A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, September 30, 2011

Old Enough To Have Been There

I found this picture at the blog of Yellowdog Granny, and I liked it a lot. That's because I'm old enough to correct a few history professors myself. Today is my birthday, and according to the federal government I'm officially an old fart now -- with Medicare and everything. Oh well, I guess it's better than the only available alternative.

Priorities

Found at the website BuzzFeed.

Marked Lack Of Enthusiasm Among Democrats

When the Democratic Party voters and workers are enthused about an election they usually win that election. In the 2008 election about 80% of Democrats were very enthusiastic about the election and the party won big at the polls that year (of course, it didn't hurt that the nation was suffering after eight years of Bush/Cheney). In the 2010 election, disappointed by the failure of elected Democrats to stand up to the Republicans and initiate real change, Democratic enthusiasm dropped to around 60% (below that of Republicans) and the election was a disaster for the party.

This begs the question, are the Democrats getting enthused about the 2012 election? Will it be a repeat of 2008 or 2010? The Gallup Poll has tried to answer that question with a new survey where they attempt to take the pulse of current Democratic enthusiasm. Gallup's survey, taken between September 15th and 18th, questioned 1,004 adults nationwide with a margin of error of 4 points (including 454 Democrats, where the margin of error was 6 points). And what they found should worry the president and the Democratic National Committee. It should worry them a lot.

The poll shows that less than half of the Democrats, about 45%, are more enthusiastic than normal about the upcoming elections in 2012. About 44% say they are less enthusiastic than normal. That is a marked drop in enthusiasm even from the 2010 elections, and it is larger than can be accounted for by the margin of error. Meanwhile, the Republican enthusiasm remains at a steady 58%. The president and the congressional Democrats have an "enthusiasm gap" problem, and it is time they started acting to close that gap.

How can they do that? Well, it won't be done with rallies or speeches full of promises. They heard all of that in 2008 when they delivered a huge victory to the party. But the time since then has been filled with little but disappointment. The elected Democrats have just not delivered on the change they promised. Some of you are going to point out that much of that change was blocked by Republican obstructionist tactics (and blue dog timidity). And that is true.

But it is not so much the failure, as the way it happened. There can be honor in fighting the good fight, even when you lose that fight. But there is no honor in giving up and knuckling under. And far too often in the last few years, Democrats have seen their elected officials act as if they have no backbone. Too many of them gave up and gave in instead of going down fighting. And when you lay down a history of that kind of action, as many Democratic officials have done, it makes it very hard for voters to get enthused about your re-election.

This is especially true of the progressives who form the biggest part of the Democratic Party's base. After seeing issue after issue that they supported go down the tubes with little fight from the White House and congressional Democrats, they have become disenchanted. Most progressives know they are not going to get everything they want -- that is just how politics operates. But they do want to see their elected officials fight for those issues. If they are not willing to fight to the end for those progressive issues, why should they expect progressives to fight to get them re-elected?

The president and congressional Democrats have been taking progressives for granted for quite a while now. They figure the progressives have no other place to go and will wind up voting for Democrats in 2012, whether they want to or not. And they are probably right about that. Most progressives will vote in 2012, and most of them will vote for Democrats (even if they have to hold their noses to do so). But if that's all they do, then the Democrats will lose.

The issue is not whether Democrats will vote, but whether they will spend countless hours working for the party and it's candidates. Unenthused party members do not harass their families, friends, and neighbors to get them to the polls. Unenthused members do not give countless rides to the polls on election day. Unenthused people do not spend the weeks leading up to the election knocking on doors and making phone calls. Unenthused people don't open their wallets to support candidates. And unless a whole lot of people do these things the party cannot win.

There is still time to light the fire of enthusiasm in Democrats, but it's going to take guts and a fighting spirit from the elected Democrats. The president has proposed a good jobs bill and a fairly good deficit reduction package. They are worth fighting for. The Republicans will most likely kill both measures in the House and put pressure of Democrats to agree to some kind of Republican package instead. The Democrats must fight for what they want, and if it is blocked by the Republicans then that fight must be taken all the way to the next election. Giving in again is simply not going to be acceptable.

People will vote for fighters, and more important, people will fight to re-elect fighters. It's up to elected Democrats now. Do they have any fight in them, or not?  

The Four Horsemen

Political Cartoon is by Gary Markstein at Copley News Service.

Not All Of The Rich Are Greedy Bastards - Part 2

Last month I wrote about Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in America. He had written a column saying the rich had been coddled long enough and it was time they joined all other American in "shared sacrifice" -- including paying higher taxes. Well, he's not the only rich person who believes that. Hip-Hop mogul Russell Williams, who has somewhere north of $300 million dollars himself, shares Buffett's sentiments. Here is what Simmons has to say:


Today I will join in solidarity the peaceful protesters at Liberty Plaza in New York City who are "Occupying Wall Street." 
For far too long in this country we have allowed the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer. 
I believe in a nation where everyone gets a fair share of the fruits of our labor and where everyone pays a fair share for what they receive. 
I am asking the United States government to raise my taxes and not allow the Republicans to use this economic recession as an opportunity to strip the basic programs that protect our most vulnerable.
Lastly, I am demanding that the big banks and corporations stop unduly influencing our government to make decisions that are not in the best interest of the majority of our citizens. 
We need to re-examine our whole American political system that allows corporations and their lobbyists to rule over the people.

The GOP's Plan For FEMA

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Ugly Truth

Sometimes the truth is ugly -- even about those we would like to help. Picture was found at Newshoggers.

The Media Won't Report The Real Story

You've probably heard about the demonstrations being held in the financial district of New York City by now. The protests started as an attempt for ordinary citizens to occupy Wall Street, and that occupation is still going on days later. But I'll bet that all you've heard about this "occupation" is the ongoing interplay between the protesters and the police -- especially the mistreatment and arrests of the demonstrators. That seems to be the only part of the story that interests the mainstream media.

But that is an old story -- older even than this country. The powers that be have always used police/troops to try and suppress demonstrations against them -- and if those police/troops needed to use violence to quell the dissent, then so be it. Police violence was used against the demonstrators in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention, and troops fired on demonstrators at Kent State killing four of them. Violence by police against the civil rights demonstrators was common throughout the South for many years. And it was the Army that broke up the "Hooverville" camps and demonstrations during the Great Depression.

And this is not just a Twentieth Century phenomenon. When workers were trying to unionize in the late 19th Century, it was the police and troops that helped company "goons" bust up strikes and club the union organizers. And in the 18th Century, before this country was even born, troops fired on a crowd of demonstrators in Boston (now commonly referred to as the "Boston Massacre"). Those are just a few examples -- there are hundreds, if not thousands more. It has always been commonplace for authorities to be misused by those in power to suppress dissent and prevent change. It's an old, old story.

I'm not saying it's not an important story, because it is. Police violence and the misuse of police to suppress dissent is wrong, and it should be exposed and stopped whenever it occurs. But covering only that, as the mainstream media seems to be doing, is missing the bigger story -- the much more important story. And that is the story of why those demonstrators are there in the first place -- the truth that they are trying to expose to the American public.

This used to be a country where the real power rested in the hands of the citizens. They elected officials to represent them and make the rules for all the entities in this society. It was a system that worked fairly well, and when one segment got a little too much power those officials made regulations to bring things back into balance. This has always been a country that worked best when no one organization had too much power -- whether that be corporations, unions, churches, special interest groups, political organizations, social organizations, etc..

But currently things have gotten seriously out of balance, and it is destroying our economy and hurting many millions of Americans. Starting about 1980, the Republicans began removing regulations and instituting other practices that favored one segment of American society above all others -- the giant corporations. It was called "trickle-down" economics, and the theory was that if the corporations (controlled by the richest 1% in America) were given enough money they would eventually share it with the rest of us. Since that time these corporations have fared very well, amassing vast quantities of both money and power -- at the expense of workers, the middle class, and small businesses. And nothing was shared -- and nothing trickled down.

When George Bush was elected in 2000, this process was greatly accelerated. They didn't just funnel more money and power to the corporations -- they actually let corporate executives write all of the laws relating to the economy and economic regulations (and to no one's surprise they removed many regulations, allowing Wall Street and the other giant corporations to go on a rampage of greed). This led to the greatest disparity of wealth and income between the richest Americans and the rest of America since before the Great Depression -- and just like it did back then, it led directly to the most serious economic disaster since the Great Depression (our current Great Recession).

In 2008, the people voted for change. They wanted to restore the balance that had been destroyed. But that didn't happen. First, the Republicans have blocked any change to the status quo. They like the plutocracy they have created. But the failure of the Democrats has been even sadder. Note that every economic advisor the president has appointed or asked advice from is from either Wall Street or a giant corporation. The same people that were running the economy in the last administration are still running it. The names may have changed, but they are still coming from the Wall Street/ corporate power base.

It seems like no one in Washington from either party thinks anyone outside of Wall Street or a giant corporation could possibly understand economics. That is wrong, and it is just resulting in a deepening of corporate power and an institutionalization of plutocratic government. We used to have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That is no longer true. We now have a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. And it is killing this country.

That is the story the Wall Street demonstrators are trying to tell. And that is the story the mainstream media is ignoring. It is the biggest story going, and it is the biggest problem facing this country. But it is also a problem that the corporate-owned mainstream media is not going to cover. They won't cover it because they are owned and controlled by those same corporations, and they are part of the problem.

So enjoy the stories about police and demonstrator clashes, because that's all you're going to get. The real story is too hot to handle.

Downgrade

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Stahler in The Columbus Dispatch.

Public Trusts Obama More Than GOP Leaders On The Deficit

The Republicans have been whining about the national deficit for a while now. Their solution is to cut all government programs (including Social Security and Medicare) that help poor, disadvantaged, and even ordinary Americans, while giving more tax breaks to the corporations and the ultra-rich. But a couple of weeks ago the President came up with his own deficit reduction plan -- a much fairer plan that asks the rich and the corporations to share in the sacrifices needed to bring the deficit under control.

So far, the Republicans have nothing good to say about the president's plan and they are likely to kill it in the House of Representatives. The real question is what do the people think. Do they trust the congressional Republicans or the president to do a better job with the deficit? The Pew Research Center has tried to answer that question. In a survey (taken between September 22nd and 25th of a national sample of 1,000 adults -- with a 4 point margin of error) they asked the public about this.

As the chart above shows, the president wins hands down. While 52% of the public trusts him to handle the deficit, only 35% trust the Republican leadership in Congress to do the right thing. That's a 17 point gap -- far more than the margin of error. And while the Democratic congressional leaders are not trusted as much as the president (probably because of all the times they have knuckled under to GOP demands), they have a 43% approval rating -- 8 points better than the Republicans.

It looks like the public is growing tired of the old Republican mantra of make everybody pay but the rich. Here is what the public thinks about some different proposals to lower the deficit:

RAISE INCOME TAXES ON THOSE MAKING OVER $250,000.
Approve...............66%
Disapprove...............31%

REDUCE MILITARY COMMITMENTS OVERSEAS.
Approve...............65%
Disapprove...............30%

LIMIT TAX DEDUCTIONS FOR LARGE CORPORATIONS.
Approve...............62%
Disapprove...............34%

REDUCE FUNDING TO HELP LOWER INCOME AMERICANS.
Approve...............40%
Disapprove...............54%

REDUCE FUNDING FOR ROADS AND EDUCATION.
Approve...............23%
Disapprove...............73%

Right now the president has the public on his side, and he needs to use the "bully pulpit" to drive the issue home. Even if the Republicans kill his program in the House, he should continue to push for it and not let them off the hook. Make them pay fir it in the next election. And do the same with his proposed jobs program. The public is on his side with that also.

GOP Hope

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

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Cost Of Stupid

The folks at Pundit Kitchen remind us that nothing is more expensive than stupid. And for those who didn't learn this from the administration of Bush/Cheney (who took a budget surplus and turned it into a giant budget deficit), here's a new group who would love to drive the point home. To quote Texas comedian Ron White, "You can't fix stupid". Fortunately, we can vote against it.

Wall Street: Where Profits = Layoffs

The Republicans in Congress have been preaching incessantly that the giant corporations would just love to hire new workers, but can't afford to do so because the the abnormally high income taxes they must pay. They say that all we need to do to open the floodgates to massive job creation is to lower taxes on these corporations (and on all of the rich). In fact, some of the congressional Republicans (probably most of them) don't think corporations should have to pay any taxes at all.

The truth is that the share of tax revenues paid by corporations is at the lowest level since the 1950s, and corporations have more cash on hand (trillions of dollars) than the U.S. government does. Even in the midst of this recession that is still hurting countless millions of Americans, corporations (and rich people) are doing very well. But let's put that aside and just look at one American corporation doing pretty well -- Goldman Sachs. Are they turning massive profits and lower taxes into new jobs?

During the second quarter of 2011, Goldman Sachs recorded a profit of $1.05 billion (a $1.85 payout of each of their millions of shares of stock). Understand, that is not sales or income -- that is pure profit, after all expenses have been accounted for. And it is for only one quarter of this year, meaning the yearly profits would fall in the range of $4 billion or more. When compared to their quarterly profit of this same period in 2010, this year's profit looks even better. The 2010 second quarter profit was a mere $453 million -- less than half of this year's quarterly profit.

And to reward their executives for this very nice profit, the company has set aside $8.44 billion which will be paid out in bonuses at the end of the year (and taken out of expenses, not profits). Now that sounds like a company in pretty good shape, doesn't it? That sounds like a company that could help the economy by hiring a few workers. Well, that's not the way corporate America works.

The company was disappointed in their $1.85 a share payout. They wanted the payout to be more in the range of $2.27 a share. Now this could have been easily accomplished. All they had to do was take a couple of billion out of the executive bonus fund and declare it as profit. After all, should the executive bonuses be more than double the company profits? That would have put the share payout above the desired range.

But that would have made sense, and common sense isn't nearly as important to a corporate executive as plain old-fashioned greed. So instead of dipping into the executive bonus fund they have come up with another way to increase profits. They are going to fire at least 1,000 workers (and make other "noncompensation" cuts like buying smaller drinking cups and getting rid of potted plants). Why cut executive bonuses when you can just send another 1,000 workers to the unemployment office?

Now this is just one anecdotal bit of evidence about one company, but it does highlight a very big flaw in the Republican argument (which says companies will hire more workers when they have more money). While the Republican "trickle down" theory may sound good in the abstract, it doesn't take into account one important factor -- GREED. Why would a corporation hire a worker (which they don't think they need) when they can just put that extra money in the bank, or pay out bigger executive bonuses?

That's the way corporate America works. They are not in business to help their community or their country, but only to maximize profits. Depending on corporate America to save this country by creating jobs through lower taxes will just further increase the country's deficit and debt while fattening the bank accounts of the corporations (and the rich).

There are ways to create new jobs in America, and President Obama listed some of those in his jobs bill. But giving rich people and corporations more money is not one of them.

Economic News

Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller in The Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Gallup's Newest Positive Intensity Scores

These are Gallup's new numbers on the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The left side of the graph shows the name recognition of the candidate. And the bottom of the chart shows the Positive Intensity Score (PIS = the number of people who approve of the candidate minus the number who disapprove -- asked only of those who know the candidate). It is Gallup's contention that the strongest candidates will be high in both areas -- which means the strongest candidates would be in the upper right-hand corner of the chart.

As you can see, no one has achieved "perfect candidate" status, but there are three candidates doing fairly well. Rick Perry does well both in name recognition (79%) and PIS (22). Mitt Romney has high recognition (84%), but a smaller PIS (14) -- which is still above the average PIS of 12. Herman Cain has the highest PIS (26), but is only known by 51% of Republican voters. To become a top-tier candidate, Cain must radically increase his recognition while maintaining his large PIS. That will be difficult since he is virtually ignored by the mainstream media.

The most interesting part of these new numbers are those of Michele Bachmann. She has a high recognition (83%) but a very low PIS (8). She has plummeted from a PIS of 24 in late June to her current score of 8. It looks like the more people get to know her, the less they like what they see. Gingrich and Paul score high in name recognition, but have a below average PIS. Santorum and Huntsman must improve in both areas.

Drinking From The Same Pitcher

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

Palin Tries To Bully Book Publisher

If there's anything that Sarah Palin doesn't want the public to know about, it's what a despicable person she really is. So she really was upset when the book by Joe McGinniss was released by Crown Publishing. The book, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, lays out the truth about what Palin is like, warts and all.

Evidently Palin thought she could bully the publishers of McGinniss's book, and get it pulled off the shelves. She turned her attorney, John Tiemessen, loose to threaten them with a lawsuit. Tiemessen sent Crown Publishing Group a letter threatening to sue them if they continued selling the book, saying the book contained "lies and rumors" and "amounted to the wishful fantasies of disturbed individuals".

But Crown Publishing, a division of publishing giant Random House, doesn't scare too easily. Crown spokesman Stuart Applebaum said the reporting in the book is "solid, reliable, and well-substantiated", and the company will stand behind McGinniss and his book.

The crazy thing about all of this is that the book wasn't flying off the shelves. It hasn't cracked the non-fiction top twenty on the New York Times best-seller list, and when I checked the Amazon top 100 earlier today it was number 78 on that list. But now that Palin has tried to bully the publisher I expect sales will pick up. People will want to know what's in the book that has her so upset.  And that may already be starting to happen. When I re-checked the Amazon list a few minutes ago, the book had moved up to number 76.

Palin is not going to sue because: 1) The publisher would love that since book sales would go through the roof. 2) The publishers have their ducks all in a row and the author can back up his claims. 3) Palin is a bully, and bullies never take on people willing to fight back.

If she's smart (which is very doubtful), she'll just shut up about the book. All she's doing right now is selling more of the books. I can't believe she doesn't realize that.

Poor Performance

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

Unemployment By States

The top map shows which states have Democratic or Republican governors, while the bottom map shows the unemployment figures for each state in August of 2011. Note that almost all of the states with the highest unemployment figures have Republican governors (with the notable exception being California, who just replaced a Republican governor). How can this be? Aren't they supposed to understand the wonderful magic of "trickle-down" economic theory? Here are the states with the worst unemployment figures:

Nevada...............13.4%
California...............12.1%
Michigan...............11.2%
South Carolina...............11.1%
Florida...............10.7%
Rhode Island...............10.6%
North Carolina...............10.4%
Mississippi...............10.3%
Georgia...............10.2%
Alabama...............9.9%
Illinois...............9.9%

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

From A Founding Father

This Founding Father certainly wasn't trying to create a "christian" nation, and it's no surprise that he put freedom of religion in the very first of his 10 amendments. Found at the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Public's Faith In Government At Record Low

The U.S. Congress has proven in the last few days just how dysfunctional it really is. Forget the hard problems -- they can't even solve the easy ones. Anyone with even part of a functioning brain would think that helping the American victims of natural disasters would be something even a divided Congress could agree on, especially considering that this kind of spending is very popular with Americans of nearly all political persuasions. But this Congress can't even agree on that.

The Republican House approved slightly more than $3 billion dollars for FEMA. But the Democratic Senate says that is not enough money for the disaster agency to adequately do its job, and they approved nearly $7 billion for FEMA. And since the House combined the FEMA money with a continuing resolution to fund the federal government until November 18th, failure to agree on FEMA funds could easily shut the federal government down at the end of this week (since without the continuing resolution the government will have no authorized funds after September 30th).

When compared to the money the U.S. government will spend this year (over $600 billion on the military alone), the the $3 billion in FEMA funds that Congress is arguing about is really pretty small. It would be no wonder if the American people just got disgusted at the whole government -- and that is what has happened.

In the latest Gallup Poll (taken between September 8th and 11th of a nationwide random sample of 1,017 adults -- with a margin of error of 4 points), a record number of Americans say they are dissatisfied with the way this nation is governed. And this was before the argument over FEMA happened. Imagine what the American public thinks now! Here is what that poll shows:

PERCENTAGE OF PEOPLE DISSATISFIED WITH THE WAY THIS NATION IS GOVERNED.
General public...............81%
Democrats...............65%
Republicans...............92%

PERCENTAGE WHO HAVE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
Legislative branch...............31%
Executive branch...............47%
Judicial branch...............63%

While people may not be exactly thrilled by the executive branch (with only 47% trust and confidence), they are truly getting disgusted with the partisan ideological bickering of Congress which keeps them from making progress on any of the country's problems -- even the easy ones. While 31% say they have some trust and confidence in the legislative branch, only 15% approve the way Congress is handling its job.

Regardless of what happens in the presidential race, if Congress' job performance doesn't improve there could be a lot of those members of Congress looking for a new job next year -- which could be a form of poetic justice since they don't seem to care about the employment problems of ordinary Americans enough to do something about it (especially the Republicans).

Help ?

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Wall Street Bankers Are Doing Very Well

As most of us still remember, it was the giant Wall Street bankers that triggered the current recession by playing fast and loose with creditor and investor monies after the Republicans removed many of the rules regulating their behavior. Now nearly 17 million Americans are unemployed and another 8.7 million are working part-time because they can't find a full-time job. And it doesn't look like things will improve for ordinary Americans anytime soon.

But it didn't take the banks long to bounce back, with Congress (both parties) and the Bush administration bailing them out to the tune of $700 billion. Now they are back making record profits and giving enormous salaries and bonuses to their executives. This is exemplified by the CEO salaries of the 10 largest of these banks. Here is what they make:

Jamie Dimon -- J.P. Morgan Chase
Cash..........$6.6 million
Stocks/options..........$14.2 million
Total..........$20.8 million

Robert P. Kelly -- Bank of New York Mellon
Cash..........$7 million
Stocks/options..........$12.4 million
Total..........$19.4 million

John Stumpf -- Wells Fargo
Cash..........$6.6 million
Stocks/options..........$11.0 million
Total..........$17.6 million

Ken Chenault -- American Express
Cash..........$5 million
Stocks/options..........$11.2 million
Total..........$16.2 million

Richard K. Davis -- U.S. Bancorp
Cash..........$4.1 million
Stocks/options...........$12.0 million
Total..........$16.1 million

James Gorman -- Morgan Stanley
Cash..........$4.7 million
Stocks/options..........$10.2 million
Total..........$14.9 million

Richard D. Fairbank -- Capital One
Cash..........$100,637
Stocks/options..........$14.8 million
Total..........$14.9 million

Lloyd Blankfein -- Goldman Sachs
Cash..........$6.5 million
Stocks/options..........$7.7 million
Total..........$14.2 million

C. Robert Henrikson -- MetLife
Cash..........$5.8 million
Stocks/options..........$8 million
Total...........$13.8 million

James E. Rohr -- PNC Financial
Cash..........$3.9 million
Stocks/options..........$7.7 million
Total..........$11.6 million

Note that a great deal of their compensation is in stocks and options. This has the effect of getting them to make sure the short-term price of company stock remains high (rather than considering the long-term effects of their actions on either the company or the economy). And the money received from stocks and options is taxed at a rate of only 15% (a smaller rate than that paid by many in the shrinking middle class).

Do these people really need another tax cut? Instead, why don't we ask them to pay the same tax rate on ALL of their income that other Americans pay.

Dosages

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in The Scranton Times.

Iranians Use Gitmo To Justify Mistreatment

As you've probably heard by now, the Iranian government has released a couple of American hikers who wandered into their country -- supposedly by accident. They were accused of being spies and imprisoned for more than two years under less than desirable conditions. The prison conditions were poor and they were forced to spend long periods of time in isolation. And when they complained about their treatment, the guards justified the treatment by because of the way the U.S. treats prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (and other CIA prisons around the world). The hikers said:

In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would immediately remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay. They would remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world, and the conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S. We do not believe that such human rights violations on the part of our government justify what has been done to us. Not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments, including the government of Iran, to act in kind.

This could have been (and was) predicted many years ago when the Bush/Cheney administration set up Gitmo and authorized the mistreatment (and even torture) of prisoners. And sadly, while the Obama administration says they have stopped the torture, the prison at Guantanamo continues to operate. This is what happens when this country decides it doesn't have to abide by international law -- it frees other countries to do the same to American citizens.

Isn't it time to close Guantanamo? Isn't it time to climb back up to the moral high ground? Torture and mistreatment of prisoners gains us nothing in security, but it has hurt our reputation around the world.

Incompetence Revisited

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Monday, September 26, 2011

They're NOT People

I found this posted by one of my friends on Facebook, and I like the sentiment. Until Texas actually executes a corporation (like it will happily do to a person -- guilty or innocent), I will never believe a corporation should have the same rights as a real person. Corporations are not people and will never be, and if we need a new constitutional amendment to establish that then we should get on with passing it.

Mitt Romney Takes Michigan Straw Poll As Expected

Rick Perry experienced his second defeat of the weekend. After losing big to Herman Cain in the Florida straw poll, he lost even bigger to Mitt Romney in the Michigan straw poll. Romney was expected to win the Michigan poll -- after all, Mitt grew up in Michigan and his father was that state's governor back in the 1960s (the picture above is of a young Mitt with his father in 1964).

The only question was how big would Romney win in Michigan. Perry had been campaigning in the state and hoped to use the teabagger vote to cut into Romney's margin. If Perry could have made the vote fairly close it would have been viewed as a win for him. But that did not happen. Romney got over 50% of the vote, while Perry finished much closer to the rest of the candidates than he did to Romney. Here is how the Michigan straw poll came out (with 681 votes cast):

Mitt Romney...............50.1%
Rick Perry...............16.8%
Herman Cain...............8.5%
Ron Paul...............7.7%
Michele Bachmann...............4.0%
Newt Gingrich...............3.5%
Rick Santorum...............3.4%
John Huntsman...............2.0%
Thad McCotter...............1.0%

Thad McCotter is also from Michigan and got a few votes in spite of the fact that he officially dropped out of the presidential race a few days ago. And once again Michele Bachmann was down with the "also rans" with only 4% of the vote. At least she finished ahead of Jon Huntsman this time. But if she doesn't start improving her standing again pretty soon, she might as well just drop out.

With Bachmann virtually out of the race (along with Huntsman, Gingrich, and Santorum), Perry falling in popularity, Paul unable to get into even low double digits, Cain being the wrong color in a racist party, and Romney unable to score with the teabagger base, maybe there is room for another candidate or two in this race. And rumor has it that Christie is once again re-considering whether to run, and Palin is still teasing the teabaggers with a "maybe" campaign.

I don't ever remember a Republican presidential race that was this interesting -- and there's still a long way to go.

Same Old Story (And Tactics)

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

It's Just A (GOP) Beauty Contest


"It doesn't much matter which one of the Republicans gets nominated because they're all the same. They are all embracing and bear-hugging the Tea Party. Moving to the right - they can't move to the right far enough.
They all favor privatizing Social Security, which would pull the safety net out from under our seniors, and favor ending Medicare as we know it... They all are wrong on immigration reform when it comes to Hispanics in the states."

Those are the words of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida -- the chair of the Democratic National Committee. And she's absolutely right. And she could have gone on and on -- they're all against equal rights for gays/lesbians, opposed to the EPA, opposed to federal education standards, opposed to regulations on businesses and financial institutions, opposed to limiting carbon emissions, in favor of lower (or no) taxes for the rich and corporations, against funding real job creation, opposed to extending unemployment benefits, against first amendment separation of church and state, in favor of outsourcing American jobs, against the minimum wage, opposed to unions, against medical insurance coverage for all Americans, in favor of continuing the endless wars, opposed to cutting the military budget, and generally opposed to any federal program that helps the poor and disadvantaged.

With the possible exception of Jon Huntsman (and he has as much of a chance at winning the nomination as I do of becoming the Queen of England), they all agree on the issues. They have all, including Mitt Romney, moved so far to the right to please the teabaggers that now control the Republican Party that their views are now indistinguishable. And this has made their numerous "debates" little more than a farce. They could save a lot of debate time by letting only one of them answer a question, and then entering "me too" as the response for all of the others.

That means the "debates" are little more than a beauty contest. Maybe it would be better to change the format of these gatherings to something resembling a real beauty pageant like Miss America. They could have them all walk the runway in formal wear, then have a talent segment (if any of them have an actual talent), then have them walk the runway in swim wear, and finally ask them an inane question like "What's your favorite tree?". This would probably enlighten the GOP voters more than the current format -- since it is now down to a beauty and personality contest.

And considering this, maybe Sarah Palin should get into the race for the nomination. After all, she has some experience in this kind of contest. Wasn't she runner-up in the Miss Alaska contest back in the Dark Ages?

Black Eye

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

Murder Is Murder - Isn't It ?

The above picture asks a very good question. Even though I have spent most of my working life in some form of law enforcement, I have never been comfortable with the idea of the death penalty -- the concept that we as a society should put ourselves down to the level of those horrible beings willing to take a human life. And the recent executions of people in Texas, Georgia, and Alabama have brought this issue back to mind again. I have been thinking of doing another post on the death penalty, but Mike over at If I Were King has beat me to it -- and he lays it out very well in only a few words. Here's what he had to say:


I never could understand how two wrongs make a right.  Remember when you were a kid and some other kid did something stupid – and you did the same thing.  Your mother probably said something like “if Johnny jumps off a bridge, I guess you would jump off the bridge too.”  Well, it turns out old mom was pretty smart.

Think about it.  The police are supposed to stamp out corruption – not be corrupt.  You wouldn’t expect firemen set fires.   How many people would go to a doctor if he purposely made the patent sicker?  All of these are obviously absurd scenarios.   

Yet, our states and national government make it illegal to murder someone, but have no problem committing murder themselves.  Yes, I am talking about the death penalty.  Why does the government feel they should be exempt from this crime?  Maybe it’s because of religious views, in which case I glad I am an atheist.  Maybe it’s because it make you feel safer – even though there is no evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to murder.  No, I just think people like the idea of revenge. 

My problem is that we sometimes get it wrong.  Innocent people on death row have been cleared by DNA in recent years.  There’s no telling how many innocent people were killed before this technology.  Georgia recently executed a man who had seven of his nine witnesses recant their testimony.  After a while, it appears expediency is more important than due process and mercy.

Two wrongs don’t make a right.  Murder is murder.

Ganging Up On The Little Guy

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Entitlements

Right-wingers call Social Security an "entitlement" for one reason -- so they can demonize it and eventually abolish it. It is not an entitlement. It is a federal insurance program that a worker pays premiums into their entire working life to insure they will not spend their retirement homeless and destitute. And it is one of the few federal programs that works exactly as it was intended to work. Comic is from slowpokecomics.com.

Florida Straw Poll Yields Shocking Result

A few thousand Florida Republicans met this weekend in Orange County, and one of the events scheduled was a straw vote to get an idea of where the Republican presidential candidates stand with the GOP voters in that state. This is the first straw poll Florida Republicans have held since 1995 and is not binding in any way, but the past winners of this straw poll have all went on to become the party's candidate in the general election. Ronald Reagan won it in 1979, George H.W. Bush won it in 1987, and Bob Dole won it in 1995.

Most observers expected Texas governor Rick Perry to easily win the straw poll. After all, Florida is one of those states where the Republican Party is controlled by the teabaggers -- and the teabaggers are Perry's natural base of voters, especially in the South. But the Florida party activists shocked the nation by giving a win to an unexpected candidate, and by giving that candidate more than twice as many votes as Perry (who finished in second place, barely ahead of Romney. The winner was businessman Herman Cain. Here is the order of finish for the candidates (with 2,657 votes cast):

Herman Cain...............37.1%
Rick Perry...............15.4%
Mitt Romney...............14.0%
Rick Santorum...............10.9%
Ron Paul...............10.4%
Newt Gingrich...............8.4%
Jon Huntsman...............2.3%
Michele Bachmann...............1.5%

What happened to Perry? Some think he's fallen in popularity because he didn't do too well in the last two debates. That doesn't surprise us Texans, who knew he just doesn't think well on his feet and under pressure. It's why he refused to debate his Democratic opponent in the last gubernatorial election.

However, I think his stand on an immigration-related issue may have more to do with his defeat than his debating ability. He came out in favor of granting in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants attending Texas schools. He tried to defend that position in the last debate by saying those who opposed that don't "have a heart". He seems to have forgotten that most of those opposed are in his teabagger base, and they don't like being called heartless (even though it's true).

But as shocking as Perry's loss was, Michele Bachmann's last place finish was equally shocking. Her pitiful 1.5% of the vote placed her behind even Jon Huntsmann, and shows just how far she has fallen since she won the Iowa straw poll just a few weeks ago. She has now joined Newt Gingrich as the "walking dead" of the GOP field -- candidates whose campaigns have died, but they just refuse to admit it yet.

I still don't think Cain can win the Republican nomination. There's just too much racism in the party. But his win in Florida definitely tarnishes the Perry candidacy. This race has again become interesting.

Class War

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

This Is An "Election" ?



The United Arab Emirates just held their second election ever. It wasn't for the leadership of the country, because the seven Emirates are each ruled by an absolute monarch -- one of which is chosen to be "president" and represent them internationally. No, the election was to pick 20 members of the 40-seat Federal National Council -- a group that "advises" the UAE's government.

When the first election was held in 2006 only slightly more that 6,000 people were allowed to vote. But in this election a whopping 129,000 people were allowed to vote. Not many, considering that the country has an estimated population of around 8 million (and over 400,000 of those are officially Emiratis). Why so few voters? Because voters must be approved by the government (the absolute monarchs), and nobody really knows what the criteria are for becoming an approved voter.

Have you ever heard of a worse example of a sham election? Why even bother holding an election if the electees have no real power, and both the voters and the candidates must be approved by the government? And it looks like even the chosen voters know this, because only about 36,000 of them even bothered to go to the polls.

I'll bet the UAE "election" made the American Republican Party jealous though. After their efforts across this country to restrict the people who can vote in United States elections, this seems like the perfect model for what they are trying to create. They would love to fix it so only right-wingers have the right to vote.

Trained

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

Bernie Sanders Asks For Your Help To Save Social Security

Senator Bernie Sanders is still doing his best to save Social Security as we know it. Now he is asking for your help. He wants you to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act. Here is what he has to say:

Republicans hate Social Security because it has been an extraordinary success and has done exactly what it was designed to do.  It is the most successful government program in our nation's history and is enormously popular.

When Social Security was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty.  Today, that number is 10 percent -- still too high, but a testament to the success of Social Security.

Republicans have spent years demonizing Social Security and spreading lies about its sustainability.  They want to scare Americans and build support for making drastic cuts to the program or privatizing it entirely.  Their long-term goal is to end Social Security as we know it, and convert it into a private account system which will enable Wall Street to make hundreds of billions in profits.  

The truth is that today, according to the Social Security Administration, Social Security has a $2.7 trillion surplus and can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 25 years.

Further, because it is funded by the payroll tax and not the U.S. Treasury, Social Security has not contributed one nickel to our deficit.

Now -- in a prolonged recession that has decimated the poor and middle class and pushed more Americans into poverty than at any point in modern history -- we need to strengthen Social Security.  That's why I, along with 9 co-sponsors, have introduced the “Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act.”  This legislation would lift the Social Security Payroll tax cap on all income over $250,000 a year, would require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share into the Social Security Trust Fund, and would extend the program for the next 75 years. 

For 76 years, through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American.  The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the next 76 years is to scrap the payroll tax cap for those earning $250,000 a year or more.

Right now, someone who earns $106,800 pays the same amount of money into Social Security as billionaires like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  That is because today, all income above $106,800 is exempt from the Social Security tax.  As a result, 94% of Americans pay Social Security tax on all of their income, but the wealthiest 6% do not.

That makes no sense.

The “Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act” will ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security without cutting benefits, raising the retirement age or raising taxes on the middle class.

Join me and Democracy for America in fighting to strengthen Social Security -- Sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act.

Social Security is keeping tens of millions of seniors out of poverty today.  I can think of no more important issue facing our country today than making sure that Social Security remains strong for generations to come.

Thank you, 

Bernie
Senator Bernie Sanders

Preparing For PETA Website

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

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Drugs

This comic strip found at the blog of Yellowdog Granny points out the absurdity of lumping marijuana in with the really dangerous drugs. It has never made any sense and still doesn't.

Elizabeth Warren - An Impressive Candidate

The lady in the picture above is Professor Elizabeth Warren (who teaches at Harvard University). She was the person who was responsible for creating the president's new Consumer Protection Bureau -- which is supposed to protect ordinary Americans from the predatory practices of large banks and corporations. The president had nominated her to also be the first head of that agency, but her nomination was blocked by congressional Republicans (because they knew she would be effective in reining in the greedy and unethical practices of some American businesses -- and they couldn't have that).

That could have been a huge mistake for the Republicans, and may wind up costing them a senate seat. That's because she has gone back to Massachusetts and declared herself as a candidate for the senate seat currently held by Scott Brown. When she was first being considered as a candidate the polls had her 18 points down to Brown. But she now leads him by two points in the latest poll (46% to 44%). That's within the margin of error, but the important thing is that she has gained 20 points in just a few meager weeks, and that's pretty damn impressive.

Some people had said it could be hard for Warren to connect with common people (being a Harvard professor), but that 20 point rise in the polls would tend to belie that notion. And the speech she gave just a few days ago would back that up. Here is just a part of that speech (talking about the debt the rich owe to their fellow Americans):


I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No! There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.
Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

I think this dynamic and very smart lady is going to be a great candidate -- and an even better senator.

The GOP Version Of Robin Hood

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

Teabaggers - As Mean-Spirited As It Gets

We've known for a while now that the teabaggers are a racist and generally mean group of people. All you have to do to know that is to read their signs (some of which are pictured above). But even knowing that, I didn't really realize the depth of their hatred for their fellow Americans until their behavior at the recent Republican debates exposed it on nationwide television.

The first example of this occurred in the GOP presidential debate in California when Rick Perry was questioned about the death penalty (since Perry has presided over more executions than any other governor -- at least 235 by now). The teabagger crowd cheered the death penalty. Although I don't agree with it, I can understand at least a little why someone might believe in the death penalty. Some criminals commit some really horrendous crimes. But shouldn't the state's taking of a life, even that of a heinous criminal, be an occasion for solemnity and introspection -- not a blood-thirsty celebration of death?

Then at the GOP debate in Florida the teabaggers got even worse. They actually cheered and approved of letting a person die simply because that person could not afford health insurance -- a person who's only "crime" was being too poor to pay the outrageously high premiums demanded by private insurance companies. What the hell is wrong with these people? Do they really not care that many of their fellow citizens are needlessly dying? Or is it just OK for their fellow Americans to die as long as they can save a dollar or two in taxes? Either way it sounds downright immoral to me. It seems a strange way for people who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus to act (and most teabaggers do claim that).

Then we come to the GOP debate held a couple of nights ago. An active-duty soldier asked the candidates what they would do with a gay soldier like himself -- a valid question since DADT was just repealed and the GOP candidates have spoken out against that repeal. What did the teabagger crowd do? They booed him. That's right. They booed an active-duty American soldier who has served in Iraq and put his life on the line for their freedom. And making matters worse, not a single presidential candidate in the debate spoke up to defend that soldier. What happened to "support our troops"? Is that support limited to heterosexual (and probably white) soldiers?

The teabaggers in all three of these situations should be ashamed of themselves, but I doubt that any of them are. Once again the teabaggers have exposed themselves as not just racist, but bigoted and mean-spirited people. And that seems to be all right with the GOP candidates as long as they can get their votes.

This Is A Policy ?

Political Cartoon is by Jerry Holbert in The Boston Herald.

New Japanese Wind Generator Could Triple Electrical Output

I found this excellent post at the blog Zero Energy Construction. It predicts an even brighter future for wind energy than previously believed. It says:


A surprising aerodynamic innovation in wind turbine design called the 'wind lens' could triple the output of a typical wind turbine, making it less costly than nuclear power.

The International Clean Energy Analysis (ICEA) gateway estimates that the U.S. possesses 2.2 million km2 of high wind potential (Class 3-7 winds) — about 850,000 square miles of land that could yield high levels of wind energy. This makes the U.S. something of a Saudi Arabia for wind energy, ranked third in the world for total wind energy potential.

Let's say we developed just 20 percent of those wind resources — 170,000 square miles (440,000 km2) or an area roughly 1/4 the size of Alaska — we could produce a whopping 8.7 billion megawatt hours of electricity each year (based on a theoretical conversion of six 1.5 MW turbines per km2 and an average output of 25 percent. (1.5 MW x 365 days x 24 hrs x 25% = 3,285 MWh's).

The United States uses about 26.6 billion MWh's, so at the above rate we could satisfy a full one-third of our total annual energy needs. (Of course, this assumes the concurrent deployment of a nationwide Smart Grid that could store and disburse the variable sources of wind power as needed using a variety of technologies — gas or coal peaking, utility scale storage via batteries or fly-wheels, etc).

Now what if a breakthrough came along that potentially tripled the energy output of those turbines? You see where I'm going. We could in theory supply the TOTAL annual energy needs of the U.S. simply by exploiting 20 percent of our available wind resources.

Well, such a breakthrough has been made, and it's called the "wind lens." 

Imagine: no more dirty coal power, no more mining deaths, no more nuclear disasters, no more polluted aquifers as a result of fracking. Our entire society powered by the quiet "woosh" of a wind turbine. Kyushu University's wind lens turbine is one example of the many innovations happening right now that could in the near future make this utopian vision a reality.

Yes, it's a heck of a lot of wind turbines (about 2,640,000) but the U.S. with its endless miles of prairie and agricultural land is one of the few nations that could actually deploy such a network of wind turbines without disrupting the current productivity of the land (Russia and China also come to mind). It would also be a win-win for states in the highest wind area — the Midwest — which has been hard hit by the recession. And think of the millions upon millions of jobs that would be created building a 21st century energy distribution system free of the shackles of ever-diminishing fossil fuel supplies. 

It's also important to point out that growth in wind power capacity is perfectly symbiotic with projected growth in electric vehicles. EV battery packs can soak up wind power produced during the night, helping to equalize the curve of daytime energy demand. So the controversial investment currently being entertained by President Obama to pipe oil down from the Canadian Tar Sands would — in my utopian vision — be a moot point.

It is indeed a lofty vision, but the technology we need is now in our reach. And think of the benefits of having our power production fed by a resource that is both free and unlimited. One downside often cited by advocates of coal and gas power is that wind turbines require a lot more maintenence than a typical coal or gas power plant. But in a lagging economy this might just be wind power's biggest upside — it will create lots and lots of permanent jobs, sparking a new cycle of economic growth in America.

Military Surplus

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

Friday, September 23, 2011

Misguided Energy Subsidies

The fossil fuel industries (oil, gas, coal) are making record-breaking profits, and yet our government subsidizes these established and very profitable industries to the tune of many billions of dollars. Yet the solar energy industry gets very little in government subsidies -- even though it is an inexhaustible resource that could provide much energy for the future if properly developed. Does this make sense? Shouldn't we be investing in developing new technology -- not propping up already successful industries? Found at the blog Thurman's Notebook.