? Not at all. It just seems that they forget an important element of their party -- the business community. While the teabagger base loved the idea of harsher laws against immigrants, the business community didn't. That would make it harder for them to find low wage workers for dangerous or dirty jobs. And some in the business community had started to actively oppose the Sanctuary City Bill.

That meant the Republicans had to choose. Either make the teabaggers happy or keep the business community happy. They chose to go with the business community. After all, the Republicans know who funds their campaigns, and a lot more of that money comes from the business and corporate community than the teabaggers. And they figure the teabaggers hate the Democrats far too much to desert the GOP in an election.

It just goes to show, the real way to a Republican's vote has nothing to do with right or wrong -- it's just money.

Republican Peaceniks ?

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at msnbc.com.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Meaning Of Roe

A bit of truth from the great blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Another State Stands Up For Equality

Although the United States Constitution guarantees equality to all citizens of this country, that has never been a reality (and still isn't). The history of this country has been made up of many small steps toward achieving that goal, and last Friday another of those small steps was taken. On that day, the New York State Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. The bill had already been passed by the State Assembly, and after the Senate approved it on a 33-29 vote the governor signed it into law.

This means that in 30 days New York will join a growing list of states that believe ALL American citizens should have equal rights.

I'm sure this will cause some right-wing fundamentalist heads to explode, but I've yet to hear any of them explain exactly how allowing same-sex couples to marry will harm the marriages of heterosexual couples in any way. The truth is that marriage will be strengthened, not harmed, by insuring all Americans have equal protections in that area. After all, a right that can be denied to one group can be denied to everyone.

I congratulate the politicians of the state of New York on their political courage. In spite of opposition from the haters, they stepped up and did the right thing.

It's Only Wrong When Liberals Do It

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

New Gaza Flotilla Ready To Leave

A little over a year ago a flotilla of ships tried to deliver supplies to the people of Gaza and break the inhuman blockade of Gaza by the nation of Israel. The Israeli blockade has the people of Gaza living in ghetto conditions without adequate food or medical supplies, and cut off from the rest of the world. The ships in the flotilla carried no weapons or supplies that could be converted into weapons, but there were still attacked by Israeli commandos and nine people were killed by those commandos -- including an American citizen.

Although a United Nations investigation found that the Israelis had acted inappropriately by attacking the ships in international waters and had actually committed crimes, no action has been taken against Israel and the illegal Gaza blockade continues.

Now a second flotilla of ships is going to try to enter Gaza and break the blockade. One of the ships in this second flotilla is from the United States and is called the Audacity of Hope (after a book written by President Obama). There will be at least 50 American citizens on the ship, and they will be carrying nothing but letters from America to the citizens of Gaza. There will be no arms of any kind. Here is the letter the activists who will be on the ship wrote to President Obama explaining why they are going and asking him to act to protect Americans on the ship:


Dear Mr. Obama:
We are writing to inform you that 50 unarmed Americans will soon be sailing in a U.S. flagged ship called The Audacity of Hope as part of an international flotilla to Gaza.
Our peaceful demonstration will challenge Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which has effectively imprisoned 1.6 million civilians, almost half of whom are under the age of 16. The blockade has impoverished the people of Gaza, deprived them of needed materials and supplies to rebuild their lives after the Israeli attack of late 2008 – early 2009, impeded those who are ill or infirm from seeking outside medical aid, and prevented students from seeking education outside of Gaza. 45% of the working age population is unemployed.
In addition to 36 passengers, 4 crew, and 10 members of the press, our boat will carry thousands of letters of support and friendship from people throughout the U.S. to the women, children and men of Gaza. There will be no weapons of any sort on board. We will carry no goods of any kind for delivery in Gaza. Our mission is from American civil society to the civil society of Gaza. We do not serve the agenda of any political leadership, government or group. We are engaged solely in non-violent action in support of the Palestinian people and their human rights.
In our country’s great tradition of citizen activists taking nonviolent action to stand up to injustice, we sail in the hope that our voyage will show the people in Gaza that they are not alone, and that it will call attention to the morally and legally indefensible collective punishment of a population of civilians.
Mr. President, you have noted the unsustainability of the Gaza blockade. And your administration has spoken boldly in support of peaceful demonstrations throughout this “Arab Spring.”
As U.S. citizens we expect our country and its leaders to help ensure the Flotilla’s safe passage to Gaza – as our country should support our humanitarian demand that the Gaza blockade be lifted. This should begin by notifying the Israeli government in clear and certain terms that it may not physically interfere with the upcoming Flotilla of which the U.S. boat—The Audacity of Hope — is part. We—authors, builders, firefighters, lawyers, social workers, retirees, Holocaust survivors, former government employees and more—expect no less from our President and your administration.
Our boat will sail from the eastern Mediterranean in the last week of June. We shall be grateful to you for acting promptly and decisively to uphold the rights of civilians to safe passage on the seas.
Sincerely,
The passengers of The Audacity of Hope
Nic Abramson
Hagit Borer
Linda Durham
Ridgely Fuller
Libor Koznar
Richard Lopez
Carol Murry
Gabe Schivone
Len Tsou
Johnny Barber
Regina Carey
Debra Ellis
Megan Horan
Melissa Lane
Ken Mayers
Robert Naiman
Kathy Sheetz
Alice Walker
Medea Benjamin
Gale Courey Toensing
Hedy Epstein
Kathy Kelly
G. Kaleo Larson
Ray McGovern
Henry Norr
Max Suchan
Paki Wieland
Greta Berlin
Erin DeRamus
Steve Fake
Kit Kittredge
Richard Levy
Gail Miller
Ann Petter
Brad Taylor
Ann Wright

Corporate Servant

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

Racist License Plate Proposed For Texas

The Sons of Confederate Veterans have asked the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to approve the above license plate. They believe the plate, bearing the battle flag of the Confederacy, would be appropriate here in the 150th year since the start of the Civil War.

The DMV has taken one vote on the matter and it ended in a tie (with one board member absent). It takes a majority to approve a new plate, so the group was one vote short of getting the plate approved. There will be another vote on this matter -- after Governor Perry appoints a new board member in September (to replace one that died recently).

The group is saying they want to honor Southern heritage. I have to wonder though if this is a heritage that should be honored. This battle flag they want to put on Texas plates was the flag of an enemy of the United States. It was also the flag of an army that fought to defend the institution of slavery. And it has been used since the end of the Civil War as an emblem celebrating racism by many racist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan.

Instead of representing a heritage worthy of honor, this flag is seen as a symbol of hatred by most people these days. And it is a reminder of oppression and segregation to many. Personally, I think it would make just as much sense to put a swastika on a license plate to honor German immigrants in the state -- which would also represent an enemy of this country and oppression of another group (Jews).

Symbols of oppression and bigotry honor no one, and that's what this flag has become. It should never be approved to go on any official state property -- not license plates or anything else.

Corporate Subsidiary

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Religion A Requirement For Elected Office ?

This cartoon found at The Friendly Atheist shows the real people most discriminated against in politics. As the Gallup Poll of June 20th shows, more voters would refuse to vote for an atheist (49%) than would refuse to vote for a mormon (22%), a jew (9%), a catholic (7%), or a baptist (7%). Although it's not constitutional, religion is a requirement for elected office in America.

Americans Don't Trust Banks

The above chart comes from the Gallup organization, and it shows that American's confidence in their banks is at an all-time low. Back in 1979, 60% of Americans had a great deal/quite a lot of confidence in banks. Even as late as 2004 this confidence level was as high as 53%. But all of that was before the giant financial institutions kicked off the recession by playing fast and loose with the regulations (and their investors' money).

Since that time the confidence level has been falling. It fell to 22 % in 2009, and is still very low at 23%. And while only 23% have confidence in banks, at least 36% of Americans have very little or no confidence in banks.

I wish I could say the people are wrong and should put their trust back in banks, but that would be a lie. The banks brought this on themselves, and if they want to get the confidence of Americans back they are going to have to earn it by changing the way they do business. But I'm not going to hold my breath to see that -- their greed is just too strong.

Meanwhile, this distrust of banks seems to be low in all areas of the country:
East...............20%
South...............23%
West...............23%
Midwest...............27%

The Cost

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

Racist Immigration Law Backfires In Georgia

The right-wingers in Georgia thought it would be great to jump on the anti-immigrant bandwagon. They didn't want to be left out as states like Arizona and Alabama got all the publicity for passing racist anti-immigrant laws that appealed to the teabaggers. After all, what could be the downside to opposing immigrants -- especially the brown-skinned ones? To their way of thinking it would get votes and save the states for "real Americans".

But reality and politics don't always mesh very well -- especially right-wing politics (which has little to do with reality). The law was meant to get rid of the state's illegal immigrants. And it worked -- too well. The undocumented workers left the state in droves after the law was passed. The only problem, a problem evidently no one had considered, was that the state needed those workers.

Now the state's agriculture industry is in trouble. There is produce rotting in the fields because there are no workers to harvest them. The state took a survey and found out they were at least 11,000 workers short of the number they need (and it may be much worse than that since many farmers didn't answer the survey). Now the state's right-wing leadership is searching for an answer to the problem they have created -- an answer that wouldn't involve them having to repeal the law and look as stupid as they are.

The governor of the state says, "The agriculture industry is the number one economic engine in Georgia and it is my sincere hope to find viable and law-abiding solutions to the current problem our farmers face." (He neglects to mention that it was him and his cohorts in the legislature that created the problem.)

The governor has suggested that the farm jobs be given to the approximately 2,000 criminal probationers in southwest Georgia who are unemployed. This is a pitiful and unworkable solution. Even if these people would take those farm jobs, which most probably wouldn't, it wouldn't even cover 20% of the workers that are needed.

This is a prime example of right-wingers passing a law based on their own racist attitudes without realizing the real-world consequences of their silly law. The funny part of all this is that their best hope for a solution (without admitting their own idiocy) may lie with a federal judge overturning the law. That way they could bad-mouth the judge -- while breathing a sigh of relief and thanking their lucky stars.

The Republican Election Plan

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

Texas Budget - Smoke & Mirrors (& Lies)

If you listen to Texas Governor Rick Perry you might think the Texas legislature has just done the impossible. Perry says they have balanced the budget, closing a $27 billion budget hole for the next biennium, without raising any taxes and leaving $6 billion untouched in the state's "Rainy Day Fund". If that was true it really would have been an incredible feat -- worthy of a superhero. But it isn't. It's just an illusion performed with smoke and mirrors (although a trick any magician/bookkeeper would be proud of).

The state constitution requires a balanced budget, but the Texas budget for the next biennium is not truly balanced. The legislature just did some bookkeeping tricks and put off paying for billions in some programs. They just shoved some bills off on the next legislature which meets in 2013 (and is now assured of facing the same kind of debt this legislature did -- and refused to deal with).

First, let's look at that "untouched" $6 billion dollars in the Rainy Day Fund. Like it or not, that money is actually as good as spent. You see, the state couldn't figure out how to pay for Medicaid without either raising taxes or using the Rainy Day Fund, so they just left it out of the budget. This gives the illusion of a balanced budget and an unused Rainy Day Fund, but it is just an illusion. The Medicaid must be paid for eventually, and it will pretty much eat up all of that $6 billion in the Rainy Day Fund when it is paid (but this won't have to happen until after the 2012 election, so the GOP can go into that election with voters ignorant of this truth).

This is even admitted by some of the Republicans. Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) said, "The Rainy Day Fund is probably already spent with the Medicaid costs and public education." Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) said, "There's been a lot of misinformation out there that there's $6 billion dollars in the fund that's not been used. It's been used."

And then there are the games the legislature played with education funding. First, they funded education as though there would be no growth in the student population for the next biennium -- a physical impossibility since Texas is one of the fasted growing states in the nation population-wise.

Then, after outright slashing more than $4 billion from education funding, they voted to delay a $2.3 billion payment to the state's schools for the 2012-13 biennium until the first day of 2014. That means the new legislature meeting to find the 2014-15 biennium will have to come up with that money immediately -- before they can start planning the 2014-15 budget. In other words, they just kicked the can another two years down the road.

Just those little bookkeeping tricks with Medicaid and education means the budget is actually about $10 billion out of balance (assuming the growth in Medicaid and student population doesn't push it up even further).

As for not raising taxes, they isn't strictly true either. While the sales tax has remained at the same rate, the state has raised all kinds of "fees". They have also taken money the public was told had been dedicated for certain things (like specialty license plates that was supposed to feed money into cancer research) and put a huge chuck of the money into the general fund -- which is nothing short of legalized theft. And the huge cuts to education will probably force many school districts across the state to raise property taxes.

Governor Perry and his GOP cohorts can brag about the new budget all they want, but the truth is they did not balance the budget, they did use the Rainy Day Fund up, and they raised taxes. They have violated every pledge they made to the voting public.

All The Candidate's Horses

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

Friday, June 24, 2011

Carnival Of Crazy

This frightening bit of truth is from Tom Tomorrow at This Modern World.

GOP Still Losing Ground With Voters

Recent polls have shown that the voters are not really enamored with the Republican Party anymore. It seems that they have pegged their hopes for the next election on the wrong issues. They thought they could strike a chord with voters by making tax cuts and budget cuts their primary issues -- but this is not working out.

It seems the American people are not quite as stupid as the GOP seems to think they are. They are finally figuring out that the tax cuts the Republicans are talking about are not for ordinary Americans -- they are for the corporations and the rich. And the budget cuts are not getting rid of programs that are unnecessary -- but cutting or abolishing good working programs like Medicare and Social Security. And the people don't like what they see the Republicans doing.

The new Bloomberg National Poll (conducted of 1,000 adults between June 17th and June 20th) show movement toward Democrats and away from the Republicans. Here are the top five issues with the public (and as you can see, one far outdistances the others):

Unemployment...............42%
Government spending...............17%
Federal deficit...............13%
Health care...............10%
Afghanistan...............5%

The people know that the most important issue facing America is the massive unemployment -- an issue the Republicans are ignoring. The recession will not truly be over until most Americans are back to work. And most Americans see the corporations outsourcing of jobs as the biggest impediment to job creation (78%) -- something the Republicans in Congress have voted to support.

And then there's this question on the poll. What scares you the most about the upcoming election? Here's what the voters said:

49% said the Republicans getting control of government and damaging or abolishing Medicare.
40% said  the Democrats getting control of government and resuming their spending.

Medicare is still turning out to be a really bad mistake for Republicans (who want to abolish it and throw the elderly to the mercy of private insurance companies). About 57 % in this poll said the Republican plan would be bad for them, and 55% say supporting the privatization of Medicare would make them likely to vote against a presidential candidate.

I hope the Republicans continue to do what they're doing. They are driving more people toward the Democrats every day.