A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Common Sense From Morgan Freeman


Another Personal Note

There will be no new posts today. I spent yesterday (when today's posts would have been written) traveling to, attending, and traveling back from the funeral of my brother. Thank you for understanding. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Companies Bankrolling The Right-Wing

Here are a few brands that progressives might want to avoid when they spend their hard-earned money. When you spend money with these companies, you help to support the right-wing super-PACs that are spending millions to elect Wall Street Willie and his teabagging congressional candidates.

U.S. Backs Out & Kills U.N. Arms Treaty

There was a great hope that the United Nations would pass an arms treaty this year, but it now looks like that won't happen. And the primary reason it won't happen is that the United States backed out at the last minute, saying they wanted more time to consider the language of the treaty. And once the United States backed out, Russia and China quickly followed suit. It shouldn't escape attention that these three countries are the largest weapons shippers internationally. The executive director of Amnesty International made the following statement:

"This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line. It's a staggering abdication of leadership by the world's largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough."

I think that is a true statement. The Obama administration is afraid the arms treaty would have affected the upcoming election, so they backed down. They know the National Rifle Association (NRA) has waged a huge propaganda campaign against the U.N. treaty, and have convinced a lot of Americans that the treaty would somehow override the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and allow the United Nations to confiscate the guns of Americans. It's a ridiculous idea of course, since the arms treaty wouldn't have affected arms possession or sales within any country. It would only have affected the international sales of firearms, in an effort to keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of criminal and terrorist organizations.

And the NRA is bragging that they are responsible for the failure of the arms treaty. They probably are responsible. But it exposes the leadership of the NRA as to who they really support. It's not the Second Amendment or the gun owners in the United States -- because this treaty would not have affected either. The only group it would affect in this country (or any other) is the weapons manufacturers, because they would no longer be able to ship their killing weapons to any country or group without regard to the consequences. If it wasn't already obvious that the NRA has become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the weapons manufacturers, then it should be obvious now.

This treaty could have made the world a little bit safer. But the NRA doesn't care. They only care about the profits of the weapons manufacturers, and they were willing to lie to the American people to protect those profits.

Mitt At The Olympics

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

London Gaffes Hurt Romney

One of the big questions for many about Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) was whether he would be good in foreign affairs (an area where President Obama has excelled, and scored highly in poll after poll). The trip Mitt is making to three foreign countries was supposed to answer those doubts -- and to insure he would look good, three countries were chosen where it would be easy for him to do well (Great Britain, Israel, and Poland).

Great Britain was first, and should have been the easiest of all -- since they have a conservative government and there is no language problem. But it turned out to be a disaster, with Romney making gaffe after gaffe -- until he finally turned the British press, the British public, and the conservative government against him. This has to call into question Romney's competence. If Romney can't even get along with our most reliable friend, how is he going to be able to deal with other countries (whose relationship with the United States is much more complicated, or even downright unfriendly)?

In the end, Romney couldn't get out of Great Britain fast enough, especially after Michelle Obama showed up and instantly won the hearts of the British public -- which just magnified Romney's gaffes. His campaign now has to hope that he performs better in Israel and Poland, and can salvage a little of his pride. But he has been hurt politically, even if he does well in those two countries. Looking like a buffoon is never a good way to get votes.

The website called The Week believes Romney has hurt himself in five ways with his visit to Great Britain. Here is their list of those five ways:

1. Romney is giving Obama ammunition to highlight his lack of foreign experience
The purpose of Romney's "first diplomatic outing" was to show that he could handle himself on the world stage, say Nicholas Watt, Hélène Mulholland, and Owen Gibson in Britain's Guardian. By insulting his hosts on the eve of the Olympics, Romney "handed Barack Obama a potential gift." And Democrats wasted no time exploiting it, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid saying that it's embarrassing for the U.S. "to have somebody that's nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody."



2. Romney made allies mad at him
"There is a fantastic, hilarious, thigh-slapping irony" in the fact that Romney's trip was supposed to reaffirm America's traditional friendship with stalwart allies, says Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast, and it has "turned into a riotously public demonstration of the complete opposite." Instead of a "meeting of conservative minds between Cameron and Romney," the two traded insults. Romney, promising to return a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office, wanted to show he'd be a better friend to Britain than Obama is. Instead, he wound up getting London'sconservative mayor, Boris Johnson, "sneering at 'a guy called Mitt Romney' at an Olympics rally," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. "Good lord."  



3. The blunders call attention to anti-British things Romney said in the past
This isn't the first time that Romney has "said some not-so-flattering things about the Sceptered Isle," says Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy. In his book, No Apology, Romney wrote that "England [sic] is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn't make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy."  



4. This blunts GOP complaints that Obama apologizes too much abroad
Conservatives love to slam Obama for what they call his "constant apologizing" to world leaders, says Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly. Well, in the first 24 hours of a supposedly low-profile goodwill tour, Romney has spent a disproportionate amount of time doing damage control. Who's the apologizer-in-chief, now?



5. Romney's overseas debut looks terrible compared to Obama's '08 tour
Every foreign trip is "fraught with danger" for a prospective president, says Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post. The world of diplomacy is booby-trapped, and one ill-chosen word can leave you "diminished on the world stage," as Romney is learning. Obama faced the same danger in 2008 when, as a first-term senator aiming for the White House, he managed "perfect pitch" when speaking to the press and foreign leaders in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in Jordan, Israel, France, Britain, and Germany, where he made "an astounding speech before 200,000 in Berlin." So far, Romney is falling well short, but he "still has visits to Israel and Poland to get it right."

Too Many Clowns

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.

We Should Have Listened

Maybe someday the world will listen to Woody. Let the rich fight their own wars.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What Must Have Happened

Considering all the weird and conflicting things that christians claim Jesus wants, this cartoon from David Hayward at the naked pastor contains a lot of truth.

Free Speech Has Consequences

The owner of Chick-fil-A restaurants opened his mouth recently and confirmed that he is not only a homophobe, but he is proud to be one. It was an incredibly stupid statement, and there has been a huge reaction to his outright homophobia from decent people all over the country. He has been ridiculed, boycotts of his restaurant have been suggested, and some have even expressed their desire to keep his restaurants out of their communities.

Now some of his right-wing cohorts have sprung to his defense. They claim the criticism of him is a denial of constitutionally-protected free speech. What a load of crap! These right-wing nuts obviously don't understand the concept of free speech. While the Constitution guarantees people the right to say nearly any idiotic thing that pops into their head, it doesn't guarantee that once they say it they won't be criticized, ridiculed, or have to suffer any consequences. The Constitution only guarantees that the government can't forbid them from saying it.

Something else the right seems to have forgotten is that free speech is not limited to right-wingers or fundamentalist christians. It extends to all Americans, and includes the right to criticize or ridicule the speech of others. No one is saying the Chick-fil-A owner didn't have the right to say what he did -- he obviously did have the right under our Constitution. But other people also have that same right, and they are using it to point out what a stupid, homophobic and downright un-American thing it was that he said. That is the way free speech works in a free country.

Anyone in this country has the right to say whatever they want -- as long as it doesn't endanger their fellow citizens (like falsely yelling fire in a crowded theater). But if they choose to publicly say something stupid or hateful, then they must be willing to take the heat when other Americans exercise those same free speech rights and point that out.

Right-Wing Has It Backwards (Again)

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

Does Romney Have A Religion Problem ?

(Cartoon above is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.)

The politically correct idea about presidential elections is that a candidate's religion shouldn't matter. But the truth is that it usually does. It was an issue when John Kennedy ran for president and it has reared its head again now that Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) is running for the office. That's because there is a segment of our population that votes their religion instead of their politics (although they usually bend their politics to fit their religion).

Now that Romney has the GOP nomination locked up, a very respected polling organization, the Pew Research Center, decided to do a survey and find out if Romney's mormonism is going to cause him problems in the upcoming election. They titled their survey results, "Little Voter Discomfort With Romney's Mormon Religion". They went on to point out that about 60% of the population knew he was a Mormon, and out of that number about 19% said they were uncomfortable with his religion -- and pointed out that about the same number (17%) thought Obama was a muslim and were uncomfortable with that.

Sounds like a non-issue, right -- with both candidates being hurt about the same? Well, not quite. I looked at those numbers and concluded that Romney has a far bigger religion problem that the president does. Here's why. The 17% who believe Obama is a muslim are teabaggers (racists and birthers). Obama didn't get their vote in 2008, and nobody expected him to get those votes this year either.

The situation is different for Romney though. The 19% who knew he was a mormon and were uncomfortable with it (about 12% of the total population) are votes that Romney needs if he is to win. They are fundamentalist christian evangelicals -- a critical part of the Republican base. If these voters (many of whom view mormonism as a cult) are so uncomfortable that they vote for a third party evangelical, or just stay home on election day, then it becomes much harder for Romney to win -- maybe impossible.

Romney must hope that these voters finally decide they hate having an African-American president more than they hate having a mormon president (neither of which they really want). There is still a question of whether they will do that. It might not eventually affect the presidential race, but as of right now, Romney does have a religion problem.

The Problem

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

A Conservative's Experience With Canada's Universal Health Care System

The right-wing has told a lot of lies to Americans about how evil single-payer government-run universal health care is, and sadly, too many people believe them -- keeping the United States from joining the rest of the developed world in adopting such a system. The following post from the site Permission To Live is one that I wish all Americans (especially conservatives) would read. It was written by a right-winger who had to live in Canada for a few years, and tells what she learned about "socialized" medicine. She says:

When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada’s Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted. This meant we couldn’t choose our own health coverage, or even opt out if we wanted too. It also meant that abortion was covered by our taxes, something I had always believed was horrible. I believed based on my politics that government mandated health care was a violation of my freedom.


When I got pregnant shortly after moving, I was apprehensive. Would I even be able to have a home birth like I had experienced with my first 2 babies? Universal Health Care meant less choice right? So I would be forced to do whatever the medical system dictated regardless of my feelings, because of the government mandate. I even talked some of having my baby across the border in the US, where I could pay out of pocket for whatever birth I wanted. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Midwives were not only covered by the Universal health care, they were encouraged! Even for hospital births. In Canada, Midwives and Dr's were both respected, and often worked together. . .


Fast forward a little past the Canadian births of my third and fourth babies. I had better prenatal care than I had ever had in the States. I came in regularly for appointments to check on my health and my babies’ health throughout my pregnancy, and I never had to worry about how much a test cost or how much the blood draw fee was. I didn't have to skip my ultrasound because of the expense. With my pregnancies in the States, I had limited my checkups to only a handful to keep costs down. When I went in to get the shot I needed because of my negative blood type, in Canada it was covered. In fact I got the recommended 2 doses instead of the more risky 1 dose because I didn’t have to worry about the expense. I had a wide array of options and flexibility when it came to my birth, and care providers that were more concerned with my health and the health of my baby than how much money they might make based on my birth, or what might impact their reputation best. When health care is universal, doctors are free to recommend and provide the best care for every patient instead of basing their care on what each patient can afford.


I found out that religious rights were still respected. The Catholic hospital in the area did not provide abortions, and they were not required too. I had an amazing medically safe birth, and excellent post-natal care with midwives who had to be trained, certified and approved by the medical system.


I started to feel differently about Universal government mandated and regulated Health care. I realized how many times my family had avoided hospital care because of our lack of coverage. When I mentioned to Canadians that I had been in a car accident as a teen and hadn’t gone into the hospital, they were shocked! Here, you always went to the hospital, just in case. And the back pain I had endured ever since would have been investigated and cared for with whatever X-rays, Physiotherapy or even Surgery that was needed, which would have been at no cost to me. In our particular province, even chiropractic care was provided after a car accident by the provincial care insurance.When I asked for prayers for my little brother who had been burned in an accident, they were all puzzled why the story did not include immediately rushing him to the hospital. When they asked me to clarify and I explained that many people in the States are not insured and they try to put off medical care unless absolutely needed, they literally could not comprehend such a thing.


I started to wonder why I had been so opposed to government mandated Universal Health care. Almost every western country in the world has Universal Insurance of some kind, except the USA. Here in Canada, everyone was covered. If they worked full-time, if they worked part-time, or if they were homeless and lived on the street, they were all entitled to the same level of care if they had a medical need. People actually went in for routine check-ups and caught many of their illnesses early, before they were too advanced to treat. People were free to quit a job they hated, or even start their own business without fear of losing their medical coverage. In fact, the only real complaint I heard about the Universal Health Care from the Canadians themselves, was that sometimes there could be a wait time before a particular medical service could be provided. But even that didn’t seem to be that bad to me, in the States most people had to wait for medical care, or even be denied based on their coverage. Depending on where one lived and how rural the area was, one's access to care could be limited, and that was regardless of what country one lived in. The only people guaranteed immediate and full service in the USA, were those with the best (and most expensive) health coverage or wads of cash they could blow. In Canada, the wait times were usually short, and applied to everyone regardless of wealth. If you were discontent with the wait time (and had the money to cover it) you could always travel out of the country to someplace where you could demand a particular service for a price. Personally, I never experienced excessive wait times, I was accepted for maternity care within a few days or weeks, I was able to find a family care provider nearby easily and quickly, and when a child needed to be brought in for a health concern I was always able to get an appointment within that week. . .


I also discovered that the Canadian government looked out for its families in other ways. The country mandates one year of paid maternity leave, meaning a woman having a baby gets an entire year after the birth of her baby to recover and parent her new baby full-time, while still receiving 55% of her salary and her job back at the end of that year. Either parent can use the leave, so some split it, with one parent staying at home for 6 months and the other staying at home for 6 months. I could hardly believe my ears when I first heard it. In America, women routinely had to return to work after 6 weeks leave, many times unpaid. Many American women lost their jobs when becoming pregnant or having a baby. I knew people who had to go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth just to hang onto their job and continue making enough money to pay the bills. Also every child in Canada gets a monthly cash tax benefit. The wealthier families can put theirs into a savings account to pay for college someday (which also costs far less money in Canada by the way), the not so wealthy can use theirs to buy that car seat or even groceries. In the province we lived in, we also received a monthly day care supplement check for every child under school age. I made more money being a stay at home mom in Canada than I do in the States working a part-time close to a minimum wage job. And none of the things I listed here are considered “welfare” they are available to every Canadian regardless of income. For those with lower incomes than we had there are other supports in place as well. . .


Since all of these benefits are available to everyone, I never heard Canadians talking about capping their incomes to remain lower income and not lose their government provided health coverage. Older people in Canada don’t have to clean out their assets to qualify for some Medicare or Social Security programs, I knew older people who went in for procedure after procedure, and we never heard about dwindling resources, kids paying for their parents medical expenses, or being forced to use up life insurance or funeral savings in order to get the health care they needed. I heard of inheritances being left even amongst the middle classes. Something I had only heard about in wealthy families in the USA.


And lest you think that the Canada system is draining the government resources, their budget is  very close to balanced every year. They’ve had these programs for decades. Last year Canada’s national debt was 586 billion dollars, the USA has 15.5 trillion dollars in national debt. Canada has about one 10th the population of the US, so even accounting for size, the USA is almost 3 times more indebted. And lest you think that taxes are astronomical, our median income taxes each year were only slightly higher than they had been in the States, and we still got a large chunk of it back each year at tax time.


In the end, I don’t see Universal health care as an evil thing anymore.

A Full Bandolier

Political Cartoon is by kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

An Unfair Comparison

The Brits have already written Mitt off as a worthless twit. He really didn't need Michelle Obama to show up and make him look even worse.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Raise Your Hand

The four programs listed above are a good example of government programs that work exactly as they were designed to work. They are also socialist programs. Since the Republicans (especially the teabaggers) seem to hate socialism so much, I'm sure they will refuse to take any benefits from these programs -- because accepting the benefits of these programs would be hypocritical.

The London Olympics Kicks Off

I like to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and critique the way each country has dressed its athletes. And what picture could be better for such a post than one having fashion mavens Edina and Patsy (from the hilarious British comedy Absolutely Fabulous). And true to character, we have Patsy lighting a cigarette (joint?) from the Olympic torch (picture above).

It's always interesting to see how the countries dress their athletes for the ceremonies. Some go for fashion and others go for a traditional national costume. Listed below are the countries I considered to be the best in this category and those who were the worst. The United States didn't fall into either category this year. Their Ralph Lauren-designed (and Chinese-made) uniforms were rather ordinary -- except for the berets, which were downright silly looking.

I first want to say that NBC did a very poor job of covering the parade of nations. They spent far too much time going to commercials, and when they came back just gave quick snapshots of the countries that had entered while they were making money on commercials. Even when they were showing the countries entering, the camera spent far too much time on the flag-bearer and not enough time showing the athletes. NBC should be ashamed of their coverage.

But I was still able to see some good and a lot of bad. Here are my choices for the best and worst dressed athletes in the opening ceremonies. If you disagree, I'd love for you to comment.

BEST

American Samoa -- They chose traditional dress, but did it in very nice shades of brown and gold. It looked very good.

Belarus -- These athletes wore white suits and hats. That may not sound exciting, but they made it look very classy.

Cameroon -- These athletes wore traditional African dashikis of black, red, and yellow. It was striking and beautiful.

North Korea -- They were dressed in dark suit coats, gray pants/skirts, and red ties. Clean & sharp.

Finland -- I normally don't like sweat suits in the opening ceremonies, but Finland did this well. The tops were an abstract design of black and white, and the pants were white. It was informal and classy at the same time.

Grenada -- They wore dark green sports jackets over light green shirts and black pants/skirts. Nice.

Italy -- The Italians wore nicely tailored dark blue suits with striped ties. The Italians just know how to make a suit look good.

Japan -- I normally hate red sports coats, but the Japanese were able to make them look good. They wore them over white shirts and pants/skirts.

Latvia -- They also did red and white, but the red was a darker shade. The women wore white jackets over red skirts, while the men wore red jackets over white pants.

Mali -- They were dressed in completely white dashikis. It made a very striking appearance.

WORST

Bermuda -- I realize they are famous for Bermuda shorts, but black sports coats over red shorts was just appalling.

Canada -- Tan pants with red jackets, and the jackets had a big white stripe on the front with the word "Canada" written on it. The Canadians didn't even try for a fashionable look.

China -- Red sports coats with yellow trim. I know those are the colors of their flag, but they are not colors that should ever be put together on a sports coat. They looked cheap.

Cuba -- Bright yellow sports coats and black pants/skirts. They looked like walking road signs.

Czech Republic -- The white shorts and dark jackets might have been passable, if they had not been worn with shiny blue boots. Atrocious.

Germany -- They usually look good, but the pink jackets for the women and blue jackets for the men, worn over white, just didn't work. Disappointing.

Guyana -- Bright yellow suits with red ties. Looked like a group of smiley faces with red ties. Awful.

Mexico -- Each athlete was dressed differently in loud colors and designs. Extremely gaudy.

Spain -- More mixing of red and yellow, and it didn't work any better for Spain than it did for China.

Great Britain -- This was perhaps the most disappointing. You expect the host nation to look good, and the Brits usually do. But they looked awful this time, with ugly white jackets made even uglier by large gold collars. And some athletes wore shots while others wore pants stopping just below the knee. Unbelievably ugly.

That's what I think. If you watched the opening ceremonies, I'd love to know what you think. Am I on target or off base?

Ugly American

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

GOP Finally Finds Some Voter Fraud

If you follow politics at all, then you have to know about the Republican effort to suppress the vote of groups they think might vote against them in the coming election. In Florida they are just striking voters from the voter registration rolls, and in many other states they have passed Voter ID laws to accomplish this.

But the GOP can't admit they are just trying to suppress Democratic votes, so they have used voter fraud as their excuse -- claiming voter fraud is rampant in this country. Of course it isn't. There are more people hit by lightning each year that people who vote fraudulently. And when challenged on their claim, the Republicans have struggled to find any instances of voter fraud (let alone rampant voter fraud). The Pennsylvania Republican Party admitted to a federal court that they have no evidence of fraud.

Well, it looks like the Republicans were at least a little bit right. Some voter fraud has finally been found. It seems that an Arizona man has been mailing in ballots for his "companion" -- who died five years ago. But the Republicans may not want to celebrate finding this bit of voter fraud. The guilty party is a white Republican -- and even worse he was running for office on the Republican ticket (for Supervisor of Pinal County). He has now withdrawn from the race.

How embarrassing for the GOP!

Work-Horse To Dressage ?

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

Possible Veeps On Issue Of Choice

(The caricatures of vice-pesidential hopefuls above was done by DonkeyHotey.)

Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) has been on both sides of most issues, and choice (a woman's right to control her own body) is no different. When he was running for governor, Romney ran as a pro-choice candidate. But he knew that wouldn't fly in this year's Republican primary, so he now claims to be anti-choice (I refuse to call it pro-life, because most anti-choicers are fine with killing all kinds of people -- as long as its not a fetus). The result is that currently no one can knows where Romney really stands on the issue (if he even has a stand).

That makes it important to know where the possible vice-presidential candidates stand on the issue of choice -- both because they could have an influence on Romney if he gets to the White House, and because the chosen veep candidate will be just a heartbeat away from being president. Unfortunately for America's women, this is a group that doesn't think women's rights are as important as rights for men. Think Progress has compiled the views of those considered the leading candidates. Here is what they found:

TIM PAWLENTY: The former Minnesota governor signed a mandatory 24-hour delay for women seeking abortion care into law, and while serving in the state House, he wrote a bill to require women to be told medically inaccurate information about abortion services. But Pawlenty also approved a bill ensuring that women who have been sexually assaulted have access to emergency contraception — a measure similar to one Romney vetoed.


ROB PORTMAN: While serving in the House of Representatives and Senate, the current Ohio senator has voted on 115 bills related to abortion and reproductive rights — 114 of which were anti-choice. Herepeatedly voted for the Federal Abortion Ban, which criminalizes some abortion services, and Portman co-sponsored a bill to effectively ban abortion coverage in state health insurance exchanges.


KELLY AYOTTE: The first-term New Hampshire senator has never cast a pro-choice vote. In 2003, Ayotte argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court defending New Hampshire’s law requiring a girl who is a minor to notify a parent before she has an abortion.


MARCO RUBIO: The Florida senator has sponsored two bills that would gut the expansion of contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act. He also voted to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding, which would have denied health care and preventive services to millions of women.


BOBBY JINDAL: While serving in the House of Representatives, Jindal voted eight times to limit abortion access and other reproductive rights issues. And just last month, the current Louisiana governor signed three anti-choice bills into law.


JOHN THUNE: The senator from South Dakota co-sponsored a bill to allow hospitals to deny emergency abortion care, even when a woman’s life is in danger. And while serving in Congress, Thune has voted repeatedly to deny military women the right to use their own, private money for abortion care in military hospitals.

NRA's Position

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in The Los Angeles Times.

Amazing Power ?

From the website of The Atheist Pig.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Personal Note

The gentleman pictured above is my younger brother. I didn't just love him because he was family, but because he was a wonderful person and it was a lot of fun just to be around him. He died Thursday morning.

I tell you this not to get sympathy, but to let you know I am a bit out of sorts -- and blogging may be a bit sporadic for a few days. I know most of you will understand.

P.S. -- If you've read this blog for long, then you'll know I am an atheist (and have been for a long time). While I appreciate kind thoughts and words, please don't send me any prayers or tell me he's in a better place. That would be offensive.

Why Is Marijuana Illegal ?

Why is the least dangerous drug of all (a drug that cannot be overdosed on) classified as a schedule I drug -- one that cannot be legally bought and sold (even with a prescription in most states), while much more dangerous drugs are legal to buy (either over the counter or with a prescription). It's time to end this nonsense. It's time to legalize marijuana (cannabis)!

On The Outside

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

Why The GOP Suppresses Votes In Texas

It may seem rather silly to some that the Republicans are trying to suppress Democratic votes in Texas with either a Voter ID law or by striking voters from the registration rolls. After all, Texas is not a blue state or a swing state. It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that Romney will win Texas this November, and statewide Republicans will do very well (unlike a state like Pennsylvania, where the Voter ID law could suppress enough votes to flip the state). So why are the Republicans doing it?

It's not just because they can (although that seems to be the only reason for many things they do). The chart above gives us the reason. The demographics of Texas are changing -- and they are changing fast. Between 2000 and 2010, the state grew by 4.2 million people. About 66% of that growth was due to an increase in the Hispanic population -- and African-Americans made up another 23% of the growth. These two groups accounted for 89% of all the growth in population between 2000 and 2010. That's leaves only 11% of the growth to be accounted for by all other groups, including non-Hispanic Whites, Asians, Pacific Islanders, etc.

And future population growth in Texas is expected to follow the same pattern (and could even be more slanted toward minorities). That means with each passing year the number of Whites as a percentage of the total population will decrease, and at some point in the not-so-distant future, Whites will make up less than half of the population (and continue to decrease). It has already happened in Texas schools (K-12).

This scares the crap out of Republican leaders. It scares them because most minority groups, especially Hispanics and African-Americans, vote heavily Democratic. As the percentage of Whites drops, they will lose more and more electoral contests -- until the state becomes solidly blue. That's why the Republicans are trying so hard to suppress Democratic votes, because they want to prevent this as long as they can -- and if they don't start doing it now, they won't be able to do it pretty soon.

Now they didn't have to do this. They could have chosen to purge their party of the racists, and change their anti-immigrant and anti-minority policies in an effort to appeal to minorities and get their support -- but they didn't do that. They chose instead to try to suppress the minority votes. It was a stupid choice. It might delay the inevitable, but it cannot stop it.

The Games

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe at intoon.com.

Willard Is Still Hiding Something

The comedy of errors regarding the unreleased tax returns of Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) continues -- and the longer it does, the more it looks like he's trying to hide something (money in overseas accounts? paying no taxes on millions in income? wealth much larger than reported?). He has evidently decided he can bluff his way through this, but that is a serious mistake. A majority of Americans want to see more of his returns, and the longer he waits the larger that majority becomes.

The affair has gotten so ridiculous that a growing number of his own Republican officials and right-wing pundits are calling for him to release more years. And now, one of the most solidly conservative newspapers in the country, the New Hampshire Union-Leader in Manchester, is asking Romney to just get it over with and release more tax returns. Here is what the paper had to say:

It is very clear, from the current debate over revealing more of his tax documents, that Romney knows the steps he has taken to minimize his tax bite, while legal, will subject him to still more fire from President Obama and his supporters. That is a given. No doubt, Romney is right. In fact, his wife, Ann, made that very clear when asked why he would not reveal additional years: “Because there are so many things that will be open again for more attack … and that’s really just the answer.”


Well, yes — and no. Maintaining the secrecy creates the impression, justly or not, that there is something there to hide. No escaping that reality. The impression is there. And it will cost Romney votes he cannot afford to lose. Those voters might not cast their ballots for Obama, but not voting can be just as damaging. And yes, for using the tax dodges and loopholes legally available to him, he might lose votes as well. 


But there is no place for secrecy or, indeed, privacy in a Presidential campaign. If you want the job, you have to subject yourself to the scrutiny. . .


Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this entire controversy is the one NOT being discussed much: How did Romney get himself into this position in the first place? He has been running for office for a long time. His presidential aspirations predate the tax returns in question.


What could he possibly have been thinking when he failed to ensure that everything contained in those documents was above reproach? Or was he simply not thinking at all? Surely he could not have arrogantly believed that he could withstand any storm that developed by bluffing his way through it? If so, it hasn’t worked. . .


Unfortunately, as long as some voters believe there is something the presumptive Republican nominee is attempting to hide, the true debate takes a back seat. It’s time to get the inevitable over with. Release the tax returns, explain them, take the heat, and move on.

Total Embarrassment

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

This Is Diplomacy ?

I can't believe there are still people considering voting for this man. He goes to Europe to enhance his foreign policy credibility, and it takes him less than half a week to piss off most people in Great Britain -- even the conservatives. He's a walking disaster -- and that's just how he would be as president.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Quoting Willard

"I don't remember exactly what I said but I stand by what I said whatever it was." -- Willard Mitt Romney

Economists Expose GOP Economic Lies

In their desire to continue slanting the economy's benefits toward the richest Americans, the Republicans have repeatedly told a group of lies -- lies that make it sound like their economic views make sense. One of those lies is that the economic stimulus plan passed by President Obama and the Democratic Congress (before the Republicans took control of the House), did not save or create any American jobs, and may have actually had a negative effect on jobs. But when that question was asked of economists, about 80% of them said the unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without the stimulus bill -- in other words, the stimulus bill worked to either save or create jobs (or both).

Now this doesn't come from some liberal think tank. It is a survey done of 40 of the nation's top economists by the University of Chicago School of Business (which is certainly not regarded as a bastion of liberal thought). And that wasn't the only silly GOP economic claim that the economists disagreed with. Here are some of the others:

A CUT IN INCOME TAX RATES RIGHT NOW WOULD RESULT IN HIGHER TAX REVENUES 5 YEARS FROM NOW THAN IF THE CUTS HAD NOT BEEN MADE.
Agree...............0%
Uncertain...............8%
Disagree...............71%

CHANGES IN GASOLINE PRICES OVER THE LAST 10 YEARS HAVE NOT BEEN DUE TO GOVERNMENT POLICIES, BUT TO MARKET FORCES.
Agree...............88%
Uncertain...............7%
Disagree...............0%

THE TYPICAL U.S. CORPORATE CEO IS PAID MORE THAN HIS/HER CONTRIBUTION TO THE FIRMS VALUE.
Agree...............32%
Uncertain...............32%
Disagree...............7%

PRICE-STABILITY AND EMPLOYMENT OUTCOMES WOULD BE BETTER FOR THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IF THIS COUNTRY REPLACED ITS DISCRETIONARY MONETARY POLICY WITH A GOLD STANDARD.
Agree...............0%
Uncertain...............0%
Disagree...............93%

WITHOUT INSIDE INFORMATION, INVESTORS CANNOT CONSISTENTLY MAKE ACCURATE PREDICTIONS ABOUT WHETHER THE PRICE OF A STOCK WILL RISE OR FALL ON ANY GIVEN DAY. (This is especially important because the GOP wants to privatize Social Security and put it at the whims of the stock market.)
Agree...............95%
Uncertain...............0%
Disagree...............0%

RAISING THE FEDERAL TAX RATE BY 1% ON THOSE IN THE TOP TAX BRACKET WOULD INCREASE FEDERAL REVENUES OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS.
Agree...............93%
Uncertain...............2%
Disagree...............0%

In short, the stimulus did work, cutting taxes will not increase tax revenues, raising taxes on the rich will increase tax revenues, gas prices are not the fault of the president, going back to the gold standard is a bad idea, corporate CEOs are overpaid, and the stock market is legalized gambling. Most Republicans disagree with the economists on all of these items -- which is just one more good reason to vote against them in November.

Ignoring The Bigger Horror

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

NRA Members Favor Common Sense Rules

The leadership of the National Rifle Association (NRA) has, in recent years, become little more than a super right-wing shill for weapons manufacturers. They hide this by scaring their members into thinking that everyone from Democrats to President Obama to the United Nations is conspiring to take away the right of Americans to own firearms. And that leadership brings up these overblown conspiracy theories every time any new regulation is being discussed -- no matter how tame or reasonable the regulation is.

After the shooting in Aurora, many people are once again talking about making some changes in the regulation of firearms in America -- and of course, the NRA leadership is over-reacting as usual. They try to present their organization as monolithic and in agreement on all gun regulation issues. And polls have shown that when the question is asked that way (Do you favor gun control?) an overwhelming number of NRA members (and probably the public at large) will quickly answer NO. It is quickly assumed by many that the question implies an erosion (or overturning) of the Second Amendment.

But when asked about separate issues (without labeling it as gun control), a pollster recently found a majority of gun-owners (both NRA members and non-members) are not opposed to some common sense rules regarding firearms. The pollster is Frank Luntz (who commonly does polling for the Republican Party), and his survey was done last May for Mayors Against Illegal Guns. His survey included both NRA members and gun owners who are not in the NRA, and here are some of the results he found (with the percentages shown being those in favor):

BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR GUN OWNERS.
NRA...............74%
non-NRA...............87%

BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR GUN SHOP EMPLOYEES.
NRA...............79%
non-NRA...............80%

PROHIBIT TERRORIST WATCH LIST MEMBERS FROM BUYING GUNS.
NRA...............71%
non-NRA...............80%

MANDATE GUN OWNERS TO TELL POLICE IF THEIR GUN IS STOLEN.
NRA...............64%
non-NRA...............71%

CONCEALED CARRY PERMITS SHOULD BE GIVEN ONLY TO THOSE WHO HAVE COMPLETED A SAFETY TRAINING COURSE.
NRA...............74%
non-NRA...............84%

CONCEALED CARRY PERMITS SHOULD BE GIVEN ONLY TO THOSE 21 OR OLDER.
NRA...............63%
non-NRA...............74%

CONCEALED CARRY PERMITS SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN TO THOSE WITH VIOLENT MISDEMEANORS.
NRA...............75%
non-NRA...............81%

CONCEALED CARRY PERMITS SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN TO THOSE ARRESTED FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
NRA...............68%
non-NRA...............78%

It seems that a majority of gun owners (whether in the NRA or not) agree with these common sense rules. Unfortunately, the NRA leadership does not. They even came out against the proposal to keep guns out of the hands of those on the terrorist watch list. They automatically oppose any new regulation -- whether it makes sense or not. And since they are the ones that control the purse-strings and put out the NRA propaganda, nothing will be done by Congress (where most members are afraid of being labeled as "anti-gun" and would take a campaign donation from the devil himself).

Hopefully, at some time in the future, the NRA leadership can be wrested from the ultra-right-wingers -- and given to those who would protect both the Second Amendment and reasonable gun regulations.

Syrian Shop Of Horrors

Political Cartoon is by Randy Bish in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Another License Plate Change For Texas


I don't think it's been a full three years, but the state of Texas is once again changing the design of their license plates. The plate currently in use is the multi-colored one pictured above (the bottom picture), which has everything on it but the Alamo. It turns out that too many witnesses of crimes and accidents have been unable to get a plate number because the plate is too "busy" (has too many colors and pictures on it). The plate is pretty, but it just doesn't work as intended (since a plate that isn't easy to read is worthless).

This should have been thought of before the plate was put in service, but it wasn't. Now they have gone to the plate above (the top picture). This is what Texas license plates used to look like (back in the sixties and seventies). So after years of many plate changes, they have returned to the old, tried but true design.

They started issuing the new plates this month, so you should be seeing them on cars very soon. Personally, I like the new plate. But then I'm an older guy who never understood why they were changed in the first place. It's a clean design and it works -- and that's all that matters. Beauty was never meant to be an element of license plate design.

Sally Ride

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at caglecartoons.com.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Capitalism


Poverty Nearing 50-Year High In The U.S.

Back in 1959, the United States had a record post-WWII poverty rate of 22.4% (meaning significantly more than one out of every five United States citizens was living below the poverty level). That was shameful for a country that prided itself on being the richest country in the world. President Johnson pushed through his "Great Society" program, and although it didn't completely eliminate poverty in the U.S., by 1973 the poverty rate had been pushed down to a record low of 11.1% (less than half of what it had been in 1959).

That was as good as it would get though. But the rate stayed in the 11% to 12% range until President Reagan took office in 1980. Once his "trickle-down" economics was instituted, the poverty rate again began to rise and was about 15% when Bush left office. It started another downward trend as President Clinton became president, and was slightly below 12% when he left office. Unfortunately, Clinton was followed by another believer in "trickle-down" economic theory -- President Bush. The poverty rate again began to climb, and when the recession hit began to rise precipitously.

By 2010, the poverty rate had climbed to 15.1% (and a record number of 46.2 million people in the U.S. were living in poverty). Soon, the newest poverty rate will be announced. If it rises just 0.1%, it will equal the poverty rate of 1965, making it the highest poverty rate this country has seen in 47 years. And most economists belief it will probably be closer to 15.7%, making it the highest rate in over 50 years.

And it's not going down anytime soon, as the economists predict it will stay at least this high for the next two and a half years (through the end of 2014). I think that's a rather optimistic prediction. It assumes there will be growing job creation and at least the current level of government help for hurting Americans, and if the Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives, that is not likely. They will continue to demand cuts in social programs and they will continue to block any efforts President Obama proposes to create jobs (so they can give new tax cuts to the rich and the corporations).

We already know that half of Americans live within 150% of the official poverty level, meaning half of our population is in danger of slipping down below the poverty level. With unemployment benefits running out for many and most new jobs being minimum wage jobs, it is likely than many of these people will fall below the poverty line and the poverty rate will continue to rise. With the House Republicans being unwilling to help anyone but the rich, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we will again see the disastrous poverty rate of 1959 again in the next few years.

This makes it very important to not only keep a Democrat in the White House, but to put many more Democrats in the House of Representatives also (and flip the House if possible).

Your Papers, Please

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

Romney Is Afraid To Run On His Record

There's a lot of truth in the cartoon above. Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) is afraid to try and run on his record (or any part of his background really). This is unusual for a candidate running for president -- even George W. Bush, failed businessman, was not afraid to run on his record as governor of Texas (even though it was very debatable whether he was a good governor or not).

And frankly, I don't blame Romney. I'm not at all sure there is anything in his background worth bragging about. Even as far back as his youth, Romney was a bully who thought it was funny to torture his classmates (like holding a classmate down and cutting his hair off). That just illustrated his smug and self-centered attitude that he has displayed throughout his life (and even today, he doesn't think the American people deserve to know anything about his finances).

He doesn't want to run on his mormon religious devotion (although that is one of the two driving forces in his life, the other being making money). He knows that putting his religion front and center (like other candidates have done) will just upset the GOP's evangelical base -- many of whom consider the mormons to be some kind of cult. Running on his religion is likely to cost him more votes than it would get him.

There was a brief flirtation with running on his business record. But then that record was exposed as more "vulture capitalism" than good business. He made many millions of dollars, but he did it by stripping companies of their assets and letting them go bankrupt. In the process, he destroyed many American jobs and outsourced many more to foreign countries. That kind of "business" background certainly wouldn't let him campaign as a "job creator". And it doesn't look too good either that he put much of the money he made into secret foreign tax havens (and refuses to release his tax returns).

Then we have his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, which is probably the most relevant experience he has to establish his qualification to be president. He certainly doesn't want to campaign on that. The only real achievement of his administration was to pass a health care bill (Romneycare) that served as a model for President Obama's health care reform (Obamacare). He would like for the GOP base voters to forget that. It also doesn't look too good that he took a fairly prosperous state and reduced it to 47th in job growth during his term.

The latest effort is to portray him as some kind of savior of the Winer Olympics in Utah -- and he is going to the London Olympics to try and forward that notion. But that probably won't work either. It turns out that the paperwork on those Olympics is still unavailable to the public (or the press). And even if it was available, it probably wouldn't show much. It seems that the most important stuff, the contracts and agreements, were all shredded and destroyed (just like records from his tenure as governor). Romney is obsessive about keeping his actions secret. Another rather revealing thing about his tenure as Olympic organizer was revealed in Madeleine Albright's book Memo To The President Elect, where she says:

This episode is worth recounting because every prospective torch carrier was given, courtesy of the U.S. Olympic Committee, a special uniform consisting of a nylon sports jacket and matching pants. When my uniform arrived, I glanced at the label, which read “Made in Myanmar,” that is, Burma, a country that suffers under one of the most repressive governments on Earth. It was not yet illegal to import clothing from Burma, but public pressure had induced most U.S. retailers to stop doing business there. I had my own grounds for revulsion, having visited the country to pledge support for its courageous democratic leader, the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. I was furious about the uniform but knew it was too late to reorder all the clothing, though I did go out and buy my own shirt and pants (Made in America). When I arrived in Salt Lake City, I informed Mitt Romney, head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, about the gaffe; he thanked me kindly for keeping my mouth shut. The following year, Congress approved a ban on all imports from Burma.

So, what does that leave? Nothing of Romney's background or record. That means we're probably going to see a whole lot more negative advertising from the Romney campaign (and his super-PACs). Since he doesn't have a background or record he can run on, he is reduced to trying to tear down the record of President Obama.