A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Science Vs. Faith


Union Leader Publisher Has To Be Joking

In what was somewhat a surprise move, the Manchester Union Leader (New Hampshire's largest newspaper) endorsed Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney. Until that endorsement, Romney had held a big lead in every poll taken in New Hampshire and most people believed he would easily win that state. Now all of that is in question, and a recent Insider Advantage Poll shows that Gingrich is closing the gap in New Hampshire (and is now within the poll's margin of error). The poll nows has Romney at 31% and Gingrich at 27%.

This has to be devastating news for Romney because other recent polls show him trailing badly in both Iowa and South Carolina to Gingrich. In Iowa, Insider Advantage has Gingrich at 28% and Romney at 12%, and in South Carolina they have Gingrich at 38% and Romney at 15%. If these three polls are correct, and there's no reason to believe they aren't, then the nomination may once again be slipping away from Mitt Romney. To remain a viable candidate, he needs to win New Hampshire, and win it big.

This brings up the question -- why did the Union Leader endorse Newt Gingrich (the candidate with more ethical and moral skeletons in his closet than any of the others)? After all, Mitt Romney has been the leading candidate in NewHampshire for many months now. It would have been easy for the paper to jump on board with the candidate New Hampshire voters seemed to favor.

The Race

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

Lopsided Discretionary Spending

The above graphic is from Think Progress. It shows the discretionary spending (general budget) for fiscal year 2012 (which started in September 2011). The Republicans want to cut that budget without raising any taxes on the richest Americans. And they want to make all of their cuts from only 41 % of the federal discretionary budget. They don't want to make any cuts at all in the Defense budget, which eats up about 59% of the total discretionary budget.

That makes no sense at all. If cuts must be made, then that should include deep cuts in the largest area of the budget -- defense spending. The military spending of the United States comprises about 44% of all military spending worldwide. That's several times what any other country spends, and would equal the military budget of the next 15 countries combined. The U.S. military budget could be cut in half, and still be much larger than that of any other country (and would free up money to help hurting Americans, improve education and healthcare, and create jobs).

The failure of the Super Committee has mandated that $1.2 trillion in cuts will happen (over a ten year period beginning in 2013) across the board in discretionary spending. While these cuts will not help ordinary Americans hurt by this recession, they are at least fair because they also include cuts in military spending. The military cuts are fairly small, but they have the Republicans very upset. They want to protect their corporate buddies in the military-industrial complex.

They are trying to claim it will hurt this country's defense, but it won't. We are spending far more than is necessary for national defense. In addition to protecting profits in the military-industrial complex, the Republicans want a military big and powerful enough to threaten the rest of the world into complying with our policies (especially as it relates to corporate profits and corporate ownership of the world's raw materials). They don't like it referred to as such, but this is nothing less than corporate imperialism backed by our military might.

The Republicans are now trying to stop the military cuts and replace them with deeper cuts in all other programs. And it wouldn't surprise me if they got that accomplished (with the help of some Democrats, especially blue dogs, who are afraid of being branded as unpatriotic). But that is just the opposite of what this country needs. In a time of high unemployment and growing poverty, this country needs to put more of its money toward helping its own citizens -- not maintaining a bloated and unnecessary military.

Deep cuts are needed in the military budget -- far more than the small cuts mandated because of the Super Committee failure. Other developed countries take care of their own citizens. Why can't the U.S. do the same? Why must we keep playing the part of a world bully, which we shouldn't have been doing in the first place and can certainly no longer afford? We can afford to do what's necessary to fix our economy and help hurting Americans, but only if we're willing to significantly cut our military spending.

Side-Tracked

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbus Daily Tribune.

Oops! (Again)

It's sort of a shame that Rick Perry is already toast in the Republican race -- not only because he would be easily crushed in debates against President Obama and in the general election, but also because he has been a constant source of side-splitting gaffes that could surely have kept us entertained until next November. Perry's lack of having a clue almost makes Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain look rational.

I'm sure you've all heard about Perry's big debate gaffe, where he said he would eliminate three federal departments if elected president and then couldn't remember what those three departments were. His "deer-in-the-headlights" look as he mumbled and tried vainly to remember the name of the third department will be replayed for decades -- both for laughs and as an example of what not to do in a debate.

Now he's done it again. He's pulled a gaffe that would embarrass any politician with half a brain, and has political pundits all over the country shaking their heads (and Texans wishing he would just stop humiliating the state nationwide). Yesterday he told a crowd of young Republicans at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire, "Those who are going to be over 21 on November 12th, I ask for your support."

Now that may not sound too bad -- until you realize a couple of things. First, the United States Constitution through the 26th Amendment says that 18 year-olds can vote in election for national office. For a politician who regularly regales voters with tales of what the Constitution does and does not allow, Perry sure doesn't seem to know much about that document. Or maybe he just doesn't want the votes of 18, 19, and 20 year-olds.

Second, the 2012 general election is going to be held on Tuesday, November 6th -- not November 12th (which is the following Monday). I don't really mind Perry telling Republicans to wait until the 12th to vote -- maybe some of them will believe him. But you would think that someone running for political office would know when election day is.

This should tell you why a lot of us Texans think Perry is just another George Bush -- only not as smart (and that's just sad).

A Healthy Budget

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

New Positive Intensity Scores.

The folks over at the Gallup Poll have released their newest Positive Intensity Scores for the Republican presidential nomination race. They believe the Positive Intensity Score shows the depth of a candidates support -- with a higher score showing stronger support. The score is derived from subtracting the percentage of people who strongly disapprove of the candidate from the percentage of people who strongly approve of that candidate. Their newest Positive Intensity Scores show that Newt Gingrich is solidifying his support and is currently the strongest candidate. Here are the new scores:

Newt Gingrich...............+20 (up from a low of +1)

Mitt Romney...............+9 (down from a high of +20)

Herman Cain...............+9 (down from a high of +34)

Rick Santorum...............+7 (down from a high of +16)

Ron Paul...............+2 (down from a high of +16)

Michele Bachmann...............+2 (down from a high of +24)

Rick Perry...............0 (down from a high of +25)

Jon Huntsman...............-2 (down from a high of +15)

There's still 5 weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses kick off the primary season, but it looks like Newt Gingrich is in good shape -- at least for now.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Badge Of Honor

Gingrich Now Has A Path To The Nomination

There was a time when most of us believed Newt Gingrich's political career was over. After numerous ethical charges and moral shortcomings, he was driven from the House of Representatives (and his job as Speaker) by the members of his own party. And when your own political party turns it back on you it usually means you political career is over. In fact, most people (including myself) were surprised when Newt tossed his hat in the presidential race this year.

Few people gave Newt a chance of actually getting the nomination -- especially with all the skeletons he has in his closet. But while all the other candidates (Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain) all took their shot at beating Mitt Romney for the nomination, Newt just kept plugging along in single digits. Now only five weeks from the start of the primary season, the teabagger base of the Republican Party is still not willing to accept Mitt Romney but they are running out of alternatives.

There is only one candidate left standing if the teabaggers can't accept Romney -- Newt Gingrich (since the campaigns of Huntsman and Santorum are just a joke and Paul is too much a maverick for the teabaggers). And amazingly, it looks like the teabaggers (who like to call themselves "values" voters) are now willing to overlook Newt's ethical and moral skeletons and give him their support. It shows the depth of their antipathy for Romney.

Party Before Country

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

Does "Black Friday" Really Mean Sales Will Be Up For The Season This Year ?

Well, apart from the violence and the craziness, it looks like retailers had a good "Black Friday" this year. Initial figures show that shoppers spent more this year than they did last year on the official first shopping day of the holiday season. This is also born out by a Gallup Poll on self-reported Black Friday Spending. Here are the results of that poll for the last four years:

2008...............$90 average
2009...............$83 average
2010...............$92 average
2011...............$98 average

In a normal year that would be very good news for retailers. That's because in the past (during better economic times) a good Black Friday was a pretty reliable predictor of good sales for the entire holiday season. And the pundits are predicting that's exactly what it means for this year too. But I have to believe retailers are viewing that prediction with their fingers crossed, because this is not a normal year.

The question is whether the sales on Black Friday were just the start of something good or an anomaly. Did the people rush out on that day to get the best bargains they could find because they have little to spend this year (thanks to high unemployment and the recession), or was it the start of sustained buying by the general public?

There are some other figures in that same Gallup Poll which show the huge Black Friday sales could be an anomaly and buying will not be sustained throughout the season. In 2009 about 37% of the population thought economic conditions were getting better, and in 2010 that figure rose to 39%. But this year people are significantly more pessimistic, and only 24% think economic conditions are getting better.

The pundits might be right. It might be a very good season for retailers. I hope so, because a high demand could encourage both retailers and the factories that produce those retail goods to do some hiring. But I'm not yet ready to believe it. I think that a month from now we'll look back on another disappointing season for sales. I do hope I'm wrong though. The country could use a little good news.


The Dunce

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

More Dirt On Herman Cain

Herman Cain was riding high in the polls for a while last month, and it looked like he might be able to make a credible run for the Republican presidential nomination. But that was before people started to learn about his sexual proclivities. A whole string of women came forward to detail the sexual advances Cain had made toward them. And while that would have been bad enough, we learned it was much worse since he tied jobs and advancement to those women complying with his sexual advances. That turned it into sexual harassment, and in at least one case -- sexual assault.

Those revelations put a serious crimp in Cain's presidential aspirations, and he began to plummet in the polls -- not as far as Perry fell, but far enough to take him out of contention.  I think Cain thought it would all die down and he could build his support back up. And things were beginning to die down -- until yesterday.

Yesterday an acquaintance of Cain's, a woman named Ginger White, said she and Cain had a sexual affair for 13 years. Cain admitted he knew the woman, and even said he'd considered her to be a friend. But he denied the affair had ever happened. Denial is evidently his first line of defense. Then Cain's lawyer pipes up and said if it did happen it was a private consensual act between two adults -- not sexual harassment -- and therefore was nobody's business but Cain's.

The lawyer would be right except for one little thing -- Cain wants to be president of the United States. And since he wants to be president, the public has a right to know about his morality and his loyalty -- and he doesn't seem to have a lot of either. If Cain will sneak behind his wife's back and have a 13 year sexual affair with another woman (after promising to be faithful in his marriage vows), would he keep the promises he made to be elected president?

I know Cain probably thinks he is being picked on by the press (because he's black or Republican or conservative or whatever), but that's just silly. Just ask John Edwards, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, or many other politicians of both parties -- the people just don't like a candidate who can't be faithful to his wife. And there's far too much smoke around Cain now for there not to be a fire. 

Teabagger Logic

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Embarrassing Fact

This graphic from the blog of Yellowdog Granny reminds us of a fact all Americans should be ashamed of. But never fear, the Republicans (and their blue dog friends) have a solution. By destroying the economy and millions of jobs and redistributing most of the country's wealth and income to the richest people, they are turning the United States into a third-world banana republic -- and everyone knows that third-world banana republics can't afford to take care of anyone but the rich. Problem solved, and we'll no longer need to be embarrassed.

Republican Tax Hypocrisy

Republicans are famous for the catch-phrase they commonly use -- "No new Taxes". But don't misunderstand what they mean by that. While some people, like the teabaggers, think they mean no new taxes for anyone, that's not really true. They are just talking about new taxes on the rich (the only people doing well in this recession).

One of President Obama's job-creating efforts was to lower payroll taxes for workers. The idea was to give working people more money in their paychecks in the hopes that this would create more demand (the only job-creator) when they spent it -- and with the way workers have been ravaged by stagnant wages and rising prices, it was known they would have to spend it.

Did it work. Well, I suspect it saved more jobs already in existence that it did to create new ones. After all, the job-creation numbers haven't exactly been inspiring. But saving jobs is better than losing even more jobs than we already have lost, so I shelved my doubts about lowering the payroll taxes and supported the effort, especially since workers are the people in this economy that need some help -- along with the poor, the unemployed, and the elderly.

My doubts about the payroll tax being lowered wasn't because it wouldn't create demand or keep demand from dropping -- I think it does that. It was because it lowered the amount being paid into the Social Security Trust Fund, and that is strange since politicians are screaming about Social Security not having enough money. However, I'm smart enough to know that Social Security is fine for another twenty years at least, and I know that simply removing the cap on the income subject to payroll taxes (a move that would only affect the rich) would fully fund Social Security for many generations to come.

With the knowledge that there's an easy fix for Social Security, even at the lower payroll rates, and that American workers need every penny they can get in this recession, the lower payroll tax made sense. But it is fixing to run out (since it was instituted for only a brief time). President Obama and the Democrats would like to extend the lower payroll taxes. They don't think the economy is in good enough shape to raise taxes on struggling workers at this time -- and they are right.

But the Republicans have once again shown their hypocrisy when it comes to taxes. I don't know whether it is because they hate American workers or just because it is something proposed by the president (both are likely reasons), but the Republicans are again saying they oppose extending the payroll tax cuts for workers. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) voiced the Republican position yesterday on Fox News. He said it was not a job-creator and the GOP would probably vote against it.

This is especially hypocritical since the Republicans are still pushing huge new tax cuts for the rich and the corporations (even though both are making record amounts of money and don't need any new tax cuts). They call that their "job creation" plan. Of course that would not create any new jobs since it would not increase demand for products or services -- both groups already have bulging bank accounts already and can afford to spend all they want. And even the rich people and corporations will not hire new workers when there is no increased demand. That just wouldn't make economic sense.

The truth is that the Republicans just want more tax cuts for themselves and their rich buddies. It is pure greed. They don't care about American workers, job creation, the budget, the economy, or anything else that doesn't put more money in their rich friends bank accounts or their own campaign chests. And when they talk about taxes and cuts, they are the true kings/queens of hypocrisy.

Recession

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

GOP Still Wants To Abolish Medicare

The smiling dunce pictured above is Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). He represents Texas District 5 in the House of Representatives, which stretches from Dallas southeast to Palestine and Jacksonville. Texans know him as a proponent of far-right fringe beliefs and a hero of the teabaggers. He hates taxes on the rich and government help to anyone who is not rich (including children, the poor, the jobless, and the elderly).

But the true depth of his idiotic depravity was revealed in a recent article he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In that article he blames the Democrats for the failure of the Super Committee (of which he was a co-chair). He says the committee failed because the Democrats on the committee would not agree to abolish Medicare (and force seniors to buy private insurance). Here's some of what he wrote:

 “Republicans offered to negotiate a plan on the other two health-care entitlements—Medicare and Medicaid—based upon the reforms included in the budget the House passed earlier this year. . .The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose."


The Republicans haven't been talking a lot recently about their plan to abolish Medicare (which almost all of their Representatives and Senators voted to do with the infamous Ryan Plan). They have seen the polls and know it's a very unpopular idea with voters, so they've toned down their anti-Medicare (and anti-Social Security) rhetoric in the hope of putting a Republican in the White House. But make no mistake -- they have not abandoned their nefarious plans to abolish Medicare (and privatize Social Security).

Hensarling has let the cat out of the bag. He reveals that the Republicans are not truly serious about cutting the budget, but only in accomplishing their ideological agenda -- all of it, with no willingness to compromise for the good of the country and its citizens.They still want huge new tax cuts for the rich and the corporations (the only two groups in our country who are doing well and don't need help), and they still want to slash funding for education and social programs (that help children, the poor, and the unemployed).

But highest on the Republican hit list are Medicare and Social Security -- the two programs that work to keep most of the elderly in this country out of poverty. If you are elderly, nearing that phase of life, or are planning to live long enough to become elderly, then voting for the Republicans would be voting against your own best economic interest. The Republican Party, controlled today by far right-wingers, would like nothing better than to abolish medicare and privatize Social Security. They must be stopped.

GOP Primary Voters

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

Secular Government Benefits Everyone

All religions are touted by their followers as being vehicles to promote and spread peace, love, and morality. Unfortunately, this is not even close to being true. While most (or all) religions do teach these values at one level, at a deeper level they also teach that anyone who doesn't believe in a particular religion is not only wrong, but somehow less human than the believers. And religious adherents use this deeper belief to bully, discriminate against, and even physically harm non-believers and believers of other faiths.

As the graphic above shows, instead of bringing the world closer together, religion has historically had the effect of pulling it apart. And this is especially true when governments involve themselves in promoting religion -- whether a particular religion, or religion in general. When government becomes involved in religion bad things begin to happen, such as wars, pogroms, discrimination & denial of human rights, forced religious participation, relegation of females to a second-class status, honor killings, and many other things -- all of which would be considered immoral and unethical if not justified in a religious context.

Our Founding Fathers knew this and tried to create a secular nation, but that didn't last long. For the last couple of centuries religion (particularly christianity) has steadily encroached into government activities. Traditionally, this has mostly been seen on the local level, but recently the state and federal governments are also being involved. This has resulted in legislation based on religious beliefs and much of that legislation has had a detrimental effect on American society. A good example is when the religious right mandated schools cannot teach sex education, except for "abstinence only", and this resulted in more teen pregnancies and larger numbers of abortions.

Religion has also historically been used (and is still being used) in this country to justify discrimination and the denial of equal rights to many groups -- examples ranging from slavery and Jim Crowism to denial of full equal rights to women and homosexuals. It is undeniable that religion (christianity) is the biggest obstacle to the full realization of our constitutional values -- the granting of equal rights to all American citizens.

The Whiners

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

Bigoted Advertising

This advertising billboard recently went up in Manhattan (New York City). Of course it was taken down after only a short period of time. If this company couldn't see the obvious bigotry of their ad campaign, then they have either drank far too much of their own product (vodka) or the environment of the company is one that encourages bigoted thinking. And the same goes for their ad agency. They should both be ashamed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rules Are Needed

Libertarians and right-wingers think that corporations and other large entities should be left alone to do whatever they want to do. The problem with that is they do not exist in a vacuum -- whatever they do tends to affect a lot of other people in the country, and the bigger they are the more people are affected by their actions. In a fair society, rules are necessary to keep the rich and powerful from trampling on the rights and lives of everyone else.

It's Everyone's Fight

The quote at the bottom of the picture above shows what the right-wing would like for Americans to believe -- that the Occupy Wall Street movement is nothing more than a few bored young people, parasites with meaningless lives who have contributed nothing to America. But this picture shows that argument is a pathetic lie (designed to protect the 1% and the failed Republican economic policy).

This gentleman has contributed much to his country. As a World War II veteran, he put his life on the line for his fellow citizens -- to defend freedom for not only his generation, but also for all the generations that followed. And I suspect that he has worked hard all his life to support his family and contribute to our economy. He certainly doesn't look like a "trust fund baby". And he's not the only older American who has joined in the protests. There are many -- they may not be camping out with the younger folks, but they are there for the marches and demonstrations.

For many of these older demonstrators, even if they and their younger cohorts are able to finally affect the change that is needed in this country, that change will probably not benefit them much. That is not why they are there. They are there because they love their country and they want to protect the constitutional rights for those who come after them. And they want some economic justice for their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

These people know something that far too many Americans seem to have forgotten -- that rights, even constitutional rights, must be fought for continuously, or they will disappear. It is simply the nature of ALL governments to assume as much power as they can -- and this is true even of rather benign democratic forms of government. Every form of government will slowly eat away at the rights of its citizens if allowed to do so. As Thomas Jefferson so wisely told us, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and for government to gain ground."

GOP Serving Dinner For The 1%

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

Discrimination Is Alive & Well In Texas

By now you've probably heard about the federal judges tossing out the new district lines drawn by legislative Republicans, and replacing them with districts that are fairer -- especially for minorities. It has the Republicans in the state howling that they have been mistreated, and the state attorney general (a Republican) is now threatening to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Now you may be asking yourself why the Republicans shouldn't be allowed to draw the district lines any way they want. After all, they were elected by the people of the state and control both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion (and wouldn't the Democrats have also tried to draw district lines that favored them if they had been in power)? Shouldn't the Republican-drawn lines be honored?

The short answer is NO, but to understand why the answer is "no" you need to know a little bit about Texas history. Before the Civil War, Texas was a slave state. And when the Civil War broke out, Texas left the Union and joined the Confederacy (and all but four of Texas' many counties voted to join the Confederacy). Texas wanted to keep slavery legal so badly that it ran the presiding governor out of the state when he opposed leaving the Union, and he was a true Texas hero -- Sam Houston.

The Civil War was won by the United States and all slaves were freed, but that didn't mean that Texas was ready to accept minorities as equals -- far from it. They joined the South in imposing Jim Crow laws. Separate schools, restaurants, and drinking fountains were established and even transportation was divided by race. But perhaps most onerous was the denial of voting rights to minorities.

Sports Teaches. . .

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

Johnson May Run As A Libertarian

You may not know it, but former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is running for president. The Republican has been a declared candidate for some time now, but his campaign has been unable to get any traction at all. That's because he gets almost no media coverage, has not been included in most polls taken, and has been excluded from almost all of the Republican debates. Supporters of Ron Paul have complained that Paul gets less coverage than other Republican candidates (and that's true), but Paul has gotten a lot more coverage than Gary Johnson has.

And that lack of recognition that he even exists has killed Johnson's campaign. Most Republican voters have never heard of him, and if he is lucky enough to be included in a poll he only gets about 1% support. He has gone as far as writing to the Republican National Committee (RNC) to ask that they help get him into the debates still being held. They turned him down. They said they had to have "standards", and he didn't meet those standards.

But while Johnson may have been tilting at windmills, he's not a complete fool. He knows that with the primary season kicking off in about six weeks, he has no chance of getting the Republican nomination. But that does not mean he has given up his presidential aspirations.

Steve Terrell of The New Mexican is reporting that Johnson is now considering running on the Libertarian Party ticket. That would get him on the ballot in all 50 states. Johnson says he has had feelers from the Libertarian Party. That party currently has nine candidates seeking their nomination (which won't be determined until summer of 2012), and Johnson is not one of those nine. However, he says he thinks he would have a good chance of getting that nomination.

I don't know if he could get the Libertarian nod, but he's obviously got a better chance of that than the Republicans have given him.

Occupied, Etc.

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What The GOP Has Accomplished


This is what the GOP has accomplished since coming to power in the Reagan/Gingrich era. While keeping worker wages almost stagnant, they have vastly increased the wealth of the richest Americans. And they have made sure the rich don't have to pay any taxes on that new wealth. Is this really the kind of country we want? From the blog Under The Mountain Bunker.

Anyone But Mitt

The above graphic from the National Post shows the situation Mitt Romney finds himself in. While other candidates have seen their popularity rise and fall rather precipitously, Romney's support has been very steady for months. There are some pundits who would think this is a good thing, since it shows his support is solid. I disagree.

While his support has remained pretty constant at around the mid-twenties (nationwide), he has shown no ability to build on that support -- and support in the twenty percent range is not going to win him the nomination. Unless he can figure some way to get his support much higher, he's going to once again fail to get the nomination.

Poll after poll has shown that in a general election Romney would give President Obama a closer run than any of the other Republican hopefuls, and by now most Republicans have to be aware of that. But so far, that hasn't helped Romney at all. His support, steady as it is, comes from establishment Republicans, but the establishment Republicans don't control the party anymore -- the teabaggers do.

Strings

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Why The Current Economic Model Must Fail

There are those on the right who seem to believe that the United States and the rest of the world can continue the current energy and economic policy and everything will be all right. All we have to do is to keep increasing our drilling for oil. It is a ludicrous notion. Even if we weren't already reaching the point of peak oil (where production drops no matter how much drilling is done), it is simply silly to think the world can continue depending on fossil fuels as much as it does now -- both in terms of supply and the effect they have on our environment.

Environmentalist Lester Brown has written an excellent article showing the folly of our current policy. I found it on the excellent blog Zero Energy Construction and I repost it here in the hopes of giving it a wider circulation. Here is his thought-provoking article:


For almost as long as I can remember we have been saying that the United States, with 5 percent of the world's people, consumes a third or more of the earth's resources. That was true. It is no longer true. Today China consumes more basic resources than the United States does.

Among the key commodities such as grain, meat, oil, coal, and steel, China consumes more of each than the United States except for oil, where the United States still has a wide (though narrowing) lead. China uses a quarter more grain than the United States. Its meat consumption is double that of the United States. It uses three times as much coal and four times as much steel.

These numbers reflect national consumption, but what would happen if consumption per person in China were to catch up to that of the United States? If we assume conservatively that China's economy slows from the 11 percent annual growth of recent years to 8 percent, then in 2035 income per person in China will reach the current U.S. level.

If we also assume that the Chinese will spend their income more or less as Americans do today, then we can translate their income into consumption. If, for example, each person in China consumes paper at the current American rate, then in 2035 China's 1.38 billion people will use four fifths as much paper as is produced worldwide today. There go the world's forests.

If Chinese grain consumption per person in 2035 were to equal the current U.S. level, China would need 1.5 billion tons of grain, nearly 70 percent of the 2.2 billion tons the world's farmers now harvest each year.

If we assume that in 2035 there are three cars for every four people in China, as there now are in the United States, China will have 1.1 billion cars. The entire world currently has just over one billion. To provide the needed roads, highways, and parking lots, China would have to pave an area equivalent to more than two thirds the land it currently has in rice.

By 2035 China would need 85 million barrels of oil a day. The world is currently producing 86 million barrels a day and may never produce much more than that. There go the world's oil reserves.

What China is teaching us is that the western economic model—the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy—will not work for the world. If it does not work for China, it will not work for India, which by 2035 is projected to have an even larger population than China. Nor will it work for the other 3 billion people in developing countries who are also dreaming the "American dream." And in an increasingly integrated global economy, where we all depend on the same grain, oil, and steel, the western economic model will no longer work for the industrial countries either.

The overriding challenge for our generation is to build a new economy—one that is powered largely by renewable sources of energy, that has a much more diversified transport system, and that reuses and recycles everything. We have the technology to build this new economy, an economy that will allow us to sustain economic progress. But can we muster the political will to translate this potential into reality?

Leaving No One To Row

Political Cartoon is by Marshall Ramsey in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Teabagger Pledge

If this is not the teabagger's pledge, then it should be. Because this seems to be what they want. From the excellent blog Under The Mountain Bunker.

Stop Congressional "Insider Trading"

Last week it was revealed that Congress is commonly doing something that, if done by any other American, would be considered a criminal act. It is "insider trading". This is when someone uses information not available to the general public to make trades in the stock market, thereby giving themselves an unfair advantage in the market. An example of this would be when a corporate insider knows something will soon happen that will affect the market price of that company's stock. It would be illegal for him/her to use that knowledge to buy or sell that company's stock until that information is released publicly.

But the members of Congress and their aides routinely have that kind of information available to them (such as the knowledge that a new law or regulation will soon be imposed that will significantly affect a certain industry, or the knowledge that a lucrative government contract will soon be given to a certain corporation). While it would be illegal for an American citizen to use this secret information to enrich themselves by buying or selling stock, that illegality does not extend to members of Congress or their aides. And many members of Congress and their employees (of both political parties) have used "insider trading" to fill their own personal banks accounts with cold hard cash (and lots of it).

Lemons

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

Rock Music's Greatest Guitarists

I'm departing from my usual material with this post, but I found this interesting. Rolling Stone has put out a list of the 100 greatest rock guitarists of all time. Of course, any kind of list like this is usually a good way to start an argument, because each of us has our own likes and dislikes and that will color how we view talented people (and there's no doubt there have been many talented rock guitarists).

They picked Jimi Hendrix as the best of all time, and I have to agree with that. There's a saying that I heard a few years ago (can't remember who said it) -- that Les Paul invented the electric guitar, but Jimi Hendrix showed the world how to play it. Jimi was a shy person who didn't give many interviews, but let his guitar do most of his talking for him. And watching him play, it seemed like his guitar was more of a body part rather than a musical instrument. He had complete mastery of it. He died far too young, but fortunately he left us an incredibly impressive body of work -- and I never tire of listening to it.

Here is the Rolling Stone top ten:
1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Duane Allman
3. B.B. King
4. Eric Clapton
5. Robert Johnson
6. Chuck Berry
7. Stevie Ray Vaughn
8. Ry Cooder
9. Jimmy Page
10. Keith Richards

That's an impressive list of players, and it's hard to argue with those choices -- but I will. Here's the top ten list I would have composed:

1. Jimi Hendrix
2. Jimmy Page
3. Eric Clapton
4. Carlos Santana
5. Stevie Ray Vaughan
6. Jeff Beck
7. B.B. King
8. Robert Johnson
9. Freddie King
10. Buddy Guy

There may be some that think such blues guitarists as B.B. King, Robert Johnson, and Buddy Guy don't belong on a list of great rock guitarists. I disagree. A huge part of rock music sprang directly from the blues, and these guitarists had a huge effect on rock musicians who came later. Their greatness cannot be denied, nor their contribution to rock music.

What do you think? How would your list compare to that of Rolling Stone (or mine)? Feel free to leave your own top ten in the comment section (but please don't do it anonymously or it won't be posted). And if you're interested in Rolling Stone's top 100, you can find that here.

Profiles

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Turkey Vote

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to take this opportunity to wish all the readers of this blog, and my fellow progressive bloggers, a very happy Thanksgiving Day. I hope you all have many wonderful things to be thankful for. (And yes, I know I have a sick sense of humor. But when I saw this picture on FaceBook, it was just too funny and I had to steal it.)

Cain's Deadliest Enemy

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

A Few Things To Consider

While you are stuffing yourself with some great food, enjoying time with family & friends, and maybe even watching a bit of football today, here are a few things you should probably remember:

* The Labor Department says there are 16.5 million people unemployed in the United States (and that is undoubtably an undercount), and another 8.9 million who are working part-time because they can't find full-time work.

* There are at least 100 million Americans living below or near the poverty line (that's nearly one out of every three Americans). And more than 15% of the U.S. population lives below the poverty line.

* The number of children living in poverty in the U.S. grew by 1,000,000 between 2009 and 2010 (from 14.7 million to 15.7 million). This means more than one in five American children are currently living in poverty.

* About 49 million Americans aren't sure where their next meal is coming from, and more than 15% of the population is now receiving food stamps (a jump of about two-thirds since 2007).

* The Bush tax cuts in 2011 for the richest 1% of Americans is more than the average income of the other 99%. The average tax cut for the 1% is $66,384, while the average income for those in the 99% lucky enough to have a job is $58,506.

* While the wages of workers are still stagnant (with buying power diminishing), the cost of a Thanksgiving meal increased about 13% over what it cost in 2010.

And just to put things in perspective, here are a few more facts:

* The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing the American people about $13 million every 40 minutes this year.

* The multi-billionaire Koch brothers increase their wealth by about $13 million every eleven hours.

The Republicans want to continue both of those wars and give the Koch brothers a massive tax cut -- and they want to do it by cutting the programs that help hurting Americans. I can't think of anything more ridiculous or mean-spirited than that.

A 2011 "Black Friday"

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

This Is Freedom ?

This composite picture (shamelessly stolen from the blog of Yellowdog Granny) should make all Americans stop and think. We are a nation that prides itself on our Constitution and it's Bill of Rights. So why is it that when peaceful American citizens try to speak freely, peaceably assemble, and redress their government for their grievances, it winds up far too many times looking just like the scenes in a dictatorship?

The pictures on the right, from Bahrain and Tunisia, are no surprise because those countries don't have the constitutional freedoms supposedly guaranteed to Americans. But the pictures on the left are another matter. They should remind Americans that we are not yet as free as we thought we were or want to be. Our government, at all levels (local, state, and federal) doesn't seem to mind at all ignoring the Constitution and suppressing free speech -- especially if they find that speech uncomfortable or in opposition to those in power.

Free speech is meaningless unless it can be used to speak truth to those in power. It's time for the American people to demand that our government, at all levels, respect and obey the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. A Constitution that is not rigorously followed by all government authorities is useless and might as well not even exist.

Bonus Vs. Bone Us

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at caglecartoons.com.

A Few Hippies Or A Nationwide Movement ?

Many of the politicians, especially the Republicans, would like for Americans to think the Occupy Wall Street movement is nothing more than a few hippies raising a little hell. Newt Gingrich even said they should just take a bath and get a job (even though his party, with blue dog help, has systematically destroyed or outsourced millions of American jobs, leaving  a double digit number of applicants for the few jobs available).

The above map shows what an outrageous lie that idea is. Each of the red pinpoints above represents a city where Occupy Wall Street protests have been and are being held. That doesn't look like a few hippies to me. That looks like a nationwide movement demanding change. The politicians of both parties had better start taking this movement seriously, or they could well find themselves part of that change (and out of a job).

NOTE -- This map was found at Daily Kos.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Falling Behind

Americans like to think that the United States is number one in nearly everything, and there was a time when that was pretty much true -- not so anymore. By neglecting things like our crumbling and antiquated infrastructure, we are letting many other countries get ahead of us. Why won't Congress put Americans back to work upgrading our infrastructure? Do they think platitudes and wishes will allow us to compete? The truth is that lower taxes for the rich will not solve our problems, and it certainly won't repair and update our infrastructure. Sometimes tax money is necessary.