A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rich Nation - Poor Nation

A Proposal That's Badly Needed

When the Constitution was written and adopted, I believe the Founding Fathers meant for their newly created Congress to be composed of citizen legislators -- people who would serve for a while and then return to their civilian lives and jobs. They never meant to create a class of career politicians who would create special privileges and rewards for themselves -- things not available to the general public. But that is exactly what has happened.

The career politicians now serving in Congress have rewarded themselves with excellent pay (which they themselves can raise whenever they want), superb health insurance (unavailable to the general public except through exorbitant premiums), and a very generous retirement plan (which would be the envy of even the strongest union). And this doesn't even take into account the huge expense accounts and other numerous perks. While these politicians are extraordinarily stingy when it comes to helping the poor, children, the elderly, and the unemployed, they have spared no effort in providing a life of ease for themselves.

Ugly Costume

Political Cartoon is by Brian Fairrington at caglecartoons.com.

Perry Says He Could Beat Obama In Debates

Rick Perry has made a lot of ridiculous claims. He has said Social Security is a Ponzi scheme (and needs to be privatized), that Rep. Ryan's plan to abolish Medicare makes sense, that Texas should not have to meet national education standards, that the EPA is unnecessary and hurts business, that he balanced the Texas budget (when in fact the can was just kicked down the road, that his tax plan is revenue neutral, that Texas could secede from the Union -- the list is almost endless.

But perhaps his most ludicrous claim of all came yesterday as he finally deigned to appear on Sunday television for an interview (on Fox, not a real news channel). He was asked how he would fare against President Obama in televised debates if he became the Republican presidential nominee. He said the following:

"With as many debates as we got coming up, I may end up being a pretty good debater before it's all been said and done. . .I'm not worried a bit that I'll be able to stand on the stage with Barack Obama and draw a very bright line."

Can you believe that? This is the same gubernatorial candidate that was afraid to debate Bill White (whose lack of rhetorical skill could put wild animals into a deep sleep). This is the presidential candidate whose debate skills (or the lack thereof) were exposed by the likes of Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. This is the man whose popularity in the polls dropped like a rock after voters saw him try to debate. And this is the man who wanted to skip most of the remaining debates (until he saw the negative feedback that idea was getting). He's going to beat President Obama in a debate?

Maybe Perry hasn't been paying attention for the last few years (after all, he's not much of a reader or thinker). But there's little doubt that President Obama is one of the finest speakers and best debaters in this country. His rhetorical skills are superb, even legendary (which even his enemies will admit).

I'm not sure I could even watch a debate between these two men. I've never enjoyed watching totally outclassed teams or individuals being unmercifully beaten (even when I thought they deserved it). The debate would be nothing less than intellectual violence of the highest order, and Perry might even have blood trickling from his ears when he slinked off the stage after it was over. It would be cringe-worthy for the hardiest of debate watchers.

Perry will beat President Obama in a debate about the same time I am crowned Queen of England -- and that won't happen in this lifetime.

Mitt's Costume

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

Economist Lauds Occupy Wall Street Movement

The 1% and their congressional lackeys want Americans to think the Occupy Wall Street movement is just a group of radicals who don't understand the intricacies of economics. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The OWS protesters understand economics very well, and they especially understand how unfair the current policy of "trickle-down" economics is to the vast majority of Americans -- having created massive unemployment and a huge gap in wealth and income between the richest people and the rest of America.

Lending intellectual credence to the idea that the OWS movement knows exactly what they are doing (fighting for economic justice and fair play) is the fact that some very well respected economists support the movement and its goals. First on board was Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. Now noted economist Jeffrey Sachs (pegged by Time Magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential People In The World") has expressed his support for the OWS movement. Here is the speech he gave to the OWS protesters on October 7th:

The Walking Dead

Political Cartoon is by Rick McKee in The Augusta Chronicle.

Happy Halloween

I hope all of the wonderful readers of this blog have a very Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Obvious Truths


From the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Ignoring The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


The words above make up one of the most important citizens' guarantees in this country. It is the text of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. And the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens by that amendment are not just necessary, but critical, to the maintenance of freedom and democracy in this country.

This brings up an important question -- why then do authorities across this country feel that they don't have to respect these rights? Why are the authorities in several American cities denying American citizens their right of freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances? And make no mistake, that is exactly what they are trying to do.

Truly Scary

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

Good News For Democrats

As you probably know, the Republican Party has a substantial majority of the United States House of Representatives. This has allowed them to block any efforts by the president and the progressive Democrats to pass job creation measures, tax the rich and corporations fairly, protect the environment, or protect funding for education and social programs to help hurting Americans.

This needs to change, but the only way it will change is for the House of Representatives to once more have a Democratic majority (without the Blue Dogs). But most political pundits have been saying for the last few months that it is almost a sure thing that the Republicans will retain a majority in the House after the next election. They don't think enough seats can change hands to put the Democrats back in control. But they may be wrong.

Still Hiring

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

There Are More Presidential Candidates Than You Know About

If you've been paying attention to the presidential politics being reported by the mainstream media, then you know about some of the candidates running for president next year. You've probably heard about the eight Republicans running for their party's nomination and about the president, who is running for re-election. You may even be aware of Green Party candidate Jill Stein (pictured above) and know that the Libertarian Party will be choosing their own candidate in the coming months. But those candidates are just a tiny fraction of the official candidates for president.

Halloween At The Bachmann's

Cartoon is by Texas Trailer Park Trash at her excellent blog I Tried Being Tasteful.

What It's All About

For those of you who still claim you don't know why the folks in the Occupy Wall Street movement are demonstrating, maybe this picture can simplify it for you. Picture is fom the blog of my friend Neil at Texas Liberal.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cannabis

For many decades now the government has been telling Americans (and others) that the cannabis plant has no legitimate use. They lied.

Occupy Wall Street Is Having A Positive Effect

The image above brings home a very disturbing fact about the United Staes -- the vast inequality of wealth and income in the country. This inequality, which grows worse with each passing week since Congress has done nothing about it, was the primary cause of this Great Recession (just like a previous and very similar gap caused the Great Depression).

But there is a big difference between the previous gap causing the Great Depression, and the current gap causing the Great Recession. The previous gap was caused by the Republican Party favoring the rich and the coporations. But when the Democrats got into power they changed the economic policies, put people back to work (using WPA and CCC), created the Social Security system, and gave the country new hope.

But things were different this time. After the Republicans went back to their old ways of favoring the rich and the corporations, causing the current economic mess and the loss of millions of jobs, the people again put the Democrats back in power in 2008. But this time nothing happened. It turns out that the rich and corporations had gotten smarter -- instead of just buying the Republican politicians, they also bought a passel of Democratic politicians (the blue dogs). And the Republicans combined with the blue dogs were powerful enough to prevent any economic changes or job creation.

After watching the Congress muddle around for nearly three years without changing the failed "trickle-down" Republican policy or doing anything to create a substantial amount of jobs, it became obvious that too many members of Congress (of both parties) were controlled by the corporations and the rich and nothing was going to be done to help ordinary and hurting Americans. In fact, the situation was being made worse by cuts to education and social programs while the rich continued to get unnecessary tax cuts and the corporations received unnecessary subsidies.

If any needed change was going to occur, it would have to start with the American people -- not the corporate-owned politicians in Congress. When this became obvious, it resulted in the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement. It may have started small with only a few hundred protesters in New York City, but it struck a chord with the American people and spread quickly to many other American cities -- first the large cities, and then in the smaller cities, and finally in cities around the world. It has now grown so large that it can no longer be ignored.

But can the movement cause real economic change in the United States? Probably not until and unless it grows even larger, but it has caused a couple of minor changes already -- and one of those could lead to much bigger changes down the road.

The Dilemma

Political Cartoon is by Matt Bors at mattbors.com.

Dems On "Super Committee" Offer Draconian Cuts

If there was any doubt as to whether the Occupy Wall Street movement is needed, then the chart above should remove any doubt. It shows a comparison of the Democratic "super committee" members plan to cut the budget with the plans of the Bowles-Simpson Committee and the Gang of Six (both of which made cuts of Medicare, Social Security, and other social programs that would hurt most Americans). Amazingly, the plan offered by the committee Democrats is even more Draconian.

Fortunately the plan was rejected by the Republican (because taxes were raised on the rich by an insignificant amount), but it clearly shows that the Democrats are not much more interested in helping ordinary Americans than the Republicans are. Neither party wants to make the needed cuts to the military budget. Neither party is truly interested in having the rich and the corporations pay their fair share of taxes. And neither party is interested in helping the Americans who are hurting because of the continuing jobless recession.

Occupy Wall Street is needed because the politicians won't make the changes they were sent to Washington to make. They and their rich buddies are making too much money by leaving things just as they are (since most of the politicians in Congress are members of the 1% themselves).

Simple Math

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in Roll Call.

Rick Perry - Worst Campaign Ever ?

Those of us in Texas tried to tell people that Rick Perry was a terrible governor and a worse debater, but it fell on deaf ears -- for a while. When he entered the race he quickly jumped into first place and teabaggers thought they had found their savior. Then they heard his views on Social Security and Medicare, and got a chance to actually see him debate. After that, he fell in the polls like a large dumb rock. I don't think I've ever seen anyone go from first to "also-ran" any faster than Perry did.

But maybe he's not totally useless (like he is as a governor and a presidential candidate). He does offer pundits and cartoonists a lot of rich material for humor. I found this article at CNN.com by James Carville to be rather humorous. Here is part of it:

Maybe you, like me, are a baseball fan. If you are, you want seven games because you actually like baseball. The same goes for politics -- if you really love it, you hope for a good race that goes on and you enjoy watching people who are skilled at doing this.


It is literally painful to watch Rick Perry as a candidate. The case could be made that Rick Perry is the worst debater to ever run for president.


As far as I know he can't even give a good speech. His appearance before the uber-right-winged Values Voters Summit was universally trashed.


Not only can he not give an interview, he can't even roll out his stupid flat tax plan. He steps all over it by saying, "Oh by the way, it's optional anyway." He has managed to couple the flat tax with the IRS bureaucracy in one sentence. Way to go Rick.


I'll be blunt with all you Perry supporters, it's time to butter your guy because he's toast. Every day it's a new dumb thing. From birtherism, to convoluted tax policy, to inarticulate attacks, to woeful ignorance and even stupidity on foreign policy (Pakistani country? Please), to placing his wife under such stress that she is lashing out at everything around her.


Not only is Rick Perry utterly incapable of running for president, he can't run his state, and in fact can't meet the basic requirement for any politician -- he can't even run his mouth.


As if he hasn't made a big enough fool of himself, he decides to go out and have lunch with Donald Trump and falls for the birther strategy. Good God, can this guy do anything? I guess I should be fair to him, he has shown that he can get the same people he gave contracts to as governor of Texas to contribute to his campaign. Wow, what an achievement.


To tell you the truth, it's gotten so bad people in Louisiana are actually starting to make Texas jokes.


If this thing gets any worse the people in Mississippi will be making Texas jokes -- then you've really hit rock bottom.

Class Warfare (The Horror!)

Political Cartoon is by Ben Sargent in the Austin American-Statesman.

Don't Text And Fly !

Found this on FaceBook and it was just too good not to steal. All you witches out there be careful!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Religion & Ethics Are Not The Same Thing

More Evidence Of "Trickle-Down" Unfairness

I have presented many graphs and charts on this blog from reliable sources showing that the "trickle-down economic policies, instituted by the Republicans over thirty years ago, have favored the rich, while leaving most Americans stuck in a rut and falling further behind with each passing year. And the richer a person is the more the Republican economic policy favors them.

Now the Economic Policy Institute, using figures from the U.S. Census, has produced a graph showing what has happened with hourly wages in the last 36 years (from 1973 thru 2009). As you can see on the above chart, the median hourly wage for workers has grown from $14.73 in 1973 to about $15.96 in 2009 -- a growth of only $1.23 (or 8.4%) in 36 years. The growth was much worse for lower-paid workers. A worker in the lowest 20% of earners had an average wage growth from $9.29 to $9.83 -- a rise of only $0.54 (or 5.8%). And a worker in the bottom 10% saw growth from $7.70 to $8.05 -- a rise of $0.35 (or 4.5%).

But the higher on the wage scale a person is, the better they are treated by "trickle-down" policies. A person in the highest 90th percentile of wage earners saw their wages go from $28.19 to about $37.49 -- a rise of $9.30 (or 32.99%). And a worker at the 95th percentile saw wages climb from $35.37 to $48.08 -- a rise of $12.71 (or 35.9%). But even these salaries pale in comparison to the rise experienced by the richest Americans of all -- the top 1% of earners. The Congressional Budget Office pegged their rise in after-tax income at a whopping 275%.

And the congressional Republicans, and all of the Republican presidential candidates, feel that the richest Americans pay too much in taxes (even though their after-tax income has risen by 275%). They want to give these richest Americans even bigger tax cuts than they've already received (from the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy).

A perfect example of this is the ridiculous tax plan recently proposed by candidate Rick Perry. His plan would drop the rate on earned income (income actually worked for) for the rich from 35% to a flat rate of 20%. But it gets even worse. His plan would completely eliminate the tax on capital gains income (income derived from stocks, bonds, and other investments0 which is how most of the super-rich make their money. Under the Perry Plan, an investor like Warren Buffett (one of the richest men in the world) would only pay an effective tax rate of 0.2%. How can it possibly be fair for someone that rich to pay less than a 1% tax rate, when people who actually must work to earn an income much pay a much higher rate?

How much more evidence do voters need before they finally realize that the Republican Party cares only for the rich, and their policies benefit only the rich?

Running Away

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Did Oakland Police Give A Boost To OWS Movement ?

The Occupy Wall Street Movement spread far beyond the confines of New York City several weeks ago. It has spread across the country and is showing up in cities around the world. That's because people are finally starting to realize they've been taken advantage of by the rich and government policies that are slanted to benefit only the rich. The term "economic justice" may not have meant much to most people in the past, but for more and more people it has now become a cause they understand and support.

Even though the movement has seemed to spread like wildfire, there are still those who are hoping that the movement will die out. And that was in the realm of possibility -- after all, the cold weather is coming and it can be hard sometimes to keep a citizen's movement growing. Fortunately, it doesn't seem that the authorities, who are trying to cover for Wall Street, have learned anything from the experiences of the sixties and early seventies.

Looking The Wrong Way

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

Early State Polls Show Romney In Lead

Mitt Romney still seems to be the favorite choice of the political pundits. Recently even Democratic pundit James Carville, usually a pretty astute person politically, came out and said he believed Mitt Romney would be the Republican presidential candidate. Carville told George Stephanopoulos that Romney will win because Perry and Cain aren't serious candidates, and said:

 "I don't think so. I mean Rick Perry's completely blown himself up. There's zero chance that Herman Cain's going to be the nominee. The only thing that I can see is that Republicans just don't like him enough that he can't accumulate half the delegates as he goes through this. That these candidates just keep going and becoming such an irritant that he can't close the deal but that's almost impossible to imagine."

But I'm not ready to crown Romney the winner yet. He may have the lead, but he has yet to show that he can get any teabagger votes -- something he will have to do to get the nomination. And the race is still very fluid. This is shown by a new CNN/Time Poll done by ORC between October 20th and 25th. The poll questioned Republicans in the four earliest caucus/primary states -- 401 in Florida, 405 in Iowa, 400 in New Hampshire, and 400 in South Carolina. Here's how it stands in those states right now:

The Bachmann Explanation

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

Hillary Would Trounce Any GOP Candidate

I thought this was a fun and interesting poll by Time Magazine. It compared how Hillary Clinton would do against the leading Republican candidates to how Barack Obama is doing against those same people. It turns out that the poll shows that Clinton would do much better against all of them than the president.If the president would just pay attention to that, it should tell him something.

The people want change. They're just not sure he can deliver it after the many times they've seen him give in to the Republicans. And they don't want Republicans, because Clinton trounces every one of them. The president needs to stop trying to be bipartisan and kick some Republican butt (like Roosevelt did). It's what he was elected to do in the first place. Here are the poll results:

Clinton..........55%
Romney..........38%

Obama..........46%
Romney..........43%

Clinton..........58%
Perry..........32%

Obama..........50%
Perry..........38%

Clinton..........56%
Cain..........34%

Obama..........49%
Cain..........37%

The poll was done on October 9th and 10th.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The One Percenters

Pundit Kitchen reminds us that the 1% are happy with things as they are.

Green Party May Have Excellent Candidate

A recent Democracy Now Poll showed that President Obama has lost support from his 2008 base of voters. About 21% of Democrats disapprove of the job the president has done. Most are disappointed over his general abandonment of progressive principles to accomodate the right-wing in Congress (even though those right-wingers have refused to compromise and have taken every opportunity to demonize the president). Recently the president has shown a little more backbone and began to challenge the Republicans on jobs, home foreclosures, and student loans -- and hopefully he will continue down that path.

The president still has time to try and win back the full support of the progressives in the Democratic Party (and Independents who would like to see progressive change in economic policy), but so far he has just taken progressives for granted. His handlers figure the progressives will have to come back and vote for him since the alternative is to have a far-right-wing conservative get in the White House. That's a dangerous assumption, since even if they did wind up voting for him it doesn't mean they will do the hard work of knocking on doors and making phone calls and ferrying people to the polls.

And now it looks like the Green Party may be nominating a very appealing candidate. The picture above is of Jill Stein, who recently announced she is running for the Green Party's presidential slot. This is not some wild-eyed radical. Stein is a married mother of two living in Lexington, Massachusetts. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1973, and from Harvard Medical School in 1979. She has been a practicing physician (as is her husband) for many years, and has written two books. She also has a solid background of supporting and fighting for progressive causes.

All Hat And No Cattle

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Guns In America

The is a new gun bill winding its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. It is House Resolution 822, and it would force all states to accept the concealed-carry permits of all other states for out-of-state visitors --even if they have not met the licensing and training requirements of the state, and even if the person carrying the concealed weapon would be barred from possessing a gun in that state. This is a very bad bill, especially considering that some states require little more than the paying of a fee to get a concealed-carry permit and will license even people not living in that state.

This is not a Second Amendment issue over whether a person can own a gun or not. It is pretty much settled law that Americans with no criminal record or dangerous psychological problems have the right to own one or more firearms. The passage or defeat of HR 822 would not infringe on the right of anyone under the Second Amendment.

Instead, this concerns the right of every state to determine who can and who cannot carry a concealed (or hidden) gun in that state. And the crazy thing about this is that the supporters of this new gun law that would infringe on a state's right to make their own concealed-carry law are the same people who scream for state's rights in other areas. They obviously only care about state's rights when it comes to something they don't like. This is a bill that needs to be defeated, but it will probably pass because politicians are afraid of the gun lobbyists.

What Country Do They Want Back ?

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

New CBO Figures Verify Income Inequality

A couple of days ago the Congressional Budget Office released figures that showed that the gulf between the richest 1% of Americans and the rest of America has grown much larger since 1979 (about the time that "trickle-down" economics was instituted). It shows that the after-tax income of the richest 1% has increased by 275%, while the bottom 80% had less than 50% growth (and the bottom 20% grew only 18%).

The CBO said, " As a result of that uneven income growth, the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979."

When you check the rate of inflation (using the LaborDepartment's figures based on the Consumer Price Index) you find that what could be bought for $10.00 in 1979 now costs about $27.54 in 2011. That means while the richest Americans have more buying power than ever, most other Americans have less buying power than they did in 1979 -- the rich have moved forward substantially while everyone else has gone backwards.

Debit Fees

Political Cartoon is by Dan Wasserman in The Boston Globe.

Border Wall Is Still A Stupid Idea

In an obvious effort to appeal to the anti-immigrant and racist wing of the Republican base, several of the GOP presidential candidates have revived talk of building a wall between the friendly nations of Mexico and the United States. This is especially dumb considering the fact that President Obama's administration has deported more undocumented immigrants than the Bush administration did, and the number of immigrants trying to enter the United States has fallen drastically due to the deplorable American economy.

I have discussed in the past about how the border fence is an unworkable solution to immigration problems, that is an insult to our Mexican neighbors and an environmental and economic disaster for both sides of the border. It now turns out that the fence can cause or exacerbate flooding problems in the border area -- flooding problems that are totally unnecessary. before any more building is done, those wanting the silly fence should read this article by Scott Nicol in the Rio Grande Guardian. Nicol says:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"They Are Stupid"

GOP Race Is Still Anybody's To Win

We're only about 9 weeks away from the Iowa caucuses, the start of the primary season, and there is still no real clue as to who the Republican presidential nominee is going to be. No one candidate has come forward to stake a real claim to being the odds-on favorite. Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll, Herman Cain did the same in Florida, and Ron Paul finished first in the California straw poll. Meanwhile, Romney, Cain, and Perry have all had their turn in leading the national polls, but none of them has been able to get above the twenties in national poll support.

A new New York Times/CBS News Poll shows just how unsettled the race still is. The poll was conducted between October 19th and 24th of 455 Republican primary voters, and once again no candidate was able to get more than 25% voter support. Here is how the poll showed the candidates standing right now:

Perry Tax

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Right-Wing Commenter Says Teabaggers Are Not Racists









Yesterday I refused to publish a comment from a right-wing reader of this blog (and yes, this blog does have some right-wing readers, although I don't know why -- they won't find anything they like here), because the comment was just an attempt to smear all of the Occupy Wall Street protesters with the actions of a few. He sent a second comment, which I also refused to publish, but I am posting part of it below because it needs a response:

"After years of you yourself smearing the Tea Party with spurious accusations of racism, you're now shocked, shocked to discover that someone would actually cite documented news reports from reliable outlets of illegal behavior on the part of the Occupiers. . .While we're on the topic of alleged racism in the Tea Party, did you see today's CBS News/New York Times poll regarding Tea Party Supporters and the 2012 GOP Nomination for President?. . .Thirty-two percent support for the only African-American in the race among Tea Partiers. . .Yeah, those "teabaggers" sure are racists, aren't they?"

First of all, I have never said that ALL of the teabaggers are racist. I do however believe that a large part of them are racists, and I have said that many times in the past. I still believe that.

Second, I think the signs pictured above, found at teabagger rallies around the country, proves my point more than any words could. Frankly, I have to wonder not only about the people who made and carried those signs, but also the other people who silently assented to their appearance at the rallies. They had to know the impression those signs would leave with the American public. Did they not care that they were being presented to the world as racists?

Third, does 32% support for Cain really prove that a large segment of the teabaggers are not racists? What about the other 68%?

Fourth, it's easy to say you would vote for an African-American to a pollster but another matter to actually vote that way on election day -- it's called the "Bradley effect". I don't think Cain will wind up with anywhere near 32% of the teabagger vote on primary/caucus day, in spite of the fact that he has embraced all of their ridiculous ideas.