A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Friday, August 31, 2012

Remember


Public Thinks Romney & GOP Favor Rich

(Caricature above of Romney is from DonkeyHotey.)

This should be no surprise really since Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) is one of the lucky 1% in this country, but most Americans have a very different opinion of the rich than Romney does. Romney would have us believe that the rich are just honest Americans who got their money by hard work, and they deserve to keep more of it by having their taxes lowered. Most Americans have a dimmer view of the rich.

A recent Pew Research Center survey (taken April 4th through 15th of a random sample of 3,008 adults nationwide) shows that 55% of the public thinks the rich are more likely to be greedy than the average person, and 34% believe the rich are less likely to be honest. Most people also think the rich should be taxed more. Here are some interesting numbers:

WHO IS PAYING TOO LITTLE IN TAXES?
upper income...............58%
lower income...............20%
middle income...............6%

WHO IS PAYING TOO MUCH IN TAXES?
upper income...............8%
lower income...............37%
middle income...............38%

HAS THE GAP BETWEEN RICH AND POOR INCREASED OR DECREASED IN LAST 10 YEARS?
increased...............65%
decreased...............7%
stayed same...............20%
don't know...............9%

IS THE INCREASED GAP A GOOD OR BAD THING?
good...............3%
bad...............57%

There is also a big difference in how people view both the parties and the presidential candidates regarding the rich. Most think the Republican Party and Romney favor the rich over the middle class and the poor. Here are those numbers:

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY POLICIES FAVOR. . .
rich...............63%
middle class...............23%
poor...............3%

THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY POLICIES FAVOR. . .
rich...............20%
middle class...............35%
poor...............32%

ROMNEY'S POLICIES WOULD HELP. . .
rich...............71%
middle class...............40%
poor...............31%

OBAMA'S POLICIES WOULD HELP. . .
rich...............37%
middle class...............50%
poor...............60%

It's clear that Romney and the Republican Party are out of touch with most Americans regarding their policy toward the rich. While Romney and the Republicans think the rich pay too much in taxes and want to give them massive new tax cuts, most people think the rich pay too little in taxes and would be in favor of raising taxes on the rich (and many other polls besides this one have also shown that). The American people also believe that Romney and the Republicans economic polices favor the rich over all other groups (by clinging to the failed "trickle-down" policy).

The Republicans need to change this perception if they want to do well in the upcoming election. The rich may have a lot of money to give to campaigns, but they don't have a lot of votes.

The Early Years

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

Ryan & Romney - Two Lying Peas In A Pod


The more I see of Paul Ryan, the more I think he is probably the perfect running mate for Willard Romney. They are both inveterate, artful, and prolific liars -- and both are shameless enough to keep repeating those lies daily on the campaign trail, long after the lies have been exposed by the media and others. A couple of nights ago, Ryan gave his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention.

It was the perfect opportunity for him to lay out a sane and reasonable plan for the economic recovery of this country (including a plan for job creation). Instead he released what felt like a torrent of lies. Think Progress has picked out what they say are the six worst lies Ryan told in his speech (although I don't know how they cut it down to only six). Here is their list:


1. “A downgraded America.” Ryan blamed the president for the nation’s credit downgrade in August 2011 after Republicans threatened to allow the government to default on its debt for the first time in history. But the ratings agency explicitlyblamed “Republicans saying that they refuse to accept any tax increases as part of a larger deal.”
2. “More debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined.” Romney has made the almost identical claim, that Obama has amassed more debt “as almost all of the other presidents combined.” But their math doesn’t add up: when Obama took office, the national debt was $10.626 trillion. It has increased to slightly above $15 trillion.
3. Shuttered General Motors plant is “one more broken promise.” Ryan described a GM plant that closed down in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin, and blamed Obama for breaking his promise to keep the plant open when he visited during his campaign. But Obama never made that promise, and the plant shut down in December 2008, before Obama even took office.
4. Obama “did exactly nothing” on Bowles-Simpson. Ryan said, “He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.” In fact, Ryan was instrumental in sabotaging the commission, leading the other House Republicans in voting against the plan.
5. “$716 billion, funneled out of Medicare by President Obama.” Ryan’s favorite lie is a deliberate distortion of Obamacare’s savings from eliminating inefficiencies. Furthermore, Ryan’s own plan for Medicare includes these savings. Romney has vowed to restore these cuts, which would render the trust fund insolvent 8 years ahead of schedule.
6. “The greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak.”Ryan closed the speech with an invocation of social responsibility, saying, “The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” However, numerous clergy members have condemned Ryan’s budget plan as “cruel,” and “an immoral disaster” because of its devastating cuts in social programs the poor and sick rely on. Meanwhile, Ryan would give ultra-rich individuals and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks.

Only One Color

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

Court Quashes Texas Voter ID Law

(On the map above, the states in green require a photo ID to vote, the states in yellow request a photo ID, the states in blue require a non-photo ID, and the states in gray do not have a Voter ID law.)

In the last legislative session, the Texas Republicans passed one of the most restrictive Voter ID laws of any state. They claimed it was to prevent widespread voter fraud (like someone voting more than once or using the registration card of someone else to vote). The problem with that reason is that there is no widespread problem of voter fraud. In fact, many more people are struck by lightning each year than commit voter fraud -- in every state, including Texas. Voter fraud was just the excuse for the law -- the real reason was voter suppression (since the Republicans designed the law to affect many more Democratic votes than Republican votes).

Yesterday, a three-judge panel in Washington D.C. threw out the Texas Voter ID law, calling it "the most stringent in the nation" and saying it violated the Voting Rights Act by affecting minorities more than others. They also said it posed a burden on the poor by requiring they spend money to get the required ID.

Texas Attorney General vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court. He said, "Today's decision is wrong on the law and improperly prevents Texas from implementing the same type of ballot integrity safeguards that are employed by Georgia and Indiana -- and were upheld by the Supreme Court." That is a bit disingenuous though, and the court addressed the approval of both of the laws those states passed.

First, Indiana is not covered under section 5 of the Voter Rights Act (VRA), while Texas is covered (because of its long history of denying minority voting rights). Because of that, Texas was required to prove they did not inhibit the voting rights of minorities in passing the law -- and both the Justice Department and the court said that Texas was not only unable to prove that but that the law they passed did affect minorities more than whites. The court held that the cases of Indiana and Texas are not analogous because Texas is covered under section 5 of the VRA.

The court also addressed the Voter ID law in Georgia (which actually received pre-clearance by the Justice Department), and how the Texas law was different. They said:


Nothing in this opinion remotely suggests that section 5 bars all covered jurisdictions from implementing photo ID laws. To the contrary, under our reasoning today, such laws might well be precleared if they ensure (1) that all prospective voters can easily obtain free photo ID, and (2) that any underlying documents required to obtain that ID are truly free of charge. Indeed, Georgia’s voter ID law was precleared by the Attorney General—and probably for good reason. Unlike SB 14, the Georgia law requires each county to provide free election IDs, and further allows voters to present a wide range of documents to obtain those IDs. Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2- 417.1(a); Ga. Elec. Code 183-1-20-.01. The contrast with Senate Bill 14 could hardly be more stark.

Finally, during closing arguments, Texas’s counsel complained that they had been shouldered with an “impossible burden” in this litigation. Trial Tr. 7/13/2012 27:14. This may well be correct, but Texas’s lawyers have only their client to blame. The State of Texas enacted a voter ID law that—at least to our knowledge—is the most stringent in the country. That law will almost certainly have retrogressive effect: it imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty. And crucially, the Texas legislature defeated several amendments that could have made this a far closer case.

Ignoring warnings that SB 14, as written, would disenfranchise minorities and the poor, see, e.g., JA 1300-03; 1329, the legislature tabled or defeated amendments that would have:
waived all fees for indigent persons who needed the underlying documents to obtain an EIC, Trial Tr. 7/12/2012 (AM) 30:17-31:7, 33:23-24;
reimbursed impoverished Texans for EIC-related travel costs, JA 2139-42; 
expanded the range of identifications acceptable under SB 14 by allowing voters
to present student or Medicare ID cards at the polls, Trial Tr. 7/12/2012 (AM)
34:21-24; JA 1246-47; 
required DPS offices to remain open in the evening and on weekends, JA 1337;
and
  allowed indigent persons to cast provisional ballots without photo ID. Trial Tr.
7/12/2012 (AM) 35:3-37:1. Put another way, if counsel faced an “impossible burden,” it was because of the law Texas enacted—nothing more, nothing less.



Texas can pass a Voter ID law. But it cannot pass a law that restricts the voting rights of the poor or minorities. In other words, Texas Republicans cannot attempt to suppress the votes of those they fear will vote against them -- and that is exactly what they tried to do. This was a good court decision and a reasonable one. I think it has a very good chance of being upheld by the Supreme Court. But we'll just have to wait and see, because the conservative-leaning court has made some bad decisions in the past (like Citizens United vs. FEC).

Leaning Far Too The Right

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

The Real Willard Mitt Romney

The Republican Convention this past week has been about one thing -- trying to paint a picture of Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) that the American public can live with. They want voters to believe Willard is just a nice guy that would never hurt anyone, and has the best interests of all Americans at heart. Of course, that's sheer nonsense. Romney cares for only one thing -- money. And he doesn't really care who he has to step on to get it.

The best picture of Willard that I've read is the one written by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone magazine. Taibbi exposes the real Willard Mitt Romney, the one's his campaign staff and other Republicans don't want to talk about. Here is a small part of that article, but I urge you to read the whole thing. Taibbi says:

The great criticism of Mitt Romney, from both sides of the aisle, has always been that he doesn't stand for anything. He's a flip-flopper, they say, a lightweight, a cardboard opportunist who'll say anything to get elected.


The critics couldn't be more wrong. Mitt Romney is no tissue-paper man. He's closer to being a revolutionary, a backward-world version of Che or Trotsky, with tweezed nostrils instead of a beard, a half-Windsor instead of a leather jerkin. His legendary flip-flops aren't the lies of a bumbling opportunist – they're the confident prevarications of a man untroubled by misleading the nonbeliever in pursuit of a single, all-consuming goal. Romney has a vision, and he's trying for something big: We've just been too slow to sort out what it is, just as we've been slow to grasp the roots of the radical economic changes that have swept the country in the last generation.
The incredible untold story of the 2012 election so far is that Romney's run has been a shimmering pearl of perfect political hypocrisy, which he's somehow managed to keep hidden, even with thousands of cameras following his every move. . .

Last May, in a much-touted speech in Iowa, Romney used language that was literally inflammatory to describe America's federal borrowing. "A prairie fire of debt is sweeping across Iowa and our nation," he declared. "Every day we fail to act, that fire gets closer to the homes and children we love." Our collective debt is no ordinary problem: According to Mitt, it's going to burn our children alive.
And this is where we get to the hypocrisy at the heart of Mitt Romney. Everyone knows that he is fantastically rich, having scored great success, the legend goes, as a "turnaround specialist," a shrewd financial operator who revived moribund companies as a high-priced consultant for a storied Wall Street private equity firm. But what most voters don't know is the way Mitt Romney actually made his fortune: by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back. This is the plain, stark reality that has somehow eluded America's top political journalists for two consecutive presidential campaigns: Mitt Romney is one of the greatest and most irresponsible debt creators of all time. In the past few decades, in fact, Romney has piled more debt onto more unsuspecting companies, written more gigantic checks that other people have to cover, than perhaps all but a handful of people on planet Earth.
By making debt the centerpiece of his campaign, Romney was making a calculated bluff of historic dimensions – placing a massive all-in bet on the rank incompetence of the American press corps. The result has been a brilliant comedy: A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place. That same man then runs for president riding an image of children roasting on flames of debt, choosing as his running mate perhaps the only politician in America more pompous and self-righteous on the subject of the evils of borrowed money than the candidate himself. If Romney pulls off this whopper, you'll have to tip your hat to him: No one in history has ever successfully run for president riding this big of a lie. It's almost enough to make you think he really is qualified for the White House.
The unlikeliness of Romney's gambit isn't simply a reflection of his own artlessly unapologetic mindset – it stands as an emblem for the resiliency of the entire sociopathic Wall Street set he represents. Four years ago, the Mitt Romneys of the world nearly destroyed the global economy with their greed, shortsightedness and – most notably – wildly irresponsible use of debt in pursuit of personal profit. The sight was so disgusting that people everywhere were ready to drop an H-bomb on Lower Manhattan and bayonet the survivors. But today that same insane greed ethos, that same belief in the lunatic pursuit of instant borrowed millions – it's dusted itself off, it's had a shave and a shoeshine, and it's back out there running for president.

Just A Plank

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

Pro-Life ?

I could not agree more. It takes more than just worrying about a fetus to be able to call yourself pro-life. You also need to show compassion for real humans after they are born, and sometimes that means we need to spend some tax money to help our fellow citizens. There's a big difference between pro-life and pro-birth.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Fifth Amendment Candidate


These GOP Governors Just Don't Care

These four Republican governors don't believe there is a right to decent health care. They don't mind that thousands of poor Americans die each year for no better reason than that they don't have health insurance (which could have provided the preventative care to save their lives). For these governors, health care (especially expensive medical treatment) is something that's reserved for the rich (which of course, they are). They should be shamed by their heartless teabagger ideology (which they consider more important than people's lives), but I doubt the word "shame" is even in their vocabulary.

Think about this when you go to the polls in November (and when they run for re-election). Is this the kind of America you want? Personally, I think we can do much better, and it is our duty as American citizens and decent human beings to do that.

GOP Disaster Policy

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Party Platforms - Worthless Or Not ?

I've always thought one of the most useless things a party could do was waste the time to write and approve a party platform. This is especially true on the state level, but I thought it was probably just as bad on the national level. After all, how many people do you know who have actually read the latest platforms of the two political parties (other than those who helped to write them. But it looks like I may have been wrong about that.

One of the latest surveys from the good folks at the Pew Research Center shows that a majority of the people want to know what is in the party platforms. In fact, more people are interested in the party platforms than are interested in the presidential and vice-presidential speeches and the roll call of the states (normally the most interesting things at a convention).

The survey was conducted between August 23rd and 26th with a random sample of 1,010 adults (with a 3.6 point margin of error). The poll doesn't necessarily say most people want to read the platforms, but they do want to know what is in them. You can expect both the Democrats and Republicans to be interested in what their own party does and not so interested in what the other party does, and the numbers bear that out. But what I found really interesting was the interest of the general public and of those who identify as Independents. Here are those numbers:

GENERAL PUBLIC INTERESTED IN. . .
Republican Party platform...............52%
Democratic Party platform...............55%
Mitt Romney's speech...............44%
barack Obama's speech...............51%
Republican roll call of states...............43%
Democratic roll call of the states...............42%

Obviously, I was wrong in thinking only a few people (the media, the pundits, and a few of us political junkies) would be interested in what is actually in the party platforms. It looks like a lot of people are interested. Which makes me think the Republicans might want to print as few copies as possible of theirs -- since it is one of the most extremist platforms a political party has produced. It might shock most American voters.

For instance, their platform contains an anti-abortion plank that has no exception for rape, incest, or the life and health of the woman. An incredibly large portion of the American people don't like that. Another poll taken recently, the Daily Kos/SEIU State of the Nation Poll, shows this very clearly. Look at these numbers:

WOULD YOU SUPPORT A CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BANNING ALL ABORTIONS WITHOUT ANY EXCEPTIONS, EVEN IN CASE OF RAPE, INCEST, OR WHERE THE LIFE OF THE MOTHER IS THREATENED?
Support...............13%
Oppose...............75%
Not sure...............12%

And that's only one of many extreme far-right-wing positions in the Republican platform. I like the idea that people are interested in the platforms. That can only help President Obama and the Democrats.

Tax Cut Party

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

Bernie Blasts The "Deficit Hawk Hypocrites"

My favorite United States Senator, Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), has penned an article for McClatchy news service a few days ago. He titled it "Deficit Hawk Hypocrites", and as usual, it is excellent. Here is what Bernie had to say:


Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republican Party are now mounting a massive attack against Social Security and other programs. Using "deficit reduction" as their rationale, they are attempting to dismantle every major piece of legislation passed since the 1930s that provides support and security to working families.
They are being aided by at least 23 billionaire families, led by the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, who are spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this campaign as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Despite paying the lowest effective tax rate in decades, the billionaires want more tax breaks for the very rich. Despite the fact that the elimination of strong regulations caused the Wall Street meltdown and a terrible recession, the billionaires want more deregulation. Despite outsourcing of millions of good-paying American jobs to China and other low-wage countries, the billionaires want more unfettered free trade.
At this pivotal moment in American history, it's important to note how we got into this deficit crisis, who was responsible and what is the fairest way to address it.
Let us never forget that when Bill Clinton left office in 2001, this country enjoyed a healthy $236 billion SURPLUS.
Under George W. Bush and his fellow "deficit hawks," we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bush and Congress "forgot" to pay for those wars that will end up adding some $3 trillion to our national debt. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when we spent trillions on wars and added to the deficit? They voted for those policies.
Under George W. Bush and his fellow "deficit hawks," we gave huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country, which cost $1 trillion over a decade. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when Bush and Congress spent a trillion dollars on tax breaks for the very rich and added to our national debt? They voted for those policies.
Under George W. Bush and his fellow deficit hawks, Congress passed an overly expensive Medicare prescription drug program written by the insurance companies and drug industry. The government was barred from negotiating lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry under the program, which will end up adding $400 billion to our national debt over a 10-year period. Where were Paul Ryan and the other "deficit hawks" when Bush and Congress spent $400 billion for a much too expensive prescription drug program? They voted for those policies.
Now, having run up huge deficits, our born-again "deficit hawks" want to cut every program in sight to save money. In order to cover the costs they incurred in Iraq and Afghanistan, they want to cut Social Security. In order to cover the costs of the tax breaks for the rich, they want to cut Medicare and Medicaid. In order to cover the insurance-company-written Medicare prescription drug program, they want to cut education and food stamps.
This approach - balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor - is not only immoral, it is bad economic policy. It is something that must be vigorously opposed.
The $16 trillion national debt and the current $1 trillion deficit are serious problems, but they must be addressed in a fair way that will not cripple our economy, lead to the loss of jobs and punish people who are already hurting.
At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing phenomenally well and when their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, the richest people in this country have got to be asked to pay their fair share of taxes.
At a time when corporate profits are soaring and when about one in four major profitable corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes, we must end corporate loopholes and demand that corporate America starts paying its fair share of taxes.
At a time when this country loses $100 billion every single year because wealthy people and corporations stash money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, we must crack down on abusive tax cheats.
The United States military budget has virtually tripled since 1997, and we now spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. It is time to take a hard look at military spending.
There are serious and responsible ways to move this country toward deficit reduction. Unfortunately, that's not what Romney and Ryan are talking about. For them, it's the same old Republican saga: more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, and more austerity and pain for the most vulnerable people in this country.

Disaster Area

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

A Failed Policy

The truth is that trickle-down has never worked and never will. Obama is not ruining the economy. The economy was ruined by a blind GOP allegiance to an economic policy that made no sense, and sadly the current GOP ticket of Ryan/Romney still believes in that same failed policy. The Republicans never seem to learn, but it is time for the American people to learn this lesson -- and give President Obama enough Democrats in Congress to change that policy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Republican Game Plan


Has Romney Written Off Paul's Supporters ?

I watched a bit of the Republican Convention yesterday, and I have to say I was rather shocked at how the delegates for Ron Paul were treated. These delegates knew they didn't have the delegate strength to keep Romney from winning the nomination. All they wanted really was a little respect for their candidate and themselves -- and they got none at all.

I seem to remember that Ron Paul got quite a few votes in the primaries. It wasn't nearly enough to get him the nomination, but it was enough that I thought the Romney Republicans should probably throw them a bone, in the hope that they would vote for Romney and other Republicans in November. After all, Romney will need every vote he can scrounge up to have a chance of beating President Obama.

But the Romney people decided that the illusion of a unified convention was more important than reaching out to Ron Paul's supporters. First they denied Paul a speaking role at the convention (because he would not let the Romney people approve his speech before he gave it). Then they replaced 10 Maine delegates with Romney supporters, thus denying Paul and his supporters the right to even place his name in nomination.

But the final slap in the face came during the roll call vote. When a state cast votes for Romney, those votes were repeated at the podium. But when votes were cast by delegates for Ron Paul, the votes were ignored and not even repeated at the podium. They couldn't have been sending a clearer message to the many Ron Paul supporters, both at the convention and around the country. It was -- You don't count, so shut up and go away.

Maybe the Romney people think the Paul Republicans have no other place to go -- that they will be forced to vote for Romney in November. They are very wrong! If the Paul supporters don't just stay home on election day, there is a viable alternative for them -- Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party. The Paul supporters are pretty independent, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they refused to vote for Romney and establishment Republicans -- and that could just be enough votes to cost them the election.

The Libertarians have to be smiling today. Romney's heavy-handed tactics at the convention could have driven a lot of votes their way.

Not A Hard Choice

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Romney Still Doing Poorly With Hispanics

Back in 2008, John McCain got support from the Hispanic community in the low 30's. It wasn't enough to even make him competitive on election day. And so far this election year, Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) has not been able to get even close to McCain's numbers. Poll after poll has showed him in the mid-twenties. With numbers that low, Romney is going to have to get an abnormally high percentage of the white vote just to give him a chance.

Now there is a new poll out regarding the Hispanic vote -- and it shows Romney is still making no inroads in that community. It also shows the Republican Party is not doing very well either. It is the impreMedia/Latino Decisions Poll released on August 27th. here is what the poll showed:

FAVORABILITY/UNFAVORABILITY

Barack Obama
favorable...............74%
unfavorable...............24%

Mitt Romney
favorable...............27%
unfavorable...............55%

Democrats in Congress
favorable...............64%
unfavorable...............25%

Republicans in Congress
favorable...............32%
unfavorable...............52%

IF THE ELECTION WAS HELD TODAY WOULD YOU VOTE FOR ROMNEY OR OBAMA?
Mitt Romney...............26%
Barack Obama...............65%

WHO IS MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN THE LAST FEW YEARS?
George Bush...............68%
Barack Obama...............14%
Both...............10%
Neither...............3%

SHOULD MITT ROMNEY RELEASE MORE TAX RETURNS?
Yes...............66%
No...............26%

Nomination

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Court Tosses Out Texas Redistricting

(The pink area on the map above shows the congressional district I live in [#13]. It is over 300 miles long and contains 44 of Texas' 254 counties.)

After the last census was taken, it showed that the population in Texas had grown enough for the state to have an additional 4 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. And at least 90% (or more) of that growth was due to an increase in minority residents (mostly Hispanics and African-Americans). Now any fair redistricting proposal would have created 3 new Hispanic-majority districts and one with a majority of African-Americans (or at the very least, two new Hispanic seats and one new African-American seat).

But fairness is not a Republican value, and the state government in Texas is dominated by the Republican Party. The Texas GOP likes to talk about values, but that is just for the benefit of voters. The only value they really adhere to is doing whatever is necessary to stay in power (even if they have to cheat to do it), and that seems to be the value they followed in redistricting the state's congressional seats. When they were done, they had gerrymandered the state so that 3 new white Republican seats had been created and one Hispanic seat.

They knew what they had done was wrong and would not meet the standards outlined in the Voting Rights Act. That's why they didn't submit the new districts to the Justice Department for approval (as the law requires since Texas has a history of denying minority voting rights). Instead, they bypassed the Justice Department and submitted their plan to a federal court (counting on Republican-appointed judges to approve their illegal and racist plan).

The court has now made its decision. They tossed out the Republican redistricting plan in a 2 to 1 decision. The court wanted no part of the GOP's plan to deny minority voting rights. The court said:

"We conclude that Texas has not met its burden to show that the U.S. Congressional and State House Plans will not have a retrogressive effect, and that the U.S. Congressional and State Senate Plans were not enacted with discriminatory purpose. Accordingly, we deny Texas declaratory relief. Texas has failed to carry its burden that (the Legislature's actions) do not have the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act."

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/08/28/4211979/new-texas-political-maps-rejected.html#storylink=cpy


It is likely that the current election will be held under districts drawn by a San Antonio federal court for the primaries. But in the next legislative session (scheduled for January of 2013), the legislature is going to have to start over and draw new districts -- hopefully they will be districts that are much fairer to all Texans, including minorities.

This makes the down-ballot races, especially for the State House and Senate, very important this November. The Democrats will not be able to retake either body of the legislature, but they need to pick up enough seats to apply pressure to create fair districts.

Projecting Warmth ?

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

The Apology Akin Should Have Made

By now you've probably heard that Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri) has made an apology for disprespecting women who have been raped. Well, it was sort of a non-apology apology -- the kind Republicans are famous for making. What he actually said was the he had "mis-spoke", but what he meant was that he should have known better than to tell the truth in an election year.

But The Onion, America's premiere humor and satire site, has their own version of the Akin apology -- and personally, I think it's the one he should have made. Here is part of the Onion version (and I urge you to read the whole thing -- it's hilarious):


As a politician, I often find myself in situations where, unfortunately, I express a certain thought or idea poorly, or find my words taken out of context. Indeed, that is what happened this weekend. Upon reviewing the impromptu remarks I made Sunday afternoon, I can now see that I used the wrong words in the wrong way. I would now like to set the record straight with the American people and clear up some confusion about what it was I intended to convey.
You see, what I said was, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” But what I meant to say was, “I am a worthless, moronic sack of shit and an utterly irredeemable human being who needs to shut up and go away forever.”
It is clear to me now that I did not choose my words with care and did not get across the point I was trying to convey. In hindsight, I guess instead of using the words “legitimate rape,” I should have used the words “I am an unforgivable, unrepentant, and unconscionable subhuman dickhead.” Or better yet, “I am an evil, fucked-up man who should never have been elected to the United States Congress, and anyone who would vote for me is probably a pretty big fucking dumbshit, too.” See how much more sense that makes? It’s amazing how a few key word changes can totally alter the meaning of a statement.
Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at Politico.com.

A Stupid Law



I have posted about this subject a lot recently -- and I will continue to do so. That's because I simply cannot understand why a nation that prides itself on beliefs in freedom and common sense can continue to support a law as stupid as the one making marijuana (hemp) illegal.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

An Analogy


The Never-Ending Battle Against Plutocracy

The quote by Thomas Jefferson above is just as valid today as it was a couple of hundred years ago. When he said it, the choice was between being ruled by royalty and their appointees or a rule by the people. The Revolutionary War ended the rule by royalty, but it did not end all of America's problems or firmly establish a lasting democracy in this country. Jefferson knew that democracy was a never-ending fight, and there would always be those wanting to seize power away from the people.

In the United States, those who want to seize that power for their own benefit have mainly been the robber barons -- and their preferred method of doing that was simply to buy that power (although they never shirked from using violence, mainly through their surrogates in the political establishment and the police). By the early Twentieth Century, these robber barons had nearly succeeded in destroying democracy and establishing rule by themselves -- a plutocracy.

The United States was saved from that effort at establishing a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy class) -- but it took the greatest economic disaster of the Twentieth Century to wake up voters and spur them to seize their country back from the robber barons -- the Great Depression. The greed of the robber barons has caused them to overreach, and that overreaching had caused the most serious depression the country had ever seen. Voters replaced all (or most) of the politicians that had been bought by the robber barons with politicians that had the benefit of ordinary Americans as their primary interest.

These politicians (Roosevelt Democrats) began to re-establish economic justice through a variety of measures like government job creation, higher taxes on the rich, Social Security, and sensible regulations on banking and investment. The robber barons (and their Republican lackeys) whined that the measures would destroy America, but it only destroyed the plutocracy and re-established democracy -- and the country began to emerge from the plutocratic depression.

After World War II, the economy had fully recovered, and through new measures like the GI Bill and increased union power, the country prospered like never before. And this prosperity was enhanced further by the War on Poverty, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Civil Rights Acts. The country was well on its way to establishing a strong democracy with equal rights and economic justice for all citizens.

But the robber barons had not gone away -- their names had simply changed. And they wanted back the power they had lost. But they were smarter this time. They knew they had to create a message that large numbers of voters could be fooled into accepting, so they couched their nefarious agenda into innocent sounding messages like patriotism (accusing those who opposed them as unpatriotic), spreading democracy (using American military power to steal the resources of other countries), law and order (misusing the law to attack those who disagreed with them), pro-life (an excuse to attack the rights of women), returning to traditional values (the new code for racism), and defending christianity (using religion to achieve their political and economic goals).

But perhaps the most nefarious of these new political messages was trickle-down economics. Through a concerted propaganda campaign, they convinced many people that the way to economic prosperity was to deregulate corporations and the financial industry, and cut taxes on the rich. The idea was that by feeding ever larger amounts of money to the rich and the corporations, much of that money would trickle back down to ordinary American in the form of rising wages and new job creation. The truth is that it was simply a return to the economics of pre-depression era America -- and it didn't work back then and hasn't worked today.

The rising wealth of the corporations and the rich didn't raise wages for anyone but the rich -- who have seen their income rise by over 270% since the trickle-down economic theory was put into effect under Reagan, while the wages of ordinary workers have remained stagnant (and in fact, have actually lost much of their buying power). Instead of raising wages or creating jobs, the rich just fattened their own bank accounts. And this had the same effect it did in the early Twentieth Century -- it threw the country into a serious recession (depression?) and threw millions of Americans out of work (which was exacerbated by corporate outsourcing, which continues unabated).

Now we stand at the same place our forebears did in the Great Depression -- on the edge of greater economic disaster and plutocratic rule. Will we re-establish economic justice and democratic rule, or will we give in to the robber barons this time? The answer is anything but certain. Many Americans still buy the lie of trickle-down economic theory, or have fallen for the diversions created to fool them into voting against their own economic (and democratic) interests -- like defending religion (against a non-existent war), pro-life (for the fetus only), patriotism (putting a pink sticker on a vehicle and continuing wars that can't be won), low taxes (but only for the rich), and traditional values (opposition to rights for anyone but white men).

Will Americans vote for democracy and economic justice, or will they cement the power of the robber barons? We'll find out in November.

Image Problem

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

Hurricane Poses Problems For The GOP

It now looks like the Republicans have dodged a bullet. Hurricane Isaac will not directly hit the part of Florida where they are holding their convention (Tampa). There will still be some bad weather, and the delegates will probably be getting wet, but now that the hurricane has shifted its course to the west the Republicans will be able to get on with their convention. For a while, there was speculation that the convention might have to be called off, but that won't happen now.

But while the GOP has dodged one bullet, there are a couple more that could also cause them serious damage. One is that the convention will not be able to completely hog the news as was hoped by the Republican Party. In a normal election year, the week of a party convention (by either political party) is dominated in the news by what is happening at the convention. And Willard Mitt Romney (aka Wall Street Willie) really needed that to happen this year. He is not liked by most Americans (even some of his supporters), and he needed the opportunity at the convention to redefine himself and try to make himself more likable.

But this year that's going to be harder to do, because the convention will be happening at the same time that Hurricane Isaac in making landfall. And much of the news-time that would have been spent covering the convention will now go to hurricane coverage -- both the storm and its aftermath. The Republicans will be lucky to get half the coverage they would have gotten if Hurricane Isaac did not exist (or did not threaten the United States).

The second is that Hurricane Isaac is now headed for the worst possible landfall location for the Republican Party -- the New Orleans area. It has only been seven years since Hurricane Katrina hit that area with devastating consequences, and the images of Katrina have not faded from the American consciousness. And another thing that is vividly remembered (to the embarrassment of Republicans) is the totally incompetent way the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was handled by the Bush administration -- with many storm survivors having to wait for days to get any help at all.

Right now, it doesn't look like Hurricane Isaac will cause the same devastation that Hurricane Katrina did (although that could change). But even so, the American people will be watching to see how the government reacts this time -- and comparisons of that reaction to the Bush failure of Katrina are inevitable. If President Obama is smart (and I believe he is), then he already has FEMA, the Coast Guard, and others ready to spring into action as soon as they know where they are needed. And any competence the Obama administration shows will make the Republican Party look bad by comparison.

The Republican Party certainly did not need this hurricane to happen at this time. It bears nothing for them but an ill wind.

Honoring A Hero

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

Most Still Think Obama Will Win Re-Election

The Gallup Poll is out with a new survey. This one didn't ask who the public is going to vote for, but who they think is going to win the election in November. The interesting thing is that Romney has not been able to convince many voters that he is going to be the winner. Back in May, Obama held a 20 point advantage in the number of people who thought he would win. Currently, he holds a 22 point advantage. At least so far, Romney just doesn't inspire voter confidence in his ability to beat the president:=. Here are the numbers:

WHO WILL WIN THE NOVEMBER ELECTION?

MAY 2012
Obama...............56%
Romney...............36%

AUGUST 2012
Obama...............58%
Romney...............36%

INDEPENDENTS
Obama...............58%
Romney...............35%

REPUBLICANS
Obama...............32%
Romney...............60%

DEMOCRATS
Obama...............80%
Romney...............16%

The poll also asked which candidate would make a good president. Interestingly, the person who got the higher percentage on that poll in the last two elections (when that question was asked at this point in the campaign) went on to win the election. In 2004, Bush had 40% to Kerry's 33%, and in 2008, Obama had 29% to McCain's 25%. Here are the numbers for this year:

WHICH CANDIDATE WOULD MAKE A GOOD PRESIDENT?

GENERAL PUBLIC
Obama...............38%
Romney...............31%
Both...............12%
Neither...............17%

INDEPENDENTS
Obama...............32%
Romney...............25%
Both...............15%
Neither...............24%

REPUBLICANS
Obama...............6%
Romney...............71%
Both...............8%
Neither...............14%

DEMOCRATS
Obama...............77%
Romney...............3%
Both...............10%
Neither...............10%

I don't know that this means anything at all, but it is interesting. I do think the Republicans need to try and convince their own voters that Romney has a chance, with only 6 in 10 thinking that right now. If they can't accomplish that, a good portion of the disillusioned 40% may stay home on election day.

NOTE -- The poll was taken between August 20th and 22nd of a random sample of 1,033 adults, and has a margin of error of 4 points.

Repeal And . . . ?

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

Women And The GOP

Just one more reason to vote against the GOP in November.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Republican Death Panel


Recession Over? Not For Most Americans!

There is something being bandied about by the pundits that bothers me a whole lot. It seems that those in the media and in think tanks are saying the recession is over -- and has been over for a couple of years now. They point to the positive growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and I'll admit, that GDP is growing rather than shrinking, although that growth is very anemic. They'll also point out that corporations are making record profits and Wall Street is booming again.

I guess it all depends on how a recession is defined. If all that matters is positive GDP growth, a good stock market, and healthy profits by corporations, then the recession is over. But what good is a definition that leaves out 95% or more of this country's inhabitants? This country isn't inhabited just by the rich and the economic pundits, and their definition leaves out more than 300 million people.

How are things going for the bottom 95%? Well, things haven't improved for them at all. Their situation is the same as it was during the depths of the official recession back in 2008-2009. All we have to do is look at the figures. We can start by looking at the chart above (from Think Progress). The chart was made to point out how much worse the recession has been for African-Americans (and that is certainly true), but if you will note, the household incomes of all races continues to drop. And these figures aren't from 2008, but represent what has happened between 2009 and 2012. While incomes for the rich are rising, the household incomes for everyone else is either stagnant or falling (and when considered as a group are falling -- regardless of race).

Then we come to the jobs figures. The unemployment rate is still abnormally high, resting at 8.3% (and would be down to around half of that in a healthy economy). Add to that the fact that there is very little job creation happening -- with the number of new jobs barely being able to cover the number of new workers entering the job market each month. There are at least 15.3 million people in the United States who need a full-time job, but can't find one. When you add in the number of people working part-time because they can't find full-time work, that number jumps up to 23.5 million (the number of full-time jobs needed).

There is a legitimate reason why the huge majority of Americans say the economy is not improving, and why they have a pessimistic view of the future. That's because the recession is still in full force for them -- and will be until household incomes start to rise again and substantial numbers of new jobs are being created. The recession may be over for Wall Street and the corporations, but most Americans remain mired deeply in it.

Is the recession over? NO, and the media pundits need to stop saying it is. They may be technically correct with their flawed definition, but they are showing an ignorance of what is really happening with most Americans.

GOP Platform

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

Can Employees Be Forced To Campaign ?

I guess I was luckier than I knew in my work history. Most of that my working life was done working for the state of Texas (in various positions). State law makes it illegal for any state employee to campaign for anyone on state time -- and it also makes it illegal for anyone to be forced to campaign for any candidate or party by their bosses. But it looks like those working for corporations or unions don't have those same protections.

At least, that's the view of the three Republican members of the Federal Election Commission. In a case involving a union (the United Public Workers union), those three FEC members ruled that it was permissible for that union to force their employees to campaign for a certain candidate -- even if those employees did not personally like or support that candidate. And they said that ruling would be equally applicable to corporations. They seemed to think this insane decision was required by the Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision, since Congress had not addressed the issue specifically, and said:

UPW’s independent use of its paid workforce to campaign for a federal candidate post-Citizen’s United was not contemplated by Congress and, consequently, is not prohibited by either the Act or Commission regulations…. Requiring employees to work on independent expenditures for either the union or a non-connected political committee is not a violation of the Act or Commission regulations.

I think they have misread both the intent and reach of the Supreme Court decision. That decision was about money in elections, and who could spend that money and how much. I don't think the court ever meant to curb the right of employees to support or not support any candidate or party. This seems to me to be a gross violation of free speech rights. Can you imagine your union requiring you to campaign for Obama, or your corporate boss requiring you to campaign for Romney? It's just wrong!

I am a big supporter of unions. I believe they are the working man's best chance to achieve fairness, safety, and economic justice in the workplace. But they should never have the right to force employees to support a candidate they don't like (or any candidate at all for that matter) -- and no corporation should have that right either. In a free country, every person (regardless of who they work for) should have the right to make their own political decisions -- and they should never be forced to campaign for any candidate or party (or even participate in the electoral process at all) if they don't want to. Fortunately, the three Democratic members of the FEC disagreed with the decision. This is what they said:

After Citizens United, UPW had every right to expressly advocate for its chosen candidate and against her opponent. Nothing in Citizens United suggests, however, that the Court intended to expand the rights of corporations and unions at the expense of their employees’ longstanding rights to be free from coercion and to express or to decline to express their own political views.

They are right. The workplace is the wrong place for any kind of election campaigning, especially when it is forced on an employee. The Supreme Court decision gave corporations and unions the right to support any candidate they want, but it did not give them the right to use their employees as campaign lackeys. That is anathema in a free country.

Exposure

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

Bill Nye "The Science Guy" On Creationism

If you don't know the gentleman in the picture above, then your knowledge of American popular culture is sadly lacking. He's William Sanford Nye, more commonly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, and his PBS show turned thousands of American kids on to science. Nye made science fun. He is truly an American "treasure".

But Mr. Nye doesn't understand how people can turn their backs on science (like evolution), and substitute a silly belief like creationism. Here's some of what he has to say on the subject:

Denial of evolution is unique to the United States. I mean, we're the world's most advanced technological—I mean, you could say Japan—but generally, the United States is where most of the innovations still happens. People still move to the United States. And that's largely because of the intellectual capital we have, the general understanding of science. When you have a portion of the population that doesn't believe in that, it holds everybody back, really. 

Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It's like, it's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You're just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place. 

As my old professor, Carl Sagan, said, "When you're in love you want to tell the world." So, once in a while I get people that really—or that claim—they don't believe in evolution. And my response generally is "Well, why not? Really, why not?" Your world just becomes fantastically complicated when you don't believe in evolution. I mean, here are these ancient dinosaur bones or fossils, here is radioactivity, here are distant stars that are just like our star but they're at a different point in their lifecycle. The idea of deep time, of this billions of years, explains so much of the world around us. If you try to ignore that, your world view just becomes crazy, just untenable, itself inconsistent. 

And I say to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world, in your world that's completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe, that's fine, but don't make your kids do it because we need them. We need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future. We need people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems. 

It's just really hard a thing, it's really a hard thing. You know, in another couple of centuries that world view, I'm sure, will be, it just won't exist. There's no evidence for it.