Monday, June 30, 2014

Intolerable And Indecent


Back In Amarillo


I'm back in Amarillo from the Texas Democratic Convention. I flew back yesterday afternoon. But I am beat. My hotel was three blocks from the convention, and the convention center was huge. I feel like I've walked a couple of hundred miles in the last three days. So I'm not posting (other than this) for today. I'll be back tomorrow after I get some rest.

Had a great time at the convention though. Got some work done, partied a little, reconnected with some old friends and made some new ones, and just felt good being surrounded by a few thousand progressives. Can't wait to do it again in 2016.

The Real Magic


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The First Christians Were Also The First Communists

Acts 2: 44-45

State Democratic Convention Wraps Up In Dallas

The photo below is from the convention floor in Dallas. There were approximately 8,000 delegates, alternates, and guests that came to the convention this year. And the convention went pretty smoothly. I think everyone is pretty happy with our statewide candidates. 

Gilberto Hinojosa easily won re-election as the chairman of the state party (even though I didn't vote for him). He's only been chairman for two years, so he's still sort of in his "honeymoon" phase. Whether he'll get a third term depends a lot on what happens in Novenmber. If the Democrats lose as badly as they did the last few years, he could be tossed out. But if they win, he could be chairman for a very long time.

I served on the Rules Committee this year. We argued for several hours over some pretty trivial stuff, but we did make sure one thing I wanted to see got done. We kept the new rules that precinct conventions are no longer held on primary night, but everyone who votes in the Democratic primary gets to go to the county or senatorial district convention. This change made a lot of sense to me, and I was happy that the delegates voted to keep it.

Now the only important thing left is the after-party. After all, that's why a lot of people came -- to party.

Strange Bedfellows

Political Cartoon is by Steve Breen in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

District 31 Gets New State Committee Members



Senate District 31, my home district, had two much-loved committee people, but both of them retired this year. That left the way open for new blood, and the District 31 delegates chose Virginia White and Mike Ladd (both pictured above). I think both will do a good job for the district, and I look forward to their leadership. White, a computer programmer, is from Midland County and Ladd, a farmer, is from Ochiltree County.

A Good Question

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

10 Myths About Poverty

(This cartoon image is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.)

The website Liberal America busts 10 myths about poverty -- myths that the rich and the Republicans would love for you to believe. They have graphs and charts to go along with their article, and I recommend you go over and see them. But here are those 10 myths they bust.

1. Single moms are the problem. 
Completely false. Only nine percent of low-income moms have been single throughout their child’s first five years, while 35 percent were in a marriage or relationship with the child’s father for the entire time. (Source: Analysis by Dr. Laura Tach at Cornell University)

2. Absentee fathers are the problem. 
The majority of dads are active in the lives of their children. Sixty percent of fathers with low income see at least one of their children daily, and another 16 percent see their children every week. (Source: Analysis by Dr. Laura Tach at Cornell University)

3. Most black fathers are deadbeats and they are the problem. 
This is a stereotype that is based on racism and bigotry and fostered by the right-wing media. In actuality, non-custodial black fathers are more likely than white or Hispanic fathers to have a presence in the lives of their children every day.

4. Poor people are lazy. 
Nope. In 2004, more than 60 percent of families on food stamps that had both kids and a non-disabled, working-age adult had jobs. In 2013 the number rose sharply to 96 percent.

5. If you’re not officially poor (according to federal poverty standards), you’re doing okay. 
Unfortunately, federal poverty standards lag behind the reality and the cost of living. In 2012, the federal poverty standard for a family of two parents and two children was $23,550. Basic needs cost at least twice that amount in 615 of America’s cities and regions.

6. Go to college, get out of poverty. 
In 2012, about 1.1 million heads of households with bachelor’s degrees worked full time and made less than $25,000 a year. (U.S. Census)

7. We’re winning the war on poverty. 
Wrong. We are miserably losing the war on poverty, but cutting programs isn’t the solution because we are definitely alleviating the pain of poverty. Having said that, since 1996 the number of households with children who live on less than $2 a day per person has grown 160 percent since 1996.

8. Social Security and Medicare has ended the struggles of most single elderly women. 
Unfortunately, there is absolutely no truth to this sentiment. The number of elderly single women living in extreme poverty jumped 31 percent from 2011 to 2012.

9. Homeless people are drunks living in the streets begging for money. 
Dangerously false. A shocking one in 45 kids in the U.S. experiences homelessness every year. There are 22,000 homeless children in New York City alone.

10. Handouts and freebies to deadbeats are bankrupting the country. 
This is perhaps the most cruel lie that is easily debunked with one glimpse at the federal budget. In 2012, total welfare funding was 0.47 percent of the federal budget.

Redskins

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

Bible Can Be Used To Support Bigotry



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Al Tells It Like It is


Some Of My Favorite Convention Booths





Several groups come to the convention and set up booths in an effort to convince candidates and delegates to support their causes. Here are some of my personal favorites -- Mom's Demand Action (who want some sensible gun legislation passed in this country), Texas Freedom Network (the people who keep the State Board of Education from teaching creationism in our school science classes and right-wing propaganda in the history and government school classes), NARAL Pro-Choice Texas (who support the right of every woman to control her own body), and the Texas Moratorium Network (who are working to abolish the death penalty in Texas -- the blood-thirstiest state in the U.S.).

Weathervane

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

Houston And Collier Visit The West Texas Caucus



We had a fairly good turnout in the West Texas caucus (which covers all of Texas west of Interstate 35 -- about 129 counties, most of them rural). Maybe the West Texas Democrats are finally starting to get their act together, or maybe this year's slate of statewide candidates has them energized.

 A couple of those statewide candidates dropped by the caucus and gave short speeches (and were nice enough to pose for pictures). The top picture is of Sam Houston, who is running for Attorney General. Houston felt at home in this conference, since he is from West Texas himself (Colorado City). Houston is a good progressive Democrat, who will return the focus of the Attorney General's office to helping Texans instead of just opposing President Obama and protecting corporate interests (which is all the current Attorney General cared about). 

 The bottom picture is of Mike Collier, who is running for the office of State Comptroller. Collier is a bit conservative for my taste, but that is probably a good thing for the position of comptroller (who oversees taxes and spending for the state). And he's a CPA. This guy ia as qualified for the office he's seeking as any candidate of any party running this year. 

I think both of these guys are good candidates, and only strengthen the statewide ticket led by Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte.

Racist Logos

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at cagle.com.

Last Month Was The Hottest May Ever

(The image above is from guardianlv.com.)

The following is from The Guardian. I think it speaks for itself.

Last month was the hottest May globally since records began in 1880, new figures show.
The record heat, combined with increasingly certain predictions of an El NiƱo, means experts are now speculating whether 2014 could become the hottest year on record.
Data published by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday showed the average land and ocean surface temperature last month was 0.74C above the 20th century average of 14.8C, making it the highest on record.
Previously, the warmest May was 2010, followed by 2012, 1998 and 2013. Worldwide, March-May was the second warmest ever by Noaa's records – 2010 holds the record for that period. April 2014 was also the hottest April ever by Noaa's records.
There are two other main global temperature records in addition to Noaa's, one kept by Nasa and the other by the Met Office's Hadley Centre in the UK. The three are combined by the UN's World Meteorological Organisation, which ranks 2010 as the warmest on record, and says that 13 of the 14 warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century.

Real Evil

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

Immigrant Businesses / Walmart



Immigrant businesses add to our economy. Walmart sucks money out of it. Why then do the teabaggers support Walmart and hate immigrants?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Surrender


Ready For The Convention



am in Dallas now, getting ready for the Democratic State Convention (which starts today). The picture above is the view from my hotel room. I'm not staying in the official hotel, but three blocks away from the Dallas Convention Center. It's not as nice at the official hotel, but it has two advantages -- it cost half as much, and they gave me a smoking room, both of which I like a lot.

Hotmail is giving me problems. It doesn't recognize the site I'm posting from and wants to text me a code to verify I'm me. But of course, I left the phone they want to text to in Amarillo. So it doesn't look like I'll have access to my own e-mail until I get back to Amarillo on Sunday evening. I know they're just trying to keep me from getting my account hacked, but it's still irritating.

I'll try to do as much posting as I can for the next few days, and at least bring you some photos from the convention. Regular posting will resume on Monday.

Fled

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

American Public Says No To Military Action in Iraq


As you know by now, Iraq has exploded in violence and war again. It has never been violence free since we invaded, but at least for a while after our troops left the violence was a bit subdued. Now though, they are in the middle of a vicious religious civil war. And sadly, but expected, the neocon Republicans (like McCain and Cheney) want us to get back in the middle of that conflict.

And President Obama seems to be letting himself be pushed back into more military action in Iraq. He first said he would not send troops back to that country, but broke that promise just a couple of days later. He now says he'll send 300 military "advisors" (shades of Vietnam) to Iraq. And he's also thinking of bombing the ISIS rebels. Of course these are the same people that we were sending aid to (including arms) just a few months ago (when they were posed as the "good" guys in Syria).

That just shows you what a ridiculous mess the situation in that part of the world is. And a majority of the American people seem to know this. They don't want the U.S. to engage in any kind of new military operation in Iraq. Only 34% of Democrats, and 39% of Independents and the general public would support military action, while 54% of Independents and the general public , and 60% of Democrats, would oppose that. Only the Republicans have a slim majority favoring new military action in Iraq. It seems like 13 years of a seemingly endless war hasn't taught the Republicans anything.

It doesn't really come as a surprise to me that Americans don't want more fighting. Note in the chart below that it took Americans less than two years to realize that invading Iraq was a big mistake, and they have kept that attitude for the last 8 years.


The numbers above are from a new Gallup Poll. The survey was done on June 20th and 21st of about 1,010 adults nationwide, with a margin of error of 4 points.

Sisyphus

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

The Supremes Make A Good Decision This Time


Every now and then the United States Supreme Court surprises me and makes a unanimous decision to uphold our Constitution. Wednesday was one of those times, when they announced their unanimous decision in Riley vs. California.

The map above (from Forbes Magazine website) shows the difference in the states when it comes to searching an arrestees cell phone. The states in red are those where state courts have approved those warrantless searches. The ones in yellow conduct those searches because there has been no court decision that would stop them from doing so. It is only in those few states in blue where state courts have ruled those cell phone searches cannot happen unless a search warrant is requested and received from a judge.

You can now consider all of those states to be colored blue though. That's because the United States Supreme Court ruled that the police cannot search any cell phone -- even if they already have the cell phone owner in custody -- unless they have a search warrant. The court's opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, says:

"Before cell phones, a search of a person was limited by physical realities and generally constituted only a narrow intrusion on privacy. But cell phones can store millions of pages of text, thousands of pictures or hundreds of videos. This has several interrelated privacy consequences."

"It is true that this decision will have some impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime. But the Court’s holding is not that the information on a cellphone is immune from search; it is that a warrant is generally required before a search."

This was a very good decision. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects all citizens from unreasonable searches (searches without a search warrant issued on probable cause). Privacy has long been established as a right in this country, and nothing is more private in today's technological society than an individual's cell phone (where all kinds of private information is stored). Citizens should have the right to expect that information will remain private, unless the police show probable cause and get a search warrant.

The government has nibbled away at our rights in this country -- and at times taken a huge bite out of them (as with the horrendous Patriot Act). It's nice to see the Supreme Court act to protect those rights.

Immigration Immersion

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

Hunger Games (American-Style)


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cowardly


Indiana Same-Sex Marriage Ban Tossed By Federal Judge


Indiana has joined a growing list of states that have had their same-sex marriage bans declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. U.S. District Judge Richard Young announced on Wednesday that he was striking down Indiana's ban. Judge Young did not stay his decision, so same-sex marriages can start in that state -- unless Indiana's Attorney General, who has said the decision will be appealed, is able to get a stay from the appeals court or the Supreme Court.

Now there is only one state (North Dakota) left with an unchallenged ban on same-sex marriages. All other states have either legalized same-sex marriages, had their bans struck down and are waiting on an appeal, or are having their ban challenged in a federal court. Hopefully, the appeals court decisions will start coming in soon, so we can move on to the next level. The Supreme Court is no longer going to be able to avoid making a decision on this issue (whether states banning same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution) -- as it has been doing for quite a while now.

UPDATE -- The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has just upheld the federal court decision that tossed out Utah's ban on same-sex marriage. The decision was temporarily stayed to give Utah time to appeal to the United States Supreme Court. This is what we've been waiting for. The Supreme Court must accept this case and finally decide this issue, or let the appeals court decision stand (which would legalize same-sex marriage in Utah, and probably across the nation). The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals held that:

". . . the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry, establish a family, raise children, and enjoy the full protection of a state's marital laws."

"A state may not deny the issuance of a marriage license to two persons, or refuse to recognize their marriage, based solely upon the sex of the persons in the marriage union." 

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Meanwhile, the Southern Poverty Law Center (the foremost organization fighting hate in this country) has decided to strike a blow for gay/lesbian rights in a different way. They want to outlaw the repulsive and damaging "reparative therapy" (which holds that gays/lesbians can be cured through therapy). They have filed suit in New Jersey against one of the clinics offering the reparative therapy, accusing it of fraudulent practices. If they win the New Jersey case, it will provide a blueprint for attacking these horrible clinics across the nation. Here is how they describe their effort on their website.

Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH) fraudulently claimed to provide services that “convert” people from gay to straight. These services, known as conversion therapy, have been discredited or highly criticized by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the New Jersey conversion therapy organization for fraudulent practices. The lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, charged that JONAH, its founder Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act by claiming that their counseling services could cure clients of being gay.
The lawsuit describes how the plaintiffs – four young men and two of their parents – were lured into JONAH’s services through deceptive practices.
Customers of JONAH’s services typically paid a minimum of $100 for weekly individual counseling sessions and another $60 for group therapy sessions. The lawsuit describes sessions that involved clients undressing in front of a mirror and even a group session where young men were instructed to remove their clothing and stand naked in a circle with the counselor, Downing, who was also undressed. Another session involved a subject attempting to wrestle away two oranges – used to represent testicles – from another individual.
Downing and other JONAH counselors also used techniques that left clients alienated from their families. These techniques encouraged clients to blame their parents for being gay, going so far as to have clients participate in violent role play exercises where they beat effigies of their mothers.
JONAH, formerly known as Jews Offering New Alternatives for Homosexuality, was founded by Goldberg, a former Wall Street executive and attorney who was previously convicted of three counts of mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government. He was ultimately disbarred from being an attorney.
Aside from being junk science, conversion therapy also promotes the idea that gay men and lesbians choose their sexual orientation, a position that encourages a climate of anti-gay bigotry.
The American Psychological Association has expressed concern that conversion therapy practices, such as those espoused by the National Association for Research Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), “create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish.” JONAH’s practices include discredited methods invented by NARTH co-founder Joseph Nicolosi with no sound medical basis.

Tyrant's Toy

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

Temper The Enthusiasm Over The Mississippi Runoff

(The image above of Thad Cochran is from wxxv25.com.)

The media headlines regarding Mississippi's GOP runoff election for U.S. Senate this morning talk about the defeat of the teabaggers in that state. One source even called it a "crippling defeat" for the extreme right. I think it's time we considered the reality.

These headlines make it sound like a moderate defeated a teabagger in Mississippi, but that's not what happened. There was no moderate in that race. When was the last time Thad Cochran voted as a moderate in the Senate, or even considered compromising with the Democrats for the good of the country? All I can remember him doing is voting in lock-step with the extreme right-wingers.

What we really had in that Mississippi runoff was a fairly sane teabagger running against a bat-crap crazy teabagger. And Cochran's "sanity" doesn't mitigate his extremism at all -- it just keeps him from making crazy statements that might hurt him in November. The only difference between the two candidates was the tone of their rhetoric.

There is talk now of how angry the teabaggers are, and some are even saying they might abandon Cochran in November. I don't believe it. They might not be happy with his slightly milder rhetoric, but they know he'll continue to vote as a right-wing extremist, and they'll vote for him in November.

The headline "Extremist Loses In Mississippi" is a valid one -- but equally valid would be one that read "Extremist Wins In Mississippi".

Off Ramp

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

Congressional Numbers Are At A New Low





The numbers above are from the latest Rasmussen Poll -- taken on June 22nd and 23rd of 1,000 likely voters nationwide, with a margin of error of 3 points.

These are the lowest congressional numbers ever recorded by Rasmussen. Only 6% approve of the job Congress is doing, and when respondents were asked about their own representative the numbers don't get a whole lot better. Only 14% said their representative cares what his/her constituents think, only 20% think their representative is the best person for the job, and only 25% think their representative deserves to be re-elected.

I cannot repeat this enough -- this election is going to be a referendum on this dysfunctional Congress. And any representative not in a very safe district ought to be scared silly, because the voters are angry and in an anti-incumbent mood -- and that's not going to change before November. In fact, it might get worse. The people know that Congress has been more interested in arguing over ideology than in compromising for the good of the country -- and now that the campaigns are starting, that's not going to change.

Political Footballs

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Not Patriotic


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Big Problem


A Livable Minimum Wage Would Benefit Businesses

(The image above is from the website liberalamerica.org.)

Yesterday I discussed the ridiculous fallacy that raising the minimum wage would cause businesses to lay off workers. It wouldn't, simply because businesses will always hire the number of workers it takes to service their customers (no more and no less), regardless of what the minimum wage (or the tax rate) is.

Today, I want to discuss the fallacy that raising the minimum wage to a livable level (at least $10.10 an hour) would hurt businesses. Any business that might be hurt has deeper problems than the minimum level of wages they pay, and probably won't stay afloat whether the minimum wage is raised or not. Healthy businesses would actually be helped by raising the minimum wage -- not hurt.

This is illustrated by the experience of The Gap -- who recently raised their minimum wage to $9.00 an hour, and will raise it next year to $10.00 an hour. They said they are already experiencing positive benefits from that decision. Applications for employment at their stores had been declining, but that has now been reversed (giving them more applicants from which to choose). They also expect their employee turnover to decrease.

The truth is that businesses would benefit in several ways from raising the minimum wage to a livable level. Here are a few of those benefits:

1. Businesses would receive a greater number of applications for jobs. This would help them to hire better qualified employees, who will do a better job for the business.

2. Employees making a livable wage would not be eager to leave the job, thus reducing the turnover of employees (and saving businesses the cost of hiring and training new employees).

3. Employees making a livable wage are happier and more loyal, and that makes them more productive (which increases the profits of the businesses).

Those benefits would occur even if a business unilaterally raised the minimum wage they pay, but there is another benefit that would accrue by raising the minimum wage for all businesses.

4. If the minimum wage was raised to at least $10.10 an hour for all businesses, it would inject a huge amount of new money into the economy. And those workers receiving that higher minimum wage would need to spend that money (since they are already struggling to survive). That new money being spent would not only boost the economy, but would increase profits for the businesses in our economy.

The Republicans (and their corporate masters) like to paint the issue of raising the minimum wage as being one of workers against businesses. The corporations do this because they want the taxpayers to keep on picking up the tab for much of their labor costs, and the Republicans just don't seem to know any better. But the reality is that raising the minimum wage to a livable level would benefit both workers and businesses -- and it would benefit taxpayers by taking many workers off government rolls (such as food stamps). The only people who might not benefit are the corporate executives (who might see their outrageous salaries and bonuses reduced) -- and that is not a bad thing.

The United States government needs to raise the national minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour immediately, and then tie that wage to the rate of inflation. It would be good for the country, and for almost every American citizen.

Dusting Stalin

Political Cartoon is by Martin Sutovec in SME Daily (Slovakia).

Polls Agree That U.S. Public Supports Same-Sex Marriage







Recently, Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) said that although he doesn't support same-sex marriage, he would not do anything to stop it. That's a pretty amazing statement for a right-winger like Johnson. But he's not the only one. Several Republican officials have recently either come out in support of same-sex marriage, or said they would no longer oppose it.

These Republicans are just reading the writing on the wall. They know that despite the wishes of their teabagger/fundamentalist base, a significant majority of the American public supports the legalization of same-sex marriage -- and while opposition may look good in a GOP primary, it will only hurt them in a general election campaign (especially if their race is a competitive one).

The truth (a truth even some Republicans are starting to recognize) is that the battle to provide same-sex couples with the same constitutional rights given to opposite-sex couples is pretty much over. Some states will continue to hold out for a while (those controlled by teabagger Republicans) but the tide of history has turned against them. It is no longer a question of whether equal rights will be granted to same-sex couples nationwide, but only of how long it will take.

Note the charts above. Every single major poll taken in the last seven months on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage has shown virtually the same thing -- that between 53% and 56% of the American public supports that legalization. But it goes even deeper than that. If you substitute the words "civil union" for the word "marriage", even the public in those teabagger-controlled states support equal rights for same-sex couples.

We still have a long way to go to make sure all Americans are guaranteed their equal rights under the Constitution, but we are making progress all the time -- and that makes me very proud of this country.