A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Debt Ceiling Increases By Presidents

To hear the right-wing Republicans talk, you would think President Obama is the worst president ever for increasing the national debt ceiling. That's not true at all. Both Reagan and Bush both increased the debt ceiling more and faster than Obama. They did it by cutting revenues (and much of the Obama increase is due to an extension of the Bush tax cuts forced on him by Republicans).

Our Bad Economy Is Getting Worse

The pundits have been trying to tell us that the recession is over -- that it ended more than a year ago. Of course they are using a technical textbook definition of when a recession ends -- three or more quarters of growth in the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But while that may be fine for the academics, the rest of us have to live in the real world and in the real world the recession is not over (and may not be for quite a while).

Wall Street may be celebrating the growth of GDP, but Main Street is experiencing the results of over 14 million people without jobs (approaching 10% again) and nearly 9 million more are underemployed, record foreclosures of family homes and falling home prices, stagnant or falling wages for those lucky enough to have a job, rising food & gas & medical prices, and a growing feeling that our leaders don't care.

Now there is evidence that even the much-touted growth in GDP may be coming to a screeching halt. The GDP for the first quarter of 2011 was originally thought to be about 1.9%, but that has now been downgraded to only 0.4% (which would translate to an annual rate of a very anemic 1.6%). The second quarter GDP has now been released and it is even worse -- only about 0.3%, or an annual rate of 1.2% (and it would not be surprising to see it also downgraded after more study).

If the economy was healthy the growth in GDP should be at least 4% a year. At the current growth rate the economy would be lucky to make 1.5% -- and it seems to be slowing down, so it might be less or even go back into negative growth (like 2008 & 2009).

Now the Republicans would like to convince people that the economy is not growing fast enough because taxes, especially on the rich and the corporations, are too high. This is just an outrageous lie meant to benefit themselves and their rich cronies. Both the tax rates and taxes as a percentage of GDP are at their lowest point since the early 1950's. And the economy grew very well during those "high tax" times between then and now.

The real reason the economy is going back into the dumper (as defined by GDP growth) is because consumers are not buying more products and services. Consumer spending has fallen to a microscopic 0.1% growth (which would translate to less than a half of one percent annualized). Considering the high unemployment (and underemployment), the stagnant wages, and rising prices, this should not come as a surprise to anyone.

And what does Washington want to do? The politicians of both political parties want to cut trillions of dollars in government spending. This is exactly the wrong thing to do. Pulling trillions of dollars of spending out of the economy means there will be less money circulating. That means less goods and services paid for, and therefore less jobs created. Massive spending cuts will just make the economy worse and extend Main Street's recession for a lot longer.

In the 2008 election, I had hoped we were electing leaders that would follow the lead of Franklin Roosevelt who knew jobs were the number one problem and fought hard to create them. But the people we would up electing in 2008 and 2010 seem to think the failed policies of Herbert Hoover make more sense. Buckle your seatbelts folks, the economy is still heading downhill fast and nobody wants to take charge and turn it around.

Common Ground

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Terrorist Is A Terrorist

This poster, found at the blog of the inimitable Juanita Jean, pretty much sums up how many Americans view terrorism. When a muslim commits an act of terrorism it is viewed as part of a muslim conspiracy. But when a christian commits an act of terrorism it is viewed as the act of a loner and nut-job. Personally, I don't see the difference. Neither is acting completely alone with no input from anyone else, but to consider either one as representative of their stated religion is also wrong.

Terrorists are all vicious criminals regardless of their religion (or lack of it) and no one is born to be a terrorist. It is a behavior that is learned from experiences and from listening to others (and those others may not even realize they are helping to create a terrorist). When we demonize those who we disagree with and talk as though they are less than human, then we may well be creating a future terrorist. The Norwegian terrorist was not a lone nut. He learned his beliefs and justified his behavior by reading and listening to others -- just as all terrorists do.

Obama Still Leads All Republican Candidates

There has been a lot of talk in the last few days about Obama's slipping popularity, and it's true that many people are not happy with how he's handling the economy (and many of those are liberals). Some are even saying now that the president would probably lose to a Republican candidate in the next election. Two polls (Rasmussen, Gallup) show President Obama would lose to some mythical unnamed GOP candidate. But two others (Pew, NBC/Wall Street Journal) show the president would win that same contest against an unknown Republican.

This is a silly thing to poll about -- matching a known candidate with a record against an unknown candidate with whatever mythical record a person wants to attach. It's worse than meaningless, it's downright make-believe. While these make-believe polls may make some Republicans feel better, looking at real match-ups with real candidates should bring them back down to earth. That's because the president still has no trouble beating any of the real Republican candidates.

Real Clear Politics does not poll itself, but instead takes the results of the most recent top political polls and averages them together. By doing this, they have in the past, come up with some remarkably accurate numbers. The polls they use are:

Fox News
ABC News/Washington Post
NBC News/ Wall Street Journal
Public Policy Polling
Rasmussen Reports
Quinnipiac
McClatchy/Marist
Democracy Corps
Reuters/Ipsos
Gallup
CNN/Opinion Research

The average of these polls shows the president still leads all the Republicans. Romney comes the closest to the president, but none of them beat him. Here is how the president stacks up against real GOP candidates:

President Obama...............46.9%
Mitt Romney...............42.6%
4.3% lead

President Obama...............50%
Michele Bachmann...............37.6%
12.4% lead

President Obama...............49.3%
Rick Perry...............37.7%
11.6% lead

President Obama...............49%
Tim Pawlenty...............36.7%
12.3% lead

President Obama...............55%
Sarah Palin...............35%
20% lead

President Obama...............49.7%
Herman Cain...............35%
14.7% lead

President Obama...............52.5%
Newt Gingrich...............37.8%
14.7% lead

President Obama...............49.8%
Ron Paul...............40%
9.8% lead

President Obama...............50%
Jon Huntsman...............36%
14% lead

Rick Santorum was not included in this look at the candidates, but I doubt he would have done as good as the other candidates listed. Santorum's campaign might as well be a stealth campaign, because no one's paying any attention to him at all.

Some Republicans might take heart at Romney being less than five points behind the president (while no one else is even close), but so far Romney has not shown he can win the nomination. His only hope is that the teabagger vote is split between several other candidates, and even then he'd better get to the convention with a majority of delegates (because it is highly doubtful he could win in a convention dominated by teabaggers).

Frankly, the president is looking pretty good. His only real problem right now is how many progressives are going to desert him over his right-wing economic policies. Note that he doesn't get over 50% in any of the match-ups. I think this is due to the desertion of progressives (who voted for him in 2008). He might still win with a plurality even without those progressive votes, but it sure wouldn't hurt him to rebuild some of those bridges.

Modern Gulliver

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

Texas AG Covers Up Execution Of Innocent

The person pictured above is Cameron Todd Willingham. Back in 1991 his family was killed in a house fire. The police department and fire marshal in Navarro County decided that the fire was due to arson. Willingham was convicted of murder and sent to death row. His attorneys tried to get the governor to delay his execution so the evidence of arson could be more thoroughly investigated by experts. Perry refused and Willingham was executed in 2004.

Since then, numerous highly respected national fire and arson experts have examined the evidence. The conclusion they have reached is that Willingham was convicted on worthless "junk" science and false conclusions. In fact, most of these experts don't believe the fire was arson at all -- but an accidental fire. In other words, Texas executed an innocent man.

A couple of years ago the Texas Forensics Commission decided to review the conviction and hear from the best experts available. There was nothing they could do for Willingham, but maybe they could examine the evidence and prevent this from happening again. But Rick Perry was having none of it. He wasn't about to let an official state agency find that Texas had executed an innocent person and he refused to stop it. That sort of thing could hurt his political career.

So about two weeks before the Commission was to meet and investigate the case, Perry replaced the head of the Commission. The new chairman delayed the hearing on the case and requested a ruling from the Attorney General (Greg Abbott) that would stop the investigation. When the new chairman appointed by Perry was not confirmed by the legislature, Dr. Peerwani (Tarrant County Medical Examiner) was appointed to replace him.

But Dr. Peerwani is a truth-seeker (as his job demands), so the investigation into the spurious conviction was again put on the Commission's schedule. And once again it got close to the truth coming out, and then Austin intervened. This time it was Attorney General Abbott who made a strange ruling. He said the law would permit the Commission to re-examine the case, but they could not re-examine the evidence. What good is re-examining the case going to do if the evidence can't be looked at. It was a misuse and misunderstanding of the evidence that resulted in the conviction!

This is nothing more than the Attorney General covering his own butt (and that of the governor). Both of these Republicans have a keen hankering to go a lot higher in elective politics (and Perry wants to even run for President). Neither of them want it on their record officially that they let an innocent man be executed. Even the most blood-thirsty voter doesn't want innocent people executed.

But this is Texas. We kill people. And if we kill the wrong people we can count on our state Republican leaders to cover it up. That's just the way it is.

When Will We Ever Learn ?

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

Friday, July 29, 2011

An Uncomfortable Fact For The GOP

Republicans (especially teabaggers) would like to have America believe President Obama has raised their taxes. It is an outrageous lie. But the truth is that taxes need to be raised. The country doesn't have a spending problem (except for military spending, which is way out of control), it has a revenue problem -- a problem that could be fixed by making the rich and the corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Chart is from Pundit Kitchen.

Is Romney Really The Favorite ?

There are those in the Republican establishment that are terrified that one of the teabagger candidates might get the GOP presidential nomination and hurt candidates all the way down the ballot. These are the people that are trying to convince anyone who will listen that Mitt Romney, who is boring but probably not toxic down-ballot, is the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination. But is this really true?

A new Gallup Poll (taken between July 20th and July 24th of 1,088 randomly selected Republican voters, with a 4 point margin of error) shows that this may not be true at all. There is at least one area of the country where Romney is not in the lead, and two others where his lead is small. It is only in the West where he is clearly the favorite. Here are how the candidates fare in the different regions of the country:

EAST
Romney..........19%
Giuliani..........18%
Perry..........13%
Palin..........13%
Bachmann..........12%

SOUTH
Perry..........22%
Palin..........13%
Romney..........12%
Bachmann..........10%
Paul..........9%

MIDWEST
Romney..........17%
Bachmann..........11%
Perry..........10%
Palin..........10%
Giuliani..........9%

WEST
Romney..........24%
Bachmann..........12%
Palin..........11%
Giuliani..........11%
Paul..........10%
Perry..........10%

Those don't look like the numbers of a prohibitive favorite to me. It looks like this is still a wide-open race and could easily be won by a teabagger candidate like Bachmann, Perry, or Palin -- especially if no candidate gets a majority before the GOP convention.

Ignorance

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Time For A "Clean Vote" On The Debt Ceiling

It looks like the orange-colored Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, has once again proven that he really has no control over his fellow House Republicans. Yesterday was supposed to be the day that he passed his own plan to cut the deficit and raise the debt ceiling. Although the plan could not have passed the Senate without substantial alteration, it would have given Boehner a small bit of political capital in the debt ceiling fight and allow him to save face.

But to get it passed he needed to get most of his Republican cohorts to vote for the ridiculous bill, and that proved to be beyond his control. The teabaggers in the House once again revolted and refused to vote for Boehner's bill, and there were enough of them to insure the bill could not pass -- especially since the Democrats weren't going to help pass it. Finally, Boehner just put off a vote on the bill.

The bill could still be voted on, maybe as early as today. But that assumes that Boehner would be able to corral enough teabagger votes to get it passed, and that is going to be very difficult. Now if the Boehner bill would just die, and with it the ridiculous Reid bill in the Senate, maybe Congress could get down to doing what they should have done in the first place -- just raise the debt ceiling without any amendments or cuts attached to it.

The Congressional Black Caucus has proposed just that. All of their members, except Republican Allen West, have said they support having a clean vote on raising the debt ceiling -- a vote that would do nothing but raise the debt ceiling. And they are not alone. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she also supports the idea. And yesterday the Progressive Caucus in the House threw their support behing the idea of a "clean debt ceiling vote".

The "clean vote" idea seems to be growing. Now if the Senate Democrats would just get on board with it maybe something could be accomplished. This is the position the Democrats should have supported from the very beginning. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid were wrong to negotiate (give in) to the Republicans on the debt ceiling.

Now that time is running out, I believe Wall Street will pressure enough Republicans to vote for a clean debt ceiling bill to avoid a default because the Republican position is clearly untenable. And if such a bill passes the House, surely Senate Democrats would pass it also.

The time for politics and posturing is over. It's time to raise the debt ceiling.

Kicking The "Can't" Down The Road

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Perry Clarifies Statement - Still Opposes Equality

A few days ago Rick Perry surprised a lot of people by inferring that he is in favor of equality -- as long as that equality was granted on a state-by-state basis. I was one of those surprised, since I had always considered America's worst governor to be a died-in-the-wool homophobe.

Recently New York passed a law granting gays/lesbians the same rights that other Americans have -- the right to get married and reap all the benefits that comes along with a state-sanctioned marriage. And amazingly, Rick Perry made a statement that sounded like he was in favor of same-sex weddings (as long as they didn't happen in Texas).

Perry said, "Our friends in New York, six weeks ago, passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. Well you know what, that's New York and that's their business and that's fine with me." I thought that was an abnormally broad-minded statement, especially for a right-wing fundamentalist nut-job like Perry. Most other right-wing fundies were screaming as though it actually affected them in some way (although they still can't explain how).

Those same fundies made it clear to Perry that they were very unhappy with his statement. How dare he be in favor of equality, even in another state! They made it clear that if he wanted to keep his teabagger credentials he would oppose equality everywhere -- even in New York. And Perry heard them loud and clear.

Yesterday he issued a clarification saying, "I probably needed to add a few words after that 'it's fine with me'. Obviously, gay marriage [equality] is not fine with me."

So I guess hell (if such a thing exists) is not going to freeze over this week. Perry is still a homophobe who despises the thought of all Americans enjoying equal rights.

Off The Cliff

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Debt - Bush Vs. Obama

I found this at the blog The Immoral Minority. He had titled it A Graph That Every Teabagger Needs To See. I think that shows just how big an optimist he is though. I suspect you could have teabaggers look at this for hours and it really wouldn't matter much. They've made up their minds and they're not going to let facts interfere with what they've chosen to believe.

Bernie Tells The Truth About The D.C. Nonsense

As you know there is a debate and "negotiations" going on in Washington right now about the debt ceiling. The Republican right-wingers have decided to use this as an opportunity to push for huge cuts in government programs they have never liked (even though they have voted dozens of times for debt ceiling increases for GOP presidents).

They are holding the U.S. economy hostage to institute their own failed economic policies -- demanding new tax cuts for the rich and trillions in decreased government spending for everyone else. It doesn't seem to matter to them that they are putting the American and world economies in danger and also endangering the country's bond rating.

And president Obama and the Democrats haven't been much better. Both President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Reid have introduced plans to try and please the Republicans -- plans that would cut trillions of dollars in government spending (which is exactly the wrong thing to do in the middle of a jobless crises). It has become obvious that neither party is prepared to act to create jobs and help ordinary Americans, but both are willing to play politics with American lives.

In the middle of all this ridiculous nonsense there is one clear voice calling out for reason and economic justice -- Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent senator from Vermont. Here is Bernie's latest letter to progressives about the situation in Washington:

The debate over raising the debt ceiling and deficit reduction is coming down to the wire and I wanted to take a moment to update you on what is going on in Washington.

Despite the fact that Democrats control the White House and the Senate, it is right-wing Republicans who are calling the shots and setting the agenda.  Unless we fight back vigorously, Congress and President Obama will give the American people exactly what they don’t want.

Poll after poll shows that the American people want Congress to focus on job creation and that they want deficit reduction to be done in a way which is fair and which requires shared sacrifice.  They do not want the budget to be balanced on the backs of those people who are already hurting through massive cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, child care, nutrition, affordable housing, fuel assistance and environmental protection.  They want millionaires and billionaires to start paying their fair share in taxes, and they want the removal of massive loopholes which enable many large corporations to avoid taxes.  They also want a significant reduction in military spending.

Republican leaders talk about three or four trillion dollars in spending cuts over the next ten years, with no new taxes on the wealthy and large corporations and unless we turn the tide NOW, they will get pretty much what they want. 

Please understand what they mean.  While no specific proposals have been adopted as of this date, here are some of the ideas which have been discussed.

SOCIAL SECURITY:  Revising the formula which determines cost of living increases (COLAs) so that in ten years, a 75-year-old will receive $560 a year less in benefits and in 20 years an 85-year-old will receive $1,000 a year less.  Further, another provision which would require that Social Security always be solvent for 75 years would likely mean even larger cuts in benefits.  All of this would take place despite the fact that Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit and has a $2.6 trillion surplus today.  This new formula would also cut back on the pensions of veterans.

MEDICARE:  Raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67 and/or cutting benefits by $250 billion over ten years.  Now you tell me, how are 66 year old Americans with modest means going to afford health insurance with a private company – especially if they have medical problems?  It’s not going to happen.  They are going to suffer.  Some will unnecessarily die.

MEDICAID:  At a time when 50 million Americans already have no health insurance, Republicans and some Democrats are proposing to cut hundreds of billions from Medicaid which means that many men, women and children will lose the health insurance they have.  According to a Harvard University study, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they don’t get to a doctor when they should.  How many more will die if Medicaid is slashed?  How many children will be thrown off of the Children’s Health Insurance Program?

EDUCATION:  Today, childcare and college education are already unaffordable for millions of working families and Head Start has long waiting lists.  If Republicans and some Democrats get their way, Pell grants and other educational programs will be deeply slashed.  Affordable childcare and a college education will no longer be possible for many families in our country.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND INFRASTRUCTURE:  Forget about the government having the ability to protect the people from corporations who want to evade regulations within the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.  With massive cuts in the EPA, the resources will not be there.  Forget about this country having the investment capability to transform our energy system to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.  Forget about creating millions of jobs rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and improving our public transportation system.

At a time of growing hunger in America there will be massive cuts to nutrition programs.  We have a crisis in homelessness, and there will be cuts to affordable housing.  While we need more funds for research and development in disease prevention and other areas, fewer funds will be available.  And on and on it goes.  

Yes, the time is late, but we can still make a huge difference.  

As, perhaps, the most progressive member of the Senate, I will continue to stand for a deficit reduction plan which is fair, which requires the wealthy and large corporations to begin paying their fair share of taxes and contribute at least 50 percent toward any plan which is adopted.  I will also demand that Congress take a hard look at excessive military spending.

This nightmare can be avoided, if, as progressives, we continue to stand together for social justice and common decency.  Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely, 

Bernie
Senator Bernie Sanders

Socialists !!

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

The Smell Of Desperation

As you probably know by now, the supporters of Sarah Palin (and probably Palin herself) were hoping that the new movie about Palin that recently hit the theaters would salvage her flagging popularity and propel her to the Republican presidential nomination. But things aren't working out that way.

The movie had a below average performance in its first weekend of release, and then went right into the dumper on the second weekend (with less than a $2000 per screen average). It turns out that even most Republicans have no desire to see this terrible movie.

And the smell of desperation is beginning to emanate from "Team Sarah". Just look at the recent missive they have sent out to anyone that was ever on a Palin mailing list:

Team,

The movie, The Undefeated, faces an onslaught of the same kind of “invalidation” that Sarah Palin faces from the media establishment.

For those who have been out promoting the movie, and trying to get people in the cities where it is showing to BUY TICKETS NOW, this has been quite a journey.

Movies, ALL movies, have their ups and downs, but you can bet that when The Undefeated has its “ups” the media will ignore that and when it has its “downs” the media will over-hype it, as if “it’s all over because of a bad day!”

Everyone knows that "success" is never a straight line!

The fight to make sure people KNOW the truth about how the ESTABLISHMENT treats ordinary Americans who rise to leadership is only just beginning!

Just because you don't live in a city where the movie is currently playing does not mean you CANNOT HELP! Email teamsarahhq@gmail.com to see how you can help as a virtual ambassador!

Whoever thinks this is going to be easy, here's the truth. IT CANNOT BE EASY!

The stakes are too high!

The opposition is DESPERATE to discredit all that we stand up for!

Hard, however, is not IMPOSSIBLE.

What kind of country do you want to leave your children, one where the values of a Tina Fey rule or one where the values of Sarah Palin are strong?

WHAT WE DO NOW will potentially decide how that question is answered!

How much can you do, how far out of your comfort zone can you go, for your children's future?

Here's what is needed: we need to get people to come to these theaters and we need to beat back the liberal narrative. WE CAN DO this because we MUST do it!

Here’s the WHOLE point of all this- We need EVERYONE in EACH CITY to focus on getting 25 people to come to the movie TOMORROW and THURSDAY!

TICKETS are available here,

IF you live in any of the cities where this movie is showing, or within 100 miles, then WE NEED YOU! If you DON'T live near these cities, we STILL need you!

EMAIL teamsarahhq@gmail.com and we will send you our own information pack!

The movie IS coming to DVD, but even if millions of the DVD’s are sold, the media will STILL try to use whatever WE DO at the box office as a measure of success. COUNT ON IT!

We need to ask people we know in those cities to COME!

Don’t ask, tell! What I mean is, call your buddy up and say, “you’re going to this movie, OK? It’s a done deal, I need you to go.’ Don’t be shy. Imagine your children’s future depends on it.

WE NEED-

CITY HOSTS who live near the cities where the movie is being launched. More cities are being added, so just email and we will put you on a list when the movie comes your way....

VIRTUAL AMBASSADORS- people who can help with social media and making phone calls. You don’t have to LIVE in a city to RECRUIT for that city!

WANT TO LEARN MORE?

EMAIL teamsarahhq@gmail.com and we will send you our own information pack!

Thanks to all who are helping now!


If that doesn't smell like desperation then I don't know what does. It looks like some of these people are starting to realize that America is done with their teabagger queen.

Birds Of A Feather. . .

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in The Scranton Times.

Alcoholic Drinks Preferred By Americans

Since 1992 the folks over at the Gallup Poll have been surveying American adults on their preferences among alcoholic drinks. Traditionally, beer is the big winner. In 1992, 47% of respondents listed beer as their favorite alcoholic drink, with wine coming in second at 27% and liquor finishing third at 21%.

But beer has been trending downward since that time, and wine has been trending upward (with liquor pretty much staying the same in the low 20 percent range). And the latest Gallup Poll survey (Taken between July 7th and July 10th of 1,016 randomly chosen adults nationwide) shows that wine and beer are now in a dead heat for first place. About 36% now say beer is their preferred drink while 35% list wine as their favorite. Around 23% favor liquor.

The interesting part is the demographic breakdown. Beer remains a heavy favorite among men, among people making less than $30,000 a year, and among those with a high school diploma or less. Beer is also a prohibitive favorite in the Midwest. In other parts of the country and among other groups wine has made some serious inroads. Here is the demographic breakdown:

MALE
beer..........48%
wine..........20%
liquor..........26%

FEMALE
beer..........22%
wine..........51%
liquor..........21%

18 TO 34
beer..........39%
wine..........25%
liquor..........30%

35 TO 54
beer..........41%
wine..........31%
liquor..........23%

55 AND OVER
beer..........27%
wine..........47%
liquor..........19%

WHITE
beer..........38%
wine..........36%
liquor..........20%

NONWHITE
beer..........27%
wine..........33%
liquor..........33%

$30,000 AND UNDER
beer..........51%
wine..........16%
liquor..........25%

$30,001 TO $74,999
beer..........33%
wine..........38%
liquor..........24%

$75,000 AND OVER
beer..........30%
wine..........43%
liquor..........21%

HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA OR LESS
beer..........44%
wine..........30%
liquor..........21%

SOME COLLEGE
beer..........33%
wine..........32%
liquor..........29%

COLLEGE GRADUATE
beer..........29%
wine..........42%
liquor..........21%

EAST
beer..........37%
wine..........40%
liquor..........17%

MIDWEST
beer..........46%
wine..........31%
liquor..........17%

SOUTH
beer..........29%
wine..........34%
liquor..........28%

WEST
beer..........31%
wine..........35%
liquor..........29%

The Same Old Argument

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Creationism

From the blog Politicususa.

Recession Has Hit Minorities Harder Than Whites

The Pew Research Center has done a very interesting survey. They compared government data from 2005 with newly released government data from 2009 (after the recession hit), and they found that when the average income of different groups are compared, the recession has hit minority groups much harder than it has hit whites as a whole.

Even before the recession whites were average a much larger net worth than other groups (except for Asians). Here's how the average wealth stood back in 2005:

Asians...............$168,103
Whites...............$134,992
Hispanics...............$18,359
African-Americans...............$12, 124

But the recession has radically changed those averages. Here is what they now look like:

Whites...............$113,149 (a drop of 16%)
Asians...............$78,066 (a drop of 54%)
Hispanics...............$6,325 (a drop of 66%)
African-Americans...............$5,677 (a drop of 53%)

This does not mean that the recession has not hurt whites at all. Those who have lost jobs have been severely hurt. What it really means is that there are enough whites in the wealthy class (who are doing very well) to keep the average up while poor and working class whites are sliding downhill like the other groups. It also means there weren't enough rich people among the other groups to keep their average up.

If it occurs to you that this means there is not only a huge disparity between the rich and the working class, but there is still a huge disparity between the races -- then you are absolutely right. That racial disparity existed before the recession hit, but the recession has made it far worse.

This is just more evidence that America is not only in a "post-racial" period in our history, but we are not even close to anything like that. If race no longer mattered in America then all of the groups should have suffered the same, including whites. That did not happen. Minorities have suffered more -- even Asians. This is also born out by the fact that whites have a smaller unemployment rate than minorities (although the rate for everyone is too high).

This might make some on the right believe that most of the poor are minorities. That has never been true and still isn't. The majority of the poor are white, just as it has always been. The minority groups are smaller, and as I said, don't have large numbers among the wealthy.

My point in this post is that there are two drivers of wealth inequality in this country. One is class and the other is race (or ethnicity), and both are contributing to the huge gap among the rich and poor in this country -- a gap that not only was the primary cause of the recession, but keeps everyone but the rich in recession.

This recession will not truly be over until there is massive job creation and a more equal wealth distribution -- and it must extend to all races and ethnicities. Government cuts are not the answer. That will only cause the economy to shrink and extend the recession (and the hurt). We need massive spending to create jobs, and we need to make sure that minorities get a good share of those jobs. And we need a significant tax raise for the rich and corporations to help pay for it. That's the only real solution.

Back Again

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

It's Time For Texas To Stop The Pollution

Texas has a long and not-so-distinguished history of putting tons of pollution into the atsmosphere -- much more than any other state (and all but six countries). This has been going on for many years, especially since the Republicans took over the state government. Much of this pollution comes from coal-fired energy plants, and these plants (along with chemical plants and refineries) have been getting a free-pass form the state government in the form of "flexible permits" (which allow them to violate pollution standards).

During the Bush administration the White House made sure the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did nothing about the Texas pollution. But that is no longer the case. The EPA has taken over the issuance of permits for plants to stop the abuse of the so-called flexible permits. Now the EPA has gone further and demanded that Texas polluters (and those in 27 other states) clean up their act, because their pollution is crossing state borders and affecting the health and safety of people in other states.

This has upset Governor Perry and the Republican state leadership, who have been protecting the polluters for many years (and receiving campaign donations from those same polluters). They have not only objected to the new EPA rules and actions, but they have gone to court to stop them. These Republican leaders long ago sided with the corporate polluters, regardless of the environmental and health consequences of that pollution to the people of this country.

Now it has gotten so bad that even a conservative-oriented newspaper like the Dallas Morning News feels compelled to speak out. The paper has recently written an editorial (7/22/11) on the Texas pollution problem (and the lack of action by state leaders), and I find that I agree with the sentiments they express. Here is a part of that excellent editorial:


Texas should stop pretending EPA isn't serious

Texas' electricity grid operator issued a daunting warning when it said a tough Environmental Protection Agency rule on coal-plant emissions could spark power shortages and blackouts across the state.

Indeed, after a hard day at work, no one wants to return to a dark, sweltering house, or pay outrageously high electricity bills because power is in short supply. But it doesn't have to be that way. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas' warning creates a false choice that misses an important point, that Texas has plenty of alternatives - which it should get busy pursuing instead of pretending the EPA isn't serious about clean-air standards.

The false choice pits clean air against reliable power. Texas must have both, and can achieve both through a continued push to develop alternative energy, embrace forward-looking conservation policies, and reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. The result would be fewer health problems from bad air, including premature deaths, and a stronger economic development tool. Plus, Texans would have the electricity needed to keep pace with a burgeoning population and economic growth.

The sad fact is that North Texas remains in violation of federal ozone standards, and after years of denial, Texas is among the least prepared to comply with the new rules. Fault for this rests squarely with state officials and coal-fired power plant operators who have tried repeatedly to delay the inevitable.

ERCOT, which is responsible for making sure the lights stay on statewide, says the Jan. 1 deadline for compliance with the EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions is "unreasonable." To avoid emission violations after the deadline, coal-fired power plant operators would limit or shut down generation to levels that might cause serious power outages statewide, ERCOT says.

That's short-sighted. Owners of coal-fired power plants and ERCOT have had plenty of advance warning about the new federal rules. Complaining about the timetable gives operators another excuse to put off what they must do. Moreover, Texas isn't being singled out. The EPA's rule applies to coal plants in 27 states, which, like Texas, also will have to make major emissions cuts. In Texas, for example, the rule would require an annual reduction of sulfur-dioxide emissions to 244,000 tons, or by 47 percent from 2010 levels.

In reality, the problem resides with a just a few plants, whose compliance would make a difference in air quality. In a recent Viewpoints column in this newspaper, Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, noted that about 42 percent of emissions of soot-forming sulfur dioxide covered by the rule in Texas are produced at just three plants, which collectively account for only 13 percent of the state's electricity generation. McCarthy says that most operators will not face a heavy burden under this rule but that those not in compliance simply must step up and install the scrubbers and other technology to 
sharply reduce emissions as others have done.

We agree. It's time for Texas to stop complaining and start complying.

The Tea(bagger) Party

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Parker in Florida Today.

More Hypocrisy From Michele Bachmann

We're already well aware that Michele Bachmann doesn't think the rules she wants to institute for everyone else should apply to her (or her family). She doesn't believe in government payments to private citizens -- calls it socialism. But somehow it's not socialism when it applies to her, such as the thousands of dollars in government payments to the family farm (which she is a part-owner of).

And she doesn't seem to mind the government Payments for patients going to her husband's counseling clinic. She's opposed to Medicaid and Medicare for everyone else, but somehow it's OK for those thousands of dollars in payments to go into her husband's pockets. But those government payments for her family farm and her husband's clinic pale in comparison to this new revelation of government largesse she has received.

Bachmann has been a fierce critic of the government housing loan programs called Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac (which guarantee about 90% of the housing loans in this country). She has spoken against both programs, and along with her fellow Republicans has even tried to abolish the programs. But her opposition to these "socialist" housing programs didn't stop her from taking full advantage of the program to purchase a fancy golf-course home with her husband. Here's how the Washington Post puts it:


Just a few weeks before Bachmann called for dismantling the programs during a House Financial Services Committee hearing, she and her husband signed for a $417,000 home loan to help finance their move to a 5,200-square-foot golf course home, public records show. Experts who examined the loan documents for The Washington Post say they are confident that the loan was backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. [...]
The experts said the Bachmanns bought a more expensive home using typical strategies during a time of easier credit. With their existing home still on the market, they assumed liability on the same day for the $417,000 mortgage and a $249,999 secured line of credit backed by the residence, records show.
The $417,000 mortgage was the cap of what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would loan at the time in her region.


So she can hit up the government for a $417,000 loan, but she doesn't want any other Americans to have the same opportunity to get much smaller loans to become home owners (which is supposedly part of the American Dream). It's the same old Republican double standard, which says what's OK for a Republican to do is not OK for anyone else to do ( like it's OK for Vitter to be a pervert but not Weiner, and it's OK to raise the debt ceiling for Reagan or Bush repeatedly but not for Obama).

Hypocrisy must be one of those "values" that Bachmann and other Republicans proudly proclaim they believe.

Religious Extremism

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Subsidies Not Needed

The managers and investors in BP Corp. are very disappointed. The disappointment springs from the fact that their profit (and yes, I said profit -- not gross sales) for the second quarter of 2011 is a paltry $5.6 billion ($11 billion in profit for the first half of 2011). I guess this is why they have spent $2 million lobbying Congress this year and made $40,000 in political donations (93% of which went to Republicans). Obviously they can't be expected to pay taxes on such a tiny profit.

The five biggest oil companies (BP, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips) have made over $900 billion in PROFIT the last decade -- almost a trillion dollars! And these are the corporations that the Republicans think need to keep their tax subsidies and even get further tax cuts. Frankly, I think even the idea of giving them further cuts and protecting their subsidies is obscene. How much money are they going to have to make before we expect them to pay taxes?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lower Taxes Don't Create Jobs

One of the tenets of the Republicans' failed "trickle-down" economic policy is that lowering the taxes for the richest Americans will create jobs for everyone else. Of course, as the above chart shows, this is an outrageous lie. All lowering taxes for the rich does is fatten the bank accounts of the rich. And I'm sure it's just a coincidence (NOT!) that most members of Congress, especially Republicans, just happen to be rich. This chart was found at the blog What Would Jack Do?.

Institutional Racism Is Alive And Well

I thought it was a tradition in American schools to honor a student's hard work. And one of the ways schools do that is to make the senior student with the highest grade average the valedictorian and the student with the second highest average the salutatorian for the graduating class. At least that's the way it's done at most schools. But there's a high school in Arkansas that does things a little differently.

Kymberly Wimberly, 18, got only one "B" in during her high school years -- all her other grades were an "A". That gave her the best grade average of any graduating senior at McGehee High School this year. It should have meant that she would be named the class valedictorian. Instead, she was named a "co-valedictorian" and had to share the honor with a student who's average was lower than hers.

You might wonder why Miss Wimberly was denied her rightful spot as the only valedictorian since no other student could equal her grade average. Well, it turns out that Wimberly is an African-American student and McGehee High School is a majority-white school. The school superintendent and "other school personnel" decided giving the honor to Wimberly alone (even though there's no doubt she earned it) might cause a "big mess". So they elevated the second-place student, who was white, to co-valedictorian and gave the salutatorian honor to another white student (even though that student, also white, had only the third-highest grade average).

Making matters even worse, when Wimberly's mother tried to speak to the school board about this obvious injustice she was denied the opportunity. The superintendent said she had filled out the wrong paperwork and therefore was not allowed to address the board.This whole affair just stinks of racism.

The superintendent and "other school personnel" are racists for making the girl share an honor that she won outright. And the school board members were racists for allowing the injustice to happen, and then compounding it by refusing to her her mother's complaint. And I have to wonder about the citizens of McGehee (located in the southeast part of the state). Would it really have caused a "big mess"?

This whole rancid mess should put to rest any idea that since the election of an African-American president this country has entered a "post-racial" period. It has not. Racism is alive and well in the United States (and actually seems to be getting worse since the last presidential election).

The girl's mother has filed suit in federal court. She is justifiably asking for punitive damages and demanding the school declare her daughter the only valedictorian. As far as I'm concerned the school district may as well just get out their checkbook. There's no way they can justify their racist actions.

Just Plain Dumb

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

How To Balance The Budget

The Republicans have been trying to convince Americans that our country is in trouble because the deficit and the debt are out of control. They want us to believe that the only way to fix this "serious" problem is to slash social programs for poor and out-of-work Americans, severely cut or abolish Medicare and Social Security for the elderly, and cut (or eliminate) public education -- while cutting taxes for the corporations and the rich people (both of which are currently making record profits).

It is an understatement to say the GOP program is insane. It would just throw our economy into a deeper and longer-lasting recession, and would be the final step toward turning our ailing democracy into a full-fledged plutocracy (government by and for the wealthy class).

My fellow blogger over at What Would Jack Do? has a much better solution to balancing the national budget (which I agree with 100%). It's a rational solution that would save this country and its economy instead of destroying it (as the GOP seems bent on doing). Here is his solution (you can click on it to get a larger version):

A Lot Of BS

Political Cartoon is by Bruce Plante in Tulsa World.

Obama Is Top Fund-Raiser In Texas

President Obama may not be able to get much done in Washington politically, but he is still the king of fund-raising politicians. Through June 30th, the president had already raised more than $45.4 million nationwide for his 2012 campaign. No one else is even close, and in fact, that is more money raised than all of the Republican candidates put together. And since he won't have to spend much in a primary because he is unopposed, it is unlikely that the eventual Republican nominee will be able to match him in funds (although unlimited corporate spending for the GOP will probably make up for it).

None of that is a real surprise at this point. What is surprising is that President Obama is out-raising all other candidates in the state of Texas. That's right. In this reddest of states, that went Republican in 2008 and is very likely to do so again in 2012, the president has raised more campaign dollars than any one of his possible Republican opponents. Here's how the campaign dollars stack up, both nationally and in Texas:

PRESIDENT OBAMA
Nation...............$45.4 million
Texas................$1.4 million

MITT ROMNEY
Nation...............$18.3 million
Texas...............$1.38 million

TIM PAWLENTY
Nation...............$4.5 million
Texas...............$422,620

RON PAUL
Nation...............$4.5 million
Texas...............$286,960

MICHELE BACHMANN
Nation...............$4.3 million
Texas...............$70,775

HERMAN CAIN
Nation...............$2.6 million
Texas...............$139,740

NEWT GINGRICH
Nation...............$2.1 million
Texas...............$96,900

RICK SANTORUM
Nation...............$582,098
Texas...............$40,925

GARY JOHNSON
Nation...............$180,237
Texas...............$15,250

Monday, July 25, 2011

And Then . . .

Found at the blog Mario Piperni dot Com.

Who Holds The American National Debt ?

With the debate over the debt ceiling that has been going on lately, it brings up a very good question -- just who is it that has lent all that money to our government? Who is going to be hurt if the United States doesn't raise the debt ceiling and has to default on paying back those loans?

One answer is clear -- all Americans are going to be hurt because the debt rating of the country will be lowered, and this will make it much harder for the nation to borrow (no matter how critical that need to borrow is). It will be harder to get the money and it will cost a lot more to pay it back.

Most Americans seem to think that most of our debt is owned by foreigners -- especially the Chinese and Japanese. This idea has become so pervasive in our society that people even jokes about the country being repossessed by our Asian "overlords". The problem is that this is not even remotely true.

China only owns about 8% of the American debt, and Japan owns about another 6.4%. In fact the total part of the American debt owned by foreigners (including the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Brazil Taiwan, Caribbean bankers, and the oil-exporting countries) is about 31.47% (or $4.5 trillion). This is enough to cause some worldwide economic problems if we default on that debt, but it is nowhere near the majority of the debt owed by America.

The truth is that the huge majority of the debt-holders are the American people themselves (both by individuals and by government entities). The people that would be hurt the most by a government default on the debt are the Americans themselves, because that is who holds most of the debt -- about 68.53% (or $9.8 trillion).

According to Business Insider, here are the holders of United States government debt:


  • Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
  • Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
  • Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
  • Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
  • Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
  • Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
  • Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
  • State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
  • Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
  • United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
  • Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
  • State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
  • Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
  • U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
  • China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
  • The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
  • Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

Change

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

Palin Movie Tanks In Its Second Weekend

The new movie about Sarah Palin was supposed to jump-start her failing celebrity status and possibly propel her into the presidential campaign as a leading contender. At least that was the hope of her most rabid supporters (who have had very little to cheer about recently). But it looks like those hopes were misplaced.

As I reported several days ago, the first weekend the Palin movie, The Undefeated, was in the theaters was not really a resounding success. The movie was only released to 10 screens in the parts of the country where Palin's popularity is supposed to be the strongest. Hollywood considers a movie to be very mediocre if it averages about $10,000 per screen, and the Palin movie couldn't even do that. It averaged somewhere between $6,000 and $7,500 per screen -- even after all the internet hype Palin supporters tried to drum up.

But the figures after the second weekend make the first weekend look great. The movie showing was extended to 14 screens, but it didn't help. The movie only grossed $24,000 in its second weekend, for a per screen average of only $1,714 dollars. ( a drop of 63.2%). Ouch! That has to hurt. And those had to have been some pretty deserted theaters. It would take a dedicated right-wing Palin-supporter of a theater owner to keep losing money on this turkey day after day, when even a bad movie would bring in more money.

It looks like the makers of this bad movie know it's not going to last long in the theaters. The second weekend gross has made that pretty clear. They are rushing this turkey into other types of markets (which normally takes most movies many months to reach). ARC Entertainment has announced The Undefeated will be available for Video-on-Demand and Pay-Per-View by September 1st. Then it will be available on DVD by October 4th (including a "special edition" only available at Walmart).

I doubt this will help very much. I'm sure the die-hard Palin fans will buy some DVD's, but if the general public is not willing to go see this movie in the theater it is unlikely they'll want to shell out money to see it on television or buy the DVD. Frankly, I think Palin's 15 minutes of fame is about over. The public has peeked behind the curtain, and they don't like what they saw there.

Belief In Personal Freedom ?

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

An Oddity Of Empire

I took this excellent rant from the great blog of Badtux the Snarky Penguin. It should serve as a warning for America, which is perched on the edge of repeating the mistakes made by a former empire.


It is one of the oddities of empire that as entrenched elites become wealthier and the common people become more impoverished due to the concentration of wealth, the elites suddenly decide that they don't have to pay taxes. Various Chinese dynasties fell because of this, as did the Roman empire -- Rome fell because Rome's elites decided they no longer wished to pay taxes for the support of the legions that protected them from barbarians, and the legions responded, when not paid, by marching on Rome and installing one of themselves as Emperor for a while until the elites could figure out how to get him out of there. Or by deserting under the "no pay, no play" rule. It got to the point where they assassinated their last competent general for making the mistake of coming to Rome *without* his legion to ask for his pay. The end result was that Rome went from being a city of over 1,000,000 in 300 AD to being maybe 40,000 people huddled in a heavily-armed camp in the ruins by 500 AD. Where did everybody else go? The smarter ones moved to the country and learned how to be subsistence farmers. The rest died, including most of those elites who thought they were immune to reality by virtue of their wealth and birth. Didn't quite work that way. Duh.
So it goes, as our own elites go down that same damned path to mass extinction. Taking the rest of us with them, alas, the way it usually goes.

Passing The Blame

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2011 Tour de France Final Results


The 2011 Tour de France is over, and it was a great one. Mark Cavendish, Great Britain (HTC-Highroad) won the stage 21 sprint and clenched the green jersey. Here are the top three finishers in all categories:

TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Garmin-Cervelo (United States)
2. Leopard-Trek (Luxembourg)
3. AG2R La Mondiale (France)

INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIP (YELLOW JERSEY)
1. Cadel Evans, Australia (BMC Racing)
2. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Leopard-Trek)
3. Frank Schleck, Luxembourg (Leopard-Trek)

SPRINT CHAMPIONSHIP (GREEN JERSEY)
1. Mark Cavendish, Great Britain (HTC-Highroad)
2. Jose Joaquin Rojas, Spain (Movistar)
3. Philippe Gilbert, Belgium (Omega-Lotto)

CLIMBERS CHAMPIONSHIP (POLKA DOT JERSEY)
1. Samuel Sanchez, Spain (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
2. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Leopard-Trek)
3. Jelle Vanendert, Belgium (Omega-Lotto)

BEST YOUNG RIDER (WHITE JERSEY)
1. Pierre Rolland, France (Europcar)
2. Rein Taaramae, Estonia (Cofidis)
3. Jerome Coppel, France (Saur-Sojasun)

It turned out to be a very good Tour for the United States. Consider the following:

* A U.S. team won the prestigious team Championship (Garmin-Cervelo).
* The yellow jersey winner rode for an American team (BMC Racing).
* The green jersey winner rode for an American team (HTC-Highroad).
* American Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervelo), riding in his first Tour de France, finished the race in 9th place overall. That means that when the 198 best cyclists in the world got together for this race, he beat 189 of them.